Background to the study

Biology occupies a special position in the senior secondary school curriculum in Nigeria. In the National Policy on Education (FRN, 2014), each senior secondary school student is expected to take at least one science subject from (Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Health Science). The essence is to provide trained manpower in the applied science, technology and commerce at sub-professional grades. This is also aimed to provide technical knowledge and vocational skills necessary for agricultural, industrial, commercial and economic development. Learning biology as well other sciences is, therefore, becoming more essential not only for the well-being of the individual, but also for the entire society (Odubunmi, 2016). Okoye (2016) noted that Biology is mostly registered for in the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) of West African Examination Council (WAEC) and National Examinations Council of Nigeria (NECO).

Learning is a key process in human behaviour; it pervades everything we do and think. It may be defined as any relatively permanent change in behaviour through experience (Osarenren, 2002). This means that learning has three vital elements which include change in behaviour; change that take place through experience, not growth, maturation or injury; the change must be relatively permanent, not one due to maturation, drugs or fatigue.


In behavioral psychology, reinforcement is a consequence applied that will strengthen an organism's future behavior whenever that behavior is preceded by a specific antecedent stimulus. Reinforcement is a term used in operant conditioning to refer to anything that increases the likelihood that a response will occur. Psychologist B.F. Skinner is considered the father of this theory. Note that reinforcement is defined by the effect that it has on behavior—it increases or strengthens the response. For example, reinforcement might involve presenting praise (the reinforcer) immediately after a child puts away her toys (the response). By reinforcing the desired behavior with praise, the child will be more likely to perform the same actions again in the future.

Reinforcement can include anything that strengthens or increases a behavior, including specific tangible rewards, events, and situations. In a classroom setting, for example, types of reinforcement might include praise, getting out of unwanted work, token rewards, candy, extra playtime, and fun activities.

Reinforcement is one of the teachers most valuable behaviour management tools. Positive reinforcement is an interesting technique that helps teachers to improve the overall behaviour of students. Positive reinforcement can be explained simply as “timely encouragement” which is gentle and effective at the same time.

The words, actions and inactions of a teacher can make or mar the academic performance of a student. Students need positive reinforcement to improve their performances. The researcher as a secondary school teacher had a personal experience with a student who complained bitterly about her mathematics teacher calling her names like “escort, olodo” This incident threw this child off balance as her performance was affected in most subjects, including the subject of one of the researchers (English). This student was one of the best students in the researcher‟s subject, her woeful performance warranted the researcher to engage her in a chat which revealed the encounter she (the student) had with her mathematics teacher. The researcher being a counsellor/teacher engaged the mathematics teacher in a  consent of the principal of the school, a talk was delivered to the teachers on “Positive Reinforcement for Academic Enhancement” during a staff meeting. Positive Reinforcement is now a watch- word in the researcher‟s school. The academic of performance of this student was monitored and a tremendous improvement was noticed thereafter. That shows the power of the words of a teacher whether positive or negative.


