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The study was designed and conducted to determine the effectiveness of the Learning Activity Package (LAP) in influencing students‟ achievement and retention in Senior Secondary School Biology. Eight research questions and eight null hypotheses guided the study. A Quasi-Experimental Pre-test, Post-test, Non-equivalent Control Group Design was adopted for the study. A sample of 317 SS II biology students, drawn by both purposive and simple random sampling techniques from four co-educational schools in Enugu Educational Zone was used for the study. The four schools were assigned to experimental and control groups respectively.

Two intact classes in each school – (one as experimental and the other one as control group) were randomly selected. The experimental and control groups were taught the biology topic (Unit of Life) by the regular biology teachers. Three instruments – Pre-BAT, Post-BAT and Retention Test (which is the same as the Pre-BAT) were developed, duly validated and reliability of equivalence, internal consistency and stability duly established (0.79, 0.83, 0.73 and 0.92 respectively) before using them for data collection. The research questions were answered using mean and standard deviation while the hypotheses were tested at (P < 0.05) using analysis of covariance (ANCOVA). The result of data analysis showed that:
1. There is a significant difference between the experimental and control group, with the mean achievement and retention scores of the LAP group being significant more than the control group.
2. There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of male and female students, but the male students retention test was significantly greater than those of their female counterpart.
3. The interaction effect of LAP and gender on students‟ mean achievement scores in the post test and mean scores in the retention test were not statistically significant.
4. The interaction effect of LAP and students academic ability levels on students achievement scores in the post test and mean retention scores were statistically significant.
A major educational implication of the findings is that the use of LAP does not show any significant difference in the achievement of male and female students. Thus the use of LAP will not only help arrest the problem of male being regarded as high achievers in science-related courses but will also encourage the female students to enroll in such courses among others. Based on these, some recommendations were made which include; that seminars and workshops should be organized by government and relevant professional bodies like STAN to educate and sensitize the teachers on the use of Learning Activity Package as they may not be familiar with it.


Background of the Study

Science and technology are important tools for development and productivity in any nation. Science is a necessity for every nation that wants to maintain its independence, sovereignty, self-reliance, ensure growth, and have its head held high among civilized nations. This is because science and technology provide the basic tools of industrialization and economic development in the areas of communication, transport, energy, information, pollution and waste control, among others.

In Nigeria, the study of science is of so great importance, that a lot of emphasis has been laid on the teaching and learning of science with the major aim of science education, as contained in the National Policy on Education, being to equip the students to live effectively in this modern age (FME, 2004). This can be achieved by the inculcation in the learners the necessary scientific skills and attitudes.
The inculcation of scientific skills and attitudes in students can only be achieved through the proper teaching of the various science subjects.

These include Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Health Science, Agriculture, etc. Biology as one of the science subjects, when properly taught, will help the students to solve personal and societal problems. The knowledge of Biology helps to question superstitions, know the function of the various parts of the body, enables one to understand oneself, maintain good health practices such as the use of clean water, good sanitation, balanced diet, the need to vaccinate, among others (Maduabum, 1998).

The importance of Biology as a secondary school subject can be further illustrated by the fact that a candidate must obtain a credit pass in it, for admission into any Nigerian University to study such important science – based courses as Medicine, Pharmacy, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Food Technology, etc.
Despite the fact that Biology and other science related subjects are important to human progress; students still perform poorly in them. The low performance as reported in various science tests is evident in most science subjects in general. This is pointed out by the report of the Registrar, Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (2008) who indicated that the performance of candidates in the University Matriculation Examination (UME) over the last three years has shown a steady decline. This is an indication of low retention of what is taught and subsequently poor achievement.
A statistical table of West African Senior School Certificate Examination (May/June) from 2005 – 2007 illustrated the student low performance in biology for three consecutive years. The following are the percentage (%) grade – (credit, passes and failure) obtained by the students. In 2005, the total number of candidates who sat for SSCE were seven hundred and twenty two thousand, and three (722,003) candidates and out of this number one hundred and twenty thousand, four hundred and sixty (120,460) candidates got credit and above represented by 16.71 percent.

One hundred and eighty eight thousand, six hundred and three (188,603) candidates got passes represented by 26.16 percent. Four hundred and twelve thousand, nine hundred and forty (412,940) candidates failed entirely and the above represented by 57.27 percent. In 2006, the total number of candidates who sat for the examination were one million, and twenty five thousand, four hundred and fifty six (1,025,456) candidates, and out of this number, four hundred and forty one thousand six hundred and seventy two (441,672) candidates obtained passes and above represented by 43.07 percent.


In 2007, the total number of candidates who sat for the examination were one million, to hundred thousand, and twenty eight (1,200028) candidates, and out o this number two hundred and seventy eight thousand, one hundred and fifty tow (278,152) candidates got credit and above represented by 22.80 percent.

