A comparative study of students and teachers perception of students’ problems

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Background to the Study

Each stage or period of human life and development is associated with a number of problems.  Adolescence, a typical and distinct period in human growth and development, is not an exception and has sometimes been described as a specially problematic period.  Bakare writes that: The modern technological world has been aptly characterized by age of anxiety.  But perhaps there is no stage of development at which those stresses and conflicts are more acute than at adolescence since at this stage physiological changes combine with psychological and societal factors to make the period a particularly critical one for the individual.

The need for concern about others group of individual has been emphasized.  Dada remarked that: The adolescent comes for special treatment, because they have special physical and psychological needs; they vary widely in their physical, moral, intellectual, social and behavioural development.  They therefore need special treatment.

The problems of adolescent in secondary school students considered in this study were those which related to academic work, study skills and habits, and the adjustment the students have to make due to certain features of the school such as its teachers, physical facilities and curriculum.

A number of studies like those of Bakare, Adams and Akinloye to mention a few had revealed that adolescent secondary schools actually have these problems.  Some of the problems that have been specifically identified are; not knowing when and how to study.  Fear of academic failure, lack of space in the school to study, some subjects being very difficult to understand.  Fear to some teachers and principals and teachers having no regard for students’ needs and feelings.

There seems to be a close relationship between an individual’s needs and problems.  People perceive that they have problems when their needs are not satisfied.

According to Mouly, in as much as everyone has at all times multiple needs to satisfy, everyone is perpetually faced with adjustment problems and therefore, is potentially capable of being adjusted or maladjusted depending on the adequacy of his need – satisfying behaviour.  Also, Blair et al remarked that “delinquent acts would not be committed if the adolescent did not anticipate that they would satisfy some of his needs”.

In the school setting some of the students needs are teachers understanding, love and affection, books in the library to read, getting high marks, passing tests or examinations and securing a suitable place in the school to read.  When these needs are not satisfied, students become worried.

The problems that result from non-satisfaction of needs have serious consequence on both the individual students and the society for example, juvenile delinquency which has been “recognized as a perrasive social problem” and school dropout regarded as a “social dynamite” which constitute “… a serious threat to our free society”, may result.

Makinde in his study, stated that “academic problems may lead to truancy, cheating and lying…  The feelings of being unwanted may lead to truancy or latencies to classes”.  Circumstances within the school which student seems not to like such as lessons being too dull or too difficult, teachers being inconsiderable of students’ feelings, school being too strict, teachers been unfriendly or too hard to understand by students, often constitute problems which may lead to students withdrawal and consequent dropout from school.  The mass failure of secondary school finalists in the West African School Certificate Examination might be an indication or the aftermath of a large number of such problems which are related to academic work, study habits and school situation and which bothered students but remained unresolved while they were yet in the school.

The secondary school students, particularly as adolescent, need some assistance and guidance in finding lasting and appropriate solutions to these academic and social adjustment problems.  A student deserves some help, especially from understanding adults, including their teachers, in dealing or coping with at least some, not necessarity all, of his problems.  Peak and Mitchell had indicated that there is a strong need for this assistance with emphasis on the consequence of its lack.

No person has an unlimited amount of energy available and the anxious child invests so much of his energy in his problems that there in little left over to conduct his ordinary affair of life.

In Nigeria, secondary schools, including those in Oredo Local Government Area of Edo State, where Guidance and Counsellors are scarcely found, the assistance received by students in their efforts to adjust to their personal problems seem to come mainly from their teachers.  It is in support of their view that Lindgren states that “most of the day-to-day work with the emotional problems of school children is the `responsibility of the classroom teacher”.  After a review of students’ problems and comparison of the closeness of the teachers and counselors, interpersonal relationship with students, this author concluded that “for better or worse the teacher is in the position of being the students’ counsellor much of the time”.

In spite of teachers’ efforts, however, the type and severity of student’s problems and their consequence, tend to be on the increase as if nothing positive is being done towards minimizing or eliminating them.  This might be because of the sort of assistance provided by the teachers are inappropriate in the sense that they do not satisfy the needs with which the students’ problems are tied.

