Acquisition of Manipulative Skills in Chemistry

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Practical or hands-on activity is an essential instrument of assessment in an active science teaching and learning process. Science practical is a hands-on activity where the students are given the opportunity to practice what they have learned in the theories of science. It is an instrument for the students to acquire Science Process Skills (SPS) and Manipulative Skills (MS). Through practical activities a student's Science Process Skills, Manipulative Skills as well as critical thinking and learning are developed. Also, science practical is a student centered and active learning process, which prepares a student to learn how to think, analyse, solve problems and produce appropriate solutions to it. This science practical is said to be a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Model.

To identify and evaluate the level of the acquisition of SPS and MS, an assessment should be conducted on students. Assessments are important means of gaining dynamic picture of students academic development. As an instrument of assessment, PEKA Chemistry was introduced in Malaysian school curricular.

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PEKA Chemistry is school-based practical assessment which was introduced in the year of 1999 to replace SPM Chemistry Practical Paper. This instrument is designed with a few constructs and criteria to assess student's SPS and MS at the upper secondary level.

The assessment is done continuously for two years, starting with the Form Four students and it is continued until the said students complete their Form Five. Students are assessed formatively by their chemistry subject teacher within the process of teaching and learning.

LITERATURE REVIEW

From other source of study, a few problems were identified in the implementation of PEKA. From the study by Siti Aloyah Alias (2002) 'Evaluation Of The Implementation Of The PEKA Biology Program' it is shown that even though the students enjoyed the assessment, many students are not sure of the skills they are suppose to master. With this, it is proven that the studied students have not mastered the SPS and MS skills as stated in the objective of PEKA. This study also shows that teachers are uncertain of using and designing their own scoring rubrics. They find it difficult to mark the students evidence as they do not have a proper standard marking guide.

The study on Student Ability in PEKA Biology Among Form Four Science Stream Students by Nor Aziah Darus shows that time constraint in completing experiments was one of the main problem identified. This means the amount of experiments suggested by the ministry has got no proper time allocation. The amount of workload for teachers is too taxing. Teachers are under stress where they are suppose to finish the subject syllabus and the all the PEKA in a limited time of period. This in one way or other leads to lack of interest in teaching and learning of PEKA . Perlaksanaan Peka Kimia Di Sekolah Menengah di Sekitar Daerah Batu Pahat, Johor by Lee Soh Hoon  (2007) showed that the frequency of the PEKA implementation is not sufficient.

Faiza (2002) feels that the teachers are having problem in marking the practical report because the score scheme given by the ministry is too rubric. Additional to this, teachers in certain school are facing problem of insufficient lab apparatus which leads to limitation of experiment to assess. She also quoted that student's excellent performance in PEKA (Biology) does not promise an excellent result in Biology theoretical examinations.

According to the research done by Yeow (2002), teacher's attitude and perception of PEKA is starting to detoriate. Majority of teachers (73.2%) find PEKA as a burden to them. 65.9% of teachers feel the introduction of PEKA is no better compared to the practical examination implemented previously before PEKA. He also state, that students show negative attitude towards PEKA.

PROBLEM STATEMENT

Lately, we can see that the demand towards science expertise is increasing, either in Malaysia or around the world. As a result, our government has taken necessary steps to create young science expertise to fulfill the demand. Thus, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has introduced the 'School Based Practical Assessment' to ensure that the school students are trained on science process skills from young. The purpose of this assessment is to evaluate the acquisition of science process skills of school students. PEKA is implemented at school level for Form Four science students and continued until the said students complete Form Five.

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However, the effectiveness of implementation of PEKA at school level is being questioned. Due to some factors and problems encountered while implementing PEKA, school students still lacking on the acquisition of science process skills. The educators cum PEKA moderators find implementation of PEKA as too taxing and unmanageable. As a solution to this problem, I have decided to introduce Hands-on Practical Assessment method as an alternative to PEKA. It is believed that the Practical Assessment would provide a better acquisition of science process skills to students.

PEKA

PEKA is Penilaian Kemahiran Amali, the assessment of science process skills. The subjects that involve PEKA are Science, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. It is implemented (planned, administered scored, reported and certified) in Malaysian schools as a part of the teaching and learning process to develop the mastery of science process skills among students. It is implemented in Malaysian schools to enhance the effectiveness of teaching and learning of science in schools. However, teachers are facing problems and drastic increase of workload in managing and recording the PEKA results.

The implementation of PEKA Chemistry is becoming more of a burden to the assessor as well as students. With regard of this, students and teachers find an easy way out to solve the problem by copying the answers of the report. So much so, the effectiveness of PEKA Chemistry is being questioned. Teachers and students feel that the PEKA Chemistry is just extra workload and is ineffective in determining the teaching and learning science.

