Background of the study
The technological advancement of any nation to a large extent is dependent on a sound scientific education. Science and technology being vital tools for development and productivity of any nation should be taken as a necessity at the classroom level. Mbajiorgu (2003), opined that science is very important for every nation that wants to maintain its independence, sovereignty, ensure its growth and self-reliance, and hold up its head among civilized nations. This is because science and technology provide the basic tools of industrialization and economic development of every nation. This science and technology advancement can be achieved through forming the right attitude to teaching and learning, using innovative methods and strategies of teaching science and creating conducive environment for learning science subjects in our schools. These science subjects include biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, health science, agriculture etc. which, when properly taught, will help the students solve personal and societal problems.
It has been evident that many students perceive science as abstract subjects; this may be due to their poor study habits or ineffective learning
styles. According to Brown and Ciuffetelli (2009), sciences are meant for males while females are better as caretakers of homes and children. Inequitable treatment of male and female students creates a lot of gender barriers (dispositional, situational, and institutional barriers) as characterized in the traditional methods of learning science.
The Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) results published by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) 2008-2010, showed that in 2008, 32.26% of the candidates obtained C6 which is the minimum entry for Biology into the nation’s Universities. In 2009, it was 28.42 percent and in 2010, it was 25.06 percent. This shows a decline in the percentage passes in biology at the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination. Despite the fact that biology and other science subjects are important to human endeavour, students still perform poorly in biology and other science subjects. This is evident in the chief examiner’s report of the West African Examination council (2009), which showed that students who sat for WASC Examination exhibited the following lapses: failed to write or answer their questions logically, systematically and convincingly; shallow understanding of most concepts in biology; including inability of the students to correctly spell many biological terms. The low performance of students in the sciences has also been evident in JAMB exams as indicated by the Registrar JAMB 2010, indicated that the performance of students in the University Matriculation Examination (UME), over the last three years has shown a steady decline. He pointed out that the candidates perform poorly in the sciences with low mean percentage score as follows: physics (31.48%), Mathematics (43.64%), Chemistry (45.18%) and Biology (48.98%).
Biology being one of these science subjects, when properly taught will help one to question superstitions, learning about the functions of the various parts of the body; help one to maintain good health through use of clean water, good sanitation; control the level of pollution in the environment, acknowledge the value of balanced diet, vaccinate against infectious diseases etc. (Aniodo, 2001). The importance of biology as a secondary school subject can be further illustrated by the fact that a candidate must
obtain a credit pass in biology, for admission into any Nigerian university to read such important science-based courses as medicine, pharmacy, biochemistry, microbiology, food technology.
The above account of a consistent decline in the percentage passes in
biology in the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination is an indication that meaningful teaching and learning had not taken place. The poor performance may be as a result of poor teaching methods that do not encourage students’ active participation and the resultant high achievement in the learning process.
Achievement means a successful performance or outcome in learning science using students efforts and the use of innovative strategies as opposed to traditional conventional strategies, which did not take into consideration, some cultures/environments that are in direct conflict with science culture. The innovative strategies of science culture are true for all cultures, places as well as for every group of individuals, male or female (Mbajiorgu, 2003).
According to Johnson and Johnson (2000), Quing Li (2000), and Okebukola (2002), achievement here entails meaningful interaction of students, male and female, working together to maximize their own and each others learning, towards a well focused set goal, gaining from each other (male or female) and sharing a common fate. This can not happen by being passive during the learning process. Achievement as opined by Wayne (1989), involves the need to master difficult challenges to meet high standard of excellence which can only take place as a result of active participation in learning without gender barrier. For learning to take place it
will involve active participation of all the stakeholders in planning, execution, monitoring and even celebration of success of a learning task or problem solved.
Ngwoke (2004) opined that a learner needs to be actively involved in a task, set himself a standard to conquer. This can only be done through active participation. Participation means students active involvement in learning. The students (male or female) have to actively interact in the learning process. Interaction means the participatory relationship between the students during the learning process. The overall achievement and
students participation involves high aspiration with advancement as its goal, which then leads to promotion, respect and commitment to priorities of the participation not minding race, gender issues, level of learners, teaching – learning environment, and teaching methods.
