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TEACHING AND LEARNING DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC: INSIGHTS FROM SELECTED MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE TEACHERS IN KENYA

TEACHING AND LEARNING DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC: INSIGHTS FROM SELECTED MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE TEACHERS IN KENYA

Published in CEMASTEA News Written by  June 01 2021 font size decrease font size increase font size
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Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA)

TEACHING AND LEARNING DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC: INSIGHTS FROM SELECTED MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE TEACHERS IN KENYA

COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on all spheres of life and the education sector has not been spared. The disease was first reported in China in December 2019. By January 2020, it had become clear that COVID-19 was raising health concerns including the fact that it was highly contagious with a potential to cause death for some of the infected persons. Thus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) asked countries to take precautionary measures to ensure containment of the disease. The first case of COVID-19 was reported in Kenya on 13th March 2020 and two days later the President directed all learning institutions to close as a containment measure to curb the spread of the disease. Even though the closure of schools did not mean the end of education, it temporarily halted the face-to-face interactions between teachers and students.

To ensure continuity of learning following the schools closure, the Ministry of education (MOE) drafted the Kenya basic Education COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan (MOE, 2020), to guide the process. For example, through the plan, the MOE committed to strengthen the Kenya Education Cloud at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) to ensure easy access to digital content by teachers and students. The MOE also tasked KICD to ensure provision of Radio and TV broadcasts on a timely and predictable manner including broadcasting through community radio channels. However, it was not clear how teachers would navigate the process of supporting learning through remote means as well as the kind of support they needed to be effective and successful in their work. This concern arose from the fact that up until the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic most of the teaching had been face-to-face.

This study which involved 472 SMASE Secondary school county trainers and 3718 secondary school mathematics and science teachers trained through CEMASTEA in 2020 was conducted to give insights into this issue. The study sought to (1) identify ways in which COVID-19 affected teaching and learning in secondary mathematics and science in Kenya (2) determine mathematics and science teachers’ perspectives about online teaching and learning (3) determine the ICT tools and platforms, sources of information, and support that enabled mathematics and science teachers to continue supporting learners during the COVID-19 pandemic (4) identify areas of capacity development for mathematics and science teachers to continue teaching during COVID-19 pandemic. To address these objectives the study adopted a descriptive survey methodology and utilised questionnaires to collects data.

The findings of this study show that teaching and learning was affected in three main ways as follows (1) disruption to teaching and learning (2) shift from face-to-face to remote teaching and learning, and (3) disruption to activities related to teaching and learning. As far as disruption to teaching and learning was concerned, the respondents noted that face-to-face interactions with student were not possible as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. They were concerned about students missing such interactions with the concern being greater for the Form Four students because of being in a candidate class and therefore expected to sit KCSE later in the year. It also emerged that despite this concern for students missing such interactions, majority of the respondents took more than four weeks to reach out to support students’ learning.

Indeed only about 40% of the respondents took the steps to reach out to students and support their learning utilising mainly telephone and specifically WhatsApp. The low percentage of respondents who made an attempt to reach out to students could be attributed to their perception about remote teaching and learning where majority of them did not believe that there could be effective teaching and learning through online platforms. This study also revealed that a teacher’s confidence to enact teaching through online platforms is a factor that affects whether or not a teacher engages students to learn through online platforms. The Multiple Logistic Regression Model applied in this study showed that respondents who were somehow confident or not confident at all to conduct teaching through online platforms had a relatively high likelihood of not conducting lessons during the pandemic period compared to those who were confident.

It also emerged that COVID-19 disrupted the routine of activities related to teaching and learning in terms of time spent on these activities. On average, between 43% and 45% of respondents spent less than two hours on teaching and other activities related to teaching such as planning lessons; reviewing lesson notes; assessing students’ learning and revising work already covered with students.

Regarding ICT tools, it emerged that the respondents were aware of a variety of ICT tools that could be deployed to support students’ learning during COVID-19 pandemic. The tools include hardware such laptops, mobile phones, CD-ROMs, Television, radio as well as platforms such as Google Classroom, WhatsApp, Facebook and sources of e-content form the internet through search engines such as Google, Firefox and Microsoft Edge. Despite, this high extent of awareness, the respondents’ deployment of these tools in supporting learning during COVID-19 was low for all the tools except WhatsApp which had the highest reported incidents of use. Internet connectivity (both in terms of cost and coverage) was the single factor cited most by respondents as a hindrance to the deployment of the tools to support students’ learning during COVID-19 pandemic.

All in all, the respondents acknowledged receiving support from several stakeholders aimed at continuity of learning during COVID-19 pandemic. The stakeholders who played a key role in this process included the MOE, Ministry of Health, TSC, KICD, CEMASTEA, school administration and County Governments. The support provided ranged from provision of information about COVID-19 (i.e., the need to keep and stay safe), and payment of salaries to capacity development in the use of some of the learning management systems (LMS), and provision of e-learning materials and internet bundles to access the materials.

This study concludes that, only a limited number of mathematics and science teachers reached out to their students to support their learning during COVID-19 pandemic. This was mainly due to barrier of accessibility and cost of ICT tools on the part of students. But also, the teachers’ perception about remote learning and their confidence to enact teaching through online platforms played a role in this.  The study recommends that there should be sustained teacher professional development especially in the area of remote or online teaching and learning to equip the teachers with the requisite skills to support learners during circumstances that lead to prolonged school closures. Furthermore, ICT tools that include devices such as such as Smart phones, tablets, laptops, radio, TV and internet sets as well as electricity are enablers of remote or online learning. These resources need to be made available to all teachers and students to enable implementation of remote or online learning. This can only happen through a concerted effort of all stakeholders (i.e.,, BOM, school administration, and parents) including multi-agency support through various ministries such as MOE, ICT and energy. Specifically parents on their part are required to provide ICT tools and related resources such as internet bundles to ensure continuity of learning in circumstances leading to prolonged school closures. But more importantly, the role of parents in home schooling needs to be explored given the need for them to play a role also in guiding and supporting their children to gain meaningfully from the experiences of remote or online learning.

 

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