This study was carried out to examine the impact or effect of laboratory activities on students academic performance in chemistry. Specifically, the study examined the availability and use of laboratory facilities in schools, investigated the frequency of students to laboratory activities in schools, explored if the exposure of students to laboratory activities will improve their academic performance and determined the exposure of students to laboratory activities, develops scientific attitudes in students towards the learning of chemistry. The study employed the survey descriptive research design. A total of 141 responses were validated from the survey. The study adopted the Cognitive Learning Theory. From the responses obtained and analysed, the findings revealed that the extent of extent of availability of laboratories in secondary schools is very high though most are not equipped adequately. Furthermore, the findings revealed that exposed to laboratory activities frequently in schools is high. The findings also revealed that exposure of students to laboratory activities will improve their academic performance. The study recommend that schools should endeavour to have a well equipped library laboratories and students should be frequently exposed to laboratory activities. More so, laboratories in schools should be made open and accessible to both teachers and students.
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
According to Agbai, (2004), chemistry is a branch of science and the prerequisite subject for many fields of science. These fields include agriculture, pharmacy, medicine, nursing, biochemistry, and chemical engineering. It contributes immensely to the technological growth of the nation. Therefore, any nation that aspires to develop scientifically and technologically must pay attention to the quality of chemistry education that is being taught in schools. It is against this background that made the Federal Government of Nigeria to identify the specific objectives to be achieved in the teaching of chemistry at the senior secondary school level in the National Policy on Education (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004) as cited in (Agbai, 2004), is as follows:
- Facilitating a transition to the use of scientific concepts and techniques acquired in integrated science with chemistry;
- Providing the students with basic knowledge in chemical concepts and principles through efficient selection of content and sequencing;
- Showing chemistry in its inter-relationship with other subjects;
- Showing chemistry and its link with industry, everyday life, benefits, and hazards;
- Providing a course which is complete for students not proceeding to higher education, while at the same time, it is a reasonably adequate foundation for a post-secondary chemistry course.
The policy recommends that science teaching and learning should be activity-oriented and student-centered such that students acquire relevant laboratory experiences. The achievement of these objectives will depend on and be influenced by the teacher, the students, the materials, the laboratory, and how both students and teachers perceive them in relation to intended learning outcomes (Agbi, 2004).
Chemistry is a core science subject, and as such, a credit pass in it is required before a student can be admitted in any tertiary institution for most scientific based discipline. The study of chemistry entails the learning of concepts, established principles, laws and theories, and also substantial activity-oriented laboratory work. These laboratory experiments are to demonstrate practically some of the principles taught in theory, test the validity of certain empirical chemical laws, and illustrate properties of substances taught theoretically in the classroom. Learning chemistry means not only learning facts and concepts that describe the physical world at the atomic level, but also learning how to examine the physical evidences of chemical principles in a laboratory learning environment. Since chemistry is a science based on experimentation, therefore, performing experiments within a laboratory setting becomes very important in its’ teaching and learning. Effective teaching and learning of chemistry can only take place when theoretical explanations are complemented with actual practices in the laboratory (Akalonu, 1998).
The teaching laboratory is the standard method of training students in the skills and values central to scientific investigation and important in the development of positive attitude to chemistry. At the chemistry laboratory, students work cooperatively in small groups to investigate phenomena. This mode of instruction has potentials to enhance constructive social interactions as well as positive attitudes and academic performance. Even, though the knowledge of chemistry to the society is very important, students’ performance in the subject as measured by their scores in Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) is very poor.
The poor performance in sciences, especially in chemistry in SSCE, attests to the fact that chemistry teaching and learning and the conditions under which they take place need to be re-examined. These should include the laboratory learning environment and the availability of learning resources that can enhance students’ performance in the subject.
According to Akalonu, (1998), the science laboratory, a unique learning environment, is a setting in which students can work cooperatively in small groups to investigate scientific phenomena. The environment in a laboratory is expected to be less formal, when compared to the conventional classroom setting and presents opportunities for more interactions between students and with the teacher, as well. Such greater interactions are likely to promote more positive social interactions that are ideal for creating a constructive and positive learning environment.
The laboratory in the school has been defined by several authors in different ways. Al-faleh, & Hary, (1993) sees a laboratory as a place where scientific exercises are conducted by the science teachers for the benefit of the students (learners). The laboratory exercises include; experiments, and other activities which help the students in acquiring scientific skills. Amaefule, (2001) defined science laboratory as a workshop where science is done or where scientific activities are carried out under conducive environment. She also sees the laboratory as a place where science equipment, materials or instruments are housed for security and safety. Igwe (2003) observed that a laboratory can be indoor such as the sufficiently designed and equipped room found in most schools or outdoor involving such places as riverside, workshop, field and even market for carrying out scientific studies. He further stated that what ever the type of laboratory employed in science teaching, the same laboratory experience should be attained, that is a participation n the series of experimental, observational and demonstrating activities which provide opportunity for students to develop understanding of practical and theoretical concepts through solutions of problems.
