This study was undertaken to observe the communication style in SS2 practical biology classroom. Four research questions guided the study. A descriptive survey design was used. The sample was 645 senior secondary year two biology students who made up to 18 intact classes from six (6) secondary schools located in Awka educational zone. The data of the study were collected using the modified Flanders Instrument and analyzed using mean. The results revealed that in the practical classroom: Teacher’s characteristally dominated the practical classroom with the use of lecture method, as the mode of teaching. Girls participated in fewer communications than boys. The boys clearly dominated the biology lesson, were more active, more willing, commented spontaneously and made more contacts with the students –teacher than girls.



Background of the Study

Science is a great enterprise in which nations depend on, in-order to advance technologically. Science therefore is receiving much emphasis in education because of its significance and relevance to life and society. Opinions have differed significantly as the exact meaning of science. The term ‘science’ can be used to refer to a product (a body of knowledge), a process (a way of conducting enquiry) and an enterprise (the institutional pursuit of knowledge of the material world) (Robin, 2004). The distinctive characteristic of scientific knowledge is that it provides material explanations for the behavior of the material world, that is, explanations in terms of the entities that make up that world and their properties.

Science according to Urevbu (1990) is concerned with the processes by which we increase our knowledge of the external world, an activity, and not just a collection of knowledge. Ali (1998) stated that science is both process and product derived from experimentation. This means that science involves doing experimental work. Science is concerned with answering questions about how the universe works (Ige, 2001). Science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge. This system uses observation and experimentation to describe and explain natural phenomena. The term science also refers to the organized body of knowledge people have gained using that system (http;//www.sciencemadesimple.com/science.definition.html).Science is watching and measuring living and non-living nature, finding out the law and bringing it into a formula. In other words science is an empirical formula obtained by recognizing living and non-living nature. Science is an intellectual activity carried on by humans that is designed to discover information about the natural world in which humans live and to discover the ways in which this information can be organized into meaningful styles. A primary aim of science is to collect facts (data). An ultimate purpose of science is to discern the order that exists between and amongst the various facts, (Goltlieb, 1997). Consciously therefore science course must present the facts, concepts, principles and methods of scientific thinking.

Biology as a science deals with the study of living things. It is the study of life (Fullick, 1994).  It is one of the most popular sciences offered by both science-oriented and arts-based students in the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) in Nigeria (Nwachukwu & Nwosu, 2007). This explains why a large number of Senior Secondary School Students sit for biology in SSCE. One of the reasons why we study biology is to learn more about ourselves and the world we live in.  Productive and rewarding career can also be built on knowledge of biology. For instance; medicine, agricultural research (e.g plant hybridization) and teaching.

Biology as a science subject is a practical course; being concerned with the study of life. The entire environment which life exists, can serve as their laboratory while the entire living organisms (biotic) and the non-living (abiotic) components of the environment serve as resources (Nwagbo, 2008). The use of practical approach to the teaching of biological concepts should therefore be a rule rather than an option to biology teachers, if we hope to produce students that would be able to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and competence needed to meet the scientific and technological demands of the nation.

Biology as a subject is taught in secondary schools at the Senior Secondary level in Nigeria. Teachers of biology use various methods in teaching biology during the course of instruction depending on the topics. These methods serve as means of communication between the teacher and the student in the classroom. Some of such interactive methods include demonstrations, discussion, laboratory and field trip. The degree of effectiveness of the classroom communication varies from one method to another. It has been proven that secondary school students irrespective of their age groups, location or even tribal character are equally hungry for science experiment which includes biology (Felder and Brent, 2004). The entire nations are painfully aware that a growing number of students experiencing school failure are science students (Ugbaja and Egbunonu, 2008). Chief Examiner’s Report (2007) shows that despite the fact that there are improvements in the subject; students’ performance in biology is poor due to their inadequate exposure of relevant skills.

Practical is a process skill and involves classification, measurement, collecting of data, questioning, making hypothesis, analysis, observation, communication and experimentation (Ndioho, 2006). Hornby (2001) defined practical as being connected with real situation rather than ideas or theories and activity as a way of dealing with somebody or something, a way of doing or thinking about something such as a problem or a task. ’Practical work’ means any teaching and learning activity which involves at some point the students in observing or manipulating real objects and materials. The term ‘practical work’ is used in preference to ‘laboratory work’ because location is not a salient feature in characterizing this kind of activity(Robin,2004).The observation or manipulation of objects could take place in the school laboratory, or in an out-of-school setting, such as the student’s home or in the field. Nzewi (2008) asserted that practical activities (approach) can be regarded as a strategy that could be adopted to make the task of the teacher (teaching) more real to the students as opposed to abstract or theoretical presentation of facts, principles and concepts of subject matter. Nzewi maintained that practical activities (approach) should engage the students in hands-on, mind-on, activities using varieties of instructional materials/equipments to drive the lesson home.

