The Attitudes of Senior Secondary School Students Towards the Study of History

Case Study of Selected Senior Secondary Schools in the Cape Coast Municipality

Bachelor Thesis, 2007

46 Pages, Grade: A




Tables of Contents

List of Tables

1.0 Introduction
1.1 Background to the Study
1.2 Statement of the Problem
1.3 Purpose of the Study
1.4 Research Questions
1.5 Significance of the Study
1.6 Scope
1.7 Organization of the Study

2.0 Introduction
2.1 Theoretical Review
2.2 Empirical Review
(a) Definition of the Concept Attitude
2.3 The Formation of Attitude
2.4 Factors Accounting for Attitudinal Change
2.5 Problems of Studying History
2.6 Suggested Ways of Teaching History

3.0 Introduction.
3.1 Sampling
3.2 Sampling Procedure
3.3 Research Instrument
3.4 Limitations
3.5 Data Analysis Procedure

4.0 Introduction
4.1 Personal Data of Respondents
4.2 Inappropriate Methods of Teaching
4.3 Appropriate Methods of Teaching
4.4 Reasons for Choosing History
4.5 The Use of Instructional Resources
4.6 Motivation in History Teaching
4.7 Problems in Studying/ Learning History
4.8 Importance of History
4.9 Personal Opinion of Respondents

5.0 Introduction
5.1 Summary
5.2 Conclusions
5.3 Recommendations
5.4 Further Research or Study


APPENDIX A- Letter of Introduction

APPENDIX B- Questionnaire


Our utmost thanks go to Almighty God for seeing us through the work. We wish to express our sincere thanks and gratitude to our supervisor, Rev. Seth Asare Danso for his valuable guidance and judicious correcting of the script to shape it into its final form.

We also wish to render any indebtedness to all the authors of the books and journals we consulted for information as well as those willing respondents from whose views we got the data for our findings.

Finally, our sincere gratitude goes to all who contributed to the success of this undertaking but whose names for lack of space have not been mentioned.















This chapter provides background to the study, statement of the problem, purpose of the study, research questions, and significance of the study, the scope and organization of the study.


History according to Murray (1967) ‘is the narration of the lives of men and the times in which they lived and what they did in the situation that faced them’. Generally, History is the study of important past events, people and places.

People become proud when they are able to trace their lineage from the early times to the present. Knowledge of one’s heritage is one of the most cherished ideals in a society. This creates the awareness of how the people lived in the past- the way they dressed, the way they danced, the food they ate, their economic resources and how they passed on the above cultural values to their future generations. Their system of inheritance, their traditional administrative structures, and the wars they waged and other societal activities such as funerals, puberty rites and so on find their bases in the past. Ignorance of the above has partly contributed immensely to the many chieftaincy disputes, land litigation, ethnic wars, moral degeneration and many other related problems in recent times in the country.

Cultural values and attributes of every society are dependent on the past events that occurred. In many African indigenous settings for instance, the cultural heritage such as festivals, religion, languages spoken and even the type of education they practiced all have their meanings and have evolved from the past. It is therefore obvious that to understand the present, we must definitely know the past. It is only based on the knowledge of the past that we can predict the future and live fruitful lives based on the past circumstances.

People should understand why some crops are peculiar to some particular ethnic groups. For instance, it should be borne in mind that even the environmental conditions within which the group finds itself can determine the type of activities they should engage in. For example, most forest dwellers are mostly farmers and hunters. This brings to light the assertion that whatever event which took place in the past has causes and effects which one experiences as one is introduced to one’s heritage. Thus one gets to have knowledge about the type of people who came into contact with one’s ancestors, the type of marriage they contracted, the type of political system they put in place and so on.

According to Murray (1967), "A primary aim of History teaching in Africa is to put the African child into the stream of History from which he has been absent for so long."

When students are introduced to their heritage, the hard won experiences of the parents are acquired and with it, an appreciation of difficulties experienced by the parents and the respect for their successes chalked. This makes them better understand the present as most of the current issues in the society have their causes rooted in the past. It builds patriotism in the present generation because they come to appreciate the heroic deeds of their forefathers or ancestors.

