Chemical Education Journal (CEJ),
Vol. 13, No. 2 /Registration No. 13-14 /Received June 26, 2009.
URL = http://chem.sci.utsunomiya-u.ac.jp/cejrnlE.html
Teaching science is one of the most important parts of education. The research was made to identify the effect of the educational factors on the academic performance of the university students in chemistry. "General Chemistry" in Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman was chosen as one of the subsets of chemistry and students were randomly selected as the research sample. The necessary data were obtained by a researcher-designed questionnaire, the validity and reliability of which was determined. T test and one-sided variance analysis were used for data analysis. The results of the research showed that motivation, previous experiences, emotional conditions, instructor, evaluation procedures, academic records, and age had a positive effect on the university students' academic performance. The students' age had a negative effect on their performance in chemistry. The physical environment, the students' parents' educational level ad job and the students' gender had not a meaningful effect on the students' performance.
Key words: educational factors, academic performance, chemistry, university students.
Chemistry is one of the most important branches of science; on the other hand chemistry proves a difficult subject for many students (Sirhan, 2007). Chemistry is a human endeavor that relies on basic human qualities like creativity, insights, reasoning, and skills (Banya, 2005). Chemistry is commonly viewed as the "central science", as mastery of its concepts regarding the structure of matter is essential to further coursework in all sciences. In essence, Chemistry performs the function of gatekeeper for future study in many sciences (Tai, Sadler & Loehr, 2005).
The important goals of science education in different educational systems all over the world include (1) the effective use of scientific information in basic science and the transmission of knowledge to school and university students, (2) the cultivation of the abit of applying the scientific method for the discovery of the concept of "learning how to learn", (3) the familiarity with the correct inquiry methods, and (4) the principles of dealing with problems and problem solving. Therefore, the lesson "general chemistry" and its related lab has been added in the curriculum of many educational fields in the educational planning for universities. Ganeirad (2006), considering the historical backgrounds and the present human capital, introduces Iran as the "country of chemistry". In this country, chemistry has the highest research position, 50 percent of the published articles in international journals regarding science are about chemistry.
Chemistry education is a new subject in the education system of the world. A particular attention toward the factors effective on learning chemistry is required because of the ever-increasing development of information and knowledge concerning chemistry and its deep relation with mathematics, physics and its vast application in the subjects related to empirical sciences (biology, medicine, pharmacy and so on) and technical engineering sciences (chemistry engineering, petro chemistry, metallurgy, and etc.).
The goal of this research is to identify the educational factors
effective on the educational performance of the students of Shahid
Bahonar university of Kerman in the lesson Ògeneral chemistry
1Ó in the second term of the academic year 2006-2007.To
achieve this goal, the following hypothesis was designed:
The educational factors are effective on the university students' educational performance in the lesson "general chemistry". It is meant by the concept Òeducational factorsÓ in this research: the university students' motivation, previous experiences, learning situation, educational records, instructor, evaluation procedure, chemistry lab possibilities, parents' education level (academic record) and job.
