Physics as a basic science is the pivot on which the study of science and technology revolves. However the academic achievement in physics of the Nigerian secondary school students has been poor over the years. It has become pertinent to determine factors that influence achievement in physics therefore; the purpose of this study is to investigate the influence of psychosocial factors of classroom environment and cognitive styles on students’ achievement in physics. An ex-post factor research design was adopted for the study. A total of 150 SS2 physics students from 10 co-education schools in both private and public schools in Ankpa educational zone responded to the instruments used for the study. The instruments, physics classroom environment scale questionnaire (PCESQ) group embedded figure test (GEFT) and cumulative Assessment Record proforma (CARP) of SS2 physics students were standardized instrument adopted for use in this study. The instruments were face validated by five experts. The reliability coefficient of GEFT was found to be 0.97 using Kudder    Richardson (K-R20). The PCESQ internal consistency was found to range from r= 0.455 to r = 0.726 because they are in cluster, while the reliability coefficient of the total instrument was found to be r= 0.600 using Cronbatch alpha reliability index. These instruments were used to collect relevant data from a sample of 150 SS2 students. Five research questions and three hypotheses were formulated of 0.05 level of significance to guide the study.  Mean and deviation were used to answer research questions 1 and 3, and Pearson’s’ product moment correlation was used to answer the research questions, 2,3 and 5. While linear regression analysis was employed to test the 3 null hypotheses. Psychosocial classroom environment factors and cognitive styles correlated positively with students’ achievement in senior secondary school physics. Also there was a significant different in the student (s) achievement between perception of psychosocial classroom environment and their cognitive styles. Hence, students’ perception of their physics classroom psychosocial environment and cognitive style to some extent influenced their achievement in SS2physics. Based on the findings some recommendations were made.



Background to the Study

This study is designed to investigate the influence of psychosocial factors of classroom environment and cognitive styles on students’ achievement in physics. Physics is a pure science that deals with behaviours of matter and energy and how it relates with other physical properties (Ezebuiro 2008). This conceptual meaning of physics shows that physics is a basic physical science that deals with the behavior and interaction of matter and energy which are referred to as physical phenomena. Physics as abranch of physical scienceplays a vital role in providing knowledge of relevant concepts, scientific skills, natural phenomena and environment. According to  Achor (2012), Physics education is known to play some specific roles in the development of humanity and in the technological development of any nation of which Nigeria is not exempted. Some of these important roles of physics education in the lives of students of senior secondary schools are:It prepares them for future study  in  relevant  vocations .It helps to develop certain  scientific attitudes such as curiosity, creativity, open mindedness and honesty.  All these importance not withstanding students perform poorly in physics as reflected in the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination Councils chief examiner’s reports (2009-2011). The poor performance in physics education  among secondary school students  has made a number of physics educators  in the country to study the problem empirically  with the hope of finding causes  and possible solutions. Some of the causes identified are  poor background of students, lack of teaching and learning materials, poor method of teaching, lack of experienced and  qualified teachers, insufficient supply of laboratory equipment, teachers’ behaviours, classroom environment(Aminu, 2011). Hence from the afore mentioned factors responsible for students’poor performance in physics over the years, it is strongly suspected that students’ perception of the classroom psychosocial factors and their  cognitive styles may contribute immensely to poor achievement especially in physics.Herbert (2004) pointed out that students learning are affected by psychosocial climate, through the process of perception by students and also by other significant persons involved in education for example teachers, parents and administrators. Similarly, Fales (2003) and Talton and Simpson (2004) pointed to some environmental factors such as classroom organization and school environment as some major factors that influence students outcomes in the subject. Ali (2005 and 2007) found that poor background of the learner, lack of teaching experience by the teacher, poor method of teaching and learning materials affect achievement in science class. This shows that physics as one of the science subjects may be affected by those factors above.           Furthermore, psychosocial factors of classroom environment  being one of the  major independent variable in this work, is comprised of students’ perception about how they are encouraged to interact with and relate to others (e.g classmates , teachers) and encompasses dimension  of teacher support, promoting mutual respect, promoting student task related interactions and promoting performance goals(Wilkin,Moore, Goodenough, and Cox 2003). In the same  vain Trickett and Moos as in Okenyi (2005) classified the psychosocial factors of classroom environment into nine (9) dimensions which  are  involvement ,affiliation, teacher support ,task orientation,competition, order and  organization , rule clarity, teacher control, and innovation. The degree of students’ perception of these classroom psychosocial dimensions determines the influence of the psychosocial factors of the classroom environment on them. This influence could be positive or negative, high or low. Either of these positions (influence) determines the students’ achievement. Perception in this context is a way of seeing, understanding, or interpreting something (Onu, 2006). They may perceive psychosocial factors like intimacy, satisfaction, teachers’ support as aiding their learning of physics which may help the teachers in identifying the students’ needs.Again, learning has been known to be influenced by the types of environment in which an individual learns. Okenyi (2005) found that the inclusion of environment as a variable makes a major difference in the prediction of human characteristic such a general intelligence and school achievement. Environment in education simply means the psycho- social context or determinants of learning (Herbert and Barry 2003). It is an educative context that influence the development of the mind, ‘these include instructional and management strategies, teaching personnel, extracurricular activities, curriculum content, instructional media, community and family.Classroom environment is a basic structured unit at our educational system where both students and  teachers  interact and influence the behavior  of others (Talton and Simpson 2007).It is a place where a lot of learning go on. A Stimulating classroom environment provides motivation for a child to become a miniature researcher through the process of reading, recalling, self-achievement and actualization(Akubue 2006). Hence the mind of the learner and his interest in what he/she is presented are conditioned by the stimuli in his/her learning environment. If this is the case for maximum learning to take place, it follows that a classroom learning environment for children should be well planned and stimulated for this will help them develop positive attitude towards a particular classroom and enhance their achievement in such discipline.