Several studies have revealed that positive reinforcement has a great influence on the academic achievement of students in  biology and may increase their grades. Amadi and Onyeike (2015) conducted an experimental study among 120 JS1 students in Abia State on the effectiveness of token economy and verbal rewards on students‟ academic achievement in Igbo language in Aba North Local Government Area of Abia State. The results of the study revealed that token economy which is a form of tangible positive reinforcement significantly enhanced students‟ academic performance over verbal rewards which are intangible forms of positive reinforcement although the verbal rewards significantly improved academic performance over the control group. Nnodum, Agbaenyi and Ugwuegbulam (2014) in another study investigated the efficacy of positive reinforcement (PR) and self-control (SC) in the management of aggression among pupils. 30 pupils were randomly selected through a purposive sampling procedure in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State using a quasi-experimental design with three experimental groups comprising, two treatment groups and one control group. The results revealed that positive reinforcement was more effective than self-control (SC) both at post-test and follow-up periods in reducing aggression among the pupils. Ukoha (2002), effectively used positive reinforcement to improve students‟ performance in biology. Although the number of subjects used, type of research design adopted and the area of study were not indicated. Results proved that positive reinforcement improve mathematics achievement among students. In the same vein,Onunkwo and Unachukwu (2003, 2005) also used verbal rewards to enhance secondary school students‟ commitment to take home assignment as well as improving adolescents‟ cognitive achievement in biology respectively. Results revealed that verbal rewards (positive reinforcement) improved students‟ commitment to take home assignment and improved cognitive achievement in Biology. In a related development, positive reinforcement was also used by Chima and Nnodum (2016) to control late coming behaviour among secondary school students. Ingsol in Amadi et al (2015), conducted an investigation on the effect o token economy reinforcement on students‟ achievement. Results indicated that token economy would be difficult to implement at home. But will be very successful in a school setting. The use of these techniques in school settings is appropriate because daily routines are clearly established. Adult supervision is consistent and assesses rein-forcers such as recess and free time can be strictly controlled. Deci & Ryan in Amadi et al (2015), in their investigation showed that positive verbal reward increased athlete‟s intrinsic motivation and feelings of competence irrespective of the amount of positive verbal feedback presented. Reitman (2001) conducted an experiment with token economy technique on children with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Deficiency (ADHD) to evaluate the effectiveness of token economy as a behaviour management technique. Results shows that it helped to reduce the amount of behaviour problems while completing homework which led to the decrease in stress level.

Biology as a science subject is a pivot in the secondary school curriculum since medical careers depend on it. It involves pursuit of truth, a process that instils diligence, patience and objectivity in learners. Learning develops the scientific habits in students, which are transferable to other areas in life. Such habits involve non-reliance on superstition, use of critical thinking and respect for other peoples’ opinion.

Since the teaching-learning process concerns itself with the promotion of desirable behaviour, education must draw some of its principles from psychology. This entails having a good grasp of all theories that influence the teaching and learning process. Attitudes associated with science appear to affect students’ participation in science subjects and impact on science (Linn, 1992).

Chitiyo and Wheeler (2019) pointed out that educators can use naturally occurring positive reinforcements to teach positive classroom behaviours  among students by establishing classroom routines and modelling desired behaviours. This is capable of improving students’ attitudes to learning and impacting well on their performance even in science subjects like biology. Wheatley, West, Charlton, Sanders, Smith, & Taylor, (2019) believed that the use of positive reinforcement is an effective, high-impact strategy for improving students’ behaviours which has been supported by documented research for a variety of school circumstances for both individual student and group of students.

Today, many teachers find it difficult to cope well with the negative attitudes of students in class especially when it keeps recurring.  This could be quite frustrating for many teachers and render some teachers inefficient despite their teaching abilities. Wright-Galla, Higbee, Reagan, & Davey (2016) noted that it is extremely important for classroom teachers to have effective behaviour management skills and earn control over students’ disruptive behaviours. Such negative attitudes could better be managed by science teachers through reinforcements. Conroy, Sutherland, Snyder & Al-Hendawi (2019) established that students are more likely to behave in predictable ways in order to gain their teachers’ attention. Teachers can capitalize on this by providing positive attention through feedback to promote desired behaviours. Furthermore, when teachers are able to avoid using negative attention by ignoring students’ negative attitudes in class, the likelihood of the occurrence of such attitudes would decrease (Conroy et al., 2019).

Benedict, Horner, and Squires (2017) pointed out  that academic failure among other factors like social rejection, drug abuse, and criminal activity in adulthood are all examples of potential long-term, negative consequences of students’ negative attitudes. Teacher, therefore  have the opportunity to utilize positive reinforcement to help reduce the frequency of negative interactions and possibly reduce the likelihood of these future outcomes.

Mather and Goldstein (2001) suggested that educators can use an outlined multi-step process to manage their students’ negative attitudes using consequences. The first step is to define the problem by count or description. The second step is to change the behaviour by developing a behaviour management plan. The third step is to identify an effective reinforcer, and the last step is to apply the reinforcer on a consistent basis in order to change the behaviour. Both reinforcement and punishment can be used to effectively reduce undesired behaviours in the classroom; however, reinforcement is much more successful in teaching students alternative behaviours that are considered to be more appropriate and desirable (Mather & Goldstein, 2001).

