AVAILABILITY AND UTILIZATION OF LABORATORY RESOURCES IN TEACHING AND LEARNING CHEMISTRY
Chemistry as a science subject is based on practical and experiments. Its objectives as contained in the National policy on education (FRN, 2018) include among others to equip learners with meaningful and relevant knowledge of Chemistry. It is only through the availability and utilization of these materials (laboratory materials) that the above objectives and goals can be achieved.
Utilization of laboratory resources defines the extent or how often the available science laboratory materials are used during classes or laboratory sessions. These materials include beakers, Petri dish, etc. According to Lawal (2018), such materials promote learning by doing, make the classroom lively, real, and meaningful and have the potential to make the content worth learning.
When these laboratory materials are used it will promote creativity and self-reliance and at the same time, contributes meaningfully to effective teaching. Some Laboratory materials can be readily acquired, modified or developed by ingenious teachers to suit various needs and purposes in the teaching/learning process (Horgan, 2018).
The science laboratory has a direct effect on both students’ attitudes and academic performance as per the instructional theory of learning interaction. It is generally believed that constant practice leads to proficiency in what the learner learns during classroom instruction; hence, the dictum “practice makes perfect” (Lawal, 2018). The quality of teaching and learning experience depends on the extent of the adequacy of laboratory resources in secondary schools and the teacher’s effectiveness in the use of laboratory resources with the aim of facilitating and providing meaningful learning experiences in the learners.
The availability and adequate use of laboratory resources during science instruction help to develop values that aid the learners in decision-making. The laboratory is a distinctive feature in science teaching and learning (Stuckey, 2018). Lyons (2018), states that learning is a complex activity that involves the interplay of students’‟ motivation, physical facilities, teaching resources, skills of teaching and curriculum demands. The process of managing and organizing resources is called resource utilization. The utilization of resources (laboratory resources) in education brings about fruitful learning outcomes since resources stimulate students learning as well as motivating them. It is therefore necessary for the teachers to utilize available resources in teaching the learners in order to help the students comprehend the lesson with ease which will in turn improves their overall achievement in school.
Conceptual Frameworks on Chemistry Laboratory Availability and Utilization
Chemistry deals with the composition, properties and uses of matter. It probes into the principle governing the change that matter undergoes. Our world is made up of matter (anything that has mass and can occupy space) thus we study chemistry to acquire knowledge about the matter and perform experiments to learn, observe, record and make intelligent inferences. Studying chemistry gives us training in the scientific method. Chemistry has become one of the most important scientific disciplines in the secondary school curriculum. At the secondary school level, chemistry is taught through theory as well as practical which involve experimentation and demonstration to explain concepts. The study of chemistry as a science subject in senior secondary schools entails the exposure of learners to both theoretical and practical aspects of learning experiences. The methods of instruction vary depending on the nature of the content. Some content involves theory work while others involve practical work. Chemistry as one of the science disciplines is indispensable to the scientific and technological development of any nation.
The study of Chemistry has been and will remain of enormous benefit to man-kind because of its vivid explanation on natural phenomena and everyday life occurrences. The role of Chemistry in technological and national development has been acknowledged the world over. (Udofia & Udo, 2019). The teaching of Chemistry helps the students to comprehend the world around them and also better prepare them to improve on it. Udongwo (2018) observed that the child should be given first-hand familiarity with the variety of natural, physical and man-made phenomena in the world around him. For effective Chemistry teaching, the use of available natural resources to enrich instructional delivery and concretized learning is vital. The teaching of Chemistry without learning materials will certainly result poor performance in the subject.
Without doubt, science teaching has peculiar features and special characteristics which demands special skills. Among its peculiar features is the science laboratory. The laboratory is the workplace of the science teacher. It is a place where practical activities are planned and carried out. It contains the resources, equipment and apparatus for science teaching ranging from easily consumable supplies to full range of materials needed for effective teaching and learning of science. Ardoni (2019) defines school laboratory as an instructional facility for helping students to learn what science is and how scientists work. Adeyemi (2016) sees science laboratories to be central to the teaching of science in secondary schools. Nmadi (2018) defined laboratory as a place where people engage themselves in human enterprise to examine and explain natural phenomena. Laboratories have been found to be a primary vehicle for promoting formal reasoning, skills and students’ understanding, thereby enhancing the desired learning outcomes in students. (Ogunlaye, 2018). According to Cornby (2015) laboratory is a room or building used for scientific research, experiment, testing.