Many researchers have proposed the social factors required for conducive classroom environment (CCE) for science which differ from the Arts. According to Busari (2001), the science classrooms are seen as investigative while the Arts are Artistic in orientation. A conducive classroom learning environment does not only serve the child’s emotional developmental need but also encourage intellectual development by giving the child opportunities for experimentation, exploration and self-knowledge.  For education in school to be effective, the environment needs to be conducive to learning, allowing the students space and time to interact within the learning and teaching process. Creating and maintaining stimulating learning environments can be achieved through effective classroom organization, interactive and whole school displays and a climate of innovation (Smith 2006).

A good and conducive learning environment according to Smith (2006) should be characterized by the following:

  • ritualized and patterned positive teacher behavior that influences performance.
  • constant and varied exposure to new material that encourages quicker and deeper learning
  • differentiate structures that are necessary for effective individualized learning.
  • ensure resources that are appropriate, accessible, identifiable and relevant to students learning needs.
  • the teacher should incorporate a range of teaching strategies within planning.
  • environment that would support students to become independent and active learners.
  • the teacher that adopt a collaborative approach when planning for student’s needs.

A good conducive learning environment with the above characteristics may positively influence the cognitive style of students.

Rule and Grippins (2008), defined cognitive style as “an individual’s preferred mode of perceiving information and cognitive functioning, thus including both perceptual and intellectual function. Cognitive style has also been defined as stable attitudes, preferences, or habitual strategies determining a person’s typical modes of perceiving, remembering, thinking and problem solving (Messick, 2006).Conceptually, cognitive style is  described  as the characteristic, self-consistent patterns of organizing and processing information or the characteristic of self consistent modes of functioning which individuals show in their perceptual and intellectual activities. Cognitive style refers to individual difference in how students perceive, think, solve problem, make decision, learn and relate to others. According to Iorchugh (2006), cognitive style is composed of the field dependent and field independrnt dimensions. That is to say that some students or learners are field dependent while some are field independent .Field dependent students are high in social sensitivity and social skills but low in cognitive skills and personal autonomy.They are non analytical and clue dependent.Conversely, field independent students or learners are high in cognitive skills and personal autonomy and low in social sensitivity and social skills. They are analytical and clue independent.

Cross (2005) believes that knowledge of cognitive styles and psychosocial factors of the classroom environment can facilitate the selection of appropriate teaching practice by analyzing the relationship between cognitive styles and educational practice. Messick (2006) summarized that cognitive styles are educationally important because they;

  • Might provide a basis for manipulating the format of presentations and the degree of instructional materials to meet the characteristics of learners.
  • Can improve teacher’s performances through the awareness of cognitive styles of their own and their students.
  • Emphasize the belief that education should not only be concerned with the students’ knowledge acquisition but also with students manners of thinking.
  • Can modify the learning environments to meet the stylistic characteristics of learners.

Also knowledge of cognitive styles relate to how individuals process information has great value to both psychologists and instructional designers since specific learners’ characteristics can interact with learners out comes and with the form of instruction (Jonassen& Grabowski, 2003).  An awareness of the individual differences among learners regarding the way they perceive information has tremendous potential benefits for the design and development of effective instructional materials (Graff, 2008).

Reardon and Moore (2004) summarized that the reasons why field dependence-independence stands out from other cognitive styles like person’s habitual mode of  problem solving, mode of thinking, perceiving and remembering. are because it “involves, perceptual and problem solving ability, structuring a stimulus field, breaking up or disembedding such field, suppressing relevant  information and dealing with  information load all of which are relevant to the instructional process thereby enhancing high academic achievement.

