Given the tremendous global development in information communication technology, the use of computers in education is becoming indispensable. Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind in this development. Computer Concept Mapping (CCM) is a way of employing computers in education to aid learning. CCM is a visual representation of knowledge by showing the relationship(s) between concepts and ideas using computer software. It is a student-centred learning approach that employs computer software in knowledge construction which can help foster students’ academic achievement. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to investigate the effect of CCM on students’ academic achievement in Economics. Three research questions and hypotheses guided the study. The study adopted a quasi-experimental research design. The sample consisted of 198 SS2 Economics students in Nsukka Education Zone, Enugu state. Economics Achievement Test (EAT) was used for data collection. A reliability index of 0.81 was obtained using Kuder-Richardson K-R20 which guaranteed the use of the instrument for the study. The data collected were analyzed using mean and standard deviation for answering the research questions while ANCOVA was used to test the null hypotheses at 0.05 level of significance. The results showed that CCM improved students’ academic achievement in Economics. The findings also showed that CCM is gender insensitive on students’ achievement in Economics. It is recommended among others that teachers should incorporate CCM in their teaching to help enhance students’ achievement in Economics and that government, communities, corporate agencies and other well meaning individuals should help provide an enabling learning environment that supports and promotes CCM. The study concluded that if CCM would be used in the teaching and learning of Economics in secondary schools, students’ achievement would be enhanced for national development.
Background of the Study
Economics has been defined by different people in different ways. Economics is the study of ways of making choices and allocating scarce resources to satisfy human wants. It is the study of how people and societies make decisions; allocate and manage scarce resources to achieve their needs. In this view, Hall, (2013) defined Economics as the study of how individuals, firms and whole societies identify their most important needs, allocate and manage scarce resources in such a way that satisfies as many needs as possible. Since resources are scarce while human wants are insatiable, Economics deals with the study of how people utilize scarce resources in face of unlimited wants.
Economics is the study of human attitudes towards satisfying their needs. Economics is concerned with human behaviour such as how people earn their living and make choices between alternatives to satisfy their wants; it focuses on the study of firms and the government whose activities are geared towards the production of goods and services for the satisfaction of human want (Yusuf, 2012). Economics could then be seen as the study of human activities dealing with allocation of resources and production of goods and services for the satisfaction of human wants. It is a social science that studies how individuals, firms and governments make decisions and choices in face of unlimited wants and allocate scarce resources to their most important, pressing and preferred needs.
In Nigeria, Economics is taught in senior secondary school using Economics senior secondary school curriculum. Economics curriculum has to do with all the experiences and activities provided by the teacher/school to the students in course of handling Economics subject in order to achieve the objectives of the subject (Economics). As documented by the Federal Ministry of Education (FME), (2008) the guiding principle of the Economics curriculum is the need to equip graduates of senior secondary school with the basic knowledge and skills that will enable them to better appreciate the nature of economic problems in any society and adequately prepare them for the challenges in the Nigerian economy.
The objectives of Economics curriculum according to FME, (2008) include enabling students:
- Understand basic economic principles and concepts as well as the tools for sound economic analysis.
- Contribute intelligently to discourse on economic reforms and development as they affect or would affect the generality of Nigerians.
- Understand the structure and functioning of economic institutions.
- Appreciate the role of public policies on national economy.
- Develop the skills and also appreciate the basis for rational economic decisions.
- Become sensitized to participate actively in national economic advancement through entrepreneurship, capital market and so on.
- Understand the role and status of Nigeria and other African countries in international economic relationships.
- Appreciate the problems encountered by developing countries in their effort towards economic advancement.
Economics is of great importance because it is a subject that has direct utility which prepares a student for a wide range of career options, ranging from business to government such as in industries and other professional areas like Banking, Accountancy, and Planning (Hall, 2013). Therefore, the need for economic literacy is obvious because it is a subject that has relevance to everyday life and could prepare secondary school students for an entrepreneurial career. It helps in equipping secondary school students with entrepreneurial skills to becoming useful citizens even if they do not further their education. According to Finkelstein (2011), high school graduates will be making economic choices all their lives, as breadwinners and consumers, and as citizens and voters and they will need some capacity for critical judgment, whether or not they go to college. Thus, it is of great importance that secondary school Economics curriculum is very interesting, enlightening, revealing and addresses important economic issues in the country for students to gain meaningfully from the experiences, knowledge and skills for real life activities. Whether students have gained meaningfully or not from the experiences, knowledge and skills provided through Economics curriculum can only be determined through the academic achievement of students in the subject matter.
