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PROJECT TOPIC- DEVELOPMENT OF COMPUTER ASSISTED INSTRUCTIONAL PACKAGE FOR REMEDIATING STUDENTS’ LEARNING DIFFICULTIES IN NUCLEAR CHEMISTRY

PROJECT TOPIC- DEVELOPMENT OF COMPUTER ASSISTED INSTRUCTIONAL PACKAGE FOR REMEDIATING STUDENTS’ LEARNING DIFFICULTIES IN NUCLEAR CHEMISTRY

Abstract

The study developed Computer Assisted Instructional Package for remediating learning difficulties experienced by students in nuclear chemistry. This was done by first diagnosing the learning difficulties, followed by development of Computer Assisted Package which was used to remedy the identified learning difficulties. Six research questions and three hypotheses guided the study. The study was of research and development (R&D) design. The study was carried out in Cross River State on Senior Secondary School three (SS3) students in public secondary schools for the 2012/2013 academic session. Multistage sampling technique involving simple random, purposive and proportionate stratified sampling techniques were used to draw a sample of 187 (107 males & 80 females) SS3 students from seven secondary schools in Calabar Municipality, Calabar South and Akpabuyo Local Government Areas of Calabar Education Zone. Three researcher designed instruments used for data collection for the study were Nuclear Chemistry Learning Difficulties Diagnostic Test (NCLDDT), Nuclear Chemistry Learning Difficulties Questionnaire (NCLDQ); and interview. The instruments were content and face validated. The reliability of NCLDDT was determined using Kuder-Richardson formula 21; a calculated value of 0.81 was deemed high enough for the study. Computer Assisted Instructional Package (CAIP) was developed and used for remediating identified students’ learning difficulties. Findings of the study showed that SS3 chemistry students experienced a variety of difficulties in learning nuclear chemistry ranging from the fundamental concepts of atomic number and sub atomic particles which are prerequisites to understanding nuclear chemistry to the main concepts in nuclear chemistry such as writing and balancing nuclear equations, nuclear fission and nuclear fusion reactions, natural and artificial radioactivity, half life calculations, among others. Several factors were found to be associated with the learning difficulties, they included: lack of prerequisite knowledge for effective learning of some concepts, lack of effective learning of lower concepts, inability to transfer learning from one concept to another as well as difficulties in conceptualizing abstract concepts. The numbers of male and female students experiencing learning difficulties did not significantly differ (P>0-05). Gender thus had no effect on nature of  earning difficulties experienced by students. The CAIP grossly reduced the learning difficulties of students in nuclear chemistry but had no statistically significant effect in reducing the number of students experiencing the learning difficulties
(P>0.05). The achievement mean scores of students increased from 29.43 to 53.03 after remediation and the difference was statistically significant (t-value 13.35, P<0.05). Based on the findings, Computer Assisted Instructional Package was recommended to be adopted in schools for teaching abstract concepts like nuclear chemistry.

CHAPTER ONE

Background of the Study

The importance of chemistry to the individual and the nation is not in doubt.Chemistry, the study of matter, its structure, transformations, interactions and the energy consequences of these changes, enables the individual understand his environment, manipulate it and predict it. It plays a pivotal role in all aspects of national development and economic growth. This is so because a good knowledge of chemistry
is a necessary requirement to adequately study science and technology related courses in institutions of higher learning.
Despite the importance of chemistry, the performance of students in the subject has been persistently poor especially in external examinations like West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) and National Examinations Council (NECO) (Appendix A & B). The implication of this is that less number of students study chemistry or chemistry related courses after secondary education. Thus the number of professionals in science and technology continue to be inadequate to meet the national labor demand for such class of professionals.

The overall effect is the slow pace of technological development of the Nigerian nation. This poor achievement of students in chemistry has been of great concern to Science Educators and other stake holders in Science, Technology, Engineering education, as well as professional associations like Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN). Researchers in chemical education have continued to strive to find ways of improving secondary school students’ achievement in chemistry in order to increase enrolment in science and technology courses at the Nigerian tertiary level of education.

