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THE STRATEGIES TO ENHANCE TEACHING AND LEARNING OF BIOLOGY IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS
Although research and evaluation in Biology teaching and learning have relied heavily on the assessment of academic achievement and other valued learning outcomes, these measures cannot give a complete picture of the educational process. Because students spend up to 15,000 hours at school by the time they finish senior high school (Rutter, Maughan, Mortimore, Ouston & Smith 1979), students have a large stake in what happens to them at school and their reactions to and perceptions of their school experiences are significant. This chapter reviews the remarkable progress over the past 30 years in conceptualising, assessing and investigating the determinants and effects of social and psychological aspects of the learning environments of Biology classrooms and schools.
This chapter falls into seven main parts. First, an introductory section provides background information about the field of learning environment (including alternative assessment approaches, historical perspectives on past work, the distinction between school and classroom environment, and the unit-of-analysis question). Second, a section is devoted to specific instruments for assessing perceptions of classroom environment. Third, some important developments with learning environment instruments are outlined (preferred forms, short versions, hand scoring, the distinction between Personal and Class forms). Fourth, the validation of learning environment scales is discussed. Fifth, assessment instruments for school environment are considered. Sixth, an overview is given of several lines of past research involving environment assessments in Biology Biology classrooms (including associations between outcomes and environment, use of environment dimensions as criterion variables, and person-environment fit studies of whether students achieve better in their preferred environment). Seventh, consideration is given to teachers’ use of classroom and school environment instruments in practical attempts to improve their own Biology classrooms and schools. Eighth, current trends and future desirable directions in research on educational environments are identified (e.g., combining quantitative and qualitative methods, school-level environments, school psychology, links between educational environments, cross-national studies, transition between primary and secondary schooling, teacher education and teacher assessment). The domain of learning environments research has produced many promising findings, leading to an enhancement of the teaching and learning process in many countries. However, there have been a limited number of studies in this field in Turkey. For that reason, the purpose of the present study was to examine Turkish high school students’ perceptions of their classroom environment in biology and to investigate relationships between these perceptions and students’ attitudes to ward biology. Secondly, the study aimed to investigate differences in students’ attitudes toward biology by gender, grade level, and parental education. Perception data were gathered with 1983 ninth and tenth grade students from 57 biology classes at schools in two major Turkish cities. Data were recollected with an adapted and translated version of the “What is Happening in This Classroom” (WIHIC) instrument and the “Test of Biology Related Attitudes” (TOSRA). Correlation and regression analyses revealed that students’ perceptions of their learning environment in biology were significantly associated with their attitudes. In addition, results of the study revealed that there were significant differences gender and grade level. The study discusses these findings and compares them to prior learning environment studies.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Using students’ and teachers’ perceptions to study educational environments can be contrasted with the external observer’s direct observation and systematic coding of classroom communication and events (Brophy & Good 1986). Murray (1938) introduced the term alpha press to describe the environment as assessed by a detached observer and the term beta press to describe the environment as perceived by milieu inhabitants. Another approach to studying educational environments involves application of the techniques of naturalistic inquiry, ethnography, case study or interpretive research (see Erickson’s chapter in this Handbook). Defining the classroom or school environment in terms of the shared perceptions of the students and teachers has the dual advantage of characterising the setting through the eyes of the participants themselves and capturing data which the observer could miss or consider unimportant. Students are at a good vantage point to make judgements about Biology classrooms because they have encountered many different learning environments and have enough time in a class to form accurate impressions. Also, even if teachers are inconsistent in their day-to-day behaviour, they usually project a consistent image of the long-standing attributes of classroom environment. Later in this chapter, discussion focuses on the merits of combining quantitative and qualitative methods when studying educational environments (Fraser & Tobin 1991). The study of biology provides students with opportunities to develop an understanding of our living world. Biology is the study of life and its evolution, of organisms and their structures, functions, processes, and interactions with each other and with their environments. Scientific inquiry is the primary process by which scientific knowledge is gained. It involves the basic skills of questioning, prediction, qualitative and quantitative observation, classification, inference, communication. Additionally, inquiry develops integrated skills such as identifying and controlling for variables, generating procedures, planning strategies for testing hypotheses and answering questions, and for collecting and interpreting appropriate data. The knowledge of biology includes scientific data, concepts, hypotheses, theories, methodology, use of instruments, and conceptual themes.
Biologists recognize that knowledge based upon experimental results and accurate observations is gained through a variety of experiences. Thus, the role of the laboratory and field learning becomes a key component in understanding biology. Laboratory and field activities and inquiry provide students with opportunities to question, observe, sample, experience, and experiment with scientific phenomena in their quest for knowledge of living things.
