This study investigated the impact of Laboratory and problem-solving strategies on attitude,retention and academic performance in biology among varied ability secondary school students in Zaria, Kaduna State Nigeria. All the senior secondary II students of the schools in Zaria Educational Zone under study with total number of one thousand six hundred (1600) were the population for the study. Three out of the six co-educational SSII in the area with a total number of one hundred and eighty-five (185) i.e. (113male and 72 female) students were selected as sample of the study using simple random sampling technique involving balloting method. Two schools formed the experimental groups that received treatments via laboratory and problem-solving strategies respectively, while the third school was used as the control group. High, average and low ability levels were determined using their class work and continuous assessment result and pre-test scores.  The top 25% were ranked the high, middle 50% were the average while lower or bottom 25% were low ability group. The intact classes of the three schools were used so as to take careof the issue of gender. The experimental groups were taught using laboratory and problem-solving strategies while the control group was taught using lecture method. Two instruments were developed for this study i.e.  Ecology Performance Test (EPT) and Student Attitude Questionnaire, (SAQ). These instruments were used for data collection. Five research questions and five null hypothesis were formulated and tested at 0.05 level of significance. The data collected were analyzed using t-test and Kruskal Wallis statistics to determine the significant difference of the three groups, at P<0.05. The finding of the study showed that laboratory strategy had significant effects on the attitude and academic performance of the students of varied abilities. Low ability students that were taught ecology using problem-solving strategy improved in their academic performance and retained the learnt conceptsbetter than those taught using lecture method. Neither male nor female in the two experimental groups performed significantly better than the other in biology after treatment. Based on the findings of the  study, it is recommended that laboratory and problem-solving strategies should be used to teach ecology at secondary school level.





1.1       Introduction

Science (from Latin Scientia meaning knowledge) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organize knowledge in the form of testable explanations and knowledge that can be rationally explained and reliably applied to everyday life. A practitioner of science is known as a scientist (Thompson, 2006).

Science education, is the field concerned with sharing science contest and process with individuals not traditionally considered part of the scientific community (Borich, 2004). The field of science education includes work in science content, science process (scientific Skill) some social science and some teaching pedagogy (Yeung, 2006). The public image of science education may be one of the simple learning facts by rote science education. Recent history also generally concerned with treat on the teaching of science concepts and addressing issues those learners may hold regarding science concepts or others influenced by constructive thinking (Borich, 2004).Bichi, (2008) stated that the purpose of education is not just making a learner literate, but adds rationale thinking, knowledge, skills, self-efficiency and self-independent. Thus, in every human society, education is meant to pass onto new generations the existing knowledge of their physical environment, to introduce them to the organization of the societyand teach them skills for performing their daily jobs with ease.

Egbunonu and Ugbaja (2011),observed that, the education standards call for more than science as a process in which students learn such skills as observing, inferring, experimenting etc. Inquiry is central to science learning, when engaged in inquiry, students describe objects and events, ask questions, construct explanations, test those explanations against current scientific knowledge and communicate their ideals to others, they identify their assumptions use critical and logical thinking and consider alternative explanations (Thomas, 2002., Yeung, 2006). In this way students actively develop their understanding of science, combining scientific knowledge with reasoning and thinking skills. To achieve these goals as desired, it is highly required of teachers at all levels to have high sense of self confidence for the enhancement of teaching and learning of scientific concepts and principles that can lead to positive scientific and technological development.

Biology is one of the core science subjects taught in Nigerian secondary schools. It is the backbone of science as it is the study of life and therefore plays an essential role in harnessing interaction between living things and its environment. Thompson (2006) observed that no science subject forms a binding force among various science courses like biochemistry, pharmacy, veterinary etc. as biology. It plays vital roles not only in economy but even in contemporary society and essential for continuing one‘s profession or to understanding one‘s personal affairs. Moreover, the increase in student enrollment in the universities and the rapid development in science and scientific techniques have to be taken into consideration. This situation is creating a greater impetus for teaching reform in order to improve the quality of higher education. However, Ecology is one of the branches of biology that deals with the study of interrelationship among plants, animals and their non-living environment. According to Ige (2001), ecology provides knowledge and understanding of the mechanism of change brought about by the interaction of the living things and its effects on their external environment.

