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EFFECTS OF INQUIRY AND LABORATORY METHODS OF TEACHING ON THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF SECONDARY SCHOOL CHEMISTRY STUDENTS IN ANAMBRA STATE, NIGERIA
This study investigated the effects of inquiry and laboratory methods of teaching on the academic performance of chemistry students in senior secondary schools in Anambra state, Nigeria. The objective of the study was to determine and compare the academic performance of students taught using inquiry and laboratory methods of teaching as compared to conventional method. Four research questions and four hypotheses guided this study. Three schools were randomly selected with two as experimental groups and one control group. One hundred and fifteen (115) SSII students made up of three intact classes from co-educational schools in two educational zones of Anambra state. A quasi experimental pretest-posttest research design was used for the study. The two experimental groups were taught some chemistry topics using inquiry and laboratory methods while the control group was taught the same chemistry topics using conventional method for nine weeks. Chemistry Achievement Test was used as instrument for data collection. The research questions were analyzed using the descriptive statistics of mean, standard deviation, standard errors while the research hypotheses were tested using inferential statistics that involved independent t-test and ANCOVA at a significant level of 0.05. The findings of the study showed that students taught using inquiry and laboratory methods performed significantly better than those taught using the conventional method. Based on the findings, it was recommended that chemistry teachers should be encouraged to use inquiry and laboratory methods in teaching chemistry. Either or both experimental methods can be used in teaching both male and female students as they enhance students’ performance irrespective of gender of the students. Government should provide adequate infrastructural and instructional materials for the effective teaching of chemistry.
1.1 Background to the Study
Education is the only wealth which cannot be robbed. It builds both internal and outer personality and character, strengthens people‟s mind and augments their pool of knowledge. The process of education aims at the all-round development of individuals, dispelling ignorance and enhancing the moral values in a society, thus working towards a collective well-being. Science education on the other hand helps students adjust to technological devices that affect their daily lives.
Science has been defined as the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence (British Science Council (BSC) 2009). Science can be said to be a human endeavour geared towards the development and comfort of the modern world. The foundation of this development is the primary and secondary school where the young scientists are groomed. Science in this way can be seen as the hub unto which development and progress of any nation depends. In general, science contributes towards improving the quality of life. It can therefore be asserted that science makes numerous contributions to healthy living. Therefore, it is important that effective ways are sought to provide for the effective teaching and learning of science in schools both for individual and national scientific development.
The knowledge that scientists have gathered about the world around us is organized under several subjects of which Chemistry is one. Chemistry is a branch of science that systemizes the study of the composition of energy and transformation of matter. Chemistry as a branch of science is highly important in the modern society because of its requirement as a prerequisite to the study of many other science oriented courses. Furthermore, Chemistry is also one of the science major disciplines with well-developed technology that can be applied to exploit natural resources such as petroleum, natural gas etc. Chemistry plays a crucial role in industry in particular and national development in general. For example, the development of petrochemical, agriculture, medical, textile and many industries rely on and make use of the principles of Chemistry.
Some of the challenges faced in the society presently like global warming, terrorism, genetic modification, global market competition, energy and population crises, ethical issues among other critical issues require Chemistry knowledge, if they are to be dealt with rationally (Safeer and Keenan, 2005; UNESCO, 2010). Thus as modern economy is dependent on science and technology, a better understanding of Chemistry and better technical problem-solving skills will enable people to meet their challenges and demands of the work place. Furthermore, a modern knowledge-based economy will flourish only if it has a workforce with a high level of technical understanding and skills.It thus appears that for a nation to develop in science and technology, the teaching and learning of Chemistry need to be improved upon from what it is at present. It therefore becomes pertinent that achievement of students in Chemistry and in science generally should be of utmost consideration to any nation. However, the case is different in Nigeria because students‟ performances have not been encouraging. Majority of students consider the concepts involved in Chemistry as too abstract to understand and the content taught too difficult to learn. It is not a surprising thing that majority of Chemistry students in Nigerian senior secondary schools have inadequate knowledge and understanding of Chemistry concepts and principles. Methodologies used in teaching Chemistry have been identified as one of the factors contributing to the poor performance of students in Chemistry among other factors. Thus, a teaching method that a teacher adopts may motivate students to learn or otherwise and therefore could make or mar students‟ achievement in Chemistry.
For the goal of education to be achieved, it is the responsibility of a subject teacher to help students attain maximum level in their learning tasks.Several competencies are expected of the teacher in order to achieve the desired goal especially in his/her area of specialization. Some of the competencies include ability to use appropriate instructional strategies in teaching, mastery of one‟s area of specialization, good leadership skills etc. In Nigeria, science teachers and in particular Chemistry teachers in secondary schools need to change their teaching methods to make them more effective and relevant to a much larger proportion of the students than in the past. This is because of rapid scientific and technological innovations over the past decades.