Although teachers and students share the same learning environment, it is likely that their perceptions on such a learning environment differ. The nature of the chemistry laboratory learning environment can make a difference on how students are motivated to achieve their set goals. The physical environment of the laboratory in terms of facilities, space, lightening, ventilation, workbenches, and stools in the laboratory influences the safety and comfort of students and also students’ attitudes towards a particular subject and the learning of such a subject (Amaefule, 2001).
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Anene, (1997) observed that in recent times, poor performance of students in chemistry in examination has generated serious concern among science educators. Consequently, researchers have worked on several causative factors, such as inadequate laboratory equipment, laboratory activities, teachers’ qualification, and students’ inability to acquire some basic science process skills. In an attempt to address the problem highlighted above, some studies have been carried out through the use of carefully planned instructional strategies and models to improve the status of chemistry teaching and learning. Despite all these efforts, students’ performance in chemistry has remained consistently poor. All these strategies gave a little improvement over the conventional teaching method, which is being used in our secondary schools. However, there seems to be a neglect of other important factors, such as laboratory activities (Anene, 1997).
From the foregoing, it can be argued that the report on poor performance of students in chemistry at the secondary school level might be due to both students’ perception of the laboratory activities and the failure of teachers to conduct laboratory activities in a way that will make students more active participants in chemistry teaching and learning situation. The poor performance in chemistry and other related subjects is a reflection of the inadequacy inherent in the laboratory learning environments at the school level (Aniodoh, 2000). It also appears from the review of available literature that the influence of laboratory learning environment on students’ learning outcomes in secondary school chemistry class has not been extensively looked into in Nigeria. Hence, this study is to fill the existing gap.
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The broad objective of this study is to examine the impact or effect of laboratory activities on students academic performance in chemistry. Specifically, but not limited to, other objectives of this study are:
- Examine the availability and use of laboratory facilities in schools.
- Examine the frequency of students to laboratory activities in schools.
- Explore if the exposure of students to laboratory activities will improve their academic performance.
- Determine if the exposure of students to laboratory activities, develops scientific attitudes in students towards the learning of chemistry.
The following research questions will be answered in this study:
- To what extent is the availability and use of laboratory facilities in schools?
- Are students exposed to laboratory activities frequently in schools?
- Will the exposure of students to laboratory activities improve their academic performance?
- Will the exposure of students to laboratory activities, develops scientific attitudes in students towards the learning of chemistry?
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Findings from the study will be relevant to government, teachers, parents and the academia. It will also make the government through the ministry of education to realize the need for provision of laboratory facilities thereby exposing the students to laboratory activities posting of qualified science teachers, technicians and technologists to secondary schools. It will motivate parents to through the avenue of the PTA make requirements of practical lesson(s) for their children in secondary schools and also this convince the science teachers that practical lessons are mostly essential for effective teaching especially in Chemistry. Finally, the study would contribute empirically to the body of existing literature and it would serve as a reference source to students or other researchers who might want to carry out their research on the similar topic.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study will be focusing on the impact or effect of laboratory activities on students academic performance in chemistry. Specifically, this study will be focusing on examining the availability and use of laboratory facilities in schools, examining the frequency of students to laboratory activities in schools, exploring if the exposure of students to laboratory activities will improve their academic performance and determining if the exposure of students to laboratory activities, develops scientific attitudes in students towards the learning of chemistry.
This study will be using science students of two secondary schools in Ogbomosho as enrolled participants for the this study.
LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
Like in every human endeavour, the researchers encountered slight constraints while carrying out the study. The significant constraint was the scanty literature on the subject owing to the nature of the discourse thus the researcher incurred more financial expenses and much time was required in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection, which is why the researcher resorted to a limited choice of sample size. Additionally, the researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. More so, the choice of the sample size was limited as few respondent were selected to answer the research instrument hence cannot be generalize to other secondary schools outside the State. However, despite the constraints encountered during the research, all factors were downplayed in other to give the best and make the research successful.
DEFINITIONS OF TERMS
Laboratory: A laboratory is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific or technological research, experiments, and measurement may be performed.
Impact: a marked effect or influence
Academic performance: Academic achievement represents performance outcomes that indicate the extent to which a person has accomplished specific goals that were the focus of activities in instructional environments, specifically in school, college, and university.