Teachers’ Experiences of Teaching Science with Limited Laboratory Resources


Master's Thesis, 2013
63 Pages, Grade: B+

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

ABSTRACT

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

ABBREVIATION

CHAPTER ONE:INTRODUCTION
1.1. Background and Context of the Study
1.2. Statement of the Problem
1.3. Rationale
1.4. Significance of the Study
1.5. Scope and Limitations of the Study
1.6. Research Question
1.6.1 Subsidiary Questions
1.7. Definitions of the Key Terms
1.8. Organization of the Dissertation

CHAPTER TWO:LITERATURE REVIEW
2.0. Introduction
2.1. Teachers’ Experiences and Perceptions in Teaching Science
2.2. Social Constructivism in Teaching and Learning Science
2.3. Teaching Science with Limited Laboratory Resources
2.3.1. Teaching Science Using Locally Available Materials
2.3.2. Teaching Science through Demonstration
2.4. Impact of Laboratory Resources on Teaching and Learning Science
2.5. Challenges of Teaching and Learning Science with Limited Laboratory Resources
2.6. Conclusion

CHAPTER THREE:RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.0. Introduction
3.1. Research Approach
3.2. Research Design
3.3. The Research Site
3.4. Sample and Sampling Procedure
3.5. Data Collection Methods and Tools
3.5.1. Interviews
3.5.2. Classroom Observation
3.5.3. Focus Group Discussion
3.6. Data Analysis
3.7. Trustworthiness
3.8. Ethical Consideration
3.9. Challenges Encountered
3.10. Conclusion

CHAPTER FOUR:PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
4.0. Introduction
4.1. Teaching Science Subjects with Limited Laboratory Resources
4.1.1. Teaching through Group Activities
4.1.2. Teaching by Demonstration
4.1.2.1. Demonstration using real laboratory resources
4.1.2.2. Demonstration using improvised materials
4.1.3. Teaching by using Movable Laboratory
4.2. Teachers’ Perceptions of Teaching Science in Limited Laboratory Resources
4.2.1. Laboratory Resources in Teaching and Learning Science
4.2.2. Teaching Science with Limited Laboratory Resources
4.2.3. The Use of Kiswahili during the Teaching of Science
4.3. Challenges in Teaching Science with Limited Laboratory Resources
4.3.1. Laboratory Experiments Taught In Forms Three and Four Classes
4.3.2. Implementation of Competence Based Curriculum
4.3.3. Theoretical Teaching of Science Subjects
4.3.4. Laboratory Technicians

CHAPTER FIVE: SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS, IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.
5.0. Introduction
5.1. Summary of Key Findings of the Study
5.2. Implications
5.3. Recommendations
5.3.1. For the School
5.3.2. For Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT)
5.3.3. For Teacher Educators
5.4. Lessons Learnt
5.5. Further Research
5.6. Conclusion

References

ABBREVIATION

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

ABSTRACT

Laboratory resources play a vital role in the teaching-learning process of science subjects. However, in Tanzanian public secondary schools, there is inequality in the provision of these resources such that the community secondary schools have very few laboratory resources. Yet, these schools sit for the same national examination with better resources’ schools. This study focused on exploring teachers’ experiences of teaching science subjects with limited laboratory resources in community secondary schools in Lindi region in Tanzania. The study employed qualitative case study design. The research participants of the study were four science teachers from two community secondary schools. Data was collected through qualitative semi-structured interviews, classroom observation, focus group discussion and informal conversations. The study identified that there is a great deficiency in the availability of science laboratories resources. Whereas one school has a laboratory with limited resources, in the other school, uses movable laboratory to perform science experiments since the school has no laboratory. The findings of the study indicated that science teachers experience difficulties in teaching and learning science because of inadequate laboratory resources. This limits them to teach according to their belief, that for effective teaching and learning science, students should be involved in hands-on activities. The shortage of these resources forces teachers to conduct science experiments in order of priority; they organized experiments for those classes that were preparing for national examinations. Finally, the study recommended that in teaching and learning science with limited resources, teachers should be innovative and committed so as to realize meaningful learning. Furthermore, teachers’ professional learning is essential for them to gain skills of teaching science in such challenging environment.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Many people supported, encouraged and guided me during the time of conducting this research. I owe my deepest gratitude to my supervisor ShelinaWalli for guiding me through the research process from problem formulation to results presentation. It has been a pleasure to work under her professional supervision. Despite her duties and busy schedule, she always had time for discussion and guidance. Her enthusiasm for doing research motivated me during this time. I want to thank her for her encouragement, warmth, and friendliness.

I express my deepest thanks to all faculties at the Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development, East Africa for creating a supportive and safe environment for learning. Without them this journey would not have been as joyful as it has been.

I extend my thanks to the whole personnel at the University for creating a pleasant working atmosphere.

I greatly acknowledge the financial support from the Aga Khan University. This support has made possible to complete my research without any financial problems.

In a special way I would like to thank Veronica Sarungi for her patience with editing the language of this dissertation. Moreover, I acknowledge GinorahMwamburi, MaasoudKhalfan, Amina Masheko, Rukia Ali, IddiSwalehe and Saleh Hemed who have helped during the research process through their insightful advice.

I would like to thank my fellow course participants of cohort six of 2013 with whom I had undertaken this learning experience.

I wish to thank the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training of Tanzania for granting me study leave to pursue my Master studies.

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION

This chapter presents the background of the study and statement of the problem on teachers’ experience of teaching science with limited laboratory resources. The chapter further outlines the rationale for taking up this research, the significance and limitations of the study as well as the research questions. Finally, the key terms are defined and an organization of the rest of the dissertation is presented.

1.1. Background and Context of the Study

The most important focus of science education is to prepare students to acquire scientific knowledge that they will apply in everyday life (UNESCO, 2010). This is also in accordance with the competence based curriculum which is followed by Tanzania. This implies that science teaching ought not just to convey collection of facts to the students but also a way to think about the world outside the classroom. Therefore, teaching science has to be concerned with developing analytical, critical observation and problem solving abilities as well as the creativity of an individual (Yang & Heh, 2007). These abilities are less developed through traditional approach because in traditional approach hands-on activities have no place to play. In the traditional approach, learning is focused on mastery of content knowledge, with less emphasis on the development of skills and the nurturing of inquiring attitudes (Crebbin, 2004). Thus, traditional education is more concerned with preparing students for the next grade level and in school success than helping them to learn through their life experience.

To prepare students to become scientist, science should be taught through process skills (Feyzioglu, 2009). Proper understanding of science concepts is achieved through practical activities which enable students to acquire important scientific skills such as collecting and recording data, communicating, analyzing and making inference (Hofstein&Lunetta, 2003; Hofstein, 2004; Jorgensen, 2010). This is what is known as learning science by process skills (Feyzioglu, 2009). Given this fact, process skill in teaching science connects students with the use of the five sense organs. Therefore, laboratory resources become essential in teaching and learning science because they enable teachers to employ students’ process skills. Unfortunately in most Tanzanian community secondary schools, the availability of laboratories and resources are still a big challenge and this fact might restrain teachers from teaching science effectively.

Unavailability of laboratory resources hinders teachers from effectively engaging their students with science experiments. Most of the studies in the field of science education indicate that the availability of laboratory equipments in teaching and learning science has been given central role, since it motivates effective teaching and learning process. Likewise, according to SCPSC (2010) as cited in UNESCO (2010) it has been observed that in teaching and learning science the teachers’ motivation and retention drops due to the inadequate infrastructure such as equipment and laboratory. In the context of Tanzanian secondary schools, the availability of laboratory resources varies from one school to another, which results in inequalities of learning outcomes, especially in science and mathematics subjects in which students in community secondary schools consistently perform poorly (United Republic of Tanzania [URT], 2010). Hence, the availability of teaching and learning resources is not the same even among government schools. Therefore, it is disappointing to find that despite these differences in availability of laboratory resources, all students are treated the same by the National Examination Council regardless of the real school setting. Research in Kenya has found that there is positive correlation between availability of resources and students performance (Mudulia, 2012). For that reason, teachers and students in most community secondary schools are disadvantaged in that they do not have adequate learning facilities including laboratory and equipments besides having overcrowded classes. Thus, teaching and learning science becomes challenging since teachers find it difficult to involve students in hands-on activities and as a result decide to use teacher-centred approach. As a result, many students lose hope of studying science and opt to study art subjects (Mabula, 2012). Consequently, there is a need for educational stake holders including the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT) and the community at large to understand teachers’ experiences so that they could find strategies to help teachers teach science more effectively in ways that could motivate students to learn.

The Primary Education Development Programme (PEDP) introduced in Tanzania in 2001 led to increased enrolment in primary education. Transition rate from primary to secondary education has increased from 36.1% in 2004 to 51.6% in 2009 (URT, 2010). As a result, the Government of Tanzania introduced the Secondary Education Development Plan (SEDP), aimed at increasing access to secondary education. Through joint efforts by the Government and community, the number of government secondary schools has increased from 828 in 2004 to 3,283 in 2009 (URT, 2010). The increase in enrolment in primary education widens the opportunities for students completing primary education to access secondary education. This fact is in line with the review report of SEDP I which found that the enrolment in secondary education have tripled in a span of four years from 432,599 in 2004 to 1,466,402 in 2009 (URT, 2010). However, the distribution of teaching and learning resources in community secondary schools in particular was not matched to these expansions. The Minister of Education and Vocational Training in his speech to the national assembly pointed out that, despite the many successes the MoEVT has achieved, the Ministry is still faced with several challenges in science education one of which is laboratory and laboratory resources (MoEVT, 2013).

Similarly, many studies have reported that laboratory activities in Tanzanian community secondary schools in particular are insufficient and ineffective. There are several reasons for the ineffectiveness of laboratory activities such as the shortage of science teachers (Hakielimu, 2010; Ndibalema, 2012; URT, 2009); teachers’ low competence in laboratory experiments since they themselves learnt science through alterative to practical during their schooling (Mabula, 2012); lack or limited laboratory equipment (Mkonongwa, 2012) and overcrowded class size (FEMSA, 2010).Therefore, considering the current nature of learning environment in most community secondary schools where there is inadequate laboratory equipment, this study focuses on exploring science teachers’ experiences of teaching science in schools with limited laboratory resources.

1.2. Statement of the Problem

There is a broad consensus in science education that hands-on activities are of central importance to teaching science in an effective and engaging way. Indeed, the current Tanzanian science curriculum advocates student-centred approach with students’ active engagement in laboratory activities which promotes scientific skills and recommends that schools should be equipped with modern laboratory (Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE), 2010). Conversely, teaching and learning resources including laboratory resources are supplied in very limited amount to public secondary schools. In order to meet the needs of Tanzanian science curriculum, science should be taught to shape the students in real life situation. All the same, this requires among others, adequate laboratory equipment and competent science teachers.

Inadequate teaching and learning resources in most community secondary schools has been cited by many teachers as the main obstruction to teachers on organizing experimental activities (Hakielimu, 2010; Oluoch, 2006; Sitta, 2006). This results in poor students’ performance in science subjects due to the fact that teachers do not teach using teaching and learning strategies as per the instruction given by the science syllabus. One among the general competences that has to be developed from all science syllabuses is the ability to use scientific methods in designing and carrying out experiments in science (TIE, 2010). It is important to note that when teaching science with limited laboratory resources teachers should make extra effort so as to equip students with scientific skills.

