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1.1. Background to the Study

Reading is a multifaceted cognitive process that involves the interaction of various skills and components, leading to the comprehension and interpretation of written text. At its core, reading is the ability to decode written symbols and transform them into meaningful information, allowing individuals to access a wealth of knowledge, ideas, and perspectives. This intricate process encompasses both bottom-up processes, such as decoding individual letters and words, and top-down processes, which involve using background knowledge and contextual clues to infer meaning. According to the interactive model of reading proposed by Kintsch (2020), reading is not a one-way process but a dynamic interaction between the reader’s prior knowledge, the text’s content, and the cognitive processes that bridge the gap between them. This model emphasizes the reader’s active role in constructing meaning from the text, highlighting the importance of comprehension rather than mere word recognition.

Reading comprehension refers to the intricate cognitive process through which individuals construct meaning from written text by engaging with its content, structure, and context. It encompasses the capacity to decode and recognize words while simultaneously understanding their semantic significance, syntactic relationships, and the overall narrative or informational framework of the text. Reading comprehension also involves the integration of prior knowledge, experiences, and background information with the textual content to derive a coherent interpretation. According to Okunade (2021) this process requires not only the extraction of explicit information but also the ability to infer implicit meanings, draw connections, make predictions, and critically evaluate the text’s credibility and logical coherence. Effective reading comprehension involves a dynamic interaction between bottom-up processes, such as word recognition and syntax, and top-down processes, including schema activation and strategic reading skills, all contributing to the reader’s holistic understanding of the text’s intended message and underlying concepts.

The importance of reading comprehension in education cannot be overemphasized. Reading comprehension stands as a cornerstone of education and personal development, offering a multitude of benefits that extend across various domains. At its core, proficient reading comprehension empowers individuals to access a diverse range of information, from academic textbooks to news articles, literature, research papers, and online resources. According to Basila and Jajua (2019) this ability fosters lifelong learning by enabling individuals to stay informed about current events, trends, and advancements in their fields of interest. Moreover, reading comprehension facilitates the acquisition of knowledge across disciplines, allowing individuals to expand their horizons and cultivate a well-rounded perspective. In an educational context, reading comprehension is crucial for academic success. It not only supports the acquisition of subject-specific knowledge but also enhances critical thinking skills. Proficient readers engage in analytical thinking, evaluating arguments, identifying biases, and assessing the credibility of sources. These skills are essential not only for academic tasks but also for making informed decisions in everyday life. Beyond formal education, strong reading comprehension abilities contribute to professional growth by enabling individuals to stay updated with industry trends, research findings, and best practices in their respective fields.

Reading comprehension plays a pivotal role in enhancing cognitive abilities and communication skills. Engaging with complex texts requires readers to process intricate language structures, new vocabulary, and abstract concepts. This mental exercise strengthens vocabulary development, language fluency, and syntactic awareness. Moreover, reading comprehension fosters critical thinking and problem-solving skills by prompting readers to analyze, synthesize, and interpret information from various sources, contributing to a more well-rounded intellectual capacity. Effective reading comprehension also correlates with improved communication skills. Through exposure to well-constructed sentences, diverse writing styles, and different perspectives, individuals develop a greater command of language, enabling them to articulate their thoughts more clearly and persuasively (Menakaya, Muazu & Mbegbu, 2022). This proficiency in communication extends to both written and spoken forms, enhancing the ability to convey complex ideas, engage in meaningful discussions, and participate actively in professional and social interactions. Overall, the importance of reading comprehension cannot be overstated, as it serves as a catalyst for personal growth, intellectual enrichment, and effective communication in an increasingly information-driven world.

The state of teaching reading comprehension in secondary schools in Nigeria is marked by a combination of challenges and efforts to improve literacy skills among students. While reading comprehension is a fundamental skill crucial for academic success and overall cognitive development, several factors contribute to the complexities faced in Nigerian secondary schools. Limited access to quality educational resources, including up-to-date textbooks, reading materials, and technology, hinders the ability to provide students with diverse and engaging texts that promote effective comprehension. According to Omovie and Kpangban (2023) this is exacerbated by inadequate infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, where schools may lack libraries, conducive learning environments, and necessary facilities to support reading-focused activities. Furthermore, the shortage of qualified and well-trained teachers who specialize in literacy instruction presents a significant obstacle. Many educators may not possess the necessary pedagogical knowledge and strategies to teach reading comprehension effectively, leading to a lack of systematic instruction and appropriate guidance for students. The curriculum’s focus on examination-oriented approaches often prioritizes rote memorization over the development of critical thinking and analytical skills required for proficient reading comprehension. This results in a narrow approach to learning that fails to foster a deep understanding of texts.

