How Are a Teacher's Knowledge and Skills Regarding the Use of Life Approach Useful for Teaching Christian Religious Education?

The Case of Bungoma County, Kenya

Master's Thesis, 2017

146 Pages, Grade: B









1.0 Introduction
1.1 Background to the Study
1.2 Statement of the Problem
1.3 The Purpose of the Study
1.5 Research Questions
1.6 Justification of the study
1.7 The Significance of the Study
1.8 Scope of the Study
1.9 Limitations of the Study
1.10 Assumptions of the study
1.11 Theoretical Perspective
1.12 Conceptual Framework
1.12 Operational Definitions of Terms
1.13 Chapter Summary

2.0 Introduction
2.1 The Teaching of Christian Religious Education
2.2 The Life Approach
2.2.1 Existential Approach..
2.2.2 Dimensional Approach ..
2.3 General Understanding of Life Approach.
2.4 Teachers’ knowledge on use Life Approach
2.5 Teacher Training
2.5.1 Pre-service Training
2.5.2 In-service Training .
2.6 Teachers’ attitude towards the use of Life Approach
2.7 Teachers’ skills in the utilization of Life Approach .
2.7.1 Organization and presentation of content in Scheme of Work ..
2.7.2 Organization and Presentation of content in CRE Lesson plans
2.8 Teaching and learning methods used in conjunction with Life Approach
2.8.1 Role play.
2.8.2 Discussion ..
2.8.3 Question and Answer Method
2.9 Teachers Challenges on the use of Life Approach
2.10 Related Studies

3.0 Introduction
3.1 Research Paradigm
3.2 Research Design
3.3 Area of Study
3.4 Target Population..
3.5 Sample Size and Sampling Procedures .
3.6 Research Instruments
3.6.1 The questionnaire
3.6.2 Interview Guide .
3.6.3 Document Analysis
3.6.4 The lesson observation schedule
3.7 Piloting of the research instruments..
3.8 Reliability and validity of the research instruments .
3.8.1 Reliability of the research instruments ..
3.8.2 Validity of the research instruments ..
3.9 Ethical Considerations ..
3.10 Data Collection Procedures.
3.11 Coding of Data
3.12 Data Analysis Procedures
3.13 Summary of Chapter

4.0 Introduction
4.1 Biographical Data
4.1.1 Age of CRE teachers
4.1.2 Academic Qualifications of CRE teachers
4.1.3 Teaching Experience of CRE teachers
4.1.4 Type of school
4.1.5 Teaching subject combinations of CRE teachers
4.2 Teachers’ Knowledge on use of the Life Approach in CRE
4.2.1 The number of stages of a lesson
4.2.2 The stages of a lesson
4.2.3 Teaching activities incorporated with Life Approach
4.2.4 The frequency of use of CRE teacher’s personal life experiences in a lesson
4.2.5 Types of objectives used in a CRE lesson when using Life Approach
4.2.6 Suggestions of Life Approach
4.3 Teacher Training
4.3.1 Pre-service training of CRE teachers
4.3.2 In-service training of CRE teachers
4.4 Attitudes of CRE teachers towards Life Approach
4.4.1 Gender and attitudes of CRE teachers towards Life Approach
4.4.2 Age and attitude of CRE teachers
4.4.3 Academic qualification and teachers’ attitudes
4.4.4 Teaching experience and attitudes
4.4.5 K.C.S.E general performance of CRE students
4.4.6 Effectiveness of Life Approach
4.5 Utilization of Life Approach techniques in the classroom
4.5.1 Availability of schemes of work
4.5.2 Availability of lesson plans
4.6 Summary of the Chapter

5.0 Introduction
5.1 Summary of Findings
5.1.1 Biographical data
5.1.2 Teacher’s Knowledge of Life Approach
5.1.3 Teacher Training in teaching Life Approach
5.1.4 Attitudes of teachers towards Life Approach
5.1.5 Utilization of Life Approach techniques in the classroom
5.2 Conclusions
5.3 Recommendations


Appendix 1: Introduction Letter
Appendix II: Questionnaire for CRE Teachers
Appendix III: Introduction Letter to Interview Guide
Appendix IV: Interview Guide for CRE Teachers
Appendix V: Document Analysis
Appendix VI: Lesson Observation Schedule
Appendix VII: Lesson Observation For Teacher A


I dedicate this work to my parents Simion Chepkwony and Nancy Kirui, and my children Diana Ongeti and Davies Ongeti.


This work would not have taken the form it has without the help of many people. First and foremost, I thank Moi University for providing the opportunity to study. Second, I would like to express my deep gratitude to Dr. Anne Kisilu and Mrs. Musamas Josephine, my two research supervisors, for their patience, critical guidance and encouragement throughout my thesis writing. I personally selected them because of their strong qualities. I could not have had more friendly supervisors. Third, I acknowledge the great work done by Professor Laban Ayiro, my professor in Research Methods. He generated in me the desire to read widely and conduct rigorous research. Fourth, I acknowledge the participants who agreed to participate in this study. Were it not for them, this study would not have been complete. I am grateful to my husband, Khaemba Ongeti, for his push for me to enroll for postgraduate studies in the first place, and his inspiration in my studies this far. Finally, I wish to thank my mother-in-law who took care of my young children while I was studying. Her support and encouragement throughout my study and research work is highly appreciated.


