Influence Of Scientific Attitudes On Student’s Academic Performance In Senior Secondary School Practical Physics
The persistent under-performance in practical physics has warranted further research to determine what factors have not been considered nor given enough attention in the on- going reform efforts. Student’s scientific attitude is a factor that is known to influence students’ learning and performance in the subject. The purpose of this study therefore was to determine the effect of student’s scientific attitude and performance in practical physics by first trying to establish their attitudes regarding the subject and also finding out the factors that influence these attitudes. The study would provide understanding of some of the learners’ behaviours as a result of their attitudes towards the subject and would go a long way in helping the learners to develop positive attitudes which is a recipe for better learning and performance in the subject. This study adopted a descriptive survey design due to the implicit nature of the study. The study involved some seven sampled public secondary schools in Lagos state and the target population were the form four students who were about to sit for their NECO examinations. Purposive and random samplings were employed in selecting the schools and the students from those schools respectively with the use of students’ questionnaires as a method of data collection. The questionnaires were designed to capture some of the students’ perceptions and beliefs regarding the subject which were grouped according to themes including liking, difficulty, usefulness and future expectations regarding the subject, learners’ mathematical ability and performance. The findings also show that perceptions and beliefs, perceived learning abilities and competencies and previous performances of students in practical physics affected their level of motivation leading to low outcomes. The study recommends the use of varied instructional strategies by the teachers, which promote discovery and elicit learner interest. The students should be encouraged to apply the taught knowledge and skills through feedback and assignments. There is therefore, a need to offer and build on experiences and opportunities that inspire the students to engage fully in the material fact and acquire knowledge and skills that would enable them excel in the practical physics because they like and value it.
INTRODUCTION AND CONTEXT
1.0 Background of the study
In formal school system, science, as a discipline, stimulates the learners to conduct an enquiry which is bias free and objective and if such practices are continued over the time then the learners get trained in scientific methodology, that is exploring something systematically and logically, and develop scientific attitude, which means the behavioristic disposition, on the part of the individual, to act in certain way(s) in definite situation(s).
At a broad level, in formal school system, one of the significant parameter to reflect upon students’ over all academic performance is achievement in science (Mukhopadhyay, 2014) because it has scientific attitude as an operational dimension which is a tendency to respond favorably/unfavorably to some classified stimuli and in fact it is the ability to act/react with rationale, objectivity and consistency in definite and précised ways to some context/ situation which may be problematic or novel in nature. Scientific method is the potential to attempt something in a trend that relies upon verified principles (Olasehinde & Olatoye, 2014).
It acts to regulate the behaviour which is directed towards/away from any context/situation(s)/ object(s).It is further characterized by different attributes like aversion to superstition, curiosity, suspended judgment, critical mindedness, open mindedness, ability to verify, faith in scientific method etc. (Rao, 1996).
Besides this respect for evidence, search for truth, intellectual honesty, willingness to change opinion are other qualitative aspects which prove indispensable in developing scientific attitude in classroom teaching-learning practices (Rao et al., 1989). The nature of science as a discipline is compatible enough with scientific method to bloom in the personality of learners and at students’ end it may prove a significant determinant of science achievement (Abell & Lederman, 2007).
So, such qualitative aspects of science in the long run may facilitate development at individual as well as national level (Rao, 1996). Science is fundamentally a body of knowledge collected through experimentation and observation and it is both a process as well as product that is science as a body of knowledge means science as a product and the ways/means to arrive at that product is the process approach of science. To develop scientific tendencies among learners, in the classroom and laboratories, the process aspects of science like classification, observation, measurement, prediction, communication, hypothesis formulation, experimentation etc. must be emphasized but due to curricular constraints like huge content coverage in compact time period and stress to score in the theory oriented examinations, which require belching out on the part of learners, teachers have to adhere to product nature of science that is arriving at the conclusion without exploring the means to arrive at that conclusion. Such practices in the long run, lead to disinterest among students for science subject as low enrolment rate of students in secondary school (Olasehinde, 2008) and low scoring in science in examinations have also been observed (Olagunju, 1998).
