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Science is the bedrock on which modern day technological breakthrough is hinged. Different authors according to their own understanding have defined Science. Igwe (2003) defined science as a systematic study of the nature of the behaviour of the material and physical universe through observation, experimentation, measurement and recording. In addition, Esu (2004) defined science as a systematic, precise, objective way to study the natural world.

In recent times, countries all over the world, especially the developing ones like Nigeria, are striving hard to develop technologically and scientifically, since the world is turning Scientific and all proper functioning of lives depend greatly on Science. According to Ogunleye (2006), Science is a dynamic human activity concerned with understanding the workings of our world. This understanding helps man to know more about the universe. Without the application of science, it would have been difficult for man to explore the otherBiology is one of the science subjects that senior secondary school students offer at the senior levels in the Nigerian secondary schools, (FRN, 2004). Biology is a very important science subject and a requirement for further learning of a number of science-related professional courses like medicine, agriculture, pharmacy, etc. In contemporary Nigeria, greater emphasis is placed on science and technological development. As a result, students are being encouraged to take up science-related subjects. Today, Biology pervades literally every field of human endeavour, and plays a fundamental role in educational advancement. This is seen in all the technological advancement in the world today, which is because of scientific investigations. However, the issue remains that in most secondary schools in Nigeria, there is high rate of failure in the subject.

Studies have shown that the use of instructional materials have improved achievement (George, 2008) and Nwagbo (2006). Instructional materials are wide varieties of equipment and materials use for teaching and learning by teachers to stimulate self-activity on the part of the students. The teaching of Biology without instructional materials may certainly result in poor academic achievement. Poor academic achievement in Biology could also be attributed to many factors such as, low interest of students in biology, inadequate motivation from teacher, poor incentives to biology teachers, lack of adequate supply of instructional material, lack of qualified teachers, and use of teacher centered instructional strategies, inadequate use of instructional materials and use of abstract standardized materials. Among these factors, teacher’s use of abstract standardized instructional strategy is considered as an important factor in this study.

This implies that the mastery of Biology concepts might not be fully achieved without the use of instructional resources that the students are abreast with. The teaching of Biology without instructional materials may certainly result in poor academic achievement. Folorunso (2004) observed that there is lack of adequate and appropriate instructional resources for effective teaching of Biology in schools. For Ibitoye and Fape (2007), the poor achievement in biology was traced to poor usage of instructional resources for biology teaching and learning, poor state of infrastructure facilities, large class size, poor teaching, use of faulty assessment practice, and inadequacy of quality teachers. According to Okebukola (2004), the poor state of laboratory facilities and inadequate use of instructional materials has constituted a cog in the wheel of students’ achievement in Biology in the Senior School Examination. The verbal exposition does not promote skill acquisition, objectivity, and critical thinking abilities that will enable the child to function effectively in the society.

Classification of Instructional Materials

The Instructional Materials could best be Classification in to three forms: audio, visual and audiovisual aids4. The audio (deal with sound only) the visual (as in sight) and audio-visual (a combination of audio and visual i.e. sound and vision) for instance:

AUDIO: These include such things as Radio, Record players cassettes gramophone etc. These aid teaching through the sense of hearing. They can be used in teaching.

VISUAL: The category of this consist of maps, Film steps, specimen, pictures, charts, Blackboard, posters etc. This category appeals to the pupils through the sense of sight, the saying that seeing, is believing applies to some extent in this context. Until facts are presented in form of visual aid, pupils may not readily grasp the meaning of ideas, concepts and facts.

AUDIO-VISUAL: As have said already, this group consists of a combination of both audio and visual materials. They are therefore things like Television films and projector etc, the use of these aids learning greatly.

TEXTBOOKS as a medium of instruction have two distinct functions-that of a reference source of information and that of a sequenced medium of instruction or learning. Few standard textbooks are approximately sequenced for independent study, and written in a self-instructional style. So, those access devices, study guides, self-assessment materials, recapitulations, learning objectives and so on will be needed? When the student is studying will be need to have both the text and the supplementary material side by side and continually oscillate from one to the other. This may be inconvenient and frustrating.


