Impact of Practical work in Science on Student's Achievement

Contributed by:
Practical work has also been shown in some studies to help improve the communication skills of students
in order to solve problems in science and thus become more motivated in science. In addition to this, practical work encourages and increases students’ interest in science and promotes it as an
engaging subject.
1. Journal of Technology and Science Education
JOTSE, 2020 – 10(2): 199-215 – Online ISSN: 2013-6374 – Print ISSN: 2014-5349
Zuhrieh Shana , Enas S. Abulibdeh
Al Ain University (United Arab Emirates)
[email protected], [email protected]
Received December 2019
Accepted July 2020
The purpose of this quasi-experimental study is to evaluate the overall effect of practical work on
students’ academic attainment in science. Participants were selected from tenth grade students (chemistry
and biology) and eleventh grade students (chemistry), then divided into groups. The control groups were
taught using traditional methods of teaching science, while the same content was given to the
experimental groups using intensive practical work. Pre and post-tests were given to all groups. The mean
score comparison revealed a significant difference in the attainment scores of the experimental over the
control groups. It is thus recommended that students be given ample opportunity to be engaged in
practical lessons in secondary schools. This entails that the administration of schools supplies their labs
with all equipment needed for practical work to be effectively implemented
Keywords – Science process skills, Practical work, Science concept, Science instruction.
To cite this article:
Sshana, Z.J., & Abulibdeh, E.S. (2020). Science practical work and its impact on students’ science
achievement. Journal of Technology and Science Education, 10(2), 199-215.
1. Introduction
From the beginning of the 18th century to date, educators and researchers have studied the value of
practical work and its important role in scientific fields such as chemistry and biology. Multiple studies
showed that practical work confers many advantages, including developing laboratory skills and scientific
knowledge, as well as understanding science concepts and theories (Fadzil & Saat, 2013; Schwichow,
Zimmerman, Croker & Härtig, 2016). In support of practical work in the scientific fields, Roberts (2008)
designed a booklet on high quality practical activities in science, in which she stated: “Students achieve a
deeper level of understanding by finding things out for themselves and by experimenting with techniques
and methods that have enabled the secrets of our bodies, our environment, and the whole universe – to
be discovered.”
Practical work has been able to promote students’ positive attitudes and enhance motivation for effective
learning in science as described by Okam and Zakari (2017). Consequently, a positive attitude toward the
importance of practical work meaningfully affects students’ achievement in science (Hinneh, 2017).
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Practical work has also been shown in some studies to help improve the communication skills of students
in order to solve problems in science and thus become more motivated in science (Woolnough, 1994). In
addition to this, practical work encourages and increases students’ interest in science and promotes it as an
engaging subject. As an example, when students practice chemical reactions, they see that
chemistry/science is an applied science and not just theories and rules.
Laboratory work plays a significant role in science education (Hofstein & Lunetta, 1982; Hofstein &
Mamlok-Naaman, 2007). In the educational process, laboratories can be used to develop scientific
notations and create models to test hypotheses. Laboratory work also helps in understanding the
difference between observation and presentation of data (Lawson, 1995). In support of this fact, it is
documented that “Laboratory activities appeal as a way of allowing students to learn with understanding
and, at the same time, engage in a process of constructing knowledge by doing science” (Tobin, 1990).
Laboratory experiments have vital importance in the study of all scientific subjects (chemistry, physics,
and biology).
A contrasting view to the advantages of laboratory-based teaching has been posed by Abrahams and
Millar (2008). They state some disadvantages of laboratory-based teaching as being an inefficient teaching
method and cannot represent scientific inquiry properly, rather this should be taught through direct
lecturing. Also, Hodson (1990) claimed that practical work may be applied in a way where students only
follow the instructions given by the teacher and which means they do not need to use creativity or
cognitive thinking to process the information. Thus practical work is a waste of time, confusing and
counter-productive (Hodson, 1990).
In light of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 2021 vision to progress as a nation and invest in its youth in
hopes of becoming amongst the highest ranks in the world in reading, mathematics and science, the
country has recently made major developments in the education system (UAE Vision 2021, n.d). In an
effort to work towards achieving the vision, the emirate of Abu Dhabi in particular has recently made
drastic changes in its education system in terms of teacher qualifications and classroom practices
(McKnight, Yarbro, Graybeal & Graybeal, 2016) while placing an emphasis on developing 21st century
skills and preparing students to enter the modern market.