Three hundred and seventy thousand, five hundred and one (370,501) candidates got passes and the above represented by 30.37 percent. Eight hundred and fifty thousand, six hundred and four (571,375) candidates failed entirely and the above represented by 48.83 percent (WAEC, 2008).
This is also evident in the Chief Examiners Report of the West African Examination Council (2008). There are indications that candidates who sat for the WASC Examination in most science subjects exhibited the following lapses:-
– inability to properly interpret questions;
– failure to write or answer their questions logically, systematically and convincingly;
– poor drawing skills;
– shallow understanding of most concepts in Biology;
– poor power of expression;
– inability to relate features to functions;
– inability of the candidates to correctly spell many Biological terms.
The aforementioned gives an indication that there may be low desire in the area of Biology as one of the science subjects. This may lead to appreciable low/poor choice of biology or other science subjects as a subject to offer in the secondary schools or tertiary institutions. This may also be an indication that meaningful learning had not taken place. The over all achievement and retention in biology and other sciences are very much related to many other variables, which are evident in the studies carried out by other researchers.

The variables include: the ability levels of the learners, gender issues, teaching – learning environment (location), teaching methods, teachers ability to use the various methods and materials provided, students backgrounds, level of intelligence of the students, students cognitive styles, among other variables (Moore, 2000; Mukalia, 2000; Ogunleye, 2002; Eccles, 2002).
Students vary in their academic abilities and this tends to be reflected in the extent to which they are affected by a particular teaching methods. For instance, Diamond and Onwuegbuzie (2001) expressed concern over the influence of different teaching methods on learning benefits of students of different ability groups, stating that differences in intellectual functioning among learners necessitate variations in instructional strategies. Researches conducted by Okeke (1986), Ezeh (1992) and Udeji (2007) indicated that teaching methods have differential effects on students of different academic ability levels (low, average, high levels) with one group benefiting more from a particular teaching method than the other.

For instance both Eze (1992) and Udeji (2007) found out that with the various methods used, achievement is significant with the high ability groups, while the findings of Okeke (1986) indicated that in as much as some students are highly gifted they do not achieve well in science this may be due to the teaching method employed which may not suit all the groups.

In view of the foregoing, it might be necessary to find out the students academic ability group (low, average or high) for which a particular teaching method will be more effective.
Various teaching methods are used by teachers in the teaching of Biology aimed at brining about meaningful learning. These include lecture method, demonstration method, discovery, project, inquiry among many others. The most commonly used is the lecture method. This is mostly employed by most science teachers because of some of its advantages which include the fact that it can be used to cover a large content area at a time and the students are given the same content at the same time.

Another major advantage is that it can be used to teach a large class which is a prominent feature in most Nigeria secondary schools. Lecture method can be very useful in teaching when used in conjunction with other  ethods especially for the purpose of introducing the topic. Despite all these advantages, the lecture method employed in the teaching of biology and other sciences has some flaws, which might be one of the causes of the poor achievement in the sciences.

According to Awotua-Efebo (2001), the lecture method is mainly teacher – centered, with the students being consistently passive and contents are taught as absolute knowledge. This method had failed in the recognition of the uniqueness of the inquiry-based nature of science and the learner‟s individuality. Furthermore it does not facilitate the development of reasoning skills and processes in the students. These, among other reasons had not enhanced learning in students and thus had led to poor achievement of students in the sciences.
It has been observed that effective teaching may facilitate learning and make it more meaningful. In line with this, Sander (2001) stated that effective teaching helps the learner to learn better, while poor teaching would naturally lead to poor learning and consequently poor achievement. Evidence available from literature on science education in Nigeria consistently shows that achievement in various aspects of science at various levels of education is very poor.

Eccles (2002) whose study revealed that there was a tremendous increase in the number of students‟ under-achievement in science. The basic factors responsible for students‟ under-achievement in science can be grouped into teacher related and facility-oriented factors. These factors include the materials used, and the teaching method employed, among other things. Unfortunately, evidence from literature showed that most science teachers in Nigeria secondary schools predominately use lecture method in teaching science due to poor knowledge and none exposure to other learner centered method leading to poor achievement and retention (Anderson, 2001; Freedman, 2002; Omoniyi, 2006).
Retention, according to Chauhan (1998), is a direct correlate of positive transfer of learning. This means that high retention may lead to high achievement which is a factor of many variables such as interval between learning and retrieval, intervening experiences, specific subject involved, teaching strategies/methods used, and environmental situations, among others. Evidence from researches showed that there is no consistency on the variables that may lead to the students retaining more of what they have learnt.

Separate studies carried out by Ndukwe (2000), Nnadi (2001) and Eze (2002) showed that there was no significant differences between the pupils mean post achievement and retention scores. However, other studies carried out by Udousoro (2002) and Udeji (2007) showed that the methods employed in teaching science led to students high retention and achievement. These findings suggest that there is need to carry out more studies to clarify issues related to achievement and retention as it concerns methods of teaching used in teaching.

