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Essay: The Importance of Laboratory Teaching and Learning in Science Education: Challenges and Innovations in the New Normal

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  • Reading time: 6 minutes
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  • Published: 1 October 2019*
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  • Words: 1,517 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 7 (approx)

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Teaching using laboratory work or instruction is an element of science education. It’s considered important to teach science (Isozaki, 2017). As stated by the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), it is believed that the laboratory is a crucial means of instruction in science, since late 19th century. Laboratory applications are stated to assist students to define the concepts of science in a more comprehensive and meaningful manner (Harman, et.al, 2016). Laboratory teaching and learning is an integral part of the science teaching in Malaysia (Chua & Karpudewan, 2017). Likewise, the use of laboratory activities are also highlighted in Philippines Science Education. As reflected in the component 1: Inquiry skills of the Science Framework for Philippine Basic Education, activities such as experiments, project work and scientific investigation allows the students to actively engage in the science process skill (SEI-DOST & UP NISMED, 2011).
Teaching laboratory-based subjects have many challenges. Issues such as lack of a laboratory room, the inadequacy of laboratory facilities and science equipment (Afacan &Demirbas, 2013; Chala, 2019), defective laboratory equipment, inadequate to no time allotment for practical work (Kasiyo, Denuga & Mukwambo, 2017), the inadequacy of learning materials, lack of water supply, lack of electricity are common in the delivery and execution of both practical and laboratory works in teaching science courses or subject. The same is manifested in both private and public schools in the Philippines (Abas & Marasigan, 2020).
With the recent event of pandemic, the education system has shifted to blended, flexible learning, and distance learning modalities. CHED COVID-19 Advisories No. 6 and 7 dated April 13 and May 24, 2020, respectively provides guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Mitigation of the Spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). It advised the suspension of face-to-face classes but instead there will be different alternative delivery modes of teaching. This advisory is also in congruence with UNESCO and OECD recommendation which is to continue and implement strategies evolving education response to COVID-19. Both suggest ways to ensure continued learning such as hybrid learning, distance learning programs (UNESCO, 2020), flexible and blended learning (OECD, 2020).
In recent years, the use of interactive simulations, videos, animations, and simple “Do-It-Yourself-Experiments have become the answer. Consequently, this technological approach requires the presence of gadgets that are at least internet capable to access the applications and foster communication with members of the group. With countries like the Philippines employing emergency types of distance education, there is clear evidence that this technological approach promotes impetus to equity in receiving quality science education.
The goal of this study is to produce a home-based laboratory manual with a teacher’s guide in topic-specific contents in General Chemistry and provide a model on production and delivery of home-based instructional material. Home-based experiments, uses simple household materials and equipment that are readily available which may serve as alternatives to laboratory works or experiments. The use of locally available materials and equipment at home in teaching science is evidently explored before and during this time of pandemic. Yet how they are integrated to the Philippine science curriculum to produce a model instructional material are still not established.
The Home-based laboratory manual from this study can provide alternative options to gadget-based simulations in topic-specific-content in General Chemistry. Details from the instructional material can be integrated with related course packets to achieve the requirement of quality science education amidst emergency distance learning. The instructional material will integrate on its specifications two relevant theories in laboratory works particularly Investigative Practical Work and Science Process Skills.

Statement of the Problem

The purpose of this research was to develop worksheets on selected topics in General Chemistry that can alternatively continue laboratory works at home. This entailed coming up with a model for the development of the material that can engage learners in designing and carrying out investigations in General Chemistry through common home-based materials. Specifically, it will seek answer to the following questions:

1. What are the challenges faced by General Chemistry teachers in delivering laboratory works?
2. What are the theoretical features of a model material that promotes home-based laboratory works?
3. What are the challenges that teachers experience in using the home-based inspired laboratory worksheets for investigative practical work in General Chemistry?
4. What are the characteristics of a model material that supports home-based laboratory work in teaching General Chemistry?

Significance of the Study

The present study in the development and validation of home-based laboratory worksheets in teaching selected topics in general chemistry is hoped to respond in the continued learning amidst pandemic. The developed home-based laboratory worksheet can be helpful in science instruction, specifically those concepts in the curriculum which require utmost use of laboratory. Vital result of the study will be of great benefit for the following groups:
The students. This study will help the students may develop their love and interest in learning chemistry with the use of locally available materials at the comfort of their home. Learners may have enthusiasm in learning science. Through this, students may also acquire science process skills.
The Science Teacher. The study may encourage science teachers to develop relevant home-based laboratory practical works designed to teach their respective science classes. With the use of home-based laboratory practical works, teachers may increase students’ motivation in learning the subject. Moreover, the use of this approach may ease difficulty in teaching chemistry lessons in time of flexible and blended learning.
The Curriculum Specialist. The curriculum developers and specialists may use the result in crafting a science curriculum highlighting different effective approaches such as the use of home-based laboratory practical works. Likewise, this could also encourage delivery of curriculum efficiently. The use of this approach in this study may be useful during this remote learning and teaching situation.
The Department Heads. The head of the department may gain insights from the study on the use of home-based laboratory practical works in teaching science. This can be an encouragement to develop similar worksheets on home-based laboratories. Likewise, the department head may provide training on how to develop material such as this to teach the subject efficiently.
The School Administration. The school administrators may gain insights as to what measures are appropriate to help the teachers especially in the material development. Also, this may serve as motivation for administrators to conduct in-house training to equip the teachers with the new trends in teaching. Moreover, the result of the study may serve as a basis for administrators to adapt different approaches in teaching like improvisation of laboratory experiments through home-based laboratory.
The Future Researchers. The outcome of the study is beneficial to either present researchers or the future researchers. This could be beneficial to replicate the study using other areas of science such as physics, biology and so on. may provide reference data on issues and benefits of home-based lab for future research and related study.
The Parent. The outcome of the study will be of significant importance to parents as one of the school’s stakeholders. This will give reassurance to parents that education can still continue in time of remote teaching and learning. This will also encourage parents to monitor and motivate their children to learn efficiently and effectively at home through the developed home-based laboratory worksheet.
The School. The result will be vital for the school as it will reflect that the teachers try to give the best education to its learners. The developed material on the home-based laboratory may serve as an evidence also that the school is performing with the help of its stakeholders.
Other Science book writers. The use of locally available materials at home in the conducting experiments may be possible to show certain phenomena. It may serve as a basis for science book writers to publish books featuring home-based experiments.
The Commission on Higher Education and/or Department of Education. The result of the study may call for higher education to adapt different learning tools to cope with challenges of remote teaching. The use of home-based practical activity may be recommended by the CHED and DepEd to be adapted by secondary and even tertiary institutions.

Scope and Delimitation
Instructional material resulting from this study will be based on the topics in General Chemistry that can be safely done with minor supervisions and materials are readily available at home. The study will be conducted in schools in Olongapo City including Gordon College and The Manila Times College of Subic, Inc. A chapter of related topics will be selected due to a need for thorough understanding of the materials’ characteristics. Due to the extreme sequential nature of the DBR design to be used in this study, prototypes of the same materials will be required. The study will proceed to successive reviews of the materials, it will be possible to identify and overcome weaknesses in the design of the materials through this process. More materials can be developed from other topics in the General Chemistry syllabus once the features of such materials have already been outlined.
The study will cover content from available instructional materials used by teacher-participants in implementing laboratory work through distance learning. The experiments involved in the study can easily be carried out using simple improvised apparatus even in the absence of Chemistry laboratories.

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