The most effective vehicle by which the process of inquiry can be learned appears to be a laboratory or field setting where the student experiences, firsthand, the inquiry process. Laboratory and field study have also been demonstrated to be effective means for comprehension, understanding and application of biological knowledge. Lab and field experiences provide opportunities for teachers to model best practices in the study of biology, including application of scientific methodologies, respect for life and the environment, inclusion of learners of all abilities, and consistent adherence to safety standards. Thus, study in a laboratory and/or field setting is an integral and essential part of a biology course. The following are recommendations regarding teaching strategies, physical resources, and curriculum development that will enhance the study of biology and improve the quality of biology instruction in our schools. According to Fraser (2000), students have spent approximately 20.000 hours in Biology classroomsby the time they finish their university education. This time devoted to schooling is focused mainlyon the academic achievement of students. Teachers, students and schools face a variety of problems when realizing a productive learning environment for all these hours, such as lack of choice and opportunity in educational programs, lack of funding, dissatisfied and burnt-outteachers, problems in teacher quality, low grades, et cetera. Another problem, often mentioned byboth experienced and beginning teachers, is low attitudes of students toward school and schoolsubjects (e.g. Veenman, 1984). Because student attitudes are such a point of concern, in particularin the Biology subjects, because they are the focus of many governments due to shortage of teachers and students in these subjects, and due to the fact that there is a strong relationshipbetween students’ attitudes and their academic and cognitive achievement (e.g. Creemers, 1994),the present study focuses on student attitudes and the way these are affected by the classroomenvironment.Fraser (1986) argues that perceptions of the students and the teachers are crucial if one isto investigate the learning environment (see also Wubbels, & Brekelmans, 1998). The role of teachers’ and students’ perceptions of the classroom environment in influencing cognitive andaffective outcomes has been addressed in many learning environment studies and a strong linkbetween student outcomes and their perceptions of learning environment’s have been shown bymany researchers (Fraser & Fisher, 1982; Wubbels, & Brekelmans, 1998; den Brok, Brekelmans, & Wubbels, 2004). In his review of past studies, Fraser (1998) stated that associations betweenoutcome measures and classroom environment perceptions have been replicated for a variety of cognitive and affective outcomes, with a variety of instruments, across numerous countries and grade levels. Learning environment research has studied these associations in different types of classroom environments (Fraser, 2002), such as Biology laboratory classroom environments, computer-assisted instruction Biology classrooms, constructivist classroom environments, cross-national studies of Biology classroom environments and computer laboratory classroom environments. Researchers studying classroom environments have used various instruments for collecting data over the years (Fraser, 1998)
1.2 PROBLEM OF THE STUDY
Few topics such as Cell Division, Photosynthesis, Respiration, and Evolution Food Chain are known to be difficult topics to be learned in Biology . Cell division is one of the Biology topics which students learn during Form Four in Malaysian secondary school. The main learning objective of Cell Division topic is study of chromosomes movement during mitosis and meiosis process. Cell division is a process in which cell divides by mitosis and meiosis. Therefore, mitosis and meiosis are two important concepts in cell division process. Analysis of the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) or Malaysian Certificate of Education examination Biology paper from 2007 to 2011 shows that in Cell Division topic, subtopics such as Cell Cycle, Mitosis and Meiosis are very popular and every year questions regarding these topics were asked in the SPM Biology.
However, students were unable to answer and still fail in the Biology paper although various strategies have been taken to enhance students’ achievement in Biology . Why do students fail in the Biology paper every year? Apparently, students still fail to understand Biology concepts and they have misconceptions about abstract concepts such as mitosis and meiosis. Students still have difficulty in understanding and are confused about the terms related to cell division process. Confusion about the terms leads to students misconceptions about the cell division concept. Most of the teachers claimed that Cell Division topic is one of the most difficult topics in Biology subject.
The learning problems in Cell Division faced by students have been attributed to several factors such as less conducive Biology learning environment, lack of effective teaching methods and learning approach that require memorization of abstract concepts. Kiboss emphasized that students’ learning problem in Cell Division topic is caused by Biology teacher’s expository teaching method which is more focused on teacher-centered learning strategy. Reducing students’ engagement in the learning. Students just listen to the teacher’s explanation, write down the important points and memorize concepts that they had learned. This teacher-centered teaching method gives negative impact on students’ scientific outlook. Teachers should use more innovative and effective teaching methods in teaching and learning process. The effective teaching and learning process should enable all learning goals and objectives to be achieved .
The use of various teaching aids and materials in the teaching and learning process make the learning process more interactive, attract students to pay more attention and create a deep curiosity towards the subject that they are learning. Furthermore, teaching aids and materials help students to understand concepts clearly through visualization . Better understandings lead to good academic performance and high achievement among students. Students’ achievement in Biology and technology subjects including Biology will determine the extent of effectiveness of teaching and learning methods that used by teachers. Therefore, teachers should consider students’ needs in the learning process by selecting effective teaching aids and materials based on students’ ability and level of understanding so as to reduce students’ misconceptions and improve their achievement.
Computer simulation is one of the effective teaching methods that facilitate students’ learning in Biology . Simulation is an ICT based teaching and learning method. Research findings showed a positive impact on the use of computer simulation in the teaching and learning process. Integration of computer simulation in teaching and learning process help students to clearly understand the characteristics of a phenomenon such as how the process of cell division occur through visualization. Lindgren and Schwartz also emphasized that visual based teaching and learning process enhance students’ understandings about learned concepts. Understandings of learned concepts enhance students’ performance and achievement.