In the olden days, the main method used to introduce the young to their heritage was Oral Tradition. It is a way of preserving a group’s beliefs, customs, and history by parents telling their children about them and the children telling their children what their parents have told them and so on. This was done through legends or stories of the past, songs, greetings and responses, drum languages, festivals, pouring of libation and so on that are handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. By virtue of the importance attached to the knowledge of the activities of our ancestors, those who treasured them were much respected and held in high esteem. Historians attach so much importance to the records of human activities or events, in that, with these, people can make their own predictions into the future.

During the colonial era, the castle schools, the mission societies such as the Basel Mission Society, the Bremen Mission Society and others emphasized that the curriculum should be based entirely on the 3Rs- Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. Aside Religious Studies, one of the subjects taken at the end of the Middle School level was History. But even here, only boys offered History and girls offered Home Science or Economics in place of History.

As time went on, the general certificate examination (GCE) phased out and brought in its wake the Junior Secondary School concept in 1987. In the Junior Secondary School curriculum, History forms just an insignificant fraction of an integrated subject called Social Studies. When a student goes to the Senior Secondary School, History is one of the optional subjects called electives. Moreover, only a minute fraction of the topics in the curriculum at the Senior Secondary School level is based on Ghanaian History in particular and West African History in general. People do not accord it the necessary attention it deserves. This is fundamentally due to the little importance attached to it. Consequently, students are not aware of their past and yet they seemed not to be perturbed.


The attitude of students towards the study of history has been both positive and negative at all levels of the educational ladder. To a larger extent, it is negative at all levels of education and this is particularly seen in various secondary schools.

A few of the importance of studying history are; to introduce students to their heritage, help them make some reasonably- reliable estimates concerning the causes of present events in the light of past developments, and also shed some possible light on the future. History also seeks to develop in the students, values or good morals like tolerance, honesty, patriotism, courage and sympathy. Additionally, history seeks to help students analyze, interpret, judge and evaluate human situations. Also, it helps to develop critical and creative thinking in pupils. It is only by evaluating the achievements and failures of mankind according to the acceptable standards of the time when they actually took place can the historian hope to acquire full understanding of the present. Lastly, it also helps in the correction of misconceptions or misrepresentations of African past.

However, History has not been able to achieve the above objectives due to the negative attitudes of students towards the discipline and this is particularly true in Ghana. Therefore, there is the need to identify the problems and find quick solutions to them.


The purpose of the study is to determine the causes of Senior Secondary School students’ attitudes towards the study of history in the Cape Coast Municipality by selecting some senior secondary schools for a case study.

Additionally, it is hoped that the study will erase or debunk the wrong notion or perception held by students and other people that history is of no importance to the human race. It is the hope of the researchers that based on the outcome of the study; they will come out with suggestions and recommendations that will give rise to positive attitude towards the study of history.


The study specifically hopes to find answers to the following research questions;

(I) why students do chose history as one of their elective subjects at the Senior Secondary Schools?

(ii)What kinds of pedagogical strategies of teaching history do history teachers employ in the secondary schools in Ghana?

(iii) What are the appropriate methods of enhancing history teaching in the secondary schools?

(iv) What type of teaching-learning resources do the secondary school teachers of history employ in the teaching of the subject?

(v) What are some of the attendant problems militating against the survival of history?

(vi) Are the motivational methods adopted by history teachers suitable, and if so, how are they?

(vii) What importance do students attach to the subject?


The significance of the study is to bring to light the erroneous impressions and perceptions held by students with regards to history. One of such wrong impressions and perceptions this research hopes to erase is that, history is a dead subject and it is of no use for one to acquire knowledge about it. Another misconception is that, history more often than not is regarded as a subject impregnated with dates, great names and events. Others also hold the view that history is often the dullest subject in school, and the history lesson one of the most uninteresting.

Moreover, this research will seek to highlight the importance of the discipline; hence to assist the students to develop positive attitudes towards the study of history. By doing so, many students will hopefully cultivate the interest and right attitude towards the learning of history.

Furthermore, the study will aid educational administrators and curriculum planners in planning the curriculum and syllabus to suit the needs and purposes of our students, society and the country as a whole. It will also equip teachers with appropriate methods and approaches of teaching which call for the development of positive attitudes. Consequently, administrators and teachers would hopefully adopt effective methods and approaches to enhance the teaching and learning of history.

