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DETERMINING DIFFICULT CONCEPTS IN MAP WORK AMONG SENIOR SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS
Background of the Study
The contributions of Geography to sustainable national development in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. This is because it instills in the students a critical, inquiring mind and the basic communication skills such as literacy and numeracy to name but two. The National Policy of Education has it that the core subjects consist of six groups from which every student must make a choice of one subject (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004). Geography is in one of the groups and is offered by the science inclined students. Geography studies spatial form and spatial relations as well as the distribution of phenomena on the earth’s surface (Ofomata, 2008).
Ezeudu (2003) describes geography as a subject which concerns itself with the understanding of the spatial processes shaping the environment. At the secondary school level, geography stands on a tripod. The three subdivisions are physical geography, human and regional geography as well as map work. These subdivisions are interrelated. Physical geography deals with the natural environment while human and regional geography address issues which directly relate to human activities (Amosun and Oderinde, 2004). Map work on the other hand, deals with the representation on paper and analysis of selected geographical information which may be physical or human and regional.
The objectives of geography education at the secondary school level were outlined by Nigerian Educational Research Council (1985), Mansaray (1992) and West African Examination Council (2009) as follows;
- to understand the concepts of differential character and spatial relationships of the features on the earth’s surface.
- to understand the concept of man-environment relations.
- to develop in students the ability to appreciate the problems and peculiarities of other people.
- to develop critical thinking ability in the students.
- to develop in the students the skills and techniques for accurate, orderly and objective geographical investigation.
Maps aid the achievement of the objectives of geography as it is a convenient inventory of selected information made available for immediate visual inspection, in the form of exact locations and spatial patterns which are manifestations of a variety of relationships (Ofomata, 2008). Maps are representations on paper which contain both man-made and natural features on the earth’s surface (Okereafor, 2010). Maps therefore make it possible for the geographer to represent and analyze the distribution and relationships of phenomena in space. To this extent, Martin and Thompson (2008) hold that map is the most important tool of geography and may be used to record either simple data or the results of complicated geographic study. They further note that maps are designed to indicate by means of symbols, not only the location but also the characteristics of geographic features of an area.
The improvement in mapping technology especially through the use of Global Positioning System (GPS), Laser Rangefinder and softwares like the Geographic Information System (GIS), has made accurate map production easy and faster (Pickles, 2003). Contemporarily, maps are used in almost every field of human endeavour. For instance, they are used in transportation, tourism, town planning, census, military, economic planning an son on. Thus Ehrenberg (2005) posits that the uses of a map depend on the type of map and the information it contains. Simple maps contain few information and little or no map reading skills are required to use it. Complex maps according to Ovenden (2007) demand some basic map reading skills on map interpretation as they may contain the exact location of many land form features, actual distance, elevation, vegetation, political divisions, drainage features, cultural features, land use patterns and so on.
Map reading is the analysis of the representations on a map using the signs and symbols. Therefore the understanding of the content of a map is dependent on the ability to recognize and interpret the symbols on the map. Map reading is an aspect of the geography curriculum in secondary education. it is taught by most secondary school in SSIII. It is imperative to highlight that the map reading section of the O’ level geography examinations presents one and the only compulsory question of the examinations.
The topographic map also known as a general reference map because of the variety of information it represents, is the map type use for the O’ level geography examinations. English (2009) holds that topographic maps show natural features, artificial features, cultural features and political boundaries of a part of the earth’s surface. Topographic maps are differentiated from other maps in that they show both the horizontal and vertical positions of the terrain (Martin and Thompson, 2008). Using a combination of contour lines, colours, symbols, labels and other graphical representations, topographic maps show the shapes and locations of mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, cities, roads, bridges, and many other man-made natural features. The understanding of the contents of topographic maps requires the application of certain relevant skills. The skills include measurement, calculation, interpretation of relief representation, description of the characteristics of features and relationships on maps.
The pursuance and realization of the objectives of geography would provide students with the critical skills and competences needed for national development (Amosun, 2002). Despite the importance of the subject, Amosun and Oderinde (2004) hold that it does not seem popular with students. Geography as a secondary school subject is perceived as a difficult subject with wide scope (Adegoke, 1987). Mansaray and Ajiboye (1994) have observed that 50% of the topics indicated by students as problematic fall in the area of map reading and physical geography. The WAEC Chief Examiner’s Reports over the years on the achievement of candidates in the O’ level Geography examinations show that Geography students who sat for the examinations performed poorly especially on the Map Reading section. Specifically, the WAEC Chief Examiner’s Report (2004) has it that most candidates could neither draw an annotated cross profile nor determine the intervisibility between given points. The report also points out most students’ failure to establish the relationship between relief and transportation as well as give reasons for the sparse population of the mapped area. Yet, in 2010, the WAEC Chief Examiner’s Report reveals that most candidates failed to identify correctly the given features on the topographic map. The students’ poor performance in map reading perhaps, is because it makes use of graphs, symbols and calculations as reported by Mansaray and Ajiboye (1994) and Amosun (2002).
