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TEACHERS' PERCEPTION ON DIFFICULT AREAS IN SENIOR SECONDARY SCHOOL BIOLOGY CURRICULUM
This study sought to identify teachers’ perceptions of difficult areas in senior secondary school biology curriculum in Lagos state of Nigeria. Based on a review of literature, five research questions guided the study while three hypotheses were equally tested. A survey design was used for the study. A multistage sampling procedure involving simple random sampling techniques by balloting and cluster sampling techniques were adopted to compose the sample of 120 biology teachers in four Education Zones of Lagos State. A Structured Questionnaire Titled Biology Topic Assessment Questionnaire (BTAQ) was used to collect data from the respondents. The data collected were analyzed using mean, standard deviation and one-way ANOVA to t-test the hypotheses at 0.05 levels of significant. The analysis of the data yielded the following results: the teachers find the teaching of chromosome, Evolution, Glycolysis, Germination, Genetics and Skeleton difficult. Gender, academic qualification and location of services of the teacher have no significant influence in the difficulty levels of topics in the biology curriculum. It was recommended that in-service training, constant workshops, higher degree programmes, provision of modern instructional materials, use of computer and its softwares, re- equipping of school library, using teachers past performance for promotions, frequent supervisions by ministries, employing more qualified teachers, supplying relevant textbooks, holiday tutorials and Biology laboratory are necessary for improvement on the difficult topics. Suggestions for further research and limitations were also given.
1.1 Background of the Study
Science provides a body of knowledge for use in addressing various forms of human, material and environmental problems. It can also be viewed as composed of two major complementary modes: accumulation of knowledge through exploration and discovery efforts about the natural world, and the use of such knowledge for human and material development. Science is studied and practised in all parts of the world, including Nigeria. Nigeria is a developing nation with an increasing demand for science based skilled manpower. The achievement of this can start with the learning and application of science subjects as in biology, chemistry, integrated science, and physics at secondary school level. Among these science subjects: biology, chemistry, integrated science and physics taught in Nigerian secondary schools, only biology was discussed. This is because; the study was focused on biology curriculum.
Biology is one of the senior secondary school subjects taught in Nigeria. Biology is an integral science subject which provides contents in the training of students who want to study medicine, nursing, pharmacy, forestry, fisheries and so on. Requirement for a credit pass and above in biology is needed for science related vocational discipline. Majority of senior secondary school students choose biology in the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) or National Examination Council’s Senior School Certificate Examinations (NECOSSCE). Also, for some senior secondary school students, biology is a subject of first choice because they find it to be an interesting subject as a subject that is more related to nature. Biology is one of the subjects in the national curriculum for senior secondary schools, first published by the Federal Ministry of Education in 1985.
Biology curriculum was first introduced in 1977. At that time the duration for secondary school education was five years. The biology teaching was started in class four and in class five the students took the West African School Certificate Examination. In keeping with the dynamics of social change and demands on education, there was the need to broaden the curriculum. The quest for improving the method of teaching and learning of secondary school biology began in 1982 by the Nigerian Education Research Council (NERC, 2005). The Federal Government in collaboration with Esselte (Swedish non-governmental organization) initiated the National Secondary Science and Mathematics Project (NSSMP). They worked hand in hand with the federal government of Nigeria. The basic aim of that project was to inculcate learning through the use of a wide variety of instructional materials. The outcome of this was the emergence of the new biology curriculum in 1985 published by the Federal Ministry of Education. In this 1985 curriculum, many more topics in biology were introduced and the number of years to be spent in secondary school increased from five years to six years. It is the implementation of National curriculum for 13 Secondary School Biology that the present study is designed to evaluate.
