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Background to the Study
Chemistry as a science subject plays a vital role in transforming the environment and improving the general quality of life. It is essentially needed for a nation’s technological development. As a core science subject, the proper teaching and learning of chemistry in secondary schools facilitates student’s enrollment in many professional disciplines like Nursing, Medicine, Pharmacy, Agriculture, Engineering and Geology etc.
Hence, there is the need for effective teaching and learning of Chemistry in Nigerian secondary schools. For teaching and learning of Chemistry to be effective, the classroom environment has to be conducive to both teachers and students. Chemistry as an important science subject is taught in many secondary schools in Nigeria as a single subject at senior secondary school level. Yet, in spite of all the benefits derived from Chemistry, students’ performance in Chemistry at the senior secondary school certificate examination in the last few decades is still low. Ogu (1995), Balogun (1995), and Akinyele (1997), all noted poor academic achievement in Science and Chemistry in particular. Ugwu (2004), noted that in 2000 and in 2001, of all the candidates who sat for senior secondary school chemistry examination, more than half of the students performed very poor in Chemistry that they could not use their result in Chemistry for further studies. Also WAEC annual report (2006, 2007 and 2008), noted poor academic achievement in Chemistry which manifested in constant poor grades and repetition of classes. Thus, one tends to question why the general unsatisfactory academic performance in Chemistry among the secondary school students. These poor performances in Chemistry have made some researchers to study the problem with the hope of finding the causes and possible solutions.
According to Ali (1998), science education at all levels is plagued by very many kinds of problems which include, under funding of science education; lack of adequate and appropriate instructional materials; lack of functional equipments; poor method of teaching; inadequate trained science teachers and laboratories that exist in dilapidated buildings. Chemistry as a core science subject is not counted out from the under listed problems. These problems lead to serious educational setbacks which invariably lead to low rate of secondary schools science achievement in Nigeria.
Ukeje (1984), said that geographical location is one of the most important differences between the educational conditions in the urban as against the rural areas. This shows that geographical location influences academic achievement. Onainor and Obiora (2001), maintained that gender is another major factor that influences the performance of students. He also states that boys out performed their female counterparts in the different school subjects. Haertel, Walberg and Haertel (1981), Anderson (1982), and (Fraser 1981a, 1986a) traced the problem of poor academic achievement to psychological, sociological, psychosocial and physical problems. Ukeje (1984), considering what should be the environmental factors affecting the performance of students, identified the factors as malnutrition which causes poor physical growth and mental development, diseases, injury, home background, culture and socio economic status of parents. It is a clear assertion that a students` home background influences his/her behaviour and school performance. This is because some students are from broken home where parents are separated, while others are from home where the marriage is stable and happy, and parents live together happily to see to their children’s educational needs and school work.. Children develop good learning habits and scientific thinking through practical and manipulative approach while at home. This is because of availability of ready materials like Newspapers, Textbook, Maps, Science journal and Toys. In such homes, children devote more time to studies which is not done in broken homes where quarrel are all the time. Educational psychologists recognize that home environment is among the factors that handicap a child in school and in life or may be a source of strong special advantage. Skinner (1963), points out that in order to understand and improve our standard of education, learning is not done only in the school. It is with the co-operation of the home and school environment that learning will be more affective. If one of them fails there will be a gap and the child will suffer. In educational circle, classroom environment is very important.
According to Oxford advanced learners` dictionary of current English (8thed) Environment is seen as conditions that affect the behaviour and development of somebody/something or is seen as the districts, surroundings, circumstances etc that influence a place, town or people’s lives. According to Okonkwo and Ozurumba (1989), environment implies all the classroom conditions that facilitate teaching and learning, which include space, seat, air, equipments and other man made situation that galvanize teaching and learning. Environment is also seen as the sum total of all conditions that surround man at any given time on the earth surface. Anderson (1982), view classroom as the inter-personal relationship among pupils, relationship between pupils and their teachers, relationship between pupils and with subject matters studied and the method of learning and finally pupils perception of the structure and characteristic of the classroom. Talton and
Simpson (1987), view classroom as a miniature community in which members interacts and influence the behaviour of others. According to Okonkwo and Ozurumba (1989), classroom is a place where learners and teachers meet. It could be an art gallery, museum, workshop, display center or special room where educational plan are carried out and research finding tried out. Classroom can be seen as the power house where the success or failure of the learning process is generated and sustained. Giddings and Fraser (1988), viewed classroom environment in terms of the shared perception of students and sometimes, the teachers in that environment. Mgodile (2005), stated that classroom environment should have the ability to create a conducive, congenial, and peaceful climate that allows meaningful learning in the absence of fear, stress and tension in which the teacher and the students will be happy to stay and work.
