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EFFECT OF COOPERATIVE LEARNING STRATEGY ON STUDENTS ACHIEVEMENT AND INTEREST IN CHEMISTRY

SCIENCE EDUCATION TOPICS AND MATERIALS

ABSTRACT

INTRODUCTION/CHAPTER ONE

The study investigated the effect of cooperative learning strategy on students’ Achievement and interest in chemistry in Abakaliki Education Zone of Ebonyi State. Eight research questions and Eight null hypothesis which were tested at 0.05 level of significance guided the study. Quasi-experimental research design was adopted for the study. The population of the study was 1175 SS II students in the said zone. The sample of the study was 160 SS II students. Chemistry Achievement Test (CAT) and Chemistry Interest Inventory (CII) were used for data collection. Three experts carried out construct, face and content validity on the instruments. The reliability coefficients of 0.914 and 0.861 were obtained for CAT and CII respectively. Mean and standard deviation were used to answer research questions and ANCOVA was used to test research hypothesis at 0.05 level of significance. The findings of the study showed that cooperative learning strategy significantly enhanced academic achievement and interest of students in chemistry more than the conventional lecture method. Gender had a significant main effect on the achievement and interest of students in chemistry which shows that male students achieved higher in chemistry more than the female students when exposed to cooperative learning strategy. Location of school was not a significant factor on students’ achievement and interest in chemistry when taught using cooperative learning strategy. It was recommended among others that teacher training institutions such as colleges of Education and the universities should adopt cooperative learning strategy as a teaching strategy for teaching their students, since those students will turn out to be chemistry teachers in secondary schools.

Background of the Study

Science is a human endeavour that consists of process and product. It is dynamic and essentially concerned with search and explanation of both regularities and irregularities in nature. It embraces every attempt of humans to explore, interpret and manage the natural world (Garuba, Agweda & Abumere, 2012). Science is the systematic study of anything that can be examined, tested and verified (Agugu 2012). The word Science is derived from the Latin word “Scientia” meaning to know (Nwankwo, 1998). Science is a systematic process of obtaining testable or verifiable knowledge about nature and natural occurrences, utilizing careful observation and experimentation (Okeke, 2008). Science is a systematic study of the universe and environment through observation and experimentation leading to production of an organized body of knowledge (Njoku, 2013). Science as a field of study has enormous contributions to national development. The study of science allows learners to experience the richness and excitement of the natural world as they engage in inquiry, critical thinking and demonstration of skills. Science also transforms the environment towards improving the general quality of life, thus making the world a better place to live. Science is the bedrock of technological development. It equally facilitates and enhances industrial and technological progress among the people and within a nation. For these reasons the federal Government of Nigeria advocates the study of science at all levels of the nations education for the production of adequate number of scientists to inspire and support development (FGN, 2008).

Science as fields of study have many branches all working together to achieve a common goal. These branches are divided into three major groups which are:

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  • Natural sciences which studies natural phenomena including fundamental forces and biological life.
  • Formal sciences such as mathematics and logic which use apriori as opposed to factual methodology and;
  • Social sciences which studies human behavior and societies. The natural and social sciences are empirical science, meaning that the knowledge must be based on observable phenomena and must be capable of being verified by other researchers working under the same conditions. (Opara, 2004: 5).

The natural sciences are made up of sub-fields such as physical science, biological science and applied science. Chemistry is one of the basic units of the physical science which studies matter and the changes they undergo. It studies various substances, atoms, molecules and matter. Chemistry as a subject studies the composition and properties of matter, their reactions and uses of such reactions to form new substance. Chemistry is part of everything in our lives. Every material in existence is made up of matter – even our own bodies. Chemistry is involved in everything we do, from growing and cooking food, to cleaning our homes and bodies, to launching a space shuttle. Chemistry is one of the physical sciences that help us to describe and explain our world.

From the foregoing, the role of chemistry in the development of the scientific base of a country cannot be overemphasized and Nigeria is not an exception. Yet with the increasing importance of chemistry to the unfolding world, the achievement of students in the subject at the secondary school remains a dismal failure (Saage 2009). However it is disappointing to note that students’ achievement in chemistry at internal and external examination has remained considerably poor despite the relative importance of chemistry Saage, (2009). Several factors have been advanced to account for students’ poor achievement in chemistry. Kosau, (2006) reported that such factors include the student’s factor, teacher’s factor, societal factor, the governmental infrastructural problem, language problem, examination body related variables, curriculum related variables, tested variables, and textbook selected variables and home related variables. Saage (2009) also identified specific variable such as poor primary school background in science, lack of incentives for test, lack of interest on the part of the students, students not interested in hard work, incompetent teachers in the primary school, large class, fear of the subject psychologically etc.

