[1]GENDER INFLUENCE ON BIOLOGY STUDENTS" CONCEPT-MAPPING ABILITY AND ACHIEVEMENT IN EVOLUTION

 

Ganiyu Bello

School of Science

Kwara State College of Education

1LORIN, Nigeria

 

 

Isaac Olakanmi Abimbola

Department of' Curriculum Studies and Educational Technology

University of florin

ILORIN, Nigeria

 

 

Abstract

_______________________________________________________________________

This study sought to determine gender influence on studentís concept-mapping ability and achievement in evolution. As a case study, only one small group of students participated in the study. A total of eighty-seven second-year senior secondary school students took part in the study. A slightly modified form of the Evolution Theory Test developed by Bello (1997) was employed for data collection.

 

Findings from the study revealed that there is no gender influence on students' concept-mapping ability and their achievement in evolution. In view of (he findings of (he study, biology teachers should team and use concept-mapping as an instructional strategy in teaching evolution and other similar biology topics such as genetics and ecology as a way of- improving students' achievement in mixed gender and ability classrooms. Also, biology students should be introduced to concept- mapping as a tool for meaningful teaming.

______________________________________________________________________

 

 

Introduction

Concept mapping is an instructional tool that is currently gaining popularity inn the field of science education. It is a product of recent advances in cognitive science and the new philosophy of science. Contemporary perspectives of- cognitive psychologists and the new philosophers of science on cognition view learning as an active internal process of construction where the learnerís prior knowledge plays a significant role in further conceptual learning (Ausubel, 1968; Ausubel, Novak and Hanesian, 1978; Hewson, 1986; Novak, 1991). These educators consider learners to be the architects of' their knowledge for they construct their own idiosyncratic meanings of concepts and natural phenomena. They consider teaming, therefore, to be more than verbatim repetition of what has been presented to the learner or as a change in behaviour (Ausubel, Novak, and Hanesian, I M; Novak, 1983). They view teaming as a process of conceptual change (Hewson, 1982; Novak, 1993; Posner, 1970).

The new philosophers of science reject the traditional cumulative view of scientific knowledge and replace it with a conceptual-change view as reflected in the works of Kuhn (1970), and Lakatos (1970), among others. In general, it is these newer ideas of cognitive psychologists with constructivist epistemological views and the new philosophers of science that formed the cornerstone of concept mapping. However, it is the Ausubel's (1963, 1968) and Ausubel, Novak and Hanesian's (1978) cognitive assimilation (subsumption) theory that formed the theoretical foundation of concept mapping. Novak and Gowin (1984) arc the proponents of concept mapping.

Concept mapping is a process of constructing concept maps. It involves mapping out logical relationships among concepts in a hierarchical order, such that the most general concepts arc at the top of the map, with the most specific concepts at the bottom of the map. A concept map, according to Novak and Gowin (1994), is a schematic device for representing a set of concept meanings embedded in a framework of propositions. It is a two-dimensional hierarchical diagram that illustrates the interconnections between and among individual concepts. Concept maps provide a visual road map showing the pathways that we may take to construct meanings of concept and propositions. It is both a meta-learning and meta-knowledge tool according to Novak and Gowin (1984).

Although originally developed as an evaluation tool, concept mapping is now widely used in many other aspects of education. For instance, it has been used as a tool for curriculum development by Edmondson (1995) and Wallace and Mintzes (1990). Abayomi (1988), Esiobu and Soyibo (1995) among others, used it as an instructional strategy to promote meaningful learning. Abrams and Wandersee (in press) used concept mapping to identify students' misconceptions while Bayerbach and Smith (1990) employed concept mapping to help teachers to become effective in their teaching. Concept mapping was used as evaluation tool by Lay-Dopyer and Bayerbach (1988), and Moriera (1978). Abimbola (1996) proposed and described how to use it in large-scale examinations in Nigeria. In considering the above-cited examples of the uses of concept mapping, it can be described as a versatile educational medium.

Although several studies have been conducted on concept mapping as an instructional strategy (Akin, 1977; Bello, 1997; Esiobu & Soyibo, 1995), some important factors were either not investigated at all or insufficiently reported. For instance, gender influence seems to be an important factor in concept mapping as noted by Novak and Musonda (1991), but, surprisingly, gender influence was not sufficiently reported on concept-mapping studies as reported by McConney, Galio, Wood, Senn and Hathelin (1993). The remarkable efficacy of concept-mapping instructional strategies in enhancing meaningful learning in science has been widely reported in science education literature (Bello, 1997; Esiobu & Soyibo, 1995). Therefore, it is important to investigate the influence of gender on concept-mapping ability and achievement.

