The importance of practical activities has been outlined in many articles and research studies. This study presents the way in which two novice and two expert teachers conduct practical activities in their intermediate phase in Natural Sciences and Technology (NST) classrooms and the challenges they face. This study was conducted in primary schools because researchers such as Mihret (2014, p.2) believe that "primary level science education is a cornerstone to lay a foundation to get young citizens interested in science".
This study utilised a qualitative case study approach. The data was collected through classroom observations, open ended interviews and document analysis. The population of this study consisted of primary school teachers teaching Natural Sciences and Technology. The participants included two novice teachers and two expert teachers. The conceptual framework that guided this study emerged from the literature review. The conceptual framework of this study was based on concept of practical activity and the four pillared cognitive design framework.
The findings of this study indicated that the way that novice and expert teachers conduct practical activities differ and they face different challenges when conducting practical activities. Novice teachers conduct teacher centred activities, they do not allow their learners to conduct independent practical activities, they use practical activities as a way to remind learners of the work done in the classroom and they mostly use previously developed worksheets during practical lessons. Expert teachers on the other hand conduct learner centred practical activities, they allow their learners to work independently and they do not always use worksheets in their practical activities. The findings also indicated that novice teachers face more challenges in their practical lessons than expert teachers. Novice teachers find it difficult to manage their learners' behaviour during practical lessons, they did not have confidence in their learners and they did not have effective disciplinary strategies. However, both novice and expert teachers had a challenge managing their time during their practical lessons.