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Hands-on experiment in science education

12:00 AM May 27, 2024 IST | dr qudsia gani
hands on experiment in science education

Science is to keep improving upon ideas, it is a way of thinking. It involves observation and insight, reasoning and intuition, systematic work and creative impulse. It gives rise to an attitude of mind which is conscious of vast areas of ignorance, and is yet optimistic about human ability to unravel the mysteries that surround us. A scientific approach helps solving problems of many different kinds and beyond science.


These may be economic, social or even personal. We have been able to use acquired-scientific knowledge to glorify our lives by gaining ease, having leisure, and communicating fast and better. The method of acquiring scientific knowledge or the methods of science are continuously evolving through a complex interplay of mental and practical activity. Other approaches of doing it include qualitative and quantitative reasoning, mathematical modeling, prediction and verification or falsification of theories.


A theory is just a set of few general logically consistent statements that must undergo experimental testing for confirmation as a law. Moreover, if any new research comes to surface which is contrary to our results, we are bound to revise our conclusions.  Science enables us to be flexible in our attitude and avoid being dogmatic in our views whatsoever. It progresses by proving, disproving or learning and unlearning, all in the light of seeking truth. In this sense, science is a self-correcting enterprise.


Scientific knowledge is objective. This feature of objectivity has led to the demolition of Aristotelian ideas about the universe. Hardcore scientific facts are independent of the prejudices and preference of individual scientist. Moreover, experiments or observations are essentially repeatable. Reproducibility enhances the credibility of results.


The objectivity of scientific knowledge makes it an ever dynamic, and an ongoing process. A scientist may also design a problem that he intends to solve. Nowadays, situations are created artificially to make certain observations under strictly controlled condition which further leads to real experimentation. Such ideas are often a logical extension of the work of an earlier researcher.


According to Issac Asimov, ‘Experimentation is the least arrogant method of gaining scientific knowledge’ – the experimenter humbly asks a question of nature’.


However, experimentation in our educational institutions is like a dull mechanical drill without any pre-hand understanding or appreciation. The laboratory course at the undergraduate level is actually looked at as scoring papers even if much has not been done about it. The students expect good grades in the practical examinations and they grumble if that does not happen. This again, in a way undermines the strength of laboratory culture in our institutions.


Moreover with the introduction of electronic kits and digital system based equipment in most science subjects, the setting up of the experiments in a significant number of cases has become less expensive.  However, the darker side is that with the coming of compact apparatus kits, the students do not gain a comprehensive understanding of the subject, since they don’t do it step by step or part by part.

They just take the measurements by pushing buttons and calculate the results with the help of computers. Therefore even higher order research laboratories with reasonably good experimental set ups and analytical instruments are not getting adequate Ph.D students, leave aside the quality students, for continuing the rigorous work. And in the process, the research in experimental sciences is on the back foot. Quite often people refer to it as a global phenomenon though that does not shift the focus of the problem.

In our labs, mostly demonstration experiments are shown to the students without involving measurements. But the measurements, however rudimentary, always add a new dimension to the whole activity. Most of these demonstrations can be done very easily to highlight some physical phenomena or principle, yet the students very rarely do these by their own efforts.

They do appreciate the experiments that no doubt enhances their level of understanding of a physical phenomenon but remain somewhat passive observers, and possibly do not feel like replicating the experiments once they go back home. It is felt that the measurement-based science experiments should come in the curriculum at least to supplement the demonstration experiments.

This may help inculcating the habit of quantification among the students. It can be possible in sciences subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Electronics, Geography, Bio-Chemistry, and Environmental Science. Motivated and conscious teachers can improve the laboratory culture.

The whole environment of the laboratory (e.g., furniture, fittings, furnishing, water flow, electric supply, gas connections, and computers) should be such that students may find it pleasant to be there for work. Generally in our institutions, there is an interruption in power supply, internet, water and other supplies which further hurdles the smooth functioning of laboratories. Secondly, student’s involvement in lab work receives no credit as the candidate is invariably judged on theoretical concepts.

Nonetheless, the thrill of learning science lies in performing the experiments on one’s own.

The importance of experimentation can be summed up in the words of Einstein: “If you want to know the essence of scientific method, don’t listen to what a scientist may tell you, and watch what he does”. Therefore, we must watch a large number of variety of scientists, who may be, ‘doing science’ involving many different kinds of activities.

Prof. (Dr.) Mohammad Aslam Baba is former Dean Engineering and Technology , Cluster University Srinagar.

Dr. Qudsia Gani is Head, Department of Physics GDC Pattan, Baramulla, J&K