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This study investigated the effect of two Instructional Scaffolding Strategies on Secondary School Students’ Achievement and Interest in Biology in Ebonyi State. It also studied the interactive effects of scaffolding and gender on achievement of senior secondary school students in Biology. Three research questions and two hypotheses guided the study. The method of data collection was experimental, were simple random sampling technique was applied to select a total sample of ninety (90) students from the ten secondary schools used for the study. The instruments for data collection were Biology scaffolding Achievement Test (BSAT) for the treatment group and Conventional Instructional Package (CIP) for the control group. Mean and standard deviation were used for the analysis of the data. The hypotheses were tested using ANCOVA at the level of significance of 0.05. The reliability of the instrument was calculated using Kuder-Richardson (K-R20) procedure, from which a reliability coefficient of 0.85 was obtained. Table 1 presented result on the effect of instructional scaffolding on senior secondary school students’ achievement in Biology. The result obtained from Table 2 on effect of gender on students’ achievement using scaffolding method proved that the male students performed better than the female students. Table 3, which presented result on interactive effects of scaffolding and gender revealed that there is no significant interaction, as both performed well. The researcher made the following recommendations. Teachers should regularly apply instructional scaffolding method to enhance the effectiveness of their instructions; students should abide by scaffolding method of instruction when adopted by the teacher to enhance retention and long term learning; and the school authorities should on regular basis supervise classroom instructions to promote the application of instructional scaffolding by the teachers.    



1.1   Background to the study

Biology is a branch of natural science that deals with the study of living organisms, their structures, functions, evolution, distribution and interrelationships. Biology occupies a unique position in the secondary school education curriculum because of its importance as science of life. In Nigeria, the secondary school Biology curriculum is designed to continue students’ investigation into natural phenomena, deepen students’ understanding and interest in biological sciences and to encourage students’ ability to apply scientific knowledge to everyday life. Biology is one of the science subjects taught at the senior secondary school levels in all Nigerian secondary schools today which attracts the greatest patronage of both science-oriented and arts-based students (Nwachukwu and Nwosu, 2007), Nwagbo (2008) pointed out that the structure of the Nigerian secondary school requires a student to do one science subject, and Biology is the science subject most of the science students opt for on the false premise that it is the easiest of the sciences. For this reason, Biology has a very high enrolment of students in the external examination (West African Examination Council, 2011). Biology as a school subject is expected to help students understand and deal with their natural environment and the organisms living within it. Biology also deals with the interactions between living and non-living components of the environment (Nwagbo, 2008). A sound knowledge of Biology is pre-requisite for entrance into such professions like Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, Biochemistry, Genetics and Agriculture that are of great economic importance to the nation.

Despite the importance of biology as a school subject, available statistics from the West African Examinations Council (WAEC, 2009-2013) revealed that candidates achieve poorly in the examination. For instance, an average of 82.4% of the candidates that sat for Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (S.S.C.E) in Biology in 2009 failed to obtain grades at credit level and above, which could qualify them for university admission in Biology and other science-related disciplines (West African Examinations Council Chief Examiner’s Report, 2009). An analysis of the result of the performance of candidates in Biology at WAEC SSCE (2009-2013) as seen in (Appendix A), page 150 showed that the majority of the candidates scored below credit level or failed to obtain the grades A1-C6. By implication, most students cannot gain admission into tertiary institutions to study Biology or its related disciplines. This leaves one in doubt about the effectiveness of instructional approaches employed by the Biology teachers for the teaching and learning of Biology.

Science learning is expected to produce individuals that are capable of solving their problems as well as those of the society. Such individuals are expected to be autonomous (that is independent; not relying on anybody before explaining the materials learnt when the need arises), confident and self reliant. Obiekwe (2008) reported that all is not well with science instruction in Nigerian secondary schools, and noted that science teaching lays extreme emphasis on content and the use of “chalk and talk” method neglecting the activity-oriented method which enhances teaching and learning. This negligence and ‘shy away’ attitude from activity method of teaching has led to abstraction which makes the students less active and more prone to rote memorization (Obiekwe, 2008).