Achievement test results over the years have shown an increasing gap between the performances of male and female secondary school students in science oriented subject (Onekutu, 2002). Lie and Sjoberg (1984) observe that invincible rules within the society have provided what is feminine and what is masculine. Hence, science oriented subjects in most cultures are defined as masculine (Eriba and Ande, 2006). This contrasts the millennium declaration of September 2000, which aims at the promotion of gender equity and the elimination of gender inequality in basic and secondary education by 2005 and at all levels by 2015 (United Nations, 2000). In realization of this laudable objective of Geography education, subject mastery and achievement should be evenly distributed across gender. Though it is believed that bridging the gender gap is one major way of enhancing human development, research findings in this area are not conclusive. Hence, the need to factor in the issue of gender, therefore, becomes paramount to this study.
Assessment as defined by Palomba and Banta (1999) is the systematic collection, review and use of information about educational programs undertaken for the purpose of improving learning and development. Valentia (1997) defines assessment as all activities a teacher uses to help students learn and to gauge students’ progress. Therefore, assessment refers to the different methods used by teachers to determine the extent to which the learners have mastered the intended learning outcome (s). Diagnostic assessment highlights students’ areas of strength and weakness. Bednarz and Petersen (1994) observe that assessment is a central element in the overall quality of teaching and learning in any educational process. It is an integral component of a coherent educational experience (Black, 1996). It guides and encourages effective approaches to learning. Again, assessment validly and reliably measures expected learning outcomes. Harbour-Peters (2003) suggests that the feedback function of assessment enables the teachers to assess their instructional methods regularly. Thus, assessment is central in the process of knowledge acquisition.
Statement of the Problem
Maps are convenient inventory of selected information made available for immediate visual inspection, in the form of exact locations and spatial patterns. Hence, maps have been described as the most important tool of Geography (Martin and Thompson, 2008). Despite this importance, Mansaray and Ajiboye (1994) reported that 50% of the Geography topics indicated by students as problematic fall in the area of map work. Again, the WAEC Chief Examiner’s Reports (2004, 2010) have highlighted the candidates’ poor performance in the map work section of the O’ level Geography examinations.
Achievement in map work is related to the understanding of the map work concepts. If the understanding of the map work concepts is poor, achievement in map work is bound to be poor. Could this poor achievement in map work be as a result of poor understanding of the map work concepts by Geography students? Therefore, the problem of this study is to find out the difficult concepts in map work among the SS111 Geography students in Nsukka Education Zone.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to identify the difficult concepts in secondary school map work in Nsukka Education Zone.
Specifically, this study intends to;
- identify the difficult concepts associated with map work in geography among senior secondary school students.
- determine the extent of difficulty of the concepts that involve calculation in map work in geography among senior secondary school students.
- determine the extent of difficulty of the concepts associated with measurement in map work in geography among senior secondary school students.
- identify the extent of difficulty in the description of the characteristics of different features on topographic maps.
- find out the extent of difficulty in the understanding of the representations of various landform features on topographic maps.
- determine the extent of difficulty in the description of relationships on topographic maps.
Scope of the Study
The study is on the identification of the difficult concepts in the map work aspect of the senior secondary school geography in Nsukka Education Zone. The map reading concepts to be involved in this study consist of concepts associated with topographic map which is the type of map used for the O’ level geography examination.
Significance of the Study
The findings of this study will be of immense benefit to the geography students, teachers and their schools. The specific ways this study is considered significant are presented below.
- The result of this study will help geography teachers know the concepts in map work students find difficult. It will thus make them place emphasis on these concepts while teaching their students map work.
- For the geography students, it will bring their focus to the difficult concepts in map work. There by making them work hard to over come the difficulty.
- The schools also stand a better chance of obtaining better results from their geography students in the O’ level geography examinations.
The following research questions have been stated to guide the study.
- What are the difficult concepts associated with map work in geography among senior secondary school students?
- To what extent are the concepts that involve calculation in map work difficult for senior secondary school students of geography?
- To what extent are the concepts associated with measurement in map work difficult for students of senior secondary school geography?
- To what extent is the description of the characteristics of different features on topographic maps difficult for senior secondary school geography students?
- To what extent is the understanding of the representations of various landform features in map work difficult for senior secondary school geography students?
- To what extent is the description of relationships on topographic maps difficult for senior secondary school students of geography?
There is no significant difference in the mean achievement on difficult concepts in map work between SS III male and female secondary school geography students.