Education, especially in science has always been seen as the most appropriate and fastest vehicle for the planned transformation of any society (Jegede et al., 1996). Thus, in Nigeria, the contemporary national aims and objectives of education were geared towards the training of individual through child- centered learning for maximum self and societal development and fulfillment. Accordingly, education should aim at helping a child acquire appropriate skills, abilities, and competence - both mental and physical as equipment for the individual to live and contribute to the development of his society (Federal Govt. of Nigeria, 1981). The science curricula materials advocated the teaching of science via investigative approaches. These approaches include strategies like cooperative learning, constructivism and guided discovery. All these approaches emphasize active learning by the learner. The cognitive factor of students and teachers, the availability of learning resource, and instructional strategies adopted by the teacher have been identified as some of the factors that determine the performance of students in science (Nwosu, 1991; Okebukola, 1996). Science teaching in Nigerian secondary schools is dominated by teacher-centered lecture/expository methods (Ajewole et al., 1990). This method has failed to produce science students that are committed to science and who can reason critically and be able to transfer what is learnt to new but similar situations (Ajewole, 1990).
Research in science education have discovered better methods of teaching science that are not only superior to the traditional method but also have the potential to
promote achievement and retention of what is learned and inculcate positive scientific attitudes in students (Ajewole & Carew, 1993). Various studies on methodology of science teaching such as inquiry, discovery and process approach have shown that students learn more from science lesson by doing rather than mere observation (Betty & Woolnough, 1982). With reference to ecology, many emphases had been placed on it by the experimental science curriculum project at both international and local levels. But despite the various efforts and emphases, science teachers in Nigerian schools still revert to the use of "chalk and talk" or traditional method for teaching rather than the process and inquiry method (Ali, 1986).With the high enrolment in biology subject in Nigeria, the performance of students at secondary school level is depressingly poor (Turton. 1991, Jegede. 1996). The low percentage of passes has been attributed to the use of "chalk and talk'' or traditional method of teaching (Aramide, 1985; Kumari & Aliyu, 1986, Ogunsola et al., 1996). This signifies the use of modern method of teaching science.
The use of modern ideas and scientific methods has been introduced into the educational field. Among them are these modern and scientific approaches: analogy technique, concept mapping, and inquiry/discovery methods. These methods are now being advocated for teachers for use in the classroom because they allow direct participation of students in teaching learning process. They do not only simulate learning but also make education and learning permanent. In developing countries like Nigeria, the importance of science as a weapon of change cannot be over emphasized. Our world is changing with startling rapid scientific advancement. Consequently, it is more important today, than ever before, for children to receive the kind of education that will
equip them with the ability to anticipate this change and obtain the technical know-how necessary to adjust to it and solve problems which constant change creates. However, the concern is to improve science education and participation in adition to developing in pupils some skills that can be referred to as guided discovery process. The concept of guided discovery refers to finding out ideas or process which involves learners in finding answer, gathering and processing information in order to find solution and draw conclusions from the information gathered. The learners are not told what to be learnt but the teacher assign problems to them or give them series of leading questions to work on, the learners then go in search of possible solutions using available resources to arrive at conclusions. Guided discovery is an approach to instruction and learning, which helps students personalize the concept under study, creating an understanding that cannot be matched using any other method of instruction. The teacher must guide the students toward discovery. This can be accomplished by providing appropriate materials, a conducive environment and allotting time for students to discover. Guided discovery is simply a method of finding out (Adekoya, 1998).
According to Okoye, (1998) & Nwagbo, (2000), during the early 70s, the rationale for science teaching shifted from the traditional/lecture method to discovery method, which was adopted worldwide. This was because in traditional/lecture method, students tend to memorize facts and concepts, most of which they do not understand. This resulted in their ability to retain and apply concepts. They maintained that there was a great burst of interest as the guided discovery strategy was adopted in the Nigeria curriculum. The strategy is activity oriented and involves practical demonstration, discussion and experimentation. During such instruction, student’s .employed the process
of science likes observation, classification, investigation and critical interpretation of findings. Okebukola & Okoye (2001) believed that in ecology, it is possible to adopt guided discovery strategy of teaching in order to enhance students' performance. This is because guided discovery as a teaching technique encourages students to play a more active role in their learning process by answering series of questions or solving problems designed to introduce a general concept. Bruner (1961) is credited for its development into an accepted instructional technique.