Student’s achievement in chemistry at the secondary school level is deteriorating every year. This statement is re-iterated by WAEC Chief Examiners’ Report (2014:5) “the questions are generally within the scope of the students, although the achievements of the students bellied the quality and simplicity of the questions”. This poor achievement has been attributed to so many factors, some which have been mentioned, but primarily the method used by the chemistry teachers which is the conventional method or lecture method has been adduced to be one of the major problems (Igboanugo, 2013). This method makes students to be passive listeners in the classroom learning. For lecture method, lectures are delivered to students from notes or textbooks, with little discussion. So no serious effort is made to engage the bored minds of the students. This usually leads to a situation whereby students complete their courses or study but still lacking in a coherent body of knowledge or any inkling to how one chemistry concepts relates to the others. The students may likely graduate without knowing how to think logically and carryout simple experiment in chemistry. (Igbokwe, 2007), notes that the lecture method of teaching is familiar, easy and required no imagination. Perhaps, this is why it is the dominant method of teaching in secondary schools, colleges and universities. As of the short-comings of the existing science teaching methods, the researcher has decided to investigate the effect of a novel teaching method-cooperative learning strategy and interest on student’s achievement in chemistry.

Cooperative learning refers to the instructional strategies in which pairs of small group of learners work together to accomplish a shared goal (Ogbu2008). The purpose of cooperation is for learners to maximize their own and each others’ learning, with members of the group all striving for joint benefit. Cooperative learning according to Adams (2013), employed many of the following characteristics and strategies in the class room: positive inter-dependence, face to face interactions, individual accountability, social skills and group processing.

Group work has served as a pedagogical tool in a variety of learning situations. Ogbu (2008), explains that group work is the act of working together with a group of people all trying to solve the same problem. This strategy is different from a situation where the teacher leads and dominates learning activities thereby having all decision made regarding purposes, content and participation in his/her hands.

In recent times, more effort has been made towards bringing into reality what goes on in the society into the classroom setting. It has been discovered that various skills are needed to function in the society as human beings, since life is not a solitary existence that which must be lived in the company of others. Cooperative learning as an aspect of learning is both a fact of life and a realistic aspect of existence have learned skills. For example, skills of critical thinking, and interdependent ingoing and group participatory behavior are some of the skills of cooperative learning. In cooperation, students experience a joint workspace. The essential elements of cooperative learning are; positive interdependence, face to face promotive interaction, individual and group accountability, interpersonal and small group skills and group processing. Through a deliberate application of cooperative learning strategies in the classroom, educators aim at correcting the unconscious societal and educational bias that requires competition. Huang and Su (2010) are of the view that because cooperative learning groups have active interdependence, it will cultivate team spirit of students penetrating into the teaching of the class, as well as lay a good foundation of development of I Q for students entering the society. This assertion is in line with the observation of Mezieobi (2009) that: “When students acquire values or cooperation, self discipline orderliness, group work, attitude and harmonious cohesive behavior, as a result of the level of classroom interactive situation created by the teacher, they are equipped with good citizens’ skills for cooperative nation building and development(p.79)”.

The above views from different researchers point to the fact that cooperative learning is very useful to the learners in particular and the society as a whole. It has been argued that though cooperative learning strategy has been tried in teaching arts and commercial subjects (Adams, 2013), many chemistry teachers have not been trained or be made aware of the benefits of this strategy in non-practical situation. Consequently, there is the need to test the benefits claimed by researchers on cooperative leaning strategy in non-practical chemistry learning situations. Cooperative learning strategy is different from other types of group work done by students because it has the underlying philosophy that knowledge is essentially social in nature. It is a give and take process that depends on interaction with other individuals during learning situations. In other words, as a matter of fact, students learn from each other through communication and cooperative efforts. Also in this learning strategy, the teacher acts as an organizer, a facilitator and to a varying degree as a resource person. According to Yamarik (2007), cooperative learning strategies have demonstrated the ability to outperform teacher-centered strategies in the classroom, especially in social studies. From the foregoing, it can be deduced that a cooperative learning interaction in the science classroom, especially in chemistry may offers students the opportunity to develop interest in chemistry, as well as record positive achievement in the subject. Hence learning cooperatively by interaction between students enables them to not only work together in solving problems easily, but also making wise decisions using both thoughts and teaching or logic and intuition.