Additionally, this study will be of importance to parents who should in their own small ways endeavor to teach their wards about their families and communities. For instance, where they came from and how well they fared up to the present time.

Lastly, it will be of good use to our traditional leaders who are the custodians of our culture. For after all, culture is an embodiment of the history of a people or a community.


The study is to cover senior secondary schools but for the sake of convenience, the researchers will consider three (3) selected senior secondary schools in the Cape Coast Municipality namely; St Augustine’s College, Wesley Girls’ High School and Academy of Christ the King.


This study is divided into five chapters with broad headings: the first chapter touches on the introduction and background to the study of history. It also states the research problem and covers the main purposes and objectives as well as the significance and organization of the study.

The second chapter will deal with the review of related literature on the general attitudes of students towards the study of history and a brief historical background of students’ attitudes towards history.

The next chapter which is the chapter three (3), concerns itself with the research methodology to be adopted, the design of the study, sampling and sampling procedure, instruments for data collection and their mode of administration.

The presentation, analysis and interpretation of data will be dealt with in chapter four (4). Chapter five (5), which is the concluding chapter will attempt to summarize the findings and conclusions. Finally, it will offer suggestions and recommendations based on the study.



This chapter considers theoretical background relating to attitude as a concept and reviews some of the few empirical studies identified by the researchers. The researchers have considered the concept attitude, the formation of attitudes and factors which give rise to attitudinal change.


Attitudes are positive or negative evaluation of objects of thought attitude has three components (in some cases four [4]); a cognitive component: an affective component and a behavioural component. But according to Olson and Zamma (1993), not all attitudes contain all the three components.

The cognitive component of an attitude consists of the beliefs that people hold about the object of attitude. With regard to the affective component of an attitude, it is made up of the emotional feelings stimulated by an object of thought.

Lastly, behavioural component of an attitude consists of predispositions to act in certain ways towards an attitude object.

In sum, what we think or believe about something (cognitive component) leads to how we feel about it (the emotional component) and consequently leads to how we act towards it (behavioural). Thus if we have positive beliefs towards something, we tend to have positive feelings toward it and to behave positively toward it.



The concept defies a precise and concise definition. Various authors have different definitions of the concept and do not agree on a single definition. A fixed and precise definition of attitude is difficult to derive because, the concept overlaps with other kinds of psychological concepts and it is in view of this overlap that some clarification must first be attempted.

Psychologists like Allport (1968) Halloran (1967) and Kiesler et al (1969) agree to the above assertion. Halloran (1967) is of the view that it is not easy to construct a definition sufficiently broad to cover the many kinds of attitudinal determinants that psychologists today recognize.

Notwithstanding the difficulties encountered in the definition of attitude, educationists, psychologists and sociologists have brought to the fore, numerous definitions of the concept attitude.

Gordon Allport (1968) defined it as ‘a mental or neutral state of readiness, organized through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual’s response to all objects and situations with which it is related.

Cronbach (1970) defined it as "consisting of the meanings that are associates with a certain object or abstraction and that influence a person’s acceptance of it."

Karen Horney (1937) states that "attitude is a tendency to move towards, against or away from a person, object or situation." She considered movement towards, to represent a complaint attitude, against an aggressive attitude and away from a detached attitude.

Daniel Katz et al (1953) defined an attitude as "the predisposition of an individual to evaluate some symbol or object or aspect of his world in a favourable or unfavourable manner."

Wayne (2001) defines attitude as "the positive or negative evolution of objects of thought which include social issues, groups, institutions, products and people."

From the above definitions it is obvious that an attitude is an affective framework that predisposes an individual towards, against or away from actions, information and attitudinal objects. Thus it is likely that our most intensely held attitudes in particular are primarily affective in nature.


According to Oskamp (1991), the term attitude formation refers to "the movement we make from having no attitude towards an object to having some positive or negative attitude towards that object."