The biology curriculum has a spiral arrangement of content. The content of biology curriculum are: Concept of living; Basic ecological concepts; Plant and animal nutrition; Variations and variability; Evolution and Genetics. Based on this spiral arrangement, the concepts to be taught are arranged in such a way that topics are repeated yearly, throughout the three years of the course; to cover the 62 units in the biology curriculum. Any repeated concept is discussed in greater complexity and depth as the course matures over the three year period. The contents of the senior secondary school biology curriculum places emphasis on field studies, guided discovery, laboratory techniques and skills. The curriculum for teaching biology in senior secondary schools emphasized the relationship between living and non-living things; relevance of biology to agriculture; the structure and physiology of organisms; some basic ecological concepts; the use of natural resources; lands, plants and animals-their variations, populations and implications, adaptation; theories of evolution and application of the principle of heredity in agriculture and medicine.
The objectives of secondary school biology curriculum have been derived from the National Policy on Education first introduced in 1977 and revised in 1981, 1998 and 2004 (FRN,2004). The cardinal objectives are to prepare students to acquire:
1. Adequate laboratory and field skills in biology;
2. Meaningful and relevant knowledge in biology
3. Ability to apply scientific knowledge to every day’s life in matters of personal and community health and agriculture.
4. Reasonable and functional scientific attitude. Biology is the study of living things. It is the study of life. Biology can also be defined as the study of plants and animals. Content of biology curriculum The content of biology curriculum are:
i. Concept of living
ii. Basic ecological concepts
iii. Plant and animal nutrition
iv. Variations and variability
The objectives of the biology curriculum have been adjudged as laudable according to Agu (2006), Soyibo (2008) and Yabugbe (2009); and there is evidence to show that even though many students find biology interesting, thereby registering for it in the senior secondary schools, many of them obtain poor results, year in and year out in it as shown by Okebukola and Akinbola (2008).
In the recent past government and non governmental agencies in most developing countries in the world, recognizing the importance of science and technology are putting much in terms of resources and fund to encourage teaching and learning of science in senior secondary schools. This justifies its inclusion in the school curriculum, right from primary to tertiary levels in Nigerian schools.
Biology has come to take a vital place among the three basic science, more so since the national policy on education requires secondary school students to offer at least one basic science subject of secondary school level.
Nigeria educational research and development council NERDC (1993) was organised because of recurring annual poor performance of students in science, Workshop on "Difficult concepts" in science and mathematics. It was then reported that, some concept are difficult and claimed this to be responsible for students poor performance.
The NERDC classified the reasons for the perceived difficult biology curriculum to be: student related reasons, teachers in the field reasons, learning environment, nature of concepts and resources materials. Emphasis was also placed on teachers misconceptions, poor knowledge of subject matter, non currency of the teachers in the field. Poor teacher made tests and teaching methods as factors responsible for poor students performance in examination.
Biology learning and teaching in secondary school includes many factors which are determinants of learning quality. These can be classified as affective and cognitive factors. For the cognitive domain, reasoning ability, information processing and academic achievement are among the most studied constructs. Under the affective title, some well-defined constructs are included. Those among the most frequently emphasized factors of the affective domain in the science and biology education literature are attitude, self-efficacy, anxiety and motivation. As an affective factor, giving more importance of motivation for science education over the other affective today’s world. Biology learning includes understanding biological organization from molecules to ecosystems. To understand systems and their organs are one of the most important steps of learning the organization of life. So, to learn and teach organs as a school subject are important task for biology teachers.. Although learning and teaching biology begin at elementary grades, under the title of biology, they begin to occur in secondary school years. Motivational preparedness of teachers as mediators of curriculum to teach and learn any subject matter of a curriculum and related perceptions on the subject matter are important to reach aims of a curriculum, because every curriculum is needed to be considered in instructional level and teachers are important factors in this level, above scenario moved the researcher into difficult areas in senior secondary school (SSS) biology curriculum from the perception of the biology teachers.