The Kenya National Examination Council reports for 2011, 2012 and 2013 show a decline in Christian Religious Education performance. General enrolment for Christian Religious Education in schools and universities is low compared to enrolment in other subjects. The Teachers’ Service Commission acknowledges the acute shortage of Christian Religious Education teachers in Kenyan secondary schools. Whether it is staff shortage or the quality of teaching that influences performance levels is not known. Out of the many methods of teaching Christian Religious Education, the unacknowledged, perhaps, is the Life Approach. Teachers’ knowledge and skills and their use of Life Approach of teaching have not been sufficiently documented. The purpose of this mixed method, exploratory research study was to analyze and evaluate teachers’ knowledge and skills on use the of Life Approach in teaching Christian Religious Education among teachers in public secondary schools within Bungoma County. The specific objectives were to; determine teachers’ knowledge on Life Approach in the teaching of Christian Religious Education; determine the pre-service and in-service training level of teachers of Christian Religious Education in the use of Life Approach in teaching Christian Religious Education; Generate and analyze teachers’ attitudes towards the use of Life Approach in teaching Christian Religious Education in public secondary schools in Bungoma County and last, determine teachers’ utilization of the Life Approach in teaching Christian Religious Education. This study was guided by the Rogers and Frieberg theory of experiential learning. Experiential learning refers to applied knowledge and it addresses the needs and wants of the learners. The study utilized the exploratory research design. There were 206 public secondary schools with about 400 teachers of Christian Religious Education. The population of this study comprised all teachers of Christian Religious Education teachers in Bungoma County. Ten percent of the schools were selected using stratified sampling on the basis of national, county and sub-county schools. From each selected school, 2 CRE teachers were randomly selected using probability sampling procedures. To collect data, self- report questionnaire, interview guides, and document analysis and observation schedule were used. Questionnaire content analysis was used to place responses in themes in pursuit of stated objectives. Descriptive statistics method was used to facilitate data exploration for better understanding of issues. Data summary techniques such as standard deviation and means were used. The results of this study show that the teachers of Christian Religious Education have the knowledge and skill on Life Approach. However, many are reluctant to fully utilize knowledge and skills they acquired in pre-service and in-service training. Teachers were also found to have positive attitudes towards the use of Life Approach. Teachers were also found not to utilize the schemes of work and lesson plans in their class presentation. This study concluded that teachers have the knowledge and skills on use of Life Approach but do not utilized it. It is recommended that teachers be exposed to more in-service opportunities to stimulate their use of Life Approach in live lessons.


Table 1.1: National performance in CRE

Table 1.2: Bungoma county K.C.S.E performance of CRE

Table 3.1 Sampling Frame

Table 4.1.1 Gender, age, academic qualifications and teaching experience of CRE teachers

Table 4.2 Age of CRE teachers

Table 4.2: The number of stages in a Life Approach lesson

Table 4.3 Frequency of teaching activities

Table 4.4: Types of objectives used in a CRE lesson when using Life Approach

Figure 4.7 Pre-service training of CRE teachers

Table 4.5 In-service training of CRE teachers

Table 4.6: Summary of teachers’ attitudes towards Life Approach

Table 4.8 Gender and attitudes

Table 4.9 Age and attitude of CRE teachers

Table 4.11: Teaching experience of CRE teachers and their attitudes

Table 4.12 K.C.S.E general performance of CRE students


Figure 1.1 Experiential Learning Cycle

Figure 1.2: Conceptual Framework

Figure 3.1 Bungoma County and neighboring counties

Figure 4.1: Gender of CRE teachers

Figure 4.2: Teacher Qualification

Figure 4.4: Type of school

Figure 4.5: Subject Combination

Figure 4.6 Use of personal experience



1.0 Introduction

Methods for teaching Christian Religious Education (CRE) in Kenya secondary schools have evolved over the years. The evolution of different teaching methods and approaches to Christian Religious Education is the result of the search for better ways to teach religious education and make it more relevant to modern life (Buchanan 2003, 2005a). Many years ago and for a long time, teaching CRE was akin to preaching and conversion. Nevertheless, through time, educationists have advocated for better methods of teaching where CRE is based on real life experiences, and is socialized so that learners see a connection between events described in the Holy book and modern experiences. Hence, the emergence of new methods for teaching CRE such as the Life Approach. Life Approach has been recommended by the Ministry of Education as well as other stakeholders of Religious Education.

However, the introduction of new approaches does not mean that they will have a direct effect on the practice of teachers (Crockett, et. al. 2007). It was not known whether teachers actually apply the Life Approach in the classroom. Indeed, Life Approach has been grossly misunderstood by teachers (Kulali, 2013). She describes Life Approach as a burden to teachers. It is crucial that practicing teachers should have requisite knowledge and skills to enable them to deliver the subject content effectively through selection of methods which make teaching learner-centred. Teachers are expected to teach CRE using Life Approach in order to enable learners to have clear understanding and appreciation of the content of Christian Religious Education. However, the extent of teacher’s knowledge and skills and ability to use this approach had not been sufficiently documented. This study was an attempt to contribute to a better understanding of the application of Life Approach in schools.

This chapter covers the following subtopics; background to the study, the problem statement, the purpose of the study, research objectives, justification of the study, the significance of the study, limitation of the study, assumptions of the study, theoretical perspective, conceptual framework, operational definitions of terms and chapter summary.

1.1 Background to the Study

Even the best curriculum and the most perfect syllabus remains dead unless quickened to life by the right methods of teaching and the right kind of teachers (Kochar, 1992). This statement was made decades ago but still rings true today. In view of Kochar’s statement, teachers’ knowledge and skills in the teaching of CRE plays a vital role in performance in the subject. According to Chukwu (2001), teachers’ knowledge and skills are a very important component for implementation of their day to day tasks. He further claimed that for a teacher to effectively perform his/her work in class he/she should have the knowledge of content and the required skills so as to impact positively on the life of students. Teacher training should be intensive and extensive. This will enable teachers to implement the ever changing curriculum efficiently and effectively.

There have been many changes in the CRE syllabus since its inception in Kenya secondary schools. One of the changes that were made was the introduction of Life Approach in 1978. The approach emphasizes the use of the learners’ day – to – day experiences as the basis of teaching CRE. However, some changes in curriculum have failed due to lack of knowledge and skills and lack of understanding about the theoretical underpinnings of the curriculum (Buchanan & Engebretson 2009, Ryan 2001).