In the effort to find ways of improving students’ achievement in chemistry researchers and chemical educators have had to analyze various factors that affect students’ learning outcomes in chemistry. Some of these factors include: resources for chemistry teaching such as the chemistry teachers, their competences and attitudes; availability and usage of laboratory resources and materials necessary for effective chemistry classroom instruction (Eshiet, 2001; Nwagbo, 2002; Njoku, 2004).
Chemistry, by its very nature is highly conceptual (Sirhan, 2007), and while much can be acquired by rote learning, real understanding demands the bringing about of conceptual understandings in a meaningful way. Chemistry learning requires much intellectual thought and discernment because the content is replete with many abstract concepts. Such concepts as particulate nature of matter, dissolution of substances and chemical bonding are fundamental to the learning of chemistry (Abraham, 1992, 1994; Nakhleh, 1994).

Unless these fundamentals are understood, other concepts above them in abstraction become arduous. Real understanding requires not only the grasp of key concepts but also establishing meaningful links between new knowledge and the network of concepts already existing in the learner’s cognitive structure. This is in line with Piaget’s (1973) view that learning is most likely to occur when an individual can associate new and incoming information with previous knowledge.

Thus if chemistry students fail to master and consolidate a curriculum content due to its high level of abstraction, the new contents which depend or relate to the unlearned ones and which the students must learn become much more difficult to learn than the previous ones.
The accumulation of abstract concepts which the chemistry students have consistently failed to deal with effectively ensures that poor learning achievement is inevitable in the external examinations.
Chemistry educators and researchers have also come up with the finding that many of the topics in the chemistry curriculum are found difficult to learn by students; some of the topics which have persistently proved to be difficult at secondary school level include: nuclear chemistry, equilibrium reactions, thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, electrochemistry, chemical equations, the mole concept among others (Njoku, 1994; Nwoji, 2002; WAEC Chief examiner’s reports, 2002 & 2010; Okebukola, 2005).
Literature evidence indicate that students experience learning difficulties in chemistry mainly because of the abstract nature of the curriculum contents (Gabel,1999; Taber, 2002; Njoku, 2004; Devetak, Urbanic, Wissiak Grm, Krnel, & Glaser, 2004); its mathematical contents (Zoller, 1990; Fensham, 1998; Taber, 2002); and the multiple levels of representations of chemical phenomena namely macroscopic, sub-microscopic and symbolic (Nakhleh & Krajcik, 1994; Gabel, 1998).

PROJECT TOPIC- DEVELOPMENT OF COMPUTER ASSISTED INSTRUCTIONAL PACKAGE FOR REMEDIATING STUDENTS’ LEARNING DIFFICULTIES IN NUCLEAR CHEMISTRY

Nuclear chemistry (NC) is one of the topics that students have consistently experienced much difficulty to learn. It deals with properties of matter in relation to nuclear composition, their stability, disintegration and energy implications of these changes. As a curriculum topic, NC is considered very important by nations because it constitutes the foundation on which nuclear science and technology are built. Countries desire to train out the critical mass of nuclear scientists and technologists to enable them harness the abundant energy in the atomic nucleus as well as acquire nuclear
military technology for national security and national pride.

Many other beneficial applications of nuclear chemistry are known in medicine for treatment and diagnosis; in scientific analysis such as radioactive dating, Neutron Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy; in agriculture for insect control, food preservation and treatment; for  industrial uses; in reactors to produce energy. Energy from nuclear reactors can be harnessed and used to generate electricity, an alternative source of energy which Nigeria needs so much to end her energy problems and boost her domestic and industrial outputs.
The sources of learning difficulties experienced by chemistry students in the learning of nuclear chemistry are not clearly known. However, WAEC chief examiner’s reports on nuclear chemistry questions over some years (2004,2005, 2007, & 2010) indicate that students have difficulties answering questions requiring specific learning skills in different aspects of nuclear chemistry such as balancing of nuclear equations and identifying the particles emitted by radiations, stating differences between chemical and nuclear reactions, writing and balancing nuclear equations from statements; stating specific uses of radioactive isotopes; indicating the effects and applications of radioactivity among others.

