INNOVATIONS, SUCCESSES AND CHALLENGES IN SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY AND MATHEMATICS (STM) TEACHING AND TEACHER EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
Sabiru Dahiru Yusuf (Ph.D), Mstan
School of Secondary Education
Federal College of Education
The importance of teaching Science, Technology and Mathematics (STM) in a developing country like Nigeria cannot be over emphasized. Recognizing this fact, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FRN, 2008) has among the objectives of Basic Education, the laying of sound basis for scientific and reflective thinking in children. The policy further states that STM will continue to be taught in an integrated manner in schools, as a way of promoting in children, the appreciation of the practical application of basic science. The main thrust of the policy therefore, is on the inculcation of the values of science and technology in the lives of Nigerian children.
There is no doubt that, the world of science teaching must differ in emphasis, purpose and in many kind from that of pre-ICT (Information Communication Technology) era. For sure the emerging scientific revolution in ICT together with the trend toward globalization demands a programme in Science, Technology and Mathematics with new focus (Wasagu, 2015). It may not be debatable to say that now is the time to evaluate and redefine the purpose of Science, Technology and Mathematics (STM) teaching in our schools with the aim of enhancing creativity.
With respect to ICT era and globalization teaching STM should go beyond shady goals such as covering the syllabus, verification of law/theories or use of learning materials to pass an examination. All students need a general science education that leads to an understanding of social implications of scientific and technological advancement. Based on these therefore, there is the need to bring about innovative ways of teaching STM in Nigeria.
In most institutions in Nigeria, the knowledge acquired within the four walls of our classrooms, most often, does not bear any significant relevance with the practices of the larger society. In other words, there is a wider gap between student’s expectations of their classes and what they experience. These calls for new (modified), or innovative ways of teaching STM in order to meet the yearning and aspiration of both the students and the society in general.
A lot has been put together as a modified/ innovative ways of enhancing our classroom methods of delivery in STM. This paper therefore, attempts to identify some of the innovative ways, successes and challenges experienced by teachers in the cause of STM delivery. Finally, possible ways on how to enhance those innovative ways in STM teaching and teacher education for functional STM education in Nigeria were proffered.
Basic Concepts: Science, Technology and Mathematics (STM); Teaching and Teacher Education
The main concern of this paper is not the definition of terms, however, it is good to briefly say what the three terms Science, Technology and Mathematics, encompass in the context of our discussion.
There are many definitions of Science, among the most popular is that of Websters New Dictionary, which defined Science as, ‘’knowledge attained through study or practice’’. Knowledge covering general truths of the operation of general laws, especially as obtained and tested through scientific method and concerned with the physical world
In other words, Science as a body of knowledge started thousands of years before man learnt how to read and write. Science as a body of knowledge is orderly and mainly aims at providing man with the means to control and explain the forces and resources attributed to nature. Lassa (2005) defines science as a body of knowledge that is verifiable and applicable in the solution of everyday challenges of life. Science is also viewed as a body of knowledge which emanate as a result of series of activities in an attempt to solve problem(s) observed within our environment (Dahiru, 2013)
Application of Science and the manipulation of the physical world for the benefit or the enjoyment of man in the society are called Technology. In other words, technology is the application of scientific theory and practices. Science is therefore a system of tenets and methods for constructing and verifying descriptive and explanatory modules of natural phenomena, whereas, Technology is a system for inventing technical means (techniques) to advance an end, frequently with an eye toward solving practical problems. As Gilbert (2011) puts it, Scientists seek to describe and explain phenomena, while technologist such as engineers seeks to invent and to apply knowledge to solving practical problems. Generally, Technology is knowledge, a process, a product and a culture of provision/invention/construction of goods and services for the betterment of human beings. It is sometimes regarded as hand-on and mind-on knowledge which led to production of goods.
Mathematics is the Science of expressing and studying the relationship between member and focus. As a subject, Mathematics arose from the need for a system of calculation for a long time in history and has been described in different ways, such as, the mother or queen of Science, the language of science and the bedrock of meaningful development. Over the years and due to the advances in the development of science and technology, mathematics has found application in all facets of our lives.