Students’ academic achievement shows the success or otherwise of an academic/educational endeavour. Students’ academic achievement tends to show the efficacy or otherwise of schools and tends to determine the future of students. Aremu (2001), was of the view that academic achievement is a fundamental criterion by which all teaching-learning activities are measured, using some standards of excellence and the acquisition of particular grades in examinations to measure student’s ability, mastery of the content, and skills in applying the knowledge acquired to a particular situation. According to Ernest-Ehibudu & Opurum (2013), the measure for assessing students’ level of academic achievement is through achievement tests/examinations and observations.
Achievement tests may include tests or examinations given at the end of a lesson, unit, term, session, year or programme such as weekly test, mid-term test, termly examination, first school leaving examination, senior secondary school examination (e.g WASSCE, NECO, NABTEB) and other tests/examinations at different levels and areas of education. For instance, the achievement test to be used in this study is Economics Achievement Test as developed by the researcher. The results/grades gotten from these achievement tests/examinations and observations could be high, average, low or poor.
In spite of the importance of Economics and the government’s provision in terms of instructional materials and qualified teachers (Federal Ministry of Education, FME, 2008), students’ achievement in Economics seems not to be encouraging. For example, the West African Examination Council Chief Examiner’s Report (2008 through 2012) revealed that the achievement of students in Economics at the end of secondary education has remained poor. Ojelabi, (2009) observed that researchers’ concern has risen due to the fact that students’ achievements in the Secondary School Certificate Economics have remained poor. Regrettably, Alaka and Obadara (2013) noted that there has been persistent poor achievement of students in West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE). This poor achievement of students in Economics, a subject that aids in developing students’ critical and creative thinking is very disheartening. No wonder the seeming dysfunctional, non-creativity, non-productivity and non-employability of secondary school graduates in the country. Various factors have been adduced for this poor achievement of students in Economics such as teaching methods and gender among others (Adu & Ayeni, 2004; Ewumi, 2009; Olatoye & Adekoye, 2010; Emaikwu, 2012; Idris & Rajuddin, 2012; Ifeanyi-Uche & Ejabukwa, 2013; Jensen & Owen, 2013).
Teaching methods/approaches can make or mar students’ potentialities to learn and achieve. Teaching approaches and strategies have been put forward as one of the factors affecting students’ academic achievement. For example, Emaikwu, (2012) noted that the fall in standard of performance at secondary school level is incontrovertibly attributable to pedagogical approaches adopted by teachers in schools. The selection of appropriate teaching approaches for a particular classroom situation enables the teacher and his/her students to accomplish specific goals (Kennedy, 2011). As such, Finkelstein (2011) stated that student’s achievement outcomes are of primary importance and are hypothesized to be mediated by changes in teacher’s knowledge and application of pedagogical practices in teaching-learning process. Observing the importance of teaching methods in teaching-learning process, Hussain and Ali, (2012) postulated that the content to teach is just like the body and the method is just like the soul in the body; the body without soul is of no importance, therefore teaching without the proper method of teaching has zero value. This implies that ineffective or non-students-participatory teaching methods result to little or no learning and the end product – poor or no achievement.
Researchers have called for students to become more active participants in their learning process and for instructors to apply teaching methods that increase students’ participation and their interactions with students (Lammers & Murphy 2002; Kember 2009). Identifying teaching methods that may be effective in different educational levels, Hussain and Ali, (2012) noted that in the lower levels the drill and practice method may be effective and fruitful while at the higher stages the method should be according to the demands of the subject and the interest of the students.
There is no particular teaching-learning approach that is exclusively encompassing or the most excellent. Two or more teaching-learning approaches could be used by teachers to have more meaningful learning outcomes. However, Idris and Rajuddin (2012) observed that it is a common practice in Nigeria where a teacher stands before the chalk board and delivers lesson through verbal instruction while the students serve as passive listeners and take note from the board. However, Kelly (2014) stated that this practice can be of great benefit in that students who are auditory learners find that lectures appeal to their learning style. Also, in a lecture environment, instructors have a greater control over what is being taught in the classroom because they are the sole source of information (Kelly, 2014).