The relevance of Chemistry as a requirement for technological advancement of a nation cannot be underrated. The classification of any nation into developed, developing and underdeveloped could be measured accurately by the number of chemists, physics, engineers, pharmacists, doctors, agriculture and science educators the nation could produce. Available evidence from West African Examination Council (WAEC) indicates that students‟ performance in Chemistry, especially at the senior secondary school level worsen as years go by and many students seem to have negative attitude towards the subject (Betikin, 2002).There are various methods of teaching science. The modern science teaching methods should be organized to reflect the processes of science because to learn science is to do science, and doing science by students entails more of providing opportunities for them to interact with the environment using the techniques and tools of science than memorizing scientific knowledge.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
This study intends to determine the effects of laboratory and inquiry methods of teaching compared with the lecture method on students‟ academic performance in Chemistry in secondary schools. Poor performance of students in Chemistry is increasing like in other science subjects. This has been attributed to many reasons and one of the outstanding ones is that poor method of teaching militates against its effective learning by the students. Chemistry as a subject aims at equipping learners with diverse skills, competencies and creativity needed to provide opportunities for wealth creation. These aims will remain a mirage if chemistry teachers do not incorporate the right methodologies needed for an engaged chemistry interactive classroom that will enhance performance of students in chemistry. Improvement on the method of teaching Chemistry was looked into in this study. The conventional instruction used all along had been found to be inadequate for effective teaching. This method does not allow active students‟ participation in science lessons; rather, students memorize and regurgitate facts and concepts without the basic understanding of these concepts. Often too, students do not have the understanding of the scientific basis for the relevance of those concepts. According to Wolfe (2006), there are not enough instances when a teacher had tried to teach in an interesting way, say through activities and games. In view of the foregoing, it has become necessary to seek methodologies that will ensure and enhance better performance of students in chemistry.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The study examined the effect of inquiry and laboratory methods on the performance of Chemistry students in senior secondary schools in Anambra State. Specifically, the objectives of the study were to:
- Compare the performance of students taught with inquiry method and those taught with lecture method.
- Compare the performance of students taught with laboratory method and those taught with lecture method.
- Ascertain whether there is variation in the performance of students in experimental groups.
- Compare the performance of students with respect to gender in the experimental groups.
1.4 Research Questions
The study answered the following questions:
- Is there any difference between the performance of students taught Chemistry using inquiry method and those taught with lecture methods of teaching?
- Is there any difference in the performance of students taught Chemistry using laboratory method and those taught with lecture methods of teaching?
- Does the performance of students in the two experimental groups vary?
- Is there any difference between the performance of male and female students in the experimental groups?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The following hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance in the course of the study:
Ho1: There is no significant difference in the performance of students taught Chemistry using inquiry method and those taught with lecture methods of teaching.
Ho2: There is no significant difference in the performance of students taught Chemistry using laboratory method and those taught with lecture method of teaching.
Ho3: There is no significant difference in the performance of students in the two experimental groups.
Ho4: There is no significant difference between the performance of male and female students in the experimental groups?
1.6 Significance of the Study
Academic achievement of Nigerian students in school subjects including Chemistry at the secondary school levels has remained poor over the years. This could be as a result of poor mastery of the subject matter which occurs as a result of poor method of teaching. In the schools where active learning methods prevail, the students demonstrate significantly higher academic achievement to their counterparts. There is no doubt that the search for the effective teaching method in order to enhance academic performance of Chemistry students, improve competence in laboratory skills and activities is necessary. Inquiry and laboratory methods are quite effective in teaching of science and chemistry in particular. Consequently, the following benefits could be derived from the outcome of the study;
It is hoped that the study will encourage students to be actively involved in the construction of knowledge and to take charge of their own learning. Active participation of students develops self confidence and positive attitude to science thereby enhancing performance. Therefore, the outcome of the study could enhance students‟ performance in Chemistry. Chemistry teachers in secondary schools could also benefit from this study if they utilize the result from the study. This will guide them on how best to explore and sustain the interest of their students, thereby helping students conceptualize scientific concepts through activity oriented approach.
Curriculum developers like the Science Teachers Association (STAN), Nigerian Education Research and Development Council (NERDC) that determine what to include in the syllabus can recommend these methods of teaching and organize seminars for teachers in order that teachers can fully adopt the methods in order to promote the teaching and learning of Chemistry in schools. Also curriculum planners may not overload the curriculum content of chemistry at the secondary school level.
The nation at large could also benefit from the findings of this study as more capable manpower would be empowered through this holistic approach in teaching. This is because students will be able to apply theory in solving their everyday problem and also create job opportunities thereby creating wealth for the nation.
1.7 Basic Assumptions
The study made the following assumptions.
- Teachers‟ involvement in seminars and conferences exposes them to the right usage of variety of teaching methods and materials that could promote more effective learning in Chemistry Education.
- Curriculum of Chemistry at the secondary school level is overcrowded thus Chemistry teachers resort to faster way of finishing the curriculum content
- Peer interaction encourages learning.
- Students generally perceive science subjects as being difficult and Chemistry in particular but when they are made active participants in the class they tend to learn the subject better.
1.8 Scope of the Study
A study like this can cover the whole country but then due to limited time factor and financial constraint, the researcher made use of SS II Chemistry students in three secondary schools from two out of six different Educational Zones in Anambra State, Nigeria. The study was carried out with SSII students because they had studied Chemistry for one year and as such, they had the basic concept of Chemistry. The SSIII students were not part be of the study in view of the fact that they were preparing for an external examination (SSCE).