Laboratory activities(practical) have long had a distinctive and central role in the science curriculum and science educators have suggested that many benefits accrue from engaging students in science laboratory activities (Hofstein,2004). Since the end of the 19th century, when schools began to teach science systematically, the science laboratory has become a distinctive feature of science education.

The fundamental purpose of practical work is to help students make links between two domains of knowledge- domain of real objects and observable things and domain of ideas. The aim of practical work is to help students to notice a phenomenon, perhaps to look at it in more details than before, and perhaps to remember it afterwards (Millar, 2001).   Practical work is essential for giving students a ‘feel’ for the problematic of measurement, and an appreciation of the ever-presence of uncertainty (or measurement error). It is also an important tool for teaching about experimental design (Robin, 2004). It helps students to understand facts and concepts better and encourages active participation (communication) of learning rather than passive learning. Nwagbo (2007) suggested that the use of practical work in secondary schools will develop competencies in practical and theoretical aspects of some major concepts in biology, such as living cell and its environment, conversation of energy, ecological concepts among others.  In practical work the students are encouraged to keep careful records and write a summarization of his/her observations and conclusions. Student to student talk (communication) generates discussion that is likely to facilitate understanding. Practical work thus serves as a classroom technique that promotes cooperation and interchanges (Maduadum, 1992) and also gives the student the opportunity to learn and practice all activities involved in working in their profession (Meester and Maskill, 1995).

It is true that very often research has failed to show a simplistic relationship between experiences provided to the students in the laboratory and learning science. However sufficient data do exist, to suggest that the laboratory instruction is an effective and efficient teaching medium to attain some of the goals for teaching and learning science. Appropriate practical can be effective in helping students construct their knowledge (Tobin, 1990; Gunstone, 1991), develop logical and inquiry-type skills, as well as problem-solving abilities. They can also assist in the development of psychomotor skills (manipulative and observational skills). In addition, they have a great potential in promoting positive attitudes and in providing students with opportunities to develop skills regarding cooperation and communication. In this respect the science laboratory is a unique learning environment. Thus it has the potential to provide science teachers with opportunities to vary their instructional techniques and to avoid a monotonous classroom learning environment.

In this 21st century, our secondary school teacher still engage in “cookbook”   laborites with the textual discrimination of the experiments and this alone remain the sole guide for the teachers (Onyegebu, 2001). This approach does not enhance the students’ knowledge of biology and their confidence; rather it works antagonistically to the best practical biology approach in which students pursue their own practical under the guidance of the teacher. Science teachers sometimes forget or do not care to know that science activities are meant for students investigating science concepts as well as meant for their self-development in inquiry skills.  Practical biology activities if done in the laboratories are done with the mundane, unimaginative   manner   (Onyegebu, 2001). If one goes into our biology practical lesson today, one will see a lecture style that has not changed in decades. The problem according to Obioha (1991) is that accurate knowledge of what is involved in teaching as well as a means of identifying them in a reliable way is no where formulated. The biology practical which is supposed to equip the student with the necessary practical biology skills and competencies for functional living in the society is relegated to the background (Nwagbo, 2008).

Teaching is predominantly done by lecture method while the learning of biology involves listening, coping and cramming of notes, transfer of learning is at low ‘ebb leading to low achievement in biology’ (Nwagbo,2008). It is also a fact that there are other factors responsible for the poor performance of students in biology and biology related courses in both internal and external examination. A survey of secondary school biology laboratories reveals that many of them are underfunded with outdated equipment (Onyegebu, 2001). Some other factors include lack of instructional materials, unqualified biology teachers, attitudes of students to the study of biology and lack of good biology laboratory for students to interact among themselves, with their teachers as well as the subject. There is need to explore ways in which communication style in practical biology can help students attain meaningful understanding and better performance in biology subject.

The classroom is the basic structural unit of our educational system. It is an environment deliberately created for learning to occur. This environment is a wealth of communication which occurs among students and teachers and is where learning takes place. These communications affect the attitudes and achievements of students. What we make of this environment can and does determine our behaviors or the extent of learning (Nzewi, 1999).

Systematic classroom observation is a way of measuring classroom behaviors from direct observations that specify both the events and behaviors that are to be observed and how they are to be recorded. Generally the data that is collected from this procedure focuses on the frequency with which specific behaviors or types of behavior occurred in the classroom and measure their duration. There are several elements that are common to most observational system;

  • -A purpose for the observation
  • -Operational definitions for all the observational behaviors
  • Training procedures for observers
  • A specific observational focus
  • A setting
  • A unit time
  • An observational schedule
  • A method to record the data
  • A method to process and analyze data( Stallings and Mohlman pp.496-471).Although there are several types of observational procedures or techniques that has been used to examine effective teaching (e.g charts, rating scales, checklists and narrative descriptions) the most widely used procedure or research method has been systematic classroom observation based on interactive coding system. These interactive coding systems allow the observer to record nearly everything the students and teachers do during a given time interval.