According to Ajayi (2004), improvisation is the provision of alternatives to real things. Improvisation is the making of substitutes when the real equipment or material is not adequate or available (Okebukola, 2002). It is the art of providing and using alternative materials or resources in the absence of the real or factory made one. Oyediran (2010) also defines improvisation as the art of using materials or equipment obtained from local environment or produced by the teacher, and with the assistance of the local personnel to enhance instruction. In other to teach by inquiry method or use activity based instructions, improvisation is required since instructional materials seem not to be adequate (Okebukola, 2002). Bassey (2002) defined improvisation as the process of making equipment and materials by the students or by engaging the services of others in the absence of real or manufactured ones. Generally, improvisation of instructional materials is an attempt to adapt and make use of local resources in the teaching/learning process when the ready- made materials are not available or are in shortfall or not within the reach of users. The teacher and the students could produce the improvised instructional materials. According to Okebukola (2002), improvisation in the context of biology can be seen as the process of using alternative resources for enhancing biology teaching in the absence of the real ones. The teacher initiates the production of the alternative resources, which is constructed by either the teacher or the local artisans e.g. carpenters blacksmiths etc. The teacher may use the students for improvising some of the needed materials or equipments.

Improvisation is a technique of originating a very new tool, instrument, materials, device or modifying existing ones for serving a particular purpose. Improvisation of instructional materials in secondary schools for teaching/learning purposes cannot be over­emphasized. To be able to promote quality instruction in our school system, there is the need to pay attention to improvisation of instructional materials in the teaching/learning process. Esu (2004) however noted that improvisation demands adventure, creativity, curiosity and perseverance on the part of the teacher, such skills are only realizable through well-planned training programme on improvisation. Fajola (2008) sees improvisation from the creativity involved. These creativity are substitution and construction. Substitution in improvisation simply implies the techniques whereby an already local material is used in place of a piece of equipment that is not available whereas construction involves making of a new instrument to serve in place of the unavailable original one, where substitution is not possible. Esu (2004), however asserted that improvisation provides connectivity between students abstract and real experience of teaching and learning.

In deciding on teaching materials there are a number of options:

  • Choosing a suitable published course
  • Adapting a published course to match the needs of the course
  • Using teacher-made materials and authentic materials as the basis for the course.

There are a number of advantages to using institutionally derived or teacher derived materials for a course:

  • Relevance: Materials can be produced that are directly relevant to students’ and institutional needs and that reflect local content, issues, and concerns. Develop expertise: Developing materials can help develop expertise among staff, giving them a greater understanding of the characteristics of effective materials.
  • Reputation: Institutionally prepared materials may enhance the reputation of the institution by demonstrating its commitment to providing materials specifically for its students.
  • Flexibility: Materials produced within the institution can be revised or adapted as needed, giving them greater flexibility than a commercial course book.

However there are also potential disadvantages:

  • Cost: Quality materials take time to produce and adequate staff time as well as resources need to be allocated.
  • Quality: Teacher-made materials will not normally have the same standard of design and production as commercial materials and hence may not present the same image as commercial materials.
  • Training: To prepare teachers for materials writing projects, adequate training is necessary. Materials writing is a specialized skill and not all teachers area capable of writing good materials.

In many situations textbooks form the basis of the curriculum in language programs. Provided there is a good degree of fit between the textbook and the teaching context teachers use textbooks to provide the major source of input and direction to their teaching. Thus does not necessarily mean that the teacher plays a secondary role in the teaching process since teachers normally improvise around their teaching materials, moving back and forth between book-based input and teacher-initiated input. Hence even though a teacher may teach the same lesson from a textbook many times, each time he or she teaches it becomes a different lesson due to the improvisations the teacher initiates during teaching. These may result from on-the-spot decisions relating to timing, affective factors, and responses to learner difficulties. Experienced teachers hence use textbooks flexibly as a teaching resource.