Biology gives students the opportunity to relate with some of the most important ecological issues affecting the environment. These include the influence of human activity in altering human ecological relationship and difficulties arising from the stress of modern day life. In secondary school biology curriculum, it was observed that ecological concepts play very important role in scientific advancement that affects the lives of mankind. Despite its importance in the society, available statistics from the West African Examination Council (WAEC 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016) on senior secondary school students‘ academic performance in biology revealed that although biology had the highest enrolment relative to other science subjects, it recorded very poor performance at senior School Certificate Examination (Anyanwu, Obochi and Isa 2015).

According to Nwagbo andChukelu (2011), the poor performance as attributed to ecological concept with evidence from Chief Examiners Report was traced to one of the ecological questions asked in WAEC 2008. The students were asked to state five important uses of water to organism in the rainforest. The Chief Examiners Report shows that in stating uses of water to rainforest organisms, most students wrote on the uses of water to man example ―drinking, washing and cooking‖, rather than maintaining body temperature, essential for plant turgidity, necessary for photosynthesis etc. In 2007 WAEC question, students were asked to describe three ways each by which animals in arid habitat are adapted to drought and high temperature. The examiner‘s report shows that students could not attempt the questions. Nwagbo and Chukelu (2011).

Also in 2013, students were asked to list and explain uses of five ecological instruments/tools that can be used in population studies. The chief examiners report also showed that the students could not respond to these questions satisfactorily.

The senior secondary school biology curriculum is designed to serve the needs and interest of the students of different abilities. Consequently, upon the introduction of the 6-3-3-4 system of education, the new curriculum recommended among others that experimentation, demonstration, problem-solving and even field trip resting on practical activities of the students should be used in the teaching of science subjects(FME, 2005 in NPE, 2013). The expectation could be that a successful implementation of the curriculum objective is based on the recommended teaching techniques. The learner would be equipped with adequate knowledge, positive attitude and science process skills that would enhance his performance, sustain his interest and also serve as springboard for the nation‘s scientific and technological breakthrough. Contrary to these expectations, the level of performance among secondary school biology students has not been encouraging. However, review of literature reveals low performance of students at S.S.C.E levels of education in science subject and biology in particular. (Nwosu,2004., Moore,2006 and Uza, 2014).

The teaching of biology starts from nursery through primary, secondary and tertiary institutions and thus form the basis for courses such as biochemistry, medicine, botany, zoology, microbiology and even pharmacy.The objectives of biology education curriculum as provided in the National Policy of Education (NPE, 2013) include the following:

Adequate laboratory and field skills in biology; inculcate in the learners meaningful relevant knowledge in biology and functional scientific attitudes.

However, in spite of these objectives and numerous efforts aimed at improving students‘ performance in biology, the subject has continued to witness low rate of academic performance especially in ecology questions.  This poor performance has been attributed to the methods the teachers use in teaching the subject. Researchers like Moore, (2006), Uza, (2014) stated that lecture method is the most commonly used method by science teachers.

Lecture method is a method of teaching which involvesverbal presentation where the teacher delivers the lesson to the students with little or no active participation by the students. It is a teacher centered approach involving largely a one-way form of communication from the teacher to the students.For this reason, it is termed didactic approach because most of the talking is carried out by the teacher while the students remain passive listeners, taking down notes. Lecture method encourages rote learning and regurgitation of information without aiding assimilation of the information. The persistent poor performance of students in biology, specifically in ecological concepts at SSCE leaves one in doubt on effectiveness of the teaching methods popularly used by the biology teachers for teaching the subject. However, from a didactical point of view, suitable learning materials are necessary to convert the complexity of natural systems into linear conceptions, (Thomas, 2002., Adeyemo, 2005). Hence the teaching of ecology is facedwith the dilemma of either using simplified or more complex materials. Therefore, teaching certain ecology concept requires basic knowledge about the species involved and their natural environment. Samara, Giouvanakis, Bousiou and Tarabansi (2006)and Adeniyi, (2009) suggested that the biology teacher is expected to use different techniques, approaches and methods to facilitate learning in the classroom and outdoor. Bichi,(2008) opined that when learning is augmented by method such as experimentation via practical experience, demonstrations and visual presentation, teaching becomes more appropriate and meaningful learning takes place.