However, lecture method seems to promote rote learning since students are simply passive listeners in the process. Accordingly, Olatoye and Adekoya (2010) noted that some methods of conveying knowledge like conventional approaches such as lecture and recitation tend to be relatively ineffective on the students’ ability to master and retain important concepts, and on enhancing critical thinking and collaborative problem solving among students. No wonder, the poor achievement of secondary schools students and the seeming failure of secondary education towards producing sound, creative, functional and effective secondary school graduates.
For students’ achievement to increase and for them to be productive and functional in this 21st century, there is every need for the application students’ participatory approaches; that is teaching – learning approaches that meaningfully engage the learners such as concept mapping. Concept mapping is a tool that allows a learner to learn and understand the relationships between ideas or concepts by creating a visual chart/diagram of the connections. Concept maps were developed in 1972 in the course of Novak’s research program at Cornell where he sought to follow and understand changes in children’s knowledge of science (Hsu & Chang, 2011). It is a technique that gives learners the opportunity to externalize their thoughts in a visual/graphic form. De Simone, Schmid and McEwen (2001) opined that concept mapping allows the learner to abstract important information, relate ideas, and represent them in a structured manner with the result being a concept map where concepts are enclosed in nodes and attached by links. Johnston (2013) observed that concept map is a powerful learning strategy that is graphic in nature and makes the learner to think about the relationships between terms andthat latter aspect makes concept mapping especially suited to thestudy of Economics.
By drawing a concept map of a lesson or a chapter in a textbook, a learner can identify the key concepts and show the relationships between them.Thishelps him/her to understand more clearly the meaning of the material.Inspiration (2013) noted that concept mapping as a teaching-learning technique visually illustrates the relationships between concepts and ideas. Concept maps allow learners to: find out the connections between ideas they already have; connect new ideas to knowledge that they already have which helps to organize knowledge or ideas; and organize ideas in a logical but not rigid structure that allows future information or viewpoints to be included which can help them absorb and adapt to new information and ideas (Johnston, 2013).
Concept mapping could be done manually using pen and paper (i.e. Manual Concept Mapping) or by the use of computer (i.e. Computer Concept Mapping). Manual Concept Mapping (MCM) is constructing concept maps with pen and paper. It is generating concept maps manually without any computer application or software. Correcting and modifying pen and paper concept maps could be very frustrating. The generation of linking features in concept mapping produces complex and intricate arrays that require constant evaluation and revision and use of pen and paper to construct concept maps can inhibit this generation (Riley & Ahlberg, 2004). With the processes involved in constructing concepts maps, students are bound to alter, erase, revise, change, add or modify their maps to accommodate new knowledge or organize information properly. This process of map modification may prove difficult, messy and cumbersome. The implication of this, is that learners may need more support in creating concept maps, building relationships among concepts, and encouragement to modify and revise their maps. Thus the need for Computer Concept Mapping (CCM).
Computer Concept Mapping (CCM) is a technique for organizing and representing knowledge by visualizing relationships among concepts in a computer environment or using computer software or tools. Hsu and Chang (2011) defined computer concept mapping as a graphical, visual and spatial creative tool that helps guide designers to their own problem-solving paths. These computer tools or software include CMAP®, Inspiration®, Smart Draw® and Concept Map EDitor® among others. CMAP software will be used in course of this work. Computer concept mapping allows easy change, revision, modification and corrections without going through the hurdles of erasing, cancelling or outright condemnation of the already mapped work. Buttressing this point, Chang, Sung, Chang, and Lin, (2005) noted that constructing concept maps using pen and paper has some obvious disadvantages as they are difficult to revise or alter. CCM is a meta – cognitive approach that seems to foster students’ achievement. It is a teaching-learning approach that promote meaningful learning (Douma, Ligierko & Romano, 2009) and also helps develop students’ thinking skills (Ajaja, 2013).