The teaching and learning process is a complex one that involves many aspects, which contribute to its
success. One of these aspects is the method of delivery and practices used in the classroom by the
instructor. The focus of our study is to highlight the importance of combining theoretical and practical
work in the educational process, specifically in the field of Science.
In UAE public and private schools, boys and girls are instructed separately in segregated classes in all
grades. Thus, the selection of the participant/classes to include in the study was based on availability of
the students and the willingness of teachers to cooperate in collecting our data.
Having said that, this research shines a light on teaching practices used inside the classroom, specifically
those of grade 10 and 11 female students within two private schools in the city of Abu Dhabi, UAE.
The findings of the research may be useful in assisting teachers all over the UAE in designing and
planning their lessons to achieve the highest potential of teaching and learning science.
1.1. Research Questions
Consequently, the current study will be guided by the following main research questions:
Consequently, the current study will be guided by the following research questions:
(1) Is there any statistical difference between the academic attainment of students taught science
using practical activity and those taught using traditional expository/lecture?
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(2) Is there any statistical difference between the academic attainment of chemistry and biology
students taught using practical activities?
(3) Is there any statistical difference between the academic attainment of chemistry and biology
students taught using traditional expository/lecture?
As a tentative answer for these research questions, the following null hypotheses were raised and tested at .
05 level of significance.
(1) There is no significant difference between the academic attainment of science students taught
using practical activities and those taught using traditional expository/lecture.
(2) There is no significant difference between the academic attainment of chemistry and biology
students taught using practical activities.
(3) There is no significant difference between the academic attainment of chemistry and biology
taught using traditional expository/lecture
2. Literature Review
Education around the world has developed from a teacher-centered learning transforming into a student-
centered learning that teaches students how to take responsibility for their own learning and become more
independent. Many teachers still follow traditional practices such as direct lecturing, strict use of textbook
as the only reference, and rarely extend their teaching to make it relevant to real-life scenarios. As stated by
Yore (2001), this does not place any importance on the development of critical thinking skills and whole
concepts that are important to science literacy. On the other hand, Cobb, McClain, de Silva Lamberg and
Dean (2003) state that: “Design experiments have both a pragmatic bent and a theoretical orientation
developing domain-specific theories by systematically studying those forms of learning and the means of
supporting them.”
The goals of practical work are to improve students’ understanding, develop their skills in solving
problems and understanding the nature of science, by replicating the actions of scientists. Sotiriou, Bybee
and Bogner (2017) state that: “While solving a scientific problem, students should act like a scientist and
follow scientific processes.” According to Hodson (1990), practical work can motivate students, stimulate
their interest in teaching and learning, enhance the learning of scientific knowledge, give them experience
in using scientific knowledge and widen their way of thinking.
Tsakeni (2018) explored access to effective practical work for physical sciences learners in two South
African high school schools. The results revealed that the absence of practical examinations resulted in
underestimating practical work in physical sciences classrooms, and thus marginalised learners. Tsakeni
indicated that the limited access led to a social justice agenda due to the high expectations linked to
studying physical sciences. Tsakeni recommended supporting practical work through the processes of
assessment and tools for instructional leadership.
According to Dillon (2008), there are many reasons for doing practical work for scientific subjects in
schools. Some of the reasons are to encourage accurate observations and descriptions, to change theories
into real-life application, to keep the interest of students in scientific studies and promote a logical and
reasoning method of thought. As well, Bryson, Millar, Joseph and Mobolurin (2002) argue that practical
work helps to improve students’ scientific knowledge.
2.1. Effectiveness of Practical Work
It is widely argued that practical work is essential to teaching and learning in the field of scientific studies
and that good quality practical work helps develop students’ understanding of scientific processes and
concepts (Jakeways, 1986). However, whether this has an effect on the attainment scores of the students is
still under investigation.
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In a study conducted over a duration of eight weeks on a group of 40 students from grade 5, from two
different classes selected through purposive sampling, it was shown that students who were instructed
through inquiry-based learning achieved higher scores than the ones who were instructed through
traditional methods (Abdi, 2014).
Several studies examining the role of practical work on student attainment investigated many aspects of
the quality of the practical work, such as the design of the task given in terms of encouraging students to
make links between the theoretical and practical sides.
