EFFECT OF CONSTRUCTIVIST BASED TEACHING STRATEGY ON ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF JUNIOR SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS IN INTEGRATED SCIENCE

CHAPTER ONE

                                     INTRODUCTION

1.1   Background to the Study

In Nigeria, according to the National Policy on Education, (2004) one of the main objectives of secondary education is to equip students to live effectively in modern age of science and technology. The implication of this objective is that science and technology provide the basic tools of industrialization, national development, economic and social development of the citizens. Technology developed at an increasing rate in the Western Nations and other advanced countries but in Nigeria, the rate is slow though it is gradually coming up in recent times. Information Technology (IT) is present everywhere. However, the use of these tools in our teaching and learning environment is our concern and problem. The use of these tools in the world has broken the barrier of distance and made life easier. It requires one to press a button with a number and you speak with somebody as if the person is next to you, no matter the distance, with the use of Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) popularly known as mobile phones. The Internet, the information superhighway, according to, Amoo and Rahman (2004), is a single telephone line that traverses the whole world, connecting several millions of computers and computer-based machines, equipments and tools that could give and receive information. Computer, according to Wersh (1998) is a tool, a vehicle for combining motor skills, language, images and symbolic manipulation through practical activities. The integration of these dynamic tools and its efficacy in our learning and teaching environment in this information age is the main focus of this paper.

        The aim of science education, according to National Policy on Education (2004), is to inculcate into the learners creative abilities in order to live a self-reliant life in future. However, 'implementing these aims and objectives of science education in our secondary schools has not produced any significant change in students since they cannot pass examinations easily. Salau (1996) reported that unqualified teachers are employed to teach Integrated Science and other Science related subjects. This type of teachers paints a blank future for the development of science education and the realization of technological progress in our country. Students who receive instruction from unqualified teachers in science certainly will perform below average in examinations.

        The issue of underachievement has been a source of worry to parents, policy makers, examination bodies, teachers and the nation as a whole. Efforts have been made by several research bodies like STAN-Science Teachers' Association of Nigeria and individuals to avert this situation but they seem not to have yielded the desired results, judging from the current results published by Examination bodies like the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the National Examination Council (NECO). Research findings have shown that several factors militate against improved and effective academic achievement of our students in Integrated Science and other Science subjects. These include the application of wrong and. ineffective instructional strategies in our schools.

These seem not to help students acquire Science Process Skills that will enable them understand scientific concepts in order to excel in examinations, thereby limiting their ability to live self reliant lives in the society after graduation from secondary school. It is surprising that many Integrated Science teachers still teach by the use or direct and "verbalized instruction" because it seems to be a shortcut to the goal of covering the Integrated Science syllabus (Udeme-Obong, 2003). The other reason is the lack of awareness or unwillingness by teachers to try other available strategies that are known to be activity-oriented, collaborative, interactive and student-centred. Amoo et al. (2004) asserted that students' attitude contribute to low achievement in science subjects. He stressed that poor achievement in science subjects makes a student exhibit a negative attitude towards the subject. Other researchers like Odo and Akalonu (2001) attribute students’ poor performance in Integrated Science to lack of interest in the subject. The conventional teaching methodology (Talk and chalk) used by teachers may not have been able to spur students' interest to learn the subject; after all, students seem to learn more effectively those things that appear to interest them.

In recent times, according to Nwosu and Nzewi (1998), the methods that are advocated for effective teaching and learning of science subjects include the use of analogy, inquiry, cooperative learning, problem-solving and constructivism. These strategies are activity and interactive oriented, thus help learners develop appropriate skills for better understanding of scientific concepts in the classroom, build their creative abilities, improve their self esteem and make them to be active participants in the classroom. These strategies not only help students learn and retain information, but also have positive effects on the students’ attitudes towards studying science subjects. For the purpose of this study, the researchers are restricted to discussing constructivism. Constructivism is a teaching strategy, which holds the View that scientific knowledge be personally constructed and reconstructed by the learner based on his or her experience. It is a model of instruction, which allows for interaction between students/students, students/teacher in the classroom. It is a problem-solving approach to learning that allows students to explore and work in groups, making meaning of tasks and setting out to solving problems that are perplexing to them (Tim, 1993). There are several constructivist models, which are useful in helping learners reconstruct their knowledge based on their prior conception. They include: 1. The five phases of constructivist model (5E Model) 2. The five steps conceptual change model (PEDDA) 3. The four phases of constructivist model (IEPT) 4. The seven phases of constructivist model (7E Model) 5. Learning cycle model 6. Analogy 7. Negotiations.

