THE EFFECT OF TASK SIZE ON SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS’ ACHIEVEMENT IN BIOLOGY IN USHONGO LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA, BENUE STATE

Abstract

The National Policy on Education emphasizes the importance of task on the academic achievement of students and mandates that the final grading of a learner in any course of study must take into account all their performances over a period of time. The problem of the practice of assigning task to students and how it affects their academic achievement calls for attention. Therefore, this research work is aimed at determining the effect of task size on the students’ achievement in Biology in Ushongo Local Government Area of Benue State of Nigeria. The target population for the study comprised all the Biology students in senior secondary schools in Ushongo Local Government Area of Benue State. All students who offer Biology in Ushongo Local Government Area of Benue State constituted the population. The quasi-experimental design was chosen and used for this study. It employed the simple and non-tedious; and bulky and tedious control group. The sample consisted of 70 senior secondary (SS II) students from two classes (35 in each class) of the two selected schools in Ushongo Local Government Area. Schools were chosen by probability sampling (balloting: withdrawal-replacement procedure).  The sample for the study is drawn by random Sample technique. Mean and standard deviation was used for answering the research questions. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was used to test the hypotheses at 0.05 alpha level of significance. The results show that the group taught with high task size achieve higher in their achievement test. This research work has serious implications for biology teachers, teacher trainers, curriculum developers, and other stakeholders in biology education.

 

CHAPTER ONE

           INTRODUCTION

1.1             Background of The Study

Education plays a vital role in the development of human capital and is linked with an individual’s well-being and opportunities for better living. It ensures the acquisition of knowledge and skills that enable individuals to increase their productivity and improve their quality of live and consequently enhances the economic growth of a country (Saxton, 2000). The quality of students’ performance or achievement remains a top priority for educators, teachers, parents and researchers as it is intended for making a difference both locally and globally.

Academic achievement is the extent to which a learner, teacher or an institution has achieved or met their educational goals. It is the outcome of the teaching-learning process which includes behavioural changes, knowledge gains and other aspects of the development of the learner according to Oguneye (as cited in Idowu & Esere, 2009). It is a measure of the academic content a student learns within a specified period of time. Linn (2006) opined that, Students’ achievement is the status of subject-matter, knowledge, understandings, and skills at one point in time. The most common indicator of achievement generally refers to a student’s performance in academic areas such as reading, language arts, math, science and history as measured by achievement tests. Policymakers know, however, that academic achievement also depends on a child’s circumstances and situations, the quality of schools and teachers, and many other factors (Cunningham, 2012). Wong (2002) said, there is only one way to obtain student achievement and the research is very specific. It is the teacher and what the teacher knows and can do that is the determining factor with student achievement. According to him, teacher preparation and expertise are the most important factors in determining students’ achievement.

 Cawelti in Wong (2002) maintained that, research on the practices and programs schools use has revealed that classroom management skills can substantially improve student achievement. Practices resulting in substantially improved student achievement include;

  • • Classroom Management Techniques
  • • Time on Task
  • • Behavioral Classroom Techniques
  • • Tutoring
  • • Early Childhood Program
  • • Parental Involvement.

Many believe that the primary focus of schools should be academic preparation of students; in that classroom teachers are primarily responsible for students’ academic achievement (Darling-Hammond, 2000); and schools should efficiently and effectively organize themselves towards that task by Engelmann and Carnine (as cited in Huitt, Huitt, Monetti, & Hummel, 2009). Others believe a more holistic approach should prevail. Efforts along these lines might be labeled school re-visioning in that there is an advocacy that schools focus on a much wider range of desired outcomes (e.g., cognitive processing skills, emotional and social awareness and skills, moral character development).  These approaches point to research reported by Gardner and Goleman (in Huitt et al, 2009) that intellectual ability and academic achievement account for only about one-third of the variance related to adult success.

According to Bruner (2004), each grade level has learning goals or instructional standards that educators are required to teach and these standards are similar to a “to do” list that a teacher must use to guide instruction. Crosnoe, Johnson and Elder (2004) reported that there are a number of variables that affect the quality of learners’ achievement or performance. These variables may be within or outside the school system and they may be group as students’ factor, family factor, peer factor and classroom or school factor. He further mentioned that one of these classroom factors is “task” which is a form of assessment.

Task is a piece of work done or undertaken, especially one done regularly, unwillingly or with difficulty. It is an activity that needs to be accomplished within a defined period of time. Konigsburg and Frankweiler (1991) posited that task is a piece of work that has been assigned, needs to be done or presents a challenge. It implies work imposed by someone in authority or circumstance that is usually unpleasant.

