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Background of the study

Science is the bedrock on which modern day technological breakthrough is hinged. Different authors according to their own understanding have defined Science. Igwe (2003) defined science as a systematic study of the nature of the behaviour of the material and physical universe through observation, experimentation, measurement and recording. In addition, Esu (2004) defined science as a systematic, precise, objective way to study the natural world. Science is often an exciting and satisfying enterprise that requires creativity, skill and insight based on this Fape (2007) defined science as rationally structured knowledge about nature, which  embraces systematic methods of positive  attitudes for its acquisition, teaching, learning and application.

The major goal of science education is to develop scientifically literate individuals that are concerned with high competence for rational thoughts and actions. The objectives of science education in this country according to Maduekwe (2006) include the need to prepare students to observe and explore the environment, explain simple natural phenomena, develop scientific attitudes including curiosity, critical reflection and objectivity, apply the skills and knowledge gained through science to solve everyday problems in the environment, develop self-confidence and self-reliance through problem solving activities in science.

In recent times, countries  all over the world, especially the developing ones like Nigeria, are striving hard to develop technologically and scientifically, since the world is turning Scientific and all proper functioning of lives depend greatly on Science. According to Ogunleye (2006), Science is a  dynamic human activity concerned with understanding the workings of our world.  This  understanding helps  man to know  more  about the universe. Without the application of science, it would have been difficult for man to explore the other

planets of the universe. Science comprises the basic disciplines such as Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Biology.

Biology is one of the science subjects that senior secondary school students offer at the senior levels in the Nigerian secondary schools, (FRN, 2004). Biology is a very important science subject and a requirement for further learning of a number of science-related professional courses like medicine, agriculture, pharmacy, etc. In contemporary Nigeria, greater emphasis is placed on science and technological development. As a result, students are being encouraged to take up science-related subjects. Today, Biology pervades literally every field of human endeavour, and plays a fundamental role in educational advancement. This is seen in all the technological advancement in the world today, which is because of scientific investigations. However, the issue remains that in most secondary schools in Nigeria, there is high rate of failure in the subject.

Studies have shown that secondary school students are exhibiting low interest in Biology (Esiobu, 2005). This low interest of students in biology has been traced to poor achievement in examinations. In our match towards scientific and  technological advancement, we need nothing short of good achievement in biology at all levels of schooling. Unfortunately, achievement of students in biology at the end of the secondary school has not improved in the last decade (Umoinyang, 1999). Folorunso (2004) has linked poor achievement trend in biology particularly to the lack of instructional  resources  in schools due to poor funding of schools. The poor funding of schools has hindered the principals from providing the teachers with adequate instructional resources.

The National Policy on Education (FME, 2004) emphasizes the need for teaching and learning of science processes and principles. The policy recommends practical, exploratory and experimental methods of teaching. In this regards, Okebukola (2004) stated that the basic tools that science uses in the learning of science processes are the instructional materials.

Studies have shown that the use of instructional materials have improved achievement (George, 2008) and Nwagbo (2006). Instructional materials are wide varieties of equipment and materials use for teaching and learning by teachers to stimulate self-activity on the part of the students. The teaching of Biology without instructional materials may certainly result in poor academic achievement. Poor academic achievement in Biology could also be attributed to many factors such as, low interest of students in biology, inadequate motivation from teacher, poor incentives to biology teachers, lack of adequate supply of instructional material, lack of qualified teachers, and use of teacher centered instructional strategies, inadequate use of instructional materials and use of abstract standardized materials. Among these factors, teacher’s use of abstract standardized instructional strategy is considered  as  an  important factor in this study.