Having defined Science, Technology and Mathematics, it is important to explain briefly, the relationship between these three concepts. While science as a complex human activity provides the means of explaining observable behaviour of the universe with some predictive characteristics, technology is the application of science for the benefit of mankind. Mathematics on the other hand, serves as the language of understanding and supporting science and technology.
What is teaching?
Teaching is as old as man himself. It can be informal or formal in the weaving, carving, art and craft, blacksmithing and counting. There is the old adage that says those who can’t find anything, they resort to teach, and this seems to suggest that teaching is for those who can’t find any job. This may not be true as strong subject-matter knowledge that must be acquired by any teacher is a critical component of successful teaching. In ancient Egypt, China, India and even in Niger and Benin Republic among others, teaching was often the responsibility of priest or prophets, malams/imams etc who enjoyed prestige. While in the ancient Greeks, parents hired teachers to teach their children. Thus, teaching is an honest medium of communication supposedly devoid of lies. The late 1950, saw booming school enrolments and a threat to advanced technology, as such U.S. Mathematicians, Scientists and Educators developed new approaches such as the use of models in the teaching of STM, hence the beginning of innovation in teaching STM.
The success of any educational system is directly proportional to the quality of its teachers. Therefore, quality of teacher education is of paramount importance, according to Onyekan (2000), teacher education is the provision of professional education and specialized training within a specialized period for the preparation of individuals who intend to develop and nurture the young ones into responsible and productive citizens. In other words Teacher Education is an organized and pre-planned set of activities and instructions which are intended to inculcate in the would-be teacher appropriate knowledge, pedagogical skills, attitude and competencies needed for him/her to function effectively as a teacher in any level of the school system. This is an effective tool for achieving innovations in teaching Science, Technology and Mathematics, since no educational system can rise above the quality of its teachers.
Innovation, according to Oxford Dictionary (2000), is the act of making changes, that is to introduce new things, ideas, techniques e.t.c. Olugbenga (2011) defined innovation as a purposeful change from an established order that is progressive and beneficial in the area of policy, objectives, content, materials, equipment, methods or evaluation strategies. Lassa (2005) viewed innovation from the point of curriculum revision as a series of planned and/or unplanned learning activities through the idea of adding or removing items in the curriculum, implying revision or renewal (i.e. modifying an existing learning process) with the hope of providing a better programme. The use of innovative methods in STM teaching and learning is aimed at the purpose of training in non-traditional way, transforming the passive learning into an active, creative process.
Features of Innovation
As identified by Olugbenga (2011), for a change to be classified as an innovation, it should posses the following or most of these features.
- Realistic/Achievable Behavioural Objectives–Realistic and achievable behavioural objectives, that are not mere dreams/imaginations or copying already existing setting, should be the forms of the innovation processes. The innovation procedure must take the social, political and economical atmosphere and available resources (preferably an indigenous technology) into consideration.
- Presence of New Element – The essence of innovation/change is to introduce something new which should have an improvement over the existing situation and which is capable of bringing some form of progress.
- Flexibility – Innovation must be flexible to allow for adjustments to the changing needs and conditions of society where it is operational.
- Must have been tested – An innovation should first be experimented over a smaller group, so that its worthiness and workability can be determined on a larger society.
- Acceptability – Innovations should reflect the needs of the society such that they become acceptable i.e. every purposeful change should reflect the aspirations, problems and societal values so that they can be seen as solution to some existing and projected problems.
- Political Support – The support of leaders/administrators of every section upon which the innovation(s) would be implemented is very vital.
- Involvement of all participants – It is more than necessary to involve every group of people that would participate in new invention e.g. parents, teachers, organisations, sponsors, employers, etc, so as to ensure that innovations exert the required impact.
Innovations and Successes in STM Teaching and Teacher Education in Nigeria
The innovations and successes in teaching STM and in Teacher Education in Nigeria, will be discussed under the three sub headings namely Curriculum Development, Teaching Methods and Instructional Materials
(i) Curriculum Development
There is a growing body of researches calling for reforms in the way science, technology and mathematics (STM) are taught in schools (Wasagu, 2011). This reform effort in Science, Technology and Mathematics require a sustainable change/review in Curriculum structure, methodology and Instructional materials among others. This give birth to many curriculum review efforts, among which is the recent one called, Teacher Development Programme (TDP) by one of the renown body responsible for teacher education, that is National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE).