According to the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KIE) (2002), the teaching of CRE has the following general objectives:

By the end of the course the learner should be able to;

i. Gain insights into the unfolding of God’s revelation to human kind through; their personal experience, the African Religious Heritage, the biblical relation as whole and specifically in Jesus Christ, and the Christian community.
ii. Use the acquired social, spiritual and moral insights to think critically and make appropriate moral decisions in rapidly changing society.
iii. Appreciate and respect their own and others peoples cultural and Christian beliefs and practices.
iv. Acquire the basic principles of Christian living and develop a sense of self- respect and respect for others
v. Promote international consciousness through the understanding of universal brotherhood and sisterhood.
vi. Contribute positively to the transformation of self and society as a whole.
vii. Acquire knowledge for further studies in various career fields.

Source: (http:

From the above objectives, it is clear that the teaching of CRE in Kenyan schools is very important, though its teaching has not been accorded the attention it deserves. The right methods of teaching and the right kind of teachers should be employed in order to meet the above objectives. Shiundu and Omulando (1992) noted that in actual instruction it is the responsibility of the teachers to provide a suitable environment for implementation. A suitable environment enables learners to enjoy the learning process. This will then yield better results in CRE.

Although the KICD has listed the general objectives which should be achieved at the end of the course, the performance of CRE is still wanting in Kenyan secondary schools. The Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) in their statistics of KCSE results in recent years clearly show low performance in CRE. From the low achievement by learners it cannot be extrapolated that the general objectives are attained. Following is a table showing the performance of CRE nationally and in Bungoma County in the recent years.

Table 1.1: National performance in CRE

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Source: Kenya National Examinational Council (KNEC) reports of 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014

Table 1.2: Bungoma county K.C.S.E performance of CRE

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Kenya National Examinational Council (KNEC) reports of 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014

The national performance of CRE in KCSE in the year 2012 dropped. The Ministry of Education noted that there was a decline in CRE performance from 48.93% in the year 2011 to 44.03% in 2012. It is also noteworthy that the mean scores are all below the halfway mark in a subject that is compulsory in majority of schools. The decline may have been due to various factors. Factors may include the absence of or few number of CRE teachers in each secondary school in Kenya. In 2013 the performance of CRE slightly improved from the previous year. Although the Minister for Education while releasing the K.C.S.E examinations in February 2014 did not mention the reasons that lead to poor performance of CRE nationally, poor performance raises alarm bells particularly because it is not clear where the problem lies. It may be arising from the learners, the teachers, other stakeholders in education, or, the curriculum itself. In 2014 the performance of CRE was slightly above average at 53.14%. The performance of CRE in Bungoma County is also wanting. According to 2014 KCSE statistics female students performed better in CRE compared to males.

Currently Religious Education is expected to be life-centred. The Christian religion begins from below, from man’s own experience. It is only by experiencing life at its depth that individuals find meaning for their existence in the doctrines of their faiths. What is not apparent to many teachers of CRE is that religion is life. God does not exist only in the holy places. God is alive within man, and wherever two or three are gathered. Religious education should lead people to explore their own experience and to make a continuing search for truth, love, development and peace. Life Approach in the teaching of CRE means beginning with the actual day-to-day experiences of the learner and moving out through a reflection of these to a religious understanding of them. The Life Approach aims at guiding the learner to examine his experience in the light of God speaking to him and through that, experience the harmony in the inner self. In the Bible, God spoke to Moses, Abraham, Jacob, David, Nathan and Adam. Today does God speak to anyone? Teaching using the Life Approach requires that teachers understand and demonstrate how God continues to speak to us through our personal experiences. Knowledge of the Life Approach by teachers was not known. There was need to investigate teachers’ knowledge of what Life Approach entails.

There was also need to investigate teachers’ attitudes on the use of the Life Approach. Ongeti (1986) noted that the need for teachers’ positive attitudes towards a subject is important because a relationship exists between attitudes and achievement. Galton and Williamson (1992) further noted that teacher’s attitudes towards certain teaching strategy affects the choice of teaching methods. Further, some teachers will resort to particular teaching methods simply because they are comfortable with the methods. Most teachers tend to use lecture method because it has always been the central teaching strategy in higher education. Secondary school teachers cascade the lecture method they saw at university to their secondary school classes. The lecture method is teacher-centred. The Life Approach is more learner-centred. This study sought to find out the teachers’ attitudes towards the use of Life Approach to CRE.

Wambui (2002) in Pascal (2013) noted that most teachers are driven to cover the syllabus, thinking that covering a syllabus is synonymous with effective teaching. Teachers tend to cover a syllabus meant for four years in two and half years. Most secondary school teachers in Kenya try to cover CRE syllabus on time for the sake of national examination. Otieno (2011) in Pascal (2013) agrees that an examination oriented and overburdened curriculum in Kenya has made teachers rely on teacher- centered methods. This includes lecture method rather than learner- centered methods such as the Life Approach. Vivere (2014) further noted that many people have decried the examination-based learning rampant in secondary schools which results in learners graduating with very good grades but cannot apply the knowledge in real life situations. Learner-centered methods place emphasis on the person who is doing the learning (Weimer, 2002). The teacher-centered methods view learners as empty vessels whose basic role is to receive information passively. Poorman (2002) also observed that true learning cannot take place when learners are passive observers of the teaching process. Hence there is need for teachers to use more of learner-centred methods.

Kerubo (1994) conducted research which focused on challenges facing teachers using the Life Approach. Her research was also designed to find out whether CRE teachers were academically and professionally prepared to use the Life Approach in teaching CRE in secondary schools and whether they encountered any problems in their use of the Life Approach. Onsongo (2001) conducted research on the use of Life Approach in teaching Christian Religious Education in secondary schools. Her research was to find out the utilization of Life Approach in teaching CRE in secondary schools.