Many studies done in Tanzania identify lack of laboratory facilities, teachers’ competences and science text book as some of the factors that contribute to poor students’ performance in science (Mkonongwa, 2012; Ndibalema, 2012; Woodley, 2009), Moreover, Mabula (2012), in an attempt to find out the reasons for the high rate of students’ failure in science, noted that many students claimed that the massive failure in science results were contributed to by the teaching styles. He further added that nearly all science teachers used lecture method in teaching and most of the practical aspects in these subjects were taught theoretically. However, despite a range of studies on teaching and learning science in community secondary schools, I did not come across a clear investigation describing teachers’ experience of teaching science with limited laboratory resources. Thus the study aimed to explore this aspect.

1.3. Rationale

The interest to carry out this study emanated from my teaching experience as a Physics tutor. I observed science teachers employ poor methods of teaching and learning science subjects due to limited laboratory resources. In some cases the teachers had a few learners perform the task as others observed and also some teachers often resorted to demonstration and so students obtained only a limited exposure to a given experiment. Demonstration can become difficult for every student to get engaged in the activities and this leaves many of the students to be just observers or not even able to see what is being demonstrated depending on the number of students in the class. This approach does not make students achieve a functional understanding of the scientific concept since it does not fully involve learners in learning (Hull, 2000). I therefore wanted to understand the situation better.

My interest in conducting this study was also to seek out the experiences of science teachers in teaching biology, chemistry and physics with limited laboratory resources in community secondary schools so as to inform the community members and other educational stakeholders such as school administration and curriculum developer. This could help them to find alternative solutions to help teachers teach science more effectively. Hands-on laboratory experiments are most effective in learning scientific concepts, however, majority of community secondary still operate with little laboratory facilities (Mabula, 2012; Ndibalema, 2012). Learners in such schools are at a great disadvantage considering that laboratory practical examinations carry 20% of the form four national examination marks. Consequently, science teachers are challenged since it is usually their competence, which is questioned, yet little is known about teachers’ experience of teaching science with limited laboratory resources.

1.4. Significance of the Study

The findings of the study would help me to gain insight into teachers’ experiences of teaching science with limited laboratory resources so as to inform my practice as a science tutor. The findings of the study will equip me to initiate pedagogical innovations to support student teachers who are likely to teach in similar contexts. In addition, the study may also be of interest and a useful reflection to community members, schools leaders and secondary school teachers who teach science subjects. The dissemination of the findings from this study could also motivate the government working in collaboration with the community to put more effort in to the construction of laboratories and equipping them with the required facilities. The study will also create awareness among school stakeholders about the impact of limited laboratory equipment and facilities and this could enhance facilitation of the community secondary schools.

1.5. Scope and Limitations of the Study

The study was limited to four science teachers confined in two community secondary schools. Thus the findings do not apply to all secondary schools and teachers, although it could be applied to teachers in similar situations namely teaching science with limited laboratory equipment and facilities.

1.6. Research Question

The main question of this study is “what are the experiences of teachers in teaching science with limited laboratory equipment and facilities?”

1.6.1 Subsidiary Questions

1. How do science teachers teach science with limited laboratory resources?
2. What are the science teachers’ perceptions of teaching science with limited laboratory resources?
3. What challenges do science teachers face in teaching science with limited laboratory resources?

1.7. Definitions of the Key Terms

Experience means the way in which individuals perceive and handle matters according to their views, skills and knowledge or the way in which the individual perceives or thinks about a certain ideas through the senses or mind.

Science subjects include all three subjects of Physics, Chemistry and Biology taught in secondary schools in Tanzania.

Laboratory resources: Tools and materials used to either perform an experiment or take measurements and gather data (Lunetta, 2003; Meydan&Dogu, 2007).

Community schools : Schools largely built through contributions from community with support from the Government administered through local government authorities.

1.8. Organization of the Dissertation

The dissertation has five chapters. This first chapter provided the background of this study, statement of the problem, rational and significance of the study. The chapter also provided research question for the study and defined the key terms used in this study. Chapter two presents literature reviewed for the study where as chapter three describes the methodology employed for conducting the research. Chapter four presents the discussion and findings of the study and chapter five concludes the report with the summary of the findings, implications and recommendations. It further discusses lesson learnt and suggests further research to be undertaken.

CHAPTER TWO LITERATURE REVIEW

2.0. Introduction

This chapter presents a summary of some national and international research literature, and reports relevant to teachers’ experiences of teaching science with limited laboratory resources in community secondary schools. The chapter begins with a general overview of teachers’ experience and perceptions, Followed by the theoretical views of social constructivism, teaching science with limited laboratory resources, and the impact of laboratory resources in teaching and learning science. It finally examines the challenges in teaching and learning science with limited laboratory resources.

2.1. Teachers’ Experiences and Perceptions in Teaching Science

The Oxford advanced learner's dictionary defines experience as “the process of gaining knowledge and skills over a period of time through seeing and doing things rather than through studying” (p. 404). For the purpose of this study, experience is defined as the way in which individuals perceive and handle matters according to their views, skills and knowledge. Mansour (2009) emphasizes that teachers’ experiences are part of the process of understanding how they conceptualize their work, which is important in understanding teachers’ practices and their decisions in the classroom. Research shows that although science teachers may have similar scientific knowledge, they are likely to teach in different ways because teachers’ experience is more powerful than their knowledge in influencing the way in which they teach (National Research Council (U.S.), 2000; Oscarsson, Jidesjö, Karlsson, &Strömdahl, 2009). Therefore, science teachers may introduce scientific concepts in their classrooms in different ways according to their experiences. Moreover, teachers’ experiences are shaped by their school’s culture, background and duration of engaging in their teaching practices (National Research Council (U.S.), 2000). Further, teachers’ experiences are an important pivot in planning and conducting situations that could help students in learning science. A study conducted by Omolo (2009) reveals that teaching practices are part of complex processes defining teachers’ classroom experience which include the delivery of the content, students’ involvement, student-student interactions and student-teacher interactions (Ewell& Jones, 1996; Smart & Paulsen, 2011). This implies that teachers’ experience is an important factor effective teaching and learning.

Teachers’ perceptions influence how teaching and learning takes place (C. W. Keys & Bryan, 2001). In teaching and learning science, Feiz (2011); Mansour (2009) and Sadifer and Haines (2009) studies reveal that teachers have positive perceptions about laboratory activities since they contend that it leads to students’ engagement and active participation in the learning process. Moreover, since science is an experimental discipline, laboratory become an important place essential in developing students’ scientific processing skills (Flinn scientific, 2011; Hofstein&Mamlok-Naaman, 2007; Oscarsson et al., 2009; Science Community Representing Education [SCORE], 2008). Considering the role that hands-on activities play in the teaching and learning of science, the Tanzanian science curriculum indicates that teaching and learning strategies in science should be student-centred and activities oriented (TIE, 2010). Notwithstanding directives from the science curriculum and the known benefits, it remains a fact that the teacher is the key player in curriculum implementation (P. M. Keys, 2003). Therefore the teaching and learning of science with limited laboratory resources can be shaped by teachers’ perception.

Teachers’ experiences and perceptions both affect their classroom practices. For instance, Hardre and Sullivan (2008) assert that teachers’ own experiences together with their perceptions of how science is taught may determine the strategies that they use to motivate students in learning science. Thus in teaching and learning science with limited resources a teacher may try to find appropriate ways of ensuring that students understand the subject matter despite the inadequate equipment. However, if teachers perceive that laboratory equipment are important in teaching and learning science but getting the resources is beyond their control then they may abandon or distort central ideas of teaching science (Sandifer& Haines, 2009). Therefore, in teaching and learning science with limited laboratory equipment, the teachers’ views about teaching science as well as their experiences should be considered.

Most science teachers perceive that laboratory activities are essential in teaching science as it stimulates students’ interest as well as developing their scientific skills (Dillon, 2008). In a large scale study conducted in American public schools reveals that many science teachers perceived that hands-on activities is the best strategy for effective science teaching and learning (Sandifer& Haines, 2009). However this is only possible under manageable class sizes and adequate facilities and resources (Ogunmade, 2005). In addition, literature on science education has revealed that teachers’ views and perception of science are often considered an important factor that frames their instruction practice (Abd-El-Khalick& Lederman, 2000; Bakar, Bal, &Akcay, 2006). Therefore, when teachers have naive perception of teaching science with limited resources, they may fail to be innovative in giving students opportunities to make meanings through laboratory activities.

In summary, based on literature, laboratory activities have been rated high by teachers in teaching and learning science. Therefore, teachers’ experience and perceptions of how science should be taught in relation to the availability of laboratory resources need to be considered because their perceptions may regulate their teaching practices and curriculum implementation.

2.2. Social Constructivism in Teaching and Learning Science

Many theories have talked about teaching and learning. However, this study focuses on social constructivism. Social constructivism has been drawn upon by many researchers while explaining the importance of teaching and learning science (Driver, 2000; Hodson, 1998; Leach & Scott, 2003). Social constructivism is the extension of constructivism which incorporates the role of society in teaching and learning. According to social constructivists, knowledge cannot be achieved by an individual but it can be acquired through social processes (Leach & Scott, 2003; Newman, Griffin, & Cole, 1989). In view of that, classroom interaction is very important as it engages students to interact with their peers, teachers, as well as with the learning materials to construct their own knowledge. In teaching and learning of science, interactions may be hampered by limited laboratory resources and this negatively impacts on the learning process.

Additionally, social constructivists argue that teachers cannot transfer knowledge from their heads to the students and that students construct their own knowledge through negotiation within their social setting (McLaughlin, 2001). This theory implies that during the teaching and learning process a teacher should be a facilitator not an instructor. Therefore, the role of the teacher is to provide scaffolding so that the students can accomplish the task which the students alone could otherwise not complete, thus helping the students through the Zone of proximal development (Bransford, Cocking, & Brown, 2000). Thus in teaching and learning science, teachers should provide a learning environment that will promote students’ understanding through meaningful peer and teacher interactions (Skamp, 2011). In other words, this theory emphasizes student-cantered approach and learning through hands-on activities where students work collaboratively on developing their own understanding. This is in line with Tanzanian competence based curriculum that encourages students’ participation in the construction and acquisition of knowledge (TIE, 2005). Competence based learning can be achieved when a school or classroom is well equipped with the teaching and learning resources like laboratory equipment. It is also observed by Marshall (2006) and Taylor (2008) that school climate can create a fabric of support that enables all members of the school community to teach and learn at optimum levels when teaching and learning resources are readily available.

Moreover, science deals with scientific ideas which are within students’ environment and these ideas must be tested against their prior beliefs (Ross, Lakin, & Callaghan, 2004; Matthews, 1998; Richardson, 1997). Therefore, engaging students in hands-on and laboratory activities that will enable them to challenge and reconstruct their existing ideas will make contextual scientific learning possible. The engagements of hands-on activities assist students in constructing meaningful science concepts and understanding how scientists develop knowledge of the natural world (Akar, 2003; Hodson, 1998). Furthermore, hands-on activities help to substantiate scientific knowledge and understanding; hence, it is hard to imagine learning about science without doing laboratory activities (Dahar&Faize, 2011; Matthews, 1998). This implies that, laboratories are wonderful venues for teaching and learning science. They offer students opportunities to think about scientific concepts, discuss, and solve the problems (Abimbola, 2006; Woodley, 2009). Experimental learning may provide a strong base for students to develop long term memory as they get the opportunity to learn by doing (Tobin, 2008). Deep understanding of science concepts comes with practical instructions (Haury&Rillero, 1994; Olufunke, 2012). Practical activities engage students in the investigation through data collection, interpretation and making inference (Mortimer & Scott, 2003). Consequently, the teaching of science which does not incorporate practical work is out of step with the ideals of science teaching (Meydan, Dogu, &Dinc, 2007; Omolo, 2009) because students may not be able to connect theoretical scientific concepts with the real world they live in. To put it briefly based on literature, teaching and learning science is effective when there is classroom interaction in which students are engaged in laboratory or hands-on activities. This plays a significant role in students’ understanding since they may be able to construct their own knowledge. In a constructivist science classroom, teaching and learning is facilitated by availability of laboratory equipment.

