EFFECTIVENESS OF COOPERATIVE LEARNING AND PEER- TEACHING STRATEGIES ON STUDENTS ACHIEVEMENT AND INTEREST IN MATHEMATICS
Background of the Study
Mathematics as a subject offered at junior and senior secondary school in Nigeria takes a central position in science and technology. Mathematics is also a science that deals with logic of space, quantity and arrangement (Kosmas 2004). Mathematics is all around us. It is the building block for everything in daily lives, including mobile devices, architecture (ancient and modern), art, money, and engineering and even sports Ali (2011).
The objectives of mathematics curriculum at the senior secondary School level include: to know and demonstrate understanding of the concepts from the five branches of mathematics (number, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and discrete mathematics) (Federal Ministry of Education FME, 2007). Therefore, mathematics is to develop both the individual and the entire society. It is a necessary prerequisite and integral part of such Professions as chartered accountant, data analyst, data scientist, investment analyst, research scientist to mention but a few.
Mathematics education is required to meet up with increase in demand for science and technology by private andgovernment establishments. Without effective mathematics education, the nation will likely impoverish. This is because thenatural resourceswhich abound in Nigeria need to be harnessed, processed and converted to needed products for optimum use. (Aduwa, 2010).
However, as important as mathematics is, science educators have been lamenting over the poor achievement and interest of students in the subject in the senior secondary schools for the past decades. (Ifeakor, 2001 and Mari, 2002).The then ministry of Education, Prof Ruqayyatu Rufai in 2012 stated government disapportment at the opening ceremony of the 2012 national conference on Examination in Abuja, and admitted that there was marginal improvement in the 2012 WAEC examination, with just 39 per cent having a credit in some subjects including English and Mathematics. Rufai regretted the poor performance of Candidates in public examination and it has become worrisome. And out of 16,633 that sat for WASC in 2012, only 251 of them were able to obtain five credit and above including English and Mathematics. Also Ezeliora (2003) stated the poor performance of students in WASC and NECO was very bad and if nothing is done about it a serious damage will be caused and this will affect the upcoming students. Students poor performance and interest in mathematics for quite a long time now, has resulted to inadequate number of students offering mathematics oriented courses in tertiary educational institutions in Nigeria. The persistent poor performance has also contributed to poor economy, poor industrialization, lack of job and starvation, to mention but a few. Professionals required to take care of those problems can only be effectively produced through mathematics education.
Many factors have been attributed to the observed poor performance and lack of interest in mathematics by students. Some of these factors include teaching method used by mathematics teachers, difficult nature of the topics/concepts, lack of equipment and instructional materials etc. (Ali, 2002, Ifeakor, 2006; Nzewi, 2010; Nnaka, 2006; Ukwungwu, 2000).
Many mathematics concepts in the senior secondary school curriculum are perceived to be abstract and difficult to understand by the learners. West African Examination Council Chief Examiners reports ( 2003,2006) have consistently highlighted some of the Difficult concepts/ topics the candidates performed poorly as: Constructions, set, solid geometry, trigonometric function, Probability, sequence, inequality, vectors on a plane, concept of function, Introduction of complex numbers.
Kosmas and Russell (2004) reported that the concept of equations is very difficult to understand. Tauten (2005) using hundred and sixty SS III mathematics students randomly selected from 28 senior secondary schools in seven states of the Nigerian Federation discovered that the students perceived thirteen out of Twenty (65%) topics in mathematics as difficult. The topics perceived to be difficult by students according to the study are: construction, probability, plane geometry. The study also revealed that student’s gender has no influence on their perception of difficult topics. However, the study did not cover many other important topics which Examining bodies like West African Examination Council, adjudged difficult to students.
Ali (2002) opined that the most important factor for effective learning to take place in science is an interesting instructional approach. Njoku (2009) maintained that teachers are under intense pressure to cover the curriculum and get students ready for external examinations. This makes teaching of mathematics inadequate as special approach needed for the teaching of difficult mathematics concepts are over looked. Learners therefore find the subject irrelevant to their daily experience and survival needs in their socio-cultural and economic environment. Ezeliora (2003) also attributed students’ poor performances in mathematics to poor instructional approaches involving excessive teacher-talk, copying of notes, rote-learning as encouraged by expository method of instruction. Poor instructional approach is therefore recognized as a major contributor to poor achievement in mathematics. Nnaka (2006), Nzewi (2010), Okebukola (2002) suggested a shift and going beyond the conventional approaches of teaching Science, Technology and Mathematics, (STM) for better performance and interest in STM education in the primary and secondary schools. Shifting and going beyond the conventional teaching approaches according to Nnaka (2006), implies adopting the innovative approaches to teaching and learning STM. One of such innovative approaches to teaching and learning of mathematics is the cooperative learning strategy which is student centered.