There have been speculations that the major problem with this topic is due to its nature (Kurzman & Towle, 2006) and the abstract nature of chemistry generally. It should however be noted that nuclear chemistry is one of the very high theoretical concepts encountered by students under the content “Particulate nature of matter” in senior secondary chemistry curriculum. Based on the senior secondary chemistry curriculum used in Nigerian public schools (NERDC, 2007) the hierarchy of theoretical and abstract concepts that must be taught before teaching nuclear chemistry include: Elements, Chemical symbols, Chemical formulae, Atomic structure, Sub-atomic particles, Chemical combination, Chemical equations and then nuclear chemistry.

All these topics are highly theoretical and do not lend themselves to easy containerization through tangible laboratory demonstrations and experiments. 
Nuclear chemistry is very high in the hierarchy of these theoretical concepts. According to Johnstone (1980), the higher the theoretical concept on the hierarchy of abstract concepts the more difficult the topic would be to students.
In the classroom implementation of the contents under “Particulate nature of matter” there appears to be some contradictions in presentation of contents which would tend to confuse the students and create learning difficulties.

For instance, in Senior Secondary one (SS1), students are taught that chemical reactions involve only the orbital electrons while the nuclei are stable and unaffected. Students are also taught that matter is neither created nor destroyed. When in nuclear chemistry students are taught that the nucleus undergoes reactions resulting in the destruction of elements and creation of brand new ones, there is bound to be disequilibrium in the cognitive structure due to the perceived contradiction.
In addition to the abstract nature of nuclear chemistry contents, the mathematical nature of some of the contents poses problems to chemistry learners. Research evidences show that a significant factor affecting students’ success in chemistry is their mathematics background. Some researchers stated that poor problem solving behavior of students in chemistry is not merely due to lack of chemical knowledge but the
processes involved in application of mathematical knowledge in solving chemical arithmetic problems (Selvaratum and Frager, 1995; Weisman, 1995). Thus students with poor background in mathematics find it difficult to solve problems involving  calculations in nuclear chemistry for instance, half life of radioactive elements.
Another essential characteristic of chemistry that poses problems to learners is the constant interplay between the three levels of representing chemical phenomena namely: macroscopic, sub-microscopic and symbolic. The macroscopic level is real and may take the form of experiments which are visible; the sub-microscopic level is invisible but real and deals with atoms, molecules and ions; and the symbolic level is the chemical language expressed as symbols, formulae, pictorial representations, graphs and mathematical representations (Johnstone, 1993; Sirhan,2007). These levels of chemical representation constitute chemistry thinking.

Onwu and Randall (2006) maintain that the experienced chemist is comfortable on all three levels of communicating chemical concepts and can easily move from one level to the other, while the novice learner is comfortable in none of these levels and has difficulty relating one level to the other. Devetak et al (2004) attribute the complexity of chemistry teaching and learning to the relationship among the three levels of representations as learners have difficulty transferring from one level to the other.
In line with the findings above, studies by Johnson (1998) and Gabel (1999) show that learners find it easier and more fun to deal with observable chemical activities (macroscopic level) such as practical work involving experiments rather than handling theoretical concepts which require conceptual understanding (sub-microscopic and symbolic). The learning of nuclear chemistry therefore poses no fun since none of its contents is taught through experiments or demontrations.

This observable or visual representation of chemical activities in nuclear chemistry may be achieved by computer simulations which have the capacity to reduce abstraction of the concepts. This is the basis for developing Computer Assisted Instructional Package for teaching nuclear chemistry in order to remediate difficulties experienced by students in learning the abstract concepts. Computer Assisted Instructional Package (CAIP) is expected to reduce the level of abstraction of nuclear chemistry concepts by bridging the gap between the macroscopic (or real world) and the microscopic or atomic levels of representing phenomena, and hence concretize the learning.
Efforts to improve students’ achievement in nuclear chemistry should actually start with the identification of specific aspects of the contents that pose learning difficulty. It therefore becomes necessary to diagnose students’ learning difficulties in nuclear chemistry as a starting point for pedagogical remediation of these difficulties.
Diagnosis here refers to a process of discovering the specific learning difficulties of students in nuclear chemistry with a view to identifying the exact causes of each difficulty. Satterly (1989) identified six stages involved in the process of diagnosis and remediation to include:

• To determine whether learning problems exist
• To describe the nature of the problem
• To identify specific difficulties and associated factors
• To develop hunches concerning the origin of the problem and likely remedial actions
• To devise the remedial educational program
• To assess the effect of the remedial program.
This outline was adopted in this study to diagnose the specific learning difficulties of students in nuclear chemistry so as to develop appropriate Computer Assisted Instructional Package (CAIP) for remediating the identified difficulties.
A remedial program in a teaching and learning situation refers to the process of leading learners to be aware of their errors and engaging in possible correction (Ajogbeje, 2012). It is meant to correct deficiencies in learners, either individually or as a group.

