The teaching of sciences has long been associated with practical work; an instructional tool that is believed to be effective in terms of both promoting learning as well as making the teaching of sciences enjoyable. However, empirical evidence on its effectiveness as a teaching method and whether it has any affective value for undergraduates is still lacking, when it has been deemed as one of the costliest aspects of science education. This paper reports on the preliminary findings of a mixed-methods case study conducted at a British university to examine the perceived aims of practical work as well as the effectiveness of practical work on conceptual understanding and motivating undergraduates according to the academic staff of a life sciences department. For the qualitative data presented here a questionnaire was administered to the academic staff who, along with Year 1 and Year 2 undergraduates, were interviewed and also observed during practical work classes. The preliminary findings showed that the perceived aims of practical work by the academic staff vary across years, while the observations revealed two types of lessons in which the importance of providing theoretical scaffolds during experiments so as to help undergraduates in linking concepts and theories with observables was prominent.
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