This implies that the mastery of Biology concepts might not be fully  achieved without the use of instructional resources that the students are abreast with. The teaching of Biology without instructional materials may certainly result in poor academic achievement. Folorunso (2004) observed that there is lack of adequate and appropriate instructional resources for effective teaching of Biology in schools. For Ibitoye and Fape (2007), the poor achievement in biology was traced to poor usage of instructional resources for biology teaching and learning, poor state of infrastructure facilities, large class size, poor teaching, use of faulty assessment practice, and inadequacy of quality teachers. According to Okebukola (2004), the poor state of laboratory facilities and inadequate use of instructional materials has constituted a cog in the wheel of students’ achievement in Biology in the Senior School Examination. The verbal exposition does not promote skill acquisition, objectivity, and critical thinking abilities that will enable the child to function effectively in the society. This according to the researcher leads to poor achievement of students in the subject. Okebukola and Jegede (1986) stressed   that a professionally qualified Biology teacher no

matter how well trained, would be unable to put his ideas into practice if the school setting lacks the equipment and material resources necessary for him or her to translate his competence into reality.

The report of West African Examination Council (WAEC) on the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) (2011) on student enrolment and performance in Nigeria by subject, grade, and sex revealed low enrolment of girls for science subjects as well as low academic achievement in biology and other science subjects and the persistent poor achievement of students in biology at senior school certificate examination (WAEC; Chief Examiner’s report 2007-2010), leaves one in doubt about the effectiveness of instructional materials and teaching methods popularly used by the biology teachers for the teaching and learning of biology.

On this note, resources are seen as materials, which help in doing something. For example, flour, sugar, water, and so on serve as resources for the preparation of bread or cake. In the classroom situation, resources are materials or devices that are used to facilitate teaching and learning. National Teachers Institute (2010) reported that resources in the classroom can be classified into two broad categories, those that appeal to the sense of sight which are classified as visual resources and those which appeal to the sense of hearing, classified as audio materials. There are also those that combine both features and are classified as audio-visual (A-V) materials. Isola (2010) referred to instructional resources as objects or devices, which help the teacher to make a lesson much clearer  to the learner. Instructional materials are also described as concrete or physical objects,  which  provide sound, visual, or both to the sense organs during teaching (Agina-obu, 2005).

The teaching of Biology cannot be done effectively without interaction between the teacher, students and the environmental resources. The Biology curriculum is  planned  to enable  the  teacher  use  activity  oriented,  child-centred  approach  (guided  inquiry)  to  teach

(Nzewi & Nwosu, 2010). However, evidence from research has shown that instructional materials, resources and equipments for science, especially biology are either in short supply or are completely lacking in schools to the extent that most teachers end up with verbal exposition of scientific principles,  facts and concepts. Studies have also revealed that the achievement of Nigerian students in Ordinary Level Biology was generally and consistently poor over the years (Nwagbo, 2010). This has been a major source of concern to the school administrators, parents and the government at large.

Bassey (2002) opined that Biology is resource intensive, and in an era of poor funding or scarcity of resources, it may be very difficult to find some of the original materials and equipment for the teaching of Biology in schools adequately. A situation that is further compounded by the galloping inflation in the country and many at times,  some  of  the imported sophisticated materials and equipment   are found   to be expensive and irrelevant

;hence the need to produce materials locally. Researchers such as Ogunleye  (2002)  and Obioha (2006) reported that there were inadequate resources for teaching biology in secondary schools in Nigeria. The authors further stated that the available  ones  are  not usually in good conditions in most cases. According to Abolade (2004), some of the factory produced/imported instructional materials have also been discovered to be based on foreign ideas and culture. It is against this background that the need to fashion out ways by which local resources can be used for developing instructional materials becomes necessary. There is the need therefore, for improvisation.

National policy on Education (2004) further stated that the provision and use of available instructional materials for teaching will lay a sound bases for scientific and reflective thinking among students. The real materials that are the conventional instructional materials are imported or factory made laboratory equipments for science teaching. Examples

of  conventional  instructional  materials  are:  microscope,  herbarium,  laboratory  reagents, laboratory glassware, Bunsen burner, tripod stand.

However, if these conventional Instructional Materials are not available or inadequate, they can be locally made by using resources in the environment as alternative. These will include used electrical bulb for round bottom flask; beverage tins for convex and concave mirror; juices of unripe orange as acid, solution of ash from wood as base, candle or stove as burner, teaspoon for spatula (Okebukola, 2006). Improvised instructional materials may not be identical with the conventional one; therefore teachers should be skilful in their handling and using them (Igwe, 2003). Improvisation requires a considerable development  through imaginative planning and good knowledge.