The world is fast changing due to improved information technology and system. To fit and function effectively in this fast changing globe, a country needs to be scientifically and technologically advanced and keep abreast with the laudable developments across the globe. Nigeria cannot afford to be on the wrong side of the digital divide. Using CCM accords Nigeria this great opportunity to keep abreast with global trend in technology. In this 21st century, a remarkable change is sweeping through the school system. Accordingly, Blair (2012) posited that 21st century learners at all levels are capable of using all kind of technological gadgets and are highly relational and demand quick access to new knowledge and are capable of engaging in learning at a whole new level. Thus, as noted by Blair, with the world literally at their fingertips, today’s students need teachers and administrators to re-envision the role of technology in the classroom. Employing CCM in the classroom tends to be one of the ways to acknowledge the role of technology and its integration in classroom. With today’s technology, world of too-much-to-know and too-many sources- of-knowledge outside the classroom that can easily be brought to bear within school walls by students themselves, teaching has gone beyond simply dispensing knowledge (Muraina, Adeleke & Rahman, 2011). Using CCM in the classroom is one of the ways teachers can actually go beyond simple knowledge dispensation.
Various researches in some subject areas have been conducted to ascertain the efficacy of computer concept-mapping as a teaching-learning approach. For instance, Chang, Sung and Chen (2001) investigated the effectiveness of computer based ‘construct-by-self’, computer based ‘construct-on-scaffold’, and ‘construct by paper-and pencil’ concept mapping on students’ achievement in Biology (Reproduction). The findings indicated that both of the two computer-based groups achieved more complete and accurate maps than the group using paper and pencil. Sturm & Rankin-Erickson (2002) investigated the Effects of hand drawn and computer generated concept mapping on the expository writing of middle school students with learning disabilities. The researchers found that students’ descriptive essay produced in the hand and computer mapping conditions demonstrated significant increase above base line writing samples on number of words and wholistic writing scores. Lin, Strickland, Ray, and Denner, (2004) worked on ‘computer-based concept mapping as a pre-writing strategy for middle school students’ and discovered that computer-based concept mapping enhanced idea generation and the total quality of the students’ pre-writing concept maps in preparation for a persuasive writing task. However, they also found out that students who generated paper-and-pencil concept maps scored better in persuasive writing than the students who generated computer-based concept maps. Riley and Ahlberg, (2004) investigated the use of ICT-based concept mapping techniques on creativity in literacy tasks and found that the technique enhanced writing achievement. Nekang and Agwagah (2010) studied the effect of concept mapping on students’ achievement in Mathematics (Probability), the researchers found that concept mapping enhanced students’ achievement in Probability.
Hsu & Chang (2011) worked on the relationship between computer-based concept mapping and creative performance. The researchers found that students’ computer-based concept mapping performance is directly related to their video production performance. They also found that students’ computer-based concept mapping performance can effectively predict their creative performance. Bala (2011) studied the effect of concept-mapping instructional strategy on Nigeria Certificate in Education students’ performance in Mathematics (Trigonometry). Findings from the study revealed that the experimental group exposed to concept-mapping instructional strategy significantly performed better in trigonometry than the control group that were exposed to the lecture method. Arruarte, Elorriaga, Calvo, Larranaga and Rueda (2012) carried out research on computer-based concept maps using Concept Map EDitor for enabling multilingual education in computer science. The researchers found the results of the study to be positive in learning outcome. The findings of their study showed that computer concept mapping using Concept Map EDitor is a good support for education in multilingual settings.
Findings from these studies proved the efficacy of computer concept-mapping in enhancing students’ achievement in different areas. However, most works on computer concept mapping are foreign, (not done in Nigeria). The ones carried out in Nigeria are mainly manual concept mapping done mainly in sciences and other school subjects but not in Economics. There is a large void in available research on effect of computer concept mapping (CCM) on students’ achievement in Economics in Nigeria. This study seeks to help fill this void by investigating the effect of CCM on secondary school students’ achievement in Economics.
Another factor that could influence students’ achievement in Economics is gender. Gender involves the biological, psychological, social and cultural properties of being a male or female (i.e. boy or girl). Accordingly, Ewumi (2009) noted that gender involves the psychological and socio-cultural dimensions of being male or female. Gender is one of the personal variables that have been related to differences found in academic achievement (Ewumi, 2009). The issue on gender and academic achievement appears to centre generally on the extent to which females and males perform differently in different subjects. Emerson and Taylor, (2004) observed that gender can affect the likelihood of achievement in Economics.
