Background of the study

The knowledge of Economics as a subject is generally considered very vital in fostering societal development. It is therefore germane for technological, social, economic, political, institutional and physical development of every society. Economic Education Web (EcEdWeb) (2014) asserted that students should be taught Economics so as to develop the skills and knowledge with which they would take important decisions today and in future, especially in their roles as future leaders of the society. Foundation for Teaching Economics (2014) also affirmed that the future of students and the society depends on the ability of students to make informed, prudent and rational decisions. The knowledge of Economics could assist them to make rational decisions (New Zealand Commerce & Economics Teachers Association (NZCETA), 2014).

The teaching and learning of Economics also develops in students the knowledge of finance. This financial education is developed through the inculcation of financial skills. Council for Economic Education (2014) opined that financial literacy is needed for students to have a bright and successful future, which could make a massive difference in curbing generational monetary mismanagement. Bell (2014) revealed that students’ financial skills have a significant positive impact on their employability. These financial skills are also germane for students’ entrepreneurial career, wealth generation and poverty eradication. The teaching and learning of Economics is therefore vital in making citizens self-reliant and productive.

Nigerian government recognises the importance of Economics to societal development, by ensuring its integration into the school curricula. Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) (2008) stated that the philosophy of Economics curriculum aimed at preparing students for entrepreneurial career and getting them acquainted with evolving economic-developmental issues capable of repositioning Nigeria strategy be among the twenty most developed economies in the world by the year 2020. Its curriculum therefore focuses on using education to empower the citizenry through value-orientation and re-orientation, consumer education and skills’ acquisition. This is in consonance with the National Policy on Education, which emphasised that the senior secondary education shall amongst others provide entrepreneurial and career skills for self-reliance and societal development (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2009).

However, as important as teaching and learning of Economics is, teachers, government, parents, and other stakeholders have been uncomfortable over the recent poor achievement and low interest of students in the subject at the senior secondary school level. This is evident in the West African Examinations Council Chief Examiner’s report on the Senior School Certificate Examination (2005) which revealed that the percentage of candidates that failed Economics increased from 21.29 % in 2004 to 28.41 % in 2005. This fell slightly to 24.37 % in 2006. The Chief Examiner’s report (2009) also showed that between 2006 and 2009, candidates overall performance fell. The Chief Examiner’s Report (2013) further revealed that there was no significant improvement in candidates’ performance from 2009 to 2013. These reports collectively and individually attributed poor achievement in Economics to several factors rising from poor teacher preparation, inadequate infrastructural facilities, inadequate funding, and problem of policy implementation to ineffective teaching methods.

The West African Examinations Council (2014) has noted that challenge of dearth of infrastructure and manpower in senior secondary schools as well as over population of students are responsible for poor students’ achievement. Problem of students’ over population is a precursor for the urgent need of instructional approaches that would facilitate learning in spite of classroom congestion. The Chief Examiner’s Report (2013) further identified that many candidates lacked manipulative skill, explanatory skill, discussion skill, communication skill, and writing skill. They could not articulate their ideas intelligently on paper, and could not manage their time well; they spent most of their time writing down irrelevant preambles that earned them no marks. Amongst other recommendations were that the teachers should develop skills for critical thinking in the students, rote learning should be discouraged; the discussion and practice of topical economic issues in the classrooms should be strengthened, so that students would be able to link connections between theoretical economic principles and real-world events. These recommendations can be effectively implemented through the employment of appropriate and relevant innovative teaching strategies.

Indeed, the main purpose of any instructional process is to bring about desirable learning outcomes for students, especially in form of improved academic achievement and interest. Achievement describes the level of success in relation to a task that is carried out. Uwalaka (2013) conceptualized achievement as something very good but difficult, which is carried out successfully. Academic achievement is an output of an instructional process. It measures the extent to which students have attained the stated objectives (Igbo, Okafor, &Eze, 2014). In the words of Jebur, Jasin and Jaboori (2011) achievement is the accomplishment of performance in a particular subject matter. They further noted that it is the learning that takes place under a specific course of instruction. It is thus the mastery of skills and knowledge which learners gain in the course of an instructional process usually measured by an achievement test. The results of achievement test provide information on the extent to which students have attained stated instructional objectives. 