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Several research works carried out on curriculum in Nigeria particularly in lagos State have revealed the nonchalant attitude of teachers in the secondary schools towards certain areas in biology curriculum. One of the major goals of science education in Nigeria is to produce scientists for national development (FRN, 2004). In spite of Nigerian government’s desire to promote science education programme in the country, the quality of science students produced by the secondary schools seem to be deteriorating. In the particular case of biology, one is led to observe that despite the importance of biology as a science subject, evidence have shown that students are not doing well in this subject at both West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and National Examination Councils’ Secondary School Certificate Examination (NECOSSCE).In Nigeria today, teachers attitude and students lack of interest have been reported to be major factors responsible for students perceived difficulty in sciences. teachers attitude towards science(biology) can either motivate students or discourage them, such recurring annual poor performance of students. There is therefore a problem of which concepts did teachers find difficult to teach. Then what could be responsible for this? Could it be Teachers academic qualification?, teaching experience? or gender?. Could it be that teachers themselves neglect or do not teach some areas in the class? Are the methods the teachers use in teaching some areas in biology inappropriate? Well, this research is an attempt to answer the above questions.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of this study is to identify the difficult content areas in secondary school biology curriculum that science teachers find difficult to teach. It also sought to determine whether teachers academic qualification, teaching experience and gender as factors responsible for perception of difficulty which leads to poor performance of students in science courses (biology). Specifically, the study was directed at finding out;
1. The areas in biology curriculum which senior secondary biology teachers find difficult to teach.
2. Whether academic qualification and teaching experience of teachers, are factors which influences the area of difficulty in senior secondary school biology curriculum.
3. Whether gender of teacher, is a factor which influences the area of difficulty in senior secondary school biology curriculum.
4. Strategies to be employed in solving the problem of difficult topics found in the senior secondary school biology curriculum.
1.4 Research Questions
The following research questions were raised.
1. What content areas in the senior secondary school (SSS) biology curriculum do teachers find difficult to teach?
2. To what extent does academic qualification of the teachers influence perceived area in biology curriculum?
3. To what extent does gender of the teachers influence perceived area of difficulty in senior secondary school biology curriculum?
4. What strategies to be employed in solving the problem of difficult areas found in senior secondary school biology curriculum?
1.5 Research Hypothesis
The following hypotheses were formulated to guide the study
H01: Teachers` gender has no significant influence on the perception mean scores of the teachers in the senior secondary school biology curriculum.
H02: Teachers academic qualification has no significant influence on the perception mean scores of the teachers in the senior secondary school biology curriculum.
1.6 Significance of the study
The researcher was compelled to engage in this study work of difficult content areas in the secondary school biology curriculum, by the present alarming increase in the failure of biology subject by students in senior school certificate biology examinations.
As earlier noted, the knowledge of biology prepares students for various fields like medicine, pharmacy; agriculture etc. For instance, if the problem of cells, genetics, mitosis and meiosis are dealt with as regards to heredity and cell division, the people in the society will be able to choose the best life partner and be aware of cell divisions in them during embryonic formation in the area of reproduction. Disease among the population will be prevented and also living condition will improve. The suggestions will be of great help to the teachers and students in those areas of difficulties.
Moreover, the findings of the study will be of immense benefits to biology researchers and book writers in biology. It will also help institutions preparing teachers of biology to be familiar with important data for planning biology course for potential and present biology teachers in our secondary schools.
Governmental bodies entrusted with curriculum planning will know where to amend while planning biology curriculum when this work must have been completed by the researcher. And this will eventually lead to a sustainable development and improvement in the teaching of biology in schools.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The scope of this study was delimited to thirty biology teachers in Lagos State. This work was also limited to gender, location, academic qualifications and experience as factors that influence teachers perceptions of difficult areas on the senior secondary school biology curriculum.
This work also intended to provide possible remedial strategies that may be employed as means of alleviating the perception problems and the difficult contents of the biology curriculum.
1.8 Definition of terms
1. Perception: conscious understanding of something.
2. Teacher: a person who teaches, especially one employed in a school.
3. Difficult: hard, not easy, requiring much effort.
4. Curriculum: the set of courses, coursework and content, offered at a school or university.
5. Biology: study of all life or living matter.
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