A SURVEY OF LABORATORY FACILITIES FOR TEACHING BIOLOGY IN SENIOR SECONDARY SCHOOLS
The study tried to find out if laboratory facilities are available and used in teaching biology. In carrying out this study, 60 respondents were selected from different schools and Questionnaire on Science Practical Facilities in Schools (QSPFS) was developed Percentage, mean and chi-square at 0.05 level of significant were used to test the hypotheses. The results of the study showed that there are inadequate laboratory facilities in senior secondary schools in Lagos State and teachers have a positive attitude towards the conduct of practical activities. The implication for policy and practice respectively drawn from the study are that: inadequate science laboratory facilities will hamper teachers’ job performance;teaching without laboratory facilities is an abstract teaching which can cause poor academic achievement among students in biology.
1.1 Background to the Study
Within the science education community and beyond practical work is carried out by students as an essential component of science education program (Bajah, 2004). Questions have, however, been raised by some science educators about its effectiveness as a teaching and learning strategy. Practical work was generally effective in getting students to do what is intended with physical objects, but much less effective in getting them to use the intended scientific ideas to guide their actions and reflect upon the data they collect.
According to Abimbola (2008), the use of the laboratory method of teaching science in general, Biology in particular has become a dogma among science educators and teachers. On the one hand, they extolled the importance of the use of the laboratory method in science teaching while on the other hand, they only pay “lip service” to its use in practice. Science teachers do not usually find it convenient to make laboratory work the centre of their instruction. They usually complain of lack of materials and equipment to carry out practical work. At the same time, it is possible that some of these materials and equipment may be locked up in the school laboratory store without teachers being aware of their existence.
The conditions under which many teachers function do not engender any enthusiasm to use the laboratory method of teaching science even where they know that these materials and equipment are available. Class size in urban schools is getting larger and this does not usually encourage teachers to use the laboratory method to teach Biology. In some states of the country, teachers go for months without salary owing to shortage of funds (Daramola, 2004). Biology teachers who fall in this category cannot reasonably be expected to give off their best to their students (Ndu, 2008).
Higher institutions in Nigeria charged with the responsibility of training science teachers at all levels, are increasingly turning out teachers without requisite laboratory experience. In the view of Abimbola (2008), a common reason usually given is shortage of laboratory facilities. Such trained science teachers especially the Biology teachers usually lack the necessary confidence to conduct practical classes with their students. Peirce (2008) opines that government seems to have given up on their capacity to equip all school laboratories. They have therefore resorted to designating selected schools as “science schools” that they equipped with their meager resources. They usually use the traditional help received from the Federal Government in equipping school laboratories for these science schools.
According to international standard, science laboratory for junior secondary science labs should provide a minimum of 1,000 net square feet, while secondary school labs should provide a minimum of 1,100 net square feet. Each laboratory and each science classroom should be provided with an instructor’s or demonstration desk with acid resistant top, sink and utility connections; however, when a science classroom is provided and laboratory work only is planned for the laboratory, the instructor’s or demonstration desk may be omitted from the science classroom.
Fume hoods should be installed in all laboratories where flammable or toxic vapors or airborne particulates are generated. Eye wash facilities, fire blanket, and safety deluge shower, portable ABC rated fire extinguishers, and master shutoff controls for gas and electricity should be provided in all laboratories.
Gas outlets should be placed in science rooms where required by the program. Middle and high science rooms should provide gas only to the demonstration table.
Each science laboratory should have at least one fixed or portable work station that provides access to students in wheelchairs and all areas should be adequately ventilated so that exposure to hazardous or toxic materials is eliminated. Hoods shall exhaust directly to the outside and should be located away from building air intake or other openings.