Laboratory teaching strategy: Recently, advances in ecology, biochemistry, microbiology and molecular biology have made biology a central focus in most human activities including problem of water, pollution, health hazard, ecosystem management and conservation of natural flora and fauna.  Laboratory method has been advocated as part of science curriculum reform by educators and the rationale, the emphasis was that students would be more interested in science especially biology if they are involved actively in ―learning by doing‖ (Ajaja,2013).

Laboratory teaching strategy is a strategy that allows the learner to perform experiments in the laboratory. According to Adeyemo (2005) ―it is an activity-based method designed to be carried out by an individual student or a group of students for the purpose of making personal observations from experiments in which students or learners candraw conclusion by themselves‖. This strategy has the advantages of reinforcing theoretical learning, improving cognitivism,promotingself-reliant and process skills ability, developing in the student‘s scientific knowledge and attitudes and developing in them manipulative skills (psychomotor).Volkmann and Abel (2003) and Abdullahi (2013) observed that the intrinsic value of a strategy including the capacity to add meaning and values to what is learned, make learning more interesting and simple, discourage rote learning and enable the individual to achieve a good level of freedom that is necessary to enhance the performance of rudimentary levels of knowledge acquisition.According to Gungor, (2014) Gungor and Morgil (2015), laboratory strategy also serves as a functional key to greater educational development. Indeed, a laboratory strategy is considered to be effective if it enhances the learner‘s capabilities for self-study and stimulate his interest in learning. The laboratory should help the students develop a broad array and experience on basic skills and tools of experimental and data analysis in biology. A growing body of research in biology education indicates that majority of students have difficulty in learning basic biology concepts in courses built around conventional teaching methods, text book problems and verification of experiments. Effective learning may also be assisted by close interaction of students with their peers in the process.

A laboratory can be an excellent environment for active learning. Thus, Morgil, Gungor and Secken (2009), stated that in a well-designed laboratory, students interact closely with teachers and peers, so that learning can be enhanced, monitored and assessed effectively. Also when students were given a well-designed laboratory exercise, they can experiment and engage, both individually and collaboratively, in open-ended laboratories and inquiry-based learning activities that apply theoretical concepts to relevant real life problems. The aims of laboratory practices in biology education have been classified under four categories namely: actualizing the conceptual learning, attaining technical skills, attaining research skills and producing effective learning products. Furthermore, laboratory experiments can help students to understand abstract concepts in biology. Practical work is fun, interesting to the students, and as such they are motivated to explore the material which related to the topics in the classroom. Practical work in the laboratory encourages students to approach problems and solve it, find the facts and new principles, develop ability to cooperate and develop critical thinking and positive attitude towards the subject.

Problem Solving Strategy: If students are to successfully grapple with authentic, complex biological problems as scientists and citizens, they need to practice solving such problems during their Secondary years. Physics education researchers have investigated students problem-solving ability for the past three decades. Although physics and biology problems differ in structure and content, the instructional purposes align closely: explaining patterns and processes in the natural world and making predictions about physical and biological systems are the problems that biology students are typically asked to solve with authentic, complex problems (Inceaka, Guven and Aydogdu, 2010). The researchers described the development of research-validated physics curricula emphasizing process skills in problem solving and showed that solving authentic, complex biology problems requires many of the same skills that practicing physicists and biologists use in representing problems, seeking relationships, making predictions, and verifying or checking solutions.  Thus acquiring these skills can help biology students become competent problem solvers (Jenkin, 2013; Laird, 2014).