In the Nigerian educational system, classrooms arc generally composed of students of different academic ability levels. Hence, any innovation in instructional strategy must consider the influence of students' academic ability levels. The effects of concept-mapping instructional strategies on students' ability levels were surprisingly not sufficiently reported in concept-mapping studies conducted in Nigerian and several other nations. Since it is important to find out which ability group(s) is or are actually benefiting more than the others through concept-mapping, instructional strategies, students' ability level would be one of the moderator variables in this study.

The science content area of this study was the theory of evolution. It was selected due to the unifying role that it plays in the proper understanding of modern biology. It was also chosen because it is a relatively new component of the West African Examinations Council biology syllabus for secondary schools. It was first examined in the West African School Certificate examinations in 1982 (Abimbola, in press).

 

Purpose of the Study

This study mainly sought to investigate gender influence on students' concept-mapping ability and achievement in evolution. It attempted to provide answers to the following questions:

1.†††††††† How do male and female students compare in constructing concept maps?

2.†††††††† Is there any gender influence on achievement in evolution when students are taught evolution through concept-mapping instructional strategy?

 

Research Hypotheses

1.†††††††† The number of male and female good concept mappers does not differ significantly.

2.†††††††† The achievement in evolution of high-scoring male and female students does not differ significantly when taught evolution through concept-mapping instructional strategy.

3.†††††††† There is no statistically significant difference in the achievement in evolution of' average-scoring male and female students when taught evolution through concept-mapping instructional strategy.

4.†††††††† A statistically significant difference does not exist between the achievement in evolution of low-scoring male and female students when they arc taught evolution through concept-mapping instructional strategy.

 

Review of the Related Literature

The development of meta-learning and meta-knowledge tools such as concept mapping, Vee mapping and semantic networks, among others, are efforts to improve science education. Similarly, the large number of studies conducted on various aspects of science education is indications of science educators' search for solutions to the problems facing meaningful learning of scientific concepts and theories. This study is also an attempt at contributing to the solution of the problems facing meaningful learning of scientific concepts and theories.

In 1993, Trowbridge and Wandersee conducted a study to describe how concept mapping could be used as an integral instructional strategy for teaching a college evolution course. The study sought to evaluate the usefulness of incorporating concept mapping in a college course in evolution and its effects on students' understanding of evolution. It also sought to determine if students' concept maps revealed critical junctures in learning. The students were taught how to construct concept maps and were made to submit concept maps after each course lecture. Results of the study indicated that critical junctures in learning evolution could be identified by checking the degree of concordance of super ordinate evolutionary concepts appearing on the students' concept maps. The use of seed concepts, micro mapping, a standard format and standard concept map checklist was noted to make the use of concept-mapping strategy feasible for the instructor to implement and for students to adopt.

Esiobu and Soyibo (1995) conducted a study among 808 final year secondary school students to determine the effectiveness of concept- and Vee-mapping strategies in enhancing meaningful learning of difficult biology concepts. The study also attempted to find out the appropriate class interaction pattern to tackle the problem of large classes in biology. A questionnaire, a paper and pencil test, and an attitudinal test were employed for data gathering by the researchers. The experimental group was given instruction on ecology and genetics through concept and Vee-mapping instructional strategies. Students in the group were also made to construct their own individual concept maps on the topic of every lesson. The control group students were not asked to construct concept maps. Data gathered in the study were analyzed using ANOVA and ANCOVA statistical techniques. Results of the study indicated that the experimental group performed better than the control group in the achievement test and developed favourable attitudes to ecology and genetics after treatment.

Horton, McConney, Galio, Wood, Senn, and Hathelin (1993) carried out a meta-analysis of studies that employed concept mapping as an instructional strategy. A total of 133 potentially acceptable concept-mapping studies were obtained from various sources. Only 19 studies met the required criteria for acceptance for the analysis. Results of the study revealed that concept mapping had positive effects on students' achievement. The study, however, failed to provide answers to two of the research questions posed in the study. These questions are:

(a)††††††† What is the effectiveness of concept-mapping instructional strategy for improving students' attitude? and

(b)††††††† Is there gender effect when concept mapping is used as an instructional strategy?

