THE PERCEPTION OF THE EFFECTS OF BIOLOGY PRACTICAL ON SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS’ ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE IN THE BUEA MUNICIPALITY
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This research was aimed at examining the perception of the effects of biology practicals on the academic performance of secondary school students in the Buea Municipality. It was a survey that made use of the sample of 47 secondary school students. Data were obtained using the primary method of the questionnaire of data collection and analyzed using the percentages. The findings of the study showed that biology practical’s will greatly influence students’ academic performance positively. Therefore, it was recommended that more practical activities should be designed and parents should encourage the students to improve on their academic performance in order avoid any failure.
Formal education is the acquisition of specific skills and knowledge under rules and regulations backed by the award of certificates. Formal education is well planned, structured, organized and takes place in formal agencies such as school and the university. Formal education especially in general grammar sector has been divided in to Arts and Sciences that also have been subdivided into disciplines such as History, Geography, economics, mathematics, chemistry and Biology.
Biology practicals are very important because of good quality practical activities promote the involvement and interest of student as well as developing a lot of skills and knowledge of the subject, as well as conceptual understanding of the subjects. Although there are good examples of practical activities in schools, these have only been in the second cycles of the lower sixth and upper sixth of our schools. Hence, this research is aimed at promoting the increase use of practical and the introduction of these practical activities in secondary schools and also quality practical activities in schools.
1.1 Background to the Study
Science is defined as knowledge about the structure and behavior of the nature and physical world, based on facts that you can prove for example by experiments. Biology being a branch of science is concerned with the scientific study of living organisms and their relationship with their environment (Opera mini dictionary 1997). Biology is also the science of nature that deals with life and living organisms, comprising of life structure, function, evolution, growth, distribution and taxonomy.
Like many other subjects offered in secondary schools, Biology is found to be significant in a number way in the lives of learners. Shoop (2010) and Wood (2009) came up with various important purposes of teaching biology such as to attract, motivate, and begin preparing the next generation of biologists, including the research stars of the future. To help the majority of our learners who will not become biologists or even scientists to achieve minimum biological literacy, to understand the nature of science, the importance of empirical evidence, and the basic principles that underlie biological systems in relation to the environment and other living organisms found within the environment and conservation of life in the same environment. They will need this knowledge of Biology as twenty first century citizens and the world to make intelligent decisions about issues such as personal health, conflicting claims in media, energy policy, climate, and conservation of natural resources (Aghenti, 1982).
To Aanila (2011), the best method to teach the child to think is through a problem solving attitude, and no subject deals more with problem solving than Biology, thus learners are made to be critical in their thinking. Furthermore, the study of biology enables learners to understand the structure and functions of living things and how these living things interact with other members of their own species, with other species, and with their environment. Biology learning gives learners the opportunity to engage with the work of classical and modern biologists and to join in and initiate debates about how Biology impact on our lives, society, and the environment.
Moreover, mankind finds out effective ways of preventing, treating and curing diseases and home management techniques, for example, better methods of food preservation, efficient food preparation and care of the family. Also, through Biology teaching learners develop skills and abilities to explain biological phenomena and to draw evidence-based conclusions from investigations of Biology related issues and also, learners increase their own knowledge of biological principles and concepts. They also develop the ability to use that knowledge to identify questions, issues opportunities, and challenges and to acquire new knowledge through their own investigations (Ogunmade, 2005).
Practical work also known as the inquiry learning method amongst learners takes the form of investigation, involving learners investigating, asking authentic questions and constructing reasonable explanations for the questions formulated through an inquiry approach in science teaching and learning so that they understand the world around them and become scientifically literate underlining the importance of biology practicals in today’s education Ogunmade (2005) further indicates that through inquiry-oriented teaching, teachers could help learners to build their interest in the materials and activities. It can encourage their thinking and discussion for a variety of investigatory paths which fits the lesson content and learners’ intellectual level with everyday social application problems.