In a study done on a sample of 25 science lessons involving practical work in English secondary schools,
the results showed that the practical work supported the direction of the lesson in that it kept students
focused on tasks and doing the hands-on work. However, practical work was proven less effective in
getting those students to make a connection between concept and application in the lab and reflect on
their collected data (Abrahams & Millar, 2008). The study found that there was insufficient proof that
linking concepts to observables is taken into consideration by the people who design these activities for
the science lessons.
Millar (2004) proposes that students’ minds should be stimulated prior to starting any practical work by
providing them with some background information on what it is they are investigating. Also, the task
design should direct students’ efforts to make links between the two domains of knowledge.
Consequently, science teachers should be trained based on the most recent research studies to amend their
practices and put forth more time and effort to reflect on linking scientific concepts with the natural
world (Jokiranta, 2014).
However, one should keep in mind that the feedback from teachers of laboratory work is a vital source of
information about its value. In previous studies, they mentioned that laboratory work is vital for studying
sciences but there are certain problems they faced such as: lack of materials needed for the required
experiments, insufficient information for carrying out the experiment, insufficient techniques followed
during the experiment, lack of information about the glassware and the chemicals that are needed for the
experiment, lack of information about safety rules, lack of information about the steps that should be
followed to avoid any accident during the experiment and finally what should be done in case of an
accident during the experiment (Aydogdu, 2015; Boyuk, Demir & Erol, 2010).
2.2. Cons of Practical Work
On the other hand, Sotiriou, Bybee and Bogner (2017) mentioned that traditional lab work focuses solely
on scientific terminology and allows students to see only what is happening during experiments; in
addition, students may follow instructions written in the lab manual step by step which will not give
students the chance for creativity and cannot develop their cognitive skills. If students simply follow the
lab manual during experiments without connecting it to real life, then the methods will be of no value.
According to Madhuri, Kantamreddi, and Prakash Goteti (2012), “the most important negation of
cookbook style laboratory is it doesn't help students translate scientific outcomes into meaningful
Some teachers show doubts regarding the effectiveness of practical work in teaching scientific knowledge.
For example, Hodson (1991) states that: “As practiced in many schools, it [practical work] is ill-conceived,
confused and unproductive. For many children, what goes on in the laboratory contributes little to their
learning of science… At the root of the problem is the unthinking use of laboratory work.”
Some learners show similar doubts about the effectiveness of practical work in students’ learning of
science, as was found by Woolnough and Allsop (1985) and Osborne (1993). The reason for such
criticisms by these learners is that practical work is ineffective for learning a concept or a theory.
According to Millar (2004), one important condition for the success of inquiry-based learning is that the
learning objectives should be clear, concise and easy to follow by the learners.
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Solomon (1999) mentions a scenario where a student in the medical field is exposed to his first X-ray
picture and cannot make sense of it. Lecture alone, without seeing an X-ray picture, made it difficult for
him to comprehend the results. When finally combining both the theoretical and the practical, everything
made more sense to the student. Thus, it can be concluded that in the scientific field practical and
theoretical delivery are intertwined and cannot be separated.
2.3. Practical Work in Chemistry and Biology
The subjects of chemistry and biology are important fields of science that examine the structure of
matter, composition, properties, and the interaction between elements. They enable learners to understand
what happens around them. But generally, they are considered difficult subjects to learn due to the great
amount of information needed about materials and their properties, which might discourage learners
from studying these subjects. To understand the properties of all materials and the changes that take place
when they interact, many practical applications and experiments must take place in the course of studying
these two challenging subjects.
Although laboratory work is a core component in the subjects of chemistry and biology, some previous
researches argue that:
(1) Conventional laboratory work or activities fail to engage students in discussions and do not
promote the development of the skills needed to understand chemistry effectively (Hofstein &
Lunetta, 1982; Singer, Hilton & Schweingruber, 2006).
(2) If laboratory experimental work is applied traditionally, then only small groups of students will be
involved in this work (Singer et al., 2006).
(3) Students’ discussion during the laboratory work is mainly centered on the procedures needed to
carry out the experiment or how to manage lab equipment (Russell & Weaver, 2011; Sandi-Urena,
Cooper, Gatlin, & Bhattacharyya, 2011).
