Educators' approaches to physics practical work
Motlhabane, Abraham Tlhalefang
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Research in physics education has indicated that physics practical work is based heavily on recipe-following, with little attention being paid to the teaching and learning of skills (Johnstone & Letton. 1990:11, Johnstone & Letton, 1991:83, Meester & Maskill, 1995:576). The approach commonly used by educators was a cut-and-dried laboratory procedure, which minimises learner involvement (Olney, 1997: 1345). Recently. new approaches to science laboratory work have been implemented (Hake. 1992). In South Africa a new approach called Outcomes Based Education (OBE) was introduced in 1995. Notwithstanding these changes, learners still do not learn how to do practical work effectively. (Meester & Maskill, 1995:576). Educators still prefer the authoritarian style of teaching, the emphasis being on the acquisition of factual knowledge and preparation for examinations. The aim of this study is to investigate how secondary school science educators approach practical work in physics at the FET-level in the North West Province, South Africa. The empirical study was conducted with 46 educators attending an ACE (Advanced Certificate in Education) upgrading programme at the North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa. The educators were divided into six groups. One educator in each group presented a micro-lesson on Ohm's law, while the rest of the group members role-played the learners. The micro-lessons were video-taped, transcribed, analysed and discussed. Questionnaires (Appendices B, P and Q) were used in this study. The first questionnaire (Appendix B) was given to educators as an assignment to individually prepare a lesson on Ohm's law in order to probe their views on an OBE lesson in physics, its characteristics, practical work and its outcomes. The second questionnaire (Appendix P) was developed and completed by the researcher to record, evaluate and analyse observations in the video-taped micro-lessons. The last questionnaire (Appendix Q) was used to gauge perceptions of educators on video-taped micro-teaching as a tool in modelling educators' approaches to physics practical work. The results indicate that the educators that participated in this study experienced problems in approaching physics practical work. They lacked skills in facilitating practical work in physics. Instead of outcomes-based approaches, the educators' approaches revolved around the transfer of factual information through "chalk and talk" and confirmation of taught concepts through routines-guided experiments. The researcher intervened by engaging educators in viewing the video-tapes, an in-depth discussion or the video-tapes and the preparation and presentation or a "model" lesson. All (100%) (Table 6.17) the educators that participated in this study indicated that the use of videotaped micro-teaching lessons could help in the training of educators. A CD-ROM containing video-clips or all the micro-lessons was developed. The intention of the researcher is that the video-clips should be used at workshops, seminars, conferences and training institutions. Their merits and the demerits should then be discussed.
- Education