Social studies is one of the disciplines in the primary school curriculum in Kenya. It aims at equipping learners with unique knowledge and skills that would enable them to lead successful lives and be in harmony with their environment. Primary school learners in Kenya have been performing poorly in social studies at the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) national examinations. The factors that have been attributed to the learners’ dismal performance in the discipline include; inadequate facilities in the schools like textbooks and lack of adequate qualified teachers, learners’ and teachers’ negative attitudes towards the discipline, lack of role models and use of poor instructional methods. However, many studies fail to take into account one very important variable; what characterizes effective teaching and learning of social studies. This calls for continuous search for effective teaching strategies such as the use of active teaching and learning strategies. This study analyzed the teaching and learning strategies used in the teaching of social studies at the primary school level from a constructivist perspective. The study adopted descriptive survey research design. The target population of the study was all social studies teachers in public primary schools in Kipipiri sub-county in Nandarua county. The accessible population was all social studies teachers teaching in upper primary classes in Kipipiri sub-county. Proportional random sampling technique was used to obtain a sample of 125 upper primary social studies teachers who were drawn from 42 primary schools out of 60 public primary schools in the three divisions of Kipipiri sub-county. Data was collected with the help of Social Studies Teachers’ Questionnaire (SSTQ) and Social Studies Lesson Observation Schedule (SSLOS). Five experts in educational research drawn from the Faculty of Education and Community Studies, Egerton University validated the instruments. Piloting was carried out in three primary schools in Kipipiri sub-county. The pilot schools did not participate in the main study. Reliability of SSTQ and SSLOS were estimated using Cronbach alpha coefficient. The SSTQ and SSLOS yielded a reliability coefficient of 0.77 and 0.84 respectively which were above the recommended threshold of 0.7. Data analysis was carried out using descriptive statistics (frequencies percentages and mean) with the help of the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). The Findings of this study indicate that social studies teachers rarely use active teaching and learning strategies. The study also found that teacher training, teachers’ guides, teachers’ workload, learners’ needs and interests and teacher’s preference, are among the factors that determine a teacher’s selection of teaching and learning strategies. The findings further reveal that class size, content of the textbooks, nature of the topic, age and level of the learner, time availability, and ability of the learners are among the factors that determine a teacher’s application of teaching and learning strategies. These findings would be useful to learners and teachers in identifying strategies which enhances the learning of social studies. Policy makers, curriculum developers, educational officers and teacher training institutions would benefit in one way or another from this study especially while deciding on the appropriate teaching and learning strategies to employ in order to improve the quality of education. The Ministry of Education should organise regular in-service training and workshops for teachers on selection and application of active teaching and learning strategies.

Background of the Study
Education is globally recognized as key to social-economical development (Mbatha, 2009). The World Development Report 2000/2001 indicated that the biggest problem of poverty besides lack of food is lack of power directly related to lack of basic education. Consequently, universal access to basic education and training would ensure equity for all children to enrol in schools including the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups (Saitoti, 2005). The Ministry of Education Science and Technology (MOEST, 2005) asserts that an increase in access and the quality of education is critical to socio-economic growth and productivity, increased individual earnings and subsequently reduced income inequalities and poverty in a country. Education also contributes significantly to improved health, enhanced democracy, good governance and effective leadership. Further, it is key to the protection of democratic institutions and human rights since it produces well informed citizens. The provision of education and training to all Kenyans is therefore fundamental to the government’s development strategies. Thus, Kenyan human resource is central to the country’s attainment of its goals of industrial development and technological advancement (MOEST, 2002). In Kenya, basic education is the minimum education that every Kenyan should have. The primary education cycle in Kenya lasts eight calendar years, the longest time spent at any one level of learning in Kenyan’s education system (MOEST, 2009). At primary school level children develop more motor skills and cognitive skills than in early childhood education level (MOEST, 2003).