Sometimes however adaptation may be required to reflect the needs of a specific teaching context. Various forms of adaptation are possible:

  • Adding material to address an examination requirement: sometimes supplementary material may need to be added to address the requirements of a specific institutional or other exam. For example the reading component of an institutional text may make use of multiple-choice questions rather than the kinds of comprehension tasks found in a course book, so extra material to practice using multiple-choice questions may be needed.
  • Extending to provide additional practice:a book unit has a limited number of pages and at times the teacher may feel additional practice of grammar, vocabulary or skills is required and sources additional materials to supplement the book.
  • Localizing:an activity in the book may be more effective if it is modified to reflect local issues and content rather than the content that is discussed in the coursebook Localization also involves adapting or supplementing an activity to address the specific needs of a group of learners. For example pronunciation problems might reflect interference form the students’ first language and these might not be covered in the book. Additional activities can be added to address problems specific to the learners.
  • Modifying content: Content may need to be changed because it does not suit the target learners, perhaps because of the learners’ age, gender, social background, occupation, religion or cultural background.
  • Reorganizing content: A teacher may decide to reorganize the syllabus of the book, and arrange the units in what she or he considers a more suitable order. Or within a unit the teacher may decide not to follow the sequence of activities in the unit but to reorganize them for a particular reason.
  • Modifying tasks: Exercises and activities may need to be changed to give them an additional focus. For example, a listening activity may focus only on listening for information, so it adapted so that students listen a second or third time for a different purpose. An activity may be extended to provide opportunities for more personalized practice. Or some exercises within a sequence may be dropped.

While in many cases a book may work perfectly well without the need for much adaptation, in some cases different levels of adaptation may be needed. Through the process of adaptation the teacher personalize the text, making it a better teaching resource, and individualizes it for a particular group of learners. Normally this process takes place gradually as the teacher becomes more familiar with the book because the dimensions of the text that need adaptation may not be apparent until the book is tried out in the classroom.

Improvisation serves the following purposes in the education system:

It reduces the money spent on the purchase of equipment in educational institutions; ensures the realization of lesson objectives; helps in solving the problem of lack of equipment in educational institutions; gives room for a teacher to demonstrate his creative skills and gives room for the use of cheap local materials as alternatives to the expensive foreign ones (Olumorin, 2004). The researcher stated that improvisation encourages students towards the development of creative abilities; strengthen enquiry, discovery and investigative method in sciences; it provides a frame of reference on which students can key their attention during classroom activities; enables teacher to think of cheaper, better and faster methods of making teaching learning process easier for students; affords students the opportunity of becoming familiarwith resources in their environment.

Factors that affect the use of Instructional Resources

Teachers have been found to have difficulties in selecting and using instructional materials for teaching. Part of the difficulties has been that teachers tend to teach the way they were taught in their training (NERCD, 2009). Consequently, teachers use the materials they were exposed to during their training. This habit is often difficult for teachers to change. Other reasons advanced for the inability of teachers to use instructional resources effectively include:

  • Inability to identify/ locate resources;
  • Inability to develop appropriate materials from local resources;
  • Lack of school- based resource Centre; and
  • For instructional materials development, selection and utilization and
  • Lack of short term training to update teachers’ knowledge and skill for instructional materials development, selection and utilization (NERDC, 2009).

In line with the stated reasons, the biology laboratories are to be equipped appropriately to make teaching and learning conducive. According to Nwakonobi & Igboabuchi (2010), biology laboratories are places where different types of experiments and researches concerning all disciplines of life sciences take place for skills acquisition.

However, these skills cannot be acquired in the absence of well-equipped biology laboratories to enhance effective teaching and learning which is geared towards empowering the students to become functionally and qualitatively, educated, productive, self-reliant, and sufficient and create enabling environment. All these are aimed at devising a proper opportunity to salvage the medium of instruction in the national educational system. It is against this background that the researcher decided to investigate the effect of students’ produced- improvised instructional materials on the academic achievement of secondary schools students in biology examination.