A laboratory is a place equipped for making tests or doing experimental work. Laboratory is a place where scientific research and development is conducted and analysis performed (Britannica Concise Encyclopedia 2016). A laboratory symbolizes a place to experiment with ones inner feelings, beliefs and fears. Wikipedia defines a laboratory as a facility that provides condition in which scientific research, experiment and measurement may be performed. Watson (2019) Laboratory is a place equipped for experimental study. He added that the world in the minds of most people is synonymous with scientific investigation; she went further to say that laboratory is a place where the scientists do their work. He also added that it is a room that is well equipped for the purpose of carrying out practical work and allows students to have experiences that are consistent with the goal of scientific literacy.
From the above definitions, the laboratory can be summarized as a place for students to practice various experiments so as to be convinced about scientific facts, events and phenomena. This place also enhances meaningful learning of science concepts and theories through hands-on experiments.
Availability of Laboratory Resources
The use of aids in teaching is of important as they help to stimulate Learners interest and promote understanding. According to Akoano and Akpokiere (2019) the teaching and learning of science which is a practical course requires practical laboratory activities because experiment is the hallmark of science education. Uyoata (2019) also opined that meaningful learning of science requires the use of multisensory approaches where appropriate instructional resources are selected and used. This is necessary because in this kind of learning students make use of more than one sense modality in learning. Dangbin (2018) also reported that practical activities using sufficient facilities enable learners to acquire cognitive skills such as formulation of hypothesis, making assumptions, designing investigations, understanding variables, observing, recording date etc and associated with these activities are scientific attitudes like curiosity, perseverance etc which are necessary for engaging in faithful science investigation.
However, Lawal (2019) reported that biology physical structures as well equipment are inadequate. Ajayi (2018) also reported that biology teachers in secondary schools have always lamented that among the various obstacles to effective teaching of biology practicals includes lack of laboratory space and equipment, large class and in adequate time allocation. Oludare Abiodun and Ajayi (2019) also reported that there are no enough classrooms and laboratories. Laboratories have poor facilities and equipment and that, supplies of chemicals and reagents for experiments are quiet low. Also schools lack laboratory assistance resulting in the poor maintenance and obsolete nature of laboratory facilities. Adepoju (2020) also reported that the quality of the products of the education system is daily depreciating due to obsolete, inadequate or even non-availability of materials. There is a general consensus among science educators that science teaching in schools has continued to be theoretical and not practically oriented (Ihieglulem 2019, Oludare Abiodun and Emmanuel 2019) As a result of this learners do not think practically and they are not able to apply the knowledge acquired. Little encouragement is given to learners to find out things for themselves instead they are being fed with fact and dogmas.
As a result of this many science classrooms are characterized by for the purpose of passing examinations. Supporting this view Ogu (2018) reported that in most schools emphasis is more on the memorization of facts with a view to passing examination and less on the method of finding out the facts and learning to apply them. That the practice is to defer practice to few weeks to the external examination. This practice prepares the students for the examination but does not give room for any meaningful learning. Resources are aids to learning rather than teaching, sourcing them, however, is the responsibility of the teacher. Sourcing for resources makes the teachers’ work cumbersome as a result of which few teachers would like using them (Dangbin, 2018) That some teachers may not want to use facilities simply because they are too lazy to go for them even when they are available. Also some teachers may not want to use teaching facilities because they have been trained in the use of excessive verbalization of ideas and they are reluctant to shed the old practice. According to Lewin (2018) high institutions in Nigeria charged with the responsibility of training science teachers are increasingly turning out teachers without requisite experiences in laboratory practices.
Such trained teachers usually lack the necessary competence and confidence to conduct practical classes thus even when materials are within easy reach they may refuse to use them. The conditions under which many teachers function do not engender any enthusiasm for practical work. The class size especially in urban schools is sometimes larger. According to Chika (2016) there is a general increase in the environments f students who study biology without a corresponding increase to school facilities. Adebayo (2017) had earlier reported that the population of students has continued to grow every year at the expense of available physical facilities for their use that government as failed to expand or put in place new facilities thereby making existing facilities to be over-utilized because of the pressure on them. supporting this vie Lewin (2016) reported the importance attached to laboratory activities does not match the government’s provision of laboratory resources and equipment possibly due to the condition of the national economy which is deteriorating. Justifying this Lewin (2016)noted that in most state governments have given up the hope of adequately equipping all schools with science facilities. Instead, they have designated some schools as ‘special science schools’ which hey equip with their meagre resources.
Another related problem is the practice in which teachers are not involved in planning and procurement of relevant instructional facilities for use in schools. According to Uyoata (2019), truckloads of items some of which are so strange and not related to the contents of the science curriculum are imposed on the teachers. Such materials are packed away where they collect dust for years which leads to the malfunctioning of such facilities. They may lie wasted because the teacher does not know how to use. And when they are faulty replacement parts are hardly available.
