Teaching and learning biology by SMASSE project among secondary schools in Mbeere South District, Embu County, Kenya
Njiru, Zipporah Wawira
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The Dakar conference of 2000 was concerned with the quality of education and emphasized education for all by 2015 since the UN had declared education a human right. With the increased demand for in-service education and training, SMASSE project was launched in 1998 as a joint technical co-operation between the Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Education and Japan through JICA. Despite the enormous resources geared towards in-servicing of Biology teachers to apply the ASEI / PDSI concept i.e. Activity, Student, Experiment, Improvise / Plan, Do, See, Improve in the teaching and learning of Biology, very little is known about the challenges of teaching and learning of Biology by SMASSE project in Mbeere South District with the view of enhancing its implementation in the classroom. The key objectives governing this study were to find out the extent to which ASEIIPDSI concept was understood by the teachers with reference to the teaching of Biology, to find out how the ASEII PDSI approach to the teaching of Biology was being implemented in the classroom setting, to assess students' attitude towards Biology, to find out the availability of the resources and physical facilities present in the school that aided in the teaching and learning of Biology by SMASSE project and to determine the interest of the learners towards doing Biology practical in the laboratory by themselves. The study was guided by Piaget's theory of cognitive development and Bruner's theory of learning experiences. The study utilized random sampling for students, purposive sampling for schools and non- random sampling of convenience for the teachers all under descriptive survey design. The study was conducted in secondary schools, form 4 level in Mbeere South District, Embu County, Kenya. The total population of schools in this district was 37 with 38 Biology teachers who had been trained in SMASSE and a total population of 1364 students in form 4. The sample size constituted 4 schools, 4 teachers who are SMASSE trained and 136 students both girls and boys whose teachers were SMASSE trained. The research instruments included teachers' questionnaires, students' questionnaires and researcher's observation guideline which was used by the researcher to collect data by observing the physical resources in the schools under study that aided in the teaching and learning of Biology by SMASSE project. The questionnaires were piloted in a secondary school not in the sample to establish their reliability. The validity of the tools was established by members of the supervisory group to this study. Authority was sought from the Ministry of Education and the Principals of the sample school to allow the researcher to collect data on different days in each school. Qualitative data collected was converted into Quantitative data and analyzed through the Statistical Package for Social Sciences in form of tables of frequencies and percentages. It was expected that the study would contribute to knowledge regarding improvement of teaching and learning Biology by SMASSE project in the secondary schools in Mbeere South District, Embu County, Kenya. The findings of the study indicated that, there was partial implementation of the ASEII PDSI principles. The students' attitude Biology varied within different individuals and their performance in class was average. Their participation in practicals was above average. The availability and reliability of resources and physical facilities greatly influenced the pedagogy. The major challenges affecting the teaching and learning of Biology through the SMASSE approach was inadequate time, large classes, negative attitude towards Science, unequipped laboratories, unqualified lab technicians, inadequate funds to buy learning resources, high workload and pressure to cover the syllabi. The researcher recommended follow up of SMASSE activities by quality assurance and standards officers, incorporating laboratory technicians in SMASSE programs, improvisation where resources are not available, motivation of teachers, training Head teachers on SMASSE principles and finally introducing SMASSE approach into primary schools in the county under study.