ASSESSING SOUTH AFRICAN SCIENCE STUDENTS’ ATTITUDES TOWARDS PHYSICS LABORATORY ENVIRONMENT
The daunting nature of the laboratory environment poses enormous challenges to students when performing practical work. Active and meaningful involvement in laboratory activities can be stifled by erosion of confidence on the part of students. While it is imperative for students to derive maximum benefits from active involvement in laboratory activities, there is a crucial need to create laboratory environments fostering meaningful learning through provision of interactive opportunities. Meaningful engagement with physics practical work in particular requires innovative approach that makes provision for development of practical skills and laboratory competence through well-structured laboratory activities. In response to this key imperative, science students’ attitudes towards physics laboratory environment were assessed through the administration of a Physics Laboratory Attitude Questionnaire. The survey was conducted with first year science students at a South African university. The students constituted a purposive sample within the context of this study. The administration of a Physics Laboratory Attitude Questionnaire was carried out after the students were adequately exposed to the university physics laboratory environment. The study demonstrated that erosion of confidence on the part of students when performing practical work appeared to be crucially dependent on a conflation of cognitive and affective factors. Theoretical implications for meaningful development of laboratory competence through well-structured activities are discussed.