Utilization of Laboratory Resources
The process of managing and organizing resources for teaching and learning is referred to as resource utilization (Lewin 2016) Resources utilization has to do with the extent to when facilities are provided to schools, these are three possibilities, they are either used effective or inefficiently or they may remain unused. When item of equipment is maximally used such as equipment is effectively utilized. If the equipment is not maximally used it can be said to be underutilized. When there is so much pressure on the use of equipment this may result to overutilization which could lead to the breakdown of such items or equipment.
Teaching leaning facilities improves the quality of teaching and make learning content meaningful. According to Ihiegbulem (2019) resource materials utilization during practices lessons inculcates in the students the spirit of careful observation, manipulative skills, respective thinking, and creativity in the learners, Lewin (2016) however reported that science facilities are only important when they are used. One of the major problems facing the teaching and learning of science is connected with the management of available resources (Ogunleye, 2017) movement of resources requires the science teacher himself be resourceful and creative and be careful in handling and using available facilities are handled cautiously, especially the fragile ones. This is necessary because once the facilities are misused they cannot offer the best service required.
Availability and utilization of Laboratory resources in the teaching and learning of Chemistry.
Chemistry laboratory equipment has been identified as part of the teaching-learning facilities teachers and students use to express ideas without difficulties, thus making the lesson interesting, motivating and easy to understand. Utilization of laboratory equipment defines the extent or how often the available science laboratory equipment are used during classes or laboratory sessions. According to Lawal (2018), such materials promote learning by doing, make the classroom lively, accurate, and meaningful, and have the potential to make the content permanent thereby increasing students’ performance. To Lawal, utilization of this equipment enables learners to focus their attention to important issues and acquire practical skills. In effect, the acquisition of such skills is capable of helping students combat unemployment and poverty. Hence, the need for maximum use of such equipment cannot be overemphasized.
Oluwasegun, Ohwofosirai and Emagbetere (2015) examined the impact of physics laboratory equipment on students offering physics in Ethiope West local government area. They found that the use of Physics laboratory equipment facilitates the teaching and learning of Physics, inculcates scientific reasoning and enhances academic performance in the subject. Olufunke’s (2018) study found that schools with highest frequency of utilization of these equipments had highest mean score followed by schools with average and low frequency of utilization respectively. Practical experience in science subject is very crucial for real knowledge for cognitive growth as well as technological orientation and advancement.
Okoli and Egun (2016) described the practical approach to teaching as one that engages the students in active learning through interaction with the available resources and equipment; and also provides the learners with the opportunity for experimentation, manipulation of variables, verification of facts, collection and analysis of data and drawing inference and conclusions from the data collected. In senior secondary schools, theoretical teaching is accompanied by practical work in teaching and learning of science. Chemistry practicals constituted an integral part of Chemistry practicals. There are various reasons for Chemistry practicals. It affords the learners the basic skills and scientific method of problem-solving. The knowledge obtained through practical work and experience promotes long-term memory (Ndu, 2018). Unarguably, this practical work cannot be effectively achieved if the necessary Chemistry facilities are not available for utilization.
However, a study carried out by Edobor (2019) regarding the availability of laboratory resources (human and material resources) in vocational courses in secondary schools in the south-eastern parts of Nigeria, confirmed the inadequacy of human and material resources in the teaching and learning of those courses. Education in science-based subjects requires not only facts and information but also involves changing people’s attitudes. To actualize this dream, laboratory resources (human and material resources) must be available in their right numbers, the practical experience will make them more efficient, competent and up-to-date teachers must be exposed to constant training and interaction with professional experts through seminars, symposia, workshop and conference, this will help to improve their competencies and professionalism.
Similarly, Majasan (2015) noted that if the laboratory resources (human and material resources) are not well catered for, the problem of inadequacy remains unsolved because majority of teachers will find their way to more lucrative jobs in industries and parastatals for a notion to grow, it must have people who are well-skilled in technology and materials for full implementation of this subject.
In another study by Nwagbo and Uzoma (2019) on the effects of practical activities on secondary school students’ process skill acquisition in Abuja municipal council, practical activity method of teaching and learning was found to be more effective in fostering students acquisition of science process skills which may eventually improve students’ performance. Whereas several other research on influence of laboratory equipment found significant relationship between utilization of these facilities and students’ interest in the learning of Chemistry (Negi, 2018) he went further to add that there is no significant correlation between utilization of science laboratory resources and students’ academic performance in chemistry.
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