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Science may be viewed as a way of questioning or verifying the truthfulness of knowledge. It also can be said to be the knowledge which is obtained through careful and systematic observation and testing of facts. In fact, technology is the secret behind the development of many countries and nations. It is what is produced through science that is applied in technology for the comfort of man. Therefore, the elementary idea(s) of scientific and technological knowledge’s are introduced early to enable students to develop interest in their areas of talents and to choose a life career. This research work aimed at finding comparative effect of co-operative learning strategy and inquiry based method in the learning of chemistry among secondary schools students was designed to show that methods of instruction could change students positively towards Chemistry. The population of this study was 250 senior secondary school two (SS2) science students in all the public schools in Amac Local Government Area of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used and findings of this study had further established the fact that there is need for improved strategies in the teaching of Chemistry in secondary schools in order to achieve better students’ performance. Also recommendations were made based on the results obtained.
1.1 Background of the Study
Chemistry as a subject offered at senior secondary school in Nigeria takes a central position in science and technology. It is a subject that studies the structure, interactions, transformations and the energy consequences of matter.
The objectives of Chemistry curriculum at the senior secondary school level include: to show Chemistry and its link with industry, everyday life benefits and hazards, and to provide a course which is complete for individuals not proceeding to higher education. (FME, 2007). Therefore, Chemistry is to develop both the individual and the entire society. It is a necessary prerequisite and integral part of such professions as Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Agriculture, Home
Economics, Food Science, Engineering to mention but a few. Chemistry education is required to meet up with increase in demand for science and technology by private and government establishments.
Without effective Chemical education, our nation will likely remain impoverished. This is because the natural resources which abound in Nigeria need to be harnessed, processed and converted to needed products for optimum use. Our solid minerals such as coal, columbite, tin, iron ore, kaolin, lime stone, gold, uranium, etc and agricultural produce like animal hides and skins, rubber, palm produce, groundnut, cassava etc are under utilized (Adikwu, 2010). Chemistry education would be very essential for more effective utilization of these resources.
However, as important as Chemistry is, science educators have been lamenting over the poor achievement and interest of students in the subject in our senior secondary schools for the past decades. (Ifeakor, 2006; Mari, 2002; Njoku, 2002 and 2009; Nwachukwu 2008). Many factors have been attributed to the observed poor performance and lack of interest in Chemistry by students. Some of these factors include teaching method used by Chemistry teachers, difficult nature of the topics/concepts, lack of equipment and instructional materials etc. (Ali, 1998; Ifeakor, 2006; Nnaka 2006; Nzewi, 2010; Ukwungwu, 2000).
Students’ poor performance and interest in Chemistry for quite a long time now, has resulted to inadequate number of students offering Chemistry oriented courses in tertiary educational institutions in Nigeria. The persistent poor performance has also contributed to poor economy, poor industrialization, lack of job, starvation, high maternal and infant mortality rate, spread of disease and sickness, environmental unfriendliness, lack of peace to mention but a few. Professionals required to take care of those problems can only be effectively produced through Chemistry education.
Many Chemistry concepts in the senior secondary school curriculum are perceived to be abstract and difficult to understand by the learners. West African Examination Council Chief Examiner’s reports (1992, 2003,2006) have consistently highlighted some of the difficult concepts/ topics the candidates performed poorly as: electrolysis, chemical equilibrium, mole, geometric isomerism, balancing chemical equations, IUPAC nomenclature, structure of organic compounds, collision theory, Gay Lussac’s law, solubility. The report also goes further to enumerate candidates’ weakness as poor language expressions, inability to adhere to instructions, poor interpretation of questions, inability to tackle numerical questions, poor definitions, omission/wrong units, inability to write balanced equations, use of formulae instead of names, poor drawing skills, inability to read and interpret graph, inability to draw sensible inference from recorded observations.
Kozma and Russell (2004) reported that the concept of chemical equilibrium is very difficult to understand. Tajudeen (2005) using hundred and sixty SS III Chemistry students randomly selected from 28 senior secondary schools in seven states of the Nigerian federation discovered that the students perceived thirteen out of twenty (65%) topics in Chemistry as difficult. The topics perceived to be difficult by students according to the study are: particulate nature of matter, chemical combination, gaseous state and gaseous laws, organic chemistry, structure and energy level of atom, qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, rate of chemical reaction, chemical equation, non metals and their compounds, thermochemistry, nuclear chemistry, and astronomical chemistry. The study also revealed that students’ sex has no influence on their perception of difficult topics. However, the study did not cover many other important topics which examining body like West African Examination Council adjudged difficult to students.
Ali (1998) opines that the most important factor for effective learning to take place in science is an interesting instructional approach. Njoku (2009) maintains that teachers are under intense pressure to cover the curriculum and get students ready for external examinations. This makes teaching of Chemistry inadequate as special approach needed for the teaching of difficult chemistry concepts are over looked. Learners therefore find the subject irrelevant to their daily experience and survival needs in their sociocultural and economic environment. Ezeliora (2003) also attributes students’ poor performances in Chemistry to poor instructional approaches involving excessive teacher-talk, copying of notes, rotelearning as encouraged by expository method of instruction.
