I have been teaching Chemistry for the last seven years at Secondary, Higher Secondary and Degree level. I have experienced that most students fear the subject and hence they see chemistry as difficult to understand. This may be as a result of the abstract nature of subject, or lecture method being used by most of the chemistry teachers in Pakistan. Students’ anxiety for chemistry learning can also be attributed to students’ perceived difficult nature of chemistry; involvement of multitude of facts; and its disconnection from reality. Students’ anxiety for chemistry learning leads to loss of interest in the sciences.
Science anxiety is described as involving feelings of tension and anxiety that interfere with the manipulation of scientific equipment in a wide variety of ordinary life and academic situations. Science anxiety can be described as a state of discomfort which occurs in response to situations involving scientific tasks which are perceived as threatening to self esteem. Such feelings are shown to lead to panic, tension, helplessness, fear, distress, shame, inability to cope, sweaty palms, nervous stomach, difficulty in breathing, and loss of ability to concentrate. Previous research studies have suggested that anxiety causes students generally to withdraw from participation in teaching and learning process. It has been suggested that the solution to the anxiety problem and its resulting lack of participation may be found in teaching methodologies that move away from the more traditional, teacher-centered classrooms and concentrate more on student-centered, cooperative learning techniques (Gregersen, 1999). They investigated the effects of visual organization and cooperative learning on problem-solving strategy in chemistry and they reported that cooperative learning method reduced chemistry classroom anxiety in students.
Keeping in mind the above facts I used cooperative teaching method (Jigsaw) in my Higher Secondary chemistry class. I found it very useful for the conceptual understanding of the subject for the students. The students’ responses were also encouraging in this connection. The students found it very effective method of teaching because it allows active participation of students in the learning process makes it possible for the students to have control over their learning and this leads to improvement in students’ learning. Cooperative learning environment assumes that students seek information and understanding through active mental search with each group mirroring the make-up of the class in terms of ability, background and gender. The researchers and educators also argued that among all the instructional strategies for enhancing science achievement, emphasis is laid on the importance of group work (Jigsaw).
Jigsaw was originally developed by Aronson and colleagues in 1978 (Sarah & Cassidy, 2006). Jigsaw requires students to work in group of five to six members. Each student in a group is given information to which no one else in the group has access, thus making each student “expert” on his or her section of the subject matter. After receiving their assignments, each team member reads a section. Next, members of different teams who have studied the same sections meet in “expert groups” to discuss their sections. Then the students return to their original teams and take turn teaching their team mates what they have learnt. All students in a group are expected to learn all the subject matter assigned to members of their group. After the small group instruction, students are tested on the subject matter and receive individual grades or other rewards.
This positive effect of cooperative learning method on students’ anxiety for learning chemistry was as a result of its positive interdependence attribute, which made it possible for students to see that their success is dependent on their contributions, inclusion, and success of the other students in the group. In view of this, students were able to exchange ideas on given tasks among themselves and this made it possible for students with low intellectual ability and slow learners to gain from members of their groups. Hence, they became more confident and felt secured participating actively in chemistry lessons. On the other hand, when the lecture method is used, it does not bring about reduction in the chemistry anxiety level of the students.
I concluded that since cooperative learning methods of teaching reduced students’ chemistry anxiety, so chemistry and other science teachers should be encouraged to incorporate cooperative learning in their methods of teaching, so that the students’ learning outcomes will be enhanced.
The contributor is a lecturer at Aga Khan Higher secondary School Kuragh, Chitral.