1.1 Background of the Study
Various media organs carry reports of students’ inability to perform well in various examination organized by bodies like the West African Examination Council (WAEC), National Examination Council (NECO), Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) etc. Students’ poor academic performance especially in post primary institutions in the country has been of great concern to parents, scholars, educators, those in the education delivery industry and government at large. Many people have wondered what could be responsible for this.
Students’ academic achievement and educational attainment have been studied within different frameworks. Many of them have a focus on parents education, occupation or home background (like family income, activities of the family and work methods), while other studies look at it from the teachers’ variables (such as teachers’ age, experience, education, gender,etc), school variables (such as environment, buildings and structures, location etc), students variables (such as attitudes, self-concept, self-esteem, study habit, interest, etc) or parents support (such as achievement, motivation or parental attitudes, education, the aspirations of parents etc).
A cluster of other variables has been implicated as being responsible for dismal performance of students in science subjects. These include government related variables, curriculum related variables, examination bodies, teacher related, student related, home related and textbooks related variables. Apart from these variables, some specific variables has been identified by Amazigo in Betiko (2002), such as poor primary school background in mathematics, lack of interest on the part of the students, lack of incentives for the teachers, incompetent teachers in the primary schools, students not interested in hard work, perception that science, technology and mathematics are difficult, large class and psychological fear of the subject.
The classification of any nation into developed, developing and underdeveloped could be measured accurately by the number of chemists, physicists, engineers, pharmacists, doctors, agriculturists and science educators the nation could produce. The relevance of physics as one of the basic sciences in human and societal development cannot be over-emphasized. Physics is the basis of modern technology. Physics based technology is the ground of manufacturing industries. It helps us to study the universe, connect to things and to understand how our environment works. Its laws, facts, theories and principles make us interact better with our surrounding. Inventions of cars, air-conditioners, mobile phones, laptops, fans, light, air buses, and micro-leaves are all made possible through the application of its principles.
Inspite of the efforts made by the Nigerian government to the promotion of a sound educational policy, the schools appear to have failed to meet the nation’s expectations and realities especially in the science, technology and mathematics (STM) education. Several studies, both Nigerian and foreign have revealed that students are not achieving sufficiently in these subjects studied in the school (Opara, 2004).
Often time, the teacher is blamed for poor performance and even when the student is blamed, explanations are proffered only in terms of the students’ cognitive or intellectual ability. Little or no consideration is given to the fact that the student’s conception of himself or herself in the science subjects (where physics is one) could affect his or her achievement in science generally. Little attention too is paid to the fact that a child’s attitude towards a subject could also influence his or her performance in the subject. This poor perception of the subject prior to learning could lead to poor achievement. Negative attitude developed through repeated failure emanated from poor perception, anxiety and fear of the subject.
Anxiety can be generated on the part of the students if he is not certain on the prospect of his line of thought. It is therefore a key factor in any endeavour because it affects one’s ability to endure, concentrate and perceive. It has been observed that so many students fear physics and such fear is characterized by mass disenchantment among the students towards the subject. The end product is the declining popularity of the subject over the years.
Abdulraheem (2004) stated that beliefs are the ideas people are committed to, sometimes called core values. They shape goals, drive decisions, create discomfort when violated and stimulate ongoing critique.
There are a number of suggestions that apart from school-related factors, the student’s achievements are a facet of attitudes that students have. Wasike (2013) stated that academic performance is an individual’s inherent potentials in terms of intelligence combined with other sociological factors. He identified personality factors such as anxiety, achievements, motivation and level of interest as factors that affect academic performance. Students with high self-efficacy received higher grades than those with low self-efficacy and student with negative self-concept have poor academic performance. Therefore academic performance is a facet of many interrelated variables; key among them is the inherent students’ effort, teacher’s inputs, school environment and students attitudes.
Educational psychologists have at various times analyzed the different types of relationships, both associative and predictive that exist between academic self-concept and achievement, but there is a death of literature on the composite and relative contributions of these variables to secondary school physics achievements. This therefore is the main thrust of this research.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Physics is perceived as a difficult subject or course for students from secondary school to university and also for adults in graduate education studies. It is well known that both high school and college students consider physics as the most problematic area within the realm of science and it traditionally attract fewer students than chemistry and biology. If students have negative attitudes towards science, they also do not like physics as a subject and even the physics teachers. Research has made us know that attitude towards science change with exposure to science, but the direction of change may be related to the quality of that exposure, the learning environment and the teaching method.
