The use of science process skills by Grade 11 physical science learners: a case study of two high schools in Gauteng Province, South Africa

In South Africa, the new Curriculum Statement and Policy Statement (CAPS) Grades 10- 12 for Physical Sciences emphasizes learners’ use of science process skills. The aim of this study was to evaluate the extent of the use of science process skills by Grade 11 Physical Science learners. It also sought to explore some of the factors associated with poor utilization of SPS by Grade 11 Physical Science learners. The participants were Grade 11 Physical Science learners (n=50) and teachers (n=4) from two schools in the Johannesburg area of the Gauteng Province, South Africa. Quantitative and qualitative data used to evaluate Grade 11 Physical Science learners’ use of science process skills was obtained through use of: a learner Likert questionnaire; teacher and learners’ interviews; and analysis of classroom lesson observations. Quantitative data was analyzed using both descriptive and inferential statistics. Qualitative data was analyzed using a combination of content and interpretive analysis. It was found that for both schools basic science process skills were relatively more frequently utilized compared to integrated skills; with the lower fee paying school showing a poorer utilization of both types of skills. The most utilized basic science process skills were found to be communication, observation, identification, classification, comparison, description and calculation. It was found that the following integrated process skills are poorly utilized by the Grade 11 Physical Science leaners- prediction, constructing hypothesis, relationship between variables, constructing diagrams, and experimentation. Some of the factors found to hamper utilization of science process skills were identified as teacher incompetency, lack of learner interest, poor availability of curriculum resources, and poor teaching practices and learning strategies. It was recommended that the South African CAPS curriculum needs to be revised to put greater emphasis on teaching and assessment of science process skill utilization. Furthermore, it was suggested that teachers need to be professional developed to enhance their capabilities of teaching science process skill utilization. Implications for further studies were fleshed out and discussed.
A research project submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science Education in the Faculty of Science. The University of the Witwatersrand. February 2016