1.1 Background to the study
Concept mapping is an instructional tool that is currently gaining popularity in the field of science education. It is a product of recent advances in cognitive science and the new philosophy of science. Contemporary perspectives of cognitive psychologists and the new learning as an active internal process of construction where the learner’s prior knowledge plays a significant role in further conceptual learning (Ausubel, 1968; Novak 1991). These educators consider learners to be architects of their knowledge for they construct their own idiosyncratic meanings of concepts and natural phenomena. They consider learning, therefore to be more than verbatim repetition of what has been presented to the learner or as a change in behaviour They view learning as a process of conceptual change.
The new philosophers of science reject the traditional cumulative view of scientific knowledge and replace it with a conceptual change view as reflected in the works of Kuhn (1970), and Lakatos (1970), among others. In general, it is this newer idea of cognitive psychologists with constructivist epistemological views and the new philosophers of science that formed the conertoul of concept mapping. However, it is the Ausubel’s (2963, 1968) and Ausubel, Novak and Hanesian’s (1978) cognitive assimilation (subsumption) theory that formed the theoretical foundation of concept mapping.
Concept mapping is a process of constructing concept maps. It involves mapping out logical relationships among concepts in a hierarchical order, such that the most general concepts are at the top of the map. A concept map, according to Novak and Godwin (1984), is a schematic advice for representing a set of concept mapping embedded in a frame work of propositions. It is a two-dimensional hierarchical diagram that illustrates the interconnections between and among individual concepts. Concept maps provide a visual road map showing the pathways that we may take to construct meanings of concepts and propositions. It is both a meta-learning and meta-knowledge tool according to Novak and Godwin (1984).
1.2 Purpose of Study
This study aims at investigating concept mapping and academic performance of students in Biology. The study seeks to:
- Establish whether concept mapping has any effect on students’ performance in Biology.
- To find out gender differences in performance in Biology when students are exposed to concept mapping method.
1.3 Statement of the problem
Studies in concept mapping in Nigeria are scanty. Moreover, those available (Abayomi, 1988, Esiobu & Soyibo, 1995) have looked at concept mapping only in terms of achievement on the part of the learners generally. This researcher is not aware of any study that has looked at gender difference when concept mapping is used as an instructional strategy. The problem of this study can therefore be summarized in the following questions. To what extent does concept mapping determine the academic performance of students in Biology in Nsit Ibom Local Government Area? Is the performance of learners exposed to instruction using concept mapping gender-biased?