Curriculum for teacher education at N.C.E level has undergone series of restructuring with the aim of updating pre-service teacher’s knowledge in teaching STM. This is so because of series of observations made by stake holders and the various State Universal Basic Education Boards. That the teachers are trained in the subjects (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, and Economics among others) which are not offered at 9-year basic education level. At the end of the training they end up teaching other available subject stipulated by the National Policy of Education (FRN, 2008), this brought about a gap which called for Curriculum restructuring of Teacher Education Programme at (N. C. E.) level. It was based on this and other reasons that the NCCE took the bold step in restructuring the NCE Minimum Standard initiative i.e. 2012which is currently in use, hence an innovation towards teacher education.
This is the first time the teachers at NCE level are trained based on the subject demand of 9-year basic education. Currently the schools in some Colleges of Education are restructured into seven schools as against five. The schools are;
- School of Education
- School of Adult and Non-formal Education
- School of Primary Education Studies and Early Child Education
- School of Secondary Education, Science
- School of Secondary Education, Language
- School of Secondary Education, Vocational and Technical Education
- School of Secondary Education, Art and Social Science.
Each school is expected to train their teacher trainees based on the new curriculum/minimum standard.
Based on this innovation in curriculum development, the teachers currently produce not only meets the 9-year basic education teacher demand, but also ensure that the teachers produced are meant to teach basic subjects at 9-year basic education. Like in the previous years where teachers produced at NCE level, do not meet the demand of the basic level. These are the fundamental successes of these curriculum development, hence innovation.
(ii) Teaching Methods
Poor method of teaching STM has long remained a threat to the desired and functional learning outcomes in students (Ekejiofor, 1999; Dahiru 2013). Bello (2011), observed that access to basic education has improved over the few decades, but the academic achievement remains largely elusive and imaginary, this is due to poor methods of teaching STM. No matter how sound the curriculum of STM may be and no matter how realistic the objectives may be, the delivery of instruction remains absolutely essential. Therefore, general pedagogical reforms in STM should be aimed at where the learner is considered to be paramount. In fact, studies have shown (Dahiru, 2013) that, students learn best, if they are engaged in active learning. Student-centred teaching strategies are teaching styles that are more effective than teacher-centred teaching strategies, because it allows students to participate effectively during the teaching and learning process. The following are new strategies (i.e. innovations) for effective teaching STM;
- Instructional Models;
- Concept Mapping;
- Case Study;
- Play way and Simulation Games;
- Independent Study Tasks;
- Modified Lecture;
- Cooperative Method;
- Circuit Training Method;
- Project Work;
- Mixed Workshop; and
- Problem-based Learning.
The aforementioned strategies are not the only innovative ways of STM teaching, rather they are few among others, since knowledge is dynamic not static. The general understanding and underlying logic of the teaching cycle is that, individual lessons only make sense in light of how they build on previous lessons and how they create the cognitive need and scaffolding for subsequent lessons. The truth is that both the individual and the collective human understanding of science are built on the foundation of prior conceptions, including resistance to change and misconceptions (Wasagu, 2015).
- Instructional models
This involve new/Innovative method of teaching STM, which require the teacher to think about what his/her pupils will learn and be able to build a model for the lesson for example, the 5Es Teaching Cycle. There are five stages in this instructional model as explained by Wasagu (2015).
Figure 1: 5Es Teaching Cycle
Stage One: Engage :- These are activities that mentally engage the students with an event or a question. Engagement activities help the students to make connections with what they already know and can do. Both science students and science teachers begin a task with asking questions (Science) or defining problems (engineering). Engagements of students help to activate their natural curiosity, focus their attention and generate a need to know.
Stage Two: Explore through co-operative work:– The students work with each other, explore ideas, together and acquire a common base of experience, usually through hands-on activities under the guidance of the teacher; they clarify their understanding of major concepts and skills. It is about investigation after teaching the content.
Stage Three: Explain:– The students explain their understanding of the concepts and processes they are learning. The teacher clarifies their understanding, introduces, define new concepts and skills. Students who have gained empirical evidence in the Engage and Explore phase are challenged in the explain phase to develop discuss and debate evidence based explanations. Students are also challenged to make sense of data gathered from the Engage and Explore stages.
