The Influence Of Efficacy On Senior Secondary School Academic Performance In Biology


Background of the Study
Science and technology are important tools for national development, economic growth and productivity. Science is the bed-rock for technological advancement, national development and individual well-being. Scientific inventions and modern day technologies have completely changed human life and paves the way for the future. Science and technology has added greatly to our material comforts. It has given man an altogether new social and political outlook ( Scientific knowledge and appropriate technologies are central to resolving the economic, social and environmental problems that make current development paths unsustainable. ( Science education provides the basic tools for industrialization and economic development in the area of communication, transport, energy, information, pollution and waste control. The acquisition of scientific literacy has become a major objective of science education all over the world.


Okoli (2006), noted that scientific literacy is the acquisition of scientific knowledge and skills to enable one live successfully in the modern age and also to take the right decisions on scientific issues affecting one’s personal and civic life. It is to this effect that the National Policy on Education has as one of the major goals of science education, the inculcation of scientific literacy. The policy directs that science education should aim at helping the learners acquire appropriate skills, abilities, and competences, both mentally and physically as equipment for the individual to live and contribute to the development of the society (FME, 2004).  Learners should be able to acquire scientific literacy and function in the society for decision making and in every day problem –solving. Learners therefore should be equipped to live effectively by inculcating in them scientific literacy through proper teaching of the various science subjects. These science subjects include Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Health science, Agricultural science, Biology etc.
Biology as one of the science subject is a branch of natural science that deals with the study of life. Life is something found in living things, in which biological processes such as nutrition, movement, respiration, excretion, irritability, reproduction etc, take place (Nwosu, 2015). Biology as a natural science deals with the living world: how the world is structured, how it functions and what these functions are, how it develops, how living things came into existence, and how they interact with one another and with their environment (Umar, 2011). Biology is an important subject in secondary school due to the fact that candidate must obtain a credit pass in biology, before being admitted into any Nigerian University to study any science-based course such as Nursing, Biochemistry, Medicine, Pharmacy, Genetics, Microbiology, Biotechnology, Nanotechnology  (Ahmed & Abimbola, 2011). Biology education is important in nation building considering the role it plays in various aspects of the economy and public life such as health, manufacturing, teaching, agriculture, disease and pest control, population control, food production and research. It is important in many ways for both individual and societal development as seen in biotechnology and genetic engineering (Bena, 2010). Biology has many topics such as Genetics, Nutrition, Reproduction, Respiration, Ecology etc. The knowledge of biology enables students to understand the nature of the universe and interaction of organisms within their environment.
The difficulty in learning biological concepts is often reflected in poor academic achievement in tests and examinations involving these concept (Ahmed 2008; Nwagbo & Obiekwu 2010). Unfortunately, research findings have shown that biology has a high failure rate. This may probably be as a result of poor teaching method adopted by the teachers such as lecture method. Usman (2010) emphasized that the present mode of teaching biology in secondary schools whereby teachers adopt only the lecture method does not in any way provide for sequence of learning experiences. The lecture method is mostly employed by science teachers because it can be used to cover a large class which is a prominent feature in most Nigeria secondary schools. Despite these advantages, the lecture method has flaws which might be one of the causes of the poor achievement in biology. In using these lecture method the students are not sufficiently challenged to be at the centre of instruction through carrying out activities (Bitrus, 2014). These have revealed new ideas and innovative instructional approaches that are learner-centered and have proved effective. Examples are problem-solving, constructivist, concept mapping, etc. When students are engaged in activities, their interest is generated, thereby leading to enhanced achievement.
Achievement according to Obodo (1999) is defined as the extent or degree of attainment of students in tasks, courses or programmes to which they were sufficiently exposed. Usman (2000) defines academic achievement as the measure of students’ learning acquisition of teaching and learning activities. Unfortunately reports from scholars and educators indicated that academic achievement in biology in the external examination is poor (Ige, 2007 and Opara, 2014). Poor achievement in biology can be attributed to many factors such as unavailability of laboratory facilities, lack of instructional materials, inadequate time allocation, large class size and poor instructional delivery approaches (Aninweze, 2014); lack of parental support, teachers’ incompetence and ineffective school teaching approaches and lack of laboratory equipment (Jinks & Lorsbach, 2003; Kgosana 2007).