Appropriate solutions are eluding the teachers probably because they do not accurately perceive the students and teachers – would be in a better position to help students only if they perceive their own problems.  This implies that neither the trained counselor nor the trained teacher can provide appropriate answers to questions or problems they do not understand.  This argument has been supported by Blair et al.

According to these authors, teacher who understand adolescent and problems that encounter, can do much to help make a successful transition to adult status.  Too often, however, it seems that schools and teachers, because of lack of understanding, actually frustrate adolescent and contribute to their general maladjustment.

Consequently, if appropriate and lasting solutions are to be found for the academic, study and school adjustment problems of students, there should be an understanding of not merely the students but also their needs and problems by their teachers.  In other words, the appropriateness of teachers guidance in reducing the problems of adolescent students would depend largely on the extent and accuracy of teachers understanding of the students’ problems.  The criterion for accuracy in this respect would be the teachers of the students’ personal concern.  It seem that, in the Nigerian secondary schools teachers’ inability to perceive their problems might be one of the reasons related to why teachers have not been able to find appropriate and enduring solutions to the problems of students in their care.  It is against the background that the present study was formulated.

Statement of the Problem

These have been physical attacks on teachers, planned destruction of school property, various forms of adolescent student delinquency, riots and demonstrations, mass academic failures and school dropout in recent years.  These are not but a few of the consequences of student’s problems which are related to study, academic work and adjustment to school.

In spite of the various efforts being made by parents, teachers, schools and other organizations to find lasting solutions or preventive measures, students’ problems and their consequences tend to mount and persist.  Why is this so, one of the reasons for this may be lack of awareness of the students’ needs and problems by those who are directly concerned – teachers-within the school and the classroom.

The main focus of this study, therefore, is to provide answers to the questions.  Do teachers perceive the problems of their students which borders in school adjustment, academic work and study habits the same way the affected students.

The students themselves also perceive the following problems:

  1. Has the sex of the teachers any effect on the teachers’ perception of students’ problems.?
  2. Has the number of years of teaching any effect on the teachers’ perception of students’ problems?
  3. Has school location any effect on the teachers’ perception of student’s problems?

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to find out whether teachers in the secondary schools perceived the problems bothering their students which are related to school adjustment, academic work, and study accurately that is the way the students themselves perceived their problems and to determine whether the variables of sex, teaching experience and school location (rural and urban) had any significant influence on the accuracy of teachers’ perception of student’s problems.


For the purpose of this study, it was assumed:

  1. That adolescent students are aware of their problems and will give honest and accurate reports or disclosures of them.  This view was supported by Jersild et al.  This students’ perceptions of their own problems was used to judge the correctness of teacher’s perceptions of the students problem.
  2. That the close interpersonal object contact between teachers and student within the schools and classrooms will offer the teachers a good chance to become aware of school adjustment academic and study problems as they affect their students.  That is, teachers are likely to perceive the said students problems correctly since their interest with the students vary closely particularly within both the school and the classroom.

1.4   Questions of the Study

In order to solve the problem of this study, the following operational hypotheses and questions were formulated:

  1. There will be a significant difference between students and their teachers’ perception of student problems.
  2. There will be no significant difference between experienced and inexperienced teachers perceptions of students problems.
  3. There will be no significant difference between male and female.
  4. There will be no significant difference between rural and urban teachers’ perception of students problems.
  5. Still based on the purpose of this study, answers were sought to the following five questions.
    1. Do both male and female teachers perceive students problems the way the students themselves perceive their problems.?
    2. Do both male and female teachers perceive male students problems the way the male students themselves perceive their problems?
    3. Do both male and female teachers perceive female students problems the way the female students themselves perceive their problem?
    4. Do both experienced and inexperience teachers perceived students’ problems the way the students themselves perceive their problems?
    5. Do rural and urban teachers perceive the problems of rural and urban students respectively the way the students themselves.

Significance of the Study

There is need to minimize educational wastage in terms of school dropout.  It is necessary to improve on the academic attainment of secondary school students both at internal and external examinations as well as the quality of the students emotional life.  This much desired improvement can only be achieved if the emotional stresses associated with students’ academic motivation, study habits and skills, teacher-student interpersonal relationships and the overall school situation are correctly identified and successfully tackled.  The acute shortage in scarcely of guidance and counsellors also indicated the urgent need to involve classroom teachers in guidance and counseling duties in our present secondary schools.

