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CREATIVITY IN SCIENCE TEACHING: a practioner’s contribution

E.O. Onwukwe
Department  of Integrated Science and Special Science Programme,
Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, Nigeria

The paper focussed on the science classroom and advocated that it should be creative. The creative teacher is presented as a motivator and an eye-opener to science students. This is shown from the practioners point of view to lead students into easy, in depth and purposeful learning of science concepts, principles and practices. The  paper therefore canvassed for  more  of such practices as  play- Simulations and teaching- with - Analogy, and Individualized Science practical activities, as a way of extending time-on-task for meaningful skill acquisition, andragogy as opposed to pedagogy in teacher - student and student- student classroom interactions. Other approaches called for include use of models of metaphorical dimensions to awaken enlightenment. The paper posits  that  for  science  education to contribute  its  quota meaningfully to national development,  its practioners  must be creative,  innovative  and  diversified  in their  approach  so as to produce  science  teachers  and  scientists  of similar characteristics. 

Keywords: Creativity; science; education; pedagogy 

National development pursued in any other way outside the empowerment of the individuals in that nation cannot be sustainable. Sustainable national development and man-power development are inseparable. Education is one sure vehicle for reaching such goals economically, socially, politically, technogocally and scientifically (Onwuakpa and Nweke, 2000). To many others however, the development of any modern nation is mostly advanced by the promotion of science.

Poor performance in science by school children is a common knowledge (Okafor, 2000) Dara and Ogomaka (2005) Duru (2006). All blame poor science lesson delivery methods for this ugly trend. How can science lessons therefore be presented as to awaken the interest and attention of  school children? Creative and Innovative Science lesson deliveries can rejuvenate  science classrooms.

Innovation is all about making a change or improvement on the status quo. The innovative science teacher, as a creative person, therefore is willing to try all possible ideas, delay judgment and postpone gratification. The teacher will be prepared even to offend authorities initially.


FIRST - HAND experiences in innovative teaching
Every teacher has a teaching subject matter and an area of specialization. These could easily be broken into topics from where lessons may be developed. This makes innovation easy as each topic or lesson may call for a different approach. The  author’s background is in science education/chemistry. These may have coloured  the  classroom practices presented here.

1. Teaching Chemistry by using plays
gfghThe author discovered an all-time interest of people, especially young people in plays. Some people are especially influenced in learning if things are not presented so directly but in analogies. Teaching with Analogies, now popularly called the TWA- model is

universally recognized. In a simple step, it involves.

Analog                                                 Knowledge                              Target
(familiar)                                                                                             (unfamiliar)

The plays used by the author  in accordance with this model are titled “The courtroom of crazy Elements” through which the inorganic aspects of chemistry and “Queen Ester’s father,” through which organic aspect of O’ level chemistry were introduced to the students. Having tried the first play during a casual school setting and marking the tremendous interest generated, the author effectively used it with more refinements in solving a challenge. This was getting students interested in chemistry in a girls school that had many years of poor science background. The outcome inspired the second play. School functions like send-forth gatherings were used to stage the plays.

In these plays, always acted by SS1, and SS 2 students, key elements and compounds are personified, their properties as analogous to human behaviours were  highlighted as well as the principles of handling them and their uses. In the classroom then, the author applied the TWA model by
   introducing the concept (principle) e.g. elements, compounds, properties.
   Reviewing the analog concept- the character in the play
   Identifying relevant features of the target and analog
   Mapping similarities
   Indicating where analog breaks down
   Drawing conclusions
This was done consistently for three years. The result was tremendous. Nearly 70% of all SS1 students of each year during the period in Martin College, Issele-Uku, Delta Sate,(the case study)  chose chemistry in SS2 for the years 1996-98 and enrolled for it in SS3. it was far too low before and thereafter.

Tables 1: Average Student Enrollment in Martin College Issele-Uku, in SS-3 during the period under Review.


               Average Student Enrollment During the Period
 Period                       SS1                   SS2                           SS3                                 TOTAL        
hd1990-92                    120                    98                             80                                     298
g1996-98                     140                  105                  1      15                                     360
gh2000-2002                 180                   165                 1      40                                     485


Table2: Average number of chemistry students in Martin college SS1-SS3 offering chemistry during the period under review


Percentage of  Chemistry Students enrolment  to school 

 Period                   SS1     SS2             SS3       TOTAL 

hdghgdh1990-92                   80        20                  10         130                          36.9%         

dghghgh1996-98                130             90            58                   278                         77.2%   
g2000-2002             190            40        26                 256                          52.8%                    


It is interesting to note that these plays are now available as textbooks (Onwukwe, 2005)  so that they can benefit chemistry teachers and students everywhere. The outcome of the observations above agree with Gwany (2005) who concluded that such teaching strategies that include theatricals, music, dances etc. offer “cross sensory experiences”. These experiences help the brain to select for consideration information perceived as interesting, pleasurable, rewarding, exciting, meaningful, non-threatening and non-stressful. This is because the brain relates to the environment (in learning) on an emotional bias basis.