Approach that has been proven by many researchers such as Nworgu (1997), Nwosu and Nzewi (1998); Iloputaife (2000); Mandor (2002); and Eze (2005) to enhance achievement in science. It then becomes pertinent to explore its efficacy with the use of computer based learning and ascertain whether or not learning can be done more effectively. Freenberg (1999) advocated giving the students the maximum control over learning and creating curricula that foster growth and development of their minds. This can be achieved through the unique nature of new technologies such as computer and its accessories where it is intended to serve as a teaching, learning and problem-solving tool, with the ultimate objective of providing a level of instruction equivalent to or better than that of a human teacher (Dalal, 1992). The human ability to guide, encourage and reinforce positively is still a necessary component of teaching with computer-based learning because programme learning is critically dependent for its effectiveness on the design of the questions. However, some studies have been carried out including that by Baggot and Wright (1997), which showed no significant difference in cognitive achievement with the use of computer in education. There is paucity of literature on the effects of computer-based constructivist instruction on students' achievement and interest in Integrated Science. The purpose of this study therefore is to investigate effect of constructivist based teaching strategy on academic performance of Junior Secondary School students in Integrated Science.

1.2   Statement of the Problem

Teaching and learning of Integrated Science in many secondary schools in Nigeria has generally taken a pattern where teachers mostly use instructional methods characterized by lectures and few demonstrations. The instructional methods expose students to minimal practical activities, group discussions and are hardly taken on educational trips. However, learner achievement in Integrated Science will be poor if adequate instructional materials are not used.

        The poor performance calls for reconsideration of instructional methods used in secondary schools for teaching Integrated Science and specifically the topic of ecology. Such a method with the capacity of enhancing learner achievement should be learner centred. This study therefore considered the constructivist instruction as learner centred instructional methods. According to Spector et al., (2010), Constructivist instructional approach provides learners with opportunity to construct knowledge rather than being recipients of inert learning and therefore resulting into better learning. Learners own the learning process, acquire knowledge, skills and understanding and also manage the knowledge and skills acquired (Spector et al., 2010). Acknowledging the poor performance of candidates in Integrated Science in examinations, this study sought to investigate effect of constructivist based teaching strategy on academic performance of Junior Secondary School students in Integrated Science.

1.3   Research Objectives

The study has both general objective and specific objectives. The general objective or main objective of this study is to investigate effect of constructivist based teaching strategy on academic performance of Junior Secondary School students in Integrated Science. The specific objectives are:

i)             To ascertain the effect of constructivist based teaching strategy on academic performance of junior secondary school students.

ii)            To validate any difference in achievement test scores between high ability students using the constructivist strategy.

iii)          To investigate any difference in attitude scores between students taught using constructivist based teaching and the traditional method.

1.4   Research Questions

The following are some of the questions which this study intends to answer:

i)             What are the effects of constructivist based teaching strategy on academic performance of junior secondary school students?

ii)            What is the difference in achievement test scores between high ability students using the constructivist strategy?

iii)          What is difference in attitude scores between students taught using constructivist based teaching and the traditional method?

1.5   Research Hypotheses

The following will be the research hypotheses to be tested for this study

i)             There is no significant difference in achievement test scores between students instructed with constructivist-based teaching strategy and those taught using Conventional classroom teaching method.

ii)            There is no significant difference in achievement test scores between male and female students    instructed with constructivist-based teaching strategy.

iii)          There is no significant difference in achievement test scores between students of high abilities instructed with constructivist-based teaching strategy and those taught with traditional classroom teaching method.

iv)          There is no significant difference in the achievement test scores of students of low ability instructed with constructivist based teaching strategy and those taught with traditional classroom teaching method.

1.6   Significance of the Study      

The findings of this study will be significant in the following ways:

It is expected that the constructivist-based teaching strategy employed in the study would improve the teaching and learning process thereby enhancing student’s performance in Basic Science and attitude in Science and Technology. The results of this study will be useful to the teacher and student as it would provide them with alternative method of teaching and learning Science related topics.  It is hoped that the results of the study would provide information on the extent to which the use of constructivist-based teaching strategies could affect learning outcomes in Integrated Science. The results of this study will also be helpful to curriculum planners and authors as it will guide them in terms of what to include on the curriculum and their texts respectively. The findings of this study could observe as a basis for further research.

1.7   Scope of the Study

This study seeks to to investigate effect of constructivist based teaching strategy on academic performance of Junior Secondary School students in Integrated Science. This study covers only four Junior Secondary Schools in Agege Local Government Area of Lagos State.

1.8   Limitation of the study

This study faced limitation that need to be taken into consideration. Apart from the obvious time limit and the delicate subject matter, there were issues that arose from the methodological choices applied to the study. Some respondents were not willing to disclose accurate information needed for the validity of the study.

1.9   Definition of Terms

The following terms were used in the course of this study:

Effect: A change which is a result or consequence of an action or other cause.

Constructivist teaching: Teachers provide an environment in which students are actively engaged in their own learning, and build their own knowledge structures by Investigating and discovering (Marlowe & Page, 1998).

Junior secondary school: This is the stage of education following primary education.

Academic performance: This refers to how students deal with their studies and how they cope with or accomplish different tasks.

Teaching: This is an intimate contract between a more mature personality and a less mature one, which is designed for the further education of the latter.

Students: A person who is studying at a school or college. Denoting someone  who is studying in order to enter a particular profession.

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