According to Ajayi (2004), improvisation is the provision of alternatives  to  real things. Improvisation is the making of substitutes when the real equipment or material is not adequate or available (Okebukola, 2002). It is the art of providing and using alternative materials or resources in the absence of the real or factory made one. Oyediran (2010) also defines improvisation as the art of using materials or equipment obtained from local environment or produced by the teacher, and with the assistance of the local personnel to enhance instruction. In other to teach by inquiry method or use activity based instructions, improvisation is required since instructional materials seem not to be adequate (Okebukola, 2002). Bassey (2002) defined improvisation as the process of making equipment and materials by the students or by engaging the services of others in the absence of real or manufactured ones. Generally, improvisation of instructional materials is an attempt to adapt and make use of local resources in the teaching/learning process when the ready- made materials are not available or are in shortfall or not within the reach of users. The teacher and the students could produce the improvised instructional materials. According to Okebukola (2002), improvisation in the context of biology can be seen as the process of using alternative

resources for enhancing biology teaching in the absence of the real ones. The teacher initiates the production of the alternative resources, which is constructed by either the teacher or the local artisans e.g. carpenters blacksmiths etc. The teacher may use the students for improvising some of the needed materials or equipments.

Improvisation is a technique of  originating a very new tool, instrument, materials, device or modifying existing ones for serving a particular purpose. Improvisation of instructional materials in secondary schools for teaching/learning purposes cannot be over- emphasized. To be able to promote quality instruction in our school system, there is the need to pay attention to improvisation of instructional materials in the teaching/learning process. Esu (2004) however noted that improvisation demands adventure, creativity, curiosity and perseverance on the part of the teacher, such skills are only realizable through well-planned training programme on improvisation. Fajola (2008) sees improvisation from the creativity involved. These creativity are substitution and construction. Substitution in improvisation simply implies the techniques whereby an already local material is used in place of a piece of equipment that is not available whereas construction involves making of a new instrument to serve in place of the unavailable original one, where substitution is not possible. Esu (2004), however asserted that improvisation provides connectivity between students abstract and real experience of teaching and learning.

Improvisation is a teacher-oriented activity used to effectively carry out the teaching/learning process successfully. Bassey (2002) identified two  main  constraints militating against the successful improvisation of Science equipments. These are the technical and the human factors respectively. The technical factors relate to the question of degree of accuracy and precision that is  possible with the improvised equipment, the human factor relates to the teachers’ skill in developing the resources while providing the  appropriate learning experience to the learners. In addition, Mbajiorgu (2003) reported lack of adequate

professional training as a major problem militating against the effective use of local resources for Science teaching. (Isola, 2010) then stressed the need for a definite well planned training programme of improvisation for teachers. Isola (2010) suggested regular  meaningful workshop on improvisation technique for Science teachers to improve and update their competence. The use of teacher produced improvised instructional materials and exposure of students to resources available in their immediate environment for instruction at this level brings students to real world of activities and may help students gain scientific skills. The environment of the school as well as the homes of teachers provide rich sources of materials and a resourceful teacher can on his/her own or with the help of the students and other members of the society, improvise these materials for teaching/learning purpose. The use of improvised instructional materials for Biology teaching has been long advocated (Olumorin, 2004). For Olumorin (2004), the production of instructional materials had undergone several reviews and processes by experts from various fields.

Improvisation serves the following purposes in the education system: It reduces the money spent on the purchase of equipment in educational institutions; ensures the realization of lesson objectives; helps in solving the problem of lack of equipment in educational institutions; gives room for a teacher to demonstrate his creative skills and gives room for the use of cheap local materials as alternatives to the expensive foreign ones (Olumorin, 2004). The researcher stated that improvisation encourages students towards the development of creative abilities; strengthen enquiry, discovery and investigative method in sciences; it provides a frame of reference on which students can key their attention during classroom activities; enables teacher to think of cheaper, better and faster methods of making teaching learning process easier for students; affords students the opportunity of becoming familiar with resources in their environment.