Gender issues are currently the focus of discussion and research all over the world, Nigeria inclusive. The question of gender is a matter of grave concern especially among scholars and policy formulators. Intellectuals are worried about the role of women in the political, social, economic, cultural, psychological, religious, scientific and technological development of nations. Ibrahim (2001) confirmed that women have physical and mental capabilities to contribute meaningfully to the stability, progress and prosperity of Nigeria. In the 1970s, attention was focused on girls as a group who were perceived to be disadvantaged in schools as evidenced by attainment level in general and by the low number of girls offering some subjects. In Africa, especially in Nigeria, research has shown that women’s participation and achievement in Science and Technology is too low owing to some avoidable reasons (Ibrahim, 2001). According to Okafor (2001), health problems such as high rate of maternal and infant morality, malnutrition and stressful condition which are associated with developing countries like Nigeria correlate positively with low level of women’s achievement in Science and Technology.
Schools are established for the purpose of teaching and learning. It is important that the teacher and learners are properly accommodated to facilitate the teaching and learning that go on there. In Nigeria at large and in Sokoto State in particular, secondary schools, irrespective of the ownership are expected to function for the achievement of the National Education Objectives. To this end, students are expected to perform brilliantly in the final examination as this determines the quality of output of secondary schools. This is one of the parameters used to measure the effectiveness of a school system. The better the performance of the system, the more effective is the system assumed to be (Philias and Wanjobi, 2011). In Nigeria, it is the general opinion of people that private schools are better in terms of students’ academic performance than public schools. This situation has made many parents to enroll their children in private schools.
Methodology is very vital in any teaching and learning situation. The method adopted by the teacher may promote or hinder learning. It may sharpen mental activities or may discourage initiatives and curiosity, thus making self reliance and survival difficult. There are different types of methods for efficient and effective learning. These methods include laboratory, field trips, guided discovery, etc. The adoption of traditional method by most teachers in order to overcome the bulky Biology syllabus before the SSCE affects students’ academic performance. Researchers believe that, in the traditional teaching method, theory is taught as an absolute knowledge, hence students centered activities for developing scientific reasoning skills and processes are lacking. The traditional method of teaching is also known to cause lack of interest and poor academic performance as opined by Njoku (2007).
Ecology is the scientific study of interactions of organisms with one another and with the physical and chemical environment, although it includes the study of environmental problems such as pollution. The science of ecology mainly involves research as the natural world from many view points using many techniques. Modern ecology relies heavily on experiments, both in laboratory and in field settings. These techniques have proved useful in testing ecological theories and in arriving at practical decisions concerning the management of natural resources.
An understanding of ecology is essential for the survival of the human species. Our populations are increasing rapidly all around the world and we are in grave danger of outstripping the earth’s ability to supply the resource that we need for our long term survival. Furthermore, social, economic and political factors often influence the short term distribution of resources needed by a specific human population. An understanding of ecology principles can help us understand the global and regional consequences of competition among humans for the scarce natural resources that support us.
1.2Statement of the Problem
Achievement in the teaching and learning process has to do with attainment of set objectives of instruction (Nbina & Obomanu, 2011). Studies have shown that the teaching of science in Nigeria secondary schools falls short of standard expected of it. Most of the methods used in teaching have been described as inappropriate and uninspiring (Ibe, 2004). Nnaobi (2007) asserted that there is no best method of teaching but that effective scientific teaching should be child-centered and activity-oriented rather than teacher dominated or lecture method which seems to characterize the Nigerian schools. The lecture method of teaching is widely used by Biology teachers to
convey large volume of scientific information to senior secondary school students in a bid to prepare them for Senior School Certificate Examination. There is no doubt that, these observations are not only relevant to the teaching and learning of science in Nigeria, but also pose a serious problem to Nigerians learning ecology. Since guided discovery approach have been recommended for use in teaching ecology in secondary schools, little effort has been extended to verifying its adequacy and effectiveness.