Cell division process is a complex concept that is difficult to understand if taught with traditional teaching method. However, integration of computer simulations in learning cell division process enhances students’ understandings and achievement on this topic[. Therefore, two different forms of 3 dimensional (3D) computer simulations such as realistic simulation and non-realistic simulation were used to teach Cell Division topic in Biology subject for Fourth year (Form Four) students in two different secondary schools in Ofu local government. Realistic simulation is 3D multimedia simulation whereas non-realistic simulation is desktop virtual reality simulation. Teaching and learning through 3D computer simulations either realistic simulation or non-realistic simulation involves visualization which enable students to observe the whole process of cell division while listening to teacher’s explanation. Students can view the program several times and learn the cell division process in the form of visual. This approach will enable them to clearly understand the mechanism of cell division process and to recall the required information in answering biology exam questions.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this study was to identify the effectiveness of realistic simulation and non-realistic simulation on Form Four Biology students’ achievement for Cell Division topic. The study was conducted based on the following objectives:
1. To know the effect of classroom environment on the teaching and learning of Biology subject in secondary schools especially in Ofu local government area.
2. To research the different methods used by biology teachers and their effects on the success of the students.
3. To compare the achievement in the pre-test and post test of the group of students who learn Cell Division topic using realistic simulation.
4. To compare the achievement in the pre-test and post test of students who learn Cell Division topic using non-realistic simulation.
5. To compare the effectiveness of realistic simulation with non-realistic simulation on students’ post test after they had learned the Cell Division topic.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The study aimed to answer the following research questions:
1. Is there any difference in students’ achievement be- tween pre- test and post- test after learning Cell Divi- sion using realistic simulation?
2. Is there any difference in students’ achievement between pre-test and post-test after learning Cell Division using non-realistic simulation?
3. Are there any differences in the achievement scores be- tween the group of students taught with realistic sim- ulation and students taught with non-realistic simulation?
1.5. RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
Based on the objectives of the study described above, the following null hypotheses have been put forward:
H01 There is no significant difference in students’ achievement between pre- test and post-test using re- alistic simulation.
H02 There is no significant difference in students’ achievement between pre – test and post – test using non-realistic simulation.
H03 There is no significant difference in students’ achievement between students taught with realistic simulation and students taught with non-realistic sim- ulation.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The significance of the study, therefore is to identify the effect of classroom environment on the teaching and learning of Biblogy in secondary schools in Ofu local government area. The findings will be of immense use in the counseling programme even for brilliant students to improve on their standard.. Biology is as important to a country as protein is to young ones. For better understanding and to keep them in function of science and technology it works as a vital device, the discipline acts as the vital role of an initiate to the much desired technological development needed for the national development. It has become an essential objective for the education of Biology to facilitate the students to build up abilities to distinguish the relation between Biology and the facts of life, and to recognize and realize the character of Biology performing in the human life. The performances of female and male students in Biology are different by inequalities in their physiological structures. Even though the majority of the researchers have found the better performance of boys than girls particularly in higher education, a small number of other researchers found that girls performance better than boys and during early education, a number of other researcher found no important difference. An analysis of some gender based studies that were done in the decade between 1985 and 1995 showed that there is a significant discrepancy in the literature in the disparity performance between girls and boys in the subject of Biology. The researchers noted that by means of the contradictory results and noteworthy procedural flaws observed, further experimental researches are required to explore the reality of gender bias in the classroom (Fennema and Sherman, 1978).
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study is centered on effect of classroom environment on the teaching and learning of Biology in secondary schools in Ofu local government area.
.1.8 LIMITATION OF STUDY
Despite the limited scope of this study certain constraints were encountered during the research of this project. Some of the constraints experienced by the researcher were given below:
i. TIME: This was a major constraint on the researcher during the period of the work. Considering the limited time given for this study, there was not much time to give this research the needed attention.
ii. FINANCE: Owing to the financial difficulty prevalent in the country and it’s resultant prices of commodities, transportation fares, research materials etc. The researcher did not find it easy meeting all his financial obligations.
iii. INFORMATION CONSTRAINTS: Nigerian researchers have never had it easy when it comes to obtaining necessary information relevant to their area of study from private business organization and even government agencies. Teachers and students in Ofu local government area find it difficult to reveal their internal operations. The primary information was collected through face-to-face interview getting the published materials on this topic meant going from one library to other which was not easy.
Although these problems placed limitations on the study, but it did not prevent the researcher from carrying out a detailed and comprehensive research work on the subject matter.
1.9 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Attitudes: Attitudes are defined as “a learned predisposition to respond in a consistently favorable or unfavorable manner with respect to a given object” (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975, p. 6). Lutz (1981, p. 234) defined attitudes as representing covert feelings of favorability or unfavorability toward an object, person, issue, or behavior. People learn attitudes over time by being in contact with the object directly (experience) or through receiving information about the object.
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