This study investigates the Impact of Cognitive Conflict Instructional Model on Conceptual Change and Academic Performance in Genetics among Senior Secondary School III Biology students. A Quasi-experimental pretest and posttest research design was used for the study which featured two groups (Experimental and Control group). The experimental group was exposed to cognitive conflict instructional model (CCIM) while the control group was taught using lecture method. Sample sizes of 199 students selected from four secondary schools in Potiskum, Yobe State were used as the study sample, drawn from a population of 16 single sex (that is, either male or female) schools with a total of 1021 students. The Four schools randomly selected, were selected after matching them, to find their academic equivalence. The Instruments developed; Genetics Performance Test (GPT) and Genetics Concept Evaluation (GCE) with a reliability coefficient of 0.78 and 0.79 were used to collect data for pretest, posttest and gender equivalent. Four research questions and four null hypotheses guided the study.One of the research questions was: what is the difference in the mean conceptual change score of secondary school students taught genetics concept using cognitive conflict instructional model and those taught using lecture method?. One of the null hypothesis was : there is no significant difference between the mean conceptual change score among secondary school biology students in genetics taught using cognitive conflict instructional model and those taught using lecture method. The data collected were analyzed using t-test Statistic and Chi-square test at significance level of P≤0.05. Results indicated that; (i) the experimental group performed significantly better than the control group in their academic performance, showing there is a significant difference. (ii) the model was found to have promoted the experimental group students‘ scientific Conception (that is their level of conceptual change) as there was a significant shift of students from alternative or no conception to sound conception after treatment with CCIM. (iii) The treatment has no significant effect on gender which implied that the model is gender friendly. Based on these findings, it was recommended that;there is a need for training and retraining of science teachers towards effective use of CCIM in the teaching of science at SSS level as it promotes scientific thinking.




 1.1         Introduction

 Biology is one of the science subjects that occupies a significant position in the Senior Secondary School curriculum which when acquired and applied in any society can bring about rapid and sustainable national development (Ibrahim, 2015). It is a study of life and serves as an academic subject taught in senior secondary school and tertiary institutions in Nigeria. As one of the basic science subject, biology serves as a prerequisite to the study of Medicine, Pharmacy, Agricultural science, Veterinary medicine, Microbiology, Biochemistry, and Biotechnology among others.

 Biology is meant to expose learners to scientific nature (facts, principles, and concepts), processes and attitudes. The objectives of Biology curriculum as provided in the National Policy on Education (FRN, 2013) include: Required for everyday life on matters of personal & community health; Meaningful and relevant knowledge.

 Genetics as a branch of Biology is referred to as the science of genes, heredity and variation in living organisms. The knowledge of Genetics is very vital in all human endeavors. Through the knowledge of Genetics human life has improved effectively, ranging from improved variety of plant and animal species through selective breeding, inbreeding, out breeding, sex determination and prevention of heritable diseases in the family. Bailey (2013) defined Genetics as the study of heredity or inheritance. Genetics helps to explain how traits are passed from parents to their offspring. Although, a report from West African Examination Council (2016), said that students still perform poorly in the area of Genetics and only few candidates attempt questions on

Genetics. According to Araz (2007), Genetics has a lot of abstract concepts, terminologies that are hard to understand, to learn and to remember.

 The problem of poor performance in science subjects including biology has persisted over the years (Jerome, 2006; & Enesi, 2007). According to Chief Examiners‘ reports (WAEC, 2015) regarding students‘ performance in biology in relation to other science subjects:

 When compared with the May/June 2014 WASSCE, the trends in the candidates‘ performance are stated as follows:There was a decline in the performance of candidates in Agricultural Science1, Biology 1 and Chemistry 2;There was no significant difference in the performance of candidates in Biology 2.(May/June 2015 WAEC).

 While candidates‘ performance were higher in Agric Science 2, Chemistry 1&2, Physics 2, Physical Education 2, candidates‘ performance dropped slightly in Physics 3, Agric Science 3, Biology 3, Biology 2, Physical Education 1 and Health Science 1&2.


(Nov/Dec 2015 WAEC).