2.3. Teaching Science with Limited Laboratory Resources

To promote deep conceptual understanding of scientific concepts and positive attitudes toward science, it is recommended that science teaching and learning should be focused on the use of scientific activities to investigate real-life phenomena (Hofstein&Mamlok-Naaman, 2007; Open University, 1994; Tobin, 2008). However, the inadequacy of laboratory resources challenges the effectiveness with which teachers can able to implement hands-on curriculum (Kadzera, 2006; Thomas & Israel, 2012; Voogt, Tilya, &Akker, 2009). Consequently, in teaching and learning science, teachers could use other innovative ways to teach science when there are inadequate laboratory resources so as to make the lesson effective. These innovative ways include teaching science using locally available resources and through demonstration.

2.3.1. Teaching Science Using Locally Available Materials

Science is an experimental subject, thus teaching and learning become more effective when students are given opportunity to develop their own idea through hands-on activities (Garbett, 2011; Matthews, 1998). However, it has been found that in most of the developing countries, many teachers do not engage their students in laboratory activities due to inadequate laboratory materials (Female Education in Mathematics and Science in Africa [FEMSA], 2010). The use of locally available materials in teaching and learning science has become increasingly popular due to inadequate funds allocation to public schools (Thomas & Israel, 2012). This is because insufficient funds make it impossible to purchase enough laboratory equipment for teaching and learning science; hence in a situation where teachers depend on industrial laboratory materials they may not manage to teach science effectively. Therefore, improvisation is suggested to provide teaching materials from one’s locality when there is a shortage or lack of the standard ones (Mboto&Udo, 2011). Thus, in order to provide effective teaching and learning experiences, improvising the use of locally available material may enable students to achieve desired scientific results in the classroom.

Having said the above, despite the fact that the MoEVT encourages science teachers to use locally available materials in teaching and learning science, the use of such materials is often not realized in Tanzania. Studies conducted in Tanzania reveal that due to inadequate laboratory equipment, the teaching approach in science subjects is dominated by teacher-centred strategy where chalkboard is the only teaching resource used (Mabula, 2012; Ndibalema, 2012). In teaching and learning science under limited resources, MoEVT insists that everything required to teach modern science is available in the local environment (MoEVT, 2011). This idea is supported by Ademi, 2007 as quoted by (Thomas & Israel, 2012) that:

It is no excuse for any science teachers to hide under inadequate laboratory equipment for not conducting practical activities for their students, this is because even Isaac Newton, Pythagoras, Galilee Galileo and the rest of the pioneers in sciences started building for themselves objects from around them to explain scientific concepts that are still relevant till these days (p.44).

The above reveals that the use of locally available materials should not be undermined in teaching and learning science since hands-on activities is very important in the field of science.

Tompson (2002) in Bhukuvhani, Kusure, Munodawafa and Sana (2010) believes that improvisation is a pedagogical intervention strategy where teachers are being resourceful in the making and using locally available materials where conventional equipment may be inadequate or not available at all. Improvisation in teaching and learning science provides opportunities for creativity and development of manipulative abilities (Limjuco, Glover, & Mendez, 2011). Moreover, during improvisation scientific concepts are learnt and internalized easily by the students rather than proceeding with chalk and teacher talk ( Bhukuvhani et al.,(2010). This implies that students understand better when they are engaged in hands-on activities. Moreover, the findings of the study of Bhukuvhani et al.(2010) emphasized that the use of improvised apparatus in science teaching could be a solution to the problem of inadequate laboratory equipment. Therefore, in the context of Tanzanian secondary schools and community schools in particular where most of them lack adequate laboratory resources (Hakielimu, 2010; Ndibalema, 2012; URT, 2010), the use of locally available materials such as plastic bottle, clay, empty pen tubes and other such materials are also important to make science teaching and learning in a practical way possible. All in all, literature reveals that in teaching and learning science with limited laboratory resources, the materials that are available in our local environment can often serve the same purpose as conventional laboratory equipment.

2.3.2. Teaching Science through Demonstration

Many studies in science education indicate that students are better served by hands-on activities which lead to higher-order cognitive skills (Bell, 2005; Hofstein&Lunetta, 2003; Hofstein, 2004; Hull, 2000). However, the resources available to perform these recommended types of activities are sometimes very limited. Due to these factors, in some cases demonstration-laboratory is designed to allow students to make observations through demonstration rather than through hands-on laboratory activities (McKee, Williamson, &Ruebush, 2007). Thus, demonstrations in teaching and learning science may be used to supplement lecture method of teaching.

In teaching and learning science with limited laboratory resources, demonstration helps students conceptualize the scientific concepts more effectively than chalk and talk where students are challenged to connect theories to actual practice (Kandjeo-Marenga, 2011). On the other hand, a study conducted in Namibia by Watker (2012) indicates that since demonstration usually consists of a teacher or student doing an activity with the rest of the class observing, hence, demonstrations would seem to benefit only those students who assisted the teacher. Nevertheless, this is not always the case because demonstration always engages students in observation which is very important in teaching and learning science. Ahtee, Suomela, Juuti, Lampiselkä and Lavonen (2012) contend that making observations is the first step in doing investigations as it contains all the components of a science inquiry process. In addition, a study conducted by McKee et al.(2007) reveals that students learn roughly the same from laboratory experiment and laboratory demonstration and that the demonstration-laboratory at least does no harm to the students’ conceptual understanding. This implies that demonstration can have a positive impact in teaching and learning of science.

In conclusion, according to literature, teaching and learning science using an organized demonstration is useful for assisting the learning of science and can be a good strategy in teaching and learning science with limited laboratory resources.

2.4. Impact of Laboratory Resources on Teaching and Learning Science

Laboratory resources have a positive impact in teaching and learning science (Sunal, Wright, &Sundberg, 2008). This is because it gives an opportunity to both teachers and students to perform experiments and manipulate materials of science for developing students’ understanding and appreciation in science subjects. However, the laboratory cannot be meaningful for teaching and learning science subjects if it is poorly facilitated in terms of equipment (Dahar&Faize, 2011). The availability of laboratory equipment and chemicals is one among the factors that facilitates the process of teaching and learning science from both developed as well as developing countries (Hanuscin, 2007; Hofstein&Lunetta, 2003). For example in England, the Science Community Representing Education (2013) comments that taking part in practical work is an integral and essential part of learning sciences but the report claims that experiments and practical work in science lessons are being limited in many schools due to the lack of laboratory resources. Similarly, a study conducted in Nigeria by Olufunke (2012) indicates that practical work both in the classroom and outdoors is an absolutely essential component for effective science teaching. This also applies to the Tanzanian context because according to the National curriculum, science subjects are supposed to be taught through integration of theory with practical (TIE, 2005). If this is the case, science teachers teaching in those schools where laboratory resources are available in a limited supply might experience difficulties in facilitating their lessons.

Another findings from a study conducted by Mabula (2012) in Tanzania indicates that negative attitude of students towards science subjects is mainly caused by poor methods of teaching employed by the science teachers where they mostly use teacher-cantered approach. Conversely, another reason that may cause teachers not involve their students in hands-on activities might be inadequate laboratory equipment. This is confirmed in a study conducted by FEMSA (2010) from four African countries Cameron, Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda that reveals the methods employed by teachers to teach science subjects in primary and secondary schools are to a large extent influenced by the kind of resources and facilities available in their schools. Therefore, students’ understanding of science subjects will be questionable when resources are inadequate.

Finally, literature reveals that the availability of laboratory resources is very crucial in teaching and learning of science subjects. This is because laboratory experiments are the central component for teaching and learning science subjects. However, in most of the schools in Africa including Tanzania, science subjects are taught with limited supply of laboratory resources.

2.5. Challenges of Teaching and Learning Science with Limited Laboratory Resources

Inadequate laboratory resources have been found to be a challenge for facilitating science education in many developing countries. Bhukuvhani et al. (2010) found that schools in Zimbabwe like many developing countries face challenges of limited resources for imparting effective and efficient science education. In addition, the study conducted by Ottevanger, Feiter and Van (2007) concluded that poorly resourced schools are one of the challenges for the development of science in the Sub-Sahara African countries. The study found out that the equipment and consumable materials for practical work are only available in a limited supply. This is also true in the case of Tanzanian secondary schools specifically community schools (Hakielimu, 2010; Sitta, 2006). Due to the shortage of equipment and chemicals, actual classroom practices are largely dominated by teachers while students silently copy notes from the blackboard although the curriculum emphasizes learner-centred education (Mabula, 2012).

Many studies in the area of science education support the notion, that hands-on activities and experiment based approach to teaching science are the preferred methods (Haury&Rillero, 1994; Hull, 2000; Singer, Hilton, &Schweingruber, 2005). This helps students to develop the basic skills necessary to handle the world’s future scientific needs (Hofstein&Lunetta, 2003). However, it may be difficult to obtain these benefits when science is taught with limited laboratory resources. This is because meaningful learning is possible in the laboratory if laboratories are well equipped and students could get opportunities to manipulate equipment and materials in order to be able to construct their knowledge of phenomena (Shope, 2006) and related scientific concepts (Tobin, Kahle, & Fraser, 1990).

Laboratory activities is the basic method of teaching and learning science (Chiappetta, 2006; Mansour, 2009; Woodley, 2009); however in Tanzania, it is widely acknowledged that, science teachers in most community secondary schools, face challenges in engaging their students in effective science teaching and learning (Hakielimu, 2011). In addition, the study conducted in six regions in Tanzania highlighted that poor working environment and availability of teaching resources are the main de-motivating factors in teaching (Hakielimu, 2011). Based on my experience as a Physics tutor in one of the teachers’ college in Tanzania, I have observed during the supervision of teaching practice that one of the challenges in most community secondary schools is the shortage of science teachers and inadequacy or lack of laboratory resources. Similar findings were revealed by FEMSA (2010) that the great shortage of science teachers at the secondary schools level contributes to teachers being shared by a large number of students which puts heavy workload on the teachers. Teaching science with limited laboratory resources teachers might experience difficulties especially when they want to engage their students in hands-on activities.

With the growing movement towards cooperative learning, teachers should use laboratory activities in which students can take an active role during learning process (Salem al-Amarat, 2011). However, sharing ideas and information with various activities conducted with limited resources may cause students to be overcrowded on a single set of equipments so it may lead noisy classes and therefore teacher’s classroom management might be a challenge. For instance, a study conducted in four countries; Cameron, Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda observed that in some secondary schools, availability of laboratory resources were limited compared to the number of students per class (FEMSA, 2010). This situation may limit teachers in the possibilities of organizing hands-on activities but even when they try, limited resources may also obstruct opportunities for effective classroom interactions. Additionally, teaching science with inadequate laboratory equipment limit interaction of students with equipments and amongst students especially when the class sizes are large. It has been reported that limited laboratory resourced classrooms make it difficult for students to concentrate on their activities (Carpenter, 2006).

Moreover, the safety measures while conducting laboratory experiments is very important. A study conducted in Nigeria by Ijaiya (2000) reveals that laboratory activities with limited resources is a major contributing factor to the safety problems in most secondary schools in Nigeria. In teaching science with limited laboratory equipment the possibility of accident is very high because it forces many students to be crowded around a single set of apparatus. Apparently, the teacher might decide that the best safety measure is not to engage students in laboratory activities during the teaching process.