When it comes to group work in experimental activities in chemistry and biology, the kind of interaction
between the members of the group will influence the quality of the group work and level of
understanding the experiment, and to some extent the expected outcomes. During group work
experiments, it is important that every student has the opportunity to apply what he/she has learned to
future tasks to improve his/her learning (Russell & Weaver, 2011; Sandi-Urena et al., 2011)
According to Piaget (2013), people construct increasingly sophisticated and powerful representations of
the world by acting on them in the light of current understanding. If one considers that Piaget is correct,
then practical work is important in understanding sciences in general. The main role of practical work is
to give support for students in their learning and to make a link between the domain of real objects and
observable facts on one hand and the domain of ideas on the other (Bryson et al., 2002).
2.4. Methods of Teaching, Learning, and Assessment
Numerous diverse methods of teaching, learning and assessment are used in teaching science curriculum
in UAE high schools. According to Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience (Dale, 1969) shown in Figure 1
below, people learn, retain and remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what
they see, 50% of what they see and hear, 70% of what they say and write, and 90% of what they say as
they do a thing.
Based on Dale’s Cone, the least effective methods of learning involve learning from information
presented through written and verbal symbols, i.e., reading and hearing, while the most effective methods
involve direct, purposeful learning experiences, such as hands-on or field experience (Anderson, n.d). The
experiences in each stage can be mixed and are interrelated that fosters more meaningful learning. Direct
purposeful experiences represent reality or the closest things to everyday life (ibid). Dale’s Cone of
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Experience suggests that when choosing an instructional method it is important to involve students in the
process in order to maximize their information retention.
Figure 1. Edgar Dale Cone of Experience (Dale, 1969)
According to the above-suggested facts and to keep the class energy elevated, in-class activities/projects
are mainly done in small groups. As a starting step in this direction, specific techniques and ideas are
offered through demonstrations and hands-on experiences of the lesson core skills of the assigned
projects. Consequently, and in order to simulate “doing the real thing” and to maximize chances to
share what they know and do, group members are encouraged to articulate and represent what they
know and are able to do through the process of demonstrating and explaining them to others. This
practical technique aims to help reinforce lesson concepts and encourage students to take ownership of
the learning. As a result, this will help students make connections to the lessons learned in the
This study seeks to make a contribution to the teaching and learning process of science subjects such as
chemistry and biology by shedding light on students’ engagement as an essential aspect of the teaching
and learning process. Science fields should have their purposes made explicit to students if they are to
benefit fully from them. Otherwise students would see practical work merely as a break from the routine
activities of speaking, listening and writing. Therefore, hands-on learning is key to the development of
students’ knowledge and skills through the tying of practical and theory together. Adopting practical work
is useful for teachers in local UAE schools as it would help them in teaching various topics in the science
curriculum by engaging students in the learning process. Many schools could also enhance their science
curriculum through provision of practical work along with the provision of theoretical knowledge using
traditional teaching methods.
3. Methodology
3.1. Research Design
The quasi-experimental research design was used. Quasi-experiment research is conducted in field
settings in which random assignment is impossible or absent, and is often conducted to evaluate the
effectiveness of a treatment or an educational intervention (Price, Jhangiani & Chiang, 2015; White &
Sabarwal, 2014).
The participants were divided into control and experimental groups for chemistry and biology subjects. A
pre-test and post-test instrument was adopted to assess the effect of practical work on high school
students’ understanding of science (Campbell & Stanley, 1963). The chemistry group was divided into two
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sub-groups (grade 10 and grade 11), while the biology group consisted of one group of grade 10 students.
The experimental group and the control group consisted of 49 students each.
Prior to dividing the students into control and experimental groups, all participating students were
pre-tested to determine their level of science content understanding. This was done to ensure
similarity/homogeneity of the two groups before starting the intervention, thus students in both control
and experimental groups had the same academic level and pre-test scores. For a period of three weeks, the
control group students (chemistry and biology) were taught using the conventional method while the
experimental group students (chemistry and biology) were taught using the intensive practical method (the
intervention), as shown in Table 1. Thus, for the experimental group, all the teaching hours were taught in
the laboratory.
After the intervention was completed, the post-test was conducted to measure the students’ attainment.
The data was collected and statistically analysed to explore any significant differences in the attainment
mean scores of the control and experimental groups. Table 2 illustrates the study design.