Since the conventional teaching methods persistently used by Chemistry teachers (Amaefule, 1999; Ezeliora, 2003) cannot permeate the difficult Chemistry concepts which manifests in perennial poor students’ achievement, the researcher therefore deemed it necessary to study the effects of cooperative learning and inquiry Based method on students’ achievement and interest in some difficult Chemistry concepts. These instructional strategies have been found effective in over coming other instructional problems such as large class size in Biology (Okebukola, 1984) and learning disabled achievement in mathematics (Igbo, 2004). It might therefore not be out of place to investigate the effects of these strategies on student’s achievement and interest in some difficult Chemistry concepts in an attempt to improve on student’s achievement in Chemistry.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Poor students’ achievement and interest in Chemistry is alarming inspite of the fact that many researches have been carried out to ameliorate the bad situation. Many instructional approaches have been proffered by psychologists like Brunner, Peaget, Gagne, Ausubel for improved achievement and interest in Chemistry and other sciences.
Amaefula(1999) and Njoku(2010) strongly believed that the instructional approach adopted by Chemistry teacher in teaching Chemistry is to a large extent responsible for the observed consistent poor achievement and interest in Chemistry. The conventional teaching methods lack student’s cooperation and interaction required for effective learning of the difficult Chemistry concepts. Adequate students cooperation and interactions are required for over learning and transfer of learning in Chemistry concepts, which are mainly difficult, and abstract (Nzewi, 2010). Such cooperation and interaction are found in the cooperative learning and inquiry Based method strategies. The problem of this study was to find an effective instructional approach that can improve students’ achievement and interest in some difficult concepts in Chemistry. This work therefore intended to investigate the effects of cooperative learning and inquiry Based method on students’ achievement and interest in some difficult concepts in Chemistry.
In more specific terms, the problem of the study was: What are the effects of each of the cooperative learning and inquiry Based method on students’ achievement and interest in some difficult Chemistry concepts? What are the interaction effects of the instructional approaches and gender on students’ achievement and interest in some difficult Chemistry concepts?
1.3 Objective of the Study
The purpose of this study was to determine the varying effects of cooperative learning and inquiry Based method on students’ achievement and interest in some difficult Chemistry concepts. The study also aimed at determining the effects of cooperative learning and inquiry Based method on students’ achievement and interest in some difficult Chemistry concepts relative to their sexes. In specific terms, the purposes of the study were to determine:
(a) Achievement level of students in some difficult Chemistry concepts in Senior Secondary School when taught using cooperative learning and inquiry Based method.
(b) Achievement level of male and female students in some difficult Chemistry concepts in Senior Secondary School when taught using cooperative learning and inquiry Based method.
(c) Whether gender interacts with instructional approaches in their effects on student’s achievement.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The significance of the study derived from a number of points. Firstly, most important Chemistry topics are abstract and difficult to understand. Efforts to teach them through the conventional methods of teaching have proved abortive (Ezeliora,2003). The result of this work will therefore sensitize Chemistry teachers to use effective instructional approaches for improved students’ understanding and achievement. It will also serve as an eye opener to teachers in other fields of learning to explore and adopt better instructional approaches in handling abstract and difficult topics and concepts in their own areas for improvement.
Secondly, the way Chemistry is hurriedly taught in secondary schools, according to Njoku (2009), makes the subject matter irrelevant to the learner resulting in their inability to transfer learning to everyday life and poor academic performance. Thus the result of the work will help to improve on students’ performance in Chemistry and ensure better quality Chemistry candidates for the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination. Again, the work will help to produce more qualified candidates for courses in science and technology in the tertiary institutions of learning, which in turn will boost national wealth and development.
It will also sensitize teachers and curriculum planners about gender influence on instructional approaches. The results of the study would also contribute to the pool of research in the area of education in Chemistry in particular and science education in general.
1.5 Scope of the Study
The study established the differential effects of cooperative learning and inquiry Based method on students’ achievement and interest in some difficult Chemistry concepts in Senior Secondary School. It also determined the effects of cooperative learning and inquiry Based method on students’ achievement and interest in some difficult Chemistry concepts in Senior Secondary School relative to their sexes. Electrolysis and Chemical equilibrium were the difficult concepts used for this study. The two concepts were selected by random sampling from concepts persistently reported by West African Examination Council Chief Examiner’s Report on concepts found difficult by candidates. Both concepts are in senior secondary 2 scheme of work.
The study was conducted in AMAC Local Government Area of the Federal Capital Territory.
Limitations of the study
1. The use of different classroom teachers for the three different groups may prove a limitation to the study.
2. Students’ different levels of intelligence, social and cultural backgrounds may also be a limitation to the study.
1.6 Research Questions
The following research questions were raised:
1. What are the mean achievement scores of students taught some difficult Chemistry concepts using cooperative learning, inquiry Based method and conventional teaching method?
2. What are the mean achievement scores of male and female students taught some difficult Chemistry concepts using cooperative learning, inquiry Based method and conventional teaching method?
3. What are the interaction effects of teaching strategies and sex on students’ mean achievement scores in some difficult Chemistry concepts?
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