However, Ezeife (2008), observed that science teaching and learning in model schools are yet to proceed as desired in Nigeria. The quality of science teaching and learning in Nigerian secondary schools is far from being satisfactory as science subjects are taught predominantly by traditional expository methods, which encourage rote learning and memorization of factual information. He also reported that physics and other science teaching is theoretically and extremely teacher- directed instead of being experimentally based. This could be due to poor knowledge of students by the teachers. A good knowledge of students by their teachers should help teachers to adapt more effective teaching methods, which in turn led to better performance by students. Ofuka (2007) also gave an assertion that students found some physics concepts difficult to learn even though the national policy on Education (Federal Republic of Nigeria, (2004) strongly encourages teachers to employ the student- activity method based or inquiry mode of teaching. This approach will provide opportunities for students to learn according to their individual differences and improve in their academic achievement.

However, the academic achievement of secondary school students has continued to be a source of worry to those in the mainstream of science education in Nigeria and the society in general. Science educators, examination bodies, parents and guardians all over Nigeria today complain of student’s poor achievement in physics and other science subjects at the senior secondary certificate examination (SSCE). This trend of poor students achievement in physics and science subjects in general has been pervasive over the years  and the search for an explanation is far from being concluded. Some factors which have been studied in relation to achievement in science according to Aghenta(2011), include poor state of science laboratories, the quality of teachers, school location and type, personality of students and students poor attitude to science learning.

This research study was prompted by the suggestion made by Chen &Macredle (2001) that Northern Nigerians are generally field dependent in cognition. They further suggested that the mode of psychological functioning makes learning of science difficult for a lot of people in northern Nigeria, students have different cognitive style which may affect their learning. Ford and Chen (2001) in their separate studies have reported that students who are mismatched with their materials learn slowly, while those who experience material matching with their own cognitive style assimilate ideas quickly and remember them well. Therefore matching student’s cognitive style with material is an important factor with regard to learning outcomes. Iorchugh (2006) suggested that students with certain cognitive style could be facilitated or hampered by the particular teaching methods to which they are exposed. Cognitive style do not only operate to influence how well a student learns, but also what kind of content he would rather ignore, choose to attend to or get out of the way as fast as possible. Therefore, it is important that student’s cognitive style should be known to determine the method, media and content that will optimize learning of physics. The poor students achievement in physics can be conceptualized as the learning difficulties experienced by students in terms of their mental readiness and conceptual organization of the external.

In this study, attempts will be made to identify the field dependent- independent students characteristics (cognitive style) and their perception of psychosocial factors that aid their learning of physics.



Statement of the Problem


The Federal Government of Nigeria through the national policy of education stated that Art and Science enrolment should be 40:60 in favor of Science in order to encourage secondary school students to study science. In spite of all these, student’s enrolment and performance in physics over the years has not been encouraging. This is seen in the enrolment rate and percentage successes in the past years. This situation is quiet disturbing and could it be because much attention have not been given to the psychosocial characteristics of the students during physics learning or due to the way students perceive their physics classroom psychosocial factors  and their cognitive styles.

In addition, the quality of teaching and learning of physics in Nigerian secondary schools is far from satisfactory to all concerned citizens of the country. Despite the emphasis on practical exploratory and experimental methods of teaching to take care of students individual differences, physics is taught predominately by traditional expository methods which encourage delivery and memorization of factual information.Factors such as cognitive style and psychosocial characteristic of classroom environment have been implicated in the students poor achievement in physics. Students have different cognitive styles which may affect their learning, students with certain styles are either facilitated or hampered by the particular teaching methods to which they are exposed. Cognitive style and psychosocial factors does not only operate to influence how well a student learns but also what kind of content he or she would ignore, choose to attend to or get out of the  way as fast as possible, the kind of environment he learn or choose to learn and how adequate is the infrastructure. It is therefore necessary to inquire into the influence of psychosocial factors of classroom environment and cognitive styles on students’ achievement in physics.                                               Also, most of the studies carried out to investigate the reasons for students poor achievement generally with the view to remedy the situation were done focusing on methods of teaching,availability of laboratorymaterial,andpersonnel , availability of qualified physics  teachers, availability of resource materials teaching and classroom environmental factors are already obsolete as they were carried out in the 1980s and1990s. Those done in relation to classroom environmental factors are scanty and not recent and mostly related to biology, chemistry,mathematics and integrated science. Those done in relation to physics only focused on the psychosocial factors.None was carried out to investigate the relationship between psychosocial factors of classroom environment and cognitive styles on students achievement in physics. The lack of study carried out on the influence of psychosocial factorsof classroom  environment and cognitive styles on students’achievement in physics in Ankpa education zoneof Kogi state, necessitated this study.

The problem of this study posed as question therefore is, how does  psychosocial factors of classroom environment and cognitive styles influence students achievement in physics in Ankpa education zone of Kogi state?