Edelson, Gordin and Pea (1999) further argue that participation and application in inquiry can provide learners with the opportunity to achieve three interrelated learning objectives: the development of general inquiry abilities, the acquisition of specific investigation skills and the understanding of science concepts and principles. As a result, inquiry learning was called for by many governments and curriculum developers including the Cameroon government and curriculum developers especially through the Ministry of Secondary Education in solving those problems that affects the academic performance of secondary school students especially amongst high school students.
Some of these factors that affects the academic performance of students especially amongst high school students outlined where: lack of quality teachers to carry out biology practical, overcrowded classroom (large class size), lack of adequate laboratory equipment which led to a boring method of teaching of Biology such as excessive talking, writing of notes, and rote learning which inhibit interest and thus lessens the motivation of the students, little involvement of learners in experimentation in tend reduces application of biology concepts, and definitely reduces the learner’s ability to properly understanding the concept of biology leading to a low mastery of biology content.
The purpose of Laboratory is to solve some problems or answer some questions. Through the laboratory method pupils and students learn to handle tools, appliances, materials, and analyze data or facts and concepts more objectively and concretely. Another essential requirement about the laboratory method is that students and pupils are involved in the study of a problem, concept or issue that calls for experimentation and analysis of data (or facts and information) in order to arrive at some conclusions or findings. The laboratory is a place use to carry out scientific experiments or exercises with a particular arrangement.
In the Buea Municipality the lab is made up ten tables with two rows and five columns. Tables are made of wood covered with plastic carpet able to take two working stations separated by a tap and a total of twenty working stations are made available. Also, there are storage bottles placed on shelves and cupboard to store equipment in the lab and a chalk board in front of the lab. Instead of benches, the lab is also made up of stools. Every student is expected to come along with his or her lab jacket for each session.
The objective(s) for each practical session is given by the teacher who states what is expected of the students to do and know before the end of the practical session. The materials are being prepared depending on the objective(s) of day. These materials could be test reagents, food specimen such as potatoes, meat, also live specimen such as rats and birds (chicken) and these are accompanied by Petri dishes, knives and dissecting sets.
In the lab, the students are shared in to groups depending on the class size which could see a group made up of five students. Each working station is provided with different material for the session of the day. The teacher explains to students the exercise and carries out the process for the students to follow. Once the students are allowed to carry out the exercise the teacher ensure that the students carry out the exercise properly making corrections where needed, ensuring the full participation of all the students and the information obtained from the exercise are recorded in their lab booklets. At the end of every practical session, the teacher collects the lab booklets, mark and evaluation is done before the next practical session. At the end of all the practical sessions, the students are then graded.
Although these materials are present in the lab, a major problem is the lack of equipment and materials to carry out experiments especially in biology. Also, there are students that decide not to participate during the exercise and collects the information from other students as result of the large class size that helps fuel laziness in students during a practical class.
According the Competency-Based Approach (CBA) (2014), biology practicals has as main aim to inculcate (promote) in the learner responsible behaviour, knowledge and competencies, which should enable him/her to be able to:
explain life processes;
meet with the challenges of life, through the use of scientific approach in problem solving;
manage the environment in a sustainable manner;
safeguard his/her health and that of all others in his/her surrounding;
use process skills to acquire knowledge;
read security notices;
communicate his/her results
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The alarming situation of poor performance during the GCE examination in biology has being attributed to student’s inefficiencies during Biology practical session of the examination. Experts have attributed this poor outcome to lack of experienced biology teachers to carry out practicals in school. Due to the lack of experience of these teachers having very few years of teaching biology in secondary schools and carrying out accurate biology practicals, performance of the students is affected.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The main purpose underlying the project is to investigate the perception of the effect of Biology practical on student’s academic performance in secondary schools in Buea municipality. Specifically, in what way has the perception of Biology practical affected the academic performance of students in secondary schools and what could be done to improve on the effectiveness of these practical?
1.4 Objectives of the study
1.4.1 Specific Objectives
To examine if biology practicals increase the motivation in secondary school students in the Buea municipality.
To investigate how biology practicals bring about the application of biology concept of secondary school students in the Buea municipality.
To find out how biology practicals would lead to the mastery of biology content by students of secondary schools in the Buea municipality.
To find out what can be done to improve Biology practicals secondary schools in the Buea municipality