Cooperative learning is the deliberate instructional use of small groups of students who work together to maximize each other’s learning. Cooperative learning is theoretically based on the work of Psychologists like Levi Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, and Jerome Bruner among others who, proposed that children actively construct knowledge in a social context (Conway, 2013). The teacher therefore should create room for cooperation amongst students for effective cross-fertilization of ideas and knowledge sharing. No child learns effectively in isolation. The teacher, who adopts the cooperative learning strategy, organizes the students in small groups of between four to six members. Each group should be heterogeneous in ability and socio-cultural background; members work jointly through a given instructional assignment until every member successfully understands, and completes the assignment. Most at times one particular student is made the head to teach the other students and that is where peer teaching come in. The students are also rewarded in their groups. Another innovative strategy to the teaching and learning of mathematics, which has been widely acknowledged, is peer teaching.
Peer- teaching is an instructional strategy in which groups of children under the guidance of the teacher work together through a given instructional assignment with brilliant child, the peer teacher; providing assistance and instruction to others, the peer students. Peer- teaching is also theoretically based on the conceptions of the cognitive theorists like Vygotsky who proposed the zone of proximal development. The proposal points to the child’s ability to profit from interaction with more competent peers. (Igbo, 2004).
The teacher who adopts the peer teaching strategy will identify the high, middle and low achievers amongst the students. The high achievers are used as the peer teachers and middle/low achievers are assigned in their small numbers to the peer teachers for instruction and assistance. The teacher prepares the lesson plan and reviews it for the peer teachers in sequential order. The teacher also trains the peer teacher on how to inform, reward and relate to the students.
Both the cooperative learning and peer teaching are child-centered instructional approaches, which is an approach recommended on the National Policy on Education for teaching sciences. (Federal Republic of Nigeria,F.R.N 2004,). Researchers have found in different occasions the two approaches effective in tackling instructional problems (Anaekwe.2009; Igbo, 2004; Okebukola, 2007). Okebukola (2012) found cooperative learning effective in tackling the problem of large class in Biology. Anaekwe (2008) investigated the effects of student’s interaction patterns on cognitive achievement, retention and interest in Chemistry. The investigation found cooperative learning efficacious. Igbo (2004) found peer teaching effective in improving the learning disabled achievement in mathematics. Would the peer teaching also be effective in improving of the achievement of normal school children in mathematics? Therefore the need to explore the effect two child centered instructional approaches: cooperative learning and peer teaching on student’s achievement and interest in some perceived difficult mathematics concepts so as to probably improve students’ performance in mathematics and avert the problem of poor achievement and interest in Senior Secondary School Mathematics.
Interest, an aspect of affective domain is a construct that has to do with ones readiness to like or dislike something. It could be aroused in individual by activity that tends to satisfy the individuals needs (Geo science, 2007). Since more than sixty percent of mathematics concepts are difficult (Tauten, 2005), students interest in the subject can easily be at low ebb. Njoku (2003); Nwachukwu (2008); Suwaid and Dambata (2009) showed that students interest in mathematics is low. However while Njoku (2003) and Suwaid and Dambata (2009) maintained that low interest leads to poor achievement in mathematics; Nwachukwu (2008) concluded that relationship between interest and cognitive achievement of students in mathematics is insignificant. Ezeliora (2003) and Ali (1998) maintained that students’ interest in learning mathematics could be achieved by mathematics teachers through careful choice of the most appropriate teaching approach.
The appropriate teaching strategy if used by the mathematics teacher can overcome such events as lack of drive, timidity, self-Imposed isolation, poor previous experience etc. that hinder interest in the students. Ezeliora (2003) specifically noted that the conventional lecture method commonly used in teaching mathematics in Nigeria is boring and uninteresting. Performance and interest in mathematics could be enhanced if effective instructional approach is adopted in teaching difficult mathematical concepts. Nwogu,(2001); Nzewi,( 2010); Okeke, (2007) believed that there is disparity in performance and interest among boys and girls in mathematics. Mari, (2002); Nwachukwu, (2008) claimed relative poor and narrow participation of women in Science, Technology and Mathematics. Nzewi, (2010) discussed the nature of science and teaching strategies as factors that negatively influence female participation and performance in science and technology. Also, Njoku; (2005) and Nzewi; (2010) identified teaching method as one of the causes of sex-related differences in science performance. Boys perform better than the girls when instructional approach adopted in sciences is competitive while girls perform optimally in a cooperative academic environment (Nwachukwu, 2008).It is therefore believed that the use of cooperative learning could reduce the gender gap between male and female students achievement and interest in mathematics. As an important subject required for sustainable development and nation building, mathematics should be taught, using effective instructional approach capable of seeking for and maintaining high interest and performance among students irrespective of gender. Since the conventional teaching methods persistently used by mathematics teachers (Amaefule, 2002; Ezeliora, 2003) cannot permeate the difficult mathematics concepts which manifest in perennial poor students achievement, the researcher therefore deemed it necessary to study the effects of cooperative learning and peer teaching strategies’ on student achievement and interest in some difficult mathematics concepts.