The overall achievement and students’ participation in learning biology and other sciences are very much related to other variables, which are evident in the studies carried out by other researchers. These variables include: the participation and interaction levels of the learners, gender issues, teaching – learning environment, teaching methods, teachers’ ability to use the various methods and materials provided, students’ background, level of intelligence of the students, student cognitive styles among other
variables (Okebukola 2002 and Mbajiorgu 2003).
The degree of students’ participation in learning science may be inactive or active depending on the structuring of the lesson and the strategy or teaching method or approach used. According to Johnson and Johnson (1999), if a teacher wants to produce active participation in learning, then group work properly designed is a powerful tool for providing simultaneous opportunity for all class members. Students who do not do anything but what they are asked to do, become actively involved with their work and are held there by the action of the group. Based on this, the researcher investigated the effect of cooperative learning strategy on the participation and achievement on Senior Secondary School Biology.
According to Johnson and Johnson (2002), students participatory level which may not work with all methods, is the level of readiness of the learner to understand a learning task or concept. It has been observed that no two individuals have equal potentials for learning a particular task. The differences in the intellectual function of the learners call for the adoption of different teaching strategies, which include cooperative learning among many others.
Some of the methods are conventional and do not encourage students participation and the resultant high achievement in learning. The most commonly used is the lecture method. Some researchers like Barbara (2004) and Okebukola (2002), observed in their studies that typical interaction profile of the science teaching process, indicated, that lecture method (the traditional chalk-and-talk) by the teachers dominates the teaching-learning process in the science classroom. Lecture method is teacher-centered, competitive and individualistic in nature. It makes the students to be passive listeners and teachers active facilitators. Lecture method employed in the teaching of biology and other sciences have some flaws which do not make for effective science teaching, leading to subsequent poor participation and achievement in the learning of science. In this study, effect of cooperative learning on students’ participation and achievement in SSS Biology is to be explored.
Cooperative learning is a teaching strategy, in which small groups, each with students of different levels of abilities, gender, race, use a variety of structured learning of a subject. Each member of a group/team, is responsible not only for learning what is taught, but also for helping teammates learn (Johnson and Johnson, 2000 and Okebukola 2002).
Cooperative learning is child-centered unlike the traditional strategies
which are competitive, individualistic and teacher – centered. In cooperative learning, the teacher acts as a facilitator, unlike in the traditional approach which reflects an authoritarian didactic approach of science claasroom management (Johnson and Johnson 2000).
Research findings have also indicated that among the major factors militating against improved and effective academic achievements of our students in Biology and other sciences, is the application of ineffective teaching methods by teachers in our classroom and laboratories across the nation (Glencoe, 2004; Brown and Ciuffetelli 2009).
Ikitide and Edet (2005), and Sharan (2010) from their various studies found that some teachers who like to change the traditional approach, lack the support of colleagues, school heads, and parents who only remember a more traditional approach. It is also found that many biology teachers in our secondary schools today, still instruct their students by the use of direct and verbalized instruction, because this approach is regarded as the shortest road to the specific goals of covering the biology syllabus (Udemeobong, 2003). This is a delivery approach that is seen as a viable option for managing the unduly large class size characteristic of most of our biology classrooms and laboratories today. Evidences from research (Okebukola 2002), also show
that even biology practicals are organized as ‘operation’, during which the students watch the teacher perform indicated activities, develop techniques and skills or even formula and other requirements which the WAEC syllabus has specified and which were called for on previous practicals. Most students’ time is spent visually recalling the equipment and materials used in previous practicals; rehearsing the experiment and their expected results and developing abilities in copying procedures, writing up the techniques and identifying the techniques to such an extent that during examination time, the students can in a simple Stimulus-Response (S-R) pattern, repeat them in expected fashion or manner. For such level of memorization and rote learning to still persist in our schools is a serious cause or worry and a big challenge to biology educators and teachers who are desirous that all students (both males and females) equally should develop functional science learning skills to ensure active participation in learning and achievement in biology.
