Perceived Difficulties Of Some Biological Concept By Senior Secondary School Students In The Study Of Some Biological Concept

Biology Education Project Material

Perceived Difficulties Of Some Biological Concept By Senior Secondary School Students In The Study Of Some Biological Concept


Biology is basic for understanding the complexities of life. This aspect of science for example, genetically making significant contribution such as genetically modified foods to many of the inventions that are shaping modern day, and has helped to explain many of the events being encountered in everyday life for example. Despite its importance, biology remains the least pass rate at WAEC and NECO exams science subject among students generally. The study sought to find out the biological concepts in the National Curriculum that students in Senior Secondary School Two (SSII) have difficulties in learning, the reasons why students have difficulties in learning such concepts in biology, and to suggest ways of improving the effectiveness of the teachinglearning process of biological concepts. For these purposes, a questionnaire consisting of both closed and open-ended items was administered to the students in the data collection procedure. The instrument was administered to 400 SS II students in some selected secondary schools in Education District V of Lagos State. The data collected were analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively. The result showed that there was no significant difference in the perception of students on difficult concepts in Biology on the basis of their subject areas – Science, Commercial or Arts (F(2, 397) = 1.523, P > 0.05, Partial η2 = .008, R2=.003). Moreover, findings revealed that students usually have difficulties in five major concepts. Among of which were nutrient cycling in nature, ecological management, conservation of natural resources, pests and diseases of crops as well as reproductive system in plants. However, teaching strategies, students’ attitude, inadequate learning resources and students’ learning habits were the reasons adduced by students of the perceived difficult concepts. In remedying the problem, the students suggested the use of varied strategies that would involve appropriate instructional materials, use of hands-on and minds-on strategy, integrating biological concepts to daily life and provision of adequate and functional resources.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

The characters in current teaching appear to be discipline-centred, teacher-centred teaching, and the student learning is just passive surface learning. A wealth of evidence has been reported to support the concept that under the discipline-centred teaching, the needs, concerns, and requirements of teachers and students are not considered because the subject content is driven by, and depends mainly on the disciplinary content that must be presented. Science teaching requires attention to both the content of the course and the process of moving students from their initial state of knowledge and understanding to the desired level. In fact, teaching is part of a whole that comprises the teacher, the learner, the disciplinary content, the teaching/learning process, and the evaluation of both the teacher and the learner. A shift from the traditional teacher-centred to a progressive mode of teaching-learning process had led to an increased interest in learners’ individual differences. The new paradigm is student centered, based on inclusiveness, cooperative learning and encouraged diversity. Inspite of the new approach to the teaching-learning process, students’ performance in examinations appears to be discouraging; prompting researchers to investigate the causes of the poor performance and how to improve on the teaching-learning process.

There has been consistent decline in the performance of students in public examinations conducted by the west African Examination Council (WAEC) and the National Examination Council (NECO) in sciences across the country over the years (Agogo, 2003; Samba & Eriba, 2012). Ahmed and Abimbola (2011) argue that because of its numerous importance, Biology is the most popular choice, among science subjects nationwide, offered by candidates sitting for the senior secondary school certificate examinations. According to WAEC Research Report (2008) and (2009), despite the popularity of Biology, results of research studies always revealed the poor performance of students in the subject. Results from findings revealed that a vast number of factors are responsible for the students’ poor performance: difficult biological concepts (Tekkaya et al., 2001; Çimer, 2004; Zeidan, 2010); the nature of science itself and its teaching methods Lazarowitz and Penso (1992) as well as the biological level of organization and the abstract level of the concepts.

