A Critical Analysis Of Problem-Based Learning Approach And Its Impact On Student Academic Performance In Public Secondary Schools In Benue State

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A Critical Analysis Of Problem-Based Learning Approach And Its Impact On Student Academic Performance In Public Secondary Schools In Benue State


The aim of this study was to investigate the Influence of problem-based learning approach and its impact on student academic performance in public secondary schools in Benue state. To achieve this purpose, three research questions were generated. The study adopted a descriptive survey design. Purposive sampling technique was used to select 300 senior secondary two (S.S.2) science students and data was collected by administering a questionnaire on the influence of problem-based learning in Chemistry education on academic achievement of school students. Data generated was analyzed using descriptive statistics. The findings of this study revealed various activities engaged in by students during PBL lessons. Based on the findings, a number of recommendations were made.

Table of Content

Chapter One:


  • 1.1 Background of the study
  • 1.2 Statement of the problem
  • 1.3 Objective of the study
  • 1.4 Research questions
  • 1.5 Significance of the study
  • 1.6 Scope of the study
  • 1.7 Limitation of the study
  • 1.8 Definition of terms
  • 1.9 Organizations of the study

Chapter Two:

Review of Literature

  • 2.1 Conceptual Framework
  • 2.2 Theoretical Framework
  • 2.3 Empirical Review

Chapter Three:

Research Methodology

  • 3.1 Research Design
  • 3.2 Population of the study
  • 3.3 Sample size determination
  • 3.4 Sample size selection technique and procedure
  • 3.5 Research Instrument and Administration
  • 3.6 Method of data collection
  • 3.7 Method of data analysis
  • 3.8 Validity of the study
  • 3.9 Reliability of the study
  • 3.10 Ethical consideration

Chapter Four:

Data Presentation and Analysis

  • 4.1 Data Presentation
  • 4.2 Analysis of Data
  • 4.3 Answering Research Questions
  • 4.4 Discussion of findings

Chapter Five:

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

  • 5.1 Summary
  • 5.2 Conclusion
  • 5.3 Recommendation
  • References

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is an alternative approach to teaching which is not prescriptive in nature. Krajcik (2008) cited in Khairiree and Kurusatian (2009) points out that problem-based learning makes use of problem as a focus for student investigation and inquiry. Problem-based learning covers a broad family of schemes that include problem solving, project-based teaching, inquiry, case-based instruction and grounded instruction. Students’ active involvement in trying to solve some problems or answer some questions is central to all the different strategies listed.

PBL in the view of Torp and Sage (2002) is a strategy that is student-centered, in this methodology students research, explain, and cooperate in order to find meaningful solutions to real life problems. The PBL cycle is made of several steps: PBL is a strategy – A real like problem is presented to students; Students discuss the problem and formulate hypothesis; Students first retrieve prior knowledge and experience relative to the problem next they identify knowledge deficiencies and start making their research; Following, students apply their knowledge to check the validity of their hypotheses in light of what they have learned; At the end of each problem, students make their own reflection on the knowledge acquired (Akinoglu & Tandogan, 2007; Neild, 2004; Wang, Thompson, & Shuler, 1998). Hmelo- Silver (2004) stated that the most important factor of PBL is the problem itself.

Several features are considered essential to develop a good PBL problem: It needs to be complex, open-ended, and ill-structured. (Bridges & Hallinger, 2004; Torp & Sage, 2002). An ill structured problem is problem that is incompletely defined and not easily resolved with any degree of certainty.

Furthermore, it has multiple solutions with none clearly superior. (Duch, 1996; Torp & Sage, 2002). It must be realistic and resonate with the students’ experiences and it should support intrinsic motivation. (Torp & Sage, 2002); It must lead students to generate hypotheses and defend them to others in their group. Students publicly articulate their current state of understanding, enhancing knowledge construction and setting the stage for future learning. (Duch, 1996); It must afford feedback that allows students to evaluate the effectiveness of their knowledge, reasoning, and learning strategies. And it should challenge students to develop higher order thinking skills (Hmelo-Silver, 2004).

PBL requires changes in the teacher’s lesson planning, instruction delivery, classroom setting, and information assessment (Torp & Sage, 1998). In PBL, teaching is instructing and it is grounded on the fact that students are self independent learners who can construct their own knowledge if necessary direction is provided by their instructor. The teacher’s role in PBL is critical; a good facilitator will guide his/her students through the different phases of the PBL process. The teacher insures the involvement of all the students in the learning process where they exchange information with their peers by projecting their own thoughts and commenting on each other’s ideas (Torp & Sage, 2002).

The teacher in PBL encourages students to use logical thinking by breaking down the given problem, thereby developing higher order thinking skills. The teacher also urges students to retrieve prior knowledge and discuss it with their group members by asking probing questions. PBL tutor models problem solving skills needed to assess one’s reasoning (Akinoglu & Tandogan, 2007), unlike conventional strategies where the teacher is the leading figure. Chin and Chia (2004) indicated that in PBL, students assume a different role than that in the conventional teacher-centered process in which information is presented to them by the teacher. In PBL, students must play a more active role, that of a highly motivated learner, arriving with significant intellectual capacity and background information. PBL presents the students with the chance of appraising their own understanding, and detecting their own learning needs.