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to investigate the influence of psychosocial factors of classroom environment and cognitive styles on student’s achievement in physics in secondary schools in Ankpa educational Zone of  Kogi State. Specifically the study is to determine:

  • The student’s perception of their physics classroom psychosocial environment.
  • The relationship between students’ perception of psychosocial factors of classroom environment and their achievement in physics.
  • The field-dependent and field- independent  cognitive style of the students.
  • The relationship between student’s cognitive styles and their achievement in physics.
  • The relationship between students’ perception of psychosocial factors of classroom environment and cognitive styles on achievement in physics.


Significance of the Study

            The findings of the study will be beneficial to the following ; Curriculum planners and developers,  Teachers/educators, Students, Guidance counselorsand Textbook writers / Authors.

The findings of this study will help the curriculum planners and developers on the information regarding the quality of classroom environment in which physics will be best taught in the secondary school. This in turn will guide them in providing the ideal classroom environment for physics teaching, thereby incorporating it into the curriculum to enhance students’ achievement.

Again the findings of this study will provide information to the physics teachers and educators on the students’ perception of classroom psychosocial environment and cognitive styles,and how they influence their achievement in physics .This will help  them to identify the social-psychological perceptions that are conducive to physics learning .It will also form the basis for evaluating the seriousness of both teachers and  educatiors towards the implementation of physics curriculum and this  will help to improve physics education in Nigeria .The findings of this study might be relevant to the physic teachers as it reveals students’cognitive stylesin physics and how they select and process information .The knowledge gained on research  in cognitive styles of students and  its’ influence on physics learning  might affect physic teachers approach to teaching. Consequently, the physics teacher may shift emphasis from teacher centred method to student-based and discovery method of teaching thereby improving the quality of physics learning and achievement .                        Furthermore, it is also hoped that the result of this study will help the students to identify which of the psychosocialfactors of classroom environment is able to bring out the best of their potentials thereby motivating them to study  and understand physics, thus improving their performance in physics examinations.

Also, evidence abounds in literature on how field- dependent and field independent cognitive styles do influence achievement and social interactions. The findings of this study will help in categorization of students into their cognitive styles, which might be valuable to guidance counselors work from time to time  on  how  to guide and counsel the students both in academic and other areas of life.

This study is also beneficial to the textbook writers/authors as the knowledge of students’ cognitive styles and the way they perceive the psychosocial factors of classroom environment will enable them to   include in their text activities that will initiate interactions in physics lessons.                                                                                                                                   The result will provide information to the government on the levelof students’ perceptions and categories of students’ cognitive styles and how they influence their achievement in physics .Knowing this will enable the government increase her effort improving the nature of classroom environment with low  achievement in physics , by increasing educational conditions of such schools that will  enhance  educational achievement in Nigeria,          Finally, the finding of this  study will  help to increase the knowledge base of teachers of what is known already about classroom environment andcognitive styles of students ,and guiding the teachers in providing conducive learning atmosphere by arranging and organizing the classroom in a way  the students will like. This will increase their interest towards their classroom and will enhance their achievement in physics or a subject. This will go a long way to improve education in Nigeria.

Scope of the Study

This study will be carried out in Ankpa education zone of Kogi State. Ankpa is  located in the eastern part of the Kogi State. Ankpa is surrounded by many local government areas. To the south is olamaboro local government area , to the North is Omala local government  area, to the East is Ofu local government area,and to the west is Idah local government area. The delineation of the study to secondary schools in Ankpa education zone is to allow for in-depth study of the problem. And senior secondary school II physics students will be used for the study. This class SSII is considered for the study because:

  • The class is not preparing for any external examination quite unlike SSIII and would therefore have time for the research.
  • Those students offering physics in SSII were likely to do so out of interest and ability rather than offering it as a compulsory subject.
  • The class might have covered the SSI physics work.
  • Both concrete and formal thinkers are found among them and would allow for generalization.

Research Questions

The following research questions are posed to guide the study.

  • What are student’s perceptions of their physics classroom psychosocial environment?
  • What is the relationship between student’s perception of psychosocial factors of classroom environment and their achievement in physics?
  • What proportion of physics students exhibited field-dependent and field-independent cognitive style?
  • What is the relationship between student’s cognitive styles and their achievement in physics?
  • What is the relationship between students’ perception of the psychosocial factors of classroom environment and cognitive styles on students’ achievement in physics.




Three null hypotheses were formulated at 0.05 level of significance and used in this study.The hypotheses are:

  • There is no significantrelationship between the student’s mean perception scores of classroom psychosocial environment and their achievement in physics.
  • There is no significant relationship between the mean scores of student’s cognitive styles and their achievement in physics.
  • There is no significant relationship between the mean scoresof students’perception ofpsychosocial factors of classroom environment and cognitive styles on students’ achievement in physics.


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