In a study by Bichi (2008),he observed that the prevalent use of lecture methods in instruction may be another factor that impedes meaningful learning of biology concepts as reflected in low achievement and high misconception of biology concepts. Thus, if students are to acquire basic science skills, concepts and principles of biology, the need for teachers to employ students‘ activity based approach via problem solving and laboratory method of teaching must be taken seriously. To ensure effective teaching of science in our schools, Obeka (2010), Ameh and Dantani (2012) stressed the fact that science is better taught by ―doing‖ in order to promote and develop scientific and manipulative skills, interest and attitude in the subject. This study thus employs the use of laboratory and problem-solving strategies to see if academic performance and attitude of SSII biology students in Zaria educational zone would improve.

Attitude is another factor that affects learning.According to Ahmed (2011), attitude is the predisposition to react positively or negatively towards object, ideas, institution or people. By predisposition it means the state of readiness to respond in some preferential manner towards a specific object, event or idea. Chen and Howard (2010) defined attitude as relatively endeavoring tendency to respond to somebody or something in such a way that reflects a positive or negative evaluation of that person or thing.Elijah, Lynn and Jason (2015) stressed that the concept of attitude arises from attempts to account for observed regularities in the behavior of individual persons.  Thus, attitude can be positive, favorable, neutral, negative or unfavorable, one‘s inner experiences are evidence of one‘s own attitude.  Therefore, if students experience some difficulties in learning geometry, they will manifest unfavorable attitudes towards the subject.  Favorable and positive attitude of students towards geometry is facilitated by good and suitable instructional approach. Hence it will yield high level of performance and retention of the concept (Elijah, Lynn and Jason 2015). Justus (2005) observed that major determining factors for attitude formation are the individual wants, information on group affiliation and personality.  He further asserted that the importance of attitude arises from the fact that it has strong influence upon behavior and kinds of satisfaction and values the individual chooses.  Amedu (2015), believes that method of instruction influences attitude of students towards learning in the classroom.  Sambo (2008) argued that the measurement of attitude is a complex matter and cannot be observed directly, but can be inferred from the way individual student reacts to a particular stimulus or situation. Sambo, (2008) also attempted to analyze attitude of students towards mathematics in his study by using mean scores. He said, `if mean score lies between 0.00 and 1.5 Linkert, it shows negative attitude, while if the mean scores lies between 1.50 and 5.0Linkert it shows positive attitude‘.  His study revealed that students‘ attitude towards mathematics is believed to affect their performance either negatively or positively. He went further to say that attitude determines readiness or reluctance of students to embrace any new idea.

It also facilitates or hinders students‘ desire to learn or acquire new idea or techniques. White (2009) and Balani (2010) reported that attitude is a critical factor in learning and stated that attitude is the basis for motivation in learning.

Varied ability: In a normal science class, the entire population of the students have varieties of learning abilities. Their abilities are referredto as varied abilities.  It is well known that every student has a different way of learning and progresses at different speeds. Thus, while some students may find the learning task easy to complete, others may find it difficult to understand. The weakness of candidates inbiologygenerally was linked to the fact that candidates lack basic concepts and not able to link biological concepts to real life situation(Lakpini,2006, Lakpini and Atadoga 2012).Learning also depends on what students have brought with them into class. Since each student comes from a different family, a different environment and/or a different nation, the multicultural population of the classroom may be an obstacle for the teachers in reaching the students, which eventually results in ineffective learning. Moreover, although it is quite difficult for the teacher to know about each student and to follow what each one does during the lessons even in small classes, it is important for teachers to monitor each and every student and to reach their needs in a variety of ways to achieve effective teaching. According to Lakpini, (2006) varied ability can be determined in three levels (i) High achievers, (ii) middle/average achievers and (iii) low achievers.

Gender is one of the factors interacting with performance, gender issues both on the part of the teacher and the students have been documented to affect academic performance and some other learning outcomes (Erinosho,2005, Obochi, 2016). The finding of Mari (2002), confirmed that the initial gap between the male and female students of different abilities was bridged in all the Schemata (conservation, control of variables, proportional reasoning and probability reasoning) except in correlation reasoning. Abdulraheem (2012), noted that gender inequalities are interwoven with social class, ethnicity, sexuality, disability and other factors identified as influencing attainment.

