Introduction of inquiry-based science teaching in Rwandan lower secondary schools : teachers' attitudes and perceptions.
This study describes, discusses and analyses the Rwandan lower secondary school teachers’ responses to the introduction of inquiry as a teaching approach in the science curriculum as one of the changes that the curriculum in Rwanda has undergone through in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. The study investigates the science teachers’ understanding of inquiry-based science teaching, their attitudes towards the introduction of inquiry into the science curriculum, the activities they are engaged in with regard to inquiry-based science teaching and learning, the factors influencing their current teaching practices and their perceptions about what may be done for a better implementation of inquiry-based science teaching. Guided by a pragmatic research approach, I believed that collecting diverse types of data would provide a deeper understanding of the research problem and therefore adopted a two phases’ sequential explanatory mixed methods design. During the first phase, data were collected by means of a survey questionnaire administered to a purposeful sample of 200 science teachers at lower secondary school in Rwanda. Findings from the survey informed the second phase consisting of data collection by means of semi-structured one-to-one interviews with 15 purposefully selected teachers from the sample used in the first phase then supplemented by a contextual observation in their schools. The data from the questionnaire were subject to a descriptive statistical analysis while data from interviews were subject to analysis involving transcribing and reading interview transcripts, coding and categorizing information, identifying patterns, and interpreting. The data analysis produced five main assertions providing answers to the research questions. Participant teachers displayed varying understanding of what inquiry-based science teaching is, associating it with a number of its characteristics such as a learner centred teaching approach mostly based on experiments and practical work. There were a few teachers who did not have accepted understandings of inquiry-teaching. Furthermore, teachers had a positive attitude towards the introduction of inquiry and favoured the change even though they indicated a number of factors preventing them from adequately implementing the new teaching approach. As for their practices, traditional classroom activities were more frequently used than inquiry-based activities and when they made use of inquiry, they followed a specific order of activities that led to a more structured type of inquiry. The study further identified a number of factors influencing both positively and negatively the implementation of inquiry. The positive aspect was that they find teaching through inquiry more enjoyable while the shortage of time, the lack of teaching resources and the lack of confidence associated with inadequate training, influenced negatively the way they implemented inquiry-based teaching. Teachers highlighted a number of interventions they felt would make the implementation of inquiry based teaching more effective. The improvement of resources provision to schools and the implementation of adequate professional development programmes were the most highlighted. Despite the several impediments to the implementation of effective use of inquiry, teachers were optimistic towards the future of science teaching and learning in Rwanda. It is envisaged these findings will be valuable to a wide range of audiences including science teachers, curriculum developers, science teacher educators as they may inform them about the implementation of the new curricula that require teachers to focus on inquiry given the controversy surrounding this issue in science education.