# Traditional Way of Teaching Modern/Practical Method of Teaching
1 Relies mainly on textbooks Relies on hands-on materials approach
2 Presentation of materials is from parts to the whole Presentation of materials is from whole to parts
3 Assessment is a separate activity Assessment is an integrated activity
4 Emphasis on basic skills Emphasis on big ideas
Portfolios and observation are major means of
5 Testing is the major mean of assessment
assessment (Brooks & Brooks, 1999)
6 Use homeroom for the science instruction Use another classroom/lab for Science Instruction
Table 1. Traditional Verses Modern/Hands-On Approaches in Teaching Science
Group Control Group Experimental Group
Ability regarding science content Ability regarding science content
understanding understanding
Duration Three weeks Three weeks
Change in ability regarding science content Change in ability regarding science content
understanding understanding
Table 2. The Pre-Test and Post-Test design for both groups
3.2. Study Sample
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the overall effect of practical work on students’ academic
attainment in science, specifically Chemistry and Biology, in two private schools in Abu Dhabi. The
purposively selected schools are Al Dhafra Private School (grade 10 biology and grade 11 chemistry class)
and Sheikh Zayed Private Academy (grade 10 chemistry class). Table 3 illustrates the study sample. The
students were selected randomly from the selected classes (grades 10 and 11) ensuring that they had
similar academic attainment level.
Chemistry Chemistry Biology
Groups Total
(Grade 11) (Grade 10) (Grade 10)
Control Group 13 22 14 49
Experimental Group 13 22 14 49
Table 3. Study Sample distribution
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3.3. Instrument
In this quasi-experimental study, the independent variable was the practical work undertaken by students
in the school’s laboratory, and the dependent variable was the academic attainment of the participants. All
variables were the same (allocated time, curriculum content, activities and tests …etc.) the only
manipulated variable is the independent variable. The two different groups (control & experimental) were
treated as two sections for the same class. They were allocated the same number of teaching hours on the
weekly teaching schedule. On the other hand, both groups were considered and dealt with as if they are
members of the same class. Consequently, all groups received identical class content and hand-outs, same
teaching hours and by the same teachers. The controlled group students were taught by the
conventional/traditional teaching method which is “when students learn through memorization and
recitation techniques thereby not developing their critical thinking problem solving and decision-making
skills” (Sunal, Smith, Sunal & Britt, 1998). On the other hand, the experimental group students were
taught the same exact curriculum by using the modern/practical teaching technique, which can be defined
as "the intentional process of diagnosing problems, critiquing experiments, and distinguishing alternatives,
planning investigations, researching conjectures, searching for information, constructing models, debating
with peers, and forming coherent arguments" (Linn, Davis & Bell, 2004).
To measure the dependent variable, a test was administered prior to participating in the scientific practical
activities (pre-test), and after the completion of the activities (post-test). Then a comparison between the
pre-test and post-test scores was done to assess the effectiveness of the intervention (practical activities).
The gained scores were of concern to the researchers as an indicator of the gained knowledge, reflected
in obtained figures. To achieve such a target, each grade had its own experiment with pre-test and post-test
based on the curriculum and subject (chemistry or biology) as follows:
3.3.1. Experiment No. 1: Chemistry / Acid-Base Titration
The chemistry unit topic “Acid-Base Titration” aims to cover, illustrate and explain:
That titration is the slow addition of one solution of a known concentration to a known volume of
another solution of unknown concentration until the reaction reaches completion. In a broad sense, it is a
technique to determine the concentration of an unknown solution. In this chemistry lesson, students
explain the difference between acids and bases. They discuss the role of indicators in titration.
This topic was discussed and taught in the conventional method of teaching (Birk & Foster, 1993) to the
control group using:
• Texts and problems orientation
• Question formulation
• Lecture attendance
• Discussion monitoring
• Questions and objective type questions: writing and replying
• Problem solving
• Oral presentation of answers
As for the experimental group, although they provide the exact content, the students were taken to the
chemistry lab and were provided with glassware, sulphuric acid, and sodium hydroxide. After designing the
experiment, students were asked to carry out the monitored experiments to generate answers to the
intended questions.
The students’ performance in chemistry was determined by scores obtained by students subjected to the
test composed of the seven questions related to acid-base titration and recording their results as a pre-test,
then comparing these results to the ones recorded in the post-test for the same questions as shown in
Table 4.
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# The Pre-Test/Post-Test Questions
Please read and answer each question carefully (Q1 to Q7):
1 Define the term acid-base titration.
2 Calculate the volume of hydrochloric acid of concentration 0.2M needed to neutralize 0.1M of calcium
hydroxide of volume 25ml.