Efforts to address these challenges have been put in place in Nigeria as the government, non-governmental organizations, and international partners acknowledge the significance of improving literacy rates and reading comprehension. Initiatives like teacher training, interactive curriculum reforms, and distribution of reading materials aim to enhance reading instruction. Collaborative endeavors involving educators, parents, and communities are essential in fostering a reading culture. While challenges persist in teaching reading in Nigerian secondary schools, ongoing initiatives focusing on infrastructure, teacher training, curriculum enhancement, and community involvement are crucial for nurturing strong reading comprehension skills. According Sinaga and Manik (2021).these efforts involve specialized training for educators in interactive reading methods and comprehension strategies, adapting curricula to prioritize literacy across subjects with culturally relevant materials, fostering a reading ethos through book clubs and storytelling, targeted early interventions for foundational skills, technology integration for engagement, continuous assessment and inclusive practices, parent and community participation through workshops and mentorship, and collaborative research for evidence-based improvements. Ultimately, a holistic strategy involving teacher development, curriculum refinement, and societal engagement is pivotal in equipping students with robust reading abilities for lifelong learning success.

Spaced learning is a teaching and learning technique that involves breaking down learning into shorter, more frequent sessions with intervals of rest and reflection in between. This method has been found to be an effective technique for improving memory retention and recall. The idea behind this approach is that learning in shorter, more frequent sessions allows for the consolidation of knowledge over a more extended period, which helps students to retain information for a more extended period. Research has shown that spacing out learning sessions improves retention and recall because the brain has more time to process and store information (Amos, 2019). The brain needs time to consolidate information into long-term memory, and spaced learning allows this process to occur more effectively. With each spaced learning session, the brain is given another opportunity to consolidate and strengthen the connections between neurons, leading to better long-term memory. Spaced learning has been widely used in various educational settings, including language learning, medical training, and professional development. However, its effectiveness in senior secondary school has not been adequately studied. Senior secondary school students face numerous challenges, including a wide range of subjects to study, high-stakes exams, and extracurricular activities, which can make it difficult to implement spaced learning effectively. Despite these challenges, there are several ways that spaced learning can be implemented in senior secondary schools. One approach is to break down subjects into smaller, more manageable topics, and then use spaced learning to cover each topic over a more extended period. This can help students to retain information more effectively because they are given more opportunities to consolidate their knowledge.

Another approach is to incorporate spaced learning into homework assignments and review sessions. Instead of assigning large amounts of homework in one sitting, teachers can break assignments into shorter, more frequent sessions, with intervals of rest and reflection in between. This approach can help students to retain information better because they are given more opportunities to consolidate their knowledge and identify areas where they need additional support (Samuel, 2017). Therefore, spaced learning has been shown to be an effective technique for improving memory retention and recall. Although its effectiveness in senior secondary schools has not been adequately studied, there are several ways that spaced learning can be implemented effectively in this educational setting. By breaking down subjects into smaller, more manageable topics and incorporating spaced learning into homework assignments and review sessions, senior secondary school students can retain information more effectively and perform better on exams.

The study will focus on senior secondary school students in Bokkos Local Government Area, who are preparing for their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). This examination is essential for students to gain admission into higher institutions of learning, and their performance can significantly affect their future prospects.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

            Ideally, senior secondary school students within the Bokkos Local Government Area should possess well-honed reading comprehension skills, enabling them to delve into a wide range of written materials, comprehend their content deeply, and extract nuanced information. This skill is pivotal not only for their academic progress but also for their ability to engage with various forms of information in their daily lives.

However, the present state of reading comprehension among senior secondary school students in the Bokkos Local Government Area is a matter of concern. An analysis of their performance in reading comprehension assessments indicates a notable gap between the expected proficiency level and the actual outcomes. This disparity suggests that these students are encountering difficulties in adequately comprehending the content of diverse texts.

Educators and educational institutions have diligently employed conventional teaching methods to enhance students’ reading comprehension skills. These methods encompass the conventional classroom-based instruction, prescribed textbooks, and sporadic reading exercises. While these approaches serve as a foundation for learning, they may not be sufficiently effective in addressing the multifaceted challenges that students encounter when trying to comprehend intricate textual material.

Despite the commendable efforts invested in employing these instructional methodologies, the prevalent issue of inadequate reading comprehension persists among the senior secondary school students. Their struggles to grasp the meaning, context, and implications of sophisticated texts endure, raising concerns about their ability to fully engage with and interpret the complex information they encounter.

The ramifications of this deficiency in reading comprehension extend beyond the academic realm. Students grappling with suboptimal comprehension skills may find themselves hampered in subjects that demand in-depth understanding and critical analysis of textual material. Beyond academics, these limitations may impede their capacity to make informed decisions, engage effectively in discussions, and appreciate the broader implications of written communication.