No wonder then Onwukwe and Okereke (2007) have recommended play - simulations and teaching with analogy as veritable method of science lesson delivery in the classroom.

 2. Teaching Practical Chemistry-Quantitative Analysis As An Individualized Scheme By Using A Flow Chart.
From the experiences of the author in teaching secondary school chemistry practicals, it was discovered that a lot of students developed a morbid fear of practical exercises, especially the fear of handling glass wares and some chemicals. This made these students to mill through the crowds through out their school career and failed to derive personal experiences in practical chemistry. This observation is in line with Joseph (2002) who equally noted that part of the problem stems from the fact that “In many schools Mock practical chemistry Examination is the first practical examination they take in their secondary school life”. Starting chemistry practical work right from SS1, was therefore recommended. The outcome of this exercise is not suprising because, according to Ibe(2002) indebt knowledge of the theory behind practicals, positive disposition on the part of the  teacher, adequate attention before, during  and after (discussions with  students)practicals
are necessary for successful practical  exercises.

The idea of individualizing titration experiments through a flow chart was developed by the  author. The teacher prepared acid and base solutions in many stoppered containers such that combinations of different solutions (A1-and B1) gave different range of end-points etc. A note of the various combinations that produced what end-points with what indicator was taken eg: A1 and B2- emthyl orange = 27cm3, A3 and B1 phenolphthalein =21cm3 etc. Questions solvable using these endpoints were derived. Demonstration classes were then organized in the first or early second term of SS2. Thereafter, each student received the flow chart (see appendix 1) as a guide. Each student now practiced at  his/her own pace. This

procedure has been tried in the secondary school as well as with the  special Science programme students in the integrated science department. The results were encouraging. In an oral interview the students confessed  gaining confidence, insight and opportunity to add a personal touch to their titration practical  work. 

3. Teaching Thinking In a Community of Inquiry
Anih (2004) in Akpan and Onwukwe (2007) advocated   “Modern Approaches to classroom learning”,  and  expounded on teaching thinking in a community of inquiry. This paper provoked the author’s immediate application of the inquiry to classroom situations. The community of inquiry/Andragog/ Systems thinking/Synergic thinking, as variously called is highly opposed to spoon-feeding method of lecture deliveries where the  teacher comes to the class solely ‘to give’ and the students solely “to take” lectures or lessons. “The students who have been domesticated into thinking childishly expect that the adult will come and ‘tell’ them what to do”

In the community of inquiry, on the contrary, the students learn to evolve ideas or problems and dissolve them through systems thinking following its laid down rules. The first rule is the break down of the rostrum for the teacher and erecting a circular sitting arrangement.

The author saw the elements of scientific attitudinal expectations in this approach to teaching and learning, and decided to try it in science based classes. First of all, the seats were re-arranged in at least a U-fashion. ( Science classes  have the advantage of   comparatively smaller number of students  for this purpose) then follow the rehearsal of some of the ground-norms of systems thinking relevant to scientific attitudes expected of the students.
These are:
·           Paying  attention to one another
·           Taking turns in contributing ideas

Being logical (basing arguments on premise (s)
·           Succumbing to higher order reasoning
·           Chalkboard summary of higher reasoning of more general  acceptance/sticking to one’s          view not generally accepted.

The class then  used  this community to clarify concepts or explain principles  and underlying  practical activities. The class met severally in this way including in theory classes where principles, generalizations and theories were the  main issues. The   author took the position of a facilitator, sat with the students in different rows at different times,  and sometimes leaving the class for a  while after introducing an idea. Points of general   consensus were collected and compared with more global views. After about four weeks of regular practice, the students  were interviewed both individually and  collectively. From their responses, it was discovered that they 
1.      enjoyed the face-face contacts they had with one another during discussions
2.      were encouraged to undertake independent reasoning in a classroom situation              for the first time.
3.      were thrilled to have class jottings containing their own ideas/phrases or words
4.      gained insight into the practical classes more than they had hitherto done.

However, the author also discovered from  the  comments of the students  that
   the female students were reluctant to sit opposite the male students, especially those not putting on trousers, and remained conscious of their sitting positions (which distracted them).

   the students did not quite enjoy having to re-arrange the seats each time they had this class, other lecturers always had the seats re-arranged the usual way.

   the class achieved less  in terms of coverage of schemes of work compared to a full blown lecture (pedagogy)

Based on this personal experience therefore, the author concluded that setting up a community of inquiry is very good as a means of discussing practical work either before or after the exercise.  It encourages acquisition of scientific attitudes among students, despite its odds due to prevalence of older and more familiar methods and their advocates.
4. The Use of Concept Cards in Games to discuss practicals
The author had also used the game of concept cards in clarifying concepts after practical classes. The particular practical work was quantitative analysis. Often teachers assume that students see what  they  are expected to see during practical demonstrations/activities. This exercise rather revealed a lot of  misconceptions that affected the foresight and transfer of knowledge on the part of the students.