Interest refers to the psychological state of engaging with particular classes of objects, events, or ideas over time (Hidi&Renninger, 2006). McGrew (2008) defined interest as the focused interaction between an individual and a class of objects, ideas or activities that results in a lasting affective disposition towards the objects, ideas or activities. Interest is the earnest desire to know something (Eze, 2008). Durik and Harackiewicz (2007) identified two types of interest, namely: situational interest and personal interest. Situational interest is said to be spontaneous, transitory, and environmentally triggered, while personal interest is less spontaneous, of lasting personal value and activated internally. Most often, situational interest precedes, facilitates and reinforces the development of personal interest. Thus, while situational interest catches students’ attention, personal interest sustains and reinforces it.

Instructional strategy adopted by a teacher during an instructional process is a crucial factor in determining effective and productive teaching and learning. This position is reinforced by CENGAGE Learning (2014) that students’ responses, in a survey on what sparks students’ engagement and interest in the teaching and learning process, revealed that for teaching and learning process to be interesting, exciting and fun, the teaching method adopted by the teacher is a crucial factor. The Economics Network (2009) identified teaching method as one of the factors why Economics is difficult for students. National Economics Teaching Association (NETA) (2014) emphasized that students’ engagement in the teaching and learning process is the foundation of learning. The assertion of Gamson (2010) reflects that the instructional method employed by the teacher plays a crucial role in the acquisition and understanding of skills and meaningful learning.

Goodman (2010) opined that there are numerous strategies available for teachers to employ in order to efficaciously teach and promote life-long learning. The Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) (2008) pointed out that Economics is a living subject and has to be taught and learned in a practical, enthusiastic and realistic way. Since Economics is both theory and concept-based (that is, abstract in nature), there is a need for teaching strategies that can permeate its abstract and difficult nature. It is also strongly emphasised by the NERDC (2008) that Economics teachers should employ interactive and learner-oriented instructional strategies such as cooperative learning strategies to teach learners. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2008) strongly recommends that cooperative learning should be used to teach Economics at the senior secondary schools.  This trend has direct relevance to constructivism.

Dheeraj and Kumari (2013) asserted that constructivism has brought a revolution in the field of education and this is affirmed by various research studies all over the world. Constructivist theory emphasises an active and learner-centred learning process where learners construct their own ideas which are connected to their prior knowledge. This is based on the belief that learning occurs and is made effective when learners are actively involved in the teaching and learning activities, rather than passively receiving instruction (Gray, 2011). This helps learners to transform information, transfer knowledge, formulate hypotheses and look at alternative decisions, through their cognitive structure (that is, schema). It is an arrangement whereby both the teacher and learners are engaged in an active dialog and in which the teacher gives students questions rather than answers. Scholars have emphasized that an engaged student is a successful one (National Economics Teaching Association (NETA), 2014). The researcher therefore considered a study of instructional strategies that hinge on constructivist theory not only pertinent, but also relevant to senior secondary school students’ achievement and interest in Economics.

Goodman (2010) noted that cooperative learning instructional strategies coincided with constructivist theory. Cooperative learning is a team learning activity that is systematically organised for learning to be socially structured in order to facilitate exchange of information, ideas and knowledge among learners and in which learners are individually held accountable for their learning and are motivated to enhance the learning of their partners (Kirby, 2008). Having students work in teams/ pairs helps students to master the subject matter, it gingers students’ writing skills and it motivates students’ appreciation of real-life situations (Johnston &Karageorgis, 2009). Research on classroom cooperative learning techniques in which learners work in teams and receive rewards based on their group performance has gained wide popularity in the past few years (Slavin, 2014).

Hernandez (2002) positioned that cooperative learning is a comprehensive pedagogy designed to facilitate active learning and higher level thinking. Cooperative learning instructional techniques include the following, amongst several others: Jigsaw; Co-operative Integrated Reading and Composition (CIRC); Learning Together (LT); Think Pair Share (TPS); Timed Pair Share and Student-Teams Achievement Divisions (STAD). Jigsaw is a cooperative learning instructional strategy that builds students’ expertise in the subject matter. It makes every student to be both an expert and a receiver of knowledge. The teacher assigns students to a group which is not more than five to six students. The group is given a problem to solve or a task to perform as a group. Consequently, the entire group becomes experts in that area. The students thereafter reform in new groups (home group) with people from different areas of expertise to share their information and to hear from others (Australian Catholic University Learning and Teaching Centre, 2012).