Social studies is one of the disciplines taught at the primary school level. It is defined as the integrated study of social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence (Ondiek, Mbugua, Muraya & Kanjoya, 2009). Within the school program, social studies provide coordinated, systematic study drawing upon such disciplines as anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, psychology, religion, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities, mathematics, and natural sciences (MOEST, 2009). The National Council of the Social Studies (NCSS, 2005) asserts that the primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse and democratic society. In essence, social studies promote knowledge of and involvement in civic affairs. Civic issues such as health care, crime, and foreign policy are multidisciplinary in nature and hence understanding them requires a multidisciplinary approach. This is one of the key characteristics that define social studies.

According to MOEST (2009) social studies is taught using the integrated approach that is, making use of knowledge from many subjects which enable learners to see social studies knowledge as one whole. In teaching social studies, the ideal is to bring together knowledge from many fields and integrate them in such a way that learners can see the relationship between the different disciplines. MOEST further states that social studies is the study of people and the environment in which they live. Environment comprises of resources that enable people to survive. As people live and work together, they establish systems to facilitate relationships. Social studies therefore, provides opportunities for learners to understand their environment and participate effectively in its activities and the social system as a whole.

Social studies aims at providing learners with skills, knowledge, desired attitudes and values necessary to prepare them for successful life in their physical and social environment. It also enables them to live as informed, knowledgeable and active members of their local communities, nation and the world (MOEST, 2006). It provides learners with opportunities to appreciate the changing environment in which they live and realization of their own place, privileges, rights and responsibilities as citizens. The knowledge gained in social studies exposes learners to varieties of opinions which facilitate the affirmation and reassessment of their beliefs and attitudes (MOEST, 2009). Through social studies, learners are further expected to understand the relationship between causes and effects of various social issues. The discipline aims at facilitating learners to have respect for duty and public property which in turn enables them to live and work in harmony. Learners through the study of social studies are also expected to understand and appreciate the need for, and importance of environmental conservation and sustainability. The discipline also make learners to be skilful in problem solving, decision making, assessing issues and making of balanced value judgment (Ondiek et al, 2009).

Despite the important role expected to be played by social studies in society, it has faced many challenges in its teaching. Shaughnessy and Haladyna (1995) identified some of the challenges faced by social studies teachers in the Caribbean as being; classroom discipline, motivation of learners, assessment of learners, inadequate resources and ineffective teaching and learning methods. In the United States of America (USA), lack of administrative support, teachers’ and learners’ negative attitudes towards social studies, infrequent field trips, problematic social studies curriculum and inadequate classroom space are some of the problems encountered by social studies teachers (NCSS, 2005). Griffith (2000) identified rote teaching, emphasis on facts and trivial details, lack of activities and opportunities for active teaching and learning, lack of stimulating and challenging lessons, pressure from the syllabus, the wash back effect of examination, class organization and management and resistance to change as the problems facing teaching and learning of social studies in Africa in general and Kenya in particular.

Odalo (2000) attributed failure by teachers to use strategies that captivate learners during instruction to poor examinations performance by learners in Kenya. Odalo further argued that most of the teaching and learning approaches practiced in Kenyan schools are mainly expository and fact oriented, making learners to be passive. Kochhar (1992) argues that the best curriculum and the most perfect syllabus remains dead unless put into life by the right teaching and learning strategies. Besides, the traditional teaching methods of a teacher as a sole information-giver to passive learners appear outdated.

In Kenya, learners’ performance in social studies has remained poor as reflected in the KCPE national examination results. The Mean Standard Score (MSS) of social studies in the year 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 was 34%, 38%, 40%, 33% and 37% respectively, which was below average (50%) in the four years (KNEC, 2012). Generally there has been poor performance in Kipipiri sub-county with most of the subjects registering MSS that is below average in KCPE national examinations. This is particularly in the case of social studies which has never attained MSS that is above average between 2008 and 2012. Learners’ performance in social studies as compared to other subjects at KCPE national examinations in the year 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 in the sub-county is presented in Table1.

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Item Type: Kenyan Topic  |  Size: 103 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
Format: MS Word  |  Delivery: Within 30Mins.


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