Stage Four: Elaborate:– In this particular phase, students apply what they have learnt to new situations and they build their understanding of concepts. They use the new experiences to extend their knowledge and skills. Teachers introduce new activities which challenge students to apply understanding in seemingly different but related context.
Stage Five: Evaluation:– The students assess their knowledge skills and abilities. This stage also focuses on outcome that a teacher can use to evaluate students’ progress.
- Concept Mapping
One innovative strategy which can be use to teach STM effectively is Concept mapping. Concept mapping is a technique used to represent knowledge in graphical form. These knowledge graphs consist of nodes which represent related concepts within a topic and links which represent the relationship between concepts. An example of a concept map is given in figure 2.
Figure 2: Sample of Concept Map Strategy
Concept Mapping Strategy has numerous advantages which include among others (N.T.I., 2010);
- It is an attention inducer, so it becomes a powerful motivator if it is employed during lesson and makes the lesson exciting.
- It promotes intellectual development of the child, leading to high degree of assimilation and retention of concepts.
- It works to make clear to both students and teachers the number of key ideas they must focus on for any specific learning task and this lead to functional knowledge.
- It also helps to provide a kind of visual road map showing some of the pathways we may like to connect meanings of concepts in propositions
- After a learning task has been completed, concept maps provide a schematic summary of what has been learned.
Another innovative strategy of teaching STM is called Case Study. This is designed to develop a deep level approach to learning of science. Olugbenga (2011) further explains that, this method can be used in introductory science lesson. There is no fiction with case study, just the telling of a real story about the way scientific problems have been solved in the past or are being solved at present. They can be used to encourage the learner to be active in developing particular ideas, because case studies traditionally conclude by asking some specific questions which relate to the curriculum.
The effective application of all these innovative ways of teaching STM will lead to functional knowledge, this in turn lead to scientific and technological advancement of Nigeria.
Innovative ways of teaching STM cannot be successful without aids to the classroom instruction. This aid is called Instructional materials. The role of instructional materials in teaching cannot be over emphasized. The introduction of computers (computer-mediator instruction) to aid instruction in the science classroom serves as the beginning of the innovative ways of enhancing classroom instruction. Apart from CMI, improvisation of instructional materials also serves as another means through which teaching and learning of STM can be enhanced.
STM is better learned by doing or manipulating the available resources/apparatus. Therefore, inadequate science teaching equipment hinders teacher’s effective implementation of the science curriculum and affects students’ learning abilities. Nwabueze, (1994) reported ceaseless complains among parents, science teachers, institutions and general public about the poor levels of instructional materials in our education system. This therefore, necessitates improvisation of instructional materials in teaching science in order to supplement the standard instructional materials/equipments which are hard to come by nowadays. This alternative way of enriching our classrooms with instructional materials are in other way referred to as innovative ways of enriching our classroom there by aiding the innovative strategies of teaching STM.
Improvisation is viewed by Eniayeju, (1993) as the act of using alternative materials and resources to facilitate instruction whenever there is lack of or shortage of specific first-hand teaching materials. It is also viewed as the provision of a substitute made from locally or readily available raw material for real original equipment or materials. It is a teacher’s made teaching material, sometimes with the help of students and local apprentices used to facilitate instruction.
There are many useful materials in our environment that could be used as substitute or imitative to serve the purpose for which manufactured materials are intended. These materials could be found in hospitals, market, kitchens, houses, schools and many other places. Many of these materials/apparatus could be use to demonstrate science principles. Few examples of these materials that can be found commonly and used as substituent to the standard unavailable science instructional equipment are highlighted below.
