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Background of the Study

          Science is a great enterprise which nations depend on, in-order to advance technologically. Science therefore, is receiving much emphasis in education because of its significance and relevance to life and society. Science is both a process (scientific method) and a product (knowledge, fact and principles) (Ezeh, 2013). Both the process and product of science are acquired through education and this is specialized type of education such as science education. Science plays important roles in the society because it relates to our daily life and career. The importance of science in our society made the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Education to introduce science subjects in the nations secondary school curriculum. Biology is one of such subject introduced.

          Biology is defined as the study of life and structure of living things. Biology is the study of living things and concerns itself with the study of the structural, behaviour, distribution, the origin of plants, and animals and their relationship with their environment (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 2009). Abugu (2007) stated that biology is natural science in which we study living organisms plants and animals. The knowledge of biology helps in checking environmental degradation such as desertification, erosion, water hyacinth, land, air and water pollution.

          The cardinal objectives of biology education are to prepare students to acquire: adequate laboratory and field skills in biology; meaningful and relevant knowledge in biology, ability to apply scientific knowledge to everyday life in matter of personal and community health and agriculture and lastly reasonable and functional scientific attitudes (Federal Ministry of Education 2004). The study of biology in senior secondary school can equip students with useful concept principles and theories that will enable them face the challenges before and after graduation. Practical biology is the scientific study of the life and structure of plant and animals and their relative environment in real or experimental set-up rather than dwelling in the theory and ideas (Opuh, Eze, & Eze Magu, 2008).

          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 real to the students as opposed to abstract or theoretical presentation of fact principles and concepts of subject matters. Nzewi maintained that practical activities should engage the students in hands on, mind on activities, using varieties of instructional material/equipment to drive the lesson home. Nwagbo (2008) stated that the use of practical activities (approach) to 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 acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and competence needed to meet the scientific and technological demands of the nation.

          Practical work stimulate learners interest in the science subjects they are studying, when they are made to personally engage in useful activities, knowledge obtained through practical work and experience promote long-term memory that theory alone cannot do, for this reason, it becomes obvious that learners acquire more in any science lesson, if giving the opportunity to do activities and ranging from manipulating apparatus, classifying, designing, experimenting, hypothesizing to make inferences and verifying result. Hence, there is an urgent and serious need to justify the exposition of the biology practical activities as well as studying its influence on students achievement in biology. Unfortunately, the ugly situation observed in the majority of our secondary school lacks exposure of student in practical activities. This contributes to persistent poor performance in biology.                  

          According to Nwagbo (2008), a number of factors has been identified as contributing to the non-acquisition of skills by secondary school students which invariable leads to poor performance and one of the factors is the teacher variable, that is teacher method of teaching. Furthermore, Okoli (2006) indicate that many science teachers prefer the traditional expository/lectures method of teaching that is, a teaching technique in which one person, the teacher, presents a spoken discourse on a particular subject and shy away from activity oriented teaching methods which are student centered such as inquiry method, discovery method, investigative laboratory approach. Nwagbo (2006) observed that such teacher-centered approach which places the teacher as a sole possessor of knowledge and the students as passive recipients of knowledge may not enhance achievement or promote positive attitude to biology. Apart from teaching methods, gender is also implicated in students academic achievement in biology.  Gender refers to the roles and responsibilities of men and women that are created in family, societies and culture. The concept of gender is the expectations held about characteristics, attitudes, and likely behaviour of both men and women (masculinity and feminity) in the society (Ezeh, 2013). There is a general belief among Nigerians that boys are superior to girls in terms of physical build up, intelligence and reasoning. According to Okeke (2007) gender and gender stereotyping have brought discrimination in academic achievement which is a matter of great concern to educationist.

          Okoli, Iwuozor and Obioma (2011) showed that gender is insignificant in science achievement. Since the finding about gender are inconclusive the researcher is interested in investigating the influence of biology practical activities on academic achievement of senior secondary school in biology.

Statement of Problems

          In Nigeria, students achievement in secondary school biology has not been encouraging. Inspite of the desire for technological development, which need biology education there is persistent poor academic achievement of students in the subject, particular in practical biological. So many factors can be attributed to student poor achievement in biology practical, they include teachers use of inappropriate instructional approaches, lack of adequate laboratory facilities, poor organization of laboratory activities, lack of commitment to laboratory work by both teachers and students, partial or total absence of laboratory, lack of qualified biology teachers and mode of laboratory activities that are used in biology laboratory.

          Studies shown that teachers use mostly teacher centred approach in carrying out laboratory activities. The inappropriate instructional approaches used by secondary school biology teachers tend to raise doubts about the possibility of realizing the objectives of biology education in Nigeria secondary school as stated in the National Policy on Education (Federal Ministry of Education, 2004). Most instructional approaches such as lecture and demonstration used in teaching biology in the classroom or laboratory promote rote learning and lack of opportunity for students to manipulate materials and reflect on what they do during teaching and learning processes. Student interaction during practical activities in the laboratory could play a key role towards concretizing learning.

          Among all the problems that contributes to student poor achievement in practical biology the researcher is interested in the influence of biology practical activities on academic achievement of students in biology.

Purpose of the Study

          The main purpose of this study is to find out the influence of biology practical activities on academic achievement of senior secondary school students.

          Specifically, the study intends to:

1.                 determine the influence of biology practical activities on academic achievement of senior secondary students in biology.

2.                 determine how teacher’s incompetence in the use of laboratory equipment affects student’s achievement in biology.     

3.                 determine how the student attitude towards biology practical affect their achievement in biology.

4.                 determine the influence of gender on academic achievement of students in biology.

Significance of the Study

          Practically, the following people will benefit from the finding of this study, student, biology teachers and the government. The result of the study could enable the students realize the importance of group and individual laboratory work situation in the effort of learning biology concepts. It could also help the students to become knowledgeable in the following areas: communication, problem-solving, self-confidence and critical thinking. These are knowledge they are expected to acquire from practical activities which could lead to students improvement on their academic achievement.

          The finding of this study will be of help to science teachers as it will enable them understand the right mode of laboratory work in teaching and to help the students to understand biology concepts with the abilities of carrying out practical work successfully. The teacher will realized that biology concepts are not taught in isolation but should be incorporated into practical work to maximize the achievement.

          The study will make the government, through the ministry of education to realize the need for provision of science equipment to schools and posting of qualified biology teachers to secondary schools, it is not the issue of jack of all trades master of non teaching has attained professionalism and specialization.

Scope of the Study

          The study is on the influence of biology practical activities on academic achievement of senior secondary school students in biology. The study is limited to student in senior secondary school in Enugu East Local Government Area of Enugu State. The scope is delimited on senior secondary two biology students’ achievement.

Research Questions

The following research questions guided the study:

1.                 To what extent do biology practical activities influence student academic achievement in biology?

2.                 To what extent does teachers’ incompetence in the use of laboratory equipment affect student’s achievement in biology.

3.                 To what extents does students attitudes towards biology practical affect their achievement in biology?

4.                 To what extent do gender influence student academic achievement in biology.

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