 

Insufficient data was the main reason given for the failure to provide answers to these questions according to the investigators.

Recently, Bello (1997) conducted a study among over 400 Nigerian secondary school students to determine the comparative effects of' two forms of concept-mapping instructional strategies on students' achievement in evolution. A combination of clinical interview protocol, essay and multiple-choice tests was employed as data gathering instruments. Analysis of Variance and t-test statistical techniques were employed to analyze the data gathered in the study. Results of the study indicated that the two forms of concept-mapping instructional strategies improved students' achievement and reduced students' misconceptions and alternative conceptions of the theory of evolution.

The reviewed studies clearly revealed that concept mapping enhanced students' achievement. Most of the studies are quasi-experimental in design while paper and pencil test and clinical interviews are common data gathering instruments. Analysis of Variance and t-test are the common statistical techniques employed for data analysis.

 

Research Methodology

The following is a detailed description of how the research was carried out.

 

Research design. The one-group pretest posttest quasi-experimental design was adopted in conducting this study. The study involved only a single group of students who were tested before and after treatment. The pre-treatment test was used to categorize the students into three sub-groups, namely, high, average, and low-scoring students in evolution. Analysis of data gathered in the study was therefore, in part, based on homogenous sub-groups.

 

Research instruments. The main data-gathering instrument employed in this study was a slightly modified form of the Evolution Theory Tests developed by Bello (1997). It was modified by introducing a test item that required students to construct a concept map on evolution in the test to replace the essay item in section B of the test.

 

Content preparation and validation. Using the West African Examinations Council biology syllabus for secondary schools as a guide, the required content materials for the theory of evolution were extracted from Nigerian secondary school biology textbooks and many relevant advanced biology textbooks. The extracted content materials were used in preparing Student-and teacher-centred Concept-mapping Instructional Strategy Package. The package consists of lesson notes, concept maps on evolution and other relevant instructional materials such as charts on theory of evolution.

The validation of the content material as well as the Student-and-teacher-centred Concept-mapping Instructional Strategy Package was carried out through the assistance of three validators. The validators were asked to determine the appropriateness of the content material and whether the instructional package can achieve the purpose for which it was designed. The recommendations of the validators were used to revise the content material and the instructional package. This was followed by a trial testing of the instructional package through a pilot study.

Pilot study. The main objective of this pilot study is to enable the researchers to detect any weakness in the research design and determine appropriate corrective measures that would improve the research instruments and the treatment fidelity of the study. The pilot study was conducted among a small set of students. This set of students was not used for the main study. Weaknesses observed in the instructional package during the pilot study led to the final revision of the package to improve its reliability.

Sample selection. The population for this study was all senior secondary school biology students in Kwara State of Nigeria. However, since the study is a case study, only second-year biology students in one senior secondary school within Ilorin Metropolis were selected as representative sample of the population. The secondary school was selected from a list of all secondary schools in Ilorin Metropolis through simple random sampling technique. This technique was also used to select one of the arms of second-year classes in the school. All the 48 biology students in the selected class were used as intact group for the study. The second year biology students were used because the theory of evolution that is the biology content area of this study is commonly taught in the third year of the senior secondary school biology programme. Hence, the students have not been formally exposed to this biology theory.

Data gathering. Section A of the Evolution Theory Test that consists of 50 objective items was administered to the students as pretest. The students were then taught how to construct concept maps in six lessons of 40-minutc duration each. This task was followed by 12 lessons on evolution using Student-and-teacher-centred concept-mapping instructional strategy as a mode of instruction. During these lessons, students were made to individually construct micro concept maps on the content of each lesson. At the end of this treatment, a posttest was conducted using the modified Section B of Evolution Theory Test that now contains an item that requires students to prepare concept maps. The students' concept maps and scores in the pre and posttests were the data gathered in this study.

 

Data Analysis and Results

The students' pretest scripts were scored and the scores were used to classify the students into three subgroups, namely, high, average and low-scoring students in evolution. Students whose scores in the pretest were within the upper 25% were classified as high-scoring students in evolution. Average- and low-scoring students in evolution were students whose scores were within the middle 50% and lower 25%, respectively.