According to Anderson (2000) poor achievement in learning is not only caused by lack of relevant knowledge, but it is also the result of poor learning and memory strategies. The report of the Chief examiner for West African examination council for year 2010-2014 indicates that  the number of students that passed biology at credit level (A1-C6) as consistently less than 50% for the past five years (2010-2014) in Nigeria (West African Examination Council, 2014). Some research studies have shown that under achievement in science subjects such as biology is linked to inappropriate methods of teaching in secondary schools (Okoye and Okeke, 2007; Nwagbo, 2009). For Instance, classroom observation in many Nigerian secondary schools during teacher’s supervision showed that majority of the teacher’s do not apply appropriate instructional strategies as identified and recommended to be effective for science instruction (Norom, 2009).
Due to the poor academic achievement of students in biology, Nzewi (2008) stated that practical activities can be regarded as a strategy that could be adopted to make the task of a teacher more real to the students as opposed to theoretical presentation of facts, principles and concepts of the subject matter. Nwagbo (2008) agreed that practical activities should engage the students in hands-on and minds-on activities, and a variety of instructional materials to drive the lesson home. The efficacy with which biology teachers conduct lessons may be dependent on the level of preparation exposed to them during pre-service teacher education. Gray (2011) observed that learning is more effective when students are actively engaged in the learning process rather than receiving knowledge passively. Learners actively, construct and build knowledge for themselves based on prior experiences. Learners build upon what they already know and add to their knowledge or schema. Therefore, the teachers perform supervisory role of guiding students to answer leading questions in order to develop higher cognitive skill. (Lederman and Lederman, 2005).
Higher order cognitive skills, such as ability to elaborate, synthesize, analyze, apply, and evaluate specific learning information are very necessary for one to achieve academic success and adjustment in life. With the increasing demand of an ever changing and challenging problem-ridden world, the least any learner ought to acquire from school is the ability to utilize an efficient thinking self-monitoring and problem solving strategy to face the complex situation and challenges of everyday life (Onu, 2005). Higher order cognitive skills help learners to think more effectively, manage conflict by themselves, engage in practical thought, experiment, and question their own basic assumptions (Brown, 1997). Thus different learning strategy should be encouraged to help students learn better, understand, and retain concepts and promote their future involvement. The most common approach of these programme is to discourage learners from storing vast amounts of facts, but rather they should “learn how to learn” new information by applying effective metacognition and self efficacy belief which will maximize learners’ cognitive strategies in knowledge acquisition. Zimmerman and Campbell (2003) argue that “having knowledge and skill does not produce high-quality problem solving in learning, if people lack metacognition, and self efficacy assurance to use these personal resources.
Learning is a key process in human behaviour. It is a step -by –step process in which an individual experiences permanent, lasting changes in knowledge, behaviours or ways of processing the world (Wind, 2016).  Elameto (1995) defined learning as a process of one’s efforts to acquire a new change in behavior, as a result of one’s own experience in interaction with their environment. A learning processes that is capable of maximizing learners’ cognitive strategies in knowledge acquisition involves the individual’s metacognition.