Wambui (2013) conducted research on constraints facing teachers of Christian Religious Education in using the Life Approach in secondary schools in Nairobi East District in Kenya. The purpose of her study was to identify ways in which the various constraints facing teachers of CRE in the use of Life Approach can be adequately addressed. Owusu (2000) conducted research assessing the impact of Life Approach Method of teaching Christian Religious Studies among selected senior high schools in Brong Ahafo Region of Nigeria. The purpose of his research was to find out if the teachers of Christian Religious Studies use Life Approach effectively. None of the aforementioned research reports discuss knowledge and skills of teachers. Little was known about teachers’ knowledge and skills in using the Life Approach for teaching CRE. There was need to investigate teachers’ knowledge and skills and their use of Life Approach in teaching Christian Religious Education in secondary schools in Kenya.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

During the colonial era CRE featured as a dominant school subject (Anderson, 1979; Ayot, 1986). Today the teaching and learning of CRE in Kenya secondary schools is not considered as important as the teaching and learning of science-orientated subjects. Students are encouraged to take up science oriented subjects in order to get better professional careers in the future. According to Twalib (2014) students need to embrace science and mathematics subjects in order to play part in the industrialization sector of Vision 2030. Indeed Form Three and Four students in Kenya are compelled to enroll for Mathematics, English, Kiswahili, Biology, and Chemistry as core subjects. CRE and six other subjects make up the pool from which KCSE candidates may choose three optional subjects. According to Eshiwani (1986) CRE is rated poorly by learners as having minimal contribution to the job- market. The number of KCSE students who take CRE as a subject has declined over time. Hence, the position of CRE subject in the Kenyan society is downplayed. There is under-enrolment of students in schools and universities. One consequence of the low uptake of CRE by students at university is shortage of teachers in secondary schools. It is therefore important for research to seek to improve understanding on the impact of methods of teaching CRE and whether these also contribute to the declining status of the subject in secondary schools in Kenya.

In any educational change, teachers are considered to be the change-makers. Changing teachers’ practices to facilitate educational change requires some transformation in teachers’ beliefs, knowledge, attitudes and skills (Fullan & Stiegelbauer, 1991). Teachers’ knowledge and skills then have an impact on classroom activities which, in turn, have an effect on the success of the lessons and the overall performance of students. No study known to this researcher had been mounted to ascertain teachers’ knowledge and attitude of the impact and the efficacy of the Life Approach. Hence the big question the researcher asked was “Do teachers have the necessary knowledge and skills to teach CRE using the Life Approach?”

1.3 The Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this exploratory, mixed methods research study was to explore and document the knowledge and skills level among teachers involved in the teaching CRE using Life Approach within public secondary schools in Bungoma County, Kenya.

1.4 Objectives of the Study

The research objectives for this study were to;

i. Determine teachers’ knowledge of the Life Approach in the teaching of Christian Religious Education in public secondary schools in Bungoma County.
ii. Determine the pre-service and in-service training level of teachers of CRE on the use of Life Approach in the teaching of Christian Religious Education in public secondary schools in Bungoma County.
iii. Generate and analyze teachers’ attitudes towards the use of Life Approach in teaching Christian Religious Education in public secondary schools in Bungoma County.
iv. Determine teachers’ utilization of the Life Approach in presenting CRE lessons in public secondary schools in Bungoma County.

1.5 Research Questions

Consequent upon the above objectives, the research questions for this study were;

i. What is the teachers’ level of knowledge on the use of the Life Approach in the teaching of Christian Religious Education in public secondary schools in Bungoma County?
ii. What is the pre-service and in-service training level of teachers of CRE on the use of the Life Approach?
iii. What are the teachers’ attitudes towards the use of the Life Approach in the teaching Christian Religious Education in public secondary schools in Bungoma County?
iv. How do teachers utilize the Life Approach in presenting CRE lessons in public secondary schools in Bungoma County?

1.6 Justification of the study

Christian Religious Education is a major force in human experience. It is a complex interdisciplinary field with direct relevance to the world we live in (Rennie, 2009). It is also a major source of inspiration, meaning, politics, art and literature. It acts as a major transnational force across the globe. It has also been viewed as one of the means to restore moral and social order in society. However, despite the role which CRE plays in the Kenyan society, it has not been considered as an important subject. Achola and Pillai (2001) observed that most secondary schools in Kenya, parents and public leaders emphasize passing of examinations and specifically in Mathematics and Science- oriented subjects at the expense of subjects which are not linked to direct employment in industry such as CRE.

Several studies have been done on the Life Approach in teaching of CRE in secondary schools (Kerubo 1994, Onsongo 2001, Wambui 2003), but less has been done on teacher’s knowledge and skills on use of Life Approach when teaching. Thus, in the absence of published research on teacher’s knowledge and skills on use of Life Approach to teaching CRE this particular research was crucial and timely.

1.7 The Significance of the Study

The teaching of CRE using Life Approach has been emphasized greatly in the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development syllabus. However, it was not clearly known if the teachers had the knowledge and skills necessary to use this approach. Teachers are a critical component to the curriculum implementation process. Whether or not teachers have the requisite knowledge about a method of teaching is important for its utilization. This study is significant to the curriculum specialist and all CRE teachers in that, the findings reported herein will assist them in making the right decisions about the Life Approach in secondary schools in Kenya. The researcher also hopes the study findings will help teacher trainers to identify their strengths and weaknesses in the training of teachers of CRE in utilizing the Life Approach when teaching. The findings for this study presented in Chapter Four hopefully attempt to reveal the hitherto unknown quantities and qualities about teachers engaged in the teaching of CRE using Life Approach. In Chapter five suggestions are made on how to bridge the perceived gap.

1.8 Scope of the Study

This study dealt with the teachers’ knowledge and skills on Life Approach in the teaching of CRE in public secondary schools. The population of interest was the teachers teaching CRE. The study was carried out in public secondary schools in Bungoma County. The researcher specifically dealt with teachers of CRE in selected public secondary schools in Bungoma County. The researcher considered the teachers in this study as having characteristics similar to those of teachers in other Counties in Kenya. The teacher characteristics in question are such as training, gender and experience. The researcher used self-report questionnaire, lesson observation guide, interview guide, and document analysis to generate data. The data was collected from May to August 2015.