In Nigeria settings, the white paper on science laboratory requires secondary school laboratory to have a standard room size /dimension Lab size-36.5ft.x20ft with capacity to accommodate a group of 25 students in a practical class with entrance hydrolytic door. Laboratory stools at least 25 Stackable seminar chairs should be of suitable height to provide ample leg space under the table and should have broad leg area for stability. Floor with non-skid tiling resist strong acid and alkali, but also resist scratch, fading, ageing, and strain resistant. It is free from solvent and non-toxic. Teacher’s table and chair must be slightly higher in height than routine school furniture for better monitoring and demonstrations. Marble plate and ceramic plate not only resist strong acid and alkali but also resist starch, fading, ageing, high temperature(below1200c) and stain resistant. Proper drainage with covered dustbins below the table with proper electric points, fitted with water supply. Water supply Lab must have at least four outlets and four wash basins. Fire Extinguisher at least one meant for all types of fires. White boards and magnetic white boards located at suitable height to be easily visible.
In 1988, a report published in the Florida Science Teachers Magazine, Spring Edition, 1988, by Phillip Horton entitled “Class Size and Lab Safety in Florida” documented that over 55% of the science classes had enrollments teachers considered to be “potentially unsafe” for lab work. The average class size in these “unsafe” classrooms was 31 students. Of the 45% of the science classrooms teachers considered to be “safe”, the average class size was 23 students. One high school teacher surveyed had two classes where the number of students was within the designed enrollment capacity and three classes where enrollments exceeded the room capacity.
Contrasting the number of accidents between the first two periods and the last three class size does make a significant difference in traffic flow, individual monitoring, and understanding of the students!” The facts are clear, increasing the number of students in a science laboratory increases the likelihood of accidents. A high pupil/teacher ratio constitutes a threat to laboratory safety.
There was little evidence that the cognitive challenge of linking observables to ideas is recognized by those who design practical activities for science lessons.
Tasks rarely incorporated explicit strategies to help students to make such links, or were presented in class in ways that reflected the size of the learning demand. The analytical framework used in this study offers a means of assessing the learning demand of practical tasks, and the effects on students’ academic performance.
1.2 Statement of Problem
The roles of practical class in science subjects during teaching and learning process are often been overlooked in secondary education. The attitude of schools towards science practical have not been positive in the recent times as a lot of schools have science equipment which have never been used or are hardly used. In some cases, school laboratories are underequipped while some schools do not even have science laboratories and this may be the reason for general poor performance in science related courses (Esan, 2005).
Practical work follows the basic principle of Learning by doing. Students get opportunity to actively participate in the learning process. But difficulties in organizing practical classes for students have made the learning abstract (Ojo, 2009). Some teachers have been discovered to be good in theoretical aspect of teaching but they often fall short of expectation when it comes to practical aspect due to their unfamiliarity with nature of the work.
1.3 Purpose of Study
The purpose of this study is to find out if:
1. Practical facilities are adequate in senior secondary schools based on Nigerian minimum standard.
2. Teachers have a positive attitude towards the conduct of practicals.
1.4 Research Questions
The following questions guided the study:
1. Are there adequate laboratory facilities in senior secondary schools?
2. What are the teachers’ attitudes towards the conduct of practicals?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The following hypotheses guided the study:
1. There are inadequate laboratory facilities in senior secondary schools
2. Teachers have a negative attitude towards the conduct of practicals
1.6 Significance of Study
The finding of this study should be taking as positive contribution to plant planning in secondary school. The study will also encourage the state ministry of education, state primary education board, the Heads of private schools and school managers in provision of science facilities that will stimulate a high level of participation in the students in practicals and increase their knowledge of the subject matter since knowledge is better appreciated from active participation.
This study will also allow students know the importance of practicals in biology and this will help to improve their participation in the class.
The curriculum planners will use the result of this study to evaluate the existing curriculum in line with the available facilities in the biology laboratory, with a view of reviewing same to meet the realities on ground and setting obtainable curriculum for biology practicals in senior secondary school.
This study will bring to fore the attitude (positive or negative) of teachers towards the conduct of biology praticals in senior secondary schools.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The study covered senior secondary schools in Orile Agege Local Council Development Area of Lagos State. Both secondary and primary source of data were available for use.
1.8 Definition of Terms
The following terms have been defined operationally as follows:
Perception: the way you think about or understand something
Laboratory: has to do with performing experiment
Attitude: a state of mind or disposition
Practical: of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas.