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International Journal of Advanced Research and Publications

ISSN: 2456-9992

Teachers’ Knowledge Of Laboratory Practicals,

Frequency Of Student Laboratory Practices And,
The Conduct Of Practical Examination In Tanzania;
Reflection From Students, Teachers And School
Quality Assurance Officers
Revelian R Tibyehabwa, Arnold K Fulment, Gideon C Sangiwa, Prof. Bajarang Bali Lal

University of Dodoma, College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, P.O.BOX 338, Tanzania. +255 754 268 183

University of Dodoma, College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, P.O.BOX 338, Tanzania. +255 718 177 818

University of Dodoma, College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, P.O.BOX 338, Tanzania. +255 656 528 390

University of Dodoma, College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, P.O.BOX 338, Tanzania.

Abstract: This study analyses the perceptions of students, teachers and school quality assurance officers on contemporary teachers’
knowledge of laboratory practicals, frequency of student laboratory practices and the conduct of practical examination in Tanzania
secondary education. The study involved thirteen secondary schools located in urban and rural areas of Dodoma municipal, Tanzania with a
sample of 194 science students from junior classes (form 3 and 4) and senior classes (form 5 & 6) whereas 31 Chemistry teachers and 7
school quality assurance officers interviewed were those found in place. Data were gathered using questionnaires, through interviews, focus
group and key informants. Quantitative data were analyzed using SPSS and Excel packages, through factor analysis to obtain principal
components as reduced but more meaningful variables. The study noted that teachers have low to moderate knowledge of lab practicals
acquired through mentorship and individual efforts but they are unable to deliver practical lessons to the students’ satisfaction level,
practicals in schools are performed prior regional (mock) and national examination, where performed practicals are based on few and
repetitively known practically examined topics in the National Examination Council of Tanzania (NECTA) examination. However, most
respondents thought laboratory practicals in schools is inadequately supported and motivated, and that an improved laboratory practices
requires; alternation of examined topics in NECTA practical examination, availability of lab facilities in schools, regular and in-service
teachers’ lab based training and availability of learning spaces in schools. Alternation of examined topics is meant to avoid prediction of
examination topics toward NECTA examination and little involvement of teachers in students’ practicals towards final examination. This
study significant contributes to the understanding of current state of science studies in secondary education.

Keywords: Laboratory Practical, School Quality Assurance Officers, Secondary Education, Student Laboratory Practical Assessment,
Teachers' knowledge of subject matter

1. Introduction of teaching and learning science in secondary education in

According to science education, laboratory practical refers to Tanzania was also argued by Hamilton and co-authors in
science teaching and learning activity in which students, 2010. They pointed out that resources are lacking in schools
work either individually or in small groups to manipulate including insufficient numbers of qualified teachers of
and/or observing real objects and materials [1]. Studies show mathematics and science, limited equipment’s, materials and
that lab activities is therefore an essential classroom activities laboratories as well as inadequate quality of teaching to meet
for knowledge construction in science [2] as an engaging the learning needs of students at all levels [5]. Three years
activities leading into acquisition of skills. In the process of ago (2013) Wolfgang Czieslik and co-author with their study
knowledge acquisition, learning by doing for example doing “science needs Africa as much as Africa needs science”, a
laboratory practicals emphasizes more on psychomotor skills case in Tanzania (p. 90) noted that schools are equipped with
than cognitive and affection learning domains. Therefore, laboratories for practical lessons but they are in a bad
many science teachers and others scholars perceive condition, lack material for conducting experiments in an
laboratory practical work as an essential element of teaching appropriate way, and that teachers are not well trained to
science [3]. However, the conduct of studying science in conduct experiments. Critical observation of science based
secondary schools in Tanzania especially doing laboratory teachers training programs show that these programs lack
practicals has never been smooth. Fore stance, the problem of detailed laboratory domain. They offer more theoretical
teaching science conducting laboratory experiments in content compared with practicals skills. In view of this,
secondary education is due to the shortage of laboratory studies show that teachers in Tanzania are not well trained to
facilities and poor teaching methodologies [4]. The problem conduct chemistry experiments [6]. The fact is that, pre-
service teachers during their college and University studies
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ISSN: 2456-9992

do guided practicals mainly prepared by instructors. In this schools found in Dodoma municipality in the year
regard, graduates join the teaching carrier in schools without 2016/2017.
detailed laboratory knowledge and skills required including
preparation of lab reagents for students’ practical, managing 2.1.1 Participants
laboratory activities, making inventory reports, capable of The first category comprised of students from junior (O-
writing lab purchase list etc. It seems as if teachers training level) form 3 and 4 and senior level (A-level) secondary
programs were designed to cope with shortage science schools in Dodoma municipality. About 194 students were
teachers in schools without targeting the output quality and involved in questionnaire; one to one interview through
purpose of teachers in schools. Focusing on quality is very structured questionnaire interview. In addition, a total of 13
important in order to produce college and university focus groups discussion, each of about 5-8 students were held
graduates with knowledge, skills and perceptions useful for to supplement quantitative data collected. Second category
solving social and economic challenges [7]. Therefore, the comprised of available science teachers who were found in
quality of education is the most effective way to shape the place in those visited secondary schools, a total of 31
values, attitudes, behaviors and skills important for Chemistry teachers were involved in the study. Here a person
individuals to function in an integrated society [8]. Despite to person interview was held as well as focus group
presence of shortcoming on science studies in secondary discussion to extract as much supplementary information as
schools, for about ten year now, secondary schools in possible. The third category was that of Tanzania central
Tanzania and their laboratories has been gradually in zone school quality assurance officers. Seven (7) available
construction harmonized by government and stakeholders, officers were involved in the study, two (2) were science
and recently stocking some of schools with lab requirements subject specific. This was conducted to get insight of
[9]. In this case, laboratory-based teaching has been given a secondary schools on what was already checked through
central and distinctive role in Tanzania conceding with the science teachers and students as well as knowing what are
view of science educators who realize benefits of learning their inspection domains in schools.
science through laboratory practice [10]. Along with made
efforts in the study of science in the country, clarity of targets 2.2 Data Collection Procedures
is one thing and setting the right targets is another because The research employed sampling in selecting the students to
target setting suffers from two major problems; focusing on be involved in the study. The study employed one to one
quantitative aspects and on inputs [11]. The expected target interview through structured questionnaire interview and
and all efforts in improving science would be to produce focus groups discussion methods in the data collection
scientists capable of thriving in a fast changing world, meet process. To ensure reliability and validity of the data
challenges, solve problems and be critical. In regard to the collection instruments, the study was piloted in a government
prevailing conduct on the study of science in secondary school that is near the University of Dodoma (Makulu
education in Tanzania this paper is to analyze the secondary School) to test effectiveness and appropriateness
contemporary teachers’ knowledge of laboratory practicals, of the prepared tools. The problems realized during a pilot
frequency of student laboratory practices and the conduct of study led into ignoring classroom observation during
practical examination in secondary education. teaching science and the adjustment and re-arrangement of
questions to suit available time frame and research context. A
2. Methodology one to one interview through structured questionnaire
The study was conducted in Dodoma municipal, Tanzania interview was administered to the majority of sampled
with 2,769 kilometer squares which is among the fast students, and focus groups discussion conducted with
growing municipal in Tanzania due to presence of colleges minority of available students helped to get insight of what
and universities, parliamentary meeting and is state head was asked in the structured questionnaire.
quarter. The district had a population of 410,956 people and
has annual growth rate of 2.7% (URT census, 2012). The 3 Data analysis and interpretation
study started in November, 2016 to march, 2017 in thirteen For analysis, the team used SPSS and Excel packages to
(13) secondary schools including all available A-level process and analysis collected data from field. The study took
science schools; 8 (21.6%) and 5 (27.78%) were government 13 secondary schools, 7 from urban and 6 rural areas, among
and private secondary schools respectively. The schools it 8 were junior and 5 senior secondary schools, with a
enroll students from different parts of the country. Chemistry sample of 194 science students (95 female and 99 males), 31
was used as a representative science subject because the Chemistry teachers and 7 school quality assurance officers
subject is the connecting subject for science studied by (school inspectors). The analysis resulted into communalities
majority of students in secondary education. Dodoma whose six variables had scored a value greater than 0.5 were
municipality was purposely sampled as a study site because considered significant. Further analyses were done to explore
the area has many secondary schools among other districts in factors that are statistically significant. Factor analysis
Dodoma region, at low cost reachable by researchers and it method was used, this is one of data reduction method that
further bears both urban and rural characteristics. was used to reduce six variables into principal components
(few and meaningful data). Communalities whose variables
2.1 Sampling Technique Involved had scored a value greater than 0.5 were used to form
Simple random sample was used to select secondary schools principal components in explaining the quantitative and
involved in the study, this technique was used to reduce qualitative data for opinion of students, teachers and school
selection bias of schools bearing in mind the budget inspectors on contemporary teachers’ knowledge of
constrain. A random sample of thirteen (23%) secondary laboratory practicals, frequency of student laboratory
schools was chosen among fifty seven (57) secondary practices and the conduct of practical examination in
secondary education. Quantitative data were gathered from
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International Journal of Advanced Research and Publications
ISSN: 2456-9992

open ended questioners where as qualitative data were teaching methodology enough to satisfy their students
obtained through key informants and focus group discussion. compared with government schools.
For the category of students, the variables; laboratory
practices for all chemistry topics, all chemistry topics
examined practically and commonly experimentally
examined topics in chemistry was named contemporarily of
lab practicals in secondary schools (first principal
component), teacher's organization and preparedness for class
sessions as well as teacher's use of discussion, group work in
classes and labs named after teacher's pre-class approach and
teaching methodology (Second principal component), and
teacher stimulates my interest in the subject forms (third
principal component). In assessing the perceptions of
students, teachers and school inspectors on contemporary
teachers’ knowledge of laboratory practicals, frequency of
student laboratory practices and the conduct of practical
examination in secondary education, for contemporarily of
lab practicals in secondary schools (first principal
component), the results indicate two but opposite sets of Figure 2: Individual student's opinion on teachers' pre-class
opinion in which 20% of private school students recommend approach and teaching methodology
“very bad” compared with 27% of government schools while
23% of students from government schools recommend “very Private school students rated satisfactory and very good
good” against 38% of private schools students for first equally by 44% compared with satisfactory (56%) and very
principal component. In addition, the extent of doing good (37%) by government schools students. This means that
laboratory practicals in schools varies greatly with type of for public schools students are satisfied by teachers on
school ownership (figure 1) where private schools seem have average basis for compared with high level of satisfaction
from moderate to a better students lab practices against low from teachers in private schools. For the category of teachers;
to moderate observed for government schools. This means examination of communalities whose seven variables scored
private schools have better academics efforts including doing a value greater than 0.5 were taken significant, and used to
more lab practicals as revealed from students’ opinion results form three principal components (reduced data and
than government schools. However, both government and significant meaningful) in explaining the quantitative and
private students through discussion recommended enhanced qualitative data for opinion of students, teachers and school
laboratory practices and if possible all chemistry topics be inspectors on teachers' knowledge of lab practicals,
examined practically in NECTA. frequency of usage of laboratories in schools, and practicals
studies and its examination review in secondary education.
Quantitative data were gathered from open ended questioners
where as qualitative data were obtained through key
informants and focus group discussion. The variables; cost-
effective laboratory examined topics and continuous try-out
chemistry new modal practical considered as developing and
examining cost- effective science practicals (first principal
component), review of NECTA chemistry practical
examination and adopting curriculum demand-based NECTA
chemistry practicals thought of being Science practicals
review in secondary schools (second principal component).
The variables; more efforts on laboratory skills than
theoretical teaching in schools and laboratory practices for all
chemistry topics which could be termed as enhanced
laboratory practicals in secondary education (third principal
Figure 1: Individual student's opinion on contemporarily of
lab practicals in secondary schools

Teachers' pre-class approach and teaching methodology

(second principal component) were rated satisfactory (39%)
and very good (50%) by private school students against 58%
and 36% by government schools students respectively. This
means that teacher’s organization and preparedness for class
sessions as well as teachers' use of discussion, group work,
and labs (second principal component) is mostly met and
observed in private than government schools. This indicates
the like hood that there is/are an internal factor(s) responsible
for teachers’ observant in their pre-class preparation and

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ISSN: 2456-9992

Figure 5: individual teachers' opinion on Science practicals

review in secondary schools
Figure 3: Individual student's opinion on the variable:
Teacher stimulates my interest in the subject The results (figure 6) indicate that science teachers
recommend for more efforts on laboratory skills than
Based on results (figure 4), all interviewed science teachers theoretical teaching in schools as well as laboratory practices
from both private and government schools recommend for for all chemistry topics (principal component 3) because all
developing and examining cost-effective science practicals. were of the same view on average and important cases. The
Teachers' views for average (46.9% and 46.2%) and most opinion is observed for “important” (55.3% of
important (46.2% and 38.5%) opinion for government and government against 52.6% of private) as highest opinion
private school teachers respectively reveal a need for from all interviewed science teachers.
working on current state of science practicals in secondary
schools. Teachers from both schools (figure 5) had the same
view on science practicals review in secondary schools
(principal component 2), more importantly the opinion from
all interviewed teachers biases towards important than
average and not important view. Therefore, in regard to the
teachers’ opinion results, science practicals review in
secondary education is currently inevitable.

Figure 6: Individual teacher's opinion on enhanced lab

practicals in secondary education

4. Discussion
Since teaching is involves imparting of knowledge, skills and
attitudes to individual(s), it is therefore very important that
teachers to have good knowledge and understand of subject
matter [12]. Understanding subject matter includes
Figure 4: Individual teachers' opinion on developing and possession of relevant pedagogy which enables teachers to
examining cost-effective science practicals plan, organize and deliver lessons, as well as carryout
students’ assessment. Studies show that the more teacher's
pedagogical competence, the greater the achievement of the
students, and that the influence of teacher on learners'
achievement is independent of anything else that occurs in
the school [13]. In this study, students argue that teachers
have low to moderate understanding of laboratory practicals
and that practicals are performed towards regional (mock)
and final national examinations. This coincide with previous
studies which found that science teachers in Tanzania are not
well trained to conduct experiments citing chemistry as vivid
example [6]. In this study, teachers’ knowledge of subject
matters including students lab practicals was mentioned as
among factors for students understanding and achievement in
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International Journal of Advanced Research and Publications
ISSN: 2456-9992