1.9 Limitations of the Study

The likely potential weaknesses of this study could have been; cases of questionnaires and document analysis getting lost or not being returned; and researcher bias during observation. Nevertheless, through triangulation of data collection methods some of these weaknesses were reduced to a minimum. Thus the findings of this study may be generalized to the other counties of Kenya.

A second potential weakness in this study was methodological. Teaching is a long term process. To observe teachers using or not using Life Approach would best be done in a longitudinal study. Nevertheless, owing to dictates of time this researcher adopted a cross-sectional survey. This may be a limitation in this study. However, researchers may conduct similar studies in other parts of the country with the aim of better understanding the teachers’ knowledge and skills on Life Approach in the teaching of CRE.

1.10 Assumptions of the study

The study was based on the following assumptions;

i. That tools prepared were reliable in collecting requisite data.
ii. All the teachers had been trained appropriately in all methods of teaching CRE including Life Approach.
iii. The respondents would cooperate in giving information during data collection.
iv. Teachers in schools in Bungoma County used the Life Approach when teaching CRE and it would be possible to observe the practice.

1.11 Theoretical Perspective

This study was based on Rogers and Frieberg (1994) theory of experiential learning. According to the theory, there are two types of learning; cognitive learning (memorizing facts) and experiential learning (doing and experiencing). The cognitive corresponds to academic knowledge such as learning vocabulary or names of people or places in the Bible. The experiential refers to applied knowledge. The key distinction is that experiential learning addresses the needs and wants of the learners. Carl Rogers and Jerome Frieberg (1994) list the following principles for experiential learning:

i. Experiential learning occurs when carefully chosen experiences are supported by reflection, critical analysis and synthesis.
ii. Experiences are structured to require the student to take initiative, make decisions and be accountable for results.
iii. Throughout the experiential learning process, the student is actively engaged in posing questions, investigating, experimenting, being curious, solve problems, assuming responsibility, being creative and constructing meaning.
iv. Students are engaged intellectually, emotionally, socially, soulfully and/or physically. This involvement produces an attitude that the learning task is authentic.
v. The results of the experiential learning are personal and form the basis for future experience and learning.
vi. Relationships are developed and nurtured: student to self, student to others and student to the world at large.
vii. The teacher and student may experience success, failure, adventure, risk- taking and uncertainty, because the outcomes of the experiences cannot totally be predicted.
viii. The teacher’s primary roles include setting suitable experiences, posing problems, setting boundaries, supporting students, ensuring physical and emotional safety, and facilitating the learning process.
ix. The teacher recognizes and encourages spontaneous opportunities for learning.
x. Teachers strive to be aware of their biases, judgments and pre-conceptions and how these influence the student.
xi. The design of the learning experience includes the possibility to learn from natural consequences, mistakes and successes.

In experiential learning, the teacher guides rather than directs the learning process where students are naturally interested in learning. The teacher assumes the role of facilitator and is guided by a number of steps crucial to experiential learning as noted by (Wurdinger & Carlson, 2010, p. 13). These steps are as described below. The teacher should;

i. Be willing to accept a less teacher-centric role in the classroom way.
ii. Approach the learning experience in a positive, non-dominating way.
iii. Identify an experience in which students will find interest and be personally committed.
iv. Explain the purpose of the experiential learning situation to the students
v. Share their feelings and thoughts with their students and let them know that they are learning from the experience too.
vi. Tie the course learning objectives to course activities and direct experiences so students know what they are supposed to do.
vii. Provide relevant and meaningful resources to help students succeed.
viii. Allow students to experiment and discover solutions on their own.
ix. Find a sense of balance between the academics and nurturing aspects of teaching.
x. Clarify students’ and teachers roles.

Rogers describes experiential learning as planning, doing and reviewing. Planning entails setting a goal, deciding the activities to achieve the goal and deciding expected outcome. Doing is engaging in activities and self- directed learning. Reviewing checks the effectiveness and compares the actual outcomes with the expected outcome.

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Experiential Learning Cycle according to Carl Rogers

Figure 1.1 Experiential Learning Cycle


The researcher applied these principles and teachers’ roles in facilitating experiential learning for Life Approach in the teaching of CRE. The Life Approach borrows from the experiential theory since the teacher takes a less centric role in the classroom. This study used the theory of experiential learning in the attempt to describe, analyze and evaluate teachers’ knowledge and skills on the use of Life Approach in the teaching of Christian Religious Education in Public secondary schools in Bungoma County.

1.12 Conceptual Framework

This researcher understands conceptual framework to be a way of linking all the elements of the research process, research disposition, interest and personality, literature and theory and methods as explained by Ravitch and Riggan (2013). Conceptual framework is understood to be a purely visual representation of a study’s organization or major theoretical tenets (Mugenda, 2012). The graphic representation of the conceptual framework depicts the major variables and categories connected by lines and arrows to show relationships and interactions. For this study the researcher conceptualized a relationship between teachers’ knowledge, training, experience attitude and skills on the one hand and frequency of utilization of the Life Approach in teaching CRE on the other hand.

In the model presented next (Figure 1.2), it is conceptualized that the more knowledge a teacher has about the method, the more likely they are to utilize Life Approach in teaching CRE. Attitude was also isolated as an important variable. Teachers with positive attitudes towards Life Approach are more likely inclined to utilize Life Approach. It is also conceptualized that the more skilled teachers are in utilizing Life Approach the more likely they are to utilize Life Approach.

Independent variables Intervening variables Dependent variable

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Figure 1.2: Conceptual Framework

1.12 Operational Definitions of Terms

Approach - a way of dealing with something

Attitude – a consistent tendency to react in a particular way. It is often positive or negative towards any matter. It is sometimes ambivalent.

Christian Religious Education- is a process of developing a person’s mind in which the Christian religious teachings are incorporated and are indeed central to all other aspects of knowledge or skills acquired in a particular setting.

Content - The subject matter of a book or a programme.