Mgbodile (2005), further stated that learning has been known to be influenced by the type of environment in which an individual learn. That is to say that the school climate determines to a large extent the morale, motivation and commitment of teachers to school work and zeal with which students purses their studies. Appleby (1990), observed that in un-conducive type of environment, students distract, disrupt, and interfere with teaching and learning. They can develop the attitude of coming late to class, pinching one another, aggression, smoking, lies, truancy, use of drugs, all kinds of noise, walking in and out of classroom, being passively rude or unwilling to participate in the learning process. Nwosu (1997) and Okobia (1992), observed that un-conducive environment leads students to sleeping in class, vandalism, smoking and mischief. Consequently, this hinders the physical classroom environment which hinders teachers’ effectiveness; students learning and positive interpersonal relationship. In addition, physical classroom environment include the type of building, furniture, equipments, resources, materials for teaching and learning, quality of light, space for movement and interaction. When the physical classroom environment is poor, it makes the classroom uncomfortable for teaching and learning and for living. Students in such environment are disorganized, in friction and mischief. They develop poor attitude to learning and this hinders educational process, which leads to poor achievement. Eggen, Kauchak and Jacbson (1981), opined that the organization of the classroom affects how easily students are managed as well as how well they achieve. Consequently, this hinders the teacher’s effectiveness, student/students interaction and positive interpersonal relationship. More still, student/students interaction can hinder academic activities in classroom environment.
Thus, Okonkwo and Ozurumba (1989), observed that peer influence has tremendous impart on classroom behaviours. This is because peer help to set on patterns of interaction among members. In a normal classroom, a number of intimate groups are formed with their norms, values, and belief system. This may create control problem in the classroom. Also, students’ inability to identify with the norms of their group may cause them frustration, confusion and low self-confidence and actualization. Rejection may lead to all kinds of behaviour problems and motivation to persist in the face of a tough academic obstacle (Schmuck and Schmuck 1992). Osarenren (1999), observed that peer rejection reflection makes students to deviate from the norms of the school and the society at large. Often behaviours the youth considers normal for them and their peers, are seen to be deviant and abnormal by their parents and teachers. Also classroom politics may hinder or enhance educational activities. Student’s leaders that are harsh and authoritarian are disliked by students. Students are mischievous in such environment, while they co-operate with democratic leaders. Also in classroom environment where students experience sexual harassment from their fellow students, such leads to immorality, which may cause drop out, teenage pregnancy, unplanned marriage, sexually transmitted disease and HIV/AIDS. This type of environment leads some students to change from such class to another class, or even a change of school. Also, authoritarian and pessimistic reproachful evaluations of students by the teacher seem to create friction in the class. Where as, over rigidity produces unpleasant environment such that the majority of students become anxious, over permissive, and may result in students enjoying themselves by doing their own thing and not participating in the lesson. Thus, Moos (1979), states that in a classroom, teachers who specify clear goals and encourages participation tend to promote students moral and feeling of personal accomplishment and tend to produce high work performance. McCraken & Richmond (1992), and Nussbaum (1992), observed that teachers at all levels of education are constantly and silently assessed and perceived as either credible or not credible by students. Cooper & Simons (1999), states that students may like or dislike the instructor and learn from the instructor they perceive as credible as well as those they like rather than from those they dislike (Frymier, 1994). Teacher’s personal characteristics play some vital role in effective classroom management. For instance, Lassa (1992), opined that when a teacher has a fundamental disrespect to students natural behaviour and thinking, the teachers` mood to subordinate students interest naturally makes students feel bad. Where this exists, the environment would normally slow down learning and could affect student’s attitude towards learning.