Adebanjo (2014), linked gender and academic achievement with patterns of behavior. He noted that there are signs of boys being vulnerable to becoming disaffected. He stated further that boys tend to be less careful about rules and more indifferent to being reprimanded. Thus, this study investigated the Impact of Laboratory and Problemsolving Strategies on Attitude,Retention and Academic Performance in Biology among varied ability Secondary School Students in Zaria Kaduna State.

1.1.1    Theoretical Framework

This study is hinged on the theory of constructivismwhich depends on aphilosophy of learning founded on the premise that learners construct their own understanding of the world and also a way of understanding how students learn.

Constructivism is a learning theory based on the idea that the conceptions the learner already holds have a considerable influence in the learning process (Lakpini, 2006).Lorsbach and Tobin in Okebukola (2004) defined constructivism as an epistemology, a theoryof knowledge used to explain how we know what we know.

According to this theory, learning is the result of the constructive activities of the students where students/learners are expected to form the concept of what he/she learnt. Students who are confident of their abilities can make sense of things by themselves, rather than waiting for a teacher, a book, or a set of data collected by someone else. The theory of constructivism thus states that students actively construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences.According to Bajah and Asim (2000), theconstructivist view is not new in education, as far back as early nineteenth century, renown psychologists like Piaget, Ausubel and Bruner (1961) stressed the importance of prior knowledge or preconception in learning.

Laboratory teaching strategy is a strategy that allows students or learners or group of students to perform experiments in the laboratory. According to Adeyemo (2005), ―it is an activity designed to be carried out by an individual student or group of students for the purpose of making personal observations from experiments in which students or learners can get conclusion by themselves‖. Problem solving is a guide that motivates learners to find solutions by pulling together information and generalizing knowledge. Problem – based learning cannot be discussed without recourse to John Dewey‘s philosophical perspective on education. Obeka, (2010 and 2011) stressed the importance of learning through experience, which is the basis of motivation in students. He also believes that students learn best by doing, by discovery, by experimenting and by thinking through problems which are at the root of problem-based learning. Nevertheless, the cognitive scientists like Robert Gagne, Schumann and pragmatist like John Dewey can be said to pioneer studies in problem- solving based learning (Fosnot, 1996).

Problem-solving according to Gagne, (1970) can be viewed as a process by which the learner discovers the combination of previously learnt rules that can be applied to achieve a solution for a novel situation, in form of hierarchy of knowledge which is also a process that yields new learning. Teaching will therefore be more effective when it supports those activities appropriate to achieving the curriculum objectives, encouraging the students to adopt a deep approach to learning. Being a good teacher one requires taking on new roles to ensure that students learn. For example, the teacher, as a constructor, should understand the subject matter well and appreciate different ways to teach it in order to accommodate students‘ various ways of learning. The teacher, as an inquirer, should depend heavily on assessment to find out what students have learned and what they need to learn more about.

Problem-solving teaching/learning strategy encourages critical thinking, acquisition of skills and problem solving skills along with content knowledge through the use of real world situations or problems. This is an effective strategy in science teaching because, in this case, learning is driven by the problem the learner is interested in solving, and learning is active, integrated, cumulative, and connected. Students gain an appreciation of how important questions about human experience are interrelated across discipline lines and areas of interest within disciplines. These strategies are widely applied to make the students realize that they are responsible for finding the information necessary to solve problems. The teacher‘s role is supportive, not directive. Teachers act as facilitators and provide resources, guidance and instruction to students as they develop content knowledge and problem-solving skills, and give frequent feedback to students about their perceptions of the problem being studied.  Problem based learning may take various forms, such as group discussion of cases or problems and/or projects designed and developed by students. It is more important for the teacher to assess the students by emphasizing the process of the learning experience and the quality of the integration of knowledge reflected in the solution of the problem.