The Chief examiners report(WAEC, 2015) pointed out some of weaknesses observed among Biology candidates that include:Poor knowledge of genetics and wrong spelling of technical words; Inability to distinguish between normal genetics crossing and sex-linked gene crossing; Poor knowledge of the application of genetics in marriage counseling(Nov/Dec 2015).

 In addition, empirical studies such as those of Lakpini (2006), Lawal (2009), Lawal (2010), Timothy (2013) and Ibrahim (2015) have shown that students perform poorly in Biology at senior secondary school level.

 Persistent low academic performance in science education is attributed to teacher instructional strategies among others (Atadoga, & Lakpini, 2013). Majority of science teachers teach students using lecture method. Science educators such as Danjuma (2005) reported that about 80-90% of the scientific information or principles students received from their teachers are through lecture method. A number of activity- oriented instructional strategies have been advocated for by curriculum designers and science educators to help improve on the failure rate among secondary school science students (Eniayeju, 2011). Thus, instructional strategies used by teachers in teaching and learning process have significant influence on learners‘ academic performance. According to Adesanya (2009), constructivists maintain that people actively construct new knowledge as they interact with environment. Everything one hears, sees, feels, reads and touch is tested against ones‘ prior knowledge and if it is viable within ones mental world, one may form new knowledge (Agiande, Williams, Dunnamah & Tumba, 2015).

 Also, Lakpini (2006) reveals that when students are taught genetic concept using constructivist teaching strategies they achieved better than those taught with lecture method.A study by Lawal (2005) on genetic concept showed that students taught using concept mapping strategy performed better than those taught with lecture method.Therefore, the researcher investigated the impact of cognitive conflict instructional model on conceptual change and performance in genetics among secondary school Biology students.

 It is accepted that students come to the classes with a range of informal ideas and most of them are different from scientific conceptions(Jaakkola &Nurmi, 2008; Treagust & Duit, 2008). Learners experience of the world, the influence of their peers, the media and pre-instruction would lead them to develop these conceptions (Chu,Treagust & Chandrasegaran, 2009; Fetherstonhaugh & Treagust, 1992; Reddish, Saul, & Steinberg, 1998). However misconceptions  may occur, which may originate from category mistakes. Category mistakes occur when a learner mistakenly assigns concepts into wrong lateral or ontological categories (Chi, 2008). A lateral category is a category occupying different branches of the same tree, while an ontological category is a category between different trees. Category mistakes account for robust misconceptions (Chi, 2008). This implies that a category mistake once it gets registered into a learner‘s mental framework results in a wrong or flawed mental model. That is, students think of some concepts from different ontological categories from those assigned by scientists. This suggests that conceptual change must involve an ontological change in the student‘s cognitive structure. The structure of a conception may vary considerably from a relatively amorphous collection of ideas with no strong connection to one which is interrelated and possesses a large measure of internal consistency. Therefore, developing a solid base of knowledge about students‘ conceptions should be instrumental to providing a framework for considering the learning processes involved in changing students‘ conceptions, as well as providing a framework for designing instruction that facilitates the expected changes.

 In science, learning of concepts can occur under three different conditions (Chi, 2008). First, a student may have no prior knowledge of the to-be-learned concepts, although they may have some related knowledge. In this case, prior knowledge is missing, and learning consists of adding new knowledge (Chi, 2008). Second, a student may have some correct prior knowledge about the to-be-learned concepts, but that knowledge is incomplete. In this incomplete knowledge case, learning can be conceived of as gap filling. In the third condition, a student may have acquired ideas, either in school or from everyday experience, that are ―in conflict with‖ the to-be-learned concepts (Vosniadou, 1994). The prior knowledge that is in conflict with scientific knowledge is called misconception (Chi, 2008).

According to Baser (2006), studies show that since 1990s cognitive conflict-based instruction has been extensively used in science education where several studies concluded that cognitive conflict has an important/ positive effect on conceptual change. Most of the models proposed to explain conceptual change have emphasized the role of cognitive conflict as a central condition for conceptual change (Limon, 2001). Cognitive conflict has been defined as a perceptual state in which one notices the discrepancy between one‘s cognitive structure and environment ( external information) or between the components of one‘s cognitive structure (that is, one‘s conceptions, beliefs, substructures, among others which are part of the cognitive structure) (Lee & Yi, 2013). In their 2012 article, Lee &Byun proposed an interesting and quite complete review of the available definitions. Most of them encompass the ideas of awareness, disequilibrium, not-confirmed expectations or predictions, logical conflicts between conceptions, among others (Lee & Byun, 2012).