Çimer (2011) argued that many concepts or concepts in biology, including water transport in plants, protein synthesis, respiration and photosynthesis, gaseous exchange, energy, cells, mitosis and meiosis, organs, physiological processes, hormonal regulation, oxygen transport, genetics, Mendelian genetics, genetic engineering, and the central nervous system can be perceived as difficult to learn by secondary school students. While Tekkaya et al. (2001) found that hormones, genes and chromosomes, mitosis and meiosis, the nervous system, and Mendelian genetics were considered difficult concepts by secondary school students. Özcan, (2003) stressed that experiencing difficulties in so many concepts in biology negatively affects students’ motivation and achievement. Students’ difficulties with many concepts in biology have stimulated researchers to investigate why students experience such difficulties and how to overcome these difficulties. Experiencing difficulty in Biology could be attributed to many factors such as classroom learning environment, lack of interest in learning science, overloaded curriculum content and delineation of science from society, among others.

Designing learning environments while ignoring students’ interests and expectations causes several learning problems as well as decreasing their interest in biology (Yüzbaşılıoğlu and Atav, 2004; Roth et al., 2006; Zeidan, 2010). Fraser (1998) in Çimer (2011) indicates that there is a close relationship between students’ perceptions of their classroom learning environment and their success. Osborne and Collins (2001) also report that students’ diminishing interest in learning science was due to the curriculum content being overloaded and not generally related to working life, the lack of discussion of concepts of interest, the absence of creative expression opportunities, the alienation of science from society and the prevalence of isolated science subjects. Another reason reported by many researchers, specifically in Turkey, is that due to the nature of biological science, biology learning is generally based on memorization. Biological science includes many abstract concepts, events, concepts and facts that students have to learn. This makes it hard for students to learn them (Çimer, 2004; Saka, 2006; Durmaz, 2007).
Also, in addition to determining the factors that negatively affect students’ learning in biology, understanding students’ views on what makes their biology learning effective is crucial, as many researchers suggest that in order to improve the quality of teaching and learning in school, students’ views must be taken into consideration by researchers, teacher educators, schools and teachers (Macbeath and Mortimore, 2001; Çimer, 2004; Ekici, 2010).

They argue that what students say about teaching, learning and schooling is not only worth listening to but provides an important perhaps the most important foundation for thinking about ways of improving teaching, learning and schools. For instance, Phoenix (2000) states that student views of teaching may reflect the ways that they learn best. Indeed, schools that acknowledge the significance of student views have found that these views can make a substantial contribution to classroom management, to learning and teaching, and to the school as a social and learning place (Macbeath et al., 2000). It is thought that how students perceive the learning environment in biology affects their attitudes towards biology and its learning (Çakıroğlu et al., 2003; Telli et al., 2009). Therefore, understanding secondary school students’ perceptions of biology will help policymakers, teachers and teacher educators plan more effective teaching activities that can help students learn biology better and have more positive attitudes towards it.

Gender differences may perhaps influence students’ perception on, and achievement in biology difficult concepts. According to European Union (EU), gender differences in science achievement are the smallest (EU, 2010). It was further stressed that despite performing equally well as boys in most countries, girls tend to have a weaker selfconcept in science, Biology inclusive than males, i.e., on average, girls had lower levels of belief in their science abilities than boys. Yet, both boys and girls are similarly interested in science; and there is no overall difference in boys’ and girls’ inclination to use science in future studies or jobs. The reason why boys perceive biological concepts easier than girls could be attributed to socialization factors and classroom experiences leading to low self-esteem and passive dependent behavior among girls.

Therefore, the aim of the current study is to determine the biology concepts that SSII students have the most difficulties in learning and understanding, their views of the reasons they have difficulties learning some biological concepts and the strategies or methods that can make biology learning more effective.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

In Nigeria, students achievement in secondary school biology has not been encouraging. Inspite of the desire for technological development, which need biology education there is persistent poor academic achievement of students in the subject, particular in practical biological. So many factors can be attributed to student poor achievement in biology practical, they include teachers use of inappropriate instructional approaches, lack of adequate laboratory facilities, poor organization of laboratory activities, lack of commitment to laboratory work by both teachers and students, partial or total absence of laboratory, lack of qualified biology teachers and mode of laboratory activities that are used in biology laboratory.

