An exploration of grade 11 teachers' conceptions of practical work in physical sciences within the national curriculum statement (NCS) curriculum.
The introduction of the National Curriculum statement (NCS) in Further Education and Training (FET) phase in 2005 had a great impact on classroom practice, resulting in a shift to Outcomes Based Education (OBE). The Physical Sciences curriculum created challenges for Physical Science teachers. The Learning Outcome (LO)-1 recommends that scientific inquiry and inquiry based practical work be taught in Physical Sciences lessons. However, much remains to be understood regarding teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in inquiry based practical work. This study explored the conception of practical work by Grade 11 Physical Sciences teachers within the NCS curriculum. Using the PCK as a theoretical lens, the study explored how the Physical Sciences teachers used practical work in their teaching. Furthermore, the exploration sought to ascertain whether there was any relationship between teachers’ perceptions of the purpose of practical work and their use of practical work. The data was collected by interviewing two Grade 11 Physical Sciences teachers and also by conducting some classroom observations involving practical work to ascertain teachers’ actual practice. The sample was drawn from two high schools at Empangeni District, in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. The findings revealed that teachers value using practical work in teaching of Physical Sciences. Qualitative data analysis enables recommendation to be made for the improvement of the use of inquiry-based practical work in the teaching of Physical Sciences. Both teachers held the view that the most important aim of practical work was to promote conceptual understanding. During their teaching, both teachers use practical work to verify theory through non-inquiry practical instructional practices and strategies. However, there were limiting factors which do not provide opportunities for teachers to engage learners in inquirybased practical work. Amongst the factors that were reported by the teachers as limiting their use of inquiry-oriented practical work are limitations of resources, time constraints, large classes and pressure to complete the prescribed curriculum. It is recommended that curriculum developers through the use of subject education specialist (SES), facilitate teachers’ transformation from expository to inquiry instruction. More discussions on how to design and conduct inquiry-based practical work are recommended.