EFFECT OF LABORATORY TEACHING TECHNIQUES ON STUDENTS ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTS IN BIOLOGY IN SELECTED SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN ISE ORUN LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF EKITI STATE
Background to the Study
Biology is one of the core science subjects offered in Nigerian secondary schools and it is the most highly subscribed among the science subjects of the Nigerian senior secondary school curriculum by both schools and students. Majority of the students offer it at the Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE) because the knowledge of Biology is needed in the fields of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, agriculture, engineering and other related disciplines. It is a subject that requires the processes and skills of science, through laboratory experiences, to understand its theoretical concepts and application of such concepts in practical and similar situations in everyday life. Such practical experiences encourage critical thinking which can enhance innovation and productivity (manufacturing) that are highly needed in Africa as a developing continent.
According to Farahnaz (2011), regardless of one’s major or profession, science plays an enormous role in everyone’s life. From discovering cures for diseases, to creating innovative technologies, to teaching us to think critically, science has become an indispensable feature of modern society. Therefore, in the world of today, science has become a dominant cultural factor (Abubakar ,Yakubu, Danjuma, Mario, 2012). Biology is the science of life. The science of biology is rapidly expanding and it has permeated most aspects of our economic/public life. Efforts are made today, not only to demonstrate the connections of biology with Biology, physics and mathematics but also the interrelationships among branches of biology.
Biology is seen as the most important area of study and in particular has generated its share of controversies, including evolution, cloning and genetic engineering, global warming, premature species extinction, animal suffering, human overpopulation and the right to determine the timing and means of one’s own death, to name a few (Leonard, 2010). It is important to note here that all the successes recorded in other fields of study are dependent on the facts revealed by the studies carried out in the field of biology.
Biology occupies a central position in the science world and it is the gateway to professions like; medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, nursing, sanitary inspection, agriculture and a host of others. In spite of the obvious importance and the fact that biology is an interesting subject that relates to human life, it is still a puzzle why the performance of secondary school students remains poor in the subject.
Laboratory teaching technique is seen as an integral part of most science courses, including Biology. However, significant proportions of laboratory activities remain highly prescriptive and fail to challenge secondary school students (Fisher, Harrison, Handerson, and Hofstein, 2008). Experience and observation have shown by the research work of Ajayelemi (2008) that the teaching of Biology and science in general at secondary school level has tend to be too rigid for most teachers. The laboratory has been given a central and distinctive role in science education. Science educators have suggested that rich benefits in learning accrue from using laboratory activities (Hofstein and Lunetta, 2003).
According to Hofstein, (2003), science laboratory activities are learning experiences in which students interact with materials and/ or with models to observe and understand the natural world. This leads to metacognition which Gunstone and Champagne (2000) suggested is an elaboration and application of one’s learning which can result in enhanced understanding. The challenge therefore is to help learners take control of their own learning in the search for understanding. In the process, it is vital to provide opportunities that encourage learners to ask questions, suggest hypotheses and design investigations. There is the need to provide students with frequent opportunities for feedback, reflection, and modification of ideas (Barron, et al., 1998). Research has not provided evidence that such opportunities exist in most schools in Nigeria.
The teaching and learning of Biology demands laboratory activities in an environment that is inspiring, encouraging and challenging to learners to enable them acquire and utilize the necessary science process skills in the subject. Such process skills which are either generic or integrated include observing, classifying, measuring, reporting, analyzing, communicating, using numbers and recognizing spatial relations. Others are inferring, predicting, defining operationally, hypothesizing, identifying and controlling variables, experimenting, interpreting data and using models. Science process skills are fundamental to science, allowing every category of learner to conduct investigations and reach conclusions.
A good science laboratory, according to Aladejana and Aderibigbe (2007), promotes curiosity in students, reward creativity, encourages the spirit of healthy questioning, avoids dogmatism and also promotes meaningful understanding.In line with the above, Metzenberg (2005) suggested that students need to develop necessary social and learning skills so that they can collaborate effectively, share, debate, defend their ideas and be able to work in groups. In this way they can interact and help one another to acquire process skills needed in learning especially the sciences like Biology.
The laboratory teaching technique in Biology involves illustration of Biology concepts and principles being taught with experiment and demonstration in the laboratory setting. It lies somewhere between the traditional approach and discovery method. It enables students to be innovative. It elucidates theoretical work and promotes scientific thought and knowledge. Practical activities also make students more retentive than those obtained through theoretical learning. Laboratory activities stimulate learning interest, encourage careful observation and develop manipulating skill in learning.
Statement of Problem
In spite of the obvious importance and the fact that biology is an interesting subject that relates to human lifecoupled with the roles of laboratory teaching techniques in secondary schools and different methods and strategies adopted by teachers to assist students in the process of learning Biology, poor performance of students in the subject is still recorded at the West African School Certificate Examinations (WAEC, 2011). Active involvement of learners could add an impetus to the much needed paradigm shift from a producing continent of raw materials for western factories to a manufacturing one of finished products. There is the need therefore to investigate other areas that might help to solve the problem of students’ poor performance in Biology.
Most parents, educators and professionals have expressed their deep concern over this existing problem. It has now become necessary therefore to consider methodology approach (laboratory teaching technique) used in understanding Biological concept and academic achievement. The following general questions are therefore raised.
- Are the available Biology laboratories in secondary schools well equipped for effective teaching and learning?
- How often do teachers in secondary schools make use of Biology laboratories for teaching students in secondary schools?
- Does the use of Biology laboratory enhance students’ achievement in Biology?
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