The role of remediation in the classroom is to serve as a leveling up device (Ezewu, 1981), in the sense that students who failed to master certain concepts a allowed or provided the opportunity to level up with those who had mastered them earlier. Roueche & Wheeler (1973) had recommended the use of a variety of teaching methods in remedial instruction. The researchers maintained that students in remedial courses have been lectured to in the past without much effect and are likely to be more successful when a variety of instructional methods are used.

Button (2013) in his theories of student remediation stated that conventional “one teacher’’ models are not effective in remedial education; rather instruction coupled with a wide range of support and multimedia resources is the best way to prevent and address remediation.
According to this theory, students should be given access to one-on-one instruction time in addition to classroom instruction and should be given access to computers and other media tools.

On this premise therefore, a computer assisted instructional package is advocated for this study; it is hoped that when combined with lecture method it will achieve the remediation of learning difficulties experienced by students in nuclear
chemistry.
In line with remediation theories, researchers have found that computer animation and simulation have been used in science teaching to help students to understand complicated science concepts (Ardac & Akaygun, 2004; Akpinar & Ergin, 2008). Computer animation and simulation of chemical phenomena has the capacity to reduce level of abstraction and thus concretize the concepts for easy grasp by students.
Computer animation and simulation has even more advantages such as making students have greater self esteem and motivation.

Computer animations are also more attention- getting and attention- holding (Kearsley, 2002; Akpinar & Ergin, 2008). Kulik & Kulik (1986) had also maintained that computer- based instruction have several positive effects which include: more student learning in less time, slightly higher grades in post-test, and improved student attitude toward learning.
In this study, Computer Assisted Instructional Package (CAIP) was developed for the remediation of students’ learning difficulties in nuclear chemistry.

The CAIP took int  account all aspects of nuclear chemistry contents taught at Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) level. The instructional package was developed as a compensatory model. According to Okwo (1999), in a compensatory model, the deficient, undeveloped or underdeveloped capabilities of the learner are identified, and instruction designed such that their debilitative effect is circumvented, without consciously trying to improve them and learning gains maximized.

Mayer (2002) posits that students learn by active selection, organization and integration of information from auditory and visual aids; thus a combination of both words and pictures is more effective in promoting deeper learning than the use of words alone. With the help of animation pictures, it is easy to show things that would otherwise need many words to describe; images are also used to improve remembering, learning, and comprehension.
It is generally believed that there is gender disparity in the understanding of science concepts. The causes of the disparity between males and females can be summarized as arising from acquired characteristics, self-perception, social and  economic influences, and influence of the school and teachers’ attitudes (Zember & Blume, 2009). This disparity may exist in understanding of nuclear chemistry concepts thus resulting in different learning difficulties manifested by the males and females.

Also the use of Computer animated simulations in remediating students’ learning difficulties may appeal to males and females differentially thereby resulting in differing difficulties and achievements. It is thus the desire of this study to find out if gender has a part to play in the nature of learning difficulties which male and female students experience in nuclear chemistry as well as the effect of mode of remediation (Computer Assisted Instruction) adopted in the study.
The researcher strongly believes that a study on remediation of students’ learning difficulties in nuclear chemistry through the use of computer assisted instruction which takes into consideration the nature of the learner with regards to gender, content analyses, construction of appropriate diagnostic test, development and use of computer assisted instructional package, will go a long way into remediating the specific learning
difficulties in that area of chemistry content. If learning difficulties in several difficult chemistry contents are eliminated, students’ overall chemistry achievement is bound to improve.

PROJECT TOPIC- DEVELOPMENT OF COMPUTER ASSISTED INSTRUCTIONAL PACKAGE FOR REMEDIATING STUDENTS’ LEARNING DIFFICULTIES IN NUCLEAR CHEMISTRY

 

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