1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The need to strengthen biology teaching at the secondary school level appears to be well recognized. Efforts toward the actualization of this need have essentially focused on four discernable approaches:
(a). Improvement of the curriculum,
(b). Designing of various instructional methods and strategies
(c). Instructional resources and
(d). Improvement of the quality of the secondary school biology teacher.
It would appear there is a consensus among experts in the field of teacher education that focusing on the improvement of the quality of the teacher has a superlative advantage (Shulman, 2013). This is so because the best curriculum and the best instructional method can fail at the hand of an ill prepared teacher. On the contrary, a well groomed teacher is sure to find his bearing even when the other conditions are not as good as they should be. Accordingly, current theories of teacher education tend to emphasize the development of the pre- and in-service knowledge base of the teacher. There has been much concern expressed about the apparent fall in the standard of science education at the secondary school level in Nigeria. For instance, Awodi(2015), Nwosu and Okeke (2009), Madu (2015), Okebukola (2015),working separately, have lamented on the fall in the standard of science teaching in Nigeria. Nwagbo (2009) identified a number of factors obstructing students’ understanding and achievement in the science subjects. Chief among these factors was the use of in-appropriate, non-effective teaching methodology. Oludipe (2015) noted that a major defect in our system of education is that science is presented dogmatically in most schools as series of disjointed facts and concepts which students find difficult to relate to the real world. The persistent poor performance in science subjects at School Certificate level (Achor, 2012; Ogbeba, 2009; Umoren and Ogong, 2011) has given rise to an assumption that most science teachers in secondary schools in Nigeria (Kwara State inclusive) probably do not make use of varied forms of teaching strategies to be able to cope with some specific difficulties associated with the teaching and learning of science by both the teachers and the students respectively. For instance, studies have shown that most science teachers do not possess the prerequisite knowledge needed for activity based learning (Nwosu, 2015; Johnson, 2015) and as a result the most prevalent method of teaching has been the ‘talk and chalk’ (lecture) method. Buttressing this, Ezeliora (2015) pointed that most of the time; science is taught to the learners using the descriptive or lecture method instead of hands on approach. The possible ineffectiveness of this approach is strongly supported by persistent poor performance of candidates in examinations, particularly in kwara State (Ogbeba, 2009). A possible reason for the difficulty science teachers experience in putting their lessons across to learners is probably because they are not abreast with some fairly new and innovative teaching methods. Another possibility could be that they probably do not know how to even use the ones they know about. As often specified by the current curriculum in use, science teachers are expected to deliver a particular content (that is, knowledge) in a specific term, week and time of the year to learners. However, how to put the required knowledge across to learners is often a problem to teachers. This problem could arise from either having to teach much in a short time (i.e., workload) or not having the pedagogical wherewithal (that is, preparation and or knowledge of available methods). Further, it is found that some teaching strategies could be more facilitative than others when used in teaching. However, this often depends on the subject or topic/concept. A few previous studies in Nigeria and elsewhere attest to this (Barbosa et al., 2015; Longjohn, 2009; Ogbeba, 2009; Umoren and Ogong, 2011). A teaching strategy refers simply to an approach, method or a combination of carefully designed classroom interactions that could be followed meticulously to teach atopic, concept or an idea. This brings us to the issue of having numerous teaching strategies or methods. This could also mean using new or reconstructed already existing ideas, methods, equipment, for example. Innovative teaching strategies, as used in this study, simply implies knowing or identifying and applying a more facilitative (or learning ensured) approach in teaching a named science concept, topic or theme. In other words, more specifically, the issue is using a combination of various teaching strategies that are appropriate for the learners in order to ensure more effective teaching. The search for innovative teaching strategies is borne out of the fact that different situations-teaching topics, learner’s cognitive readiness, concepts being taught, skills intended to be developed in learners- demand for different teaching approaches to be used. Therefore, a teacher who is not aware of a variety of such strategies can neither attempt to use them in the first place nor use them adequately. For instance, Achor (2008) considered some teaching modes as learner centred, interest arousing and activity oriented. They include conceptual change strategy, concept mapping, field/excursion, guided discovery, experimental/laboratory and demonstration methods. He added that most are regarded as modes of instruction (teaching strategies) as the teachers are required to employ a number of them while teaching. According to Ukoha (2008) the concept of utilization presupposes that appropriate instructional materials have not been identified, provided and selected for instruction. This statement applies in like manner to utilization with respect to teaching strategies. It may be appropriate to consider a shift from top-down behaviourist approaches to more participatory learner-centred approaches (such as action research, constructivist and critical approaches) but such decision is only possible if the teacher has awareness of all existing strategies and developments in education theory. Further, it has been observed, based on previous studies, that the present methods used in teaching science in secondary schools in Nigeria do not produce maximum results for the acquisition of science process skills by students (Ibe and Nwosu, 2012; Mandor,2011; Offorma,2015).They listed these methods as demonstration skills, lecture, diagnosis, direct observation, fieldtrip, group work, laboratory activities, reading, manipulation, modelling, seminar and programmed instruction (e.g. Computer Aided Instruction, CAI). Many things happen to the student with learning difficulties when the difficulties remain unsolved. The effect of difficulties in learning upon a student may not be far out of proportion to the apparent seriousness of the problem, because emotional pressure builds up around the student’s area of weakness (Blair, 1988). The student may fall behind expectation or standards set by the teachers, parents and school administrators and this lends support to the need to address the difficulty issue through the use of innovative teaching strategies.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
