The cognitive level of classroom instructional questions and their implications on student achievement in biology: a case of two schools

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Onduru, Sarah A. O.
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Students' achievement in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) Biology examination has been poor over the years. Factors such as lack of textbooks, facilities and equipment, and teacher qualification have been identified as the those affecting performance. The low attainment in the examination show that the students do not answer the Biology questions set well. Using Bloom's 1956 theoretical framework, which covers different, cognitive levels namely knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis synthesis and evaluation; an analysis of the KCSE papers 1 and 2 Biology examination questions for 1993-1998 was done by the researcher. The results revealed that majority of questions set were comprehension followed by knowledge questions. There were only a few application, analysis and synthesis questions. For students to answer examination questions well they must get adequate preparation during classroom instruction. The purpose of the study was therefore to investigate the cognitive level of classroom instruction questions Biology teachers ask in secondary schools in Kasipul division Nyanza Province, Kenya. The research design used was survey since the researcher was to move from one class to another. Two schools were purposively selected-one high performing (HP) and one low performing (LP) in Biology. Form 1-4 Biology teachers in each school were observed teaching four times per class and the lessons were audio taped. The researcher thus observed a total of 32 lessons. All the questions asked by the Biology teaches in both schools were recorded on the question classification form then analyzed using Blooms' theoretical framework. The data on questioning was presented in tables in the form of frequencies and percentages. The results revealed the following: - The number of questions asked by Biology teachers was an average of 6 questions per lesson in the HP school and 5 questions in the LP school. - In both the HP and LP school, the teachers emphasized knowledge questions during instruction. - In both the HP and the LP school, the teachers emphasized comprehension type of questions in the end-of -term tests. The researcher concluded that since the teachers observed in the HP and LP schools displayed similar characteristics in the type of questions asked in class and in the end-of-term tests, questions asked could not be taken as a major factor affecting students' achievement in Biology in the two schools observed. Other factors outside the scope of this study should be investigated to explain the poor performance. However from the results of the study the researcher recommends that teachers should ask questions which test other mental abilities and not only knowledge type questions.
Department of Zoological Sciences, 81p. The QH 315.O5 2002
Biology--Study and teaching