Improvisation and Skills for Improvisation

Generally, improvisation of instructional materials in science teaching particularly biology is an attempt to adapt and make use of local resources in the teaching/ learning process when the readymade materials are not available or are in short fall or not within the reach of the users. The improvised instructional materials could be produced by the teacher and the students. According to Fajola (2008), improvisation in the context of biology can be defined as a process of using alternative resources for enhancing biology teaching in the absence or shortage of the real ones. The production of the alternative resources is initiated by the teacher and done either by him or the local craftsmen (e.g. the Carpenter, blacksmiths, wielder, etc). The teacher may also use the students for improvising some of the needed materials or equipments.

Improvisation in the view of Aremu (1998) is a technique of originating a totally new tool, instrument, materials, device or modifying existing ones for serving a particular purpose. Ahmed (2010) sees improvisation as the process of making equipment and materials by the teacher or by engaging the services of others in the absence of the real or manufactured ones. Wasagu (2000), described improvisation as the act of using alternative materials and resources to facilitate instruction whenever there is a lack of or shortage of some specific first hand teaching aid. When students are involved in the production of improvised instructional materials through their creative ability and imagination, it gives new concept of things outside the range of ordinary experience to the students and makes learning last longer in their memory. For a student to be able to improvise, he/she must be innovative, resourceful and creative in both thinking and manipulative skills (Igwe, 2003).

Fajola (2008) looked at improvisation from the level of creativity involved. These levels involve substitution and construction. Substitution in improvisation simply implies the techniques whereby a local material is used in place of a piece of equipment that is not available whereas construction involves making of a new instrument in place of the unavailable original one where substitution is not possible. It is expected that both substitution and construction of improvised instructional materials will meet the demand for the real or original material with as high precision as time, money and other facilities and factors will permit.

According to Ehikioya (2000), the major reason for improvisation stems from the fact that educational funding is insufficient and in the recent years seriously dwindling. Educational authorities find it increasingly difficult to provide the schools with all they need for teaching and learning. Ahmed (2010), claimed that instructional resources ensure that the learners see, hear, feel, recognize and appreciate as they learn, utilizing almost all the five senses at the same time. Olagunjo (2000), however, asserted that improvisation provides a cognitive ‘bridge’ between students abstract and real experience of teaching and learning. According to Olagunjo (2008), when a teacher improvises, it enables him to re-think and research for cheaper, better, and faster methods of making the learning process easy and safefor both the students and the teachers.

Abolade (2004), maintained that improvisation of instructional materials provide direct experience with reality as well as encourage active participation and acquisition of skills especially where students are allowed to manipulate the materials. According to Abolade (2004), the attainment of affective and psychomotor domains is increased by improvisation. When students are motivated by their teacher to produce or source their own instructional materials, it greatly arouses the students’ interest to learning and development of scientific attitude. Improvisation, therefore, enables students to exhibit their latent potentialities, improve their creativity and as well discover new things.

Factors to be considered in planning improvisation

There are certain factors to be considered when planning improvisation. They are:

  • Who will be making the materials teacher, students, or both?
  • The time, effort and skills required both by the teacher and by the students.
  • The knowledge of the basics; the material could require the use of a range of scientific principles, applications and techniques and the teacher should fairly well be acquainted with them.
  • The steps involved.
  • The objectives and goals: the teacher needs to identify and focus on the ultimate objectives, which learning behavior he/she wants to inculcate in the students and if improvisation can achieve it.

Motivating and involvement level of the class especially if kids are to be involved in making it. The teacher needs to motivate the class, raise their curiosity and admire their creativity. There should be proper interacted and constant feedback.

  • The teacher innovativeness, creativity and resourcefulness: to be considered also, are the teacher’s management and co-ordination skills.
  • Collection of materials and tools required sometimes, one might need to buy some tools and materials too, hence some monetary funding.
  • The durability of the materials used.
  • Working and storage space to make and store the materials. Also to be considered are when the materials (standardized materials) are easily and cheaply available, you may be better off buying them than improvising.

