Background to the Study
The subjects at the Senior Secondary Schools in Nigeria are divided into Arts, Social Sciences and Sciences depending on the course each individual intends to offer after the secondary education. In Nigeria, the sciences are taught in subjects such as Physics, Chemistry and Biology. As a biology teacher of many years, experience has shown that even though a large populace of students show interest in offering biology as a subject and think it to be the simplest of the sciences, there have been a consistent poor achievement in both internal and external examinations. On the order hand even though biology lessons are supposed to be taught with practical lessons I have observed over the years that most biology teachers do not teach their lessons with praticals. The National Curriculum for Senior Secondary Schools Volume Three (3) Science in (Ajaja 2009) stated the specific objectives to be achieved by each subject (curriculum).
The cardinal objectives for biology include: Adequate laboratory and field skills in Biology; Meaningful and relevant knowledge in Biology. Ability to apply scientific knowledge to everyday life in matters of personal and community health and agriculture; and Reasonable and functional scientific attitudes. (Ajaja, 2009) Biology occupies a unique position in the school curriculum; this is because Biology is central to many sciences related professional courses such as Medicine, Pharmacy, Agriculture, Nursing, Biochemistry, Dentistry, Microbiology, Laboratory Technology and all other related courses. It therefore becomes binding on anyone wishing to offer any of the courses listed above or any related to such to offer Biology as one of the prerequisite subjects in the secondary school to gain admission into the University.Although Biology is a prerequisite to these courses, poor achievement in Biology is alarming according to reports from Okebukola (1998), Ajaja (2002), Ahmed (2008) and randomly collated WAEC results by the researcher from 10 schools in six area councils of Federal Capital Territory, between 2006 – 2010 in 2011 and also my experience in students poor performance in biology internal examinations. These consistent poor performances in Biology external examinations among Senior Secondary Schools students have given a lot of concern to educators, curriculum planners and students themselves Okoye (2004). Various teaching methods are used for instruction in the teaching of Biology. These teaching methods have been summarized into Expository, Practical or Activity Oriented and Constructivism. Okoye and Okechukwu (2006), Nwokenna (2010). Expository methods according to Nwokenna (2010) which include lecture method, demonstration, project, field trip and discussion methods. They concentrate on presentation of concepts, facts and principles by the teacher while the students are merely asked to listen and take notes.
These facts and principles are drawn from textbooks based on stipulated contents and cognitive levels within the unit of instruction. The foregoing presents a picture of the use of poor teaching methods used during Biology instruction, which according to Nwokenna (2010), may not improve the performance of students in their academic pursuit. The above scenario tends to suggest that the conventional teaching methods used among others have accounted for the persistent poor performance of students in internal and external examinations. Scientists and science educators have however come to a conclusive agreement as many researches have been on going on how to involve students in the learning process and science educators have come up with concept maps as one of such teaching learning techniques. Okoye and Okechukwu (2006), Kinechin (2000a,b), Markow and Lenning (1998). According to Canas and Novak (IHMC 2009) concept maps are graphical tools for organizing and representing knowledge. They include concepts, usually enclossed in circles or boxes of some type and relationships between concepts are indicated by a connecting line linking two concepts. Words on the line, referred to as linking words or linking phrases specify the relationship between two concepts. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia defined concept map as a diagram that depicts suggested relationships between concepts. It is a graphical tool that designers, engineers, technical writers and others use to organize and structure knowledge. Giving an overview, the Wikipedia encyclopedia describes concept map as a way of representing relationship between ideas, images or words in the same way that a sentence diagram represents the grammar of a sentence, a road map represents the locations of highways and towns and a circuit diagram represents the workings of an electrical appliance. In concept map, each word or phrase connects to another, and links back to the original idea, word or phrase. Concept maps are means of developing logical thinking and study skills by revealing connections and helping students see how individual ideas form a larger whole.The technique of concept mapping according to Wikipedia encyclopedia was developed by Joseph D. Novak as a means of representing the emerging science of knowledge of student by his research team at Cornell University in the 1970s s. It has subsequently been used as a tool to increase meaningful learning in the sciences and other subjects as well as to represent the expert knowledge of individuals and teams in education,government and business. Concept maps have their origin in the learning movement called constructivism. In particular, constructivists hold that learners should actively construct knowledge. Novak & Canas (2006) believes that one of the reasons concept mapping is so powerful for the facilitation of meaningful learning is that it serves as a kind of template or scaffold to help to organize knowledge and to structure it, even though the structure must be built up piece by piece with small units of interacting concept and propositional frameworks. Biology experiments and investigations are keys to enhanced learning, clarification and consolidation of theory. Practical activities are not just motivational and fun: they also enable students to apply and extend their knowledge and understanding of Biology in novel investigative situations which can stimulate interest and aid learning and retention. Crucially, practical work gives students an understanding of how biological knowledge is generated by experiment and observation. (www.societyofbiology.org, 2009-2013). Nwagbo & Chukelu (2011) believe that practical activities in Biology provide opportunities for students to actually do science as opposed to learning about science. Nzewi (2008) asserted that practical activities can be regarded as a strategy that could be adopted to make the task of a teacher (teaching) more realistic to the students as opposed to abstract or theoretical presentation of facts, principles and concepts of subject matter. Nzewi maintained that practical activities should engage the students in hands-on, mind-on activities, using varieties of instructional materials/equipments to drive the lesson home. Nwagbo (2008:4) stated that the use of practical activities (approach) tin the teaching of Biological concepts should therefore be a rule rather than an option to Biology teachers. If we hope to produce students that would be able to aquire the necessary knowledge, skills and competence needed to meet the scientific and technological demands of the nation .Nwosu in Ibe (2004) asserted that science process skills are abilities which can be developed by experience and used in carrying out mental and physical operations.