Statement of the Problem
Poor student’s achievement and interest in mathematics is alarming in spite of the fact that many researchers have been carried out to ameliorate the bad situation. Many instructional approaches have been proffered by psychologists like Brunner, Paget, Gagne, for improved achievement and interest in mathematics and other sciences strongly believed that the instructional approach adopted by mathematics teachers in teaching mathematics is to a large extent responsible for the observed consistent poor achievement and interest in mathematics. The conventional teaching methods lack student’s cooperation and interaction required for effective learning of the difficult mathematics concepts. Adequate student’s cooperation and interactions are required for over learning and transfer of learning in mathematics concepts, which are mainly difficult, and abstract. Such cooperation and interaction are found in the cooperative learning and peer teaching strategies. The work therefore intended to investigate the effect of cooperative learning and peer teaching on student’s achievement and interest in some difficult concepts in mathematics. The study therefore intended to ascertain the effectiveness of cooperative learning strategy and (peer teaching strategy on students’ achievement) and interest in mathematics and the gender difference when taught mathematics using cooperative learning and teaching strategies.
Purpose of the study
The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of cooperative learning and peer teaching strategies on students achievement and interest in mathematics in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State. Specifically, the purposes of the study were to determine:
(a) Achievement level of students in some difficult mathematics concepts in Senior Secondary School when taught using cooperative learning and peer teaching.
(b) Achievement level of male and female students in some difficult mathematics concepts in Senior Secondary School when taught using cooperative learning and peer teaching.
(c) Whether gender would influence the achievement of students in mathematics concept when taught with cooperative learning and peer teaching.
(d) Interest level of students in some difficult mathematics concepts in Senior Secondary School when taught using cooperative Learning and peer teaching strategy.
(e) Interest level of male and female students in some difficult mathematics concept when taught using cooperative learning and peer teaching.
(f) The interaction effect of strategy and gender on achievement in mathematics.
(g) The interaction effect of strategy and gender on interest in mathematics.
Significance of the Study
The result of this work will sensitize mathematics teachers to use effective instructional approaches for improved students understanding and achievement, when exposed to the findings of the study through workshop and seminars. It will also serve as an eye opener to teachers in other fields of learning to explore and adopt better instructional approaches in handling abstract and difficult topics and concepts in their own areas for improvement.
The result of the work will help to improve on students performance is mathematics and ensure better quality mathematics candidates for the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination. Again, the work will help to produce more qualified candidates for courses in science and technology in the tertiary institutions of learning, which in turn will boost national wealth and development. The findings will also benefit the curriculum planners. Like creating lifelong critical thinker, promoting complex discussion, creating curriculum with meaning and purpose, creating an environment of deep thinkers, and empowering teachers across all content area to teach literacy. The results of the study would also contribute to the pool of research in the area of education in mathematics in particular and science education in general.
Scope of the Study
The study covered all the SS 2 students in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State. The study also covers the difficult mathematics topics to teach them which is approximation and percentage error.
The following research questions were raised:
1. What are the mean achievement scores of students taught some difficult like percentage error in mathematics concepts using cooperative learning?
2.What are the mean achievement score of students taught some difficult mathematics concepts like approximation using peer teaching?
3.What are the mean achievement score of students taught some difficult mathematics concept using conventional method?
4. What are the mean achievement scores of male and female students taught some difficult mathematics concepts using cooperative learning, peer teaching and conventional teaching method?
5. What is the interaction effect of teaching strategy and gender on students mean achievement scores in some difficult Mathematics concepts?
6. What are the mean interest scores of students taught some difficult mathematics concepts using cooperative learning, peer teaching and conventional (lecture) teaching method?
7. What are the mean interest scores of male and female students taught some difficult mathematics concepts using cooperative learning, peer teaching and conventional teaching method?
8. What is the interaction effect of teaching strategy and gender on students’ mean interest scores in some difficult mathematics concepts?
The study will be guided by the following hypotheses to be tested at 0.05 level of significance.
1. There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of students taught some difficult mathematics concepts using cooperative learning and peer teaching.
2. There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of male and female students taught some difficult mathematics concepts using cooperative learning.
3. There is no significance difference in the mean achievement score of male and female students taught some difficult mathematics concept using peer teaching.
4. The interaction effect of teaching strategies and gender on student’s achievement in some difficult mathematics concepts as measured by their mean achievement scores is not significant.
5. There is no significant difference in the mean interest scores of students taught some difficult mathematics concepts using cooperative learning and peer teaching.
6. There is no significant difference in the mean interest scores of male and female students taught some difficult mathematics concepts using cooperative learning and peer teaching.
7. The interaction effect of teaching strategies and gender on student’s interest in some difficult mathematics concepts as measured by their mean interest scores is not significant..