Owolabi (2003) suggested that students should be given opportunity to discover and invent things; hence the teachers should allow the students to acquire skills that will make them learn on their own. It must be noted that learners achieved more when they are allowed to manipulate apparatus rather than mere  listeners. In a case,  for instance where there  is inadequate or total absence of a standard or universally accepted materials or equipment for teaching the students with the assistance of the teacher will have to produce locally,  a substitute of the standard material. This will help in teaching and learning of science. This process helps to develop creativity and the spirit of resourcefulness among the teacher and the students. Most importantly, the teacher should make sure that these materials produced or substituted will be able to serve the same purpose as the conventional equipment which this research is all about. In this study, locally sourced instructional materials/aids that could be improvised are charts, posters, evaporating dish (from tin lids), round bottomed flask (from used electric bulbs), filter funnel (from wide mouthed glass containers), chromosome DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) model (from maize glued with plasticizer), rain-gauge (from  a plastic funnel on top of a gas jar or tin corked) and a host of others.

In another development, Okpala (1992) observed that the use of instructional materials in teaching and learning process has not received the desired attention in Nigerian schools and colleges, yet teachers seem to have continued to pay deaf ears to the stress on the importance of instructional materials in teaching biology. Biology teachers and students therefore should have a solid understanding of the basic concepts and processes of science in order to construct meaningful Biology activities that address all students’ diverse experience and learning styles, so for science learning to be efficient, it must be present as a human enterprise and a continuing process for extending understanding instead of the ultimate, unalterable truth. Instruction should minimize rote learning and focus on in-depth understanding  of  the  major  concept  and  topics.  Activities  or  processes  that  facilitate  this

construction of knowledge during improvisation are categorized thus: Use of knowledge in describing, explaining, predicting, designing and analyzing; construction of new knowledge through asking questions, solving problems, interpreting result and constructing knowledge; reflection of knowledge by justifying, criticizing, describing limits, making  connections, taking perspectives and describing interactions. These activities will offer student the opportunity to dispel misconceptions as they are constructing new scientific  knowledge during improvisation. These practices or experiences could provide high cognitive achievement in learners. Also, there is need to find out the influences of gender and location on students achievement in biology.

Gender has been defined as a cultural difference between women and men based on the biological  division  between male and  female” (Bland, 2003: 9). According  to Okeke (2001) gender refers to the social or cultural construct, characteristics, behaviours and role which society ascribes to males and females. Gender is a social or cultural determinant that varies from place to place or culture to culture. It is not universal, unlike sex which is biologically determined and universal too. In recent times gender related issues in science education has continued to receive serious attention judging by the quanta of studies done to that effect. For example Babajide (2010) opined that science subjects are given masculine outlook by educational practitioners. In addition to this, the studies by Ogunleye (2002) show that science achievement depends on gender. But, Nwosu (2001) found that students’ acquisition of science process skills are not gender specific. Also, the studies by Ogunleye & Babajide (2011); Agommuoh & Nzewi, (2003) lend credence to non-significant gender effect in science achievement. Also, influence of gender on students’ conceptual change has been equally investigated. Baser (2006) shows that fostering conceptual change does not depend on gender. However, Madu (2004), and Agomuoh (2010) found that gender influences students’ conceptual shift in favour of the male.

According to Sadker & Zittleman (2005) females flourish when speech and memory cues are incorporated into learning experiences. Given that females  have  more  advanced verbal abilities, speeches or presentations and share times. Females have an innate preference for language and can use more words per minute, have greater writing capabilities, and can memorize words with  great proficiency. Also, Bland  (2003) found that  females’ students are statically learning inclined. But males get up and move around  and  avoid learning that is experienced as static. Learning for boys should emphasize movement and outdoor activities,  which draw on male qualities instead of ignoring them (Okeke, 2001). Concrete and visual teaching aids are enjoyed by and effective with boys; such as movable clocks, protractors, thermometer  that ensure some hands-on activity (Connell, 2003). The introduction of humour into explanations and routine aspects of learning has been noticed to engage male students more effectively (West, 2001). These research findings revealed that male style of experiencing the world around us differ with that of the females. Males prefer outdoor activities while the females like indoor activities. These different learning styles between male and female may account to the variations in their conceptual world. Hence these may be the sources of misconceptions or naive conceptions in learning biology. So in effect, any teaching strategy that will repair students’ naive conception must take into consideration these sources of learning differences. Therefore, one sees that  the  issue  of gender in science achievement of students has not yet been resolved particularly in relation to Biology; hence, the need for further study of the influence of gender on student’s achievement in biology when exposed to students’ improvised instructional material. Equally worthy of mention is school location as it affects student’s achievement in science subjects.