However specifically, the plausible reasons for such trend may be the substandard teaching methodologies being practiced for science subject at primary school level like chalk and talk method which does not prove instrumental with respect to the students’ positive attitude which is indispensable for developing their conceptual understanding of science subject (Stofflet & Stoddart, 1994) and also it is not so effective while teaching average and slow learners. To meet the global requirements of the contemporary period, in education system there is a dire need to prepare young minds who have strong foundations of scientific knowledge and are well versed in science process skills and endowed with scientific attitude.
But still, for the teachers, the assessment of some affective domain like scientific attitude is not so easy unlike the elements of cognitive and psychomotor domains like scientific knowledge and science process skills respectively. So, this facet of scientific attitude is the thrust area in science teaching that needs to be probed to enhance students’ achievement in science and the present study attempts to probe this aspect that is study of the scientific attitude in relation to science achievement scores among secondary school students.
Though research studies show that performance in practical physics is a function of many interrelated variables which can be grouped as student factors, school factors and home factors, Student attitudes are regarded by many researchers as a key factor to be taken into account when attempting to understand and explain the student performance in practical physics (Kogce et al, 2009). There is a need therefore, to further investigate how factors like student’s attitudes influence their own learning and performance in the subject as would provide a level ground for understanding some of the learner’s behaviors as a result of attitudes. This study was thus concerned with the effect of attitudes which the learners develop or bring into a classroom environment of which may interfere with their learning processes and finally on their learning outcomes. There is a need to understand the learners themselves, their attitudes and perceptions towards the subject with the aim of suggesting strategies for improvement in the teaching and learning of the subject.
Attitude as a major factor affecting learning processes, may be implicit hence has not attracted enough attention from all stakeholders in education and therefore, it is important to consider the fact that learners can mainly contribute to their learning outcomes as a result of their belief and perceptions about the subject matter e.g. whether they like it or not and whether they see any value in it. Attitudes are seen as more or less positive and encompass emotions, beliefs, values and behavior and hence affect individual way of thinking, acting and behaving which has a lot of implications to teaching and learning (Mensah et al, 2013). They have a strong effect on behavior which helps in understanding and predicting peoples’ behavior in a wide range of contexts. Attitudes though not directly observable are inferred from observable responses and behaviours which reflect a pattern of beliefs and emotions. They are elicited by certain stimuli and gradually get established into a consistency or a tendency (Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia). A person’s behaviour and choices when confronted with tasks are determined more by his beliefs and personal experiences rather than by his knowledge of specific tasks (Pilippou & Christou,
Several research studies support the fact that students’ success in Practical physics depends upon the learners’ attitude towards the subject as this determines their ability, willingness to learn, choice of action and response to challenges. It determines the level of engagement, interest, personal effort without which one can hardly perform (Garden & Smith, 2001). Negative dispositions induces tendencies of fear, anxiety and stress where one resorts to other non productive practices which finally prevents them from experiencing the richness of Practical physics and many approaches that could be used to develop competencies in the subject. Consequently, the student exhibit low motivation, decreased level of participation, boredom and behaviour problems including class or lesson avoidance. This is infact evident when the teacher is doing his best presentation in class, but the student may seem to be alienated and aloof (Furinghetti and Perkhonen, 2002).
The importance of the study was for exposition and also for reference purposes as would give impetus to the development of further research that seeks to understand the effect of student attitudes on learning. Attitude change therefore, requires determining factors driving the attitude and using that information to bring out the necessary change i.e. helping students to learn and bring out their best potentials.
These efforts may define the obscure role of the teacher in molding the learners’ attitudes and motivating them towards learning the subject. Continued attention should then be directed towards creating, developing and reinforcing positive attitudes towards the subject (Pintrich, 1999). Therefore student interaction and instructional styles should be carefully determined and supported by the teachers concerned who should not only be concerned about performance or cognitive abilities but also emotional and behavioural aspects of learning.
