“The Majority They Don't Like Answering”: Classroom Discourse In Kenyan Primary Schools

Pontefract, Caroline (2002). “The Majority They Don't Like Answering”: Classroom Discourse In Kenyan Primary Schools. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000499e


This research addresses the role of classroom discourse in supporting children’s learning in Kenyan primary schools. Using a triangulated research approach, I explored the teachers’ practice and perceptions of their discourse strategies. This study involved the development of a classroom observation framework, a questionnaire schedule and a semi-structured teacher interview; this led to the generation of both qualitative and quantitative data. In developing the research instruments, 1 particularly reviewed the work of Flanders, Sinclair and Coulthard, Barnes, Wragg and Brown, and Hardman. Underpinning my study was a theoretical framework of how children learn, which was drawn from the ideas of Vygotsky, Bruner, Piaget, Edwards and Mercer. A strand within this framework was the consideration of the context of learning through a second language. The ideas of Mayor and Wells, together with their implications for classroom discourse and organisation, were discussed here. My analysis of the classroom discourse focused on the three dimensions identified by Sinclair and Coulthard: teacher initiation, pupil response and teacher feedback. Within these dimensions, my discussion considered teacher input and its combination of initiation and feedback strategies. It also considered three elements of pupil response - their nature, their length, and whether they were choral or individual. Attention was also paid to the way in which the pattern of classroom discourse ensured curriculum coverage and created a semblance of pupils’ participation in the learning, which belied their actual passivity. My study concludes with a discussion of the implications of the research findings for inservice training. Whilst acknowledging that such training alone cannot address the constraints faced in the Kenyan schools, it suggests that it has a role to play in developing teachers’ professionalism and raising their awareness of their own practice and its implications for children’s learning.

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