In summary, literature reveals, the inadequacy of laboratory activities in teaching and learning science, poor classroom interactions and safety are the possible challenges of teaching science with limited laboratory resource

2.6. Conclusion

In this chapter, I have presented the overview of teachers’ experience and perceptions in teaching and learning science. Consequently I have described the social constructivism as the theory used in teaching and learning science. In addition literature reveals that in teaching and learning science with limited laboratory resources, demonstration and locally available materials may be used to make meaningful learning. Lastly, based on literature I described the possible challenges that might be encountered in teaching and learning science with limited laboratory resources. This includes inadequate laboratory activities, poor classroom interactions and safety. In the next chapter I explain the methodology used in the study on what are the experiences of science teachers of teaching science with limited laboratory resources.

CHAPTER THREE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

3.0. Introduction

In this chapter, I describe the research methodology that was used to explore the experiences of science teachers in teaching science with limited laboratory equipment and facilities. Firstly, I explain the research approach and design employed in this study. I then proceed to describe the research site, sample and sample procedure, followed by data collection methods and the instruments used. I also describe the data analysis procedure and finally give details about trustworthiness as well as the ethical issue considerations in the study.

3.1. Research Approach

The study employed qualitative approach because it gave me the opportunity to understand the practices, views and opinions of science teachers teaching science with limited laboratory resources. Human beings construct their own reality based on their settings and this can be interpreted differently by different stakeholders (Sarantakos, 2005). Thus, to understand teachers’ experience, it was essential to study participants in their real context (Creswell, 2009; Ludico, Spaulding &Voetgtle, 2010). In this study, community secondary schools were the natural settings in which the data was collected without manipulating the teachers’ classroom environment. Hence, the approach allowed me to have highly detailed rich descriptions of science teachers’ views and opinions in the school setting in which they teach (Bogdan &Biklen, 2007; Yin, 2009).

Additionally, I used qualitative approach because I wanted science teachers to explain their own experiences that are related to the availability of laboratory equipment and facilities. The flexibility of qualitative approach allowed them to speak in their own voice, rather than conforming to categories and terms imposed on them by others (Denzin& Lincoln, 2008; Sarantakos, 2013). As Bouma (2004) commended, qualitative approach enabled me to probe deeply for clarification of data given by participants. Moreover, it permitted me to enforce subjectivity, due to the fact that I interpreted the data based on their reality (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2007). Hence, the approach was considered appropriate for this study because it made it possible for me to gain understanding and insight into the challenges that teachers experience regarding teaching science with limited laboratory resources and into how this can be addressed to promote a safe learning environment.

3.2. Research Design

This study employed a case study design. This design is an intensive inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its natural setting (Yin, 2009). Case study was suitable as it allowed me to get holistic and in-depth information of teachers’ experiences in teaching science with limited laboratory equipment and chemicals (Maxwell, 2005).The design permitted me to focus on science teachers’ views and opinions towards teaching science with limited laboratory equipment and chemicals in a particular secondary school.

This study is focused on the interpretative paradigm of teaching science and aims to give a deep descriptive analysis of the experiences of science teachers. To obtain the data, I employed multiple methods such as interview, classroom observation, informal conversation and focus group discussion that enhanced validity and detailed information about my study (Silverman, 2001; Yin, 2009). This further helped me to eliminate bias that may have been eminent if I had relied on only one source of data. Moreover, the case study design was preferred because of its flexibility since it is under qualitative approach. Maxwell (2005) and Yin (2009) posits that case study design is flexible and responsive to the emerging conditions of the study. For example, I planned to have six science teachers from a single school but due to the shortage of science teachers I involved only four teachers from two schools.

3.3. The Research Site

I conducted my study in two community Secondary Schools: Makoba and Mbuyuni secondary schools (pseudonyms) which are co-educational public secondary schools situated in Lindi region, Tanzania. These are day schools with students from form one to form four where form one and form two study eleven subjects including science subjects (Physics, Chemistry and Biology). Forms three and four students study nine subjects specialized into Art and science stream. Makoba secondary school has a total of 340 students with 29 teachers in which 13 are male and 16 are female and only three among them are science teachers. Due to the nature of my study, I was only interested in understanding the profile of the science teachers. All three teachers teaching science were male holding bachelor degree in education. The Physics teacher specialized in Physics and chemistry in which he has a total of fifteen years of teaching experience, thirteen years spent in others schools. The Biology teacher who specialized in Biology has a total of five years teaching experience of which two were in different schools and three years in the current school. The Chemistry teacher has two years of teaching experience from the same school. This teacher specialized in Chemistry and Biology during his undergraduate study.

Despite the good infrastructure that Makoba secondary school has in terms of buildings, the availability of laboratory equipment and facilities was limited. There was no water system and electricity. Equipments like fire extinguishers, display boards for laboratory rules and precaution and buckets of sand were missing. Mbuyuni secondary school on the other hand has a population of three hundred and thirteen students with fourteen teachers of whom seven are male and seven are female. The school offers science subjects to form one to form four but has only one science teacher. This teacher who specialized in chemistry and mathematics for his diploma taught all science subjects due to shortage of science teachers. The teacher had two years of working experience in the same post. The classrooms in Mbuyuni secondary school were well furnished and had good ventilation. Instead of equipped laboratory, the school has a Movable Laboratory (ML), which was taken from one class to the other for facilitating the teaching of science. This laboratory has few apparatus but no chemicals. The apparatus available were just for the teacher’s demonstration and were placed on a single table.

3.4. Sample and Sampling Procedure

I used purposeful sampling which allowed me to choose the site and participants who illustrated the features which I was interested in for the relevance of my study (Lodico, Spaulding, &Voegtle, 2010; Silverman, 2001). Thus, I selected the schools that offered science subjects but with limited laboratory facilities. In addition, the schools were convenient to me because they were easily accessible. The key participants in this study were science teachers; hence I only chose teachers who teach science in those schools. A total of four science teachers were included in this study, three teachers, one from each science subject, Physics, Chemistry and Biology and one teacher of Physics and biology at Makoba and Mbuyuni secondary schools respectively. My goal was to have six science teachers from a single school, two from each of the mentioned subjects by considering their gender and experience in teaching. Unfortunately, due to the shortage of science teachers, I failed to get them from a single school; therefore I decided to involve two schools in my study and even then I got only four science teachers.

3.5. Data Collection Methods and Tools

As the study followed a qualitative approach, I employed multiple data collection methods which involved interview, observation and focus group discussion for triangulation (Yin, 2009). In the same vein, Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2007) affirm that the purpose of triangulation in qualitative research is to build confidence about the data and increase the credibility and validity of the results. Thus, triangulation equipped me to exhaust information and obtain a wide range of views on teachers’ experience in teaching science with limited laboratory equipment and chemicals.

3.5.1. Interviews

I used one-on-one interviews during which I interviewed each teacher for about 30 to 35 minutes. This allowed individual teachers to express their views and feelings without fear of other participants (Bryman, 2004). I used semi-structured interviews that enabled me to probe for further information on teachers’ experience. Probing enables the researcher to explore new paths which were not initially considered by the participants (Gray, 2009; Lodico et al., 2010). An interview guide was used so that helped me to be focused, systematic and to avoid repetition during the interview. Asking repeated questions during the interview is discouraged as commented by Walliman (2006) because it negatively influences the desire of the respondent to answer questions.

During the interview, I recorded all conversation using digital audio recorder. This helped me to retrieve all information obtained during the transcription process and data analysis. This is in line with Cohen et al.( 2007)’s argument that audio recorder helps researchers keep accurate records of interviews, which in turn assists them during their data analysis. I also took field notes, which allowed me to access other important information in the field. Teachers were free to use either of the two languages Swahili or English to talk about their experiences but mostly they mixed the two languages. The interview with science teachers elicited information on the way they taught their subjects within their environment, experiences and challenges they face.

3.5.2. Classroom Observation

After the interview, it was vital to observe the teachers in action. The observations done in the classroom were on account of teachers operating in their natural setting which is an important feature of case study (Gay &Airasian, 2003; Yin, 2009). I visited the classrooms once before the intended observation. Through the visit, I got the opportunity to introduce myself to the students as a visitor and sit throughout the lesson without making any note or recording in order to familiarize myself with the teachers and students. I conducted two observations of each teacher in different classes. These assisted me to get a holistic picture of the teachers’ practice from their classrooms. In addition, these observations enabled me to verify teachers’ responses from the interviews in relation to the real classroom setting (Robson, 2002). During the teaching and learning of science, an observation schedule supported me to record the events taking place in the classroom. It also helped out to concentrate on the teachers’ practice during the teaching and learning process. Maxwell (2005) comments that observation schedule helps the researcher to be systematic and capture the whole social setting in which people work.

3.5.3. Focus Group Discussion

I conducted one focus group discussion that lasted 32 minutes with three science teachers from Makoba secondary school. I could not involve the fourth teacher since he was from a different school with a different programme. During a Focus Group Discussion (FGD), I raised questions that had emerged from the classroom observations since I could not interrupt teachers’ lessons then (Henn, Weinstein, & Foard, 2009). My role was to facilitate and thus allowed conversations to flow and develop without guiding the teachers to a particular answer. This stimulated teachers to freely share and discuss their views and opinions compared to individual interviews (Glesne, 2006).

During the discussion, I used focus group discussion guide that helped me to be systematic. I took notes using field notebook and used the digital audio recorder for recording the whole discussion to ensure the information captured could be transcribed and analyzed later.

3.6. Data Analysis

Case study data analysis generally involves an interactive, spiralling, or cyclical process that proceeds from more general to more specific observations (Silverman, 2001). In this study, I began to analyze data informally during interviews and observations. I reviewed the data once after collection in order to familiarize myself with it. This helped me to restructure the subsequent interviews and observations by considering emerging issue related to the study. The interviews and focus group discussion were transcribed verbatim from the digital audio recorder to produce textual information about everything, which was said by teachers. I then combined this with the observation notes together with the field notes derived from the field. Data were coded and themes were identified into categories based on my sub-questions. The results from both interview and observations were interpreted and corroborated to produce the meaning. Data corroboration from interview, observation, and focus group discussion assisted me in ensuring that the information from the study accurately reflects teachers’ views and opinions (Ary, 2010).

3.7. Trustworthiness

I made efforts to ensure trustworthiness throughout the study; for example, I recorded the data and made the write up after every field visit to organize the data. The multiple sources of data collection were triangulated so as to corroborate the findings. This ensured me to have a more valid, reliable data and make a diverse construction of realities of teachers’ views and opinions of their teaching practices (Golafshani, 2003).

I personally interviewed and transcribed the audio-recorded data, observation notes together with the field notes to ensure the accuracy and credibility of the data collected. In addition, I conducted member checks with the teachers by going through my records with them to ascertain that what I had was a true record of what they had said. This helped to establish the accuracy of data before reporting (Bogdan &Biklen, 2007). Moreover, I gave a detailed description of each process of the study. Creswell (2009) contends that when a detailed description of the research process is given, the results become more realistic. I also kept safe all recorded documents such as transcripts of interview and focus group discussion, observation and field notes records. Additionally, to ensure safety and data protection from any loss, I had a backup of the recorded data. This also helped me to preserve older copies so that I could retrieve the data whenever needed.