Based on the above, numerous studies have been conducted to determine the factors that affect students’ attitude in science. From these studies, some basic factors can be listed including; teaching-learning approaches, type of science subject taken, method of studying, intelligence, gender, motivation, science teachers’ attitude, student’s attitude, self-adequacy, cognitive style of students, career interest, socio-economic levels, influence of parents, locus of control etc.
Most of these studies revealed that attitude and self-concept significantly predicted students’ performance, while a lot too revealed that attitude and self-concept alone without ability, personal effort and initiative did not significantly predict better academic achievement.
Since research findings on how attitude and self-concept predicts students’ achievement does not lend itself to simple summary, there is therefore the need for further research especially in physics, which is the concern of the researcher.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of the study was to determine the relationship between secondary school students’ attitude and self-concept and their performance in physics. Specifically, the study sought to;
- Determine secondary school students’ attitude to physics and their performance in physics.
- Determine secondary school students’self-concept to physics and their performance in the subject.
- Determine the influence of gender on secondary school students’ attitude and self-concept and their performance in physics.
1.4 Research Questions
- How does secondary school students’ attitude affect their performance in physics?
- How does secondary school student self-concept affect their performance in physics?
- What difference exists between male and female secondary school students’ attitude and self-concept and their performance in physics?
1.5 Research Hypothesis
- There is no significant difference in physics academic achievement between students with positive attitude and those with negative attitude and their performance in physics.
- There is no significant difference in physics academic achievement between student with positive self-concept and those with negative self-concept and their performance in physics.
- There is no significant difference between male and female secondary school students’ attitude and self-concept and their performance in physics.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The findings of this study will serve as a guideline to teachers, educational practitioners and curriculum developers; so that they ensure that they utilize educational policies, methodologies and activities that will help students improve their academic performance in physics and other science subjects.
Specifically, to the physics teachers, the findings of thisstudy will provide a guide in their choice of teaching methods appropriate for identified difficult lessons. This is necessary so that whatever students perceive as easy would really turn out easy and in providing attention so that whatever lesson that is identified as difficult may be properly addressed to improve students achievement.
To the school counselors and all those involved in the education of children, the study will provide an input to the counseling of students who are disoriented from certain educational career and career opportunities to discover their strength and weaknesses and channel their gains to appropriate educational and vocational pursuits.
To the students, the study will provide means of revitalizing their social and religious morality as well their aesthetic and ethical values towards strengthening their human qualities and improve their attitudes, anxiety and achievement in physics. The study of the subject matter also exposes the students to appreciate the concept of the fundamental unity of science and also give them the understanding and opportunity of embracing the roles and functions of science in everyday life and the world in which they live.
1.7 Delimitation of the Study
The study was conducted in Uyo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and limited to the thirteen (13) government owned senior secondary schools in Uyo Local Education Committee (LEC). The population of the study was drawn from senior secondary school three (SSS III) in the selected schools within the education zone.
The study surveyed and evaluated the extent to which students attitudes and self-concept towards physics affect their achievement or performance in the subject.
1.8 Limitation of the Study
The researcher could not by any means authenticate the truthfulness of the opinions of the respondent. The generalization drawn was based on the information disclosed by the research instrument – the questionnaire and the students’ examination scores; thus the power of generalization will be limited by whatever opinion drawn from the instrument of the study.
The examination results used by the researcher were those from the Ministry of Education (MOE) conducted for promotion into SSIII class. The researcher could not therefore authenticate the truthfulness of the result to ascertain whether they represented the abilities of the students or whether they were adulterated by the examination condition or atmosphere in which they were conducted.
Equally, the way students and examination bodies handle examination – both internal and external to some extent, depends on the prevailing mentality and values of the individual students and members of the society. The laissez-faire attitude of the students towards science may be a product of the nature of education, like “leave-no-students-behind” free education policy of the state where student are promoted enmasse.
Considering the statement as a possibility, the observed differences in achievement as well as factors affecting students’ achievement in physics might be a function of the way students challenge demanding situations.
1.9 Definition of Terms
Grade: A grade is a measure, an index or a symbol which represents a student’s achievement in a subject. This may be a percentage score or mark such as 63%, a numerical such as 18, or a letter such as A, B or C.
Attitude: The tendency to think, feel or act positively or negatively towards objects, events or ideas in our environment.
Attitude towards Science: Denotes interests or feelings towards studying science. It is the students’ disposition towards liking or disliking science.
Academic Performance: It could be defined as the display of knowledge attained or skills developed in school subjects designated by tests and examination scores or marks assigned by the subject teachers or examination bodies.
Self -efficacy: Ones’ perception that he or she can successfully achieve a particular outcome.
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