Closely related to cooperative learning strategy of teaching is interest of students in chemistry learning. Interest is an important variable in the academic achievement of chemistry because when one is interested in chemistry, one becomes eager to learn it. Interest is a persisting inclination to be attentive and enjoy some activities in contents. Paul (2013), observes that Interest can help learners think more clearly, understand more deeply and remember more accurately. According to the author, interest has power to transform struggling performance in learners to a new academic achievement. Subramanian (2009), observes interest as a psychological stage of engagement, experience in the moment and proposition to engage repeatedly with particular ideas events or objects. According to the author, interest acts as an urge and it is considered as a cognitive and affective state. Interest enables learners to employ more effective learning strategies such as critical thinking and making connections between old and new learning experiences. It is therefore important for teachers to be acquainted with adequate teaching methods or strategies and materials which will increase students’ interest in chemistry. Therefore in the teaching and learning of chemistry in secondary school, it is necessary to arouse the interest of students so as to enhance students’ achievement in chemistry. The researcher is of the opinion that if cooperative learning strategy is used in the teaching of chemistry, it will enhance the interest of students in chemistry thereby promoting better achievement in the subject.

However, although there is a general belief that students’ poor achievement in chemistry could be traced to inappropriate method of teaching used by teachers and low or lack of interest on the part of the students, some intervening variables such as gender and school location of students can also affect the achievement of students’ in chemistry.

Gender is a variable which plays an important role in the learning process. According to Ezeh (2013:7), “Gender refers to one’s subjective feeling of ‘maleness’ and ‘femaleness’ irrespective of one’s sex. It is generally classified into masculine and feminine and concerned with attitude that describes males and females in the social and cultural context”. Chukwu (2012), sees gender as the behavioural, cultural and psychological characteristics associated with boys and girls which may influence their academic achievement. This involves all characteristics of men and women which a particular society has determined and assigned to each sex. The issue of gender is an important one in science education especially with increasing emphasis on ways of boosting manpower for technological development as well as increasing the population of females in science and technology fields (UNESCO, 2009). In Nigeria, and perhaps the whole of Africa, gender bias is still very prevalent (Nwosu, 2012). This is a view to which Onuigbo (2009) has also alluded in pointing out that: “girls are naturally perceived to be weak and should study courses that are not very difficult like such as food science, education and English. The boys are seen to be strong and should take subjects that are scientific and require calculations such as physics, chemistry and mathematics and other courses such as medicine, engineering, aeronautics or astronomy. This implies that societal norms influence people actions (p.183)”. It is common place to see gender stereotypes manifesting in the day-to-day life of an average Nigerian. Certain vocations and professions have traditionally been regarded as men’s (Medicine, Engineering, Architecture) and others women (Nursing, catering, typing, arts). Typically, parents call boys to wash cars, cut grass, fix bulbs or climb ladders to fix or remove things. On the other hand, chores such as washing dishes, cooking, clearing and so on are reserve for girls. In a nutshell, what are regarded as complex and difficult tasks are allotted to boys, whereas girls are expected to handle the relatively easy and less demanding task.

As a result of this way of thinking, the larger society has tended to see females as the “weaker sex”. Consequently, an average Nigerian child goes to school with these fixed stereotypes. Gender issues, both on the part of the teachers and students have been documented to affect learning generally (Erinoso, 2005). Conflicting results in gender-related research should, however be expected as studies vary in their learning content. These include the methodology, populations, geography, and research task and classroom interactions.

Viann, (2002) carried out a research to investigate gender differences and the effects of cooperative learning interactions in science classroom using individualized learning method with three treatment sections using cooperative learning strategy based on learning together model of Johnson and Johnson (1991), the result shows non-significant gender-related differences but females achieved slightly higher grades than males. Samuel and John (2004), examined how the cooperative class experiment (CCE) teaching methods affects students’ achievement in chemistry. They found that there was no significant difference in gender achievement between the experimental and control groups, but girls had a slightly higher mean score than boys did.