Unfortunately, these teachers have often been accused of not paying adequate attention to and therefore, by implication, of not clearly perceiving the needs and problems of their adolescent students.  For instance, it has been stated that:

Despite the fact that much has appeared in both professional and lay literature about this age group, there are numerous indications that adolescent are not well understood by those who are dedicated to helping them; parents, teachers and counsellors.  In everyday interpersonal relationship with teenagers, many adults seem to lack awareness of their psychological and physical needs as well as a general appreciation of the changes and adjustments that adolescent undergo.

Yet, it has been recognized that it is the adult who is aware of an adolescent emotional problems who is in a position to be of inestimable help.  The need to carry out the present study, therefore, becomes clear.

One major significance of this study is that it would receive the degree of accuracy with which teachers perceive of needs and problems of their students.  A knowledge of the level of teachers study skills and habits and the adjustments students undergo in the schools would enable policy makers and school administration to formulate policies to improve teachers perceptions of students problems, reduce related emotional stresses in students in this might consequently raise the presently falling level or standard of academic performance of students as evidence by mass failures in examinations at the secondary school level.

This study would indicate whether or not both male and female teachers are accurate in their perceptions of students problems.  That is to say that the present study would show whether or not one sex of the teachers perceive students problems more accurately than the other sex.  The study is therefore significant because its findings would have some implications for guidance and counseling practices with regard to whether or not it is appropriate to assign counsellor to students in our school by sex.

The study would reveal whether accuracy of teachers perceptions of their students problems is related to teachers job experience.  That is whether inexperienced teachers perceptions of their students problem are less accurate than those of experienced teachers.  In this respect, this study would be significant in that its findings would have further implications for educations in general and for guidance and counseling in particular as they (the findings of the study) might indicate the importance and necessity or otherwise of teaching experience as a prerequisite for the admission or as a factor that may have some influence on teachers competence and success in managing students problem.

More and more secondary schools are being recently opened in rural areas.  A review of the literature seem to indicate that the amount of teacher-students interaction or interpersonal contact and therefore teachers understanding of the students problems are likely to be greater in rural schools than in the urban schools.  This study would reveal whether teachers perceptions of students personal concerns are influenced by school location.  The present study is, therefore, significant since its finding will have implication for student teachers interpersonal relationship in the secondary schools.  The need or otherwise in the part of educational administration, planners and other policy makers as school heads, teachers and guidance counsellors to pay meaningful attention to the nature, patterns and extent of interpersonal relationship and understanding between teachers and their students in both rural and urban school would be indicated.

On the whole, the recommendations of this study would guide educationalists, government and counseling experts when formulating policies geared towards the management of students’ problems as they relate to indiscipline, academic work, study habits and adjustment to school situation.

Scope of the Study

The study was restricted to Oredo Local Government Area, Edo State.  Limited time and financial constraint did not permit a larger geographical coverage.  All the secondary grammar schools in this local government area were considered for the study.

Only classes four and five students in the secondary grammar schools and their teachers were involved in the study.  Students in classes one, two and three were excluded because most of them were considered by the researcher as not mature enough to realistically perceive the accurately express or report their problems like the students in classes four and five.

The students problems investigated were those listed in and categorized as sections J and K, and respectively called Academic and Study problems and school adjustment problems, in the students’ problems inventory (SPI) designed by Bakare of the Department of Guidance and Counselling, University of Ibadan.  All other students problems outside these two categories were excluded.  School adjustment (sectional k) and academic and study (section J) problems has been selected for the study because their problems seems to be the problems of students which school teachers can more validly perceived and give an account of.  They are problems which students encounter within the school and the classroom.

Limitation of the Study

One limitation of the study was the difficulty in securing accurate and honest responses from students and their teachers.  Some students might not have disclosed all their problems while some might negate the use of students perception.  On the other hand, the teachers themselves might have ticked items which they felt were likely to, but which did not really bother their students.

Another limitation of this study is that the result and finding may not be generaliable to the whole of Edo State, let alone Nigeria, and for all students problems, especially as itemized and categorized on the other sections of the students’ problem inventory (SPI) as well as for all classes or ages of students in the secondary school.

A comparative study of students and teachers perception of students’ problems