The formation of attitude occurs in several ways. Allport (1968) emphasizes that there are four conditions for which attitudes could be formed. The first condition is the accretion and integration of responses learned in the course of growing up; the second condition is the individuation, differentiation and segregation of experiences. To him, experiences do not merely accumulate; they become sharpened and patterned so that some attitudes become more specific as the individual grows up. According to Allport (1968), the third condition is the adoption of ready-made attitudes. It is an undeniable fact that attitudes are learned or acquired through imitation of parents, teachers or peers.

According to Halloran (1967), attitudes are learned. Hence, they have their sources as well as formation and developmental process. To Crutchfield, Ballachey and Krech (1948), attitudes develop in the process of need or want satisfaction and in relation to the individuals groups affiliations and to the information to which he is exposed.

Campbell (1966) posits that there are six modes of acquiring behavioural dispositions. He lists them as: blind trial and perception, perceptual observation of another person’s responses, perceptual observation of the outcome of another’s explorations, verbal instructions about responses to stimuli and verbal instruction bout the characteristics of objects.

According to Zajonc (1966), some attitudes may be formed and shaped through mere exposure, direct conditioning, observational learning and genetics.

Based on the above, Halloran (1967) maintains that a survey of work in this area would appear to reveal three main sources of attitudes and they are; direct experience with the objects and situations, explicit and implicit learning from others and personality development. This on the whole represents a social-psychological orientation. The sociologist would probably wish to emphasize the aspects of the environment to which the attitudes refer and in contact with which they have been learned. The content of the attitude is largely provided by the culture and sub cultures in which the individual participates and it is essential to take into account the relation of the social structure to the learning processes and their effects. It is seen that socialization is a process. It does not stop at a certain age and on the whole, social psychologists seem to think of it as an "interaction process whereby person’s behaviour is modified to conform to expectations held by members of the group to which he belongs.

Halloran continues to say that to a large extent, the attitude of the individual depends on the attitudes and norms of the groups which form his frame of reference. Ross (1946) points out that the anatomy of collective opinion shows it to be organized from centers and sub centers, forming a kind of intellectual feudal system.

In their own personal influence, Katz and Lazarsfield drew attention not only to specific influential, but also to general influential or experts. The specific influential are the ones with whom the individual has face-to-face contact. The general influential or expert is the person in whom one has confidence and whose opinions are held in high regard.

Godwin (1975), Allport (1968) and Mum et al (1972) all subscribe to the view that attitudes can also be formed through observational learning initiation. The work of several researchers has shown that there is direct relevance for the learning of affective outcomes such as attitudes. For him, observation and initiation are among the major means by which a child acquires his personal and moral values attitudes. For a child then, older children, peers and adults can serve as models. What Goodwin et al encourages is purposely providing appropriate models for young children’s subsequent display of altruistic, honest or moral behavior.

It must be emphasized that some influential are better than others- according to one’s value standpoint. Halloran asserts that the common-sense approach to attitude formation usually stresses the importance of knowledge, information and facts. According to him, the information to which an individual is exposed will play some part in the formation of his attitudes, but it needs stressing that information is rarely a determinant of attitudes, except in the context of other attitudes.

First and Foremost, attitudes are learned. They develop as we develop as we develop in the interaction, in relationships with other people, particularly with significant others in the socialization process. It is also important to realize that the early years in the socialization process are highly significant and that the group affiliations of an individual play an important role in the formation of his attitudes. Nevertheless, the individual need not take everything or anything from the groups to which he affiliates.


Ghanaian society is undergoing rapid change, in one way or the other, and in varying dimensions. Halloran (1967) posits that attitudes prevalent among the individuals in various groups are derived from the value sets and special concerns of their groups. Many reflect conditions that prevailed in the past when their groupings are relatively less independent with others, when they were closed systems to a greater degree than now.

Again, Halloran (1967) contends that the process of attitude formation and attitude change are not separate entities but rather intertwined and continuous. That is, all the time as part of our development; we are adopting new attitudes modifying and relinquishing old ones. Ballachey, Crutchfield and Krech (1962) emphasized that attitudes, once they are formed, differ in the way they can be modified or changed and the major and the major factors which relate to this modifiability and change ability are the characteristics of pre-existing attitude, the personality of the individual and the nature and strength of the individual’s group affiliations. It is also seen that attitude change again depends greatly on certain personality characteristics, such as general susceptibility to persuasion, intelligence, the cognitive needs and styles of the person, general readiness to accept change and so on.