Some Specific Improvisation of Science Equipment
|SN||Standard Apparatus||Improvised Item (As Substitute)||Function|
|1.||Bunsen Burner||Kerosine stove, Candle wax and Methylated spirit lamp.||As a source of heat|
|2.||Pipette||20cm3 ‘ disposable’ syringe||For titration experiment|
|3.||Reagent Bottle||Maltina Bottle||For storage of Chemicals which require dark bottle e.g AgNO3|
|4.||Funnels||Plastic bottles opened at the base||For transferring fluid|
|5.||Colorimeter||Plastic cups||For heat of neutralization reaction experiment.|
|6.||Beaker and Conical flask||Transparent plastic cup and glass cup||For titration experiment|
|7.||Spatula||Cut handle of table spoon||For putting chemicals into test-tube|
|8.||Watch glass||Cover (Lid) of cream bottle||For putting specimen sample of chemicals in qualitative analysis.|
|9.||Indicator||Flower extracts (Petal of flowers)||As indicator in Acid/base titration|
|10.||Delivery tube||Biro case (tube)||For gas delivery tubes in preparation of gases|
|11.||Chromatographic column||Fluorescent tube||For Chromagrapic experiments|
|12.||Models of Organisms and Organs||Marshed paper, starch, paint or coloured ink||Representing the organism or showing how the organ looks|
|13.||Insecticide catching nets||Mosquito-net, wooden or Aluminium ring||Catching insects|
|14.||Circuit Board||Plywood, metal strip, wire, touch light bulb, batteries and paper clip||For experiments on conversion of chemical energy to light|
|15.||Concave/Convex mirror||Base of empty insecticides cans||Experiment on light|
|16.||Prism||A glass of water||For colour spectrum|
|17.||Polygons and other geometrical shapes||Cardboard or metal sheet well cut into fitting shapes, gum||For teaching Geometry|
|18.||Molecular models||Coloured beads, tennis egg, gum||To teach bonding in molecules.|
All these materials point the possibility of reducing the problems of STM teaching materials/apparatus in our schools.
Dahiru (2006), experimented the possibilities of using 20cm3 disposable syringe as substitute to 20cm3 pipettes (standard) during titration practical. This was conducted with 20 students of SSII selected randomly who used disposable syringe, while other students in the class used standard pipette in one of the volumetric analysis class. After the experiment, the results, from the two tables showing the volume of the acid used (titre values) and the average volume of the acid used in the experiment revealed no significant difference between the use of standard pipette and the improvised (disposable syringe) material. The findings therefore indicate the possibility and accuracy level achievable, when an improvised pipette (syringe) is used in secondary schools. This would reduce the problems of inadequate instructional materials.
Challenges in Innovations in STM Teaching and Teacher Education in Nigeria
The following are some of the challenges experienced by teacher in trying to make innovation to enhance ways of enhancing teaching STM.
- The challenges experience under the restructuring of the curriculum is that, the development is still at the trial stage covering only few Colleges of Education, hoping to expand to the other Colleges by the end of the year.
- Money is involved in the purchase of new material needed as required a new approach to the teaching STM.
- A lot fund is also needed to carry out researches that may lead to new method of teaching STM.
- Lack of training and retraining of teachers to update their teaching skills.
- Lack of effective encouragement of teacher either by Government or Nongovernmental organisation in provision of Instructional materials through improvisation.
- Poor Communication Channels; Lack of required/sufficient awareness of changes in approach due to poor information procedures for implementation.
- Fears concerning changes in teaching strategies and administrative roles either out of conservative approach or mere misconceptions is also a threat to innovation
- Teachers’ skills and capabilities to successfully effect changes are in most cases not sound enough to accomplish the task, because of poor remuneration and negative attitude toward teaching.
The following are way forward;
- There should be a continuous capacity building workshop for Science teachers where contemporary Science teaching techniques could be introduced and digested.
- Government through the ministry of education should promote, encourage and enforce the student-centred and innovative strategies in teaching STM in our schools.
- Provision of adequate fund and necessary teaching/learning materials should be made to various institution of learning.
- Government should install in all schools the much needed Information Technology (ICT) facilities with adequate alternative source of energy.
- Provision of Information Technology equipment and materials (e.g. Laptops, Videos, Simulation tools etc) to all at subsidise rate by the Government, so that both students and teachers will have unrestricted access to required information for the improvement of teaching /learning.
- The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but building the new, Socrate in Wasagu (2015). Because if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future. And experts say, ‘Nothing we do change the past ;everything we do change the future’.
- We must develop new teaching strategies in line with escalating global inter-dependence and competition which affects Science, Technology and Mathematics.
- We must be seen to be relevant so that what we teach in our classrooms is relevant to the outside world.
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