3.8. Ethical Consideration

The study involved my interaction with science teachers through interviews, classroom observation and focus group interview within their schools’ context. Therefore, the issue of ethical consideration was very important to ensure willing participation of teachers (Creswell, 2009). This was done by following all necessary steps starting from obtaining clearance from the Ethics Review Committee at Aga Khan University to conduct my study. I then sought permission to conduct research from MoEVT[1], Regional Educational Officer and District Educational Officer (DEO) of Lindi. I also sought permission from the gate -keepers (head teachers) of the schools. After explaining to the head teacher the nature and the purpose of my study, I gave them the research information sheet for further information and references. The head teachers helped me get access to the science teachers. Lastly, l explained to the participants the purpose of my study, and that participation was voluntary. Thereafter, I requested the participants who were willing to read and sign consent letters, as an evidence of voluntary participation, liberty to withdraw, anonymity and confidentiality (Cohen et al., 2007).

In addition, I interviewed those participants according to their own convenient time with prior appointment. This enabled me to avoid interrupting their school’s schedule. For confidentiality and ensuring anonymity, I used pseudonyms for both the schools and participants for the purpose of protecting their names. All the data was kept in a locked cabinet while soft copies were stored using computer passwords and no information was shared with anyone during and after the study. This ensured that the data was only used for the intended purpose of the study.

I intend to share the report of the study with the participants by providing a copy of the findings as a means of reciprocity. This would help to confirm that it is the true reflection of their views. This is in line with Bodone's (2005) comment that, it is the researcher’s responsibility to share the findings of the study with the participants because they have the right to know if what has been reported are from their own views.

3.9. Challenges Encountered

My plan was to involve six teachers from a single school. However I failed to get the desired number of participants for focus group discussion because the school had only three science teachers. The resolution was to get another teacher from a neighboring school to make a total of four teachers but this was not possible either. Therefore, I conducted a small group discussion comprising of only three teachers.

3.10. Conclusion

This chapter discussed the methodology undertaken in this study. I started by explaining the research approach and design, then identified research site and the research participants. This was followed by description of sampling and sample procedure. Interviews, classroom observation and focus group discussion were explained as the data collection methods. Additionally, I explained the data analysis procedure, trustworthiness and ethical consideration. Finally, I explained the challenges I faced during the study. In the next chapter I will present and discuss the findings of the study.

CHAPTER FOUR PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS

4.0. Introduction

In this chapter, I present and discuss the findings of my study on science teachers’ experience in teaching science subjects with limited laboratory resources in community secondary schools. This study will help in bringing about pedagogical interventions to support other teachers in similar context and also create awareness among all educational stakeholders on the impact of limited laboratory equipment and facilities in teaching and learning science. The discussion is guided by the three themes derived from subsidiary questions of my study. The themes are: teaching science with limited laboratory resources, teachers’ perceptions on teaching science with limited laboratory resources and challenges in teaching science with limited laboratory resources.

The term laboratory resources as used in this report covers all the support materials for science teaching and learning, including perishable items such as glassware and consumables materials for example chemicals, but excluding textbooks, other printed materials and the usual classroom materials and facilities such as chalk, blackboards and furniture. The terms laboratory resources, laboratory materials and laboratory equipment are used interchangeably in this report.

4.1. Teaching Science Subjects with Limited Laboratory Resources

The findings of the study reveal that teachers use three methods to teach science under limited laboratory resources. These include: teaching through group activities, teaching through demonstration and teaching using Movable Laboratory.

4.1.1. Teaching through Group Activities

In teaching and learning science under limited laboratory resources, the findings of the study reveal that teachers use group activities when they want their learners to perform hands-on activities. According to them, hands-on activities are part and parcel of teaching and learning science and it cannot be avoided. During the interviews with the teachers, they argued that because the availability of laboratory resources is limited, they are forced to organize hands-on activities for groups instead of individual students, although the group size sometimes becomes too large due to inadequate laboratory materials. For example, Mr. John, a Chemistry teacher at Makoba Secondary school said: ‘We are doing laboratory experiments in groups of four or five depending on the availability of apparatus and then students write reports individually’ (Interview, 10/05/2013). A similar argument was made by Mr. Mack a Biology teacher from the same school who said:

“I used to conduct hands-on activities by putting students into groups… sometimes I have seven to ten students per group, which in actual sense is not recommended, but due to the limited availability of resources we just do like that” (Interview, 13/05/2013).

The findings also reveal that teachers have strong beliefs about the laboratory experiments in teaching and learning science. This has been derived from their statement stating, “hands-on activities are part and parcel of teaching and learning science”, their beliefs might influence their teaching process as commented by Crawford (2007) that, teachers’ beliefs about how science is supposed to be taught have an important influence in the implementation of science curriculum.

Moreover, due to the inadequate laboratory resources in their schools group work was identified as one of the strategies used in teaching science. A group work activity is among effective strategies in teaching science (Chiappetta, 2006), which encourages students to work together cooperatively so as to attain common goals (Johnson & Johnson, 1999). However, teachers claimed that the group sizes sometimes become too large due to the fact that students are many compared to the availability of laboratory equipment. This exposes to me that teachers understand that, for teaching students hands-on activities the group size should be small so as to produce positive effect on learning. This is supported by Chiappetta (2006) who states that the usual group sizes in science classes typically vary from two to four learners. This implies that if the group size is too large effective teaching and learning will not be achieved.

This finding was corroborated by classroom observations during the Chemistry and Physics lessons. The Chemistry lesson was about investigating the rate of chemical reaction and was in a form four class. There were 36 students in total and the teacher organized the activities to be done by groups of four students each. The number of students learning science in form four was small compared to forms one and two where all students were required to learn science. This was due to the fact that forms three and four students specialized in three steams, namely science, art and business. This made the number of students opting for science to be small.

During this observation, there was high level of interactions between teacher and students and amongst students. This shows that the learning was taking place as commented by social constructivists’ view that learning takes place in social interactions between individuals or as individuals interact with other resources that are available in their social setting (Leach & Scott, 2003). Students were given opportunity to communicate their understandings with their peers so as to construct their own knowledge. This might help them to generate plausible explanations for the concept taught. In this lesson, the teacher was going around to each group and tried answering the questions that arose from the students and give them more guidelines to accomplish the task. Thus, the teacher was scaffolding the students so that they could attain the planned goals of the lesson. According to Donnelly (2010) one of the most basic characteristics of good teachers is the ability to create interaction in the classroom and most of the observed stresses in classrooms come from the lack of desired interaction. Focusing on this issue Brower, Carlson-Dakes and Barger (2007) remark that teaching and learning takes place when the teacher creates a conducive environment for teacher-students and student-students interactions.

The situation was different in a form one Physics lesson where the overall number of students was 75. The teacher was teaching the concept of measurement whereby he focused on the measurement of temperature and mass. There were only ten thermometers available for 75 students so he ordered the learners to sit in groups of seven. In this situation the group sizes were too large because students were given one thermometer for seven students. Moreover, the teacher-students interaction was limited due to the fact that to interact effectively with ten groups of seven to eight students within 80 minutes was challenging. This could limit students’ understanding because if the teacher-student interaction is limited, students could miss a critical diagnostic assessment during activities (Shope, 2006). During the informal conversation after the lesson, the teacher claimed that the group sizes were big because thermometers were not enough compared to the number of students available in the class. Moreover, the overcrowded classroom was also an issue. This was also identified as a challenge for teaching science in senior secondary school in Uganda (Sebbale, Basiim, &Tukacungurwa, 2012).

In summary, looking at both scenarios described above, it can be concluded that despite the inadequate laboratory resources in the schools, teachers utilized the equipments in teaching and learning science subjects according to their availability so as to make sure that students got at least firsthand experiences of laboratory activities. Referring to the findings, the teachers seemed to perceive that group activities are a good strategy for teaching science with limited laboratory equipment. This shows that the teaching and learning strategies employed by the teachers were determined by the teaching and learning resources available in the school setting.

4.1.2. Teaching by Demonstration

The study found that teachers sometimes use teacher’s demonstration strategy in teaching science because either they did not have enough or lacked laboratory equipment completely. Based on classroom observations as well as both interviews and FGD, I recognized that teachers performed demonstration using few laboratory equipment they had, and were also using makeshift equipment when they lacked the manufactured ones.

4.1.2.1. Demonstration using real laboratory resources

The data shows that teachers understand and value the use of laboratory activities in teaching and learning science for both teachers as well as the students. According to them when equipments are limited compared to the number of students they conduct demonstration so as to facilitate teaching and learning. The quote below from a Physics teacher supports this:

“Due to the shortage of equipment, sometimes I try to make demonstrations, because when we have two vernier calipers for seventy five students in form one or form two, how it is possible to engage them in hands-on activities? So demonstration at least provides an opportunity for student to see how things operate” (Interview, 15/05/2013).

During a classroom observation, I saw a Physics teacher doing a demonstration for teaching the measurement of mass. Personally, I was not convinced that the demonstration was effective. This was influenced by the fact that the class was so overcrowded that the students were unable to concentrate on the teacher’s demonstration. In teaching and learning science demonstration is more effective when students get an opportunity to perform those activities whether individually or in a small group after they have seen and heard from their teacher (Chiappetta, 2006). In this lesson after the teacher’s demonstration, he randomly picked two students to demonstrate to the class what the teacher had done while the rest remained as observers.

In an informal conversation after the lesson the teacher argued that it was impossible to organize hands-on activities during which every individual (student) could have hands-on learning experiences because they had only two beam balances. He commented that: ‘Teaching under this situation is difficult; two beam balances for this number of students, is hard for them to have a clear understanding and students will never enjoy the lesson like this’ (Informal conversation, 16/05/2013). This view is supported by Flinn scientific (2011) that teaching large-enrolment laboratory classes can be very challenging; it puts pressure on the teacher’s time and makes it more difficult to engage students in the teaching and learning process. In reality under this condition, even when the teacher demonstrates or explains the activity centrally, there will not be enough time to involve all students. Students understand better when they get the opportunity to interact with the materials and to perform hands-on activities themselves (Flinn scientific, 2011). This concurs with Hofstein and Mamlok-Naaman's (2007) argument that meaningful learning is obtained if students are given opportunities to manipulate equipments and chemicals in order to be able to construct their knowledge of related scientific concepts.

In brief, due to limited supply of laboratory resources teachers used laboratory demonstration in teaching science. However, students in hands-on laboratory classes perform significantly better the procedural knowledge test than students in teacher demonstration classes (Dahar&Faize, 2011).

4.1.2.2. Demonstration using improvised materials

The study reveals that teachers relied more on manufactured resources rather than the ones that are available locally. They tend to improvise only when the apparatus are not available. Teachers consider improvisation in teaching and learning science as a First Aid that cannot solve the problem of limited laboratory resources. This means that improvisation can be used only to give students firsthand experience when real objects are not available. This was argued by Mr. Gende a Physics teacher from Makoba secondary school:

“Ok, we are doing improvisation as a first aid, for instance if some accident happened, you should provide help to the patient but later you must send them to hospital. I mean, improvisation cannot be the solution of the unavailability of apparatus, real objects are very important in teaching science” (Interview, 15/05/2013).

Teachers also claimed that they only organize demonstration from locally available materials but do not conduct whole classroom activities in which every student could get opportunity to interact with the materials. They also added that, they only improvise equipment but not the chemicals. ‘Improvisation is done for apparatuses only, as for chemicals, we have no alternative’ (Mr. John, Makoba School, interview, 09/05/2013). On the same note, Mr. Lulen a teacher from Mbyunischool said that, he involved the students in preparing these improvised materials. He emphasized that:

“Sometimes I try to use materials that are found in our environment. For example, when I was teaching the Archimedes’ Principle, I made eureka can using plastic bottle and the cover of a writing pen” (Interview, 20/05/2013).

