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Effects of Cooperative Learning Strategy on Snr Sec Sch Students in Biology

Effects of Cooperative Learning Strategy on Senior Secondary Schools Students’ Achievement in Biology in Aguata Education Zone


This study investigated the Effects of Cooperative Learning Strategy on Senior Secondary Schools Students Achievement in Biology in Aguata Education Zone of Anambra State. Three research questions guided the study and three hypotheses were tested for the study. The study was a quasi experimental. It utilized the non – equivalent control group design associated with pretest and post test. The study was carried in Aguata Education Zone comprising of five local government areas. The population of the study comprise of all the two thousand four hundred and sixty (2460) senior secondary school students (SS II) in Aguata Education in Anambra State out of which two hundred (200) senior secondary school students (SSII) were used for the study as sample. The Effect of Cooperative Learning Strategy on Students’ Achievement Test in Biology (ECLSSATB) was the instrument used for data collection. The researcher constructed the research items, which was face validated by experts in biology after which it was administered to the students. A reliability co-efficient of 0.97 was obtained after analyzing the score or data collected using Kuder Richardson 20 (KR – 20). Two instructional packages were developed by the researcher one for the experimental group and the other for the control group. It was implemented during the normal school period according to the school time table. Pretest and post test were carried out and data collected were recorded. After the analysis, data for the research questions were analyzed using mean and standard deviation while the Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was used to test the hypotheses. Following the rejection of hypothesis 1, multiple classifications Analysis (MCA) was used to determine the contribution of each method of teaching. The result of the study revealed that cooperative learning strategy, (CLS) is superior to Conventional Teaching Method in increasing achievement among the students. In addition, the CLS showed that the male students maintained higher mean achievement score than the female students. Many literatures were also revealed. The recommendation of the study is that cooperative learning strategy should be used in school system as major teaching and learning strategy so as to increase achievement and performance in biology in public examinations.



Background to the Study

Science is usually looked at as knowledge arranged in an orderly manner especially knowledge obtained by observation and testing of facts. Ndu (1998) defines science as both an systematized body of knowledge and a way of discovering out knowledge. In fact science is derived from the Latin word Scire, which means to find out. Indeed science is the father of biology.

Nnachi (2005) defines biology as a branch of science that studies living things. Biology covers such areas as botany, physiology, ecology, microbiology genetics and cell biology. For the purpose of this research work, it is important to defined or explain some of the above branches.

Botany can be defined as an aspect of biology that deals with the study of plants. A scientist who specializes in botany is called botanist or plant scientist. The term “botany” comes from Ancient Greek word botane which means pasture, “grass” or “fodder”. It is a very large branch as it studies everything that has to do with the plant world. Through it, we can classify, describe, identify and learn about reproduction, morphology or physiology of natural being of the plant. Botany include algae, fungi, vascular plants and flowering plants.  Zoology or animal biology is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct, and how they interact with their ecosystem. The term is derived from Ancient Greek word Zoon i.e. “animal” and logos i.e. “knowledge study”. Zoology also talks about animal physiology, invertebrate zoology, vertebrate zoology, animal science i.e. biology of domesticated animals etc. It talks about animals and their habitats too.

Physiology is the branch of biology that deals with the functions of various parts, organs or cells of the body of living organisms. It deals with the respiratory, reproductive and nervous systems. Ecology is derived from the Greek word Okios meaning household and logus meaning study. In practical sense, ecology is the study of interactions of organisms with their physical environment and with each other. No plant or animal is independent of its environment. If organisms must survive, then the environment must provide suitable conditions for their existence. Some basic ecological concepts according to Idodo-Ume (1996) are environment, which is the surroundings of an organism like light, temperature, wind, humidity, water and soil. These are the non-living or abiotic. The three major environments are marine, fresh water and terrestrial. These environments have numerous habitats.

Biosphere is the part of the earth in which life exist. This consists of lithosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. Habitat and niche: every organism in any ecosystem lives in a particular place called (home) or habitat. Within its habitat and ecosystem, every organism also plays a variety of roles. It feeds on some organisms and serves as food for others. It extracts some nutrients from its habitat and returns some to it. It is either a producer or consumer. The sum total of all the roles an organism plays in habitat is referred to as its ecological niche. It talks about a species life style, how it lives, what it does, how it interacts with the other members of its habitat.