Rajagopal (2008) defined metacognition as a form of cognition, which involves active control of cognitive process. According to Santrock (2001), metacognition could be seen as cognition about cognition or knowing about knowing. According to Kuhn (1995) metacognition refers to learners’ automatic awareness of their own knowledge and their ability to understand, control and manipulate their cognitive processes. Flavell (1979) described metacognition as one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive processes and requires active monitoring and consequent regulation of the processes. Okebukola (2002) refers metacognition as the strategy that empower learners to take charge of their own learning in a highly meaningful fashion. For all the definitions, then metacognition is learners’ knowledge to have control over their own thinking and learning activities.  Metacognition is often referred to as “thinking about thinking and responding to one’s own thinking by monitoring and regulating it. It essentially means cognition about cognition; that is, it refers to thoughts about thoughts, knowledge about knowledge or the reflections about actions. Metacognition is “learning to learn,” skills. These skills are concerned with pupils’ ability to think about their learning explicitly: to assess their progress, set and monitor goals, and identify strength and challenges in their learning. So if cognition involves perceiving, understanding, remembering, and so forth, then metacognition involves thinking about one’s own perceiving, understanding, remembering, etc. These definitions emphasize the executive role of metacognition in overseeing and regulating cognitive process. Executive control processes are those processes responsible for the growth directed processing of information, the selection of actions, and the implementation and monitoring of task and cognitive processes (Flavell 1995).
Research studies on activity in metacognition began with John Flavell, who is considered to be the “Father of the field” Nelson and Narens (1990). In a more recent review Flavell (1999) divides metacognition into two areas of study: knowledge and processes. Metacognitive knowledge includes understanding of how minds work in general and how one’s own mind works in particular. While metacognition processes includes study skill, memory capabilities and the ability to monitor learning. Moreover, another definition of metacognition’ according to Paris and Winograd (1990) “captures two essential features … self-appraisal and self-management of cognition. Self-appraisals are people’s personal reflections about their own knowledge state and abilities, and their affective states concerning their knowledge, abilities and characteristics as learners. Such reflections question about “what you know, how you think and when and where to apply knowledge strategies. Self-management refers to “metacognition in action”, that is active processes that help to “orchestrate aspects of problem solving” including “the plans learners make before tackling a task”, “the adjustments they make as they work”, and “the revisions they make afterwards.
Metacognition is a regulatory system that helps a person understand and control one’s own cognitive performance (Hacker, 2009). Winnie and Perry, (2006); in their opinion noted that students who are self-regulated learners are aware of their academic strengths and weaknesses and have a repertoire of strategies which they apply to tackle their day to day challenges of their academic tasks. Metacognition allows people to take charge of their own learning. Metacognition is an individual’s knowledge of their own cognitive process and their ability to control these processes by organizing, monitoring and modifying them as a function of learning (Hacker, 2009). There are three metacognition skills that are most critical for regulating the learning process, namely; planning, monitoring the plan and evaluating the plan. Fountas and Pinnell, (2000), stated that planning includes the setting of goals, selecting adequate cognitive strategies to achieve this goal, as well as, the allocation of personal resources such as effort or time. The student ask themselves various questions in the pre-planning phase, they know when to start, where and how to start, (Shunck and Zimmerman, 2000). Monitoring refers to being aware of one’s comprehension and task performance. Monitoring is a self regulatory strategy that depends on a level of metacognition since it involves students actively assessing their own performance (Zimmerman, 2000). The students need to recognize, assess their achievements, and connect new skills to old ones, “and it needs to take place over an extended period of time” (Zohar & David, 2009,).
Mckeachie, Pintrich, Lin and Smith, (1987) identify metacognitive learning strategies. Metacognitive strategies which include strategies learners use to plan, regulate, monitor, modify, and evaluate the cognitive learning processes. Cognitive strategies to learn and understand information, such as rehearsing, summarizing, imaging, elaborating and outlining.  The resource management strategies which are strategies learners employ to control resources like time, effort and support. It appears that good learners on the whole employ better strategies to learn (cognitive strategies), to be more conscious about how they should learn and monitor the success of learning (Metacognitive strategies) and to manage their time, and effort in a better way and to be able to find support when necessary (resource management strategies) than the poor learners. These definitions point to the conscious effort made to combine learning skills strategically to solve learning tasks in the most effective way. Metacognition gives students the opportunity to take challenging tasks, practice their learning, develop a deep understanding of the subject matter due to its ability to develop strong self efficacy and exert effort that will give rise to academic success (Winnie and Perry, 2006). Metacognitive skills acquisition has been suggested as an important means for enhancing learner’s self-efficacy (Pajares and Urdan, 2006). This is because when the skills have been acquired through instruction, learners become more focused to approach learning tasks in a systematic manner. The acquisition of skills necessary for tackling problem is also believed to raise the learner’s self-efficacy belief for task accomplishment (Siegler, 1998).