The ineffective teaching strategies used in Biology teaching have been the most important factor in underachievement (Okoye and Okeke, 2007). Some of the other factors include: incompetent mode of teachers’ delivery, inadequate use of instructional materials, students’ attitude, ill-equipped Biology laboratories and vast nature of Biology curriculum (Umeh, 2008). Ukaegbu (2006) proffered reasons for the poor performance to include ineffective teaching strategy, careless drawing and labeling, incompetence and laziness on the part of teachers. This situation has created the need for more effective teaching strategies. It then becomes necessary to explore the efficacy of other alternative strategies of redressing this situation. Research findings have indicated that the use of innovative teaching strategies such as co-operative learning, games and simulation and peer teaching could enhance interest and achievement in science. This study therefore investigated the effect of two instructional scaffolding strategies (cueing questions and concept mapping) on students’ achievement and interest in Biology. The effects of these two instructional scaffolding strategies on the achievement and interest of male and female students were also investigated.

Scaffolding is a learning process designed to promote a deeper level of learning. Scaffolding is the support given during the learning process which is tailored to the needs of the students with the intention of helping the student achieves his/her learning goals. Scaffolding is a teaching technique whereby the teacher models the desired learning strategy/ task, then gradually shifts responsibility to the students. In literal terms, scaffolding refers to poles and wooden boards that are joined together to make a structure for workers to stand on when they are working (Vygotsky, 1978). It is used when building high structures such as storey building. Scaffolds are pillars for support to both the building and the builder. Scaffolding as an educational concept is the assistance (parameters, rules, or suggestions) a teacher gives to the students during the instructional process to achieve learning. Vygotsky added that scaffolding instruction is the “role of teachers and others in supporting the learners’ development and providing support structures to get to the next stage or level”. As a learner gains control of these new learning, the teacher withdraws the support gradually as the learner becomes increasingly able to complete the task alone. The teacher then plans and provides further support on new learning. In using scaffolding, the teacher’s job is to help bridge the gap between what a student already knows and what he will learn next. A ‘scaffold’ ensures that children are not left to their own devices to understand something. The support is removed when the student is ready, like the scaffolding that support workers who have been constructing or repairing a building. The scaffolds provide the workers with both a place to work and the means to reach work areas that they could not access on their own which is removed when construction is complete (Olota, 2015)

In instructional scaffolding, the instructor initially provides extensive instructional support, or scaffolding to continually assist the students in building their understanding of new content and process. Once the students internalize the content and/ or process, they assume full responsibility for controlling the progress of a given task. The temporary scaffolding provided by the instructor is removed to reveal the impressive permanent learning that has taken place (Hartman, 2002).

Instructional scaffolding involves three major levels.The content, task and material scaffolding. At the content level, the teacher breaks instructional plans to lead the students from what they already know to a deep understanding of what they do not know (Turn, Turnbull, shank and Leal, 1999). Scaffolding plans must be written carefully, such that each new skill or bit of information that the students learn serves as a logical next step based upon what they already know or are able to do. The instructor must prepare both to continuously assess students’ learning and to connect new information to the students’ prior knowledge.

Concept mapping seems to be a promising strategy for meaningful learning since it enables the learner to consciously connect new knowledge with relevant concepts already known. Several studies such as Pankratius, Udeani, Markor and Loaning as cited by Ahiakwo (2001) have reported that concept mapping could be a viable strategy that can help teachers to be more effective, foster curriculum development and promote students’ hands-on activity. Use of concept mapping in facilitating hand-on-task learning is explained by the constructivist theory (Vygotsky, 1978), which states that hand-on-task learning enhances experiential learning. In concept mapping new knowledge is integrated into existing structures in order to enhance understanding (Stoica, Moranu & Miron, 2011). It makes learning process explicit and requires the learner to pay attention to the relationship between concepts. It helps in presenting diagrammatically and in hierarchical order the relationships or inter-relationship of a new concept/idea with existing or already known concept/idea (Rao, 2015). According to Ejimonye (2015) hierarchical presentation of ideas usually from simple to complex could enhance students’ achievement and interest in a subject and Biology is not an exception.