The author first organized a practical demonstration on the identification of ions. Thereafter, before the students practiced on their own, the key concepts were written out on the chalkboard. Each student was asked to print them boldly on cardboard strips cut to the size of a GSM recharge card (about 2 x 3cm). Examples of the concepts included reagent, dilute, precipitate, soluble, insolube, gelatineous, dirty brown etc. in a discussion class, the students gathered in groups and played card games with the concept cards in a three-round game.
·     In the first round, each student drew a card, explained the concept thereon the best way he/she could. The entire group now discussed the explanation.
·     In the second round, each draws two cards, states a relationship between them. The group discussed each person’s views.
·     In the third round, each draws three cards, states at least a relationship between two and one difference between the last one and the first two.

This innovation is not the creation of the author who rather used it several times in class

and even during a primary science teachers vacation workshop organized by the administration of a private school. The outcomes were very interesting. The divergent views, contrary meanings assumed, the insights revealed and expressed were very helpful in clarifying the concepts. This  exercise  revealed a fundamental  learning strategy according to Glynn (1994) that  teachers have a critical role to play in making learning of science concepts relational. This makes them more meaningful and understandable.

5.   The Use Of Human –Oriented Curvilinear Models In Teaching The Structure of Science.
The author evolved human-oriented models of the structure of science to meet the requirements of all levels of formal science programmes. It was to serve as an example of using models to clarify difficult concepts creatively, among other things. (Onwukwe, 2005 ,  Onwukwe, Ngozi-Olehi, Nnadi,  and  Ibe, 2005)  . The author successfully used these models to lead first year degree students to arrive at a logical conclusion on the  questions: “Science and man which predates the other?” and “Is Science God to mankind?” These questions were posed to the students first, most gave such bizarre responses as “science predates man” “Science is the same as Almighty God, since it solves all of man’s problems”.

However, after displaying these models and discussing their implications as they depict the structure of science, the questions were posed again. many of the students rejected  their initial positions on the questions and some were able to refocuss and arrive at more logically acceptable answers. This practice and turn of events was continued for three years in each first semester.

Again, this observation agrees with the currilinear theory of African thought form (Umezinwa, 1990) it also agrees with Vygotsky’s socio-cultura perspective of

learning and especially what is termed “The zone of Proximal Development, ZPD (Agulanna and Nwachukwu, 2004) This is a time in learning where only an adult assistance can help the learner make progress. otherwise he/she will be frustrated. 

In this paper, it is concluded that application of innovative procedures in the teaching and learning of science is a veritable way to present science as an act of creativity. creative lesson delivery methods make science lessons more stimulating as well as making the learners themselves become creative. Creative science is a sure way science education can lead to national development. Students who were influenced by their teacher’s creativity and innovations will themselves become creative and evolve innovations that will lead to national developments.


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Dara, A. O. and Ogomake, P.M.C, (2005) Comparative influence of some variables on student performance in Junior Secondary Certificate Examinations in Integrated Science. Alv. J. Sci vol2, N0 2, Pp 23-32

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Text book Authors. Reading Research Report N0 15. Pp 1-34.

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Onwukwe, E.O (2005) Modeling And mapping of Abstract Concepts: An Aspect of creativity in the Teaching and Learning of Science in Schools. Alvan Journal of Science 2, 1 (Pp 56-64)

Onwukwe, E.O (2005) Teaching And Learning Science Through Plays CHEMISTRY: Court Room Of Crazy Elements, Owerri: Reliable Pub.  

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Onwukwe,E.O. Ngozi-Olehi, L.C., Nnadi, E.I, Ibe, J.N, (2005). An Introduction to The Basic Sciences for the College Student. Vol.1 (p.13) Owerri: Career Publishers.

Onwuakpa, F.I. and  Nweke, A.O. (2002) Enriching Science, Technolgy and Mathematics Education in Secondary  Schools through effective  utilization of resources in the classrooms. In Akale, M.A.G. (ed) STAN 41st Annual Conference Proceedings. Pp. 34-37

Okafor, N.P. (2000) Laboratory Resources and Utilization as Correlates of Chemistry students learning outcomes. In Akale M.A.G.(ed) STAN 41st annual conference Proceedings Pp. 109 - 173



Science Practical Individualized Instruction series (SPIIS):

Practical chemistry guide 1
flow chart for Titration (for senior secondary schools/ ssp)


Onwukwe Onyebuchi


To benefit from this chart, the arrow must be followed strictly. To move from one instruction to another, the question in the question box must be answered in the affirmative (yes). With each negative answer (No) the arrow must be followed to the necessary instruction.

The co-operation of the chemistry teacher must be elicited as he/she has to prepare the chemicals and the questions to be answered at the end of the titration.

The teacher also has to organize a demonstration/discussion class for the student (s) before each student will then practice at his/her own convenience for effectiveness, this programme has to commence in the second or third term of SS1/SS2