Population is the total number of organisms of the same species which live at a given time in a particular habitat. Aquatic habitat: this consists of water e.g. ponds, rivers, lakes, seas, oceans, swamps, lagoons and flooded rice fields. It is divided into fresh water habitats and marine habitats. Examples of fresh water habitats are ponds, pools, streams, rivers and lakes. Examples of marine habitat are oceans and seas.  Microbiology is from Greek word Mikros, “small”, bios, “life” and igia) is the study of microscopic organisms, those being unicellular (single cell), muticellular (cell colony), or acellular (lacking cells). These organisms are completely invisible to the human. They are only visible through the use of microscope. Madigan Martinko (2006) states that microbiology encompasses numerous sub-disciplines including:

Bacteriology: The study of bacteria

Mycology: The study of fungi

Protozoology: The study of protozoa

Phycology/algology: The study of algae

Parasitology: The study of parasites

Immunology: The study of the immune system.

Virology: The study of viruses

Nematology: The study of nematodes

Microbial cytology: The study of microscopic and submicroscopic details of microorganism. Microbial ecology: The relationship between microorganisms and their environment.

Some microbes are associated with various human illnesses. Many are also responsible for numerous beneficial processes such as industrial fermentation (e.g. the production of alcohol, vinegar and dairy products). It is use for antibiotic production. Bacteria can be used for the industrial production of amino acids too.

Hereditary biology is called mendalism. It is the study of biology that is involved in hereditary process. It studies biological heritage which is transmitted from generation to generation. It is a fairly complex branch whose main object is the study of genes formed by segments of DNA and RNA. Cell biology is the branch of biology that deals with the study of the structure and functions of the cells.  This discipline is responsible for understanding among other matters that properties, structures and functions of cells as well as their interaction with the environment. This is done on the microscopic and molecular levels, for single- celled organisms such as bacteria as well as the specialized cells in multicellular organisms such as humans. The similarities and differences between cell types are particularly relevant to molecular biology.

Indeed, the importance of biology as a subject of study cannot be underestimated. Its relevance to national development in the twenty 1st century is significant in diverse areas as discussed below.

Biology is a guide to the study of agriculture. The nature of plants and animals as well as the environment in which they are found is studied in biology. In the area of medicine, most of the drugs used in many areas come from plants and animal products. These drugs are refined in line with the knowledge we have in the plants or animals where they are derived. Nnachi (2005) in the area of understanding one self; it helps the learner to understand his or her make up to know certain things that take place in life. This helps in the eradication of superstition. Although life appears complicated in form, biology tries to simplify life by tracing the origin and end of life. More importantly, it clears life and all that are involved in it, which would have been shrouded in mystery (Nnachi, 2005). In the area of appreciating nature biology stands at a point in making man understand and appreciate natural phenomena that take place in life. In the area of population control, the knowledge of biology helps individuals to control their birth rate efficiently through family planning. This helps to reduce starvation and other social unrests (Nnachi, 2005).

Biology studies are expected to help the learner to understand the relationship that exists between him and his environment. The learner understands that he is living in the midst of millions of micro-organisms which he does not see with his naked eyes (Ramalingam, 2007). Biology advises the learner to beware of most of these organisms because they are dangerous to his life. It propagates healthy and clean environment.

Two schools of thought can be considered for assessing effective teaching in schools curricular. One is through anthropological and pedagogical strategies used by teachers to link learners with the knowledge of science and biology in particular and ways of practicalizing things that tend to sustain such experiences (Igwe, 2002).

The other is through the performance of candidates in recognized public examination (SSCE) organized by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the National Examination Council (NECO). Generally and in Nigeria, the latter opinion is used to assess the enrolment, grade points and achievement in school examinations over a period of time. Biology is not excluded in this categorization.

In line with the second school of taught, as regards students’ achievement in biology in Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE) in Aguata Education Zone for 2009/2010 academic years, the students achievement in biology was adjudged poor (Usulor, 2009). See Table 1.

Table 1a: Analysis of Students’ Performance for the Past Three Years 2011, 2012 and 2013

            Performance according to grades
S/N Subject No of


Year Exam Result

Distin. DD

No of


M F No of


M F No of


M F No of


M F Remarks
1. Biology 45 2011 NECO _ 4 2 2 10 6 4 30 14 16 1 1 _ 14 pass, failure 30,

absent 1

  Biology 45 2011 SSCE _ 2 1 1 20 13 7 23 12 11 _ ­_ _ 22 pass, failure 23,

absent –

2. Biology 41 2012 NECO _ 6 5 1 11 8 3 23 12 11 1 1 _ 17 pass, failure 23,

absent 1

  Biology 41 2012 SSCE _ 2 2 _ 4 3 1 30 19 11 5 4 1 6 pass, failure 30,

absent 5

3. Biology 50 2013 NECO _ 1 1 _ 28 17 11 21 12 9 _ _ _ 29 pass, failure 21,

absent –

  Biology 38 2013 SSCE _ _ _ _ 11 6 5 24 10 14 3 1 2 11 pass, failure 24,

absent 3

Source; Oraeri Community Secondary School, Aguata.