Given the potential far-reaching implications of this issue, it is imperative to address this problem earnestly. The goal is to not only enhance the students’ immediate academic experiences but also to equip them with a skillset that will serve them well in their future pursuits. In light of this, an innovative approach that shows promise in enhancing reading comprehension is spaced learning.

While various pedagogical methods have been explored to enhance reading comprehension skills, there remains a noticeable gap in research specifically examining the effects of spaced learning techniques on the reading comprehension capabilities of senior secondary school students within the Bokkos Local Government Area. This specific gap warrants attention, as the outcomes of previous methods might not align with the potential transformative impact that spaced learning could introduce.

In light of the considerations outlined above, this research endeavor seeks to investigate the potential positive impact of spaced learning methodologies on the reading comprehension performance of senior secondary school students in the Bokkos Local Government Area. By addressing this specific research void, the study aspires to offer educators, curriculum designers, and policymakers insights into an innovative instructional strategy that holds promise in significantly elevating students’ reading comprehension skills. Ultimately, the aim is to empower students with the proficiency to understand, analyze, and interpret written content effectively, thereby enhancing their academic achievements and future prospects.

1.3 Purpose of the Study     

The main purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of spaced learning on reading comprehension skills of junior secondary school students in Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State in order to:

  1. measure the difference in the performance of students who are exposed to spaced learning and those not exposed to it in answering comprehension questions.
  2. determine whether or not spaced learning also help improve students’ vocabulary development.
  3. Determine the extent to which spaced learning help improve students’ summary abilities.

1.4 Research Questions

            The following questions have been raised to guide the study:

  1. What is the difference in the performance of students who are exposed to spaced learning and those not exposed to it in answering comprehension questions?
  2. To what extent has spaced learning improved students’ vocabulary development in English?
  3. To what extent has spaced learning improved students’ ability to summarizing the passages?

1.6 Significance of the Study

The findings of this study will be of benefit to students, teachers, curriculum planners/developers, Ministry of Education and future researchers.

Students: Senior secondary school students in Bokkos Local Government Area stand to benefit directly from the study. They may experience improved reading comprehension skills if spaced learning is found to be effective, potentially leading to better academic performance.

Teachers: Educators in Bokkos Local Government Area can benefit from insights into effective teaching strategies. If spaced learning proves to be successful in enhancing reading comprehension, teachers can incorporate this method into their teaching practices to better support their students.

School Administrators: School administrators and principals can use the study’s findings to make informed decisions about curriculum development, resource allocation, and professional development for teachers, all aimed at improving reading comprehension outcomes.

Parents/Guardians: Parents and guardians of students in Bokkos Local Government Area can gain insights into effective learning methods and strategies. They can provide better support and guidance to their children in their academic pursuits.

Local Education Authorities: The local education authorities in Bokkos can use the study’s results to inform policy decisions and resource allocation related to improving reading comprehension skills among senior secondary school students.

Researchers and Academics: Scholars and researchers interested in the field of education can benefit from the study’s findings as it adds to the body of knowledge on effective teaching and learning strategies, particularly in the context of reading comprehension.

Curriculum Developers: Those responsible for designing and revising the curriculum in Bokkos Local Government Area can use the study’s findings to incorporate effective reading comprehension strategies into the curriculum.

Community and Society: A more educated and literate population can have positive effects on the community and society as a whole. Improved reading comprehension skills among senior secondary school students can lead to more informed and engaged citizens.

Future Students: As the study contributes to the knowledge base on effective learning strategies, future generations of senior secondary school students in Bokkos may benefit from improved teaching methods and materials.

In summary, the study’s beneficiaries encompass a broad spectrum of stakeholders, ranging from students and teachers to educational authorities and the wider community, all of whom have a vested interest in improving reading comprehension outcomes among senior secondary school students in Bokkos Local Government Area.

1.7 Scope and Delimitation of the Study

The researcher is aware of other reading challenges, existing methods and other problems in reading as a skill, however, the present study covers effects of spaced learning strategy on senior students’ performance in reading comprehension. It is restricted to selected secondary schools in Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State. However, despite the fact that the study is restricted to the selected Local Government Area, its findings will be generic or it can be generalized to other parts of the state and country at large.

1.8 Operational Definitions of Terms

Spaced learning: A learning technique where studying materials are organized into small, manageable sections with breaks or intervals of time in between each section. This technique allows for better retention and recall of information over longer periods of time.

Performance: Achievement or success in a particular subject or activity, as measured by grades or test scores.

Senior Secondary School: The last three years of formal education in Nigeria, typically attended by students aged 15-18 years old and divided into three levels: SS1, SS2, and SS3.

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  • Chapter 1 to 5
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