Role of motivation in learning Chemistry
Chemical education reform is under way in many countries. An important reason for this reform is the growing dissatisfaction with the position of many Chemistry curricula: quite isolated from students' personal interest, from current society and technology issues, and from modern Chemistry (Jong, 2006). According to Holbrook (2005), the stress on conception understanding and appreciation for the nature of science tends not to be relevant for functionality in our lives i.e. relevant to the home, the environment, future employment and most definitely for future changes and developments within the society. Rensnik (1987; cited in Sirhan, 2007) found that students will engage more easily with problems that are embedded in challenging real-world contexts that have apparent relevance to their lives. If the problems are interesting, meaningful, challenging, and engaging they tend to be intrinsically motivating for students. Motivation to learn is an important factor controlling the success of learning and teachers face problems when their students do not have the motivation to seek to understand (Sirhan, 2007). According to Akbas and Kan (2007) the effects of affective characteristics of students on lessons in school education were proved by the investigation (Bloom, 1979). Since the academic achievement is related directly or indirectly with many factors, the affective factors could be considered as one of the mentioned factors. With consistency, the factors (as motivation and anxiety) will affect many other factors such as the will and the interests of students in lessons. Thus, it could be thought that students' performances and their academic achievements would be affected (Akbas & Kan, 2007). Studies have shown that attitude toward science influences behaviors like courses selection, museum visits, and the continuation with science studies (Koballa & Crowley, 1985; cited in Banye, 2005). Berg (2005) found in a research a positive attitude change was associated with evidence of motivated behavior, while a negative change was linked to less motivated behavior. Students addressed similar factors in the educational setting, but students with positive attitude change exhibited fewer negative views of educational factors, while students with negative attitude changes showed an opposite pattern. Since the same factors, students' perceived level of teacher empathy for their efforts at chemistry learning, affected both groups, this indicates a possibility for changes in educational setting beneficial to all students. Jurisevic, Glazer, Pucko and Devetak (2008) reported that students were more or less equally motivated for chemistry as for any other subject, but that the intrinsic motivation plummets as the level of obstruction in individual subjects, such as chemistry and mathematics, increases. It has been similarly established that of the three levels of chemistry learning-namely, macroscopic, submicroscopic, and symbolic-students were the least motive to study concepts at the symbolic level. The correlation between the level of motivation and the knowledge test results is not strong; nevertheless, it is statistically significant, while the correlation between motivation and the mark achieved in chemistry is statistically not significant. Akbas and Kan (2007) reported that while 2nd grade students possess the highest motivation for chemistry course, 1st grade students possess the highest anxiety level for chemistry course, as well. Also, it was found out that the motivation and anxiety for chemistry lesson, on their own, is a significant predictor of chemistry achievement. The anxiety caused by excessive stress has adverse effects on learning and performance of students (Akbas & Kan, 2007). Jurisevic, vogrinc, Glazar and Devetak (n.d.) concluded in their research that university students and primary school students are quite similarly intrinsically motivated for learning, especially for learning physics and chemistry.
Anders and Berg (2005) in a research entitled correlatives of the observed attitude change toward learning chemistry lesson among university students, tried to identify these correlatives or factors. This research was done in Sweden. The results of the research show the more the students were motivated, the more positive change was observed in their attitude toward learning chemistry.
Previous researches suggest that influential factors fall within three categories: demographic background; general educational background; and previous science learning experiences. Demographic background and general educational background are indicators of social circum stances and prior academic achievement, respectively, and although of interest, are beyond the influence of high school science teachers (Tai, Sadler & Loehr, 2005). Therefore it is vital for the teacher to know what the learners already know and how they came to acquire the knowledge (Sirhan, 2007). According to Tai, Sadler, and Loehr (2005) identification of pedagogical practices in science classrooms that connect to subsequent success in science learning and that suggest influential links between science teaching in high school and science success in college may be beneficial in efforts to improve science achievement. Previous research has found a wide range of predictors of student performance in introductory college chemistry. These predictors are associated with both the students' backgrounds and their high school learning experiences (Tai, Sadler and Loehr, 2005). According to Tai, Sadler and Loehr (2005), high school chemistry instruction does have an impact on college chemistry performance. Ogden (1976; cited in Tai, Sadler & Loehr, 2005) reviewed 24 studies published prior to 1967 and concluded that there is some indication that the taking of high school chemistry may be used as an indicator of success in college chemistry. There are indications that a math/ physics background, high placement scores, achievement tests scores, intelligence, and age may be a better, or at least as good, as indicators. There is also evidence that no indicator is all that good.
Unlike the Piagetian, Vygotsky believes that meaning was best
constructed in cohort with another (peer, teacher and parents)
(Banya, 2005). The relevance of chemistry
needs to embrace relevant teaching approaches to the teaching
of chemistry in schools (Holbrook, 2005).
Sirhan (2007) reported that attitudes
and motivation are both important aspects for the learning process.
Success in learning, positive attitudes to learning and motivation
to learn are linked. The two major factors influencing attitudes
towards a subject are teacher quality and curriculum quality.
According to Weiss, Pasely, Smit, Banilowel, and Heck (2003; cited
in Tai, Sadler & Loehr, 2005),
who interviewed and observed 6.1 U.S. high school science teachers,
the greatest influence on choice regarding instructional strategies
is teacher knowledge, belief, and experience, influencing 90%
of lessons taught by the teachers in their study.