Since there is no consensus on the effect of methods on students‟ retention and achievement, there is need to investigate a learner centered activity oriented method and its effect on achievement and retention. Learner centered activity oriented method may include the use of a Learning Activity Package (LAP).
A Learning Activity Package (LAP) is a student – centered, activity-oriented teaching strategy where the teacher acts as a facilitator of learning, guiding the students through a series of activities and problems, which may help learners to achieve highly. In LAP, learning materials are broken into small steps that are arranged sequentially from known to unknown and in an increasing order of difficulty. This suggests that LAP calls for individualized student attention.

In solving the students‟ problems of poor achievement and retention in Biology, there is the need to shift from the conventional methods of teaching sciences to a more innovative method – a method that should seek for a way of making teaching more precise, while at the same time adjusting both the objective and methods of learning to the needs and characteristics of the individual learners. This innovative method must enable each student to work at his own pace thus accommodating both the fast and slow learners. In this method, the goals of the subject matter must be spelt out very well that students can arrive at the same goals independently along some avenue other than the one provided by the teacher. This calls for an individualized type of instruction.
Individualized instruction, according to Chauhan (1998), is that in which the teachers attend to learning needs and problems of each learner separately. In other words, it means the tailoring of instruction to the particular needs and ability of each learner.
The individualized instruction method can be approached and achieved through different methods such as Programmed Instruction (PI), Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI), Independent study (IS), Audio-Tutorial Training Models (ATTM), Learner-Controlled Instruction (LCI), Personalized System of Instruction (PSI), Protocol Packages (PP), and Learning Activity Package (LAP) among others. Learning Activity Packages (LAP) which is one of the teaching methods employed to achieve individualized instruction is the focus of the present study.
Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) had so much been advocated and had been established by research finding to be good for individualized instruction. The use in Nigerian Schools had been hampered by non-availability of computer systems in most public schools and even some private schools (Eze, 2004). Based on the non-available of these computer systems in our Nigerian schools the researcher advocates for the trial of another individualized method of instruction which can be readily available and can be affordable. This calls for the trial of the use of Learning Activity Package (LAP).
From the researches available to the researcher the efficacy of LAP as a teaching technique in Biology was carried out by Abu (2001) in Zaria, Abu used LAP as an instructional material on students‟ achievement in Biology. In the study, the LAP was developed on the topic micro-organisms and the subjects used were 25 randomly selected senior secondary two (SSII) students. The researcher used pre and post assessment to obtain data on the mastery of the objectives of the topic with the use of LAP by the subjects.

The data was analyzed using simple percentage with 70%, as the criterion for mastery of the objectives of the LAP. The post assessment score obtained indicated that the objectives of the LAP were achieved in terms of students‟ mastery of those objectives.
The above study is indirectly measuring achievement in Biology and there was no evidence of validation of the instrument used. There was also no indication of the test of reliability of the instrument used to ensure that the generalization of the study will not be limited.

The researcher was after the learners‟ mastery of the objectives of LAP and no other variable was employed in the study. Moreover, the method of data analysis was the percentage and there was no control group. Hence, in this study, more control of the characteristics of LAP was adopted by remedying the above deficiencies including using experimental / treatment and control groups for assessing the efficacy of the package. Variables like retention and ability levels were considered in the present study.
However, the present study focused on the application of LAP as a method of instruction and not as an instructional material, and was carried out in Enugu State using four different schools which served as experimental and control groups. The developed LAP on the „unit of life‟ was used to ascertain the efficacy of the method with respect to students‟ achievement and retention with varying ability levels. The reliability of the LAP was tested to ensure that the results of the study were not limited.

The LAP used in this study was packaged by the researcher based on the publication made by Cardarelli (1972), details of the steps followed by the researcher in developing the LAP is contained in the Research Method.
One related factor that is confronting the use of learner centered method to teaching, is its ability to have the same impact on both male and female students equally. This raises the issue of gender in relation to achievement and retention.

Influence of gender on students‟ achievement and retention in science subjects has over the years attracted the attention and interest of scholars. However, it is worthy of note that opinions and findings about the issue have been diverse. Specifically, while some scholars (Onekutu and Onekutu, 2002; Eriba and Sesugh, 2006) found out that males achieve higher and retain more than females, others found out otherwise (Alkhateeb, 2001; Bleuer and Wattz, 2002; Omoniyi, 2006).

Yet another group of scholars are of the view that achievement and retention in science subjects are not influenced by gender (Iloputaife, 2001 and Eze, 2001). Additionally therefore this study investigated the relevance and possible influence of gender on students‟ achievement and retention in Biology when LAP method is employed in teaching them.



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