This implies that teachers use locally available materials when they lack the real equipment and when they have time to do so. However, to them improvisation has some limitations, because there are some laboratory materials that cannot be improvised and at the same time they were not consider locally materials as a good equipment for teaching science. This contradicts the argument by Commonwealth Secretariat (2000) that the use of locally available materials in teaching and learning science should not be considered as a poor alternative to manufactured science equipment. This implies that locally available materials can be used in teaching and learning science in the same way as the manufactured equipment however; in these schools teachers did not effectively use local materials. Many researchers revealed that the use of locally available materials is to make teaching more relevant to the learners by relating science to their real life environment (Kadzera, 2006; Sunal et al., 2008; Voogt et al., 2009). In addition, (MoEVT, 2011) in the Biology practical manual on using locally available materials, puts forward that “those who criticize that the use of locally available materials as ‘stone age science’ misunderstand the meaning of Science that it applies universally, in any situation, with any materials” (2011, p.1). Never the less, science teachers perceived that locally available materials cannot be taken as a substitute for imported materials. This is to say that science teachers might not have enough knowledge on teaching science using locally available materials. According to Saiti (2007), teaching and learning using locally available resources needs a better strategy for its dissemination, otherwise, teachers will end up using lecture methodologies all the time, because practical work cannot work without resources. This implies that MoEVT should put more emphasis and provide teachers’ professional development to science teachers on teaching science using locally materials.

In summary, although some teachers termed demonstration as a first aid in teaching science, it was obviously true that all of them agreed that locally available materials can help in teaching science when resources are limited. However, based on their explanations some teachers did not seem to have enough knowledge about the importance of using locally available materials in teaching science. Furthermore, the study revealed that teachers have no knowledge of applying substitute for the chemicals when they are not available, they have the belief it is something that cannot be done.

4.1.3. Teaching by using Movable Laboratory

In Mbuyuni secondary school the study discloses that teachers use Movable Laboratory (ML) for teaching science subjects. This is a table with equipment including small water tank, charging electricity and fire extinguisher. This ML can be taken from one class to another when the teacher wants to perform a certain experiments. These kinds of laboratories have been distributed by the Ministry of Education to most of the community secondary schools that have no science laboratory.

The findings of the study demonstrated that although the ML has limited laboratory equipment it is very useful for teachers’ demonstration because it contains all the laboratory facilities, including water, gas supply and electricity. Teachers in Mbuyuni School argued that by using ML they can at least introduce some important laboratory apparatus because before ML was brought, the school had neither laboratory nor equipment. This means that teachers understand the value of laboratory equipment in teaching and learning science in helping students understand the concepts more easily. Moreover, teachers were not happy when they were teaching without laboratory equipment as revealed by Mr. Lulen that:

“At large extent teaching with limited resources affects my classroom instructions, because I have the knowledge but I fail to apply accordingly while when parents reflect to the students’ results, they feel as we are incompetent, but the big problem is the shortage of resources and shortage of teachers” (Interview, 20.05.2013)

With the support of ML, teachers use the available resources to conduct experiments and engage students in large-group demonstration settings so as to make sure students get first-hand experience of conducting laboratory experiment.

From my observation, I found that ML is made in a way that it contains many laboratory equipment but in a limited amount and as a result many laboratory experiments can be conducted only through demonstration. This is because you cannot get more than three sets for a single experiment, therefore under this situation it is hard to organize laboratory experiments for a class of thirty students where students could work in small groups. During my data collection, I found students conducting the experiment of verifying Hooke’s law but there was only one group of four students interacting with the equipment. During the informal conversation with their teacher after the observation, he said:

“I allow them to organize their groups and to come to practice what they have already learnt since it is hard during the lesson to get a chance to interact with the material because we have a shortage of equipment” (Informal conversation, 21/05/2013).

The findings of the study showed that, prior to the use of ML students were not involved in laboratory experiments when they were only learning an alternative to practical. The current situation is different where students manage to carry out laboratory activities themselves with minimum supervision. This implies that ML could have a good impact on students’ learning about laboratory experiments since students have acquired skills to perform experiments. The findings of the study also demonstrated that it was only form four students who got this opportunity while forms one and two did not. The reason posited by the teacher was that unlike the form four where there were only eleven science students the overall number of students in the forms one and two classes was very high. Therefore, it was difficult to practice using the ML. Thus I can conclude that ML can have good impact on teaching and learning science if properly used and well facilitated with adequate equipment. However, in this case its impact was only limited to form four students because the equipment it consisted were very few and cannot be used effectively to other classes like form one and two where the class sizes were too large.

The finding of the study shows that ML is an appropriate alternative laboratory used by the teachers to provide first-hand laboratory experiences because it provided the laboratory resources they otherwise lacked. The laboratory activities are crucial in teaching and learning science in order for the students to have a clear understanding of the theory and it plays a major role in bringing the subject to life. For those disadvantaged schools, due to the limited access of laboratory resources in science, ML has been identified in this study as pertinent to provide equal access to authentic laboratory based experience to students. Moreover, the findings of the study reveal that ML has changed the attitudes of the form four students towards learning science. For example Mr. Lulen said “Now students come themselves asking to conduct laboratory activities at their own time during the free periods” (Interview, 20.05.2013). Thus ML has motivated students to learn science and work collaboratively in doing laboratory experiments.

4.2. Teachers’ Perceptions of Teaching Science in Limited Laboratory Resources

The study reveals that, teachers have different perceptions towards teaching science subjects with limited laboratory resources. Data collected from the interviews, classroom observation and focus group discussion, have been categorized into the following sub-headings from the named theme; the importance of laboratory resources in teaching and learning science, teaching science with limited laboratory resources and the use of Kiswahili during the teaching of science.

4.2.1. Laboratory Resources in Teaching and Learning Science

To ensure proper teaching and learning of science subjects is taking place, the availability of science laboratory materials was found to be very important. All participants interviewed and who participated in a focus group discussion, commented that effective teaching and learning of science involves seeing, touching, and manipulating real objects. Science laboratory equipment allows students to personally conduct experiments to verify scientific theories and laws. Teachers also argued that nearly all topics from the science subjects syllabus were suppose to be taught with the integration of hands-on or laboratory activities. Therefore, laboratory equipment was very necessary to accomplish this. On emphasizing the importance of laboratory equipment, Mr. Gende illustrated:

“Nearly all topics are supposed to be taught by experiments, because even if you are teaching a topic that does not need to have a laboratory experiment, students are required to perform some hands-on activities. For example, if you are teaching laboratory about equipment, that is not a practical lesson but students should see the laboratory equipment and interact with it” (Interview, 15/05/2013).

Insisting on the importance of laboratory equipment, a Biology teacher argued that even for those schools that do an alternative to practical, availability of laboratory resources is very important (Interview, 13/05/2013). This argument is supported by Abimbola (2006) that the lack of hands-on activities in teaching and learning science provides very little opportunity for students to identify their own problems as well as to collect and interpret data themselves. To me this implies that whichever way science is going to be examined, for science to be taught effectively according to the syllabus, students should be engaged in laboratory activities.

The findings of the study shows that although all teachers articulated the importance of hands-on activities in teaching science subjects, the classroom practice of many teachers did not generally appear to be consistent with their stated beliefs. Among the eight classrooms observation conducted, only in three of them the teachers did engage their learners in hands-on experiments. The findings indicated that teachers did not feel equipped to give their students the full learning experience that they should be able to. Practical work is being limited by missing equipment and due to the large number of students per class, which does not correspond to the availability of equipment. These inevitably limit the teachers in organizing hands-on activities as well as the interaction between students and materials, which results in large number of students being disengaged. Hofstein and Mamlok-Naaman (2007) argue that science is a practical subject and that students cannot gain knowledge and skills they need entirely by relying on a textbook only. If this is the case, teachers cannot produce meaningful learning of science for their students since laboratory resources available are limited. According to Tobin (2008), teaching science is more relevant when it occurs in a laboratory environment where science concepts can be explored by students. However this can be difficult in a situation where laboratory resources are limited and the classrooms are overcrowded.

In brief, the findings show that, in teaching and learning science, teachers have positive perception of the importance of laboratory materials. However, the inadequacy of those materials limits them in teaching science effectively.

4.2.2. Teaching Science with Limited Laboratory Resources

All participants claimed that teaching science under limited laboratory resources is very difficult and time consuming. Teaching under this condition forces the teacher to use many words to describe a certain concept for students to understand. Additionally, teachers argued that science is a practical based subject; students understand better when they are engaged in hands-on activities. Therefore, when equipment are limited it hinders the teacher from involving their students in hands-on activities. Mr. John commented that:

Firstly, it is true that our class sizes are very big, so when you want to teach using hands-on activities for the whole class it becomes very difficult, and even when you decide to divide them and teach them at separate time it becomes impossible due to the time constrain compared to the number of classes I have. I am therefore forced to teach using chalk and talk, which means using theory only” (Interview, 10/05/2013).

Looking at the comments given by the teacher, it seems that science teachers are very discouraged with the teaching environment that reveals the absence of science teaching facilities. Since the teachers are discouraged with the science learning environment, there is possibility that students will lack guidance and counselling on how to study and succeed in science subjects regardless of the challenges. It was found that the teaching and learning of science is more theoretical than observational, and experimental. This situation might affect the students’ interest to take science subjects in their further studies.

Additionally, during the interview one of the teachers claimed that it was very difficult to teach in accordance to what you had planned when laboratory materials are limited (Interview, 09/05/2013). Some topics in the syllabus depend on one another; it is most common to find that for a certain topic to be taught effectively, students should have prior knowledge of a particular topic. For example Mr. Gende said:

“…for example you want to teach determination of resistivity of a wire, but before this topic students are supposed to understand how to measure the diameter of a wire using micrometre screw gauge. This is form one, now you are in form three, so you should stop teaching the intended topic and go back to teach measurement first. Can you see now how you are suffering? You are teaching two topics at a time. It is difficult” (Interview, 15.05.2013).

This implies that teaching science with limited laboratory resources lacks consistency. Teaching was affected by the availability of laboratory resources that is, their teaching strategies were more driven based on the equipment available. This is in line with Jorgensen (2010) who argues that if laboratory equipment is not available or is in limited amount, teachers feel frustrated because they cannot teach science as they might wish to teach. If we consider this argument, science teachers at Makoba and Mbuyuni schools were in the same situation when they claimed that teaching science with limited laboratory resources is difficult. In this situation the teacher had to do a demonstration instead of letting students conduct experiments since they might have had to delay teaching certain topics because they had to wait for materials from the neighboring school.

The finding also shows that teachers felt that teaching of science with limited laboratory resources is difficult due to the fact that, when they were teaching with inadequate resources, they mainly used teacher-cantered approach. This approach has disadvantages in teaching and learning as it makes the students passive and makes the teacher dominates the lesson. The functions of the student-cantered approaches for teaching science include building a strong knowledge foundation and to develop learning skills and learner self-awareness (Potvin, Riopel, Masson, & Fournier, 2010). This is the idea of constructivist theory, which holds that students learn by doing hands-on activities and construct their understanding of the scientific concept. The view of constructivists on learning science suggests that students construction of their knowledge is strongly influenced by social environments which includes students and teachers (Driver, Newton, & Osborne, 2000; Kearney, 2004). In referring to the teachers’ comments and classroom observation, it was found that in most of the lessons students were passive with little interactions among students themselves and the teacher. It is widely acknowledged that for many students, scientific concepts may be abstract and difficult to grasp, hence teachers should use different strategies including practical activities to improve student understanding of such concepts (Woodley, 2009).