Karr, Makher and Son (2006) consider that teaching method of an instructor (professor) of chemistry is based on the facilitation of the students' understanding in the learning process. A professor (instructor) makes much effort to cause his or her students to comprehend the subject matter. A professor tries to cause the students to be involved in the teaching process so that he or she might become sure of this fact that the students are able to reproduce the knowledge and reasons of chemistry. A professor expects the students to learn what he or she has taught and apply them in the future.
Wachanga and Mwangi (2004) investigated the effects of cooperative class experiment (CCE) teaching method on the high school students' educational achievement in the district Nakura of Kenia. The results of the research showed CCE caused facilitation in learning chemistry. Gender had no effect on the students' achievement as compared with other teaching methods. The kind of school had no great impact on the girls' educational achievement when CCE was used, but it was effective on the boys' achievement and they got better marks.
Wong and Fraser (1996) found significant associations between the nature of the chemistry laboratory classroom environment and the students' outcomes. Tai, Sadler and Loehr (2005) uncovered several interesting high school pedagogical experiences that appeared to be linked with varying labs for understanding was associated with higher student grades. Whereas overemphasis on lab procedure in high school chemistry was associated with lower grades in college. These results suggest that high school teachers' pedagogical choices may have a link to future student performance. Students reporting more instances of repeating labs to enhance their understanding earned higher chemistry grades than their peers who reported few or no instances of repeating labs for understanding (Tai, Sadler & Loehr, 2005). Tai, Sadler & Loehr (2005) say that laboratory work holds greater promise in helping to prepare students for college-level studies, (e.g., Hegarty-Haxel, 1990; Wellinrton, 1998).
Researches focused on gender studies have indicated that attitudes toward science education differ between males and females. A declining interest in chemistry and the under representation of females in the chemical science was found (Jacobs, 2000; cited in Banya, 2005). Self -confidence toward chemistry, the influence of role models, and knowledge about the usefulness of chemistry affect the decision of young female students about the study of chemistry (Banya, 2005). In the event of young female students finding difficulty in constructing knowledge of chemistry, self-confidence is lowered with subsequent alternation of attitudes toward chemistry (Banya, 2005). Despite the studies done, and the recommendations made, the attitudes of young female students toward science and chemistry are still than positive (Banya, 2005).
The statistical population of the research was all of the university students of Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman who had chosen the course "general chemistry 1" in the second term of the academic year 2006-2007, that consisted of 784 students (in 18 classrooms). 384 students of this group were chosen as the research sample through using the Kukran formula.
A "researcher-designed questionnaire" was used for obtaining the necessary data from the research sample. This questionnaire consisted of 53 closed questions with five choices; "I completely agree, I agree, I relatively agree, I disagree, I completely disagree" or the choices "quite suitable, suitable, relatively suitable, unsuitable, quite unsuitable."
This questionnaire measured 9 different items: motivation, previous experiences, learning situation (emotional and physical), educational records, instructors characteristics, evaluation procedures, lab possibilities, parents' educational level (academic record) and job.
The above questionnaire was designed as follows:
The first category): it consists of three questions which measure the students' kind of diploma, educational field and the kind of faculty.
The second category): it consists of four questions which measures parents' education level and job.
The third category): it consists of seven questions which measures the students' previous experiences; e.g.:
The fourth category): it consists of sixteen questions which measures the students' motivation and interest toward the lesson "general chemistry 1"; e.g.:
The fifth category): it consists of seven questions which measures the emotional conditions of the class of the "general chemistry 1"; e.g.:
The sixth category): it consists of twelve questions which measures the students' physical situation in the class of the "general chemistry 1"; e.g.:
The seventh category): it consists of twelve questions which measures the instructor (professor) teaching and communications skills; e.g.:
The eighth category): it consists of six questions which measures the evaluation procedure.
The ninth category): it consists of seven questions which measures the "general chemistry 1" lab possibilities; e.g.:
The validity of the questionnaire was calculated 0.938 (through referring to five assistant professors of educational sciences and one professor of chemistry) (Table 1); and the reliability of the questionnaire was calculated 0.810 (by using test-retest method) (Table 2).
