In schools, it is a common sight to find science lessons with the practical component. Experimentation is widely accepted as the essence of learning science. Without practical lessons, learning science will be similar to learning literature without reading novels and poems.
Though with the merits of having practical lessons and science demonstrations, not all school have the privilege to have such lessons to be embedded into all their lessons. With school budgets reducing, practical work is under greater scrutiny. This is mainly due to the addition of technicians and equipment that makes science more expensive than non-practical subjects. Furthermore, in our exam focused culture, more time is catered towards finishing our science syllabus as the practical component covers only a small percentage in the final examination.
Through literature, we are able to discover five key reasons for schools to build a culture of science practical work in learning science.
1) It is able to teach principles of scientific inquiry.
2) Allows better understanding and conceptual application of the theories of science through practical experience.
3) Specific practical skills, such as measurement and observation, can be learnt and these may be useful for future job employment opportunities.
4) Social and generic skills can be developed namely teamwork and communication skills.
5) Practical work helps to motivate and engage students in making science relateable to real world context.
I strongly believe that with an more objective view of the reasons and benefits of doing science practical in lessons, we as teachers will be able to identify the suitable demonstrations and practicals to be integrated into theoritcal lessons. That in turn might help us to get better returns on the investment of opportunities for students in mastering their science concept.
Abrahams, I., & Millar, R. (2008). Does practical work really work? A study of the effectiveness of practical work as a teaching and learning method in school science. International Journal of Science Education, 30(14), 1945-1969
Hofstein, A., & Lunetta, V. N. (2004). The laboratory in science education: Foundations for the twenty‐first century. Science education, 88(1), 28-54.
Hodson, D. (1996). Practical work in school science: exploring some directions for change. International Journal of Science Education, 18(7), 755-760.
Johnstone, A. H. (1991). Why is science difficult to learn? Things are seldom what they seem. Journal of computer assisted learning, 7(2), 75-83.