In addition to using ineffective teaching strategies, majority of students in secondary schools, see the classroom as a place where one must struggle to out perform the rest and emerge singly as the best in the class (Nnaka and Anaekwe 2003). The notion portrays an unhealthy competitive environment.
Teachers even encourage this notion by rewarding only the best students to the disappointment of the poor performers. In some schools, the high achievers are elevated to be in the “A” class while the low achievers are in the last class. This way of classification is usually a hindrance to poor achievers and encourages unhealthy competition in science classes. According to Nwosu in Okeke (2003), such classification and reward of achievers encourages examination malpractice. Teachers also encourage individualistic learning – a situation where students in the classroom do not cooperate in way in their assignments, class exercises, tests, and examinations. As a result of individualistic learning method, children find it difficult to discipline themselves to a competitive, “pencil and paper” classroom, drift through tedious lectures, skim over difficult textbooks and their boring questions at the end of each chapter and finally fail highly structured tests and examinations. Consequently these are kids who do not read books for knowledge, instead they log on to the internet as soon as they get back home from school to interact in cyberspace with the latest hero of video games. These are actually the kids who have inspired the concept of cooperative learning or hand-on education (McGraw 1999).
Cooperative learning is an approach to organizing classroom activities into academic and social earning experiences. Students must work in groups to complete tasks collectively. Unlike individual learning, students learning cooperatively capitalize on one another’s resources and skills (asking one another for information, evaluating one another’s ideas, monitoring one
another’s work, not minding ability, race, or sex). It encourages active students participation as it involves a lot of interactive activities. The teachers role changes from giving information to facilitating students’ learning. Everyone succeeds when the group succeeds.
There are various types of cooperative learning among which are think – pair – share, jigsaws, fishbowl, debate, discussion, role play, drama and mine (Aronson et al, 1978). The researcher preferred the jigsaw type because it is a type suitable for the large class size of our secondary schools today. Jigsaw involves students sharing responsibility for a task that lends itself to being broken down into smaller components. Each component is the responsibility of a particular group. In this procedure, a class is numbered into how many members in a group. Example a class of 42 students can be randomly put into seven groups of six members per crew or small group, then number the students off from first to sixth. This is repeated around the
class. All the first members will regroup and work together, all the second members and so on. Each group carries out their task and members report back to a group composed initially, then the group collates and discusses information in terms of the whole tasks. During this process, the teacher moves around to observe and facilitate progress. The researcher investigated the effect of the jigsaw type of cooperative learning on student participation and achievement in learning science.
According to Byrnes, (2007) and Chu, (2008), many students do not have the basic skill of interacting with other people in a work group. Interaction means the participation of all members in the social construction of meaning. Some basic collaborative skills need to be taught, ranging from talking through materials with peers, controversy involving disagreement, discussion and positive interdependence are needed in science classroom for active students participation to take place, both male and female equally interactive. There are some participatory indices the researcher considered as in hypothetical table page83.
Gender equity in our science classrooms is supposed to be more than putting male and female on equal footing. It should embrace the removal of those barriers and stereotypes in learning science, which limit the opportunities and chances of both sexes. Brown & Ciuffetelli (2009) opined that gender equity is about enriching classrooms, widening opportunities and expanding choices for all students. Evidence from research findings such as that of the comparative performance of children on science achievement tests by Johnson and Johnson (2000), and Okebukola (2002) have demonstrated the failure of the current science teaching and learning for all.
To achieve science for all, science teaching need to take into consideration, the innate tendencies of the learner’s curiosity, active manipulation, creative thinking, inductive science learning exploration of the environment, social and group interaction. According to Ali (1998), all education systems in Africa are so examination-oriented that meaningful learning of concepts is not well achieved. Most times, children are asked to accept what they are told about how the world works without consideration of how the information may fit into their prior knowledge, experience, and environment (Bennett, 1999). Consequently, this diminishes the natural curiosity of children eager to understand their surroundings through an interactive process in social settings (Mbajiorgu, 2003; Mandor and Nwosu, 2005). Based on the foregoing, there is need for African primary and secondary science programmes to embrace a gradual change, such that everyone has to be positively involved in learning science. This is because, science is activity-loaded, more of doing than knowing, and requires going through the appropriate science process skills.
