Practical work in schools: An examination of teachers' stated aims and the influence of practical work according to students



In a state-wide questionnaire survey dealing with practical work in school science, science teachers (N = 257) in Tasmanian schools and matriculation colleges were required to respond to a validated list of 10 aims for practical work in order to establish a relative order of importance of aims according to practicing teachers. The aims were then rewritten as possible influences (as perceived by students) and the relative order of importance of influences established for the students (N = 724). The orientation of teachers and students towards the set of aims/influences of practical work were first examined separately and then compared. Teacher's aims are associated with a clear rank ordering of importance which shows little change over the whole grade range. The implications of this educational emphasis is discussed. It is argued that teachers aims are in some respects misguided or misjudged and when viewed against student perceptions there are some major mismatches. The instrument would appear to be a simple and useful way of evaluating the orientation of teachers and students towards the role of practical work in schools and raises many issues about the quality of the enterprise.