Kolawole (2007) found that boys performed better than girls in both competitive and cooperative learning strategies when the researcher carried out a research on the effects of competitive and cooperative learning strategies on Nigerian student’s academic performance in mathematics. Billings (2000); Agnele and Uhumniah (2008), found out in their studies at various times, that male students achieved significantly better than female students in science education. These differences in achievement according to the researchers may be attributed to gender stereotyping which encourages male and female students to show interest in subject relevant and related to the roles expected of them in the society.

All the above findings are inconclusive in their respective reports as to whether females and males differ in the way they learn and interact cooperatively in chemistry and science classroom. Also none of the research showed effect of gender on students’ interest in chemistry. It is therefore important to find out in clear terms any gender differences in cooperative learning strategy in chemistry among secondary school students.

Closely related to gender influence on students achievement in chemistry is location of school. The location of school has a lot to do with how a child learns in school. Location is a particular position or geographical area. It can also mean a settlement, whether a village, town or city usually occupied by human beings (Marja, 2006). School location simply refers to the geographical area where the school is located, whether in Urban or Rural area. Differentiation between urban and rural area are demographically done by the government offices of regional planning and development. Urban area schools are believed to have social facilities, while rural area schools are believed to lack social facilities such as electricity, pipe-borne water supply, tarred roads, well-equipped laboratories and qualified teachers among others. However, the specific problems of teaching chemistry in urban and rural schools and whether students achieve significantly better in any of the locations when taught using cooperative learning strategy have not been adequately investigated. Also, there are contrary views as regards the effects of school location and students academic achievement in the few researches carried out. Bodunde (2010), reports that school location is a significant factor in students’ achievement in oral English. Uzoegwu (2004), also reports that school location has significant effect on the academic achievement of students in essay writing, while Yusuf and Adigun (2010), shows that location has no effect on students academic achievement. Nbina and Obomanu (2011), observed that federal and State governments in Nigeria have been making concerted efforts to improve the educational system in the rural areas using certain educational management commissions to ensure that qualified teachers who have been trained using cooperative learning strategy and facilities that will enhance student’s academic achievement are sent to rural schools. These efforts by the government notwithstanding, secondary school in rural areas appear to be disadvantaged in areas of infrastructure. The researchers also observed that most rural secondary schools are not well-equipped as most urban secondary schools. Furthermore, well-trained and more technologically informed teachers prefer posting to urban schools than rural schools. Hence, it is important to investigate whether school location influences students’ achievement in chemistry and any relationship between students’ interests and achievement in rural and urban schools, when students are taught using cooperative learning strategy.

Based on the previous studies, the effect of cooperative learning strategy, interest, school location and gender on students’ achievement seem to be inconsistent and contradictory. This calls for continuous and further research on the effect of  cooperative learning strategies, interest, school location and gender on students’ academic achievement from time to time and place to place. Consequently, this study seeks to investigate the effect of cooperative learning strategy and students’ achievement and interest in chemistry in Abakaliki education zone of Ebonyi State.

 Statement of the Problem                                                     

There have been consistent reports of poor achievement in chemistry among Nigerians students over the years. Also, results on students’ achievement in senior secondary certificate examination (SSCE) in chemistry over the year have not been commendable. Failure in this subject area has been attributed to the methods and strategies of teaching adopted by the teachers. The lecture method employed by teachers in the teaching of chemistry at the senior secondary school have been found to have some limitations, one of which is that it is teacher-centered instead of learner-centered. Also, the poor achievement of students in chemistry at the secondary school level may also be as a result of interest of students in the subjects. It has been observed that student’s lack of interest in chemistry could also be traced to inappropriate method of teaching used by the teachers.

There is the need to address this problem in order to enhance students’ interest and achievement in chemistry in both internal and external examinations. It is assumed that the method used in teaching chemistry has a great role to play in the alleviation of this problem, and that the use of cooperative learning strategy could help in this regard. Therefore, the problem of this study put in question form is: what is the effect of cooperative learning strategy on senior secondary school student achievement and interest in chemistry?

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to ascertain the effect of cooperative learning strategy on students’ achievement and interest in chemistry.

