Code-switching strategies in science lessons in Kenyan primary schools : an analysis of their contribution to the meaning making process
This study investigates how teachers in a rural Kenyan primary school use code-switching to help pupils to understand scientific concepts. The study takes place in a teaching and learning environment where English is the 'official' language of teaching beyond year three but where it is accepted by the education ministry that the English proficiency of most of the pupils may not be sufficient for them to fully access the science curriculum. It is, therefore, also accepted that teachers may use three languages, English, Kiswahili and Kigiryama, in the classroom, to explain scientific ideas. The study begins by considering some of the barriers to learning science concepts experienced by those who are taught in a second language. There is then an exploration of code-switching strategies as observed by other researchers many of which have been recorded within science lessons in other Kenyan primary schools. This study then uses observational and interview methods to investigate the actual use of code-switching within the lessons of standard four and five pupils at the target school. These observations, combined with those of other researchers are then used to produce a typology of codeswitching interventions commonly used by teachers during science lessons at the school at Mida Primary School. Following this a second literature review outlines a framework of the key features of explanation, clarifying how teachers use language to explain scientific concepts. The code-switching typology and this framework are then utilised to enable the analysis of six transcripts of science lessons at the target school. The analysis is carried out with the purpose of examining the contribution that each code-switching intervention makes to the meaning-making process. Some implications for teacher training are presented concerning how actual teacher behaviour, with respect of their use of code-switching, compares with what might be expected if trained for a planned use of code-switching when explaining scientific concepts. Also included in the study is a brief examination of other contextual factors that might affect the use of code-switching by teachers in science lessons and the implications that these might have on teacher training for the effective use of codeswitching. Finally, some suggestions for further research and an evaluation of the approach taken in this study are presented.