Examining the influence of co-curricular activities on learner attitudes and achievement in physical sciences
This study seeks to examine the influence of co-curricular activities on learner attitudes in Further Education and Training (FET) Physical Sciences. Butterworth FET school in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa was used as a case example, where Grade 10 and Grade 11 learners were exposed to various Science related activities that allowed them to have a direct interaction and hands-on experience with curriculum and co-curricular Science activities. The case study was conducted at the researcher's school.When benchmarked against various international and national tests, the level of general performance of South African learners in Science and mathematics are lagging behind the rest of the world. In cluster meetings, many science education colleagues hypothesized that the poor achievement of leaners in the NSC (National Senior Certificate) and equivalent qualifications could possibly be attributed to learners' attitudes towards the subject. The purpose of this study was therefore to expose learners to various co-curricular Science activities and used this as a basis to examine learners' attitudes towards Physical Sciences. Learners were encouraged to actively engage in Science activities, investigations and projects, to explore if their attitude towards the subject could be influenced by these experiences. The study was underpinned by Constructivism, which helped learners to extract scientific meaning from what they already know, thus strengthening learners' cognition. A mixed method approach was used, using interviews and questionnaires as instruments for data collection. A sample of 35 learners and 3 teachers, was used. This research study found that context teaching through co-curricular activities helped learners to comprehend Physical Sciences better and gave them a chance to indulge with their science rich environment. They constructed scientific meaning from their experiences in the co-curricular science activities and appreciated this exposure as it assisted them to better understand science curriculum concepts. They related Physical Sciences to the context of their surroundings, which helped them to holistically grasp principles and laws used in the subject. This research study can add scientific value locally and nationally, as it provided a means to improve learners' attitudes towards Science in general, and Physical Sciences in particular. The research study further added to baseline data on limited South African studies and on learners' attitudes towards gateway subjects like Physical Sciences. This study recommended that the co-curricular activities should be merged with both GET and FET curricula.