The students' posttest scripts were scored based on the researchers' prepared marking scheme that included a template concept map. The marking scheme was prepared in line with the concept map-scoring guide developed by Novak and Gowin (1984). The mean scores of the high, average and low-scoring students were then calculated for hypothesis testing. The students' concept maps were subjected to further analysis for classification as either good or poor concept maps. For this study, all complex and well-integrated concept maps having at least three valid hierarchies, two valid cross links, two valid examples with appropriate link words, were classified as good concept maps. Concept maps that show poor hierarchy, without clear distinction between general and specific concepts, and with poor integration were classified as poor concept maps. One mark was allocated to each meaningful, valid proposition. Five marks were allocated to each valid level or hierarchy. Two marks were allocated to every valid but not significant cross-link. A cross-link that is valid and significant attracted ten marks. Every valid example was allocated one mark.

Based on these criteria, 55.1% of the concept maps were classified as good concept maps; the remaining 44.8% were regarded as poor concept maps. This means that 55.1% and 44.9% of the students were good and poor concept mappers, respectively. Among the high-scoring students, 86.9% and 80% of male and female students, respectively were good concept mappers. Fifty-seven percent and seventy percent of the average-scoring male and female students, respectively, were good concept mappers. Within the low-scoring group, only 26% and 7.6% of the male and female students were good concept mappers, respectively. These findings seem to suggest that ability to construct good concept map is not limited to any student scoring level or to any student gender.

Research hypothesis 1 that states that the number of male and female good concept mappers do not differ significantly was tested using Chi-square statistical technique. The calculated X2 value (2.53) was not statistically significant at 0.05 alpha level, hence the hypothesis is not rejected (See Table 1). This result means that the number of male and female good and poor concept mappers do not differ significantly. This finding provides answer to the first research question posed in this study.

 

 

Table 1

Chi-square Test for Difference between the Number of Male and Female Good and Poor Concept Mappers

 

Group

Good mappers

Poor mappers

Total

O-E/E

X2 value

Male

36 (32.5)

23(26.4)

56

0.80

 

2.53

Female

12(15.4)

16(12.5)

28

1.73

Total

48

39

87

 

 

Hypothesis 2 states that the achievements in evolution of high-scoring male and female students do not differ significantly when taught evolution through concept mapping instructional strategy. This hypothesis was tested using the t-test statistical technique as shown in Table 2. The calculated t-value (t (27, 0.05) = 1.3) is not statistically significant at 5% significance level. Hence, the hypothesis is also not rejected. This result means that there is no statistically significant difference between the achievement of high-scoring male and female students. This finding means that there is no gender difference in high-scoring students' achievement in evolution.

 

Table 2

t- test of Difference between the Posttest Mean Scores of High-scoring Male and Female Students

 

Group

N

X

SD

t-value

Male

23

69.3

15.30

1.3

Female

5

58.8

17.37

 

Research hypothesis 3 states that there is no statistically significant difference in the achievement in evolution of average-scoring male and female students when taught evolution through concept-mapping instructional strategy. The t -test statistical technique was also employed in testing Hypothesis 3. The hypothesis is not rejected because the calculated t -value 0 (30. 0.05) = 0.4.3) was not statistically significant at 5% significance level as shown in Table 3. This means that the achievements in evolution of average-scoring male and female students do not differ significantly.

 

Table 3

t -test of Difference between the Posttest Mean Scores of Average-scoring Male and Female Students

 

Group

N

X

SD

t-value

Male

21

49.7

16.70

0.43

Female

10

46.8

16.50

 

Hypothesis 4 states that a significant difference does not exist between the achievement in evolution of low-scoring male and female students when they arc taught evolution through concept-mapping instructional strategy. This hypothesis was similarly tested using the t -test statistical technique. The calculated I -value Q (27, 0.0-5) = 0.22) was not significant at 5% significance level as shown in '('able 4. Hence, the hypothesis is not rejected. This result indicates that there is no statistically significant difference between the achievement in evolution of low-scoring male and female students. These findings provide answers to the second question posed in this study.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 4

t -test of Difference between the Posttest Mean Scores of Low-scoring Male and Female Students

 

Group

N

X

SD

t-value

Male

15

31.4

15.60

0.22

Female

13

30.3

9.00

 

Summary of Major Findings

1.†††††††† Ability to construct good concept maps is not limited to any student gender.

