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This study explored the factors influencing the reasoning ability of secondary school students in Ezeagu Local Government Area (LGA) of Enugu State, Nigeria. The general research objective was to analyse the effect of demographic, attitude, and environmental factors on students’ reasoning ability. As a result of the nature of the research objectives, a survey research method was adopted. A cross-sectional data was generated from a conveniently drawn sample of the students of Aguobu-Owa high school, Ezeagu LGA with a research questionnaire. The questionnaire was face and content validated prior to administering it to the respondents. A total of 255 out of 332 students in the school participated in the research. Out of the 225 questionnaires that were completed, only 137 were valid for further analyses. Descriptive statistics and correlation analysis were used as tools for data analysis. All the analyses were completed with SPSS version 15.0 software. Findings indicate that male respondents far outnumbered their female counterpart. It was also found that such demographic factors as gender and family economic status does not have a positive relationship with reasoning ability. Findings also show that apart from affect, every other attitude and belief factor (i.e cognitive competence, value, difficulty, interest and effort) correlated with reasoning ability. Finally, it was found that an ideal learning environment does positively relate to reasoning ability. Based on the above findings, it was recommended that both male and female children as well as children from both poor and rich homes should be given equal opportunity to acquire formal education. To bridge the gap between the opportunities afforded the rich and the poor, it was recommended that the government should better equip public schools and make the school fees affordable to the poor. It is also recommended that teachers should work hard to get students interested in science subjects by boosting students’ perception of the value of pursuing the science profession; measuring students’ cognitive competence on continuous basis to ascertain performance and taking a decision as to what whether a change teaching and instructional materials are necessary. It is equally important to boost students’ effort in science subjects by engaging them on series of formative assessments. The difficulty perception of science subjects can be relaxed by employing hardworking and qualified teachers who will teach science subjects in a manner that the students will understand. Finally, there is urgent need to create a good environment for learning science subjects in secondary schools. There is need for government to refurbish public schools and properly equip the science laboratories to support good learning and encourage logical and creative reasoning among students.
1.1 Background of the Study
Education is frequently concerned about the need to improve students’ academic achievements. The large number of research on student achievement bears testimony to this concern (Babalola, 1979; Fakunle, 1986; Okoye and Okecha, 2008). This is not only because a higher achievement especially in the field of science is the foundation for technical skills which is in short supply, but also because higher achievement is particularly valued in a society which sets high premium on academic success as the stepping stone for entrance into more prestigious occupation. However, to be able to perform well in science subjects, students must possess sound reasoning ability. According to Piraksa, Srisawasdi and Koul (2014), “as scientific literacy is currently considered the central goal for development of the 21st century citizens, scientific reasoning ability is determined as an important factor for fostering student performance in science learning” (p. 486). Scientific reasoning ability is therefore, a skill of critical importance to those students who seek to become professional scientists.
The acquisition of new knowledge and its innovative applications result in a continuous transformation of our cultural, social, and political environments. Existing knowledge is being rapidly revised and, in some cases, becoming obsolete. It is therefore clear that the methods and processes by which new knowledge is acquired are of major importance in successfully facing the abundance of knowledge and its consequent technological applications (Valanides, 1997). This perspective presupposes a broadening of learning objectives beyond those related to subject matter and discipline-specific concepts. He further argued that emphasizing the development of students’ reasoning abilities and the achievement of procedural/operative knowledge is the only appropriate reaction to the current exponential increase of knowledge. A central purpose of education is thus to provide the conditions which will foster the development of students’ reasoning abilities. Hence, schools should do more than teaching collections of discipline-specific facts and concepts.
The Ministry of Education in Nigeria generally and Enugu State Ministry of Education in particular has gradually introduced, among other innovations, a new science curriculum where emphasis is placed on laboratory work and on the processes of science. The new curriculum and the corresponding teaching approaches are expected to enhance students’ reasoning abilities. This expectation is in line with research studies related to interventions to accelerate students’ cognitive development.
Some researches on reasoning abilities identified demographic, attitude and belief, and environmental variables as the factors influencing reasoning abilities (see for example, Jindal-Snape, Davies, Collier, Howe, Digby and Hay, 2013; Hyde and Mertz, 2009; Okoye and Okecha, 2008; Tempelaar, Schim van der Loeff and Gijselaers, 2007; Valanides, 1997). However, despite the results of these research efforts and the consequent outcomes of accompanying theoretical debates, interest in the investigation of students’ reasoning abilities and the process of their development will continue. These efforts have the potential to accumulate evidence which will enhance our understanding of how reasoning ability develop and- how curricula and teaching interventions can foster their development especially in a grossly underdeveloped educational system such as the one found in most schools in Nigeria (especially in the rural areas). Studying the factors that influence the reasoning ability of science students from a very underdeveloped academic background such as Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State will therefore provide the Ministry of Education in the state as well as teachers with a blueprint of what to emphasize to enable the students improve their reasoning ability.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
“…'To know' science is a statement that one knows not only what a phenomenon is, but also how it relates to other events, why it is important, and how this particular view of the world came to be. Knowing any of these aspects in isolation misses the point. Therefore, in learning science, students, as well as having the opportunity to learn about the concepts of science, must also be given some insight into its epistemology, the practices and methods of science, and its nature as a social practice…” (Driver, Newton and Osborne, 2000, p. 297).