Findings on gender based researches have shown varying results. For instance, Emerson and Taylor (2004) in their study on comparing student’s achievement across experimental and lecture-oriented sections of principles of microeconomics course found that male students have a significant achievement advantage over females in the traditional section while their female counterparts outperformed them in the experimental section. Alaka and Obadara (2013) in their study on Scholastic Performance of Students at West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations in Nigeria found that the overall achievement of female students was better than their male counterpart in WASSCE from 2001-2005. Still in favour of females, Nasri and Ahmed (2006) found that female students outperform their counterparts in College of Business and Economics at United Arab Emirates University. Falch and Naper (2004) noted that the observed gender gap in student achievement in favor of girls is often explained by increased share of female teachers.
However, some scholars have opposing views as it relates to gender achievement in Economics. McCarty, Padgham, and Bennett (2006) observed gender difference in students’ achievement in principles of Economics in favour of males and noted that the difference could be explained by higher number of male professors in economics than female professors. Ballard and Johnson (2006) observed that women have low expectations about their ability to succeed in principles of economics courses, with a major factor being women’s relatively low level of competency in mathematics which forms some basic parts of Economics. Some have suggested that the reason for gender gap in Economics as noted by Jensen and Owen (2013) is that the mainstream Economics curriculum excludes topics and methodology of interest to women while others have focused on a classroom environment that is unfriendly to women. Other reasons for the gender gap in Economics classes are poorer mathematics preparation of female students, poorer relative performance in Economics classes, and less overall interest in the topic due to different career aspirations, (Jensen & Owen, 2013). Even though gender gap remains inconclusive in Economics, it is believed that males are prone to learning and showing interest in Economics than females (Jensen & Owen, 2013).
On the issue of concept mapping and gender, Nekang and Agwagah (2010) found that male students had higher achievement mean scores than their female counterparts. Ezeudu (2009) worked on the interaction of concept maps and gender on achievement of students in selected organic Chemistry concepts. The findings of the study revealed that the achievement of students in organic Chemistry concepts was influenced by concept maps and gender. Onuoha (2010) found no gender difference in students’ achievement in Social Studies using concept mapping instructional strategy. From the foregoing it is obvious that the issue of gender and achievement have link but without explicit conclusion.
On computer usage and gender, Adebowale, Adediwura and Bada (2009) found that gender had no significant influence on SS III students’ computer attitudes, their computer self efficacy and computer anxiety. Similarly, Olatoye, (2009) in a study on gender factor in computer anxiety, knowledge and utilization among senior secondary school students in Ogun State, Nigeria found no significant difference between male and female students’ computer anxiety. However, the result of the study revealed a significant difference between male and female students with regards to computer utilization in favour of males.
Statement of the Problem
Keeping in view the importance of Economics, the achievement of students in the subject seems not to be encouraging. The achievement of Economics students in WAEC has been generally poor. Accordingly, the WAEC chief examiner’s reports over four years described students’ achievement in senior secondary school Economics as average, low and poor. This poor achievement of students in Economics, a subject that aids in developing students’ critical and creative thinking is very disheartening. No wonder the seeming dysfunctional, non-creativity, non-productivity and non-employability of secondary school outcomes in the country.
The major cause of students’ poor achievement in Economics has been attributed to teaching approaches used in teaching the subject. Sources have revealed that the dominant use of non-participatory pedagogical approaches leading to rote learning of Economics concepts, theories and their necessary applications is one of the most important variables that leads to students’ poor achievement in Economics. On the contrary, sources have revealed that participatory/student-centred pedagogical approaches enhance academic achievement in different fields. However, because of the fast changing world due to global improvement in information technology and system, a remarkable change is sweeping through the school system. That being the case, there is urgent need to help make Nigeria’s secondary school students have a global colouration; thus, the need for a pedagogical approach that could help meet this need. Hence, the need to find out whether Computer Concept Mapping approach will enhance students’ achievement in Economics.