3 Using the volume of the acid, explain what was needed to neutralize the base if the acid is strong or
4 Using the calculated value of the volume of hydrochloric acid, calculate the number of moles of this
5 Calculate the mass of hydrochloric acid in grams.
6 What is the indicator used in this kind of titration?
7 Why do you think that this method is an essential method to calculate the concentration of an unknown
acid or base?
Table 4. The pre-test and post-test for first group of chemistry.
3.3.2. Experiment No. 2: Chemistry/Thermodynamics
Following the same methods and procedure, as discussed in the 1st experiment, students were given a
lecture on the heat of reactions. The control group was taught through a teacher-centered lecture, where
students see knowledge as something to be transferred to them by the teacher (Zhenhui, 2001).
On the other hand, the same exact topic “endothermic and exothermic reactions” was taught to the
experimental group using diagrams and examples. The lesson covered the following:
• In all chemical change, reactants are transformed into products by a chemical reaction.
• Transaction of energy occurs in every/all chemical change.
• It is one of the core features of a chemical reaction.
• Typically, energy transaction happens in the form of heat during chemical reactions.
• In some cases, heat energy is absorbed, while in other cases, heat energy is released.
• If more energy is SUPPLIED than is RELEASED then the reaction is ENDOTHERMIC. A
reaction is EXOTHERMIC if more energy is RELEASED than SUPPLIED.
Participants were then assessed via a written test before (pre-test) and after (post-test) the implementation
of practical work. The pre- and post-test consist of 10 objective questions with 2 formative questions as
shown in Table 5.
# The Pre-Test/Post Test Questions
Decide whether each of these reactions is exothermic or endothermic (Q1 to Q4):
1 When two chemicals mix their temperature rises: _________
a. Exothermic
b. Endothermic
c. Neither
2 A solid burns brightly and releases heat, light and sound: _________
a. Exothermic
b. Endothermic
c. Neither
3 A solid burns brightly and releases heat, light and sound: _________
a. Exothermic
b. Endothermic
c. Neither
4 Two chemicals will only react if you heat them continually: _________
a. Exothermic
b. Endothermic
c. Neither
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# The Pre-Test/Post Test Questions
Please read carefully and choose the correct answer (Q5 to Q10)
5 Chemical reactions that absorb heat are called _________ reactions.
a. Homogeneous
b. Heterogeneous
c. Exothermic
d. Endothermic
6 Which of the following terms relates most closely to heat being released during a reaction?
a. Endothermic reaction
b. Product
c. Exothermic reaction
d. Reactant
7 What kind of reaction involves the absorption of heat, leading to a substance feeling colder to
the surroundings?
a. Reactant
b. Liquid
c. Exothermic reaction
d. Endothermic reaction
8 Given this equation: HCl + energy → H + Cl
How can this equation be described?
a. This reaction is endothermic, and the heat is released.
b. This reaction is exothermic, and the heat is released.
c. This reaction is exothermic, and the heat is absorbed.
d. The reaction is endothermic, and the heat is absorbed.
9 Three forms of energy are:
a. Chemical, exothermic, and temperature.
b. Chemical, thermal, and electromagnetic.
c. Electrical, nuclear, and temperature.
d. Electrical, mechanical, and endothermic.
10 The burning of methane is an example of a(n):
a. Catabolic reaction.
b. Biochemical reaction.
c. Anabolic reaction.
d. Exothermic reaction.
Please read and answer each question carefully (Q11 to Q 12)
11 When carbon and oxygen combine to form carbon dioxide, ∆H=-393.5 kJ/mol. Classify this reaction as
being endothermic or exothermic, and describe the reaction in terms of heat flow.
12 How do you know from an energy profile diagram that a reaction is endothermic?
Table 5. The pre- and post-test for second group of chemistry.
3.3.3. Experiment No. 3: Biology/Photosynthesis
Through the traditional method, students in the control group were exposed to the needs of photosynthesis
as an energy-producing process; light-dependent reactions (photosystem 1 and photosystem 2) and light
independent reaction (Calvin cycle).
The lesson covered the following:
• What is Photosynthesis?
• Process
• Equation
• Sites of Photosynthesis
• Factors
• Chlorophyll Structure
• Photosynthetic Pigment
• Importance
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The students were then assessed via a written pre-test and post-test containing 10 questions, including 8
objective questions with 2 formative questions, as shown in Table 6. The same exact content, and exam,
was given to the experimental group after they conducted experiments on the topic.