Specifically, the study seeks to:

  1. find out the mean achievement scores of students taught chemistry using cooperative learning strategy and those taught using lecture method.
  2. ascertain the influence of gender on the mean achievement scores of students in chemistry.
  3. ascertain the influence of school location on the mean achievement scores of student in chemistry.
  4. ascertain the effect of cooperative learning strategy on the interest of chemistry students.
  5. ascertain the influence of gender on the interest of chemistry students.
  6. ascertain the influence of school location on the interest of chemistry students.
  7. ascertain the interaction effect between method and gender on students’ mean achievement scores in chemistry.
  8. ascertain the interaction effect between method and school location on students’ mean achievement scores in chemistry.

Significance of the Study

            The findings of the study when implemented will have both practical and theoretical significance. The theoretical significance of this study its result will throw more light on Vygotsky theory of learning (1978) which explains that the process of intellectual development takes place with social and cultural contents. The findings of this present study will either support or disagree with Vygotsky’s theory which also views learning as a process that requires environmental input and social interaction. This theory shows how, within a set environment, individuals serve as each others’ monitors, supporters and guides. Also this study is theoretically significant because it will provide insight into the currently existing theories on cooperative learning strategy, which is thought to reduce students’ passivity and competition in classroom learning situation, thereby facilitating the effective acquisition of collaborative skills in chemistry.

The findings of this study will benefit the students, teachers, education authorities, and curriculum developers. The students will benefit from the findings of this study because the use of cooperative learning strategy will improve their achievement in chemistry.

Applications of the findings of this study pedagogically, will reduce the teacher’s stress in the classroom as most of the learning activities will be carried out by the students while the teacher will just be a facilitator of learning. The findings of this study will enable education authorities to organize seminars and workshops where they will enlighten the chemistry teachers on how to use cooperative learning strategy and on the teachers the necessity to use the strategy in their various schools as it will help improve their students’ achievement in chemistry.

Curriculum developers will also benefit from the findings of this study. They will include the strategy as an innovation in science teaching strategy in secondary school curriculum. The strategy will also be included in the curriculum used for training teachers.

Scope of the Study

This study will be carried out in Abakaliki education zone of Ebonyi State. Senior Secondary School Two (SS II) students will be used for this study. The choice of SSII is made because of students’ achievement in chemistry at this level is very poor in Abakaliki education zone. (Source: Secondary Education Board, Ugwuachara Abakaliki). The researcher intends to investigate the effect of cooperative learning strategy on students’ achievement and interest in chemistry in this education zone.

The study will cover some selected topics in Senior Secondary School two (SSII) chemistry curriculums. The topics includes: periodic table of elements, rate of chemical reaction, oxidation-reduction reaction and energy changes in chemical reaction. The researcher chose these topics because they are appropriate for the students’ level and are enshrined in the SS2 curriculum. Also these topics were selected because they fall within the period they will be taught to students as contained in the SS2 scheme of work for the term.

Research Questions

The following research questions guided this study:

  1. What are the mean achievement scores of students taught chemistry using cooperative learning strategy and those taught using the lecture method?
  2. What are the mean achievement scores of male and female students in chemistry?
  3. What are the mean achievement scores of urban and rural students in chemistry?
  4. What is the effect of cooperative learning strategy on the interest of chemistry students?
  5. What is the effect of gender on the interest of chemistry students?
  6. What is the effect of school location on the interest of chemistry students?
  7. What is the interaction effect of method and gender on students’ mean achievement scores in chemistry?
  8. What is the interaction effect of method and school location on students’ mean achievement scores in chemistry?

Hypotheses

The following null Hypotheses guided this study and was be tested at 0.05 level of significance.

H01:     There is no significance difference between the mean achievement scores of students taught chemistry using cooperative learning strategy and those taught using the lecture method.

H02:     There is no significant difference between the mean achievement scores of male and female students in chemistry.

H03:     There is no significant difference between the mean achievement scores of urban and rural student in chemistry.

H04:     There is no significant difference between the mean interest scores of students taught chemistry using the cooperative learning strategy and those taught using lecture method.

H05:     There is no significant difference between the mean interest scores of male and female students in chemistry when taught using cooperative learning strategy.

H06:     There is no significant difference between the mean interest scores of urban and rural student in chemistry.

H07:     There is no significant interaction effect of method and gender on students’ means achievement scores in chemistry.

H08:     There is no significant interaction effect of method and school location on students’ mean achievement scores in chemistry.

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