The above said problem has lead to ambiguity on the validity and reliability of the assessment. Teachers, who are supposedly to be noble, are forced to break their integrity and provide students with scoring rubrics to be copied. The educators feel, that this the easiest way out, enabling ease of marking. It saves a lot of time and allows the teachers to carry out teaching and learning process easily. Students welcome this gladly, as copying is done easily without the need to think, and thus eliminating mistakes for them to correct it the second time. Come to think about it, teachers who are to educate students with knowledge and noble values cannot be entrusted anymore. Who then, is to be blamed?

This research is done to find a better and effective approach of school-based assessment. Hands-On Practical Assessment is done at school level where students are evaluated as a real exam during school hours. Hands-On Practical Assessment is done by observing the students performing an experiment. The teachers observe students and evaluate them according to the criteria and manipulative skills check list given to them. In a way, it saves the work of teachers to mark reports. Students are not pre-informed about the practical that they would be tested on. It differs from PEKA Chemistry, as in PEKA Chemistry one of the requirement is to inform students earlier about the practical that would be tested on. An assessment is more valid and reliable if the students are not pre-informed exactly on what is to be tested on. By doing this, students will take the initiative to revise and prepare themselves thoroughly for the entire topic rather than to focus only on one particular experiment. This will also curb the problem of cheating and copying among students.

SUGGESTED PRACTICAL ASSESSMENT

IMPLEMENTATION

Hands-On Practical Assessment is an instrument to assess the SPS and MS of students after acquiring the chemistry knowledge. This assessment is done by the Chemistry teachers at school level. The Chemistry teacher teaches the theoretical knowledge of a topic to students. As a part and parcel of the teaching and learning process, applications of experiments on that topic are carried out. A specific date is set for the practical assessment and students are informed about it and the topic they would be tested on. On the assessment day, students are quarantined and assessed batch by batch. The exact title and aim of experiment is kept confidential until all the students are assessed. This is to make sure that the students prepare themselves thoroughly for the entire practical activity. Small students' group comprising two persons are formed.

Students are placed in a laboratory, where they will be equipped with the title of experiment, apparatus and materials. Following this, students will carry out the experiment without guidance from the teacher or books. Students are given the time frame of 50 minutes to conduct the experiment and obtain the results. Within this time frame, students are also required to clean up their place and apparatus. The next 30 minutes is given to the students to complete a report individually. The report should contain aim, hypothesis, variables, apparatus and materials, procedures, data tabulation (observation) and conclusion.

OBJECTIVES

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This study has two objectives :

To explore Hands-On Practical Assessment method as an alternative method for PEKA Chemistry.

To evaluate the implementation of Hands-On Practical Assessment.

a) Authenticity of Hands-On Practical assessment

b) Feasibility and efficiency of Hands-On Practical Assessment

c) Effectiveness of hands -on practical assessment

As the researcher, I feel that this Hands-On Practical Assessment will reduce the workload of teachers and students. It will also motivate students to learn more effectively and to know their and MS thoroughly.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

How authentic is the implementation of Hands-On Practical Assessment in schools?

How feasible is the implementation of Hands-On Practical Assessment in schools?

How effective is the implementation of Hands-On Practical Assessment in schools?

RESEARCH DESIGN

A quantitative research method is used in this study. In this quantitative research dimension, the test model based on a pre-test and post test with research-control groups was utilized.

The research is conducted among students in Form Four at one secondary school in Selangor. The samples are random samples of two science class students with same level. Each class has 30 students with mixed ability (A-30 and B-30). Students are assessed on the topic of Electrochemistry. A pre-test with 30 multiple choice questions on SPS and MS (TISPS II) is given by the researcher to the students early of the year. The test was given to the research group and the control group. In total 60 students participated in the research. The A-30 students (research group) are assessed through Hands-On Practical Assessment while the B-30 students (control group) are assessed through PEKA Chemistry. The two groups will undertake the experiment based on the same title. In order to avoid leakage of question to the research group, the A-30 students are assessed first then followed by the B-30 students. Each group is tested on 4 experiments in the topic of electrochemistry.

At the end of the research, the post test questions were given to the students again. An interview is also conducted on the researched group to interpret the perception of students on Hands-On Practical Assessment.

The instrument used in this study is TISPS II (Test Integrated science Process Skills II) questions which is consist of 30 multiple choice question on SPS and MS. The instrument is edited according to the reliability and validity based on the sample students. According to Gagne, any students who scores 70% to 100% has qualified and mastered the SPS and MS.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS

In the research, achievement test is carried out.