Difficult Concepts In Chemistry And Their Effects On The Achievement Of Students
This research work was carried out to investigate the difficult concepts in chemistry and their effects on the achievement of students’ in some secondary schools in Sokoto metropolis.
Criteria used in selecting schools were stratified random selection in which Five schools were selected within Sokoto metropolis comprising of two (2) all female school, two (2) all male school and a mixed school so as to determine whether there is significance gender difference in students’ perception of difficult concepts in chemistry. Analysis of the data collected reveals that; concepts students perceived as difficult in chemistry and gender differences has little or no effect in the academic achievements of students’.
1.1 Background of the Study.
Background of this study is to identify the inherent factors and concepts that affect the achievement of students in chemistry. Such factors include; student’s misconception and preconception in chemistry, difficult and alternative conception in chemistry, difficulties with abstract concepts, conceptual changes method at college level. Academic achievement of chemistry students and influence of study habits, psychological factors on academic achievement.
Chemistry as defined by Okeke and Ezekamgha(2000) as a branch of science that deals with composition and changes of matter. Chemistry is highly important for technological development and advancement of any nation. The number of chemists, physicists, doctors and science educators in a nation tells if the nation is developed, developing or underdeveloped.
Chemistry is regarded as the “central science” because everything from our skin to the air we breathe is made up of atoms and this is what chemistry revolves around. This phrase (central science) was popularized in a textbook by Theodore. L. Brown and H. Eugen Lemay titled “chemistry; the central science” which was first published in 1977 with a Thirteenth edition published in 2014.
Chemistry uses particles models to account for abstract constructs. Therefore, chemical processes such as melting, evaporation, dissolving, diffusion, electron transfer, ion conductor, intermolecular bond and many others are fundamental to learning of chemistry in schools and colleges.
A concept is defined as a “perceived regularity in objects or events” Or a record of events designed to be labeled. Typically, a concept is expressed using one or just a few words, one of which is a noun. Examples; Kinetic energy, thermodynamics e.t.c.
Further explanation will be discussed on the study and how chemistry concepts affect academic achievements of students in senior secondary school.
In the current study, effort would be made to identify the concepts that are difficult to students in chemistry so that the need to offer them a special treatment by science educators will be pointed out.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
This study intends to make known the various abstract concepts in chemistry and how they affect the academic achievement of students in senior secondary schools. It also stresses the abstract and highly conceptual nature of chemistry which makes students perceive chemistry as a difficult subject. The study will also look into the general slow pace of the effects and affective characteristic of students and the academic achievement in chemistry and how it’s likely to affect the production of teaching profession competency in chemistry.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The general purpose of this study is to identify difficult concepts in chemistry and their effects on the academic achievement of students’ in secondary schools in Sokoto metropolis. This purpose is further down into the following objective for the study:
- To explore the concepts in chemistry which students perceived as difficult,
- To investigate into the students conceptual difficult and how it affect their academic achievements.
- To examine whether or not the difficult concepts perceived by students influence the students interest towards the study of chemistry and
- To investigate whether or not the students’ gender differences have significant influence on their perception of difficult concepts in chemistry.
1.4 Significance of the Study
Over a number of years, many of the difficult areas in chemistry were subjected to systematic study to identify the point of difficult and to seek common factors among the nature of these difficulties.
The present study however generates data on come concepts perceived as difficult in chemistry and their effect on academic achievements of students.
The study also generates information on whether or not the difficult concepts perceived by students improved their achievements and ability to solve higher order question in chemistry. Curriculum designed will utilize this information to enrich the curriculum for teachers’ preparation at secondary level of our educational system.
1.5 Research Questions
The following research questions were raised in the study
What concepts in chemistry do students in this study perceived difficult?
- Do the concepts perceive difficult influence the academic achievement of the students?
- Does conceptual difficulty influence the interest of students towards the study of chemistry?
- Are the significant gender differences in students’ perception of the difficult concepts in chemistry?
The following null hypothesis was formulated in this study.
- There is no significant differences in the students perception of difficult concepts in chemistry
- Conceptual difficulty has no significant influence on the academic achievement of students
- Difficult concepts in chemistry have no significant influence on the interest of students towards studying chemistry.
1.7 Scope and Delimitation of the Study
The outcome of this study may not be hundred percent (100%) valid for generalization because some inhibiting factors that serves as limitation to this study. However, the study has been designed to cover large proportion of students in senior secondary schools, but the timeframe and resources requires were hindrances. To make for a manageable representative sample, the study was limited to the students of some selected secondary schools in Sokoto metropolis. This work also covers some concepts proved difficult in physical, inorganic, organic environmental and practical chemistry.