 There are different types of cognitive conflicts. Some occur between conceptions that exist within the same person, other conflicts occur between different people (socio-cognitive conflicts), but, most often, the models for cognitive conflict aim to trigger conflict by introducing new contradictory information (Limon, 2001). Contradictory information has been usually presented through texts, hands-on activities, experiments, simulations, and / or the opposing views of peers during group discussion. In this case, a contradiction occurs, for example, between student‘s conceptions or expectations and the crucial information that a knowledgeable teacher brings to the student‘s attention and which the students perceive to be discrepant. Thus, such a ―discrepant event‖ can be defined as ―the physical experience that provides students with novel evidence to contradict their existing conceptions‖ (Kang, Scharmann, & Noh, 2004).


Cognitive conflict in classical theory is a ―revolutionary‖ process believed to make learners either accept the scientific conception by dissatisfying them with their alternative conception or retaining their conception if unable to satisfy the conditions for the scientific conception. Cognitive conflict occurs when a student‘s mental balance is disturbed by experiences (referred to as ―anomalous data‖) that do not fit into their current understanding (Foster, 2011). The cognitive conflict strategy involves (a) identifying students‘ current state of knowledge; (b) confronting students with contradictory information that is usually presented through texts and interviewers, thus making explicit the contradiction, or guide the debate with the student or among peers (small groups or the whole classroom); and (c) evaluating the degree of conceptual change between the students‘ prior ideas or beliefs and a posttest measure after the instructional intervention (Hewson & Hewson, 1984). To understand cognitive conflict, knowledge of the cognitive conflict process model is imperative. The reason is because it explains the stages in which cognitive conflict occurs and how to resolve the generated conflict(s). Lee and Kwon (2001) developed a three-stage cognitive conflict process model, which includes preliminary, conflict, and resolution. The preliminary stage represents a process in which a student who has belief in preexisting conception accepts an anomalous situation (for example, experimental results obtained by a teacher) as genuine. If the students do not have a strong confidence in a well-formulated conception or if they consider the anomalous situation as deceptive, they do not experience cognitive conflict. Thus, the preliminary stage is the stage before cognitive conflict (Lee et al., 2003).

 In this model, the cognitive conflict process occurs when a learner (a) recognizes an anomalous situation, (b) expresses interest or anxiety about resolving the cognitive conflict, and (c) engages in cognitive reappraisal of the situation. For instance, when learners recognize that a situation is

incongruous with their conceptions, they become interested in or anxious about this situation (Lee et al., 2003). Relating this to genetics, where a student, who originally believes that skin color of a child, depends on the child‘s parents‘ complexion, now learn through anomalous example that skin color depends on inheriting the gene carrying the character. The student becomes interested or anxious to understand about the situation and how it cognitively reappraises his or her previous conception and accept the scientific conception of the use of inherited gene to predict a skin color. Also student may experience a cognitive conflict when asked to give genetic information of a cell collected from cheeks of two different individuals. For instance, if one of a child‘s cheek cell is removed and one of another child‘s cheek cell is also removed, will the genetic information in them be the same or different? Some might answer this question as different and the reason may be because they have different mommy and daddy, so they are genetically different. While some might answer it as same and the reason may be because all are cheeks cells, they are genetically identical or they have the same genetic structures. When such cognitive conflict was created, students will be allow to interact in their group and report their findings or answers, which will be use by the teacher to guide discussions between the groups and summarize the discussion at the end. Therefore, at the end of the lesson students will realize that it will be different because cells are only identical to only that person.

 The resolution stage is an external response behavior (Lee, Kwon & Park 2003). Response behaviors include ignoring, rejection, uncertainty, exclusion, abeyance, reinterpretation, peripheral and theory change. The purpose of this study was to find the impact of Cognitive Conflict Instructional model on students‘ conceptual change in genetics. Specifically, the study intends to determine the effects of cognitive conflict instructional model on students‘ conceptual change and performance in genetics among secondary school biology students.

