The role of science teachers in fostering academic language skills: a case study of selected secondary schools of Kikuyu division, Kiambu district
Kamau, Judy Wangari
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This study is an investigation into the role of science teachers in fostering student's academic skills. One of the aspects introduced in the 8-4-4 system of education English syllabus was the teaching of study skills. These skills, it was hoped, would enhance students' understanding of other subjects in the curriculum. Specifically, this study addressed the extent to which science teachers provide language-support activities to their students. There has been increasing concern among educationists about the general poor performance of science in secondary schools. More importantly, Kenya being a developing country is increasingly becoming more dependent on science and technology. A key assumption of the study is that a student whose language skills are enhanced stands to understand scientific principles better. Relevant literature was reviewed concerning two areas: English language Teaching Across the Curriculum and The Relationship Between language And Thought. And a further exploration was made of other related studies. A significant argument from the existing literature is that the teaching of a subject has to go hand in hand with a deliberate effort to improve language and cognitive skills needed by the learner. The review also provided insight and suggestions into the methods eventually used in the study. A total of 5o randomly selected teachers within Kikuyu division of Kiambu district were involved in the study. Data were collected by means of three instruments namely: a questionnaire, face to interviews and actual classroom observations. The questionnaire was administered to all the 50 respondents. Classroom observation was done in four schools, two public and two private, for comparative purpose. Teachers of three science subjects: physics, chemistry and Biology were observed in their lessons for one week each. Direct interviews were undertaken with a sample of science and English teachers. Responses arising from the instruments were analyzed to provide data that would help to answer questions raised by the researcher. The study found out that: 1) Science teachers rarely use skills that enhance reading and writing. This however, varied between categories of schools (whether public or private), the science subject being taught and the type of lesson (theory or practical). 2) Science teacher generally disregard such heuristic methods as discussion and small group work. They largely use expository techniques such as lecture or question and answer techniques which do not give learners ample opportunities to use language to learn specific subjects. 3) Science teachers appeared to have a wrong perception regarding their role in fostering students' language skills. 4) Science teacher do not consult with English teacher on how best they could help students improve their language skills. The study recommends that emphasis be put at policy level that all teachers have a duty to foster 'academic language skills. Teacher training institutions should equip all student teachers with the relevant skills of enhancing students language skills. Another key recommendation is the need for in -service training of teachers with the aim of sensitizing them on the necessity to focus on the language and learning skills, which their learner need.