Table 1 Calculation of the questionnaire's validity.
Table 2. Calculation of the questionnaire's reliability.
The research questionnaires were distributed among all the university students who were to take part in the exam of "general chemistry 1" in the second term of the academic year 2006-2007.
The questionnaires were given to the students in the examination session. Before the exam started, the objective of the research were explained to the students and how they should complete the questionnaire.
The students were also assured of the confidentiality. They were also asked to complete the questionnaires voluntarily, and add the number of their chairs on the questionnaires. Among the 463 questionnaires completed and returned by the students, 384 were chosen randomly and were considered as the research sample. Using the chair number of each student as a code his or her student number was identified.
T test was used for the statistical analysis of the research data and for the comparison of the educational performances of two independent two groups of students who had a high performance in chemistry (an exam mark higher than 14 from 20 in general chemistry 1), and a low performance in chemistry (an exam mark lower than 14 from 20 in general chemistry 1) according to their educational factors. The effect of each of these educational factors was compared in these two groups in order that their effects on the students' performance might be determined.
It is meant by the concept "educational performance"
in this research, "the marks of the university students in
the exam of the lesson general chemistry 1". The mark 14
and above (from 20) was considered as the high performance in
chemistryÓ, the performance of 247 (64.3%) of the students
was low, and of 137 (35.7%) of the students was high (Table 3). The minumum
and the maximum of the students' marks were 2.5 and 20 respectively,
and the mean of their marks was 12.46 (from 20).
Table 3 Frequency distribution of the students' educational performance in the lesson general chemistry 1.
Considering the calculated means, in the lesson general chemistry 1, the educational performance of those university students who have a high motivation (a motivation more than the mean of the students' motivations), or a great previous experience, or desirable professors, or desirable emotional learning environment; has been more than other students. Also, the educational achievement of those students whose lab possibilities were desirable has not been higher than other students; and the educational performance of those students who have a desirable physical learning environment is a little higher as compared with the other students (Table 4).
Table 4 Central indexes and variance of the students' educational performance in the lesson "general chemistry 1" according to the research variables:
|65||12.01||3.42||undesirable||physical learning situation|
|117||11.25||3.23||undesirable||teacher s situation|
|38||10.64||3.14||undesirable||Emotional learning situation|
|44||12.49||2.49||undesirable||Lab s possibilities|
Considering this fact that the calculated P-value (0.000) is less than the significance level 0.05 therefore H0 is rejected in this level; that is to say the educational performance of those university students who have a high motivation is better than those students who have a low motivation. Also the educational performance of those students whose previous experiences was great has been more than those students whose previous experiences was low. The educational performance of those students whose emotional learning environment was desirable has been higher than those students whose emotional learning environment was undesirable. The educational performance of those students who had desirable professors has been higher than those students who had undesirable evaluation procedures. The educational performance of those students whose evaluation procedures was desirable has been higher than those students whose evaluation procedures was undesirable. Thus, it can be said that the motivation, previous experiences, emotional learning environment, evaluation procedures and evaluation procedures of the university students are effective on their educational performance in the general chemistry 1. Meanwhile; the educational performance of those students whose lab possibilities were desirable has not been higher than the educational performance of those students whose lab possibilities were undesirable, and the educational performance of those students whose learning physical environment was desirable has not been more than the educational performance of those students whose physical learning environment was undesirable.. Thus, it can be said that the lab possibilities and the physical learning environment are not effective on the students' educational performance in chemistry (Table 5).
Table 5 T test statistics
|Mean difference||Standard error||Freedom degree||t||P-Value||Variable|
|-0.59||0.443||364||-1.365||0.087||physical learning situation|
|-2.02||0.401||368||-5.046||0||emotional learning situation|
|-2.1||0.533||360||-3.936||0||teacher s situation|
|0.56||0.514||168||1.086||0.86||Lab s possibilities|
It was concluded in this research that motivation has a positive effect the university students' educational performance. This is consistent with the theories of Piaget, Ausubel, Maslow and Bandure and the researches of Seif (2005), Parsa (1997), Sha'bani (2006), Moulavi et al (2007), Sobhaninejad and Abedi (2006), Kajbaf, Moulavi, Shirazi and Seif (2002), Sirhan (2007), Akbas and Kan (2007).