Co-operative Integrated Reading and Composition (CIRC) is a cooperative learning instructional strategy that divides students into groups composed of two pairs from two different groups. The groups are heterogeneous, made up of a high ability pair and a low ability pair, while the pairs are homogeneous in ability. The teacher provides different reading materials to the pairs according to their ability so that all the students have an equal opportunity to accomplish the instructional objectives, irrespective of their ability. Though the pairs are given different tasks to work on, the higher ability pair also helps the lower ability pair to learn. Scores are awarded to each member who has successfully completed the three major language activities, which are basal-related activities; direct instruction in reading comprehension and integrated language arts/writing. Each member’s scores are added to the group’s scores each week. The teacher gives rewards to the groups who attain the required scores (Li & Lam, 2013).

Learning Together (LT) is also a co-operative learning instructional strategy originated by David Johnson and Roger Johnson. The model was designed to have a characteristic feature of five (5) elements of co-operative learning, namely: positive interdependence, individual and group accountability, face-to-face interaction, interpersonal and small group skills and group processing. In the classroom application of Learning Together (LT), the teacher divides the class into four-or five-member heterogeneous groups. The groups are given problems to solve and submitted the tasks as a team. There is no individual submission but group submission and rewards are given based on the scores of each group. Learning Together (LT) cooperative learning instructional strategy encourages team-building activities in teaching and learning process (Li & Lam, 2013).

Ariyani (2011) wrote that Think Pair Share is a cooperative technique that quickly becomes an entire class technique and a pedagogy designed to provide learners with “food for thought” on a given topic and concept; enabling them to bring out their individual ideas and share the ideas with one another. Ariyani also noted that as a cooperative learning strategy, Think Pair Share encourages Indonesian students’ peer acceptance, peer support, academic achievement, retention, interest and transfer of knowledge. Think Pair Share is a cooperative learning strategy that incorporates three stages namely: time for thinking, time for sharing with a partner and time for each pair to share back to a larger group. Goodman further noted that it provides bedrock for scaffolding where necessary, while incorporating positive interdependence, individual accountability and face to face interaction amongst learners. Think Pair Share cooperative learning technique is capable of promoting learning with or without the presence of the teacher as asserted by Jannah (2013).

Ariyani (2011) researched on the application of Think Pair Share in teaching writing a recount text. The research was carried out in Indonesia. Findings showed that the application of Think Pair Share is an effective way to make students active in the class and develop in them four language skills, namely speaking skill, writing skill, listening skill, and reading skill, to achieve a goal of functional literacy. This is in consonance with the position of Gamson (2010) that for a learning strategy to make an instructional process to be productive, learners must not just listen and copy note, they must read, write, discuss, listen and respond to questions. They must involve in higher-order thinking tasks, they must analyse, synthesis, and evaluate ideas and concepts.

Ariyami (2011) Timed Pair Share cooperative learning strategy was developed from Think Pair Share. It is more flexible in its usage and has a wider application than Think Pair Share; it is an improvement on Think Pair Share. For example, in a class where a teacher employs Think Pair Share learning technique, one student in a pair can monopolise the discussion while Timed Pair Share allows for more equal participation of partners in a pair. However, there has not been wide application of these interactive and student-oriented instructional strategies in Economics classroom, to the best of this researcher’s knowledge.

Students should be part of the teaching and this happens in several ways. For instance, when a student asks a question, another student answers the question. The teacher and the students can jointly take decisions (McKeachie&Svinicki, 2014). Goodman (2010) investigated how the use of active learning strategies of Think Pair Share and Student Summaries during reading, could affect students’ performance. Findings showed among other things that Think Pair Share improved students’ reading skill. The study was carried out in Menomonie, USA. Carss (2007) in New Zealand did a research work on the effects of Think Pair Share strategies, used during guided reading lessons on reading achievement. Result showed that it has positive effects on students’ social skill and reading achievement, particularly for students reading above their chronological age. Active class discourages passivity and encourages students’ motivation, keeps them engaged in the learning process, increases their energy, enthusiasm and involvement (McKeachie&Svinicki, 2014).

