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Background to the Study

Science has over the years attracted various definitions by various erudite scholars. Ogunniyi (2006) defined science as an attempt by human beings to organize their experiences about nature into meaningful systems of explanations. Igwe  (2003), defined science as “knowledge attained through the study of the operation of general laws on nature especially that knowledge which is obtained tested, approved and accepted through a scientific method.

According to Ali (2012), science is the observation, identification, description, expermentational investigation, and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena”. Gottlieb (2007), defined science as an intellectual activity carried out by humans that is designed to discover information about the natural world in which human live and to discover the ways in which this information can be organized into meaningful patterns.

Granted that science has many definitions, every scientist agrees that science is concerned with human effort to understand better the natural world with observable physical evidence as the basis of that understanding. The above is achieved through observation of natural phenomena, and or through experimentation that tries to simulate natural processes under controlled conditions. Scientists collect information to test new ideas about the natural world or to disapprove old ideas.

They discover new things that change how we think about nature. Thus, science does not presently and probably never can give statement of absolute eternal truth, it only provides theories. These theories will probably be refined in the future, and some of them may even be discarded in favor of theories that make more sense in light of data generated by future scientists. As science has been described as an organized body of knowledge, it therefore means that science should be taught through hands-on method approach.

This involves not only classroom teaching/demonstration, but exposure to the practical aspects of the study where by the students find out for themselves natural occurrences by observing them and experimenting on them. In other words, the study should be student centered and not just the teacher centered approach adopted by most teachers. Nworgu (2000) noted that contrary to the spirit of science, science teachers still teach without the necessary activities needed for proper understanding of the concept.

The physics curriculum has it that theory should be integrated with practical experiences but the reverse is the case in terms of what is obtainable in most schools. Nworgu (2000) still noted that most secondary school physics teachers still adopt separate periods for physics theory and practical activities. Some teachers do not teach practicals to students until  few days to the examination when they will use WAEC specimens to conduct practicals for their students. Under this prevailing situation, it will, perhaps, be difficult for students to acquire the necessary science process skills (Umahi, 2008).

The importance of science can be traced to all continents of the world. Agbo (2006) noted that science provide the tools of industrialization and national development brings about economic and social development of the citizens. In recognition of the above, emphasis is now being placed on mastery of science at all levels of the Nigerian educational system. Physics is defined as a branch of science that studies about matter and its properties in relation to energy.

It is conceptualized as a subject that is concerned with the study of matter and its relationship with energy. Man interacts with matter and matters in turn make life worthwhile to man. In Nigeria, science students preparing for the senior school certificate Examination (SSCE) must register and pass at least three science subjects with two such science of the subjects compulsory for science students.

Physic is one of the two compulsory subjects for the SSCE science students. As we, therefore, enter the 21st century and expect better technology for all, better knowledge for man, faster means of communication, transportation, innovations  etc., there is need to effectively teach and learn physics concepts to meet these challenges. This statements agree with one of the objectives in the National Policy on Education, Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN, 2004) which strives to prepare pupils to acquire the ability or skills to apply scientific knowledge to everyday life matters that concerns basic technology and its applications.

This objectives of physics education also aims at promoting understanding of the interrelationship existing between matter and energy. Gbodi (2008) declared that such a well-informed and environmentally aware society will be useful vehicle for national development and the maintenance of a flourishing democracy. Thus, it is not only the study of the interaction between matter and energy but a vehicle for national development.

Sound physics knowledge that can meet the demand of the 21st century can only be acquired in the environment with knowledgeable human resources, workable and available material resources. Ige (2000) noted that science teaching and learning can only be meaningful and effective if backed by the necessary resources to enrich instruction. Most of our teachers still view knowledge as existing outside the bodies of cognizing beings and as a result implement curriculum to ensure that students cover relevant science content and opportunities to learn truths which usually are documented in books.

Lorsbach and Tobin (2007) noted that the only tools available to a knower are the senses. It is only through seeing, hearing and feeling or touching that an individual interacts with matter. With the messages from these senses, the individual builds a picture of nature, hence the need for guided inquiry method of teaching. The guided inquiry method of teaching involves students engaging in some mental and physical processes that enable them proffer solutions to problems.