The table shows that a total of two hundred and sixty (260) students sat for National Examination Council (NECO) and Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE) in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

It also revealed that fifteen (15) students had credit, eighty four (84) had pass, one hundred and fifty one (151) failed and ten (10) were absent. There was no distinction. This implies that the students’ performance and achievement was low. The male students performed better than the female students.

Table 1b: Analysis of Students’ Performance for the Past Three Years 2011, 2012 and 2013 from Igboukwu Comprehensive Secondary School
S/N Subject No of


Year Exam Result

Distin. D

No of


M F No of


M F No of


M F No of


1. Biology 63 2011 SSSCE _ 63 32 31 _ ­_ _
  Biology 75 2011 NECO _ 45 22 23 30 17 13 _ ­_ _
2. Biology 32 2012 SSSCE _ 20 14 6 5 1 4 7 3 4 _ ­_ _
  Biology 48 2012 NECO _ 15 9 6 8 5 3 25 10 15 _ ­_ _
3. Biology 74 2013 SSSCE _ 11 3 8 24 13 11 39 20 19 _ ­_ _
  Biology 47 2013 NECO _ 23 10 13 15 10 5 9 5 4 _ ­_ _
    339       69 36 33 97 51 46 173 87 86 _ ­_ _

Source: Comprehensive Secondary School Igboukwu

The table shows that a total of three hundred and thirty nine (339) students sat for National Examination Council (NECO) and Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE) in 2011, 2012, and 2013. It also revealed that sixty nine (69) students had credit, ninety seven (97) students had pass and one hundred and seventy three (173) students failed. No student had distinction. This implies that the performance of students within the period was low.  Male students performed better than the female students.

Education as a process seeks to change the behaviour of students in the direction of objective considered desirable, which is aptly marked by the process of teaching/learning and cannot be complete unless the teacher evaluates students’ achievement. This refers to the process of determining the nature and extent of these changes in behaviour of students after a programme of instruction.

Gbamanja (1991) amplified this notion when he observes that evaluation of students’ achievement in education is a process by which we find out whether the change in behaviour had occurred, why it has not occurred and what can be done in order to make the planned changes take place. It is also a process through which the performance of students and their teachers as well as the effectiveness of the programme are assessed (Bozimo and Ikwumelu, 2000).

Indeed, by analyzing the achievement of each student the teacher gets to know the individual difficulties of his students. He is then in a position to direct his teaching to the specific problem identified and provides help that is appropriate to the difficulties. This is very important because in the opinion of Onwuka (1985), it makes evaluation a powerful motivation for learning. There is, thus, the need to review the students’ achievement in Aguata Education Zone in Anambra State in order to introduce or otherwise appropriate strategies for improvement. The effort will assess the level of learning that had been taking place in this area. The reasons for poor achievement of students in biology have been advanced by many authors, which range from poor methods of teaching majorly to poor attitude and interest as stated by Igwe (2002). It is for this same token that low achievement and how to improve on it in secondary schools have been the biggest problem of teachers, educationists and school administrators. Other reasons for poor achievement of students according to Igwe (2002:13) include:

  1. negative attitude of parents
  2. inappropriate medium of instruction

iii.        school environment factors such as undesirable classroom environment, and

  1. admission of unqualified students

Further studies by other educationists attributed poor achievement largely to the;

  1. use of poor instructional strategies (Unachukwu, 1990)
  2. inappropriate medium of instruction (STAN, 1992; Adeyegbe, 1993).

iii.        faulty methods of teaching (Igba, 2005) by teachers and over dependence on the conventional teaching methods by teachers.

  1. lack of standard laboratories (Igwe, 2003).

Poor instructional strategy is hereby identified as major cause for poor performance in biology judging from the studies mentioned above. There is therefore an urgent need to look for appropriate and effective instructional strategies to teach biology in the secondary schools in Anambra State and especially in Aguata Education Zone. The intended strategies have to be innovative and learner based strategies in order to combat high failure rate of the students in biology so that they can pursue their chosen careers at the high levels.

Again, the strategies should promote and exploit interactive nature of the subject matter and what the student (he/she) knows. The packages for this instruction for this study are those expected to be effective and activity based as well as allow for more students involvement in the teaching-learning process of biology.