Bruner on the other hand introduced the concept of learning by discovery via activity or experimenting and problem-solving strategies.  The theory stresses cognitive effectiveness and development. Bruner declares that ―students should be encouraged to use active techniques via experiments, real-world problem solving to create more knowledge and then to reflect on what they are doing and how their understanding is changing. According to Bruner, (1996) learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideals or concepts based on their current and past knowledge. Thus the learner selects and transforms information, constructs hypotheses and makes decisions, relying on his cognitive structure to do so. Bruner (1961) further stressed that there are two forms of discovery processes; viz:

  • Assimilation
  • Accommodation

According to him, assimilation occurs when the learner recognizes a new situation that is familiar to one of the elements in the existing structure of knowledge (cognitive structure) and he easily assimilates it.

Accommodation on the other hand occurs when a new situation or new knowledge is incompatible to the existing structure of knowledge the learner first restructures and reorganizes his cognitive frame work in order to be able to accommodate the new knowledge. Abdullahi (2013) observed that the intrinsic value of a strategy including the capacity to add meaning and values to what is learned, make learning more interesting and simple, discourage rote learning and enable the individual to achieve a good level of freedom that is necessary to enhance the performance of rudimentary levels of knowledge acquisition, and severs as a functional key to greater educational development. Indeed, laboratory and problem-solving strategies are considered to be effective if it enhances the learner‘s capabilities for self-study and stimulate interest in learning.  Thus it is on this note that the researcher employs the use of laboratory and problem-solving strategies to see if the retention,attitude and performance of SSII biology students of low ability would improve.


1.2       Statement of the Problem

Many studies have shown that there is an alarming crisis in relation to students‘ attitudeand academic performance in sciencesubjects and especially Biology (Adeniyi, 2009). Biology is one of the major core science subject taught in senior secondary schoollevel. Thus, poor performance of students in the subject has been a major concern to many stakeholders in education. Like any other science subject, the syllabus of this activity based subject emphasis the use of activity-based method of instruction.

Unfortunately, as reported by researchers such as Lakpini (2006) and Lawal, (2009)teachers shy away from activity-based teaching method and rely mostly on easy goes lecture method which in most cases are often inadequate and inappropriate for meaningful learning to take place. However, students continue to perform poorly in science subject and biology in particular.

Other studies such as Okebukola, (2004) and Obeka, (2010) revealed that students generally perform poorly in sciences due to lack of appropriate teaching methods. Hence the question of how students‘ academic performance in biology can be improved is still a pedagogical problem. Moreover, laboratory and problem-solving teaching strategies have been identified by Bichi, (2008), Ojediran, Oludipe and Ehindero (2014) as activityoriented methods which allow students in senior secondary school to have experience which are consistent with the goals of scientific literacy. When students are taught biology theoretically, without the practical aspects done in the laboratory, meaningful learning will not take place (Bichi, 2008 and Lawal, 2009).  In the United Kingdom, the publication of the Denton Report (Department of Education Science (DES) which examined the flow of candidates in science and technology into higher education documented a swing from science in the school-age population as a whole. The list of countries experiencing declining in academic performance of students in science is on the increase particularly among the developed countries (Blevins, 2009). One factor which has contributed to low performance in science by students of varied ability levels is the method adopted for teaching and learning science (Lawal, 2009., Obeka, 2010.,Lakpini and Atadoga 2012). The views of students which contribute directly to low performance in science are; (i) Science teaching is predominantly trans-missive, (ii) The content of school science subject has an abstractness that makes it irrelevant, (iii) Learning science is relatively difficult, for both successful and unsuccessful students.

Teachers at all academic levels are faced with the task of making learning meaningful to students. For most teachers and educators, there is continual internal struggle associated with making choices related to both content and method of teaching the subjects (Chiappetta and Koballa 2002; Moor,2006; Anyanwu, Obochi and Isah 2015). It is on this note that the present study is aimed at investigating whether laboratory and problem solving-strategies would have any effects on the academic performance, retention and attitude in biology among secondary school students of varied ability levels. The motivation to conduct this research is the dwindling poor performance of students in biology examinations as confirmed by WAEC Reports of (2009, 2010, 2011,2012,2013,

2014, 2015 and 2016).