2.†††††††† There is no statistically significant difference in the achievement in evolution of male and female high-scoring -students.

3.†††††††† There is no statistically significant difference in the achievement in evolution of male and female average-scoring students.

4.†††††††† The achievement in evolution of low-scoring male and female students do not differ significantly.

 

Discussion of Results

Findings from this study clearly reveal that concept-mapping ability is not significantly influenced by students' gender. Ability to construct properly integrated and complex concept maps (good concept map) was observed among both male and female students. However, the percentage of' male students that constructed good concept maps was slightly higher than their female counterparts. This finding is in conflict with the observation of Novak and Musonda (1991) that female students tend to construct less integrated and less complex (poor) concept maps.

This finding may not be unconnected with the fact that concept map construction processes arc free from sex bias or sex-related skills. It requires logical and analytical thinking skills since it involves constructing logical relationship among concepts in hierarchical order. This finding may also be the result of the use of the student-and-teacher-centred concept-mapping instructional strategy. This mode of concept-mapping instructional strategy, according to Bello (1997), enhances students' ability to construct appropriate conceptions of evolution that are in accord with the explanation constructed by biologists than the teacher-centred concept-mapping instructional strategy. It could also be the result of the interaction effect of students' gender and mode of instruction used in this study. There is, therefore, a need to conduct further studies to clarify the effect of mode of concept-mapping strategy on students' concept-mapping ability. However, this finding strongly suggests that the mode of concept-mapping instructional strategy used in this study can be used in mixed sex classrooms to enhance meaningful learning of evolution.

Results of this study indicate that while most high-scoring students constructed good concept maps, a few of this group of students constructed poor maps Conversely, while few low-scoring students constructed good concept maps, many of them constructed poor concept maps. This finding is in accord with the result of the study conducted by Novak, Gowin and Johnson (1983). The finding indicates that ability to construct good concept maps is not limited to brilliant students. This means students irrespective of their academic ability levels can use that concept mapping strategies. That few low-scoring students constructed good concept maps shows that, with more cognitive efforts by such students, and perhaps, more training period and exercises in concept map construction, many of such students could become good concept mappers. However, it should be noted that this finding may be the result of the two-way interaction of students' scoring level and mode of instruction. Further research studies to clarify the independent effect of mode of instruction and students' scoring level on students' concept-mapping ability are necessary.

A finding of this study also reveals that a significant difference does not exist between the achievement in evolution of male and female students generally, when taught through concept-mapping instructional strategy. This finding agrees with the results of the studies conducted by Abayomi (1988) and Bello (1997). This finding means that concept mapping can be employed as a mode of instruction in mixed sex classrooms. This finding may, however, partially be because items in the achievement test used in this study are free from sex-related issues or any form of sex bias. It may not equally be unconnected with the fact that the concept-mapping instructional strategy used in this study is a novel experience to all the students that took part in this study. This situation can be a stimulating factor to all the students regardless of their gender and scoring levels resulting in the observed similar achievement made by both sexes.

Conclusion

Based on the findings in this study, it can be concluded that there is no gender influence on ability to construct concept maps. Male and female students are capable of constructing well-integrated and complex concept maps. Similarly, it can be concluded that there is no gender influence on students' achievement in evolution when concept mapping was used as an instructional strategy. Furthermore, concept mapping as instructional strategy can be used in mixed gender and mix ability classroom situations. Students can demonstrate their knowledge of evolution through concept maps.

 

Recommendations

In view of the findings and conclusions drawn in this study, the following recommendations are put forward:

1.†††††††† Biology teachers should learn and use concept-mapping instructional strategy as a means of improving students' achievement in mixed gender and ability classes.

2.†††††††† Biology students should be introduced to concept map construction as a tool for meaningful learning. It would enable students to understand meaningfully the numerous interrelated biology concepts. Concept maps could serve as memory aid to: students and can be used for revision exercises. It can also help students to learn how to team meaningfully and improve their achievement in biology.

3.†††††††† In view of the immense versatility of concept mapping, it should be incorporated into teacher education programmes in order to equip biology student teachers with adequate instructional strategies that can make them effective teachers.

4.†††††††† Biology education researchers may replicate and improve upon this study by conducting it among larger sample size, and at other educational levels in the nation's education system.


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