Background of the Study

Cognitive style  is a term used to describe the way individuals perceive, think and remember information. Cognitive styles as a concept is a component of a larger concept termed as learning style. Learning style highlight characteristic cognitive, affective and psychomotor behaviours displayed by an individual as they learn.  (Adelagun, 2012) Learning style provide an explanation for how any two learners who are taught the same concepts would differ in the way they learn as a result of various stimuli, including: environmental (e.g. noise, temperature and design); emotional (e.g. motivation and persistence); sociological (e.g. pairing and grouping); physical stimuli (e.g. auditory, visual or kinaesthetic); and psychological stimuli (e.g. global or analytic in approach, impulsive or reflective). Cognitive styles of an individual can be gauged from their response to physical and psychological stimuli, and have both internal and external features. Internally, they are structured contents of thought and experience in one’s mind. Externally, they are outward expressions of thought in terms of flow of logic, arrangement of symbols (writings, drawings etc.), use of language and relations between these facets. Consequently, cognitive styles influence decisions and choices made by both the learner and the teacher during teaching and learning.

 Integrated science was introduced as a foundation to the science courses as well as to promote scientific literacy amongst the Nigeria youths; this is introduced at the lower level of education. It is supposed to give the students the basic scientific knowledge they need as well as to equip them to be scientifically literate. This is because most of the students terminate their science learning at the junior secondary school level. Integrated science as defined by Olanrewaju (2013) is an approach to science in which concepts and principles are presented so as to express the functional unity of scientific thought. The aim of integrated science programme as stated by Usman (2011) is to enable students achieve the process and product content of integrated science. The National Policy on Education (FME, 2014) include integrated science as a core subject at the junior secondary school level in its curriculum. Integrated science emphasizes the teaching and learning processes which lead to fundamental foundation in the sciences at all levels of education.

According to Evans (2010), cognitive styles of the teacher impact on the various phases of preparation for learning, even before learning begins. The aspects impacted include: organisation of content, choice of resources, choice of tasks, as well as planning for how feedback will be given. During the learning process itself, cognitive styles determine how the lesson is structured, pace of the lesson delivery, interaction, flexibility of the learner and the teacher, as well as how marking and follow-up is done. The differences in the ways the learner and the teacher perceive, think and remember information is thus, the basis for differential performance in a classroom. Some learners therefore grasp the content better as a direct result of the manner in which the teacher presents the content.

Teachers’ questioning effectiveness is an area of interest in research milieu. Teacher’s questioning technique play a central role in the processes of teaching and learning because students’ learning, thinking, participation and their level of engagement depend on the kind of questions teachers formulate and use in the classroom. The high incidence of questioning as a teaching strategy and its consequent potential for influencing student learning have led many researchers to explore relationships between teachers’ questioning methods and student achievement and acquisition of skills. Teacher’s Questioning strategies are flexible and widely applicable. They may be tailored to fit the needs of different subjects, various types of information, and different levels of competence (Wilson & Smetana, 2011). Among the instructional skills that a teacher must possess to enhance students acquisition of required skills questioning effectiveness is very paramount, questioning holds a place of prominence in many classrooms.

Avwiri (2011) asserted that teaching effectiveness is seen as the ability of the teacher to communicate the contents of his/her teaching in a way that learners will be able to comprehend the content and objectives of teaching. Effective questioning is a real compliment to the instructional skills. It shows the ability to understand the student’s real needs. Effectiveness in questioning is a powerful, learned skill. Since, the days of Socrates, asking questions to assess students understanding has been a core component of teaching-learning process. Today, questioning is so prevalent in the classroom that it’s difficult to picture a classroom in which a teacher isn’t asking questions. In fact, literature revealed that verbal questioning is second only to lecturing as the most common instructional practice but the extent at which these questions are asked in the classroom, its influence on the students achievement have not being critically investigated.