Table 1.1:       Students’ Performance in SSCE Biology 2008-2014 Sessions in Zaria


Year Total No of Students No of Pass % passes No of failure % Failure
2009 238 108 45.4 130 54.6
2010 140 65 46.4 75 53.6
2011 325 140 43.1 185 56.9
2012 270 120 44.4 150 55.6
2013 273 103 37.7 170 62.3
2014 258 98 38.0 160 62.0
2015 283 105 37.10 178 62.90
2016 305 111 36.39 194 63.61

Source:Ministry of Education, Zaria Educational Zone (2016)

Nwagbo and Chukelu (2011) opined that some concept of ecology which deals with ecosystem, water cycle, nitrogen cycles, survivorship and food chain which are major sub concepts in biology at ordinary level is perceived by students as abstract and difficult to understand. Other problems facing the teaching /learning of biology in Nigeria secondary schools have been identified as:

Improper exposure to laboratory activities,Poor science background at the junior secondary,Lack of problem solving ability,students‘ perception of biology as a difficult subject, Lack of teaching facilities, and of equipped laboratories.Persistent use of lecture or traditional method of teaching (Kalu and Ndokwo 2006).

Thus, the rational of this study is to investigate the Impact of laboratory and problem- solving strategies on attitude, performance and retention in biology among varied ability senior secondary school students in Zaria, Kaduna state Nigeria.


1.3       The Objectives of the Study

The objectives for this study are as follows, to:

  1. examine the effects of laboratory and problem-solving teaching strategies onacademic performance in ecology among students of varied abilities.
  2. investigate if there is any difference in the attitude of studentsof varied abilities whentaught ecology using laboratoryteaching strategy and lecture methods.
  3. determine the effects of laboratory and problem-solving teaching strategies on retention of varied abilitystudents in ecology.
  4. examinethe effects of laboratory teaching strategies on academic performance of male and female studentsand that taught using lecture method.
  5. examine the effects of problem-solving teaching strategy on academic performance of male and female students in ecology and those taught using lecture methods


1.4       Research Questions

The study investigated the following research questions:

  1. Are theredifferences in the mean scores of students in the high, middle and low ability levelstaught ecology using laboratory,problem-solving teaching strategies and their counterparts taught using lecture method?
  2. Are there differences in the attitude of students in the high, middle and low abilitylevels taught ecology using laboratory and those taught same concept usingproblem-solving teaching strategies?
  3. Are theredifferences in the mean retention scores of high, middle and low ability students taught ecology usinglaboratory and problem solving teaching strategies and their counterparts taught using lecture method?
  4. What are the differencesin the mean academic performance of male and female students taught ecology using laboratory teaching strategy and those taught with lecture method?
5. What are the differencesin the mean academic performance scores of male and female students taught ecology using problem-solving teaching strategy and those taught with lecture method?
1.5 Null Hypotheses

The study has the following null hypotheses.

Ho1: There is no significant difference in the mean academic performance scores of High, middle and low ability biology students taught ecologyusing laboratory and problem-solving strategies andthose taught using lecture methods.
Ho2: There is no significant difference in the mean attitude scores of high, middle and low ability biology students taughtecology using laboratory and problem-solving teaching strategies and those taught using lecture methods.
Ho3: There is no significant difference in themean retention scores of high, middle and low ability students taught ecology using laboratory and problem solving strategies and those taught using lecture methods.
H04: There is no significant difference between the mean academic performance scores

ofmale and female students taught ecology concept using laboratory teaching strategy and those taught using lecture methods.

H05:There is no significant difference inthe mean academic performance scores of male and female students taught ecology using problem-solving teaching strategy and those taught using lecture methods.