The field of science is rapidly expanding. As students choose a science major, they need and expect the course and laboratory work that will develop them into a scientist. This work includes the content knowledge and skills necessary to be able to design a solid experiment, analyse the results, and apply the findings to future work both within and across disciplines. However, without sound reasoning ability, it will be difficult for students to develop a successful career in science. Coletta, Philips and Steinert (2007) argued that student reasoning ability can be used to identify students who at risk of failing their exams. Furthermore, Lawson (2004) argued that scientific reasoning plays a central role in scientific literacy. Specifically, Okoye and Okechi (2008) also found that reasoning ability of Nigerian students correlate positively with their achievement in biology. Science students in secondary school are freshmen who are entering the career under-prepared both in content and cognitive abilities. In addition, the report by Ojerinde (1998) on the survey of the performance of candidates in science subjects in Nigeria over the years revealed a discernible decline. This perennial decline has remained a source of concern to science educators (Nnaka and Anaekwe, 2004). It is yet unclear whether demographic, attitude and belief and environmental factors influence the reasoning abilities of science students in secondary schools in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State, Nigeria.
An additional difficulty for science majors in secondary schools is simply staying with their declared major. One possible explanation for this ugly trend is that science is generally perceived as a difficult field of study. However, being deficient in one area does not necessarily imply that an individual is less intelligent (Pimsleur Approach, n.d). This therefore exposes the need to study the main factors influencing reasoning abilities.
Additionally, most science teachers believe that students need to be helped to understand how scientists make sense of problem situations and how they decide on the progress of the solution. As pointed out earlier also, students’ cognitive/reasoning ability need to be enhance in order to get them stay and continue their career in science. To achieve this end, the factors that influence reasoning ability needs to be thoroughly investigated. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, limited research has studied this key issue in Nigeria generally with no research project found to have explored this subject in Enugu State in particular. Hence, the need for this project. Furthermore, Solomon (2014) argued that due to the fact that reasoning skills have failed to take off in the majority of secondary schools students in Nigeria, fears are that development and recognition of the natural resources and the effective uses of these resources may be a pipe dream for the country. Given this scenario therefore, it is timely and necessary to explore the factors that influence the reasoning ability of secondary schools science students’ that interfere with their learning process especially in Ezeagu Local government Area of Enugu State, Nigeria.
1.3 Scope of the Study
This project work, factors influencing reasoning ability of students in Nigerian secondary schools: A study of Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State focuses on three key factors which include demographic factors, attitude and belief factors and environmental factors. With respect to the area to be covered, the research work concentrated in one secondary school in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State, Nigeria.
1.4 Significance of the Study
Scientific literacy is currently considered as a central goal and critical learning outcome for science education standard in several countries (Dani, 2009). This is because the teaching of science offers students the ability to access a wealth of knowledge and information which will contribute to an overall understanding of how and why things work like they do because science is able to explain the mechanics and reasons behind the daily functioning of complex systems, which range from the human body to sophisticated modern methods of transport (Centre for Education in Science and Technology, 2009). However, it may be very difficult to access the performance of science majors especially those in secondary schools without understanding the factors that influence their reasoning ability. Hence, the study of the factors that influence the reasoning ability of science majors in secondary schools in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State is significant in the following respects:
Firstly, the significant of this study would assess the factors needed to enhance the reasoning abilities of science majors in secondary schools in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State.
Secondly, solutions will be proffered to the problems facing the educational sectors in designing appropriate study curriculum that will enhance students’ reasoning abilities of science majors in secondary schools in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State.
Finally, this study will also provide a first-hand guide to science teachers on what to emphasis in their teaching techniques to enable the students improve their reasoning ability.
1.5 Purpose of the Study
The overall objective of this study to explore the factors that influence the reasoning abilities of secondary school students majoring in science subjects in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State, Nigeria. The specific purposes are:
1. To discover whether demographic factors influence secondary school students’ reasoning ability in Enugu State.
2. To evaluate the influence of attitude factors on secondary school students’ reasoning ability in Enugu State.
3. To assess the influence of environmental factors on secondary school students’ reasoning ability in Enugu State.
1.6 Research Questions
The overall research question to be answered by this study is: What factors influence the reasoning abilities of secondary school students majoring in science subjects in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State, Nigeria?
1. What are the influence of demographic factors on secondary school students’ reasoning abilities in Enugu State?
2. What are the influence of attitude factors on secondary school students’ reasoning ability in Enugu State?
3. What are the influence of environmental factors on secondary school students’ reasoning ability in Enugu State?
1.7 Research Hypotheses
Below are the hypotheses which will be tested in this research. The hypotheses are tested at 0.05 level of significance.
HO1: There is no significant difference between demographic factors and secondary school students’ reasoning ability in Ezeagu
HA1: There is significant difference between demographic factors and secondary school students’ reasoning ability in Ezeagu
HO2: There is no significant difference between attitude factors and secondary school students’ reasoning ability in Ezeagu
HA2: There is significant difference between attitude factors and secondary school students’ reasoning ability in Ezeagu
HO3: There is no significant difference between environmental factors and secondary school students’ reasoning ability in Ezeagu
HA3: There is significant difference between environmental factors and secondary school students’ reasoning ability in Ezeagu
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