From the foregoing, it is obvious that one of the most common and prominent classroom activity is the act of teacher questioning and since, the teaching and learning processes always end in assessment, in order to accurately assess the students appropriately in teaching and learning of economics, the teachers must be effective in the way they structure and distribute their questions. Also, it helps teachers to capture accurately the skills the learners have acquired and the extent at which the behavioural objectives have been achieved in economics. Processes of reflection in classrooms are frequently initiated by questions. Questions typically communicate a specific purpose related to identified content and context, and are usually intended to elicit an answer. But additionally, a question also conveys a more general indirect request (Clarke, Xu, & Wan, 2013). This indirect request implies: Think about it! That is, reflection can be triggered through the use of questions. An individual’s response to the attempted initiation of reflection depends on situational factors and individual conditions, such as prior experiences and knowledge. With the help of questions, teachers can invite students to follow and even participate in the teacher’s externalized way of thinking and thereby model both reasoning and reflection (Walsh & Sattes, 2011).

Moreover, Skovsmose (2016) emphasized the importance of questions as facilitator and initiator of reflection. In classroom learning these questions could be raised by teachers, but also by students themselves. The assumption is that questions can be employed as the first observable indicators of the occurrence of reflection. The use and the effects of questions in learning have been investigated in many studies. Teacher questions promoting reflection, together with the opportunity for students to learn through such questioning in classroom interaction, which may provide the means to realise not only contemporary educational aspirations, but also the aspirations of communities where student-initiated questions already occur, but are not promoted to best effect.

According Kimani, Kara & Njagi (2013) the purpose of education is to equip the citizenry with values, skills and knowledge to reshape their society and eliminate inequality. This is because education helps an individual develop his/her capabilities, attitudes and behavior that is acceptable to the society. The benefits of having quality education is that it is able to adapt to the changing needs of the country as the world changes and spearhead the development of human resource and the country’s economy. Educational institutions are mandated to use education as a tool for social transformation. The success of a school is measured by the quality of students it produces. The success of any educational institution is measured by the performance of its students in both academic and non-academic tests. Closely related to good questioning skills or procedure in classroom interaction is that the teacher applies an amount of waiting time to allow the students to think through the questions and be able to provide the correct answer before the question is either redirected to another student or answered by the teacher (Okwilagwe, 2011).

In spite of that, the use of students’ achievement in academic work to assess the teacher’s effectiveness has gained ground. The measure of academic performance as a symbol of school success can be traced way back from the Victorian period (Bell, 2013). Since then, academic performance has been used to grade schools and most importantly to determine ones career paths. The ‘good schools’ are acclaimed to be those that are able groom the students well enough to achieve the set standards. This is measured by use of students’ academic performance both at school level and nationally. The importance of students’ high performance has attracted the attention of the public, policy-makers, educators, learners and ministry of education alike.

Questions are stimulants which activate students‟ cognitive skills and they have functioned as a primary educational tool for centuries. Effectiveness of any individual implies meeting up with the requirement it is meant to serve. For teacher to be effective in teaching means that they need to be fashioned to the target of their profession, that is they must suit the taste of the requirement of their profession. in other words, for teacher to be effective at teaching they must meet up with the intended result of the profession by delivering through appropriate methodology, utilizing appropriate teaching instructional aids, impacting positively on the students and meeting up with the objective of education scheme in the country (Dobbie, 2011) Teacher’s questions should be carefully planned, clearly stated, and focus on the point in order to achieve specific objectives. Teacher understanding of technique and effectiveness in questioning, wait time, and levels of questions is essential (Patricia, 2010). The famous scientist Einstein emphasizes the importance of asking questions when he states that “the most important thing is to not stop asking questions” (Sternheimer, 2014)

Teachers’ Questions and questioning effectiveness influence learners’ achievement, attitudes, and thinking skills. The level of the question tends to obtain a similar level of answer. Achievement can improve if high levels of questions are accompanied by wait-time, redirection, and probing techniques (Bowker, 2010).). Logically it is so because teachers are the facilitators in the teaching and learning process. They interpret the subject matter and put theory into practice during their interaction with the students. The teacher is “increasingly becoming the focus of interest because of the key role that he or she plays in the delivery of quality education to the learner” It is important to realize that the earlier-mentioned benefits of asking questions depend on the teachers‟ ability to use this method effectively. Depending on personal characteristics, teachers‟ questioning methods may also vary. Teachers‟ questioning goals, the level of their questions, question types, use of probing questions, waiting time for follow-up questions, to whom they direct their questions (individual, group, whole class, etc.), and their reactions after asking questions demonstrate this variance in strategy. One dimension of teachers‟ questioning strategies involves motive. The awareness of the aim and results of asking questions seems to be important. Therefore the aim of this study was to analyze the questioning strategies of the teachers. The analysis of teachers‟ questioning strategies is considered important because it is believed to reveal much information about asking questions.