One of the problems that is attracting public concern and outcry in Nigeria today is the decline in the performance of science students in examinations (Achor, 2012; Ogbeba, 2009; Umoren and Ogong, 2011) and the sub-sequent tendency to cheat in these examinations (Laha, 2008; Maduabum, 2009).This observable decline has been blamed on a number of factors, including lack of using effective methodologies for teaching science in secondary schools. The continual and unabated poor performance of students suggests that the situation should no longer be glossed over. It does become obvious that innovative strategies for revolution of the teaching and learning of science must be sought for. There is scarcity of evidence to show that science teachers in Nigeria and particularly in Kwara state are aware of existing innovative strategies and if these strategies are used effectively as appropriate to specific concepts. Previous studies related to the present topic dwelt much on effectiveness of any two or more teaching methods in improving the achievement of learners in the respective science subjects using either a quasi or true experimental design (Danmole et al., 2015; Nwachukwu and Nwosu, 2011; Okwo, et al., 2008; Long john, 2009) without first determining how informed the teachers were with respect to the studied methods. Researchers in biology education have studied on the various innovative teaching strategies like, problem solving, field trips, individualism, cooperative learning, use of analogy, constructivism, computer assisted instruction, inquiry, among others and how they can be used to improve the teaching and learning of science in general and biology in particular, examples of such researchers are Olatoye & Adekoya (2009), Yusuf & Adedeji (2010), Oludipe & Oludipe (2010), Jiya (2011), Udeani & Okafor (2012) among others. Most of these researchers studied on the effectiveness of these strategies, some compared these strategies with conventional methods, Olatoye & Adekoya (2010) etc. without examining the awareness of in-service teachers on the existence of these strategies, their level of awareness and the degree of application of the ones they are aware of. Thus, this study was set out to investigate biology teachers’ awareness and utilization of innovative teaching strategies in schools in Four Local governments in Kwara state, Nigeria.
1.3AIMS OF THE STUDY
The major purpose of this study is to examine biology teacher’s awareness and utilization of innovative teaching strategies. Other general objectives of the study are:
1. To examine the biology teachers awareness of the innovative teaching strategies.
2. To examine the level of awareness of the innovative teaching strategies by the biology teachers.
3. To examine the impact of biology teachers awareness and utilization of innovative teaching strategies on students academic performance.
4. To examine the extent to which the innovative strategies are put to use by the biology teachers.
5. To examine the relationship between biology teachers awareness of innovative teaching strategies and students academic performance.
6. To examine the factors that hinders the use of these innovative strategies in teaching and learning biology in secondary schools.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. Are the biology teachers aware of the innovative teaching strategies?
2. What is the level of awareness of the innovative teaching strategies by the biology teachers?
3. What are the impact of biology teacher’s awareness and utilization of innovative teaching strategies on student’s academic performance?
4. To what extent are the innovative strategies put to use by the biology teachers?
5. What is the relationship between biology teachers awareness of innovative teaching strategies and students academic performance?
6. What are the factors that hinder the use of these innovative strategies in teaching and learning biology in secondary schools?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
H01: There is no significant impact of biology teachers awareness and utilization of innovation teaching strategies on the academic performance of students.
H02: There is no significant relationship between biology teacher’s awareness and utilization of innovation teaching strategies on the academic performance of students.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
In an effort to improve the teaching of biology in Nigerian secondary schools and make the learning of biology more attractive to students, this study may make the following important contributions to knowledge and education.
This study would provide science educators and government with detailed information about the actual picture of biology teaching, biology learning, and effective ways of improving the situation. It provides information on different innovative strategies that can be used to improve biology teaching and learning in senior secondary schools in Nigeria. The results of this investigation will probably be of great help to students in learning and acquiring knowledge or skills in biology since it focuses on modern methods of teaching what would have been abstract ideas. It would be of benefit to teaching as it would make the teachers to be more aware of the innovative strategies that can be used to improve and make teaching process more efficient and effective. It may also help Curriculum designers, Government agencies and school Proprietors in organizing workshops and providing in-service trainings about new ways of teaching biology for teachers. This study might help in the area of curriculum development by influencing the decision of the curriculum developers to introduce the innovative strategies at the initial stage of educational process. In the area of educational research, this study may be of relevance as it encourages further research into the study for future researchers who would pursue studies similar to this.
1.7SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The study is based on biology teacher’s awareness and utilization of innovative teaching strategies in four local government areas in Kwara state.
1.8 LIMITATION OF STUDY
Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Innovative Teaching Strategies: These are carefully designed interactions which may be new or recently adopted that are extensively used to ensure effective learning. They involve imparting knowledge in such a way that students are 33 engaged and challenged, resulting in greater students’ interest, a deeper level of understanding and lasting change in student perception of the topic.
Innovative strategies: These are generalized plans for lessons that result in a transformative educational experience for the students. Innovative approach is a design that is full of new or purposively reconstructing existing ideas.
Awareness: This is biology teachers’ knowledge on the existence of innovative teaching strategies.
Utilization: This is the act of putting innovative strategies to use in the teaching of biology in secondary schools.