The instructional strategy for this study is therefore the cooperative learning strategy. The cooperative learning strategy involves students assisting each other in the learning process, acting as partners with the teacher and with each other to accomplish the learning tasks. This strategy involves individual accountability for information gathered by group effort and positive interdependence so that students feel that no one succeeds unless everyone succeeds. In cooperative learning strategy, students work together to accomplish shared learning goals. Johnson and Johnson in Igwe (2002) stated that each student can then achieve his or her learning goals if only if the other group members achieve theirs

In the past three decades, modern cooperative learning has become a widely used instructional procedure in pre-school through graduate school levels, in all subject areas and in all aspects of instruction and learning in non-traditional as well as traditional learning situations and even in after-school and non-school educational programme (Deutsch, 1982). He continues by saying that; there is a broad dissemination of cooperative learning through teacher preparation programmes, in-service professional development and practitioner publications. The use of cooperative learning so pervades education that is difficult to find textbooks or instructional materials that do not mention and utilize it.

Cohen in Igwe (2002) opines that cooperative learning is a generic term used for various small group interactive instructional procedures. Students’ work together on academic tasks in small groups to help themselves and their teammates learn together.

In general cooperative learning strategy shares the following five characteristics (Igwe, 2006:49):

  1. students work together on common tasks or learning activities that are best handled through group work.
  2. students work together in small groups containing two to five members.
  3. students use cooperative pro-social behaviour to accomplish their common tasks or learning activities.
  4. students are positively interdependence. Activities are structured so that students need each other to accomplish their common tasks or learning activities.
  5. students are individually accountable or responsible for their work or learning.

Cohen in Igwe (2002) further contended that cooperative learning method enhances students learning by:

  1. providing cognitive set of information between students.
  2. motivating students to learn the material.

iii.        ensuring that students construct their own knowledge.

  1. providing formative feedback
  2. developing social and group skills necessary for success outside the classroom.
  3. promoting positive interaction between members of different cultural and socio-economic groups.

Many methods have also been used in teaching biology in secondary schools to ensure students’ acquisition of knowledge in biology. One of such methods is referred to as conventional method of teaching or lecture. Conventional Teaching Method (CTM) which is the “talk and chalk” method is passive in its approach. In its true sense, the CTM approach is not very effective for science teaching except if it is modified to informal lessons by incorporating demonstration, use of audio-visual aids and greater students’ involvement. This method is less student centred (Iroegbu, 1998; Igwe, 2003).

Biology teaching in Nigerian schools is said to be dominated by the conventional teaching method which has failed to produce better students who are committed to the development of the nation (Igba, 2005; Igwe, 2007).

Perhaps, it is in appreciation of the importance of biology in our educational system that many methods of teaching biology have evolved over years. Instead of improvement in the area of biology, evidence available to teaching and learning of biology shows a trend of deteriorating achievement and interest, possibly caused by poor method of teaching and frustration. There is therefore the problem of inadequate conceptualization of what biology means to the student moreso when his/her success or failure in the educational system rests ultimately in his/her ability or inability to do well in biology. For example, his chances of proceeding to higher institution will be disrupted in the event of failure. The most significant judgments however are made in written examination. If we could help student to learn better, we would then help them succeed within educational system.

It would appear, therefore that the mastery of biology is one of the greatest achievements that schools can bestow on those who pass through them which is based partly on the method of teaching. In this study, the cooperative method will be used as the treatment while the conventional teaching method will be used as the control.

Gender is a variable that plays important role in learning. It refers to the varied social roles, qualities, behaviour that is ascribed to women and men of different societies. Bassow (1991) defined gender as a psychological term describing behaviours and attributes expected of individuals on the basis of being born either male or female. Keller (1991) opined that gender is a cultural construct developed by the society to distinguish the roles, behaviours, mental and emotional characteristics between males and females. In showing the differences between sex and gender, Sadiq (1996) stated that sex is a physical distinction while gender is a social and cultural one. This implies that females are defined by societies and cultures. In other words, men are expected to behave in a certain way and to perform certain duties. Gender therefore refers to a social label which is used to distinguish two groups of people. Gender comes into play in biology education if we remember that personal orientation and thinking styles play a crucial role in achievement and is sex dependent.