# The Pre-Test/Post Test Questions
Decide whether each of these reactions is exothermic or endothermic (Q1 to Q8):
1 What three things do plants need for the process of photosynthesis?
a. Sunlight, oxygen, and sugar
b. Water, soil, and oxygen
c. Sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water
d. Carbon dioxide, oxygen, and soil
e. Sunlight, soil, and water
2 If plants breathe in carbon dioxide, what do they breathe out?
a. Nitrogen
b. Oxygen
c. Carbon monoxide
d. Hydrogen
e. Helium
3 What is the compound that plants use to absorb the energy from light?
a. Carbon Dioxide
b. H2O
c. Nitrogen
d. DNA
e. Chlorophyll
4 What color is chlorophyll?
a. Red
b. Blue
c. Yellow
d. Green
e. Brown
5 What is the Calvin Cycle?
a. The second phase of photosynthesis
b. Where energy from sunlight is stored in ATP
c. Another name for the water cycle
d. All of the above
e. None of the Above
6 In a light-dependent reaction, water and sunlight is needed to make oxygen and _____.
a. carbon dioxide
b. sugar
c. ATP
d. chlorophyll
7 What are the structures inside plant cells that contain chlorophyll called?
a. Nucleus
b. Ribosomes
c. Chloroplasts
d. Lysosomes
e. Mitochondria
8 Which of these substances is an end product of photosynthesis?
a. carbon dioxide
b. chlorophyll
c. carotenoids
d. carbohydrates
Please read and answer each question carefully (Q9 to Q10)
9 Explain the role of water in photosynthesis.
10 What are the by-products of photosynthesis? And what plant pigments are involved in photosynthesis?
Table 6. The pre- and post-test for the biology group.
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Based on the above data, the core research question- Is there any statistical difference between the
academic attainment of students taught science using practical activity and those taught using traditional
method of teaching? - will be addressed in this study. For this purpose, data generated from statistically
analysing the mean scores of pre-test and post-test were used to answer the research questions.
4. Results
Prior to performing ANCOVA analysis, the assumptions of normality, the homogeneity of variances, and
the homogeneity of regression slopes were assessed. The normality of residuals assumption was satisfied
based on Shapiro-Wilks test (p=0.685). In examining the assumption of the homogeneity of variances,
Levene's test indicated that the variances were equal (F=2.037, p = 0.138) and hence the assumption is
met. Finally, the assumption of homogeneity of regression slopes was tested based on the interaction
between the covariate (pre-test score) and both independent variables (method and gender). Results
indicated that this assumption was met (F=2.826, p=0.098 and F=0.002, p=0.961, respectively).
The illustrated data in Table 7 and Table 8, is evidence that will be used to answer the research questions
and the related null hypotheses that were raised and tested.
Subject Group Grade Mean Std. Deviation N
Experimental Gr. 10 27.00 1,¡.272 22
Control Gr. 10 17.14 5.092 22
Gr. 10 22.07 6.192 44
Total 22.07 6.192 44
Gr. 10 27.14 .949 14
Experimental Gr. 11 27.08 1.038 13
Total 27.11 .974 27
Gr. 10 17.64 5.213 14
Chemistry Control Gr. 11 16.92 4.941 13
Total 17.30 4.999 27
Gr. 10 22.39 6.076 28
Total Gr. 11 22.00 6.248 26
Total 22.00 6.104 54
Table 7. Descriptive Statistics post-test
Source Type III Sum Degree of Mean F Significance η2
of Squares Freedom Square (Test Statistic) (Effect Size)
Corrected Model 2393.219a 4 598.305 45.209 0.000 0.660
1046.067 1 1046.067 79.043 0.000 0.459
Pre-test 22.106 1 22.106 1.670 0.199 0.018
Group 1486.189 1 1486.189 112.299 0.000 0.547
Subject 3.597 1 3.597 0.272 0.603 0.003
Group * Subject 2.470 1 2.470 0.187 0.667 0.002
Error 1230.781 93 13.234
Total 51674.000 98
Corrected Total 3624.000 97
a. R Squared = 0.660 (Adjusted R Squared = 0.646)
Table 8. Tests of Between-Subjects Effects
13. Journal of Technology and Science Education –
In addressing the first research question, “Is there any statistical difference between the academic attainment
of students taught science using practical activity and those taught using traditional teaching method?”, and
testing its related hypothesis, “There is no significant difference between the academic attainment of science
students taught using practical activities and those taught using traditional teaching method”, the results
showed a significant difference between the academic attainment of students taught science using practical
activities and those taught using the traditional teaching method (Table 7 and Table 8).