1.1 Statement of the problem
A negative attitude towards practical physics has been found to be a contributing factor towards under-performance in the subject. The negative attitude in the subject has created a lot of fear and anxiety among students who continue to perform dismally as they lack the interest, curiosity and patience needed for learning and performing related tasks concerning to the subject. Studies on students performances in practical physics have mostly pointed to the fact that student’s attitude is a major contributor yet has received very little attention if any. There is therefore a need to study the effect of student attitudes and beliefs as is the integral part of sociocognitive learning which affect the learning outcomes (Burstein, 1992). This study would concern itself with a variety of beliefs that students harbor and which have potential effects on their learning processes as would determine their ability and willingness to learn. Students’ opinions and beliefs regarding practical physics, how much they like it, how important they think it is, how difficult they perceive it is and the future expectations can be understood as facets of student’s attitudes towards practical physics and which determine their success in the subject (Aiken, 2002).
The various reform efforts which have been launched to guide the teaching and learning of practical physics in schools e.g. the SMASSE project, has not realized any significant improvement in the general performance of the subject. These reforms point to the structural factors which leaves little attention given to student’s factors as a contributor towards teaching and learning of the subject. This is a clear indication that structural changes alone are a necessary, but not sufficient condition in realizing an improved performance (Trends in international practical physics and science study, 1999). There is a need therefore to understand the learners themselves, their attitudes and perceptions towards the subject with the aim of suggesting strategies for improvement in the teaching and learning of the subject through attitude change. As a result, some balance should be struck between curriculum goals and the student performance (Mullins et al, 2001).
1.3 Purpose of the study
The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of the student’s attitude towards learning and performance in practical physics education.
1.4 Objectives of the study
- To determine the perceptions of students about practical physics in public secondary schools in Lagos state.
- To examine the factors influencing student attitudes towards Practical physics
- To investigate how student’s scientific Attitudes affect their learning and performance in practical physics
- To seek recommendations on how to improve students attitudes towards learning and performance of practical physics.
1.5 Research questions
- What was the perception of students towards practical physics?
- What factors influenced student’s scientific Attitudes towards Practical physics?
- How did student’s scientific Attitudes impact on their learning and performance in practical physics?
- In which ways could the student attitudes be improved towards better learning and performance in Practical physics?
1.6 Significance of the study
Practical physics education has been in the middle of reform efforts towards an improved performance yet this has never been realized. The findings of this study would help all the interested parties in understanding the factors within the learners themselves and how the learners ultimately can contribute to their own learning processes and performance in the subject. The study was to help in exposing some of the perceptions and beliefs which learners acquire and carry into the classroom environment and which are of paramount importance to all stakeholders in education in attempting to improve teaching and learning of the subject in all schools. The study therefore would provide crucial information to curriculum planners that will guide in the designing policies and strategies towards improving performance in the subject.
The teacher would understand the learners better so as to capture their attention and change their perceptions and attitude towards the subject. Motivation, reinforcement and relevant instructional strategies by the teachers, might help the learners get directions on what is expected. Through this study, the learners would understand themselves and that their performance in the subject is a consequence of their actions, attitudes and effort which they can control for their successful learning and improvement in the subject.
1.7 Limitations of the study
The study was carried out in Lagos State and specifically in Ikeja LGA. The region has quite a number of both public and private secondary schools. The study would focus only on public secondary schools due to the fact that the schools enjoy the same fee funding and subsidies from the government. The respondents may not have been willing to give the genuine information as expected. The questionnaires used or distributed were not all collected while others were collected with some sections not answered. The sample size may not have been representative of the entire school population in the area. The findings might have been ambiguous as may not show the real cause of failure in the subject is due to attitudes. Learners gave varied views which were difficult to harmonize as were not consistent in some sections.
1.8 Delimitations of the study
The proposed study was based on public secondary schools in Lagos State where the subject ranking always is the last. The study would confine itself to form four students who were just about to sit for their final exams as they already have established predispositions towards the subject and where majority of them coming from the same social and economic background. The schools selected had adequate subject teachers, facilities and conducive environment which could allow for investigation of other factors affecting performance in the subject.
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