It is worthy to note that these definitions above presuppose that an improvised instructional material must necessarily serve the purpose for which it is intended. It is not just providing a piece of material or resource as substitute of what is not available.

Theories on Improvising Instructional Materials

Jerome Bruner’s Learning Theory

Bruner introduced the concept of learning by discovery. Bruner is of the view that learning is effectively engaged in if the learner is giving the opportunity to discover facts by him/herself. Bruner argues that mere presentation of information will not enhance effective solution of a problem. The theory stresses cognitive effectiveness. Because of this, some referred to Bruner’s theory of learning as Bruner’s theory of cognitive development. Bruner believed that learning by discovery begins when science teacher purposefully (i.e. intentionally) create (present) a problem and present it to the students by introducing some inconsistencies (i.e. contradictions) among source of information which are giving in the process of instruction. According to Bruner such inconsistencies lead to intellectual discomfort that will stimulate (i.e. motivate) the students to initiate individual discoveries through cognitive restructuring (i.e. internal reorganization).

According to Bruner there are two forms of discovery processes which are:

Assimilation: This occurs when a student recognizes a new situation that is familiar to one of the elements in the existing structure of knowledge (i.e. cognitive structure) and he/she easily assimilates it.

Accommodation: This occurs when a new situation (i.e. a new knowledge) is incompatible to the existing structure of knowledge (i.e. cognitive structure) the learner first restructures (i.e. reorganizes) his/her cognitive framework (i.e. cognitive structure) in order to be able to accommodate the new knowledge.

Bruner believes that the students should find out information on their own using mental processes. The theory places great emphasis on the three types of human activity for learning i.e. the three information processing systems which are:

  • Physical activity (motor activities) called Enactive representation.
  • Imagery called Ionic representation.
  • Symbolic activities

Piaget’s Theory of learning

Piaget’s cognitive theory of learning refers to the stage theory of cognitive development. According to Piaget, children develop knowledge by inventing or constructing reality out of experience and thus mix their observation with their ideas about how the world works. Piaget observed that people of the same age level (especially children) have a similar line of reasoning. For instance, children of the same age level have similar line of reasoning or thinking. Children may make the same type of mistakes. They may have the same reasoning process. This indicates that cognition develops stage by stage. Piaget used the terms ‘Assimilation’ and ‘Accommodation’ to explain his views.

Assimilation: Assimilation means a process of interpreting actions or events in relation to one’s schemas. This refers to a means of fitting reality into one’s existing structures of knowledge. The term ‘schemas’, for Piaget, refers to a well-defined sequence of physical and mental actions.


It is clearly evident that emerging private primary teacher training colleges lacked adequate facilities and learning resources. The status of instructional materials, equipment and facilities are inadequate, obsolete, dilapidated and unsuitable for preparing competent teachers. This state of affairs raises concern about the quality of teachers from emerging private primary teacher training colleges serving in the school system. The proliferations of training institutions in such conditions are a manifestation of the ineffectiveness or near to total collapse of the systems of monitoring and regulation of teacher training institutions. Although the situation might improve, inadequate instructional materials and resources in teaching and learning prevent these institutions from contributing to the production of up-to date and specialized knowledge for their trainees.


Based on the findings of this study, and their implications, the following recommendations are made.

  • The teaching of Biology in secondary school should be conducted in a manner that students will effectively understand and learn the concept taught. It should be practical as the use of improvised instructional materials has play greater role in students’ achievement.
  • Teacher should try to improvise instructional materials and encourage students to do the same. This will gives students enough understanding of Biology concepts as the child’s local environment will be use to source for the materials.
  • There should be cordial relationship between policy makers and schools for the provision of essential resource materials, like laboratory, glass wares, reagents, microscope, burner, etc.
  • It is suggested that regular meaningful workshop on improvisation technique for Science teachers should be conducted to improve and update their competence in teaching.
  • At the local education authority level, effort should be made from time to time to organize workshops for Biology teachers on improvisation and needs for the use of instructional materials. This is to compliment the efforts of the Millennium Development.


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