An Exploration of Factors that Contribute to Low Performance in Physics: A Case of a Secondary School in Kenya
Njiru, Samson M.
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The study reported in this paper aimed at exploring the factors that contribute to students’ low performance in physics. Study participants were 2 physics teachers (a male and a female) and 57 physics students (30 males and 27 females) drawn from a coeducational, government day secondary school located in Embu County in Kenya. The study adopted a mixed method approach, whereby both qualitative and quantitative methods were utilized to gather data. Analysis of quantitative data was done using the SPSS software package while the qualitative data were analyzed manually using thematic content analysis. Three major categories of factors were identified as contributing to students’ low performance in physics; namely, learning factors, teaching factors, and administrative factors. Learning factors are those factors that emanate from the learners, such as time management skills and background in mathematics; teaching factors are those factors that are attributable to the teacher, such as quality of teacher-student interactions and teacher’s content knowledge; while administrative factors are those factors that can be attributed to the administrative context within the school, such as access to resources and quality of guidance provision. Based on the research findings, a number of recommendations are made to practitioners and policy makers. For teacher educators, a proposal is made to include a course on improvisation in physics education during teacher pre-service training. For the school administrators, it is recommended that mechanisms be put in place to ensure that the students’ voice is heard and supported during selection of preferred subject combinations. For teachers, it is recommended that the use of practical and interesting learning experiences during lessons be inculcated right from the first year of secondary education so as to engage the learners and sustain their attention.