1.1 Background to the Study
Science education plays a vital role in the lives of individuals and the development of a nation scientifically and technologically (Alebiosu and Ifamuyiwa, 2008). It is widely and generally acknowledged that the gateway to the survival of a nation scientifically and technologically is scientific literacy which can only be achieved through science education. Towards revolutionizing Nigerian educational system, the 1969 Conference gave birth to the National Policy on Education which brought about significant changes to the Nigerian educational system (Alebiosu and Ifamuyiwa, 2008). For instance, in Nigeria, the National Policy on Education (2008) provided educational expenditure in science and technology. The Nigerian government, in a bid to enhance science and technological education, came up with 6-3-3-4 policy on education which stipulates that a child spends six years at the primary school level, three years at the Junior Secondary School level, three years at the Senior Secondary School level, and four years in Higher Institutions. (Abati 2010), stated that it is a common knowledge that the 6-3-3-4 system of education is the major reform in Nigeria’s education system and is generally regarded as fafunwa’s baby. Also, the 6-3-3-4 did not produce the expected technician class because of the emergent culture of automatic promotion, and the situation that almost every family insisted on university education. This system of education was reviewed in 2004 and 9-3-4 system was introduced which stipulates that a child spends 9 years compulsorily right from primary school level to Junior Secondary School level, three years at the Senior Secondary School level, and four years in Tertiary Institutions. All the above-mentioned systems of education in Nigeria are designed with special provisions for science and technology learning in schools.More so, Nigerian government also came up with a policy that 60 percent of the students seeking admission into the nation’s Universities, Polytechnics, and Colleges of Education should be admitted for science oriented programs, while 40 percent of the students should be considered for Arts and social science programs (Ajibola, 2008). Educators understand that changes in student outcomes must be supported by parallel changes in curriculum and instruction. However, it is apparent that many of today’s teachers are caught in the midst of a change for which they may not have been professionally prepared. Many teachers were educated in the classrooms where the role of the student was to memorize information, conduct well- regulated experiments and were then tested on their ability to repeat these tasks or remember specific facts (Dogru and Kalender, 2008).
Basic Science and Technology, formerly known as Integrated Science, is the first form of science a child encounters at the secondary school level; hence Basic Science and Technology prepares students at the Junior Secondary School level for the study of core science subjects at the Senior Secondary School level. This implies that for a student to be able to study single science subjects at the Senior Secondary School level successfully, such student had to be well grounded in Basic Science and Technology at the Junior Secondary School level. In view of this, Basic Science and Technology is given great emphasis in the Junior Secondary School curriculum. The principal reasons why Nigerian Government started Basic Science and Technology teaching in Nigerian secondary schools are as follow:
It provides students at the Junior Secondary School level a sound basis for continuing science education either in single science subjects or further integrated science.
It enhances the scientific literacy of the citizenry.
It allows students to understand their environment in its totality rather than in fragments.
It allows the students to have general view of the world of science.
The processes of science serve as unifying factor for the various science subjects. It is necessary for the learner to know these processes through integrated approach of learning science (Federal Ministry of Education, 2014).
In an attempt to improve the standard of science teaching and learning, a lot of research studies had been carried out. Usman, (2009) reported that teachers of Basic Science and Technology are not qualified and this in turn affect academic performance. One major problem of the teachers is their inability to use appropriate teaching strategies. They often resort to traditional, lecture method that has been shown to lead to poor academic performance in junior secondary schools. Usman, (2009). Many of the students at this level, because of their dismal performance in the subject, are not benefiting much from the Basic Science and Technology curriculum (Afuwape, 2010; Afuwape and Olatoye, 2010; Odetoyinbo, 2010; etc.). This, according to Afuwape and Olatoye (2010), has prevented many of them from offering core science subjects or performing better in the core science subjects at the Senior Secondary School level.
The Nigerian government’s efforts towards making sure that Nigerian children show interest in science and science-oriented programs (e.g. 60:40 ratio admission policies in favor of the science-oriented programs, etc.) cannot be said to have yielded much fruit. This is because many of the students at the Junior Secondary School level (J.S.S) are not showing interest in studying core science subjects (physics, chemistry, and biology) at the Senior Secondary School level. This has affected them in choosing science-oriented programs at the Nation’s tertiary institutions level. The problem stemmed from the conventional-lecture method being used by the Basic Science and Technology teachers at the J.S.S. level (Odetoyinbo, 2010). Although several studies have been carried out in order to popularize appropriate teaching strategies for teaching and learning Basic Science and Technology, The researcher decided to use innovative strategies like the activity-based and guided discovery instructional strategies on students’ academic performance and retention in Basic Science and Technology.