Sheriff et al (1969) maintains that in its simplest form, the problem of attitude change is the problem of the degree of discrepancy. In considering attitude change the following conditions must be borne in mind. That is, it is possible to change attitudes and that in order to produce change; a suggestion for change must be received and accepted. Again, reception and acceptance are more likely to occur where the suggestion meets existing personality needs or drives if especially the suggestion is in harmony with valued group normal and loyalties and the source of the message is perceived as trustworthy and follows certain rules of rhetoric regarding order of presentation, organization of content, nature of appeal land so on. Change in attitude is more likely to occur if the suggestion is accompanied by change in other factors underlying beliefs and attitudes.

The communicator and the communication features predominantly in attitude change. It would appear that the degree to which the communicator is perceived as being an expert and the retention of the message. According to Janis, Kelley and Hovland (1974) expertness and trustworthiness are the two major components of credibility. What matters are what are perceived? It is more of a matter of his being perceived as being an expert, trustworthy and reliable. They posit that under circumstances where there is a very close association between the source and the content, the effect of the communicator may be sure ending.

Another factor affecting attitude change is a group influence. As far as the group is concerned a great deal depends on its composition. If the majority of the group is favourably inclined to the message, the reception in a group situation will tend to reinforce that message and facilitate attitude change, but if the majority of the group are against the message, then the pressure can lead to the opposite direction and the group situation need not facilitate attitude change. Receiving a message in a group situation may either impede or facilitate change. It may impede change by neutralizing the message, by lending support to existing attitude by rewarding compliance, by punishing deviance. It may facilitate by permitting a discussion that reveals hitherto unknown support for deviance and leads to clearer idea of what attitudes are really shared and by giving more opportunity for decision making and commitment. Krech, Crutchfield and Ballachey state that group listening is more effective than solitary listening if the majority of the group is in favour of the position of the communicator; it is less effective if the majority is opposed.

Again, there is also the personal influence on attitudinal change. According to Lazarsfield et al (1968), the great advantage of face to face communication lies in the fact that they are personal and relatively casual. The influence is often exerted unexpectedly that people are not therefore aware of being "got at". Moreover, in face to face contact, the individual can check, question, adopt, obtain immediate rewards and perceive approval and disapproval.

Irvin Janis (1966) has suggested that there might be three different classes of personality characteristics, which could influence a person’s responsiveness to persuasion. The first of this is the readiness to accept favourable or unfavourable positions on a particular topic. The second is differential susceptibility( a susceptibility to particular types of arguments, appeals and presentations) and the third is an overall level of susceptibility (a general trait of persuability which render those who possess it more susceptible to persuasive communication no matter what the topic, the issue, or the problem at stake).

Writing about this different susceptibility, Cohen (1977) argues that there are consistent differences in the way people process material that is presented to them, and he examines cognitive styles and needs in an attempt to add to our understanding of the relationship between personality and attitude change. Cognitive styles refer to a characteristic and consistent way in which people can perceive, remember and think about aspects of themselves and the world around them. In addition to differences in cognitive styles, there are also differences in cognitive needs. Some people have a strong need to acquire organized knowledge, to give organized meaning and clarity to all aspects of their experiences, where as other people seem quite contempt to remain ignorant about anything and everything, and are apparently unconcerned by the fact that they can make little or nothing of a great deal of their experiences.


Some authors have identified some of the problems facing the studying of history. The following are some of the serious problems. They are problems of textbooks, content, lack or irregular use of teaching aids, problem of language, lack of library facilities or materials, inappropriate teaching methods, lack of motivation and the problem of differentiating between historical evidence and historical events.


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The Attitudes of Senior Secondary School Students Towards the Study of History
Case Study of Selected Senior Secondary Schools in the Cape Coast Municipality
Project for History
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Jonathan Amengor (Author)Frederick Osei-Poku (Author)Abdul Mageed Abbas (Author)Bill Augustine Vovobu (Author), 2007, The Attitudes of Senior Secondary School Students Towards the Study of History, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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