Bandura (1995) defined Self-efficacy as an individual’s belief that one will be able to accomplish a specific task and come out successfully. Put differently, it is also the conviction in one’s ability to successfully organize and execute courses of action to meet desired out comes. (Pajeres, 2002) define self-efficacy belief as the belief that “I can”, helplessness belief that “I cannot”. It is one of the most powerful and reliable predictors of problem solving success. Self-efficacy beliefs determine how people feel, think, motivate themselves and behave. For the above definition, self-efficacy belief is the ability of a learner to succeed in a specific task. A strong sense of efficacy enhances human accomplishment and personal well being in many ways. Learners who doubt their capabilities shy away from difficult tasks but learners with high assurance in their capabilities approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather than as threats to be avoided (Liu, Hsieh, Cho & Schallert, 2006). Research findings has shown that self-efficacy belief is especially important in learning difficult subjects, such as biology and other sciences, given that students enter courses with varying levels of fear and anxiety (McConnell, 2014). According to Bandura, learners can develop Self-efficacy in four main sources. These include- Mastery experience, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion and physiological factors.
            Mastery experience is students having experiences that make them more capable of handling various situations. Mastery experiences provide students with the most efficient way of gaining self-efficacy (Zimmerman, 2000). “Successful performance accomplishments provide the most authentic evidence of whether one can bring about success. Failure, especially if it occurs early in the learning experience, undermines one’s sense of efficacy” (Pajares, 2002).  Success leads to additional successes, and failure can cast doubt on the outcome of future attempts. When one succeeds at something, there is likelihood that it will be more attempted again.
Vicarious experience: a person can watch another perform and then compare his own competence with the other individuals’ competence (Bandura, 1997). If a person sees someone similar to them succeeds, it can increase their self-efficacy.
Verbal persuasion: is a way of strengthening people’s beliefs that they have what it takes to succeed. It is also encouraging learners that they can do it and it better.
Physiological states: moods emotions, physical reactions and stress levels may influence how you learners feel about your personal abilities. If you are extremely nervous, you may begin to doubt and develop a week sense of self-efficacy. If you are confident and feel no anxiety or nervousness at all, you may experience a sense of excitement that fosters a great sense of self-efficacy. It is the way people interpret and evaluate emotional states that is important for how they develop self-efficacy beliefs. Physiological factors state that people who have a high sense of efficacy are likely to view their state of affective arousal as an energizing facilitator of performance, whereas those who are beset by self-doubts regard their arousal as a debilitate (to weaken). Academic self-efficacy is a learner’s belief in how well he or she can perform learning tasks to confident levels of achievement (Bong 2002; Zimmerman 2002; Walker 2003). From the foregoing, it can be said that self-efficacy belief could enhance academic achievement by applying better learning strategies.
Another important factor to consider when helping students maximize their learning in science classes is to consider how they differ in their cognitive function. This is because individuals differ in their rate or extent of execution of cognitive resources in order to perform. This usually results in differences in performance. This individual difference in executing cognitive resources translates to what is generally referred to as ability (Ngwoke, 2005). The ability differences also exist in students’ learning and hence in their academic achievements in school subjects including Biology. While some are of high academic ability, some are of average, while some are of low academic ability (Chauhan, 1987). By this classification, the implication or expectation is that the high ability learners achieve higher than the average and low ability learners while the average ability learners achieve higher than the low ability learners in school subjects including Biology and this is also across the different gender groups: This further implies that some students benefit more than others in class lessons.