School location means urban and rural schools. Urban schools are those  schools located at satellite towns. They are schools situated at the major cities of a particular country. While rural schools are, schools located at the villages or semi-villages.  Studies indicate that

students in urban school perform better in science than their counterpart in the rural schools (Onah, 2011; and Owoeye, 2002). However, some researchers as Bosede (2010) and Ezeudu (2003) show that location have no effect on students’ academic achievement. Findings on the influence of school location on students’ achievement appear inconsistent. In the USA, rural education is  associated with disadvantage in the public discourse. While research on this matter has not yielded consistent results (Fan & Chen, 1999), it is reasonable to hypothesize that, if rural disadvantage does exist, it is likely to be found in significant learning gaps in biology. Rural schools are disproportionately likely to have an inadequate pool of teachers qualified in these subjects and insufficient funds to maintain  up-to-date  computers, instructional software, and laboratory facilities. However, students in the urban schools may appear likely in a separate conceptual location with their counterpart in the rural schools. This is partly because they enjoy township amenities unlike their counterpart in the rural schools. These days, students in the urban schools have access to internet through their phones and computers, access to online news and information, well qualified teachers that are practically oriented and well equipped laboratory. Nevertheless, given the nature of Biology, however, students in the rural schools may likely not to be enjoying all these, but they are closer to nature than their counterpart in the urban. In the villages, trees, forest lives, and aquatic lives are common site when compare to cities. So this rare opportunity may place them in another conceptual location when compare to their counterpart in the cities. Hence, the above views form the bases for this research- influence of school location on the students’ achievement in biology when taught with students’ improvised instructional materials.

The interaction effect between gender and treatment has received research attention in recent times in science education. For example, Baser (2006) found that gender significantly interacts with the instructional treatment. The interaction could come from the gender difference   in  the   group   who   utilized  the  students’  improvised   instructional   material.

However, Miriogu (2012), Madu (2004), and Agomuoh (2010) found no interaction effect of gender and instructional treatment. In view of these research inconsistencies,  further studies on interaction effect of gender and instruction method becomes imperative.

On the interaction effect of location and instructional treatment, Odo (1999) found an interaction effect between location and instructional treatment. However, Momoh (2001) and Miriogu (2012) have contrary reports on interaction effect of school location and instructional treatment. Interestingly in all these studies, none investigated the interaction effect of location, and instructional treatment on students’ academic achievement. Based on these controversies, this study therefore seeks to find out the effect location on students’ academic achievement when taught biology using students improvised instructional materials in senior secondary schools in Potiskum Educational Zone.

Statement of the Problem

Evidence from the studies reviewed shows that failure rate in biology at senior certificate examinations is high. This could be attributed to a number of factors; one of such factors is lack or total absence of instructional materials. In teaching and learning, instructional materials play a key role towards concretizing learning. Instructional materials make learning meaningful and help to improve students’ academic achievement. However these advantages of instructional materials have not reflected in the education system because of the dearth of these instructional materials in our schools. Hence, the need for alternative instructional materials called improvisation.

Biology is resource intensive, and in an era of poor funding or scarcity of resources, it may be very difficult to find some of the original materials and equipment for the teaching of Biology in schools adequately, improvisation becomes the next option. Studies have shown the importance of improvisation in teaching of Biology. All these studies used conventional instructional materials, but there have not been studies specifically on the effect of students’

improvised instructional materials on students’ achievement in Biology. This study therefore, is geared towards finding out if the use of students’ improvised instructional materials could bring a solution to the problem of poor achievement of students in biology.  Hence,  the problem of this study is therefore posed as a question; what is the effect of students improvised instructional materials on students’ achievement in Biology?