examination despite other factors which influence students' Moreover, practical work is the heart of science enabling
achievement such as students efforts, students psychology, scientific theory to be transformed into deep knowledge and
parental roles ect, This was raised though one of focus group scientific thinking. For the idea of adopting new and wide
questions “is there is relationship on how a subject is taught practicals in secondary education, teachers point out that
and examination results. When the relationship was extended secondary education leavers join studies for example
to other subjects other than Chemistry, respondents certificates, diploma or University in environmental,
confirmed that the way a subject is taught and its exam agriculture, acqulture, livestock keeping with little or
results are highly related but still depend on learners’ irrelevant elementary practical skills from topics studied in
commitment in studies, school environment, and support secondary education. In regard to enhanced science studies in
from parents and students' psychology. Students' psychology schools and especially doing laboratory practicals both the
in this study was mentioned by respondents as crucial factor school inspectors and teachers recommend for regular in-
for students’ success because students are psychologically service training for science teachers if new practicals are to
well if they are taught to the level of their satisfaction where be adopted. In-service training is meant for updating teachers
they are able to see promising direction in their academics. In with new skills and knowledge in the respective topics and
view of above respondents view, studies show that helping entire field of science. Studies show that teachers have a
students learn subject matter involves more than the delivery great responsibility for possessing and improving the
of facts and information [14]. In addition, students knowledge and skills of the profession [15]. Furthermore, the
specifically point out that “there would be no extreme study found that the conduct of laboratory practicals in
failures in science subjects if practicals are well taught and secondary education could be improved by having better
have enough lab practices prior final examination” believe teaching environment including teachers’ residence,
that the existing poor performance in science compared with improving teachers’ salaries and incentives (remuneration
rival social science subjects such as geography, history, and/or recognition), equipped labs and placing reasonable
English etc. is a consequence of poor science teaching number of science students in classes. Urging on the issue of
situation including performed laboratory practicals. In regard incentives and recognition of teachers in schools, the
to performance of lab practicals, previous study show that the chemistry teachers questioned that “how can best students in
fundamental purpose of practical work is to helping learners the National examination be recognized and given incentives
relate between things we can see and handle (domain of such as reward without doing the same for their teachers?”
objects and observables) and those we cannot observe In regard to incentives and recognition, respondents’ points
directly referred as the domain of ideas [3]. In this study, it out that there has been gradual demoralizing situation among
was urged by teachers that few practicals are performed teachers, and that incentives and rewards on better
towards regional (mock) and final examination caused by performance should not be for some schools, instead it
presence of few known topics which are examined practically should be based on individual teachers, and would improve
repeated year-wise in the NECTA practical examinations, teachers’ performance in schools on those possible things.
shortage of science teachers in schools, inadequate laboratory Studies show that students generally perform better if taught
facilities and/or problem to delivering lab facilities in time as by well qualified, trained and motivated teachers [16].
well as limited space in laboratory compared with available Indeed, the present study noted that the “state of not working
number of students. The Chemistry-specific school inspectors on critical problems facing science in secondary education
also confirmed to be aware of the unsatisfactory laboratory- will maintain the culture of focusing on final examination
based studies in secondary education especially government and not the quality of school leavers, and that this has been a
schools despite that their inspection domains are not reason for most teachers not joining and others leaving the
necessarily based on the conduct of practicals in schools. teaching career. Therefore, science teachers recommend
Indeed, the study found a need for adopting new Chemistry consideration of their salaries as teaching science in the
practicals including practicals from topics which are laboratory is subject to risk, and marked with lots to do
currently not examined practically in regional and NECTA compared with their rival social science teachers. In view of
examinations. This was highly emphasized by respondents by bias, unmotivated and demoralized personnel, studies show
mentioned some topics for example in Chemistry subject that if a teacher is largely ignorant or uniformed he can do
which would currently be adopted in the practical much harm [14].
examination. The mentioned topics include; Soil Chemistry,
Organic Chemistry, extraction of metals, hardness of water, 5. Conclusion and Recommendations
Electrolysis, Chemical equilibrium. The grounds for adopting Enhanced and wide lab practicals are currently required in
new practicals is to enhance wide laboratory practices, secondary schools in Tanzania for improving students’ lab
increasing students understanding of science in secondary knowledge and skills. However, Respondents in the present
education. Millar R (2009) with the study, “Analysing study recommend for alternation of examined science topics
practical activities to assess and improve effectiveness” in the NECTA practical examination to avoid prediction of
views that practicals help learners develop understanding of topics to be examined, teachers' motivation through receiving
scientific enquiry. This is because doing experiments in reasonable salaries, teachers' recognition, availability of lab
science are very important in the teaching of science as they facilities, learning spaces, and availability of teachers’
give students an opportunity to have direct contact with residence. In addition, n-service training for science teachers
natural phenomena [4]. In this case, lab practicals promote is currently necessary as motivation and training mechanism.
understanding of scientific concepts and principles, basic Without sufficient time and effort put into science
skills and competencies such as procedural and manipulative specifically teachers' quality and equip school laboratories,
skills, observational skills, drawing skills, reporting and struggle to for results by students and school authorities
interpretation skills. Laboratory practicals bring science to towards examination will continue without considering the
life, help students to make sense of the universe around them.

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ISSN: 2456-9992

desired competence-based skills possessed by school leavers. [16] Towse, P., et al., Non-graduate teacher recruitment and
retention: some factors affecting teacher effectiveness in
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