Communication in this context of study is described as a process which involves people working together and having an influence on each other. This is evident in the way people relate with one another at home, in the school, within the society and among peer groups. In particular, the relationship between students and their teachers is an essential part of teaching and learning process, and it is expected to have a great effect on their lives.

An educationist, Flanders originally developed an instrument called Flanders Communication Analysis (FIA). FIA system was designed to categorize the types and quantity of verbal communication in the classroom and to plot the information on a matrix so that it could be analyzed and interpreted. The result gave a picture as to who was talking in the classroom, how much and kind of talking that took place. This system consist of ten categories, namely, accepting feelings, praising or encouraging, using ideas of student, asking questions, lecturing, giving directions, criticizing or justifying student talk- response, student talk-initiation and silence or confusion.

Classroom communication can be described as a classroom process in which teachers and students have a reciprocal effect upon each other through what they say and do in the classroom (Matelo, 2006). It is the interpersonal transaction between the teacher and the students which occurs at different levels. This encompasses a lesson situation during which the teacher and students through their verbal and non-verbal actions have reciprocal effect on each other. It can also be seen as the successful transmission of message between teacher and students. In a classroom in which students voices are honored the teacher gains access to information about students’ educational, social, affective and physical needs, (Stiles, 2007). Teacher-student communication in classroom is a two-way process. Each participant influences the other’s behavior, that is; the students condition their teachers’ behavior and vice-versa. The concept of classroom communication according to Oyedeji (1989) refers to the chain of events, which occurs one after the other each occupying a small segment of time. This includes what the teacher does that influence students learning. Studies (Flanders; 1970, Jayashere and Kalkami, 1992) have consistently shown that lesson characterized by classroom communication practices such as high level pupil initiation, increased frequency of student questions, as well as high acceptance and use of pupil’s ideas and less criticism promote students academic achievement. It has also led to high overt student’s involvement in teaching and learning exercise (Malamah 1987).

In Secondary School Science classrooms, males dominate both the teacher-initiated communication and the student-initiated communications in all the three Science subject lessons (Onyegegbu, 2004).  From the ongoing, gender barriers have persisted even within the science classrooms.  There are mixed reports on findings of a number of research studies on gender differences in science. Some research studies have reported conflicting results on this issue (Afuwape and Oludipe, 2008).  Gender differentiation is a contending strong issue in Nigerian culture.  Erinosho (2005) noted that there were lists of disparities between males and females in some key institutions in Nigeria.  In a study carried out by Afuwape and Oludipe, (2008), it was found that males out performed females in science and mathematics achievements, at the secondary school level in Nigeria.  This finding agrees with the study carried out by Nwosu, (1991) which reported that males generally achieve better than females in Science related tasks, at the secondary school level. The style of classroom communication may be dependent on how the teachers pose their questions.

A study carried out by Onyegegbu, (2004) found that majority of teachers throw questions open to the class without asking specific students.  Both males and females appear confident but the males are more eager to answer questions without being prompted to speak. At other times, during the science lesson, females raise their hands and remained seated in their seats as the males are already off their marks to answer the questions, whether right or wrong (Onyegegbu, 2004).The way students respond to the  teacher’s  questions may affect their performance in science subjects positively or negatively. Hence the need to investigate communication styles of male and female students in the classroom.

Considering the above, it is clear that there are disparities and contrasting opinions as to whether gender influences classroom communication or not. Some are of the opinion that males are superior to females, while others say it is the females that are superior to the males. This then creates a gap to further investigate the communication style in practical biology classroom in relation to gender.

Communication is a vital phenomenon that exists among people including secondary school students and their teachers in the classroom. Some specific factors have been speculated to be responsible for the type of classroom communication style that exist in practical biology classroom. Such speculations are lack of appropriate biology equipments which may lead to ineffective communication in practical biology classroom. Few researches have been carried out in Nigeria about classroom communication style. Studies on classroom communication styles by Ali and Iroha (2001), determine a style of interdependence among teacher and student variables. Smith and Hardman (2003) designed the classroom communication system in (CIS) to study and analyzed the classroom communications. The studies on classroom communication have shown inconsistent results, as indicated above. This then creates the need to investigate the communication style in practical biology classroom at the senior secondary school levels.