The ANCOVA results showed a significant difference between the academic attainment of students
taught science using practical activities and those taught using traditional expository/lecture (F=89.733,
p=0.000, η2 =0.496). This outcome indicates that there is a highly significant effect of practical work; the
effect size is moderate, and accordingly, the hypothesis was rejected.
Regarding the second and third research questions:
• Is there any statistical difference between the academic attainment of chemistry and biology
students taught using practical activities?
• Is there any statistical difference between the academic attainment of chemistry and biology
students taught using traditional expository/lecture?
The ANCOVA results (Table 7) showed that there is no significant group-subject interaction effect
(F=0.420, p=0.519, η2 =0.005). This means that performance of students in biology and chemistry is
consistent within control and experimental groups. Therefore, the hypothesis is not rejected.
4.1. Discussion and Conclusion
The results of our research show that there is a positive correlation between practical work and the
academic attainment of most students in science. The findings are directly in line with previous studies’
findings such as a study by Abdi (2014), which stated that the experimental groups had a much greater
understanding of the information covered, especially regarding questions that required interpretation.
Teachers were advised to consider how to prepare learning environments in which students will be more
active and then present these environments to students.
In fact, other research has generated similar results. For example, Hofstein and Lunetta (1982) and
Hofstein and Mamlok-Naaman (2007) mentioned that laboratory work plays an important role in science
education and also helps in understanding the difference between observation and presentation of data.
Hodson (1990) considered that practical work can motivate students and stimulate their interest in
teaching and learning.
On the other hand, Boyuk et. al. (2010) and Ayogdu (1999) put forward that some teachers have
reservations in regard to laboratory work. They mentioned that laboratory work is vital for studying
sciences but there are certain problems encountered such as the lack of materials needed for the required
experiment, insufficient information for carrying out the experiment, the techniques followed during the
experiment, the glassware and the chemicals needed for the experiment, safety rules, what steps need to be
followed to avoid any accident during the experiment, and finally what should be done in case of an
accident during the experiment.
The researchers of the current study acknowledge the importance of these limitations and recommend
that they must be studied and addressed by teachers and school administrators in order to allow the value
of practical work to benefit students in achieving higher academic standards.
The researchers recommend that practical work is provided for most of the concepts in chemistry and
biology, as they are considered an applied science. Some concepts cannot be understood if not applied
practically. In addition to this, some concepts cannot be applied, thus, more research is needed to simplify
science concepts in general, and make chemistry and biology easier and more exciting subjects in
14. Journal of Technology and Science Education –
particular. This can help students become motivated, work harder and understand chemistry and biology
Therefore, the researchers suggest that further studies be undertaken to explore the role of using
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in teaching and learning science, perhaps in a way
that would explain experiments that are difficult to be completed practically in the lab. To ensure the
success of practical work, the researchers recommend that the administration of schools supply their
schools with all necessary equipment, glassware, and chemicals needed to facilitate the practical work for
most topics in chemistry and biology.
Finally, the researchers find it vital to allow students to design some of their own experiments (student-
centered activity) as this ensures they do not just follow instructions from teachers. Teacher-centered
instruction can be boring for students and can affect the benefits of practical work, thus the researchers
recommend that further studies examine the impact of this method on the efficacy of practical work.
4.2. Limitations of Study
The study was limited to two private schools and two science subjects (chemistry and biology). In
addition, the researchers did not have the freedom to choose what was to be taught but had to follow the
outline of the subjects’ curriculum provided by the school. The number of lessons per week also had to
be limited to what was scheduled and planned by the school. It may suffer from factors such as being too
4.3. Compliance with Ethical Standards
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants should be in compliance with the
ethical standards of the institution, the national research committee, and the 1964 Helsinki declaration and
its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Thus, the researchers ensured they obtained
consent from Al Dhafra Private School and Sheikh Zayed Private Academy administrations to conduct
this experimental study on the assigned students. Also, the consent of all the individual participants
included in the study was obtained. Moreover, the study was conducted in compliance with the national
ethical guidelines of the Ministry of Education research committee.
The researchers would like to extend special acknowledgment to Omaymah Qeis, Wisam Trabilsi and
Leen Mahmoud for their contribution towards the data collection component of the research, which
helped support the overall manuscript. Your time and efforts are greatly appreciated.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or
publication of this article.
The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
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