Knowledge – is a familiarity, awareness or understanding of something, such as facts, information, descriptions, or skills which is acquired through experience or education by perceiving discovering or learning

Lesson plan - refers to a teacher’s detailed description of the course of instruction for one class. It can also refer to teacher’s road map of what the students need to learn and how it will be done effectively during the class time.

Life approach - means beginning with the actual day-to-day experiences of the child and moving through reflection on these to a religious understanding of them.

Life experience – all activities which result from being existent

Method – a method is a way of doing something: it can also mean a careful or organized plan that controls the way something is being done.

Skill – is the learned ability to carry out a task with pre-determined results often within a given amount of time, energy, or both. In other words the abilities that one possesses.

Teaching method - The strategy used by a teacher in delivering the curriculum content.

Training - A process used in developing attitudes, habits, skills and standard procedures

Utilization – To make use of something. In this study utilization means how CRE teachers make use of the five stages of a CRE lesson in their class presentation.

1.13 Chapter Summary

In this Chapter One the problem statement is articulated. The context of the study problem is described within the background of the study section. Four study objectives are formulated. The conceptual framework presented is that knowledge of Life Approach and skills in utilizing the approach will affect actual application of the Life Approach in classrooms. In the next Chapter Two relevant literature is reviewed.



2.0 Introduction

This chapter focuses on literature related to this study. It is organized under the following sub-sections: the teaching of CRE, the Life Approach, general understanding of Life Approach, teacher’s knowledge on Life Approach, teachers’ training in teaching Life Approach, teachers’ attitudes towards the use of Life Approach, teachers’ skills on the use of Life Approach, learning and teaching methods used in conjunction with Life Approach, teachers’ challenges on the use of Life Approach and other related studies.

2.1 The Teaching of Christian Religious Education

Christian Religious Education was introduced by missionaries for evangelical purposes. In the mission schools, the local people were taught how to read and write using the Bible as the main reference book (Onsongo, 2008). The schools were used as focal centres for winning converts because the Christian missionaries had a preconceived idea that Africans could easily be converted to Christianity through schooling. The teaching of the Bible was emphasized and CRE formed the core of the whole school curriculum. Schools started and ended the day with prayers and hymns and although other subjects were later taught, they were only included because they were supportive to the Christian instruction (Otiende & Malusu, 1994). After independence The Kenya Education Commission headed by the late Professor Simeon Ominde was formed. The Commission, popularly known as the Ominde Commission, observed that CRE was as important as any other subject in the school curriculum and was to be treated like an academic subject and be taught along educational lines. Minishi (2010), reports that in 1974 a conference was held in Limuru. The Limuru conference came up with the objectives of teaching CRE and approaches of teaching the subject. The Limuru Conference was followed by the National Committee on Educational Objectives and Policies (NCEOP) of 1976 (popularly known as the Gachathi Report) which also made recommendations on the teaching of CRE. The report emphasized on social values and purpose in life. The Gachathi report specifically stated that CRE should be instituted in the education system as a basis for the continued survival and enhancement of the quality of life. Religion is seen as a way of life. Thus religion should be taught using real life experiences. This would help students link the experience with the Bible.

2.2 The Life Approach

The Life Approach was introduced in Kenyan secondary schools in 1978. A workshop for tutors of Christian Religious Education from all colleges was held in 1976. It is at this workshop that it was decided the Life Approach should be included in the Kenya CRE syllabus. Onsongo (2001) defined Life Approach as starting to teach Christian Religious Education from the real and concrete experiences known to learners, moving to the present situation of the learners, and letting them to arrive at a religious understanding of those experiences. The approach implies that God speaks to people through their situations and experience and emphasizes the use of the learners’ day- to- day experiences as the basis of teaching CRE. Linhard, Dlamini and Bernard (1985) state that, the teacher should teach from the known to the unknown. A lesson should progress from what is known by learners to something that is new and challenging. As a way of leading learners to look at appropriately chosen Biblical or other material and relating what they find to the business of everyday life the life experience approach is an extremely valuable teaching approach Walton (1996).

Grimmitt (1973) further states that religious beliefs cannot be taught as if they were facts; they are by nature experiential. The teacher should always strive to teach CRE beginning with day to day life experiences. The Life Approach is designed to use the learner’s own experience as a jumping-off point for inquiry into the deeper and fuller implications of a particular concept

Smith (1964) notes that the teachers using the Life Approach to Religious Education teaching helps learners to acquire skills, values and attitudes which will enable them to grapple more effectively with ever changing circumstances and new experiences.

There are advantages of using Life Approach when teaching CRE. According to Elviah (2008), some of the advantages of using Life Approach are; it allows learners to participate actively in the lesson being taught, it also raises imagination and curiosity of learners in their desire to gain more knowledge on the subject, it also helps learners to explore their own experience so that they may accept the message of the Bible and lastly it enables learners to draw lessons from the experience of others.

There are two variations to the Life Approach. These variations of the approach are very important when teaching CRE using Life Approach in secondary schools in Kenya. These variations are;

a) Existential Approach
b) Dimensional Approach

The teacher should ensure that the two approaches are used in combination with each other as they are complementary (Grimmitt 2000).

2.2.1 Existential Approach

In the existential approach, ordinary experiences are examined, explored and discussed and new depths or ideas are discovered within them. In religious education, this exercise deliberately lays the foundation for the formation and understanding of religious concepts or ideas. This can be stated in a practical way. Grimmitt (1973) defines the existential approach to Religious Education teaching in this manner:

When we speak of the existential approach to RE we are referring to an approach which focuses attention on the whole of the learner’s experiences, or, more precisely, which focuses the learner’s attention on the whole of their experiences, and uses these as the basis for forming religious concepts.

It is when the learner’s very own experiences of love, forgiveness, justice, and care are discussed, examined and explored that the learner will be able to give meaning to traditional concepts about God. For example, before the teacher introduces the Bible story of Moses and the burning bush, the teacher has to begin with a discussion of the learners’ experiences which convey the feeling or concept of awe. The existential approach demands that a learners’ own experiences, needs and interests become the starting point for learning (Grimmitt, 1973). The teacher has the responsibility of being truly relevant, that is, of being aware of the interests and life situations of his own actual class learners.