The word gender is socio- cultural construct and refers to the role of males and females in the society. Sensitivity to gender cultural norms that affect classroom practices and students’ learning is critical, and policy responses are also needed in order to bring girls into science from an early age. In Nigeria the issue of gender and gender stereotyping permeate every aspect of human endeavuors.    However, Okeke (2007) observed that the circumstances of gender have strongly interacted with culture to produce sex role stereotypes which cut across social, economic, political and educational development especially in the area of science and technology. Nzewi (2010) explained sex role stereotypes as the socio-cultural classification of human activities by sex in line with what the society considers as appropriate for one sex or other. The arbitrary assigning of roles and expectations to different sex (male and female) within the society has given rise to such misconception of perceiving science as “masculine” and of male domain only. Oludipe (2012) observed that in Nigeria that certain vocations and professions have traditionally been regarded as men’s (medicine, engineering and architecture etc) and others as women’s (nursing catering, typing etc). The society socio-cultural construct of females as weaker sex together with female self-perception of themselves as weaker sex, inferior and subordinate to the males have impose some socio-cultural limitations on female aspirations and achievement in sciences (Ojobo, 2008). Similarly, Nzewi (2010) inferred that the socio-cultural upbringing of male within most  homes do what are regarded as complex and difficult tasks are allocated to boys whereas girls are expected to handle the easy and less demanding tasks. Consequently fewer females opt for science subjects thereby creating some different discipline in favour of the males. Babajijde (2010) opined that science subjects, which include physics, biology and chemistry, are given masculine outlook by educational practitioners. Okwo and Otuba, (2007) show that academic achievement in science subject depend on gender. Agomuoh (2010) found that gender influences student’s conceptual shift in favour of male student.
The issues of gender and students’ academic achievement especially in biology has been inconclusive. Some researchers are of the view that male students perform better than females, others disagree with this view, arguing that achievement is a factor dependent several factors such as socio-economic background, and teaching method among others.
Statement of the Problem
Science and technology are important tools for national development, economic growth and productivity. This makes every country working hard for advancement in science and technology.  For this advancement in science and technology research reports have shown that most students’ learn better when teachers employed different strategies that engage learners to take charge of their own learning. Unless teachers’ come up with different learner-centered approaches that can make learners’ learn better, the use of lecture teaching methods in curriculum delivery, making students to become passive recipients of information rather than being active in learning.  This method of teaching leads to poor achievement, particularly in biology because students memorize information but can hardly apply science concepts in real life issues. This teaching method used mostly in biology delivery seems to be the cause of under achievement of students, other factors may include students’ attitude, the vast nature of Biology curriculum and inadequate use of instructional materials. All these shot comings weaken classroom discourse and make no provision for adequate development of intellectual and thinking skills among students. In an attempt to solve the problem of under achievement, researchers have proposed varying teaching approaches to reach workable solutions.
It is in view of this, that the researcher sought to investigate the influence of metacognition and self-efficacy belief which may be found useful in teaching and learning biology in order to enhance students’ achievement. The problem of this study therefore posed in a question form is, what is the influence of metacognition and self-efficacy belief on senior secondary school students academic achievement in biology.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to determine the Influence of metacognition and self-efficacy belief on academic achievement of students in Biology. Specifically, the study examined; the influence of

  1. Metacognition on students’ academic achievement in biology
  2. Self-efficacy belief on students’ academic achievement in biology
  1. Gender and Metacognition on students’ academic achievement in biology
  2. Gender and Self-efficacy belief on students’ academic achievement in biology.

Significance of the Study
The study have both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically; the findings of the study will either strengthen or refute the efficacy of the use of John Flavell theory, Vygotsky theory and Bandura social cognitive theory in the classroom. Due to the fact that cognitive development takes place from active interaction of the learner’s within his/her environment. This means that the basis of learning is the learners’ own ability as he/she interacts with his physical and social environment.  While John Flavell and Vygotsky social cognitive learning theory retains its emphasis on the role of other people such as models and teachers, to be used for interaction support, often adult-child dialogue that is structured by the model to maximize the growth of child’s intra-psychological functioning. John Flavell theory and Vygotsky theory in conformity with the Bandura theory emphasizing active engagement, interaction of the learner with his/her environment while the teacher guides or facilitates the interactions.