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of students’ improvised instructional materials on students’ achievement in biology.

This study specifically will determine:

1.      effect  of  students  improvised  instructional  materials  and  conventional  materials  on students’ mean achievement scores in Biology

2.      influence of gender on students’ mean achievement scores in biology when taught using students improvised instructional materials

3.      influence  of  school  location  on  students’  mean  achievement  scores  in  biology  when taught using students improvised instructional materials

4.      interaction  effects  of  material  and  gender  on  students’  mean  achievement  scores  in biology

5.      interaction  effect  of  material  and  location  on  students’  mean  achievement  scores  in biology

Significance of the Study

The theoretical significance of this study is anchored on the cognitive development theory of Jean Piaget. According to Piaget, children develop knowledge by inventing or constructing reality out of experience and thus mix their observation with their ideas about

how the world works. Piaget’s theory of intellectual development holds that cognitive development takes place from active interaction of the child with  his  environment.  This means that the basis of learning is the child’s own ability as he interacts with his physical and social environment. Piaget is of the opinion that a child must act on the objects in his environment for him to learn. This means that he should be actively involved not be passive. The active involvement of the child may be in form of direct manipulation, visual observation or through mental or internal  transportation or change. Therefore, this study will help to validate Piaget’s theory of cognitive development or question the theory.

This study will be useful to classroom teachers, curriculum planners, students, researchers and parents. For teachers they will be better informed on how to help and guide their students on better way of producing improvised materials with local resources where standardised materials are unavailable or inadequate. The teachers can also engage students to do some of the illustrations during biology instructions.

This study will help to develop problem solving skill in students and will also help student to be more resourceful during lessons. The study could be beneficial to curriculum planners who would design functional curriculum by taking into considerations students- teachers improvised instructional materials.

The findings of this study, if discussed in workshops  and seminars will guide the choice of improvised instructional materials used in the teaching/learning process in biology and other subject areas. The findings of this study will equally help to alleviate the problem of the scarcity of instructional materials for biology teaching/learning.

The results of the study could provide information to researchers interested in working on student-teachers generated improvised materials in other subject areas. This may help them to get more information on the efficacy of improvisation, especially researchers in

the area of science and technology. Parents will be better informed on how to encourage and help their wards to produce improvised materials. This may be in form of sourcing local materials and providing fund for those that cannot be found in their environment.

Scope of the Study

The study is on the effect of students improvised materials on students’ achievement in biology. This study will be conducted with SS I Biology students in secondary schools in Potiskum LGA of Yobe state, Nigeria. The contents are:

1.      Ecological concepts

2.      Ecological factors; type

3.      Soil; types and its effects on the vegetation

4.      Functioning Ecosystem, food chain, food web and trophic level Gender and location are the other moderating variables of the study. Research Questions

The   following   research questions will guide this study:

1.      What is the mean achievement scores of students taught biology using students improvised instructional materials and those taught using conventional instructional materials?

2.      What is the influence of gender on students’ mean achievement scores in biology when taught using students improvised instructional materials?

3.      What is the influence of school location on students’ mean achievement scores in biology when taught using student’s improvised instructional materials?

4.      What is the interaction effect of material and genders on students’ mean achievement scores in biology?

5.      What is the interaction effect of material and locations on students mean achievement scores in biology when taught using students improvised instructional materials?


The following null hypotheses were formulated to guide this study and will be tested at 0.05 alpha level of significance.

Ho1: There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of students taught biology using students improvised instructional materials and those taught using conventional instructional materials.

Ho2: There is no significant difference between the mean achievement scores of the female and male students taught biology using students improvised instructional materials

Ho3: There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of urban and rural students taught Biology with students improvised instructional material.

Ho4: there is no significant interaction effect of material and gender on students’ mean achievement scores in Biology.

Ho5: there is no significant interaction effect of material and locations on students’ mean achievement scores in Biology.


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