In view of the possible limitations arising from response and non-response errors, the researcher may not be able to guarantee 100% accuracy of the response.
Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations
The purpose of this study is to investigate the difficult concepts in chemistry and their effects on academic achievements of students in secondary schools in Sokoto metropolise . The objectives to be achieved by the study are as follows;
- To explore the concepts in chemistry which the students perceived difficult
- To investigate into the students’ conceptual difficulty and how it affects their academic achievements.
- To examine whether or not the difficult concepts perceived by students influence the students’ interest towards the study of chemistry.
- To investigate whether or not the students’ gender has significant influence on his perception of difficult concepts in chemistry.
This study adopted some clear-cut steps. First, scientific literature was reviewed in order to build a theoretical background about difficult concepts in chemistry so as to identify problems at stake. The research population was identified and sample was randomly selected from the population for intensive study of the population. The instrument used was the questionnaire. It was carefully worded questions and instructions for respondents.
Students’ comments on their difficulties include ‘ a lack of prior knowledge” of some concepts in chemistry, “difficulty in understanding concepts”, “uncertainty over meaning of terms” there is perceived lack of teaching materials that relate chemistry concepts to real world.
In an important subject like chemistry, models are used to describe and explain the microscopic world and relate it to macroscopic properties of matter in order to explain many of these concepts. As students progress in the study of chemistry, the familiar concepts do change and are being replaced by different models. This change conflicts their everyday experiences. The languages used in chemistry concepts are not familiar to the students.
In view of the data presented, it is observed that the students in this study area perceived 13 of the concepts difficult. The t-test analysis showed that there is significant difference i9n the students’ perception of difficult concepts in chemistry.
The results also showed the t-test analysis of the conceptual difficulty and the academic achievements of students in the study. It was observed that the conceptual difficulty has a significant influence on the academic achievement of the students.
Other results from the data show the relationship between difficult concepts and the students’ interest in the study of chemistry. The t-test analysis revealed that difficult concepts in chemistry have no significance influence on the students’ interest in the study of chemistry at secondary school levels.
Further study investigates the students’ gender differences and the perception of difficult concepts in chemistry. The result from the t-test analysis showed that the students’ gender difference has no significant influence on their perception of difficult concepts in chemistry.
Based on the finding and discussion, it is observed that the student in this study perceived relatively 75% of the concepts difficult, while gender difference has no influence on their perception of difficult concept in chemistry.
It is not being suggested here that chemistry can be made simple by avoiding teaching difficult concepts or topics! Indeed, trivializing the chemistry to be taught is likely to be perceived by the learner as a devaluation of the important of the subject. The key lies in seeing chemistry from the point of view of the students’ learner. Such learner approach each topic with all kinds of ideas already stored in the long-term memory. New material will link on to previous ideas and this can cause confusion and misunderstanding.
It is Vital for the teacher to know what the learner already know and how they came to acquire such knowledge. Many students came to class with wrong ideas, confused ideas or even a complete lack of background knowledge. Learning experience need to be offered to prepare students to grasp new materials by clarifying or correcting previously held concept or by providing fundamental instruction on such concepts.
It is important to take into account the way the learner gains knowledge and to present materials in such a way that is consistent with the pattern of human learning. Attitude and motivation are both important aspect for the learning process. Success in learning, positive attitude to learning and motivation to learn are linked. The two major factors influencing attitude towards a subject are teachers’ quality and curriculum quality. The process of learning should for the development of link between ‘’Islands’’ of knowledge. The teacher must link concepts so that the learner can make a coherent whole of the ideas. This allows the development in the learning of simple but meaningful concepts.
Based on the finding of the present study, the following recommendations are considered.
- The Secondary School Chemistry Curriculum should be renewed by NUT, STAN and NUC respectively without further delay. It should allow the use of students’ alternative conceptions for bridging exercise “step by step to lead the student to correct explanation starting from what they already believed.
- Concept test for formative assessments should be developed for many classes (levels) in chemistry. If such a test used difficult conceptions as distracters (wrong answers) and if it is used as a pre-test and post-test for the same class, the resulting data are potentially useful for research.
- Maps of chain of conceptual growth should be developed in chemistry by collecting a research and data on how conceptions evolved overtime and students should be led through it in a semester. The result would be a kind of atlas of students’ concept growth.
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