Although praise is a simple type of positive reinforcement many teachers regularly use in their classrooms when interacting with students to reinforce their students’ positive attitudes, it is actually a complex reciprocal process that involves both the teacher giving the praise and the students receiving it. It should contain specific statements about the positive attitude demonstrated by the students and immediately follow the desired attitude (Conroy et al., 2019). It is evident that students prefer to receive private praise as opposed to praise in front of peers when they produce quality work and/or display appropriate attitudes. This is because they do not like to be singled out (Infantino & Little, 2005). Teachers can use group praise and/or rewards to suit the preference.

Moore, Robertson, Maggin, Oliver, and Wehby (2020) determined that the delivery of praise as positive reinforcement for students’ appropriate behaviours can lead to a decrease in students’ inappropriate behaviours, as well as an increase in their appropriate behaviours. This study also found that students were given more opportunities to correctly respond to academic demands due to fewer distractions in the classroom.


 Statement of the problem

The effectiveness of   reinforcement cannot be over emphasized as documented in journals, books and research articles. Yet there are many teachers who are having difficulties implementing the technique. This is because some teachers often do not understand how   reinforcement works. The issue now is, can   reinforcement improve academic achievement of secondary school students in  Ondo State, having successfully worked for students in other parts of the country and the world? Students have challenges with the learning process due to the words, actions and inactions of teachers, who knows if it can be a panacea for academic  success.

It has been observed that some students have developed negative attitudes towards Biology as a Science subject in the secondary school. This in turn, accounts for the degree of overall poor performances even in teacher-made achievement tests from time to time. It becomes worrisome when the medical and biological-related careers of young students is at stake due to defective foundation in the knowledge of the subject. Poor teaching style, non-conducive learning environment and poor teaching and learning facilities are some of the contributing factors  that lead to poor performance of students in Biology.

In view of the challenges enumerated above, this study seeks to investigate the  relevance of reinforcement to  the teaching and learning of biology  education



Purpose of the study

The main purpose of this study is to investigate relevance of reinforcement to  the teaching and learning of biology  education in Idanre LGA.

The specific objective is

1.     To identify relevance of  reinforcement, in teaching and learning of Biology in  Idanre Local Government Area 

2.     To examine the perceived effect of the reinforcement on biology students’ academic achievement.  

3.     To examine the extent to which tangible rewards affect the effective learbibg of biology 

Research Question

 The following research questions were raised to guide the study

1.     What are the relevance of  reinforcement, in teaching and learning of Biology Education?

2.     What are the  effect of the reinforcement on biology students’ academic achievement?

3. To what  extent does tangible rewards affect the effective learning of biology? 


The following null hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance.

 Ho1: Reinforcement does not have significant impact on biology students

Ho2:   There is no significant difference between reinforcement  and students academic performance in biology. 

Ho3: There is no significant different between  tangible  rewards  and academic achievement  biology students.

Significance of the Study

The study would in no small measure enables the teachers to appreciate the effectiveness of reinforcers and reinforcement in teaching and learning situations. Similarly, it would be incumbent on the study to expose the researcher to various positive and negative attitudes to  students and the implications on academic performances. Further recommendations on how reinforcers  can be useful to educational stakeholders  was drawn from this work for further research studies. Above all, the school system stands a chance to benefit immensely from the implementation of  robust positive reinforcements  which will improve the attitude and academic performance of students.

 Scope of the Study

This research was only limited to Biology Education Students in University of Nigeria Nsukka 



  Operational definition of terms

 Achievement test: A test that measures how much and well a person has learnt over a given period of time.

Attitude: The tendency to respond either favourably or unfavourably to someone or something .

Learning: A long-lasting change in behaviour due to repeated experience.

Motivation: A strong inner drive to achieve a specific goal.

Negative reinforcement: The removal of something desirable in order to make someone do what such considers undesirable.

Performance: The achievement of someone that can be monitored by another person.

Positive reinforcement: The addition of something desirable in order to make someone do what such considers undesirable.

Reinforcement: Anything that follows a behaviour to maintain or increase it.

Reinforcer:  Something or someone that increase the rate of happening of another either when added or removed from it



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