The approach demands that the teacher should make good use of depth themes, symbol and language themes and situation themes (Grimmitt 1973). Depth themes are purely secular; they do not make use of religious language. A CRE lesson using depth themes integrates any subject matter which can serve the purpose of exploring and examining life through learners’ own feelings, acts and experiences. The main goal is to lay the foundation for an understanding of religious concepts.

Symbol and language themes help learners to reflect on religious concepts. Learners are introduced to the language that a religiously committed person employs to express their feelings and experiences. Religious words are understood as poetic, metaphorical, dramatic and symbolic ways of expressing the meaning of religious experiences a person has encountered. The aim is to teach learners how religious symbols function and how religions can be understood. Grimmitt advocates linking depth themes with symbol and language themes by encouraging teachers to guide their learners to use religious language and symbols to express their own ideas and experiences.

Situation themes contribute to moral education by providing learners with an opportunity to explore, examine and discuss situations which call for moral choice or judgment. Situations should be real-life situations that learners are likely to encounter. Teachers can use films, theatre and literature to create these situation themes for their learners.

Situation themes provide learners with opportunities to discuss situations in which a religious belief provides the rationale underlying a person's attitudes, values and actions. Learners can gain insight into the feeling side of religion by examining ways in which it deals with emotions, especially those particularly characteristic of the religious attitude, that is, awe, reverence and worship (Rennie 2009).

It is advised that the existential approach should be used while presenting the human experience and biblical content part in the lesson. Pine (2005) notes that the teacher needs to provide an environment where the learner can explore and discover the personal meaning of events. The teacher should have the requisite knowledge and skill to teach Life Approach.

2.2.2 Dimensional Approach

In the dimensional approach learners are familiarized with the six dimensions of religion identified by Smart (1996). The dimensional approach deepens the religious understanding learners have gained with the existential approach. Learners are made aware of the sort of feelings which are involved in religious belief and then they see how adherents to a particular faith react and feel about life. This approach lays good foundation for tolerance and acceptance of others. The six dimensions of religion are experiential dimension, mythological dimension, ritual dimension, ethical dimension, doctrinal dimension and social dimension. The experiential, mythological and ritual dimensions of religion are presented to the learner first. These dimensions form the basis for understanding the interrelated social, ethical and doctrinal dimensions of religion (Grimmitt, 2000). The teacher illustrates the religious concepts of awe, wonder and mystery by using material from religious experiences by various individuals and links these religious interpretations with insights that learners have already developed as a result of their secular experiences. The mythological material includes myths, legends, epics, hymns, songs, poems, proverbs, letters and oracles. The ritualistic material includes saying prayers, reciting creeds, taking the sacraments, and making offerings to gods. The purpose of presenting this material is to demonstrate the function of religious literature and rituals to the community of faith. The teacher needs the ability to see the subject matter in terms of experiences and convictions expressed through it. The teacher guides learners to see religious literature and ritual.

According to Grimmitt the social and ethical dimensions of religion are related. They show how religious belief influences attitudes, values and actions and offers principles that can be applied to situations which require moral choice.

2.3 General Understanding of Life Approach

Engebretson (2002) defines Life Approach as the sharing of life experiences between students and teacher, reflection on this life experience, and the linking of this reflection with growth in knowledge and affective understanding of faith content. The life-centred approach and the importance of personal reflection on life experiences (Colombo, 1970). The life-centred approach to religious education has been significantly entrenched in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia, since the early 1970s. The 1973, 1984 and 1995 Guidelines for Religious Education for Students in the Archdiocese of Melbourne have emphasized a pedagogical methodology which embodied this approach. This catechetical approach hinged on the understanding that catechesis was best explored through the life experiences of the students because God is revealed in their experiences. Whenman (2012) indicates that if catechesis was to be meaningful for Australian students, it would need to take into account the interests, problems and experiences of the students. Guidelines systematized an interactive process consisting of four movements in the process of catechesis. The schema for the four-point plan consisted of the following teaching and learning process:

The first was experience shared. This is where the student and teacher focus on their own experiences. The second was reflection deepened. It involves teacher and students reflecting on their own experiences to gain a deeper understanding. Third was faith express. This is where the relationship between Christian Story and life experience is revealed in Scripture, Tradition and Liturgy. Lastly insights Reinforced where the student and teacher reflect on the whole process.

2.4 Teachers’ knowledge on use Life Approach

Teachers’ knowledge is very important for effective teaching. Teachers’ knowledge is the key to successful implementation of any educational change. Verloop (2001) defined teacher knowledge as all profession related insights that are potentially relevant to the teacher’s activities.

Borko and Putnam (1995) argued that teachers’ knowledge guides their decision in academic practice. They must be encouraged to increase and expand their knowledge in order to aid them practically. Shulman (1995) described seven categorizes of knowledge. They include content knowledge, curriculum knowledge, general pedagogical knowledge, and pedagogical content knowledge, knowledge of learners, knowledge of educational contexts and knowledge of educational ends, purposes and values.

Shulman defines content knowledge as the knowledge teachers have of the subject matter they are teaching. Curriculum knowledge is the knowledge of what should be taught to particular group of learners. General pedagogical knowledge refers to strategies and rules around classroom management and organization that appears to transcend subject matter. With regard to pedagogical content knowledge, it is the knowledge of how to teach within a particular subject area. It represents the blending of content and pedagogical skills into understanding of how particular topics, problems or issues are organized, represented and adapted to the diverse interest and abilities of learners and presented for instruction. Knowledge of educational contexts is the knowledge of school, classrooms and all setting where learning takes places. Eggen and Kauchak (2002) declared that where pedagogical content knowledge is lacking, teachers commonly paraphrase information in learner’s textbooks or provide abstract explanations that are not meaningful to their students. The teacher should be knowledgeable about the use of Life Approach in class.