According to Ochonogor (2006), Biology as life science is expected to be humanistic and not gender-biased in nature. This implies that irrespective of natural gender differentiation , all learners (old or young) in any given science class are expected to be taught in a common learning environment, using non-stereo typed pedagogical approaches, contents and activities . With such foundation for all recipients of science knowledge content, their performance can, therefore, be evaluated and analyzed on a common platform. Hence, it will therefore be interesting to find out if there may be a link between cognitive conflict and gender differences in conceptual change and performance between male and female learners. In this study, the researcher investigates the impact of cognitive conflict instructional strategy on conceptual change and performance in Genetics among secondary school biology students in Potiskum, Yobe State, Nigeria.


 This study adopts Posner, Strike, Hewson, and Gertzog (1982) conceptual change theory as its theoretical framework.  The conceptual change theory proposed by Posner et al (1982), sees conceptual change as morethan just a socio-cultural interaction or a teaching strategy but as a process of identifying prior misconceptions which the learner carries  into the environment in order to  help the learner exchange  the  misconceptions  or  add  new  conceptions  that  are  more  useful,  plausible  and intelligible. The assumption that knowledge is gradually crafted (constructed) from a base of prior knowledge by constructivist is what is at variance with modern conceptual change theories



and have attracted the following questions. How can a misconceived knowledge base which

interfere with learning be replaced and not resists instruction but support students' knowledge


construction? (Ozdemir & Clark 2007


The above observation points out that for constructivism to be taken seriously, the mistaken character of misconceptions in the prior knowledge base of the learner has to be reconsidered. In other words, other ways of dealing with the problem of misconceptions is to enable the learner construct his/her own knowledge without obstructions. From the above, conceptual change refers to what happens in the learner who has come to the learning environment with prior knowledge that might be a misconception that need to be changed or erased in order to accept a better conception.

Hence, the theory of conceptual change proposed by Posner et al (1982) describes learning as an interaction between new and existing conceptions. The ―Conceptual Change Model‖ developed by Posner  et al which  has two components: The first  is  the  four  conditions  necessary for conceptual  change.  These  are:  (i)  dissatisfaction;  (ii)  intelligibility;  (iii)  plausibility;  (iv) fruitfulness. Posner et al (1982) considered the phase of conflict, generated by dissatisfaction with  the  existing  concepts,  as  a  first  step  to  achieve  conceptual  change.  In  this  phase  of dissatisfaction students should realize they need to ―reorganize‖, ―restructure‖ or change to some extent their existing ideas or concepts (Limon, 2001). A kind of ―metacognition awareness‖ seems to be necessary, but not sufficient, condition to achieve conceptual change in both weak or a radical sense (Carey,1985; Vosniadou & Brewer, 1987; Vosniadou, 1994). It seems that to change something, an individual needs to realize that he/she has to change something and to be willing to do it. Posner et al also added that for the new conception to be assimilated or accommodated, it must be intelligible (clear enough), plausible (reasonably true) and fruitful (potentially productive). He and his associates further added that these cognitive conditions must be met during the learning process as the teacher lead the learners towards creating cognitive conflicts to make the learner dissatisfied with his/her existing conception. This is necessary because a misconception that disorganizes and constraints learning is highly resistant to change due to the web-like links it has formed with the artefacts within the learner's conceptual ecology(Agiande, Williams, Dunnamah & Tumba, 2015).Therefore, the process of changing one concept requires a corresponding change in the other related concepts in ways that resemble a kind of paradigm shift (Hewson, 1992).

 The second component of conceptual change is a person‘s conceptual ecology. Conceptual ecology may be seen as the learner‘s previous knowledge, or the alternative cognition of the learner. Conceptual ecology provides the context in which the conceptual change occurs. It influences the change and gives it meaning. Conceptual ecology consist of many different forms of knowledge, the most important of which may be epistemological commitments (for example, to consistency or generalizability), metaphysical beliefs about the world (for example, nature of time), and analogies and metaphors that may serve to structure new information (Hewson, 1992).