Ofodu and Lawal (2011) investigated the comparative effects of Think Pair Share and Reciprocal teaching methods of cooperative learning instructional strategies on students’ reading performance in schools. The research was done in Ekiti State, Nigeria. Their findings showed that Reciprocal teaching method is slightly more efficacious than Think Pair Share while the two methods are superior to the conventional method and therefore should be used in schools. Jebur et al. (2011) carried out a study on the effect of using the Think Pair Share as a new technique on college students’ achievement in the course of General English in Al – Mustansiriyah University in Baghdad, Iraq. Their study revealed that the experimental group, which has practiced Think Pair Share, was better in achievement than the control group, which has not practiced it. Research works have also shown that teachers have to give three to five minutes to their students to think through the information they are receiving from the teacher (CENGAGE Learning, 2014).

Adesoji and Ibraheem (2009) investigated the effects of Student Teams-Achievement Divisions (STAD) strategy and mathematics ability on senior secondary school chemistry students’ learning outcome in chemical kinetics. A pretest, posttest control group quasi experimental design was employed for the study. The study was carried out in Epe division of Lagos State, Nigeria. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was used to analyze the data with pre-test scores as covariates in order to adjust for initial differences in the sample. Multiple classification analysis (MCA) was also used to examine the magnitude of the differences among the groups. The findings revealed that there were significant main effects of treatment on students achievement and attitude (F=190.58; p<0.05) and (F=379.275, p<0.05) respectively. Tran (2013) also investigated the effect of cooperative learning on the academic achievement in mathematics and attitudes of seventy four 9th grade mathematics students towards mathematics in a high school in Vietnam. Using a pretest and posttest non-equivalent comparison group design and t-test for independent samples. The results of the study showed that experimental group had significantly higher scores than the control group. Amato (2005) in agreement with Ladd et al. (2014) found team learning to be a productive and functional approach.

Despite the merits of Think-Pair Share (TPS) and Student Teams-Achievement Divisions (STAD), they have not gained popularity in the field of social science education, particularly in Economics education. Hence the researcher decided to investigate the effects of both types of cooperative learning instructional strategies on senior secondary school students’ achievement and interest in Economics. It would seem that such research is timely, considering that the Federal Government of Nigeria has identified cooperative learning strategies as effective instructional strategies that foster joint construction of learning and develop metacognition (Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), 2008). There seems also to be little work for now on cooperative learning instructional strategies using Think-Pair Share (TPS) and Student Teams- Achievement Divisions (STAD) teaching strategies in Economics education to the best of this researcher’s knowledge. This study aims at filling this gap, especially since it has been empirically stated that cooperative learning strategies like Think-Pair Share (TPS) and Student Teams-Achievement Divisions (STAD) could be employed in a variety of contexts and in several fields of study (Teacher Vision, 2011). The investigation of the effects of Think-Pair Share (TPS) and Student Teams-Achievement Divisions (STAD) on senior secondary school students’ achievement and interest in Economics is thus timely and demanding, more so that there was no significant improvement in students’ achievement in Economics.

Achievement and interest of students in relation to gender has been of concern to parents, educators, scholars, researchers, and government. Gender is a social concept that is set to differentiate between the two sexes, male and female; with respect to their roles (Eze, 2008). Kolawole (2007) noted that some research works found that there are still significant differences in the achievements of learners with regard to gender. Kolawole investigated the comparative effects of competitive and cooperative learning strategies on Nigerian students’ academic achievement in Mathematics and found out that males achieved better than females in both cooperative and competitive learning strategies. In contrast to Kolawole, Yusuf and Afolabi (2010) found out that gender had no effect on achievement of students in computer-assisted cooperative learning. Gambari, Shittu and Taiwo (2013) also investigated how Cooperative Computer Instruction (CCI) could enhance students’ achievement in Algebra concepts. The study also examined the influence of gender on the achievement of students exposed to Student Teams-Achievement Divisions and Individualised Computer Instruction (ICI). The findings of the study revealed that the achievement of students exposed to Cooperative Computer Instruction (CCI) was better than those taught using Individualised Computer Instruction (ICI) and conventional classroom instruction. However, there was no significant difference between male and female students taught using CCI and ICI. These contradictory results have necessitated the inclusion of gender as moderating variable in this work. This is for the purpose of knowledge advancement on gender studies, and to show empirically the gender biased-nature of cooperative learning.