1.6       Significance of the Study

This study investigates the impact of laboratory and problem-solving strategies on attitude, retention and academic performance, of secondary school biology students with varied abilitieswhich lies on practical value and its contributions to the pedagogical body of knowledge was carried out to find out if the performance of the three ability level students particularly that of low ability students would be improved. The findingswouldhopefully benefit the following groups of people:

Biology Teachers, Students/learners, Tertiary Institutions, Curriculum developers,

Professional        Bodies       and        Researchers,        Educational        Counselors       and

Psychologists.Publishers and School administrators in the following ways:

Biology Teachers: It is hoped that the findings of this study would sensitize biology teachers to address issues on student‘s inability to comprehend ecology concepts. Consequently,such teachers areexpected to acquire and apply the knowledge of instructional strategy for dealing with the problem. The result would also hopefully benefit biology teachers in the area of creating awareness on the need to conduct laboratory practical and apply problem-solving teaching strategy which would motivate and arouse the interest of students to participate in the class. The strategies would also hopefully enhance attitude and academic performance of students in biology and thus reduce the stress teachers face when students turn into passive listeners. Such change orientations are expected to help students to relate concepts to real life situations as they affect personal and societal needs.

Students/Learners: It is also hoped that the result of this research would develop in the learners‘positive attitude and manipulative skills which will help them to acquire science process skills e.g. observation, measuring, inferring, interpreting results, hypotheses, collecting data, analyzing the data, reporting biology phenomena and relating it to their day to day activities.

Tertiary Institutions:institutionsof higher learning where biology teachers are trained would make use of these instructional strategies so as to equip them to produce more effective teachers who would in turn help students reconstruct knowledge on their own.

Curriculum Developersand Authors who develop curricula and recommend

effectivemethods of instruction, may also in-corporate the use of these strategies in biology curriculum to clarify and enhance students understanding and performance of ecology terms and concepts.Text book publishers may find the study useful to design activities that involve the use of these strategies to enhance meaningful learning in biology.

Professional Bodies and Researchers: The study would be useful to professionals bodies,researchers and associations concerned with outcomes of research especially those interested in instructional innovations such as Science Teachers Association ofNigerian (STAN), Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) and other educational agencies that carry out seminars, conferences, workshops and research activities might find the results of this study useful and incorporate them into their instructional package. The result of this study may also serve as literature review and reference in related field for other researchers.

Education Counselors and Psychologists: Academic performance among students has been the concern of Nigerian educational endeavor, as such a study involving student‘s performance would be of paramount interest to instructors, students, parents, education agencies, and other stakeholders in education.  

Studies on attitude of students to science subjects and concepts are important to teachers, guidance and counselorsand other psychologists who help students decide their future careers‘ hence the relevance of this study to such category of people. Varied abilities and retention of students in science subjects has been a topical issue and henceof vital important to educational psychology, relevant to classroom practice and teaching strategies. Thus, study that might change the mindset of students about a particular subject and throws more light in the right direction would be potentially useful to education.


1.7       Scope of the Study

This research work was undertaken to determine the impact of using laboratory and problem solving teaching strategieson attitude, retentionand performance of secondary school biology students with varied abilities. The students used for this study were SSII studentswith varied abilities drawnfrom three co-educational schoolsin Zaria Educational Zone of Kaduna State.

Zaria educational zone has schools from Zaria, Sabon-Gari and Soba local government areas under its jurisdiction. Subjects for experimental group one and two were drawn from Government Secondary schools Tudun Jukun in Tudun Wada and GSS Aminu   in

Sabon- Gari respectively, while subjects for control group were drawn from GSS Magajiain Zaria city since they were found to be equivalent based on pretest scores. The study was limited toecological concepts under SSII syllabusfor students of Zaria

Educational Zone of Kaduna State, this is due to time constrains and vast size of Kaduna State. It is delimited to Government owned/Public Secondary Schools to ensure same conditions with regards to funding, curriculum and teaching quality. In carrying out the study, the following sub-topics are the topic to be treated in SSII at the time of this study.

  • Ecological succession.
  • Population size/estimate
  • Food shortage
  • Overcrowding
  • Population studies and Balance in Nature

Laboratory and Problem solving teaching strategies were used to teach the topics to SSII students. The exercise lasted for six (6) weeks.


1.8       Basic Assumptions

The followings are the basic assumptions for the study.

  1. The schools sampled are typical secondary schools in the zone with same

facilities, staffing and same academic Calendar.

  1. The topics for the study are topics treated at SSII, for the term and are appropriate for the level of students.


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