A teacher's overall instructional effectiveness depends heavily on how that teacher uses instructional cues. A cue consists of a word, phrase, or sentence that describes a particular aspect of a concept or skill. While cues most often focus on motor skill development in physical education, they may also target fitness, strategy, character

development, or any other aspect of lessons teachers deem appropriate. A growing body of research suggests that cues enhance learning by improving student attention, comprehension, and retention. Cues enhance the attention or focus of learners by restricting what they need to think about. Since learner's capacity for attention is limited, it is important to enhance this capacity with relevant, rather than irrelevant (or perhaps, less relevant) stimuli. Consequently, cues play an important role in directing students’ attention towards the most critical information, and away from less critical information. As Buchanan and Briggs (1998) posited that while having more than one cue for the same movement is useful, the teacher should be careful not to confuse students by bombarding them with endless variety of hints.

According to Anaekwe (2006) interest can be seen as the feeling one has in the course of wanting to know or learn more about something or somebody. Okebukola (2002) perceives interest as a learned response of liking or preferring. To Okebukola, the aim of emphasizing interest is to motivate students towards actions which aid learning. Interest can be intrinsic when it comes from within and extrinsic when it comes from external influences. Nwagbo (2006) states that students’ interest in Biology is jeopardized by the teacher’s authoritarian and introverted styles. Nwagbo advocated the use of self- learning devices as a way of getting students interested in Biology. There is need therefore to teach Biology in an inspiring manner in order to achieve meaningful learning. Interest is an important variable in learning because when one is interested in an activity, one is likely to be deeply involved and inspired to learn. Offorma (1994) opined that to neglect the learner’s interest while selecting the content implies neglecting a very strong motivational factor in the teaching learning process which can mar learning. Therefore, teachers should use instructional strategies that arouse students’ interest in Biology in order to enhance better achievement in the subject. Hence, there is the need to investigate if the use of cueing questions and concept mapping as scaffolding could lead to changes in students’ achievements and interest in Biology. Since the use of cueing questions and concept mapping as instructional strategies engages both male and female students actively at the same time, there is need to investigate if the two could help to streamline gender differences in science.

An issue of contention in Nigeria today is the issue of gender in the society including the educational system. From the reseachers view, gender roles are roles which society assigns to a man or woman in accordance with the culture and tradition of that society. Gender is a set of characteristics distinguishing between males and females, particularly in the case of man and woman which, depending on the context, may vary from sex to social role to gender identity (Bland, 2003). According to Okeke (2004), gender is a social or cultural construct, characteristics, behaviour and roles that vary from place to place or culture to culture. It is not like sex, which is biologically determined and universal too. The issue of closing gender gap in sciences has remained elusive. In recent times gender related issues in science education have continued to receive serious attention judging from the number of studies done to that effect. Babajide (2010) opined that science subjects which include Physics and Chemistry are given masculine outlook by educationl practioners. In addition to this, studies by Ogunleye (2002), Ezirim (2006), Okwo and Otuba (2007), show that academic achievement in science subjects depends on gender. However, Nwosu (2001) found out that students’ acquisition of science process skills is not gender specific. In addition, studies by Ogunleye and Babajide (2011) and Agomuoh and Nzewi (2003) lend credence to significant gender differences in science achievement. Madu (2004) and Agomuoh (2010) found out that gender influences students’ conceptual shift in favour of male students. Therefore, the issue of gender and students’ academic achievement has been inconclusive. While there are some views that male students perform better than females, others disagree with this view, arguing that achievement is a factor dependent on several factors such as socio- economic background, cognitive ability, type of exposure and appropriate teaching strategies, among others. Therefore, one sees that the issue of gender has not yet been resolved particularly in relation to students’ achievement and interest in Biology, hence the need for further study in that regard, especially when trying out new instructional scaffolding strategies.

Researchers over the years have developed or employed several teaching methods or strategies to improve students’ learning. Most of the methods or strategies have been empirically proven to enhance learning and in turn improve achievement. But the reality on ground indicates that students’ achievement in most subjects especially Biology needs urgent attention. Therefore, a strategy that will help students to correctly answer any question asked by their instructors/teachers is very pertinent. Thus, this study investigated the effects of two instructional scaffolding strategies on secondary school students’ achievement and interest in Biology.