Statement of the Problem

Over the years, there has been a decline in the performance in biology school certificate examination (Chief Examiner’s Report, 2007). This could be attributed to poor performance in practical biology school certificate examination. This poor performance in practical may be linked to biology activities carried out in the mundane, unimaginative manner (Onyegegbu, 2001). The biology practical lesson in a typical Nigerian classroom is dominated with lecture style of “chalk and talk” method that has not changed in decades. This teaching method has lead to abstractness which makes the student less active and engages them in rote memorization.

Practical experience in any science subject is crucial for the real understanding of principles and application of knowledge ingrained in that subject for cognitive growth and technological orientation and advancement. Due to several constraining factors ranging from facilities to teachers and learners characteristics and effort the required practical experiences are not usually possible in most schools, (Ango and Sila, 2008).

Communication in the secondary school practical biology is a precursor to learning by students in the laboratory. This is because the type of communication style that goes on in the laboratory could have a major impact on how well students achieve the goals of instructions. The search for ways and means of identifying empirically the role of communication style as a tool for enhancing biology achievement is a continuing research effort. Considering the need to improve the biology performance level and prepare the students for a diverse global workplace, it becomes necessary to investigate the communication style in senior secondary practical biology classroom.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to investigate the communication style in senior secondary practical biology classroom, in particular the frequency between student-student and teacher-student that take place in the practical biology classroom.

Specifically the study will seek to:

  1. Determine the frequency of communication style between student-student in practical biology classroom.
  2. Determine the frequency of communication style between teacher-student in practical biology classroom.
  3. Determine the influence and frequency of gender on student-student communication style in practical biology classroom.
  4. Determine the influence and frequency of gender on teacher-student communication style in practical biology classroom.

Significance of the Study       

The study has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, the findings were in line with the findings of psychologist like Jean Piaget’s, who observed that at certain periods of the child’s cognitive development such as concrete and formal operational level of thinking, the child is able to carry out classification activities, arrange data in serial order, formulate hypothesis from  their observation of events, observing, inferring etc. All these activities are activities used in the laboratory method of teaching biology which involves communication between the teacher and the student.

It is hoped that the result of this present study on Communication Styles in Senior Secondary School Practical Biology will help enlarge student’s active learning capacity which may be a cornerstone to elevating their knowledge level in biology subject. This will help to improve student’s achievement in practical biology particularly in their SSCE and NECO exams.

Biology teachers will find this study useful in the teaching of biology topics by becoming familiar with methods of communication styles that can enable them demonstrate effective biology teaching. This is so because present study will identify the different types of communication style and their characterization which hopefully science teachers will use properly in managing and teaching their students. It will also stimulate teachers to improve their teaching behavior in order to maximize students learning.

Curriculum developers would find the result of the study as a relevant tool for curriculum reform and improvement, the trust of this will be in the area of choice of curriculum content materials, review of science textbook and perhaps teaching strategies that will be in line with practical objectives. Also in developing secondary school biology, they will have a better knowledge for advising teachers on what better communication style that would be suitable for teaching secondary school biology students. The curriculum development process requires that the curriculum planner advices the curriculum implementers (teachers) on how best to teach the different concept, themes context etc in the curriculum on the basis of research findings and experience. It is against this understanding that the authors will familiarize teachers and curriculum planners on this aspect of significance of present study. This will be done through publishing the finding of the present study in a popular science education journal such as Journal of Science Teacher Association of Nigeria.

Policy Makers such as inspector and supervisors of schools will also benefit from this study.   The result of this study have potentials for providing a knowledge base for policies and programmes in biology teaching and learning .It would provide the dynamics of the classroom teaching and learning, how teachers and students negotiate the meaning of science concepts, principles, theories and laws cannot be fully understood without the observation and analysis of classroom communication . These categories of staff will be provided the report of the present study though the State Ministry of Education in Anambra State.

Educational Administrators will find this work as a rationale for organizing seminars or workshops on strategies for improving science education communication practices generally. It will further inform science teacher trainers in colleges of education and faculties of education in Nigerian Universities on the need to restructure or modify their teacher training programmers with a view to improving the quality of science teachers through better classroom communication practices.

Textbook writers in biology should incorporate in their science teaching text book, the importance and procedures of communication style .Also textbook writers should give a well detailed practical work at the end of each topic to test the student theoretical and practical understanding of the context concepts, principles and skills been taught.

Scope of the Study

The study will be limited to year two senior secondary school biology students in Anambra State.  The justification for this is based on the fact that SSII students at this stage in the biology core curriculum would have been exposed to topics in SSI that have dealt with practical biology. The study would be carried out in Awka zone of Anambra state.


Research Questions

  1. What is the frequency of communication style between student-student in practical biology classroom?
  2. What is the frequency of communication style between teacher-student in practical biology classroom?
  3. What is the influence and frequency of gender on student-student communication style in practical biology classroom?
  4. What is the influence and frequency of gender on teacher- student communication style in practical biology classroom?



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