According to Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary of current English (8thed), attitude is a way of feeling, thinking or behaving towards some thing or somebody. Ifeakor (2005), expressed the importance of attitude, stating that feeling is as real, important and a part of nature as much as knowing. He further noted that how a person feel is almost more important to others than what he knows. Attitude therefore can be positive or negative towards stimuli. Gardner (1975), Munby (1980), Ormerod and Duckworth (1975), Shrigley (1983), Schibeci (1984), all opined that the development of a positive attitude to science and scientific process is among the major aims of science teaching. They are of the opinion that promotion of favorable attitude to science is an important aim of science education. In harmony with the above, Klopfer (1971), provide a comprehensive classification scheme for science education aims using six different categories of attitudinal aims.
These he called Test of Science Related Attitude (TOSRA) (Fraser 1978). TOSRA is used for examining the performance of groups or classes of students to provide information about changes in attitude at a particular time. However, most of these research works were done outside Nigeria. The little one done in Nigeria, lay much emphasis on geographical location, disease, culture, socio economic status of parents, intelligent quotient, gender problem and home background environment problems. Among all these factors identified, influence of students` perception of classroom environment seems to be absent. Hence, the need for this work.
Statement of the Problem
Students perceive the classroom environment differently because they have different classroom experiences. Differences in perceptions are usually more helpful than harmful. They provide the bases for great variety of approaches to life in general and to education in particular. The question is, do students’ perceptions of classroom environment influence their academic achievement? Does it influence students’ attitudes towards Chemistry subject? Thomas Poffenberger and Donald Norton (1967), discovered that home attitude and teacher all play important roles in determent of students attitude towards school subjects. According to Ukeje (1984), poor academic performance could be due to home back ground, peer group influence, intelligent quotient, gender and geographical location of the school. Ukeje (1984), further identified some factors, which affect the performance of students as malnutrition, disease, culture, socio-economic status of parents and home background. Onainor and Obiora (2001), maintained that gender is another factor that influences the performance of students, some noted age as a big factor that can influence students performances and attitudes to learning.
However, most of the research works were done out side Nigeria, hence they cannot be generalized to Nigerian classroom environment due to differences in the social cultural and socio economic setting and levels of education. Among all other research works done in Nigeria, influence of students’ perceptions of classroom environment on their achievement and attitudes towards learning is not mentioned. Could this factor be responsible for students` low or poor Chemistry achievement in Nigeria. In other to
provide answer to this question, this work becomes necessary and important.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to find out the influence of students’ perceptions of classroom environment on their achievement and attitudes towards Chemistry in senior secondary schools.
It is specifically established to find out
1: Students’ perceptions of Chemistry classroom environment.
2: Influence of students’ perceptions of classroom environment on their achievement in Chemistry.
3: Influence of students’ perceptions of classroom environment on their attitudes towards Chemistry
Significance of the Study
This study is significant in view that it will provide useful information on students’ perceptions of chemistry classroom environment to educators, teachers, students, non tutorial staff, guidance counselors and the government. This study will help government, teachers, educators and the guidance counselors to know the influence students’ perceptions of classroom environment have on students’ achievement and students’ attitudes towards chemistry in secondary schools. To the government, teachers and head of schools, it will guide them in formulating rules and laws in school system. It will help students to know and adapt to classroom environment variables. This will help in changing and improving teaching and learning of Chemistry in senior secondary schools.
Scope of the Study
This study will be limited to senior secondary II students of chemistry in Obollo education zone of Enugu State. It is also limited to some selected variables such as the Nature of classroom environment, Instructional materials/equipment, Teachers’ quality, Method of teaching and
The following research questions will guide the study
(1) What is the students’ levels of perceptions of their Chemistry classroom environment?
(2) What is the chemistry achievement mean scores of students who have negative, moderate, and positive perceptions of their Chemistry classroom environment?
(3) What is the attitude mean scores of students who have negative, moderate, and positive perceptions of their chemistry classroom environment?
The following hypotheses will be tested in this study at 0.05 level of significance.
HO1: The students’ perceptions of their Chemistry classroom environment have no significant influence on their achievement mean scores in Chemistry.
HO2: The students` perceptions of their Chemistry classroom environment have no significant influence on students’ attitude mean scores in Chemistry.
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