1.2   Statement of Problem

Biology as a branch of science and a prerequisite for many fields of learning, contributes immensely to the technological growth of the nation. Over the years, the achievements of students in Biology in Nigerian secondary schools have been very poor. WAEC Chief Examiners’ Reports of 2009-2013 depict poor achievement of students in Biology. This, in addition to research findings, could be attributed to teachers’ use of inapproriate teaching strategies and lack of use of innovative teaching methods by teachers. Of all the causes of under achievement of students in Biology, traditional teaching method has continued to receive a major condemnation. This could be because of its ineffectiveness in arousing the interest of students, thus leading to constant underachievement and lack of interest by the students. To overcome the problem of underachievement of students in Biology, researchers have advocated the use of innovative teaching methods as opposed to traditional methods of teaching Biology. Innovative instructional scaffolding strategies could be a solution to the problem of poor achievement and interest of students in Biology. The innovative teaching strategy requires students to be active participants in the process of teaching and learning. This attribute of innovative teaching strategy is near absence in most schools and could be responsible for lack of understanding which in turn leds to poor achievement. Hence, the problem of this study was to find out the effect of two instructional scaffolding strategies on secondary school students’ achievement and interest in Biology.


1.3   Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study was to find out the effect of instructional scaffolding on senior secondary school students achievement in Biology. Specifically the study sought to find out:

  • The effect of instructional scaffolding and conventional teaching method on senior secondary school students’ achievement in Biology.
  • The effect of instructional scaffolding on the male and female students’ achievement in Biology.
  • The interactive effects of teaching methods and gender on senior secondary school students’ achievement in Biology.

1.4   Research Questions

This study was guided by the following research questions.

  1. What are the effects of instructional scaffolding on senior secondary school students’ achievement in Biology?
  2. What are the effects of gender on students’ achievement in Biology using scaffolding method?
  3. What are the interactive effects of teaching methods and gender on student’s achievement in Biology?

1.5   Hypotheses of the Study

The following hypotheses were formulated and tested at level of significance of 0.05

H01: There is no significant difference between the mean achievement scores of students taught Biology using scaffolding and those taught using conventional teaching method.
H02: There is no significant effect of gender on the mean achievement scores of students taught Biology using scaffolding
H03: There is no significant interactive effects between teaching methods and gender on students’ achievement in Biology.


1.6   Scope of the Study

This study was based on the effect of instructional scaffolding on senior secondary school students’ achievement in Biology in Ebonyi State of Nigeria.


1.7   Significance of the study

The results of this study have both theoretical and practical significance. It is expected that the findings of this study will lend credence to the effectiveness and authenticity of the tenets of Jerome Bruner’s cognitive view of discovery learning, Ausubel’s assimilation theory and Vygotsky’s constructivist theory. The findings will help to strengthen the application of these theories in teaching and learning of science subjects, specifically in Biology. Bruner’s cognitive learning theory believes that learning does not occur as a result of perceptions of events that happen to the learner but rather occurs as a result of the learner’s construction of perceptions (both emotional and intellectual) into schema upon which concepts are organized and networked. The theory postulates that learning could be enhanced when the learner is engaged in the teaching learning process towards personal discovery of facts. Ausubel’s theory of assimilation advocates meaningful learning. It postulates that learning occurs when there is an interaction between the students’ prior knowledge and the materials to be learned. These theories explain how students learnt through interaction with materials in the environment so that the students can use the experience gained in learning process in another situation. The primary idea of Ausubel’s theory is that learning of a new knowledge is dependent on what the learner already knows. Vygotsky’s constructivist theory believes in learning through personal construction of knowledge and ideas. In other words, construction of knowledge begins with the observation and recognition of events and objects through the concepts that are already possessed. This theory grew out of the learner’s knowledge of how best they learn during the learning process. The teacher’s use of instructional scaffolding strategies could help the learners to construct their own knowledge during the learning process following the scaffolding strategies it is possible for students to practice by themselves and share ideas with others.


1.8   Organization of the study

The study is divided into five chapters. Chapter one deals with the study’s introduction and gives a background to the study. Chapter two reviews related and relevant literature. The chapter three gives the research methodology while the chapter four gives the study’s analysis and interpretation of data. The study concludes with chapter five which deals on the summary, conclusion and recommendation.