 Therefore, Posner et al. (1982) stated that if the existing conception was found unsuccessful, it would more likely to be rejected. If the new concept has a potential to solve the problem, it will be more likely to be accepted. According to authors, for the conceptual change, a student must have a conceptual ecology related to his / her existing concept and there must be anomalies that make him / her feel dissatisfied. Also, new concept must be comprehensible, plausible, and fruitful. The term comprehensible indicates the new concept‘s potential to solve problem and plausible means student‘s being in accordance with knowledge that he / she has constructed up to now. Fruitfulness indicates the feature of new concept that implies applicability, transferability.

It means the new concept‘s potential to encourage students to conduct new researches(Hewson & Hewson, 1983; Hewson & Thorley, 1989).

The conceptual change theory is based on Piaget (1970) in the point of explaining learning. Students‘ tendency of using preconceptions when they encounter the new phenomena to explain the new concepts is defined as ―assimilation‖. However, in some cases, preconceptions do not allow students to explain new phenomena successfully. They realize that their preconceptions are incapable of solving the problems and this condition makes them feel dissatisfied. Students feel the need for changing or reorganizing their existing conceptions. This stage is called ―accommodation‖ in Conceptual Change Theory.

Therefore, Piaget (1975) considered cognitive conflict as a step in the process of equilibration. He distinguished between adapted and unadapted responses to contradictory information. Adapted responses are classified into three types: alpha,beta and gamma. Alpha answers involve individuals who ignore or do not take into account the conflicting data. Beta answers are characterized by producing partial modifications in the learner‘s theory, through generalization and differentiation (generating an ―ad hoc‖ explanation). Finally, gamma answers involve the modification of the central core of the theory. Many studies on conceptual change have focused on specifically designed strategies employing a cognitive conflict approach on the basis of the model. A cognitive conflict strategy emphasizes on destabilizing students‘ confidence in their existing conceptions through contradictory experiences such as discrepant events and then enabling students to replace their inaccurate preconceptions with scientifically accepted conceptions (Chan, Burtis, & Breiter, 1997; Limon, 2001; Pintrich, 1999).

However, this study is hinged on Conceptual Change Theory of Piaget (1970) and the ―Conceptual Change Model‖ developed by Posner and colleagues (1982). Posner and colleagues noted that learning proceeds smoothly when the learner meets the conditions for conceptual change. For example, when a learner encounters a new concept that conflicts with his or her conceptual beliefs, the learner may first feel dissatisfied, but then on checking the intelligibility of that concept, its plausibility and fruitfulness, the learner accepts it by replacing the old wrong concept. Without this, the learner rejects the new concept.

Therefore this study sought to investigate the impact of cognitive conflict instructional model on conceptual change and performance in genetics among secondary school biology students in Potiskum, Yobe State, Nigeria.

1.2         Statement of the Problem

Poor performance in Biology has become a trend in the West African Examination Council (WAEC) results of Nigerian secondary schools. For instance, from the year 2009 to the year 2017 the total number of students that failed Biology over these years is on the increase. The summary of WAEC for 2009 to 2017 is presented in Table 1.1.

Table 1.1:Students’ SSCE Results in Biology (2006 - 2017) in Nigeria.




















































































































































Source: WAEC office, Lagos (2017).

Table 1.1 showed that students‘ performance in Biology was quite unsatisfactory. Despite the increasing number of candidates over the year under review, the percentage of candidates with credit pass and above is usually below 45% for every year. It is stipulated in the 2013/2014 curriculum that at the secondary school level students must offer one of the basic science subjects, and therefore most secondary school students offered Biology at this level. Consistent poor performance of students in Biology at SSCE level leaves one in doubt about the effectiveness of the teaching method used by Biology teachers in teaching biological concept. Students do find some biological concepts difficult, complicated and abstract such as concept of genetics. This difficulty, complication and abstract of some concepts may lead to misconception. Misconceptions may be another reason for low achievement of students.