Activity-based strategy is a technique adopted by a teacher to emphasize his or her method of teaching through activity in which the students participate rigorously and bring about efficient learning experiences. It is a child-centered approach. It is a method in which the child is actively involved in participating mentally and physically. Learning by doing is the main focus in this method. Learning by doing is imperative in successful learning since it is well proved that more the senses are stimulated, more a person learns and longer he/she retains.Dahiru (2010) opined that; countries with more economic and military powers are those with highly developed science and technology, while those with immense human and natural resources but without development in science and technology remain poor. This implies that science education is vital for the development of any nation, including Nigeria. To learn science, students must be self-invested in the learning process. They must be self-aware and more self-motivated; they must recognise why learning science is useful and important. Aktamis (2009) reflects on the fact that the pace the world keeps and the speed with which technology advances imply that the need for an understanding and mastery of science has become a crucial part of a rounded education. He expatiates that this frame of thought and perspective is expected to commence from primary education so much that the curious minds of young learners can be satisfied through opportunities to carry out scientific investigations. At this level of learning, students and young learners are expected to be active and full of energy, to the extent that they are enabled to engage in various forms of activities which are rooted in the learning of science. Garba (2012) revealed that after the “Sputnik Era” of the 1950s and 1960s the attention of scientists and science educators shifted to how to bring about reformation in science teaching and learning. Discoveries relating to the reformation of science instruction and the discovery strategies in the teaching of science in schools were emphasized. This shift increased the scope of science teaching and learning, especially in the developing countries, including Nigeria (Usman, 2009). Thus, research findings of Usman (2009) and Clark (2012) indicated that the activity-based method of teaching enhanced students’ academic performance generally. These researchers generally endorsed the view that an activity-based learning method seeks to address some major problems of the traditional lecture method of teaching; the researchers also endorsed the need to bring about a paradigm shift in some key classroom processes, such as the role of teachers and instructional materials and methods. These studies capitalized on and endorsed the relevance of a number of views including the following:
Activity-based teaching provides opportunities for measuring children’s’ learning through experience, direct observation and participation;
The enhancement of the quality of primary education generally is a vital key to improving science/teaching methods in schools;
When science is taught through activity-based method, learners acquire numerous benefits that include development of their insights and understanding and the up-scaling of their self-concepts;
If children are to learn science, their potentialities to learning have to be unleashed very fundamentally through changing the traditional roles of the teacher and the learner;
Learners/students must be guided to take charge of their own learning and allowed to work at their own pace, achieving the desired goals at their own ladder.
The use of activity-based learning approach to education focuses on the idea that learners/students should be engaged through actions and activities.
Guided discovery approach is an instructional approach in which a teacher provides clarifying learning materials for learners to study on their own under the guidance of a teacher (Akinbobola & Afolabi, 2010). A number of studies have reported the effectiveness of guided discovery approach on students’ performance in different subjects. For example, Bamiro (2015) in their study of the effects of guided discovery and think-pair-share instructional approach on chemistry achievement of secondary students have proved that the guided discovery approach has the potentiality for improving the achievement of secondary students in chemistry. Similar findings were reported by Fatokun and Eniayeju (2014) and Udo (2010). The studies found the effectiveness of guided discovery in facilitating the chemistry achievement of secondary students. Moreover, Akanbi and Kolawole (2hy014) focused on the effect of guided discovery and self-learning on biology achievement of secondary students. They observed that guided discovery approach is capable of enhancing the biology achievement of secondary students because the learners are more likely to recall what they have discovered by themselves. In a related study, the effectiveness of guided discovery over conventional approach on students’ mathematics achievement was found in the studies of Akanmu and Fajemidagba (2013). Akanmu and Fajemidagba argued that the approach was effective in stimulating the high, medium and low achieving student to perform better in mathematics. A similar finding was observed by Akinbobola and Afolabi (2010) in physics. They found that guided discovery was effective in facilitating the physic achievement of the student through hands- on activities. Equally, Uside, Barchok, and Abura (2013) revealed in their study that there was existence of a significant difference in the achievement of physics students who were exposed to the discovery method and that of those who were exposed to the conventional approach in favor of discovery approach. This is because the approach instilled confidence and improved knowledge retention of students. Nonetheless, Cohen (2008) in his study of guided discovery and conventional approach on understanding of science lesson, observed that guided discovery was not found to be significantly better that the conventional approach in grasping the content of science lesson.
The concept “retention” is the ability to retain and consequently remember items/things learned or experienced by an individual at a later time. And this takes place when learning is coded into memory. Thus the appropriate coding of incoming information provides the index that may be consulted so that retention takes place without an elaborate search in the memory lane (Oyedokun in David (2007)). The nature of the materials to be coded contributes to the level of retention. Thus materials are related to the quality of retention in terms of their meaningfulness, familiarity, concreteness and image evolving characteristics. This study investigated the effects of activity-based and guided discovery instructional strategies on students’ academic performance and retention in Basic Science and Technology.