Practically, the finding of this study will hopefully be of benefit to the students, teachers, parents, curriculum planners, researchers, and government would derive quite some benefit from the findings of the study.
To the student, metacognition and self-efficacy belief may enhance their learning processes if properly apply in their instructional strategy of learning. The study would be of help to the students to think critical, and be aware of their strength and weakness in learning. Both male and female students need to be involved in the same strategy, as gender differences is not a barrier in the metacognition instructions.
To the teacher, this study will help the teachers with the knowledge of the existence of misconceptions in the minds of learners in Biology content areas before the lesson begins. This awareness is necessary for the teachers to adjust their teaching patterns for proper conceptual change to take place in the learners.
The findings of the study will benefit the parents. It has to be noted that students’ continuous failure in external examination affects parents economically and emotionally. Rewriting most of the external examination every year because most of the students that want to study health related courses could not obtain credit pass in biology entails parents paying for re-registration fees. Therefore, by the use of Metacognition, and strong Self-efficacy belief will help the students perform better, thereby saving parents the cost of paying for re-registration.
To curriculum planners, the study will provide educationist necessary information about cognitive processes involved in learning and to help evaluate the present senior secondary school biology curriculum. Classroom teachers will be equipped with the instructions in metacognition of skills of planning, monitoring, regulation and evaluating so that, they would be able to transfer these skills to the students who need them to pursue their own learning purposefully and independently.
To the researchers, the outcomes of the study will serve as a source of inspiration for other researchers to carry out further research work on other aspects of metacognition, self monitoring learning to minimize the problem affecting the teaching and learning of Biology and enhance the power to handle other subjects related to science
Finally, the findings of this study if properly disseminated will help government make appropriate appraisal of her polices with respect to the recruitment and in-service training of Biology teachers for secondary schools students’ academic achievement. Specifically the appropriate government agency in charge of recruitment and training of teachers will be properly guided to come to terms with the fact that Biology is an important subject in the development of science and technology in Nigeria and requires that teachers should be equipped with relevant strategies such as problem-solving, concept-mapping etc. if they must help the learners to cope with learning tasks.
Scope of the study
The study was carried out in Nsukka Local Government Area using Senior Secondary School (SS2) students in co-educational schools. Nsukka educational zone consists of three local government areas: Nsukka, Igbo-Etiti and Uzo-Uwani. The choice of Nsukka local government area is because to the best knowledge of the researcher, the study of metacognition and self-efficacy belief will strengthen learners’ learning processes because it has not been previously done in the area. The content avail the learners on how to plan, monitor, evaluate, and be courageous in learning through mastering experience, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion and physiological factor.
The study was delimited to investigate the influence of metacognition, and self-efficacy belief on the academic achievement of senior secondary schools SSII students in Nsukka Local Government Area.
Research Questions
The following research questions were formulated to guide the study:

  • What is the influence of metacognition on the mean academic achievement scores of students in biology?
  • What is the influence of self-efficacy belief on the mean academic achievement scores of students in biology?
  • What is the influence of gender and metacognition on the mean academic achievement scores of students in biology?
  • What is the influence of gender and self-efficacy belief on the mean academic achievement scores of students in biology?

The following null hypotheses were formulated to guide the study and was tested at a probability level of 0.05 (p <0.05).
Ho1: Metacognition has no significant influence on the mean achievement scores of students in Biology
Ho2: Self efficacy belief has no significance influence on the mean achievement scores of students in Biology
Ho3: Gender does not have any influence on students’ Metacognition on mean achievement scores in biology
Ho4 Gender does not have any influence on students’ Self-efficacy belief on mean achievement scores in biology