It was concluded in this research the students' previous experience has a positive effect on their performance. This is in accordance with the opinion and theories of Sha'bani (2006), Seif (2005), Miller and Miller (2004), Tai, Sadler and Loehr (2005). Piaget's theory directs our attention to the child's level of development because a child student can only understnd instruction if the or she has developed structures or forms of understanding with which to do so (Carpendale, Mueler & Biboke, 2008, P.803). Bruner's research concluded that learning was dependent on environmental and experiential factors (Miller, 2008, P.964). Dewey recognized that personal experiences of students must be incorporated into the curriculum for learning to have a lasting effect (Vavrus, 2008, P.51).
It was concluded in this research that the physical environment has no meaningful effect on the students' performance, but the emotional situation or conditions have a positive effect on the students' performance. The first result is not in harmony with the opinion of Sha'bani (2006); but the second result is consistent with the opinions and theories of Sha'bani (2006), Bloom (1984), Bahrami and Hassanzadeh (2002) and the researches of Ganierad (2006), Hejazi and Omidinajafabadi (2006) and Roushanaee (2007).
It was concluded in this research that the students' academic records (the kind of diploma and the kind of faculty) has a positive effect on their educational performance in chemistry (the lesson general chemistry 1).The first result is consistent with the results of the researchers Hezavehee, Fathi and Shamshiri (2006), Homauni, Kadivar and Abdollahi (2006), Share,apour, Salehi and Fazeli (2001), but it is inconsistent with the results of the researches Khadivzadeh, Seif and Valaee (2004), Rasulinejad and Rasulinejad (2006).The second result is consistent with the research of Roushanaee (2004), and inconsistent with the researches of Seif and Hosseinilorgani (2001), Khadivzadeh, Seif and Valaee (2004).
It was concluded in this research that the students, parents' educational level and job had no effect on the students' performance in chemistry. This result is inconsistent with the results of the researches of Asadi,et al (2006), Dehnavi (2004),Garun (2006) and Hejazi (2004).
It was concluded in this research that the students' professor (instructor) had a positive effect on their performance in chemistry. This result is consistent with the researches of Arasteh and Mahmudirad (2003), Hassanpourdehkordi, Kheiri and Shahrani (2006).
It was concluded in this research that evaluation procedures had a positive effect on the students' performance in chemistry. This result is consistent with the research of Sepasi (1999).
It was concluded in this research that the chemistry lab possibilities had a positive effect on the students' performance in chemistry. This is in harmony with the opinion of Wong and Fraser (1996), Tai, Sadler and Loehr (2005).
It was concluded in this research that the students' age had a negative effect on the students' performance. This result is consistent with the results of the researches of Bahrami and Hasanzadeh (2001).
It was concluded in this research that the students' gender had no effect on their performance in chemistry. This result is inconsistent with the results of the research of Jacobs (cited in Banya, 2005). This inconsistency may be due to the difference of the two researches statistical populations.
In the whole, it was found in this research that the educational factors can affect the university students' performance in the lesson "general chemistry 1". It appears that such an influence is exerted through the improvement of the students' learning, and then it shows itself in the apparent aspect of learning, i.e. performance. Learning has three domains: cognitive, emotional and psycho-motor. Thus, the above educational factors might cause an improvement in the students' performance through influencing these three domains or some of them. In other words, these factors may improve the students' knowledge, interest, and behavior toward chemistry. Each of the levels of these three domains can also be affected by the educational factors; e.g. the students can behave better, through these factors, in the levels of knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, combination, and evaluation, and so on. On the other hand, educational factors can cause the improvement of their attitude to chemistry through improving their knowledge on chemistry, and can cause the improvement of their behavior on chemistry through improving their attitude toward chemistry.
The results of this research suggest that, in order to improve
the students' performance on chemistry, the professors of chemistry
(1) increase the amount of motivation of the students toward chemistry,
(2) pay attention to the students' previous experiences on chemistry,
(3) create a very good and suitable emotional conditions and situation for students, and
(4) pay attention to the evaluation procedures and lab's possibilities of chemistry.
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