However, the majority of studies carried out about school leadership has revealed that school leadership quality directly impact the school success, teachers effectiveness and students’ academic performance. The School Head is an overseer of all activities taking place in a school and answerable to activities within the school compound. His/her core business is the success of the school by making teaching and learning enjoyable and more effective. It is a wish for every School Head to be trusted, respected and praised by the community he serves. One of the factors that make school leaders to be belittled is when the school performs badly; and as such it is an area which the School Head will try to avoid at all cost. In order to sustain academic performance the leadership will have to create an academic achievement ethos, organize instruction throughout the school spectrum and aims to attain the target set by the supervisory department, thus becoming instructional leaders. There are several ways in which school leaders have an impact on the students’ academic performance. One of the ways is the school leader being an instructional leader. Instructional leadership involves setting goals, managing curriculum, monitoring lesson plans, allocating resources and evaluating teachers regularly to promote student learning and growth (Concordia University, 2013). An effective instructional leadership is able to build the culture of learning, provide resources needed for quality teaching, and structure the classroom environment to stimulate teachers and learners motivation. Effective instructional leadership behaviour of the school leader has been shown to be the most crucial role to improve teachers’ performance and students’ academic achievement (Strauss, 2013).

This is enshrined in the employment contract and explicitly defined in their job descriptions. In addition to cultivating knowledge, skills and attitudes teachers are expected to help the students to identify and develop their potential. In the early stages of education teachers are charged with the responsibility to develop students’ primary skills necessary for advancement. Teachers play a pivotal role in helping the students to direct their potential to achieve their destiny. Learners need to be prepared for these challenges that lie ahead of them. This is anchored in the idea that our world needs a generation of teachers who aim to “develop learners instead of teaching them, who help their pupils to become independent (learning to learn), who provide students with motivation and interest for life-long learning and urge them to become autonomous learners”(Bubblews, 2013, p.3).Teachers use several techniques to assist students improve their academic achievement. They evaluate, assess and provide for students with special needs. Teachers are evaluators at classroom level for quality standard. They attend to students work during lessons, provide tutorials, mark students’ homework and give feedback. If a disability is identified in a student, a teacher will work around the clock to assist the child to build confidence and recommend a remedy. This builds students competence and their academic performance improves. In addition teachers evaluate the curriculum, materials, education programs or initiatives that are in place for their suitability to students learning.

Statement of the Problem

Secondary education in Nigeria has persistently experienced one form of problem or the other, particularly in relation to students’ general poor performances. This is supported by the observation of Owoyele (2012) that recently, secondary school students in Nigeria have performed poorly and this has made educational managers and other stakeholders in Nigerian education to be more worried.

Learners all perceive and process information, however, they linger at different places along the way. This lingering forms the basis for differential performance among learners who have shared the same learning experiences. For this reason, an evaluation of how learners think is paramount in assessing knowledge acquisition. Many teachers simply assess “how much” rather than “how” the student has learnt. Thus, not many learners are aware of how they acquire and process new information. Furthermore, teachers are also unaware of their own thought processing and that of their students. It follows then that in an effort to get learners to understand, teachers tend to impose their own cognitive styles on learners. Such imposition results in a blockage in knowledge transfer which results in teaching of concepts repeatedly instead of moving to subsequent content. Delayed delivery of content has direct bearing on any future learning considering that when concepts in the syllabus are not adequately covered, some important building blocks are skipped. Learners then enter the next level of learning with a shortfall on requisite skills.

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of the study is to find out teachers cognitive questioning styles and their effects on the academic achievement of junior secondary school students in Basic Science in Ikole Local Government Area of Ekiti State.

