Background of the study
It is an indisputable fact that education is the basis of a country's political, social, and economic development. If education is planned and accomplished well, it will have the potential to bring about the desired change. However, if the teaching process is flawed in one way or another, the benefits will not be complete. For example, when a good curriculum is developed and it comes to school, it is difficult to imagine the quality of the education provided if there is a problem with the interaction between the administration of the educational institution, the teacher, and the student (Hailu D et al., 2010) and (Negassa, O. (2014)
If we want to improve the quality of education, we must pay special attention to learning. Studies
Showed that research and quality of education must go hand in hand. The reality is different. The
role of research for quality of education in higher education is less than expected (Shirani Bidabadi et al., 2016).
Although the government of Ethiopia is now taking various steps to maintain the quality of education, I have noticed in my experience that there was a problem with trainees' education, especially in the natural science department, which was a potential obstacle to the desired quality of education. Of these, natural science students in particular for chemistry subject, they did not attend classes well and they did not score good results.
Chemistry is one of the major disciplines of science. Knowledge of chemistry is very important in solving problems in our daily lives like cooking food, washing clothes, etc. As a result, a student with a poor background in chemistry in secondary school will face a problem continuing his or her education in a higher institution. Meaning that the future results in chemistry will be lower. Students with a low level of chemistry did not seem to have learned the language of chemistry. For example, they did not understand the basic rules of chemistry necessary to write symbols, chemical formulas (Khurshid et al., 2017).
Therefore, chemistry education has its language, which makes it different from other subjects. This means that since chemistry and chemical symbols are inextricably linked, the key to teaching chemistry is to rely heavily on identifying the symbolic language that is the subject of instruction. Ignorance of this communication makes it very difficult to teach chemistry (J. D. Bradley1 and E. Steenberg2, n.d.).
Thus, the inability to identify the chemical symbols and formulas makes it difficult to classify substances into elements, compounds, and mixtures. This problem appeared during the courses that I have taught for my students namely Basic Natural Science One (BNSC101), Basic natural science two (BNSC102), and General Chemistry one (Chem211).
Nowadays we have about 118 natural and man-made chemical elements in the periodic table. It is believed that our trainees when they came to our college they are already learned about the most common metals and non-metal elements in their primary and secondary schools. But the reality was controversial to this. That is they have a low level of writing chemical symbols, formulas, and writing chemical equations. This is because the symbolic representation of elements serves as a language of communication for chemistry.
So chemistry education has its language. Thus, knowing and understanding the most common elements is a priority for learning chemistry. As our trainees are at the college level, the role of the teacher is very important for trainees in identifying the symbols of elements, using their symbols to write the formula and using them to write balanced chemical equations, as a result, to achieve good results. Thus, for trainees to understand this lesson properly, first, the trainees must learn symbols of the elements, then using symbols how to write formulas, and finally to improve their ability how to write chemical equations.
The main problem that I have encountered at Woldia College of Teachers Education for the past 10 years was because my trainees did not identify chemicals symbols of elements, they could not understand properties of a substance, valence number, difficult to distinguish between monoatomic ions (Na+, Mg+2, Al+3, Cl-1, etc) and polyatomic ions (CO3-2, OH-1, NO3-1 SO4-2), formation of chemical bonding, writing the balanced chemical equation, chemical composition of compounds, and so on. So, I found the problem was worse.
In the first week of the first semester, the course that I thought was general chemistry one, I assigned individual work to each trainee to classify elements like metal and non-metal, to identify compounds and mixtures. When they asked the oral question, a few trainees could not express their ideas. In the classroom, the researcher was encouraged them to write and to speak as much as they knew. But their interest was low. In this case, they were asked to write the formula for compounds, and what they wrote in their notebooks was vague and they could not explain it themselves.
As natural science trainees, while they were in this situation, they could not learn the courses without being able to identify the most common elements, different compounds, or molecules. Then, I advised them to stay with their side and for each trainee, I gave them a notebook with a detailed explanation to fill in this gap.
In another session, I gave them classwork that was focused on symbols of elements. For those few trainees that were with critical problems, the researcher has assisted them in writing formulas and asking questions without being afraid, and lastly, the researcher advised them their problem could improve if they tried their best.