Studies shown that teachers use mostly teacher centred approach in carrying out laboratory activities. The inappropriate instructional approaches used by secondary school biology teachers tend to raise doubts about the possibility of realizing the objectives of biology education in Nigeria secondary school as stated in the National Policy on Education (Federal Ministry of Education, 2004). Most instructional approaches such as lecture and demonstration used in teaching biology in the classroom or laboratory promote rote learning and lack of opportunity for students to manipulate materials and reflect on what they do during teaching and learning processes. Student interaction during practical activities in the laboratory could play a key role towards concretizing learning.

Among all the problems that contributes to student poor achievement in practical biology the researcher is interested in the influence of biology practical activities on academic achievement of students in biology.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to investigate into the students’ perceived difficult concepts in senior secondary school Biology in Lagos State. The study sought to:

  1. Identify the concepts in SS II students perceive difficult to learn.
  2. Find out if gender influences students’ perception of difficult concepts in SS II Biology.
  3. Find out if the students in different subject areas differ in their perception of difficult Biology concepts.
  4. Find out the causes of concept difficulties by SS II Biology students in Education District V.
  5. Find out ways of improving the effectiveness of the teaching-learning process of biological concepts.

1.4 Research Questions

The following research questions were raised to guide the study.

  1. What Biology concepts do SS II students perceive as difficult?
  2. Is there any difference in the perception of male and female students of difficult Biology concepts?
  3. What are the sources of the difficulties experienced by the SS II students in biology?
  4. What are the ways of improving the effectiveness of the teaching-learning process of biological concepts?

1.5 Hypothesis

There is no significant difference in the perception of students on difficult concepts in Biology.

1.6 Significance of the study

Practically, the following people will benefit from the finding of this study, student, biology teachers and the government. The result of the study could enable the students realize the importance of group and individual laboratory work situation in the effort of learning biology concepts. It could also help the students to become knowledgeable in the following areas: communication, problem-solving, self-confidence and critical thinking. These are knowledge they are expected to acquire from practical activities which could lead to students improvement on their academic achievement.

The finding of this study will be of help to science teachers as it will enable them understand the right mode of laboratory work in teaching and to help the students to understand biology concepts with the abilities of carrying out practical work successfully. The teacher will realized that biology concepts are not taught in isolation but should be incorporated into practical work to maximize the achievement.

The study will make the government, through the ministry of education to realize the need for provision of science equipment to schools and posting of qualified biology teachers to secondary schools, it is not the issue of jack of all trades master of non teaching has attained professionalism and specialization.

1.7 Scope of the Study

The study was carried out on the perceived difficulties of some biological concept by senior secondary school students in the study of some biological concept. The study was carried out in Education District V comprising of Badagry, Ojo, Amuwo-Odofin and Araromi-Ifelodun of Lagos State, Nigeria.

1.8 Organization of Study

The study is divided into five chapters. Chapter one deals with the study’s introduction and gives a background to the study. Chapter two reviews related and relevant literature. The chapter three gives the research methodology while the chapter four gives the study’s analysis and interpretation of data. The study concludes with chapter five which deals on the summary, conclusion and recommendation.

Chapter Five

Conclusion and Recommendations

It can be concluded from the study that SS II students perceived some concepts as difficult and some as not difficult in Biology. However, the study revealed that gender has no significant difference on students’ perception of difficult Biology concepts. Similarly, the study revealed that students’ choice of subjects had no effect on their perception of difficult concepts in Biology. Furthermore, the students attributed their sources of difficulty of the perceived difficult concepts to abstractness, complexity, misconception of concepts, unavailable instructional materials, poor attitude of teachers to teaching, lack of practical classes and poor students study habits. Therefore, there is a need to make the subject content of senior secondary school biology curriculum more contemporary, meaningful and interesting for the students, reflecting the current developments in the field and relating teachinglearning process with daily life issues. However, biology instruction should be supported by qualified textbooks, instructional materials, hands-on, mind-on sessions and observations as well as experiments that actively engage students in learning processes. This calls for the there is need to teach biology dynamically, not as a static subject in textbooks, emphasizing inquiry instruction that would allow students to pursue areas of personal interest.

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