This teaching method is achieved through the use of laboratories and other support facilities in the learning environment. The effective teaching and learning of physics essentially depends on the use of laboratory for analysis and immediate environment as a source of its specimen. Nzewi (2008) described guided inquiry as a structured exploration in the laboratory or in the environment depending on the topic being studied.

The students must be physically in touch with the apparatus/equipment. They must be allowed to use their initiative. The teachers role must then be reduced to promoting and re-directing students’ wrong actions or in -actions. Students must be physically seen to be involved in the physics learning processes. However, Nworgu (2000) has observed that students’ performance in physics in Both Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination organized by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the National Examination Council (NECO) has consistently been poor. Available statistics/data on students performance in Physics School Certificate Examinations,  reveals that on the average, more than 80-percent of the students score below credit level in the past six years (WAEC, 2002).

The WAEC chief examiner’s reports of 2002,2004, and 2006 indicate that the students lack the basic process skills in physics and as such are unable to achieve the desired expectations in the subject. Thus, it cannot be over-emphasized for effective teaching and learning of physics, guided-inquiry method should be adopted by physics teachers. This is because, the inquiry approach of teaching enables the students acquire the relevant process skills.

Process skills are the abilities, potentials, technical know-how which can be developed by experience and which are used in carrying out mental operations and physical actions, Igede (2005). A skill may be described as the ability to perform a task, either mental or manual, which involves working out and building up a series of processes and actions in a co-ordination. Skill is, therefore, the ability to perform certain tasks systematically well or manipulate objects for useful purposes.

It is a mental ability or character inherent in an individual to think out ways of doing things in an excellent way. The skills which are associated with science and which are usually employed during laboratory sessions/activities are often referred to as science process skills. However possessions of these skills are basic for scientific inquiry and the development of intellectual skills and attitudes that are needed to learn concepts.

The skills have the enduring quality that will contribute to the students abilities to answer questions and solve problems even when the information base of science and technology changes. This is because science process skills are tools, abilities, used for acquiring and processing information. When armed with such tools and abilities, the individuals are then able to explore their environment. Igede (2005) stressed that the acquisition of the process skills of science is of utmost concern.

She further suggested that education for the future should be such that will equip the individual with the power to adapt to change and should be the most important goal of education of any society that wants to progress. Concepts according to Hampel (2006) is the meaning attached to scientific terms which convey specific meaning and are used for the formation of laws, theories about regularities in nature. Therefore, there is no doubt that concepts constitute the basic element one should understand in order to teach or learn science effectively.

An understanding of physics concepts is therefore, of significant importance in appreciating what physics has to offer to the society. A Clearly defined objectives for the teaching and learning of any subject has the content aspect. Essentially, learning takes place by interaction between the content and the learner. It is what the learner does that he learns better than what the teacher does. This interaction between content and learners results in learning. It is such leaning experience that links content with behavior.

Science process skills are fundamental to science, physics inclusive, allowing everyone to conduct investigations and reach conclusion. There are speculations that there is a serious educational gap in this area, both in bringing these skills into the classroom and in training teachers to do this with the resultant effect that students’ mastery of physics concepts is impaired. The researcher, therefore, consider that it is necessary to investigate the relationship between mastery of physics concepts and possession of science process skills.


Statement of the Problem

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 independent confident and self-reliant. Science properly taught and integrated into the school programmes has capacity of producing such individual to contribute towards the general education of the students. In Nigeria, however, students’ performance in the senior secondary school physics has not been encouraging.

This situation coupled with the compulsory nature of the subject to all science students and the poor attitudes of students towards its study tends to raise doubts as to the possibility of realizing the objectives of physics education in Nigeria secondary schools. Emphasis on physics education is geared towards mastery of concepts in physics. However, there are speculations that the level of acquisition of physics concepts may likely be influenced by the possession of science process skills among students, but the major issue of academic concern is that these speculations lack concrete research backing, thereby raising doubts as to whether there is any quantifiable relationship between possession of science process skills and mastery of physics concepts by students. This study is therefore faced with the problem of quantifying, using appropriate research tools, the relationship between senior secondary schools’ mastery of physics concepts and their possession of related science process skills.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between senior secondary school students’ mastery of physics concepts and their possession of science process skills.