What is a “real-world” task?  As postulated by McColskey and O’Sullivan (2000), a few examples of generic kinds of tasks that have students using information in ways that go beyond just recalling or recognizing correct information include the following:

  • Leading a group to closure on an issue
    • Collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data about the success of a program,  product or event
    • Researching both sides of a controversy and reporting it objectively
      • • Developing criteria for rating the quality of a product, proposal, or recommendation.

Such tasks are recognizable as part of many adult work environments.

Task is very important especially for science students because it offers them the opportunity to learn by practice. Task requires students to demonstrate skills and competencies which realistically represent those needed for success in the daily lives of adults. Tasks are worth repeating and practicing since they require students to apply what they know, not merely to recall or recognize information. A task is one which requires the student to use knowledge or skills to produce a product or complete a performance. Based on this definition, memorizing a formula would not be an authentic task; however, using the formula to solve a practical problem would be (Wisconsin Education Association Council, 1996). Adman in Mustapha (2002), Practical works provide learners with the opportunity to use scientific equipment to develop basic manipulative skills and practice-investigate or inquiry activities, and develop problem-solving attitude needed for future work in sciences. Task size is therefore, how much or less; big or small a particular task is.

Assessment is a means by which a teacher obtains information about the students’ achievement in the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of learning by giving them work (task) in the form of home assignments, projects, tests, classwork, attendance, interviews, research and even more (Adaramaja, 2005). According to Adaramaja, assessment should be continuous, systematic, comprehensive and cumulative and guidance oriented so as to meet the purpose it is intended to serve. The National Policy on Education (revised 2004) outlined that education assessment shall be wholly or partly based on continuous assessment of the learner’s progress.

Assigning “task” is crucial in the education process because it impacts on the students’ academic achievement. Although teachers in our Nigerian schools assign task to students, the process is confronted with numerous challenges. According to Owolabi (2009) assessment is faced with problems such as;

  1. Shortage of materials for standardization of assessment or tasking
  2. Over population of the classrooms
  3. Teacher’s unethical behavior in administering assessment or assigning task
  4. Non availability of task-giving guidelines
  5. Adaptation to change, and
  6. Lack of funds.

The researcher while on teaching practice exercise in 2013 conducted a number of assessments (assigned tasks) and was faced with such challenges as students’ truancy, low morale of students and even the teacher, parents’ ignorance on the importance of assigning tasks to students.

1.2              Statement of the Problem

The National Policy on Education emphasizes the importance of task on the academic achievement of students and mandates that the final grading of a learner in any course of study must take into account all their performances over a period of time. The problem of the practice of assigning task to students and how it affects their academic achievement calls for attention. Therefore, this research work is aimed at determining the effect of task size on the students’ achievement in Biology in Ushongo Local Government Area of Benue State of Nigeria.

1.3             Objectives of the Study

The objectives of the study are to find:

  1. the level to which students are assigned task in Biology.
  2. the level of students’ achievement in Biology.
  3. effect of task size on secondary school students’ achievement in Biology.

1.4             Research Questions

  1. What is the performance of Biology students given low or high task size?
  2. What is the level of students’ achievement in Biology?

1.5      Research Hypothesis

Ho1: There is no significant effect of task size on secondary school students’ achievement in Biology.

1.6             Significance of the Study

This research work is aimed at determining the effect of task size on secondary school students’ achievement. Its results will be of great importance to teachers, students, educational policy makers and researchers. The study will help the teachers to improve both the validity and reliability of “tasking” exercises being conscious that it affects the students’ academic achievement.to students, it will help them develop interest and commitment owing to the fact that assessment (tasking) has effects on their academic achievement. The study will help educational policy makers to make adjustments in the current trends in the practice of assigning task to students; and to scholars, it will suggest areas for further research. The research work will also contribute to the body of knowledge about task size and its effects on students’ achievement.

1.7             Scope and Limitation of the Study

The level to which students are assigned task and how it affects their academic achievement is call for concern. Therefore, the concern of this study is to determine the effect of task size on secondary school students’ achievement in Biology in Ushongo Local Government area of Benue State.

This research work should have covered more extensive areas of study but due to constraints such as limited time and financing among others, the researcher has restricted the study to two (2) secondary schools in Ushongo Local Government area.

1.8             Operational Definition of Terms

Task size: defined as a measure of how much or less, big or small a particular task is.

Students’ achievement: is the status of subject-matter knowledge, understandings, and skills at one point in time. It is a measure of the performance of students over task.

Effect: oxford advanced learner’s dictionary defines effect as a change that somebody/something causes on somebody/something else.

Tasking: the act of assigning tasks to students.

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