Therefore, teaching science subjects with limited laboratory resources could make the ability of students to construct their knowledge very minimal. Thus, the findings of the study reveal that teachers were experiencing difficulties in teaching science with limited laboratory resources because it limited them in teaching the way they thought best.

4.2.3. The Use of Kiswahili during the Teaching of Science

The use of Kiswahili (which is the national language and the language of instruction in primary school) in teaching science at secondary level in Tanzania has been discouraged by the MoEVT due to the fact that English is the language of instruction. In this study, inadequate laboratory equipment was reported as one of the factor that forces teachers to use Kiswahili during the teaching of science. According to the teachers sometimes the concept being taught lack equivalent ideas in the students’ day to day environment and the materials that can make the concept to be seen more vividly. At this point, teachers found that the best way is to use the language which students understand most, so as to help them understand the concept. For example during the focus group discussion, teachers said:

“…teachers use a lot of words to explain a certain concept and you find that, a student still fails to understand the concept. Therefore the last option is to use Kiswahili to make work simpler. For example, you are telling the student about resistance of a wire, but no electric circuit is made, just a diagram, here you have to use a lot of words to explain the concept of resistance of a wire if you do not have a circuit” (FGD, 17/05/2013).

This explanation suggests that the laboratory resources are very important because equipment help the teacher to reduce using a lot of words during the teaching process. This implies that laboratory equipment are worth a thousand words. Also, students could interact with the materials to build a mental picture and construct knowledge themselves. Thus when laboratory equipment is inadequate, it may be necessary for the teacher to use many words during teaching and learning in order for the students to form those mental pictures.

In addition, the teachers’ claim of using Kiswahili during their teaching being caused by inadequate laboratory equipment might be a possible reason. However the communication barrier due to English language as a language of instruction can also be a contributing factor for the use of Kiswahili. This is because in all the lessons I observed, even the form four classes, where the equipment were provided; teachers were code-mixing during a teaching process. According to Birgit Brock-Utne (2010), language used in science classrooms should be known to both teachers and students so as to make communication possible. However, this is not the case in Tanzanian public secondary schools where both teachers and students are not competent in English. Based on my experience as a learner and science teacher, using English as a language of instruction was a challenge as other studies (Brock-Utne, 2010; Mwinsheikhe, 2007; Qorro, 2006) have confirmed. Thus, teachers had a reason to code-switch during teaching and learning science so as to help students understand the concept clearly which, according to Jegede (2011) students learn best using the language they understand.

In summary, inadequate laboratory equipment lead teachers to use Kiswahili during the teaching of science subjects, which is discouraged by MoEVT. However, from my observation point of view, the language barrier between teachers and students might also be a factor.

4.3. Challenges in Teaching Science with Limited Laboratory Resources

The findings of the study reveal a number of challenges that have been identified in teaching science with limited laboratory resources. In this section, the challenges are discussed in four areas, these include, laboratory experiments are mostly taught in forms three and four, difficulties in the implementation of competence based curriculum, theoretical teaching of science subjects and the lack of laboratory technicians.

4.3.1. Laboratory Experiments Taught In Forms Three and Four Classes

The study reveals and all participants agreed that nearly all topics described from all science subjects’ syllabuses are recommended to be taught through hands-on activities where the laboratory equipment have a big role to play. For instance, Mr. John a chemistry teacher said: “In nearly every topic, the syllabus has suggested one or two activities that need to be done outside the classroom or in the laboratory, for increasing students’ competences” (Interview, 10/05/2013). Moreover, Mr. Gende, a Physics teacher also emphasized: “Nearly all topics are supposed to be taught by experiment, because even when you teach a topic that does not need a laboratory practical, but students are required to perform some hands-on activities” (Interview, 15/05/2013). In addition, Mr. Mack, a biology teacher elaborated: “According to this new syllabus which is the competence based curriculum, it requires theory integrated with practical” (Interview, 13/05/2013).

From the above information, it is clear that teachers understand the demand of their respective syllabuses. In an attempt to find out if they can manage to implement the curriculum, teachers emphasized that laboratory equipment are available in very limited amount compared to the number of students per class. Therefore, they are teaching laboratory experiment based on priority. According to them, laboratory experiments are mostly introduced to those classes that are about to do the national examinations. For example, Mr. Mack remarked: “When we have hydrochloric acid let us say only 200ml which can be used for only one class, under this situation you must give priority to those classes that have national examinations” (FGD, 17/05/2013). On the same comment Mr. John said that:

“…we are teaching practical in forms three and four only due to the limited laboratory equipment and chemicals. We must look first at those who are doing national examination but, if we have enough equipment and chemicals we can teach practical from form one to form four. This is because teachers always enjoy teaching science by experiment because it simplifies the teaching process” (FGD, 17/05/2013).

In addition, the study also reveals that, the teacher’s work load is another contributing factor that makes them concentrate on organizing laboratory experiment for forms three and four only. This dense work load is caused by the shortage of science teachers as indicated by all participants. For example, Mr. Lulen, a teacher of Mbuyuni School, claimed: “I am the only science teacher in the whole school, how is it possible under the situation to organize experiment for every class when the laboratory equipment available is limited?” (Interview, 20/05/2013).

Looking at the comments given by the teachers, it is apparent that, teachers understand that laboratory activities are most important for enabling students to construct meaningful knowledge of science, but they do not engage their students in laboratory activities in ways that are likely to promote the development of science concepts. According to SCORE (2008) science teachers’ practice in the school setting is influenced by the science curriculum, educational standards, and other factors, such as time constraints and the availability of laboratory resources. Reflecting on this statement and from what teachers had shared in interviews and FGD plus my own observation, it was likely that the concentration of teaching laboratory experiments in forms three and four was due to the inadequacy of laboratory materials in their schools.

It was also found that, overcrowded classrooms appear to cause teachers to focus teaching of laboratory experiments in forms three and four where the number of students is low. According to Flinn scientific (2011) observed that overcrowding in the science classroom is a major contributing factor that makes teachers not involve their students in hands-on laboratory because of unsafe conditions. However, in this study, teachers did not mention about the safety as an issue, to them the problem was classroom management. This concurs with Ijaiya (2000)‘s argument that during lessons teachers must constantly struggle to make all students understand the concepts as well as maintaining order in the classroom. He further claims that this will result in the likelihood of teachers to suffer from the exhaustion and might otherwise be the reason for not engaging their students in hands-on activities in overcrowded classes. In the context of this study, this implies that teachers not engaging forms one and two classes in laboratory activities might be caused by the fact that teachers were not versed to teach overcrowded classroom. Thus, teachers were mostly conducting laboratory activities in forms three and four classes because they had fewer number of students who study science subjects.

4.3.2. Implementation of Competence Based Curriculum

Tanzania has undergone changes in its curriculum from content based to competence based. The new curriculum emphasizes theory integrated with practical in the teaching and learning of science, but teachers generally failed to put this into practice. During the interviews, all participants pointed out that they could not achieve the goals of competence based curriculum. For example Mr. Mack said:

“According to this new syllabus which is the competence based curriculum it requires theory integrated with practical. That means we should teach theory together with practical or hands-on activities. Unfortunately due to the limited resources we have, we mainly teach large portions theoretically… Thus, in reality, there is no difference between the way we are teaching now using competence based and the previous one using content based curriculum” (Interview, 13/05/2013).

Moreover Mr. Lulen also said:

“…for instance we have only one microscope for seventy students per class, so how can you make it possible to build competences to those learners? Obviously, it is impossible. The competence will appear in the lessons plan; you state the competence is going to be developed by the end of the lesson but in actual sense it is impossible” (Interview, 20/05/2013).

During a classroom observation, I noted a teacher performs a demonstration of the measurement of mass using beam balance in a form one class of 75 students. The classroom was overcrowded and only few students were able to see and follow what the teacher was doing, while the rest were writing notes of other subjects and others were talking about issues not related to the lesson. To me this was disengagement of the students because the classroom management was difficult for the teacher. For most teachers, overcrowded classrooms pose difficulties in organizing student-cantered activities. This is in line with the argument by Flinn scientific (2011) that overcrowded classroom not only makes it difficult for students to concentrate on their lessons, but inevitably limits the amount of time teachers can spend on innovative teaching methods such as hands-on activities and experimentation.

Under such situation, I totally agree with the teachers that it was impossible for the students to have the competence of measuring mass of the objects by using beam balance. According to Kouwenhoven (2009), competence means an effective ability to successfully carry out some activity which is totally identified; competence is a real demonstrated capability. Therefore, the identified activity for that lesson was measurement of mass using beam balance, but students did not get enough skills of using beam balance to measure the mass. The reason being students did not get the chance to interact with the material, they were just passive observers. During the focus group discussion, Mr. Gende a Physics teacher brought out his experience and said that:

“I used to teach Advanced Level before this, the students did not know a Joke in electricity, and they did not know a Meter Bridge nor a potentiometer. This is a form five student taking Physics at advanced level yet they got C in Physics at form four. The student cannot even manage to find periodic time but they have C in physics. So where is the competence here?” (FGD, 17/05/2013).

Teachers mostly conducted their lesson using teacher-cantered approach where students seldom participated in the lesson by answering questions rarely posed by the teacher during the teaching process. Teachers introduced laboratory experiments mostly in forms three and four in limited amount in a prediction form, that is, those experiments that were identified to be examined in the national examination. All science syllabuses advocate that in teaching and learning students should be the main actors and the teacher acts as a facilitator. The competence based curriculum puts emphasis on the application of what the students have learnt (Kouwenhoven, 2009). Thus, based on the teacher’s explanation that laboratory activities are rarely performed with forms one and two classes as well from my own classroom observation, it was likely that competence-based curriculum was hard to implement. For instance, when students were learning measurement of mass, there was only one beam balance in the class for 75 students and the learning under this situation was difficult. Hofstein and Lunetta (2004) posit that the study of physical science is not possible without a laboratory and the effective use of its resources. Laboratory equipment have been found to play a big role in developing the competence of students for the outside world. This is commented by Dillon (2008) that new evidence shows that a worrying number of students do not possess complete and authentic skills in sciences due to a lack of resources for practical activities.

In summary, it was evident that teachers value and understand how competence based curriculum should be implemented, but due to inadequate laboratory materials, teachers found it very difficult to implement it. They taught the same way they used to teach a content-based curriculum in which they concentrated more on content than on competence.

4.3.3. Theoretical Teaching of Science Subjects

Inadequacy of laboratory materials has been identified as one of the factors that contribute to teaching science theoretically. During teaching and learning of science, the lessons were dominated by a teacher who spent two-thirds of the lesson talking alone with little student participation. One teacher said: “This method of teaching is not recommended in teaching science, but due to the shortage of laboratory resources plus the number of periods we have, we have no option (Interview, 09/05/2013). This implies that teachers have the belief that teacher-cantered approach is not a good way of teaching and learning, however the environment fosters them to use teacher-centred because of inadequate laboratory resources.

In addition, during the interviews, Mr. Gende added: “shortage of science teachers where teachers are overwhelmed with teaching periods is the results of teaching science theoretically” (FGD, 17/05/2013). In corroboration with the classroom observations, I found that many lessons were taught using chalk and talk where students were given the notes to write in their exercise books by their teachers. Students were dependent on their teacher since the teacher was seen to be the sole source of knowledge. It was also a common practice for teachers to enter the classroom with textbooks and chalk only and this made them to talk throughout the lesson. Nevertheless, in teaching and learning science, a teacher should use theoretical teaching for clarifying the scientific concepts but not to every lesson. Teacher talking throughout the lesson can be risky in the event that the teacher is inadequately informed on the subject or is not adequately trained in the art of communication (Wellington & Osborne, 2001). This method of teaching has been criticized for not motivating students’ understanding. It has been observed that majority of students are unable to build conceptual understanding because the way they process information and their motivation for learning are not touched because of learning science theoretically (Hull, 2000).