Misconceptions may arise through interaction with environment and cultural beliefs including the cultural use of imprecise language. Hence, when using child‘s complexion to judge the complexion of his parents, one become accustomed to physical character that usually appears dark or fair complexion and combine such experiences into a generalization that provides some explanation for that experience. Interaction with environment and cultural beliefs leads to misconception. Common statements such as ―skin colour of a child‖ lead to beliefs that may be in conflict with scientific views. Society‘s use of physical characters for genetic purposes, beliefs

that marrying light-skinned lady to producelight-skin children and failure in practice. Observation of light-skinned parents that give birth to dark-skinned child among others, leads to confusion about physical and genetic make ups. Naïve beliefs can also be developed through classroom instruction and reading textbooks or other educational material. Bauman in Yeo and Zadnik (2001) apportions the blame between poorly understood or inconsistent use of terminology in textbooks, teachers‘ inadequate knowledge, and the inherent conceptual difficulty of the topic.

However, to understand the conceptual change components requires an instructional model that can stimulate and enhance students‘ conceptual change. This is because some instructional models have been found to be defective in changing students‘ concept in science. Example of such models is traditional teaching methods (for example, the lecture method) 

Students‘ misconception cannot be eliminated easily by traditional method. Ways of eliminating have been identified and seems to be methods that provide cognitive conflict and resolution of such conflict. Intentional activity to show conflict and help in resolution could be effective and cognitive conflict has this property. Madu and Orji (2015) investigated the efficacy of cognitive-conflict-based physics instruction over the traditionally designed physics instruction on students‘ conceptual change in heat and temperature. The result of the research indicated that the level of understanding of heat and temperature was significantly dependent on the treatment. Based on this, the researcher intends to investigate the impact of cognitive conflict instructional model on conceptual change and performance in genetics among secondary school biology students in Potiskum, Yobe State, Nigeria.

 One alternative way is to change the instruction from teacher-centered to student-centered using a  constructivist  approach.  Conceptual  change  is  mainly  linked  to  students‘  alternative conceptions and their own experience. In constructivists‘ perspective, students‘ alternative conceptions are interpreted. Students enter the classroom with their own ideas and experiences and they shape their formal knowledge based on their existing ideas and experience at school. Their preconception can be valid, invalid, or incomplete. When the new information or experiences are presented to students in the classroom, they will either reject or reformulate their existing cognitive structures whether their knowledge and experience are connected to their background information. In essence, students‘ own perceptions and new idea may be integrated as a useful part of their memory. Hence, this study is therefore aim to determine the impact of cognitive conflict instructional model on conceptual change and performance among secondary school Biology students in Genetics in Potiskum, Yobe State, Nigeria.

 1.3         Objectives of the Study

 The study was guided by the following objectives to;

 1.      determine the impact of cognitive conflict instructional model on conceptual changeamong secondary school Biology students in genetics concept.

 2.      determine the impact of cognitive conflict instructional model on academic performance among secondary school Biology students in genetics concept

 3.      determine the impact of cognitive conflict instructional model on conceptual change of males and females secondary school biology students in genetics concept

 4.      determine the impact of cognitive conflict instructional model on academic performance of males and females secondary school biology students in genetics concept

 1.4         Research Questions

 The following research questions were formulated to guide the study:

 1.      What is the difference in the mean conceptual change score of secondary school students taught genetics concept using cognitive conflict instructional modeland those taught using lecture method?

 2.      What is the difference between the mean academic performance scores of secondary school biology students taught genetics concept using cognitive conflict instructional model and those taught using lecture method?

 3.      What is the difference between the mean conceptual change score of males and females secondary school students taught genetics concept using cognitive conflict instructional model?

 4.      What is the difference between the mean academic performance scores of males and females secondary school biology students taught genetics concept using cognitive conflictinstructional model?

 1.5         Null Hypotheses

 The following null hypotheses were formulated to be tested at P ≤ 0.05 level of significance:

 HO1: There is no significant difference in the mean conceptual changescores among secondary

 school biology students in genetics taught using cognitive conflict instructional model and those taught using lecture method.


HO2: There is no significant difference between the mean academic performance scores among

 secondary school biology students in genetics taught using cognitive conflict instructional model and those taught using lecture method.

 H03: There is no significant difference between the mean conceptual change scores of males and

females secondary school biology students in genetics taught using cognitive conflic

instructional model. 


HO4: There is no significant difference between the mean academic performance scores of males  and females secondary school biology students in genetics taught using cognitive conflict instructional model.

































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