With PBL students become more experienced at accumulating, organizing, and storing information in a useable form for future use, as well as, confronting and resolving complex, realistic problems. Active participation within the small group requires good interpersonal skills, which include: listening, negotiating, compromising, educating peers, giving and receiving criticism, and motivating others. The teacher is a mentor who guides his students during their group work and helps them to find the knowledge needed to find the problem solution (Bayard, 1994; Stepien & Gallagher, 1993; Woods, 2003).

The value and significance of science in modern day world can definitely not be over- emphasized, as no nation can attain a sustainable development in its economy without the involvement of science and technology. The study of science actually leads to the technological development of any nation. The national policy on education (FRN, 2009) was formulated in recognition of the need for economical and technological advancement of Nigeria which necessitates that appropriate measures be put in place in order to achieve the country’s set goals. In the national policy on education, effort is made to lay more emphasis on the teaching of science and providing a strong foundation of science from the primary to the tertiary level (FRN, 2009). Chemistry is a branch of physical science which links physical and biological science together.

Jegede (2007) stated that Chemistry occupies a central position among the science subjects and that it is a core subject for the medical sciences, textile technology, agricultural science, pharmacy, printing technology and chemical engineering to mention just a few. Chemistry can be conveniently referred to as the mother of science due to its inevitability in the understanding of science. Chemistry is now a compulsory science subject at the secondary school level (FRN 2009), due to its immense contribution to nation building and quality of life. However, these advantages of chemistry, which are very essential for human development, are eluding the present day learners, because of the difficulties they experience in learning its content.

The demanding nature of contemporary world and the dynamic technological changes we experience perpetually demand that individuals equip themselves with the skills of explicating, examining, conceiving, synthesizing, researching, and communicating so as to cope with these changes. Our society will need individuals who will be able to provide lucid solutions to complex problems, students should be properly trained therefore in order to possess rhe necessary skills required to take decisions in real life situations. In this regard, Gallagher, Stepien, Sher, and Workman (2001) have stated that most of the questions that teachers ask in conventional teaching are direct questions which do not stimulate higher-order thinking. Educational reform must therefore take place in schools, new strategies that teach students how to solve problems effectively are therefore needed. This necessitated this study.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Complaints have been made over the years about the decreasing quality of education in Nigeria. The typical student’s performance in the senior secondary school certificate examination (SSCE) and the national examination council (NECO) is not very impressive, which does not bode well for the country’s technical progress. Given the importance of education, it is critical to concentrate on instructors’ problem-solving abilities in order to achieve the necessary increase in students’ learning outcomes, particularly in physics in senior secondary schools.

According to recent study, instructors’ problem-solving talents have a significant impact on students’ learning methods, which in turn affects their performance. According to Rockoff (2004) and Hanushek (1998, 2005), instructors’ problem-solving ability and qualitative competencies lead to at least a 7% and one standard deviation increase in students’ academic progress. Many stakeholders in the field have expressed concern over students’ poor performance in the subject. The curriculum of this activity-based course emphasizes the utilization of the activity-based form of learning, much like any other science topic. Unfortunately, according to studies such as Lakpini (2006) and Lawal (2009), instructors avoid using activity-based teaching methods and instead depend on easy-to-follow lecture methods, which are often insufficient and inappropriate for meaningful learning. The study focused on the teachers’ problem-solving skills and their influence on pupils’ academic achievement.

1.3 Objective of the Study

The broad objective of this study is to carry out a critical analysis of problem-based learning approach and its impact on student academic performance in public secondary schools in Benue state.Specifically, the study seeks to:

  1. Examine the activities that students experience during PBL lessons.
  2. Investigate students’ general perceptions of PBL lessons.
  3. Ascertain specific problems faced by students when exposed to the PBL approach.

1.4 Research Questions

In achieving the purpose of this research, this study intends to answer the following three researches Questions:

  1. What are the activities that students experience during PBL lessons?
  2. What are students’ general perceptions of the PBL lessons?
  3. Are there specific problems faced by students when exposed to the PBL approach?

1.5 Significance of the Study

This research is based on the assumption that the findings will be useful in both practical and theoretical contexts. Teachers, students’ curriculum designers, and educational administrators will profit from the research. The research might be considered theoretically relevant since it will provide light on current ideas that may impact issue resolution. Curriculum planners would use the information from the study’s findings to plan their lessons. The data might aid curriculum planners in determining the appropriateness of the senior secondary biology program’s problem-solving component. Finally, the research would add empirically to the body of existing literature and serve as a reference source for students or other academics interested in conducting research on a comparable issue.

1.6 Scope of the Study

The broad objective of this research is to look into problem-solving teaching strategy and how they affect students’ academic progress using Benue as a case study. The goal of this study is to see if problem-solving techniques may help students improve their critical thinking skills in secondary school. It will be determined whether brainstorming, as a problem-solving strategy, is capable of instilling problem-solving skills in secondary school students. It will look into whether problem-based learning is more innovative and superior than standard lecture learning. However, the study is confined to a few secondary schools inIdoma Local Government.