Upon reflecting on the comments given by the teacher during the discussion, it was true that even science teachers were very discouraged with the ways they taught science and the teaching environment which had a shortage of laboratory equipment and facilities, shortage of science teachers, big work load and overcrowded classrooms. The study conducted in Pakistan by Dahar and Faize (2011) concluded that, less laboratory resources lead to ineffective teaching and learning of science and lower teachers’ motivation in teaching and performance of students. The poor students’ performance in science might discourage the teacher in teaching science as one participant said “I am teaching but my efficiency cannot be seen in this situation” (Interview, 20/05/2013).

Therefore, teaching science theoretically was found to be caused by inadequate laboratory equipment. This is in line with Mudulia (2012) who found that less equipped schools might limit teachers’ motivation in teaching and cause them to teach poorly in their science classroom and as the results many students find science subjects difficult. However, inadequate laboratory equipment was found to be the cause of teaching science theoretically, but lack of teachers’ innovation was also a problem. This is because teachers could use other teaching aids such as charts and picture during the teaching process. Hull (2000) comments that when laboratory equipment are provided in limited supply, teacher can use various teaching aids such as maps, charts, graphs and picture so as to promote students’ understanding.

In summary, the findings of the study reveal that, teaching strategies employed by teachers to teach Science subjects to a large extent were influenced by the kind of resources and facilities available in the school. Thus, where the laboratory equipment is inadequate, the teaching approach tends to be teacher-cantered. It is also noted that teachers were not innovative in using other forms of visual aids such as charts and pictures or improvised materials.

4.3.4. Laboratory Technicians

The study findings reveal that schools did not have laboratory technicians. This was identified as one of the challenges that teachers were facing. Teachers were teaching alone in the laboratory without any assistance, yet the number of students was too large to be handled by one teacher in 80 minutes session. All four teachers interviewed concurred with this as Mr. Mack, a Biology teacher said:

“Imagine I am teaching biology alone from form one to four… taking into account that in our schools we do not have laboratory technicians. I am a teacher; I am a laboratory technician at the same time I am supposed to teach, prepare and organize experiments. How is it possible? It is difficult to handle and teaching becomes very difficult in our environment” (Interview, 13.05.2013).

In addition during informal conversation Mr, Gende, said:

“... for teaching hands-on activities or experiments it could be easier if at least we could have a laboratory technician. This is because laboratory technicians can help the teacher supervise the lesson during laboratory session as well as help the teacher in improvisation of equipment” (Interview, 15.05.2013).

Teachers’ claims were corroborated by a classroom observation where I witnessed teachers were working alone during the laboratory session. In the presence of laboratory technicians, teachers could have good assistance so as to facilitate teaching and learning. Teachers argued that laboratory technicians are essential in schools to support teachers in preparations for practical works and for ensuring regular maintenance of equipment and chemicals are as well as to maintain the laboratory safety. This is in line with Hackling (2009) that laboratory technicians in schools support the work of science teachers and science students by setting up the equipment needed for conducting science lessons, and ensuring that students are able to safely use the equipment provided.

In addition, when teachers work together with laboratory technicians during science lessons, they can help each other to make students participate fully in the lesson. Laboratory technicians are also found to be the important personnel in teaching and learning science for the implementation of inquiry-based national science curriculum in Australia (Tytler& Australian Council for Educational Research, 2007). This is to say that the presence of laboratory technicians will reduce the teachers’ heavy load and make the science learning interesting to students.

In summary, the findings of the study reveal that teachers perceived that laboratory technicians are very important in teaching and learning science especially when science teachers and laboratory equipments are not enough in the school.

CHAPTER FIVE SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS, IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

5.0. Introduction

In this chapter, I present a summary of key findings of this study and the implications for the improvement of teaching science with limited laboratory resources. I further explain the lessons learnt from this study before suggesting the recommendations and further research to be conducted by other researchers interested in this field of science education.

5.1. Summary of Key Findings of the Study

The findings of the study reveal that teachers experience difficulty in teaching and learning science with limited laboratory resources. Due to limited laboratory resources, teachers organized large group activities and teacher’s demonstration instead of individual or small group activities when they wanted to engage their students in hands-on activities. The findings also show that teachers were using locally available materials to organize teacher’s demonstration so as to engage their students in hands-on activities. However, they believed that locally available materials could not be used as substitute for conventional materials. Therefore, the study concluded that teachers had limited knowledge about the use of locally available materials in teaching and learning science.

It also emerged that large class sizes and inadequate laboratory resources negatively affected their teaching practices. Moreover, the teachers also concentrated on teaching hands-on activities to forms three and four because these classes were smaller compared to forms one and two. Teachers’ concentration on teaching hands-on activities to these classes was also due to the fact that forms three and four were expected to sit for national examinations. However, concentrating teaching laboratory experiments to forms three and four only was not their choice but caused by the inadequate of laboratory resources. This is because teachers’ belief was that science subjects suppose to be taught through hands-on activities to all levels.

In addition, the limited laboratory resources forced teachers to use Kiswahili instead of English though this is not allowed by the Language policy for secondary education in Tanzania. Additionally, teachers believed that in teaching science with limited laboratory resources, the implementation of competence based curriculum becomes difficult. The findings also reveal, that the ability of teachers to build learners’ competences was challenged due to limited laboratory resource. The findings also show that while in Makoba School science was taught using inadequately equipped laboratory, the science teacher in Mbuyuni School used Mobile laboratory since there was no laboratory at all. The use of mobile laboratory was found to be a valuable component in teaching science in schools that do not have science laboratory.

5.2. Implications

Teachers valued laboratory resources because these were essential in conducting individual and group based hands-on activities that are necessary for achieving competences in science. Locally available materials can be used effectively to make laboratory resources not just for supplementing inadequate conventional laboratory materials but also to help increase the relevance of science to students.

In teaching and learning science with limited laboratory resources, students’ involvement during the preparation of the lesson is essential. Teachers can thus work collaboratively with their students to innovate proper teaching and learning materials because preparation of hands-on activities is time consuming and teachers may get tired when they work alone. Therefore, assistance from other experts such as laboratory technician may reduce the stress of working alone.

In the context of this study, the government has provided teachers with mobile laboratory to facilitate the teaching and learning of science. This implies that the government puts emphasis and values hands-on activities as an important aspect in teaching and learning science.

5.3. Recommendations

Based on the findings of the study, I make the following recommendations:

5.3.1. For the School

Inadequate laboratory resources may affect teachers’ effectiveness in teaching science; therefore school administration should work hand in hand with science teachers to minimize the problem of limited resources. One way of minimizing this problem is to use of locally available materials. Therefore, school administration may organize professional learning within the school. This is meant to re-orient science teachers on their teaching methodologies and acquaint them with the use of locally available materials in teaching science so that they sustain the interest of all students in learning science. In addition, schools can make negotiations with neighboring schools to work collaboratively so that they share their experience of teaching science and growing the culture of sharing teaching and learning materials.

5.3.2. For Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT)

Improvisation is a vital aspect for teachers as well as students in teaching and learning science with limited laboratory resources. Therefore, the MoEVT should provide regular professional development programmes for science teachers on the use of locally available materials to facilitate laboratory activities. In addition, they should consider employing laboratory technicians who will help the teachers to prepare the improvised materials as well as providing assistance to teachers during laboratory sessions. This will reduce teachers’ workload and also maintain order in classrooms during the activities. Additionally, science students on internship can be used as resourceful persons in helping science teachers to organize laboratory activities. In some cases, bright science students waiting for their examination results can also assist teachers with laboratory work.

Furthermore, the MoEVT should ensure equal distribution of resources both human and physical to all schools. Science teachers should be allocated in such a way that they are not concentrated in only few schools while others lack them. This is because in this small scale study from two schools, one school had three science teachers while the other had only one teacher. It is also recommended that, the maximum class size should be 35 to 40 students, which is a manageable number by a single teacher. This will make it possible for teachers to recognize individual students as ‘a learner’, monitor their progress, and teach them in small groups for effective hands-on instruction in science lessons. It is also important for the MoEVT to make sure that resource allocation of laboratory resources for science subjects are improved. I also recommend that MoEVT should select a few schools and equip them as resource centres for the surrounding schools. This will allow the neighboring schools equal opportunity to use the laboratory.

5.3.3. For Teacher Educators

Through professional development teacher educators should strengthen their own understanding of the importance and benefits of using locally available materials in teaching science. Thus, they can equip student-teachers with skills on how to cope with science teaching using limited resources. Additionally, the course on educational media should be taught effectively so as to prepare innovative student-teachers for the designing and utilizing of improvised materials.

In the context of Tanzanian public secondary schools, overcrowded classroom is one of the big challenges; therefore I recommend that teacher educators should equip student teachers with the skills of dealing with large class sizes.

5.4. Lessons Learnt

As a novice researcher, I learnt that conducting research needs commitment and time. Participants can agree to participate in the study but when you want to conduct interview getting them on time becomes difficult. In addition, transcribing, data analysis and writing the report requires critical thinking in order to produce a clear and comprehensive report that reflects the objectives of the study. Furthermore, I realized that informal conversation is a good way to capture information after observation since during observation it is not advisable to interrupt the participant with questions. I also got to appreciate the importance of research in the field of education because it can reveal educational problems, which cannot be vividly seen by others.

I also recognize that science lessons should be related to students’ daily life, together with utilizing the local materials around their environment so as to capture the attention of the students and to make them appreciate lessons. Moreover, I learnt that community support and opportunities for professional learning are important for improving the quality of teaching and learning science. This is because when teachers teach where there is scarcity of equipment, they should have enough knowledge and skills of using alternative materials to make the lessons meaningful and interesting.

Furthermore, I learnt that teachers had difficulty in teaching overcrowded classes. This is because they could not engage students in hands-on activities even by placing them in groups due to limited resources compared to the large number of students. Therefore, as a science tutor I will raise incorporate into my teaching techniques of handling large classes and discuss with student-teachers issues related to teaching science with limited laboratory resources in overcrowded classrooms.

5.5. Further Research

The same research could be repeated but with a large sample so as to produce a holistic picture of the experiences of teaching science with limited laboratory resources. This would help to have a clear understanding of how science is taught in these community schools.

I also propose a large scale comparative study on students’ performance in science subjects between students learning in a well equipped school and those in low resourced laboratory schools.

5.6. Conclusion

This research was undertaken to study the experiences of teachers in teaching science with limited laboratory resources in community secondary schools. The study found that teachers experience difficulties in teaching science with limited laboratory resources. Teachers view laboratory equipment as ideal tools for teaching science since these enable teachers to engage students in hands-on activities. In the absence of adequate laboratory resources, teachers were found to use strategies like group work and demonstration to teach. However overcrowded classrooms and inadequate laboratory resources hamper them to teach according to what they believe. It is clear that science teachers did not feel comfortable to teach science with limited resources because it affects their teaching practices. The study also concluded that further research in the area would be of value.

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Title
Teachers’ Experiences of Teaching Science with Limited Laboratory Resources
Course
Master of Education
Grade
B+
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Year
2013
Pages
63
Catalog Number
V282010
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9783656765844
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571 KB
Language
English
Tags
teachers’, experiences, teaching, science, limited, laboratory, resources
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Mohamed Mbarouk Suleiman (Author), 2013, Teachers’ Experiences of Teaching Science with Limited Laboratory Resources, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/282010

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