Furthermore, the issue of influence of gender on students’ achievement in Economics has remained inconclusive. There is need for this current study in order to provide additional empirical evidence on the influence of gender on students’ achievement in Economics. Thus, the problem of this study is to find out the extent to which computer concept mapping can help in improving students’ achievement in Economics and the influence of gender on students’ achievement in Economics.
Purpose of the Study
The general purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of Computer Concept Mapping (CCM) on students’ achievement in Economics in senior secondary schools in Nsukka Education Zone, Enugu State. Specifically, this study sought to determine:
1) The effect of CCM on students’ achievement in Economics.
2) The influence of gender on students’ achievement in Economics.
3) The interaction effect of modes of concept mapping and gender on students’ achievement in Economics.
Significance of the Study
The findings of this study have both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, this study is anchored on Ausubel’s learning theory and Bruner’s constructivist theory. Ausubel’s theory posits that learning takes place by the assimilation of new concepts and propositions into existing concept and propositional frameworks held by the learner. To Ausubel, learners put new concepts into a larger, more comprehensive category and then reorganize or classify the new and old information. On the other hand, Bruner is of the view that knowledge is constructive and learning is achieved by the active construction of knowledge, meaning, ideas or concepts by learners based upon their current/past knowledge and social interactions.
Both theories conceived the teacher as a mere coach or facilitator. The teacher provides adequate learning environment for learners to meaningfully engage in knowledge construction and application. In a computer concept mapping environment, students are encouraged as they are actively involved in constructing their own meaning using ideas and concepts based upon their past/current knowledge and taking responsibility of their own learning. In a computer concept mapping environment, it is believed that learners are enabled to assimilate new concepts and propositions into existing concepts and propositional frameworks they already held which is the fundamental idea of these theories for meaningful learning to occur. By incorporating computer concept mapping into teaching-learning process, teachers will create a meaningful environment in which these theories will help students become active learners, leading to better achievements. Thus this study will either lay further credence to or refute the credibility of Ausubel’s and Bruner’s theories.
Practically,the findings of the study will be of great importance to teachers, students, curriculum developers and planners and the society at large. Teachers will benefit from the study as it will enhance their knowledge on CCM processes. It will enable them adopt these processes in teaching-learning process which in turn will help in increasing students’ achievement in Economics. This will help them start seeing themselves as knowledge facilitators and coaches as CCM demands, instead of being encyclopedia of knowledge.
The findings of this study will help to enhance students’ achievement in Economics as their teachers adopt CCM processes. It will help and guide students to engage in meaningful learning thereby improving their achievement. It will enable students take responsibility of their own learning and become deep thinkers and problem solvers as demanded by CCM processes. The maps in this study will also serve as guide or reference material to help students in their study.
To curriculum developers and planners, the findings of the study will provide information that will enable them decide whether or not to integrate CCM in Economics curriculum. This will go a long way in improving students’ achievement in Economics.
To the society at large, this study will be of big benefit as it will help in producing effective teachers and learners who will engage in practical and participatory teaching-learning process towards a better academic achievement for national development.
Scope of the Study
This study was limited to the effect of Computer Concept Mapping on students’ achievement in Economics in Nsukka Education zone, Enugu State. SS2 Economics students will be the research subjects in this study.
The choice of SS2 students was informed by the fact that the class was not preparing for any external examination and was more likely to respond to instructions because of their level of maturity. Also, the topics treated in the study fell in SS2 Scheme of work.
The content scope of the study was Labour Market, a unit of SS2 Economics syllabus with the following topics: supply and demand for labour, wage and wage determination, trade union and unemployment. The choice of the unit was informed based on students’ underachievement in these areas according to WAEC Chief Examiner’s Report (2009 & 2010).
The following research questions were posed to guide the study:
1. What are the mean achievement scores of students taught with CCM and those taught with MCM in Economics?
2. What are the mean achievement scores of male and female students in Economics?
3) What is the interaction effect of modes of concept mapping and gender on students’ achievement in Economics?
The following null hypotheses were formulated to guide the study and were tested at 0.05 level of significance:
HO1: There is no significant difference between the mean achievement scores of students taught with CCM and those taught with MCM in Economics.
HO2: There is no significant difference between the mean achievement scores of male and female students in Economics.
HO3: There is no significant interaction effect of modes of concept mapping and gender on students’ achievement in Economics.