Practical work is a central theme of lessons in the natural sciences (Galton and Eggleston, 1979: Holstein and Lunelta, 1982) in Abimbola(1994) . Laboratory work is seen as an integral part of most science courses and offers students a learning environment that differs in many ways from the “traditional” classroom setting (Fisher ,Harrison, Henderson & Hofstein 1998). It is hard according to Ozay, Ocak and Ocak (2009) to imagine learning about science, without doing laboratory work or fieldwork. Student experimentation underlies all scientific knowledge and understanding. They provide students with opportunities to think about, discuss and solve real problems. No science can be properly taught without students‟ experiments. The student experiment should be the central part of science teaching. It serves many purposes. Students‟ experiments are performed to find relations among concepts or to verify hypothesis. Studies from (Mandor, 2002; Ibe, 2004; and Nwagbo and Chukelu, 2011) have also indicated that active participation of students give rise to more meaningful and effective learning. The Biology teacher should therefore make Biology a student based learning by making experiments part of Biology teaching so as to improve students‟ performance.
One of the key factors in learning science is students‟ attitude, and development of positive attitudes toward science can motivate students‟ interest in science and science related careers. George, (2006) in Nasr & Asghar, (2011), Simpson and Oliver (1990) in Nasr & Asghar (2011) sees the concept of attitude towards science as vague and
ambiguous. They opined that attitude is a concept that defines emotional trends in response to affairs, persons, locations, events or ideas. They concluded that such phrases as „I like science or I enjoy science‟ courses enumerate as attitude. According to Yara (2009) in Omirin and Oladosu (2010) attitude of the teacher and his teaching method can influence students‟ attitude. And attitude as they say is the key to success. Franseca (2010) opined that one of the factors that affect students‟ learning performance is the way they face knowledge, namely their attitude to the subject. Such attitudes as profound feelings, relatively stable are derived from positive or negative experiences across time on learning a subject (Estrad, 2002 in Franseca 2010). Buttressing this, studies from Markow and Lonning, (1998), Simpson, (1978), Wilson, (1983) and Soyibo, (1985), in Adesoji (2008) reported that students‟ positive attitude to science correlate highly with science achievement.
Learning according to Angelo and Howard (2007) is a complex cognitive process that occurs in individual ages. The learner may have a variable degree of understanding of the new information, at one end of the spectrum and the learner may have virtually no understanding of the new information, this condition is called rote learning. In such a condition the learner acquires information primarily through verbatim memorization. Because the conceptional meaning of the knowledge being memorized is not addressed, the new information cannot be linked to relevant concepts the learner already knows. According to the authors, the outcome of rote learning is that little or no information is transferred into the long-term memory. Citing Novak and Gowin,( 1984)& Novak (1991b), they opined that the outcome of meaningful learning is that the new information is transferred into long term memory (retained) in a relevant linkage with prior knowledge. As such, meaningful learning leads to long term information retention.
The foregoing therefore underscores the need to look into the effect of concept mapping and experimental techniques in teaching Biology
1.2 Statement of the Problem
This study was inspired in response to the deteriorating performance of students in internal and external Biology examinations. Chief WAEC examiner‟s report 2004, 2005, 2006,2007 and randomly selected WAEC results from ten schools within the six Area councils of FCT Abuja and the researcher‟s experience as a biology of many years experience of attest to this . These poor performances according to Ajaja (2011) were occasioned by the very poor state of resources for teaching and learning Biology and the unchallenging environment under which the teaching of Biology takes place. The state of the Biology laboratories Ajaja (2011) opines range from total absence to ill-equipped ones. (Nwagbo 2001 in Nwagbo and Chukelu, 2011) among other researchers identified the teacher variable, that is the teacher‟s teaching strategy as being responsible for students‟ poor performance in science and Biology in particular. WAEC chief examiner‟s report (2002 &2003) in Egolum &Nwafor (2012) showed that the traditional teaching methods have not yielded expected results.
Researchers like Nwagbo and Chikelu (2011), Nwagbo (2008) and Nzewi (2008) have also observed that experimental techniques help students to acquire basic scientific skills which helps to improve performance because students are involved in process skills and not only the theories behind them. This is because, the acquisitions of science process skills are the basis for scientific inquiry and the development of intellectual skills and attitudes that are needed to learn concepts. It therefore becomes necessary in a quest to finding a solution to the persistent poor performance of students in biology to substantiate these claims empirically. This situation therefore calls for a search for alternative teaching methods or a combination of methods that will guarantee effective learning by students. The notion that concept mapping makes students to remember information longer and enables them to use this knowledge effectively because it is moved to a long term memory Novak & Canas (2006),makes it a possible alternative. Also the use of experiments have been shown to give rise to effective learning .The statement of the problem therefore is to determine the effects of using concept mapping and experimental(experiments in Biology) techniques for the teaching of selected topics in Biology in Senior Secondary Schools in Karshi zone of the federal Capital Territory Abuja.
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