This study specifically sought to:

  1. Assess the extent of mastery of physics concepts among senior secondary students.
  2. Explore their level of acquisition of related science process skills.
  3. Assess the relationship between their mastery of physics concepts and level of acquisition of science process skills.

Significance of the Study

The result of this study is significant to the curriculum planner/policy maker, the teachers, the researcher and the students. A knowledge of the relationship between senior secondary school students mastery of physics concepts and possession of science process skills will be useful to the curriculum experts and other science educators. This is because it could form a basis for introducing innovations in teaching at all levels to promote process based learning in schools and even in our teacher education programme.

The result will equally be useful in indicating the extent to which the curriculum objectives and national aspirations are being implemented.

The result of the study will equally help the teachers to relate the mastery of physics concepts with the possession of science process skills. The teachers will then realize that concepts are not taught in isolation of process skill acquisition and therefore run the two concurrently so that mastery will be obtained. Furthermore, the result of the study will help sharpen and focus on the effectiveness of science learning and teaching in schools, since it could help identify any deficient conditions of learning, where it becomes obvious that the students may not have possessed the related science process skills to aid the mastery of physics concepts, thereby leading to poor performance. The data on students especially those not exposed to the proper process skills by the teacher, can be used for training the teachers of science to improve on the level of acquisitions of science process skills.

Also, the instrument and parameters produced during the study could still form a basis for the development of criteria and materials for the evaluation with regards to the acquisitions of science process skills of both physics curriculum and the teaching and learning of science in our schools. The test items in physics on the acquisition of science process skills can serve as a guide to the teachers. They can use or modify such questions to evaluate their students and guide their teaching in process skills.

The study will equally determine the emphasis the teacher give to concepts learning. This will equally inform the class-room teachers on the need to ensure that students master basic concepts in science in order to make their learning more concrete and practical oriented.

The findings will also guide authors of physics texts on the need to present basic concepts in any given unit before proceeding to discuss other aspects of the units. The result will help to bridge the gap in literature on acquisition of science process skills.

It will also help in suggesting directions for further studies. Thus, the result will be useful to research work.

The result of the study will also make students to realize the needs to acquire relevant process skills in the effort at learning physics concepts as the latter cannot be separated from the former.

Scope of the Study

The study was limited to some selected co-educational senior secondary schools in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. The study covered part of first, second and the third term work of the senior secondary two (SS II) physics curriculum of the Federal Ministry of Education. Equally, it considered the four major topics of SSI physics: motion, Work, Energy and power. These topics are fundamental to the learning, of physics and are suitable for assessing most of the science process skills. The choice of SS II students is due to the fact that they must have been exposed to the rudiments of practical’s in their senior secondary class one (SS I) and are expected to put fully into practice most of the science process skills before their West African Senior school Certificate Examination.

Only six of the fifteen process skills recognized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (By bee et al 1989) will be investigated.

This is because these skills were specified in the first unit of the senior secondary year one and two physics curriculum.

These Skills are;

* Observing: Noting the properties of objects  and situations using your sense-seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and testing.

* Classifying:  Scientists in their inquiries about nature have to bring about order and hence the need for classification.

* Measuring: This means using measuring devices which employs standardized units correctly with appropriate precision as required to describe the properties of objects such as height, width, area, length, volume, time and mass.  

* Hypothesizing: This is the ability to make wise and intelligent guess which is subject to scientific testing.

* Experimenting: This according to Ibe (2004) refers to the designing of a situation to find out the effect of some variables (dependent).

* Inferring:  This means drawing conclusions. This involves putting several pieces of information together and making some sense of the whole.

Research Questions

       The following research questions were formulated to guide the study

  1. What is the level of mastery of physics concepts among senior secondary school physics students as measured by a test of mastery of physics concepts?
  2. What is the relationship between students mastery of physics concepts and their possession of science process skills?
  3. What level of science process skills does senior secondary school physics students posses?

Research Hypothesis

One null hypothesis was formulated for the study and was tested at 0.05 level of significance.

H01: There is no significant relationship between students’ mastery of physics concepts and their acquisition of related science process skills.


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