The researcher feels that personality characteristics also play an important role in learning and achievement. Females may generally think that there are defects in their personality and as such they might not attain their objectives. In support of this, Iroegbu (1998) discovers that females have general tendencies to think in negative ways about the tasks in which they engage. This attitude of females may affect their achievement in biology when cooperative learning strategy is used because the strategy requires interaction with others through discussion to achieve the group goal(s). From the forgoing, it is evident that biology is an important aspect of science. It is also a formal and complex discipline, which requires being taught and practiced by learners to gain proficiency. This complex nature of biology has led to the use of many methods in teaching it to see whether students’ performance can be improved.

The researcher therefore, set out to investigate the effect of cooperative learning strategy in students’ achievement in biology in senior secondary school in Aguata Education Zone in Anambra State.

Statement of the Problem

            The place of biology in the life of every Nigerian cannot be over-emphasized. For students to live a fulfilled life educationally, socially, economically, emotionally and politically, it is proper that students should be adequately taught biology using appropriate teaching methods.

Biology is very important because it is one of the core science subjects, which carries high proportion of mark in many public examinations. However, the general poor performance of students in biology and its effects on students’ future is a problem that is worrisome to this researcher. Could it be attributed to the method of teaching?

To what extent can cooperative learning help in ameliorating the problem if method is implicated? The problem of the study therefore is to determine the effect of cooperative learning strategy on students’ achievement in biology in secondary schools in Aguata Education Zone in Anambra State.

Purpose of the Study

            The main purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of cooperative learning strategy on students’ achievement in biology in senior secondary schools in Aguata Education Zone. Specifically the study aims at

  1. determining the effects of cooperative learning strategy on students’ achievement in biology in senior secondary schools in Aguata Education Zone in Anambra State.
  2. ascertaining the effects of gender on students’ achievements in biology taught with cooperative learning strategy.
  3. find out the interaction effects of teaching methods and gender on students’ achievement in biology in senior secondary schools in Aguata Education Zone.

Significance of the Study

Biology educators are today in search of methods and teaching strategies that will lay to rest recently observed poor achievement in the subject. The present study as expected is designed to come out with many results that will be beneficial to students, teachers, government, local government, education board, curriculum planners, future researchers, textbook writers and consumers of education in Aguata Education Zone in particular, Anambra State and Nigeria in general.

The result of the study would be highly beneficial to the students themselves. This is expected further to train the students on the art of working together cooperatively to achieve an intended goal in education. Equipped with such an essential art of learning, the students will be in a better position to forge ahead in their learning with or without teachers thereby enhancing their performance and students improvement in secondary school certificate examinations.

Further, the finding of the study would be highly useful to other higher degree students and research students in Anambra State and Nigeria in general. The study will adopt certain techniques, styles and procedure whose knowledge will be of immense benefit to them.

The result of the study would be highly useful to the classroom teachers of biology in Aguata Education Zone, Anambra State in particular and Nigeria in general. The study would be attempting to throw light on the veracity of three important teaching strategies for possible use in the teaching of biology. Equipped with such essential knowledge expected to emanate from the study, the teachers will be in a better and advantaged position to address the problem of low achievement in the subject in Aguata Education Zone. The knowledge so generated would be relayed to colleagues, teachers, experts and others in conferences, workshops, seminars and through publications in renowned journal of educational.

The result of this study would enable textbook writers to understand what cooperative learning strategy is and their benefits in order to disseminate the information in the current books they will write on biology. They will help to create the awareness by including contents that require the use of cooperative learning strategy in their textbooks.

The findings or result of this study would inform the school administrators of the benefits of cooperative learning strategy in teaching biology and make them encourage teachers to use this method in teaching biology.

The result of this study would provide information to curriculum planners thereby leading to the adoption of this strategy in teaching biology to enhance students’ performance.

Scope of the Study

            The study focused on the effects of cooperative learning strategy on students’ achievement in biology in senior secondary schools in Aguata Education Zone in Anambra State. It examined also the effect of gender as an intervening variable. The learning strategy principle covered interaction among students with peer assessment including team recognition and individual accountability. The study was delimited to all the SS 2 students in Aguata Education Zone of Anambra State.

Research Questions

The following research questions served as guides for the study.

  1. What is the effects of cooperative learning strategy on students’ mean achievement scores in biology?
  2. What is the effects of gender on students’ mean achievement in biology when taught with cooperative method?
  3. What is the effect of interaction between teaching methods and gender on students’ mean achievement in biology?


The following null hypotheses are formulated and was tested at an alpha level of 0.05.

HO1There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of students taught biology using cooperative learning strategy and those taught using the conventional strategy.

HO2There is no significant difference in the mean achievement of male and female students in biology when taught with the methods.

HO3There is no significant interaction effect of teaching methods and gender on students’ mean achievement in biology.

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