1.7 Limitation of the Study

Like in every human endeavour, the researchers encountered slight constraints while carrying out the study. The significant constraint was the scanty literature on the subject owing to the nature of the discourse thus the researcher incurred more financial expenses and much time was required in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection, which is why the researcher resorted to a limited choice of sample size. Additionally, the researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. More so, the choice of the sample size was limited as few respondent were selected to answer the research instrument hence cannot be generalize to other corporate organizations. However, despite the constraint encountered during the research, all factors were downplayed in other to give the best and make the research successful.

1.8 Definition of Terms

Teaching Method:

A teaching method comprises the principles and methods used by teachers to enable student learning. These strategies are determined partly on subject matter to be taught and partly by the nature of the learner.

Problem-Based Learning:

Problem based learning (PBL) is a teaching strategy during which students are trying solve a problem or a set problems unfamiliar to them. PBL is underpinned by a constructivist approach, as such it promotes active learning.

Problem-Solving Skill:

Problem solving method, student learn by working on problems. This enables the students to learn new knowledge by facing the problems to be solved. The students are expected to observe, understand, analyze, interpret find solutions, and perform applications that lead to a holistic understanding of the concept.

Academic Achievement:

Academic achievement is the extent to which a student or institution has achieved either short or long term educational goals. Achievement may be measured through students’ grade point average, whereas for institutions, achievement may be measured through graduation rates.

1.9 Organizations of the Study

The chapter one consist of the introductory part of the study which includes the study background, the statement of the research problem, the study objective and scope of the study.

The second chapter is a critical review of other literatures relevant to the study and its objectives including the theoretical framework for the study. While the third chapter is methods of data collection, sampling and data analysis used in conducting the study. The fourth chapter centres around the research findings including an analysis of how it relates to previous findings. The fifth chapter consists of the summary of findings, conclusion and recommendations base on the study objectives.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations:

5.1 Introduction

This chapter summarizes the findings on analysis of problem-based learning approach and its impact on student academic performance in public secondary schools in Benue State. The chapter consists of summary of the study, conclusions, and recommendations.

5.2 Summary of the Study

In this study, our focus was on analysis of problem-based learning approach and its impact on student academic performance in public secondary schools in Benue State. The study is was specifically focused on examining the effect of problem solving method on Pupils’ academic achievement in chemistry, the effect of problem solving method on Pupils’ interest in chemistry and investigating if the effect of problem solving method on Pupils’ retention in chemistry.

The study adopted the survey research design and randomly enrolled participants in the study. A total of 300 responses were validated from the enrolled participants where all respondent are secondary school students in Benue state.

5.3 Conclusions

This research in which PBL approach was compared to the conventional learning had revealed that PBL approach was more effective in terms of students’ achievement towards Chemistry. This implies that using PBL, students’ academic achievement was enhanced and their perception about chemistry learning was improved. PBL teachers help their students to acquire skills they need to use in their daily life like cooperation, analysis, communication research, synthesis and problem solving skills. Thus, educators are urged to consider the PBL approach as one of their teaching strategies. But students who are used to the traditional lecturing are likely to be uncomfortable when using the PBL approach for the first time.

High schools in Benue state as well as other states in Nigeria should therefore undergo a reform related to the teaching strategies used. Most science teaching is based on lecturing and simple demonstration. Our teaching strategies must be evaluated and new educational strategies that are student centered must be adopted. PBL should be considered an efficient teaching approach to be used.

5.4 Recommendations

Based on the conclusion of this study, recommendations are hereby made:

  1. Chemistry teachers should adopt the use of problem-based learning technique at all levels of learning.
  2. Classroom and chemistry laboratory should be arranged in such a way to give room for effective interaction among students.
  3. PBL strategy should be adopted in schools to allow students interactions and encourage higher order thinking level.
  4. Conditions for learning should provide students with time, space and resources needed for successful chemistry learning.
  5. Teachers should interact with student to focus and support their inquiries, recognize individual differences and provide opportunities for all pupils to learn.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is problem-based learning in education?

Problem-based learning is a teaching method in which students’ learn through the complex and open ended problems. These problems are real world problems and are used to encourage students’ learning through principles and concept. PBL is both a teaching method and approach to the curriculum.

What is the impact of problem-based learning on critical thinking skills?

The research found that the problem-based learning approach has significant impact to the ability of students’ mathematics critical thinking in terms of school level and students’ prior mathematical abilities. 

Is problem-based learning a student-centered approach?

Previous studies showed that problem-based learning is a student-centered learning approach that affects students’ learning positively and significantly. This study employed a quasi-experimental design by involving two classes of senior high school students, each consisted of 30 students.

What is the continuum between problem-based learning and information-orientated learning?

This paper describes II steps in the continuum between problem-based learning and information-orientated learning. Task-based learning is viewed as the final step at the problem-based end of the spectrum. The continuum presented recognizes the two Key variables-the problem and the information or principles derived from a study of the problem. 


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