Accordingly, they were not happy to show what they had written in their notebooks, because it was not clear. In particular, some of the elements were found to be difficult for them to write their exact symbols because their symbolic representation was not taken from their English name.
To solve these problems the researcher gave them, ways of giving symbols of elements for all trainees for the sake of practice at their home. In the next session, I tried to sit with them in the classroom to see their progress. But those trainees with critical problems, I could not find a way to teach the course and I realized that I could not teach all the trainees properly.
The course that I gave for them was focused on starting from identifying elements to writing the chemical equation, which made it difficult for them to learn properly if their current problems were not improved. So, along with teaching the course, I decided to help those trainees with critical problems. This is because I believed that the formal teaching and learning process did not solve trainees' problems, as a result, they need special time and place to solve their critical problems.
Realizing this, the researcher was compelled to do this action research to improve the skills of the trainees who were having trouble writing symbols, formulas and to improve the trainees' ability to write balanced chemical equations.
Statement of the problem
In my experience in teaching chemistry, I have noticed that the most recurrent incidence of difficulties in trainees was the problem of identifying names of common elements, formulas, and chemical equations. This problem was seen in 1st to 3rd-year trainees, but it was a very serious problem especially for 1st and 2nd-year trainees.
Particularly, during the courses that offered to the trainees, Basic Natural Science One (BNSC101), Basic Natural Science Two (BNSC102), Basic Chemistry One (Chem201), and General Chemistry One (Chem211), I faced difficulties in implementing the objectives of the courses when giving oral questions, class works, individual assignments, group assignments, and various tests.
In addition to this, trainees with this problem were not able to work on their own, so it was often a problem to try to copy from their friends or took notes during exams. Therefore, for those who were in critical problems of trainees, improving the skills of writing symbols of elements, formulas, and chemical equations will reduce the problem and increase their self-confidence.
Studies had shown that having a basic concept about chemistry, understanding the rules, can lead to learning chemistry courses without difficulty. Particularly, beginner trainees faced problems in writing symbols of elements, formulas, chemical equations, and stoichiometric calculations (Geleta, 2014).
Candidates who came to our college often have this problem. Many candidates were not want to join the natural science department. Because they thought that science (chemistry, biology, and physics) education was difficult. One of the most difficult things to learn chemistry was the lack of a language of chemistry skills. This means a lack of the ability to write chemical symbols, formulas, and chemical equations (Khurshid, M.et al., 2017)
As our trainees were at the college level, it was a serious problem to deliver the course properly, especially for those trainees with a critical problem, because chemistry courses they were studying include in addition to writing chemical symbols of elements or formulas, it comprises chemical reactions, chemical bonds, properties of compounds, and so on.
In general, for those trainees with critical problems, the researcher in the classroom was observed that there was a general lack of attention paid to the courses they taught.
This problem was very serious, especially for extension or evening students. To further refine the problem, trainees with critical problems were taking special exams concerning writing chemical symbols, formulas, and chemical equations. But they scored very low results. Therefore, based on my class observation and their exam results inspired me to conduct this action research to fill the gap.
Based on the stated problem the study attempted to provide answers to the following basic research questions.
What is the reason for trainees' inability to identify the language of chemistry needed to learn chemistry properly?
What is the cause of trainees' inability to classify chemical symbols properly?
What cause of the trainee's low understanding of writing valance and subscripts?
What are the major contributing factors that influence the skills of trainees to write accurately chemical formulas using chemical symbols?
How can I improve trainees' ability to write chemical equations using chemical formulas?
Objectives of the study
Improving writing skills of balanced chemical equations using chemical symbols of elements and formulas for ten 2nd Year integrated Natural Science extension trainees.
- To identify the reason for trainees' inability to identify the language of chemistry needed to learn chemistry properly.
- To identify the cause of trainees' inability to classify chemical symbols properly.
- To find out the trainee's low understanding of writing valance and subscripts.
- To examine major contributing factors that influence the skills of trainees to write accurately chemical formulas using chemical symbols.
- To assess the improvement of trainees' ability to write chemical equations using chemical formulas.
Significance of the study
Trainees are more likely to know the chemical symbols of elements
Trainees can develop writing chemical formulas using symbols of elements
Help trainees understand how to write valance and subscripts
Help trainees to develop skills in writing balanced chemical equations using symbols and formulas.