Learning of science in African schools need not be different from the rest of the world; it should be in line with the reform efforts across the globe in science education. This reform in the developed world, has shifted effort from producing future scientists belonging to science community, to providing science for all – giving equal opportunity to all (both male and female) students to learn in an interactive environment. This entails making science learning relevant to all categories of students, using varied innovative teaching and learning approaches that eliminates gender differences (Qing Li, 2005).
Based on all these problems facing teaching and learning of science ranging from: use of ineffective method of teaching science that do not allow students’ involvement in learning; unhealthy competition among students in the classroom; children logging on to internet to interact in cyberspace with latest hero of video games, McGraw (1999), analyzed today’s students’ attitude to learning science and their pattern of learning and opined that the world is now more of a “hand-on and mind-on” place, which produces “hand-on kids” that need the modification of old traditional methods of the teachers to satisfy the students’ changing needs. To McGraw, science classroom should evolve from the passive to an active place, where lecture notes, textbooks, assignments and structured tests are gradually being replaced with active classroom, laboratory team investigations.
Some educators like Kose, Shahin, Ergu & Gezer (2010), are of the view that teaching and learning cannot be done without the prior knowledge, students learning styles, and concentration of teaching depths and understanding, not breath of coverage of knowledge of vocabularies. On the same view, Mbajiorgu (2003) contends that science teaching and learning entails accepting something more than scientifically verified ideas, initiation of the learner into a particular way of seeing and explaining the world which step around the learner’s own meanings and personal understanding of phenomena.
It has been clear enough that traditional education practices particularly “chalk – and – talk” method no longer meet the need of a population that is becoming increasingly diverse. The necessary shift from traditional approach to innovative approach can be accelerated with teaching and learning of science being viewed from the same perspectives with Okebukola (2002), Nwosu (2003) and Mbajiorgu (2003) which recommend an approach of learning science that will adjust the mental models of the learner, culture, and environment to accommodate new experiences. In essence, the learner culture has to blend with the sub-culture of science with the application of appropriate innovative strategies. Science teachers should apply new ways of doing more with less, using more effective strategies. This ultimately requires students to work in groups without being gender bias.
Nwosu (2003); Okebukola (2002); Qing Li (2000) and Bennett (1999), advocate that science instructions should shift from the traditional procedures that emphasize rote/memorization of facts and phenomena to more child-centered learning strategies that involve hand-on, mind-on learning activities. As passionately put by Okebukola (2002), there should
be compelling need for science teachers to go beyond the stereotypical ideas of how science is learned to how best to teach the subject matter of science. For Okebukola, teachers need to acknowledge the academic influence students have on each other, and enlist the help of students to set norms in schools, so that students will encourage each other (male or female), to learn
science. In this way, classrooms will become a place where students care for each other’s learning without gender bias.
Okebukola (2002), recommends a specially designed programme; African Primary Science Programme (APSP), which encourages gender equality through innovative strategies like cooperative learning, using materials available in the students’ environment and above all, teachers acting in the teaching and learning processes as supervisors or facilitators not as purveyor of knowledge. All these advocacies and recommendations to changing from traditional passive learning to innovative active learning of science are not out of place since they are all illuminated by Piaget’s Learning theory of 1935 cited in Okebukola (2002) which claims that learning in a science classroom, is an active process involving trial and errors.
From the foregoing principles in a science classroom, learning of science should go beyond the traditional subject matter boundaries to innovative techniques and philosophies, which create interactive environments, where students in mix-abilities and gender equity take more responsibilities for their peers (Okebukola, 2002).
point therefore remains that since learning requires some interactive approach,
where the peer culture of the classroom remains relatively unexplored by
teachers due to: Over-estimation of teachers influence on learning, peer
interaction with the teacher as a facilitator in any science classroom, leads
to effective teaching session and helps learners learn more while poor teaching
naturally will lead to poor learning (Qing Li, 2000).
To solve the problem of poor achievement and participation in the sciences, Biology in particular, there is need to look into some of the innovative approaches of teaching such as discovery methods, project method, inquiry method, analogy, concept mapping, cooperative learning among others.
Statement of Problem