The objectives of the study are to determine: 

·        the effects of low-level and high-level cognitive questions on academic achievement of students in Basic science at the junior secondary school level. 

·        whether male and female students exposed to low-level cognitive questions differ in academic achievement in Basic science.

·        the effect of high-level cognitive questions among male and female students in academic achievement in Basic science at junior secondary school level.

·        the effect of low-level and high-level cognitive questioning styles on retention ability of students in Basic science at JSS level

Significance of the Study

Findings of this study will provide a basis for a shift in focus that can enrich the teaching and learning process to improve learner performance. The study shows that indeed there are differences in the psychological conditions of thought (i.e. cognitive styles) among learners.

Awareness of these differences will assist the learner to modify their thought and behavioural strategies. As such, they are then able to apply the most effective learning strategies for the learning tasks at hand.

The study will provide justification for incorporating moderations into teaching and suggests methodologies that address every learner’s individual cognitive style. Such considerations may reduce frustration for both the learner and the teacher as content taught is mastered faster and in a more integrative manner.

Teachers need to be aware of the importance of asking questions at different cognitive levels, therefore findings of this study will encourage teachers to ask both low-level and high-level questions while teaching.

Findings of this study will encourage publishers to incorporate all levels of questions in their books.

The study will also provide empirical evidence on how to improve the teaching/learning of Basic science in schools.

This study will encourage curriculum planners to incorporate low-level and high-level questions in planning the curriculum.

Teacher training institutions may also use findings of this study to justify the inclusion of cognitive styles as an important concept to be taught to teacher trainees.

This study may inform policy review and changes in practice such as training, testing and supervision in the Ministry of Education, Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC) and Junior Secondary school Examination (JSSE).

Lastly, findings of this study will form a foundation for further studies in science education in relation to questioning styles.

Scope of the Study

     The study on teachers’ cognitive questioning styles and their effects on the academic achievement will be carried out in selected junior secondary schools in Ikole Local Government Area of Ekiti State.

Research Questions

Based on the problem stated above, the research sought answers to the following questions:

i.                     Do students exposed to low-level cognitive questions differ in their academic achievement scores in integrated science as compared with those exposed to high level cognitive questions?

ii.                   Do male students exposed to low-level cognitive questions differ in academic achievement scores in integrated science as compared with female students exposed to low-level cognitive questions?

iii.                  Do male students exposed to high-level cognitive questions differ in their academic achievement scores in integrated science as compared with female students exposed to high-level cognitive questions?

iv.                 Do students exposed to low-level cognitive questioning styles differ in retention ability in integrated science as compared with those exposed to high-level cognitive questioning styles?

Research Hypotheses

Based on the research questions of the study, these hypotheses were formulated for testing:

i.                   Cognitive styles does not have significant effect on students academic performance in Basic science in junior secondary schools in Ikole Local Government Area of Ekiti State

ii.                  There is no significant difference in the academic achievement of students exposed to low level cognitive questions and those exposed to high-level cognitive questioning styles in junior secondary schools in Ikole Local Government Area of Ekiti State

iii.              There is no significant difference in the academic achievement of male and female students exposed to low-level cognitive questioning styles in junior secondary schools in Ikole Local Government Area of Ekiti State

iv.              There is no significant difference in the academic achievement of male and female students exposed to high-level cognitive questioning styles in junior secondary schools in Ikole Local Government Area of Ekiti State

v.                 There is no significant difference in the academic achievement of students exposed to lowlevel and high-level cognitive questioning styles on retention ability in junior secondary schools in Ikole Local Government Area of Ekiti State

Definition of Terms

Cognitive Domain: Refers to objectives that dealt with the recall or recognition of knowledge and the development of intellectual abilities and skills.

Low –Level Cognitive Questioning Styles: Refer to questions that require students to recall material easily from what they are taught. They include questions that can be answered with yes or no, a single word or a short phrase.

High –Level Cognitive Questioning Styles: Refer to those questions that require students to mentally manipulate information they have learned and to answer with reasoned evidence.

Academic Achievement: Is the assessment of how much students have learnt or attained after a learning period.

Retention: The ability to remember and consequently recall things experienced or learnt by an individual at a later time.



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