Chamberlain and Kelly (1981) noted that a knowledgeable teacher is one who is able to vary instructional strategies. The teacher of CRE should incorporate different teaching and learning methods including Life Approach while teaching. What is not known is teachers’ knowledge and skills in the utilization of Life Approach.

2.5 Teacher Training

In Kenya, training and re-training teachers is very important. This is because teachers are key actors of maintaining and improving the quality of education. According to Van Dersal (1962) training is the process of teaching, informing or educating people so that they may become as qualified as possible to do their job and to perform in positions of greater difficulty and responsibility. Training is also the process of acquiring specific skill to perform a job better (Jucious, 1963). In designing a training programme, the focus should be on knowledge, skills and attitudes to be imparted on the trainee. Training begins with acquiring basic knowledge on the skills to be imparted and developing attitude towards the training of the job one is being trained for. The training of teachers should focus in teaching how to perform a particular skill.

Farrant (1980) cited by Namunga and Otunga (2012) says the need for training becomes more essential as teachers undertake increasingly complex roles and find natural gifts are insufficient to cope with all tasks expected of them. Loughran (2006) also cited by Namunga and Otunga (2012) looks at teacher training as the pre-service and in-service teacher preparation where students of teaching seek to develop knowledge and skills of teaching and to learn how to competently apply these in practice. According to Dembele (2005), teacher education both pre-service and in-service training is central to quality teaching. For better delivery of the subject content, CRE teachers should have the appropriate knowledge, attitude and skills right from the pre- service training. The teachers of CRE should undergo the in-service training after the initial training to acquaint themselves with the ever changing curriculum.

2.5.1 Pre-service Training

Pre-service training provides the first step in professional development of teachers. It exposes pre-service teacher trainees to new perspectives as well as preparing them in knowledge and skills (Wilke, 2004). The pre-service training helps in preparing student- teachers for the task ahead of them. It gives the student- teachers opportunities to learn methods and strategies of teaching. For example Life Approach may or may not have been taught in the pre-service training.

Improved pre-service training may be the strongest force for changing teaching strategies (Oliveira and Farrel, 1993). New methods of teaching have evolved over time; the methods can only be implemented by prospective teachers through the pre- service training. Pre-service training should be followed by a systematic periodic provision of in-service training.

2.5.2 In-service Training

Greenland (1984), has described in-service training as a training that is designed to; provide certification for unqualified teachers; upgrade teachers’ knowledge or skills; prepare teachers for new roles and/or introduce new curricula or provide teachers with refresher courses. Shiundu and Omulando (1992) write that in-service training may consist of a carefully planned, sustained work over a lengthy period leading to further qualification in the form of an advanced certificate diploma or higher degree. In-service training helps acquaint the practicing teachers with the latest innovations in the curriculum of their subject area. In this way the teacher is most able to cope with new demands in their area of specialization as well as new approaches and methodology intended to enhance teaching and learning.

Greenland (1984) noted that to upgrade teachers’ knowledge and skills they should regularly attend the in- service training. Upgrading is concerned with advancing the qualifications teachers hold. For most teachers, upgrading of certification means advancement on the pay scale. Wolff et al (1994) quote a programme in Venezuela which encouraged teachers to gain higher degree and rewarded their achievement with salary increments of 50%. While the in-service programmes lead to increased personal learning and earnings, Wolff et al. claimed that the provision of such training did not produce a discernible reduction in repetition rates or improvement in learning among students.

Goble (1977) has reported that in-service training is necessary to remedy deficiency that teachers have discovered in their professional skills and in some specialized skills to keep pace with the changing demands of a given curriculum. For example CRE teachers who underwent training before the introduction of Life Approach in Kenyan secondary schools in 1978, need to undergo in-service training in order to furnish themselves with the new strategy of teaching Life Approach. Vivere (2014) notes that scores of teachers have never furthered their education which makes them fail to keep abreast of the changing trends in education. He further claims that some of the teachers have been in the service for over 10 years without attending a single refresher course.

Verspoor (1991) notes that in-service training is important, especially if it is relatively participatory and it responds to the needs the teachers have identified. Teachers of CRE should attend the in-service training in order to expand their capabilities in teaching and learn new strategies of teaching CRE. The in -service training should have teachers recognize problems with the current curriculum approach, teaching and learning by reflecting upon and reshaping the context in which they work.

For the general objectives of CRE which are mentioned in Chapter One to be achieved, CRE teachers need to attend in-service training more regularly. This will help them in expanding and sharpening their teaching strategies. What is the training level of CRE teachers in Bungoma County of Kenya?

2.6 Teachers’ attitude towards the use of Life Approach

Attitudes or the way that a person thinks, feels or behaves are learned pre-dispositions to positively or negatively respond to certain objects, situations, instructions or persons (Oppenheim, 1992). Social psychologists perceive “attitude” as a subjective or mental preparation for action. Similarly, attitude means the individuals’ prevailing tendency to respond favourably or unfavourably to an objective (Morris & Maitso, 2005). Attitudes affect the behaviour of the individual. Attitude has three main components; the affective, the cognitive, and the behavioural. The affective component of an attitude contains the feelings and emotions one has about a given object or situation. For example, how does one feel about people who frequently smoke in public? If one feels angry with such people, one is expressing a negative affect towards such people. The affective component becomes neutral if one is indifferent about people who smoke in public. The cognitive component of attitude has to do with what one thinks about people, situations or objects. For instance, the way one thinks about a particular kind of behaviour emanates from one‘s attitude. The cognitive component reflects the beliefs or ideas that one has about a particular topic. For example, does one believe that attending church every Sunday is a healthy practice? The answer to this question constitutes the cognitive component of one‘s attitude.


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How Are a Teacher's Knowledge and Skills Regarding the Use of Life Approach Useful for Teaching Christian Religious Education?
The Case of Bungoma County, Kenya
Moi University
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teacher´s, county, bungoma, case, education, religious, christian, teaching, useful, approach, life, regarding, skills, knowledge, kenya
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Cynthia Chebet (Author), 2017, How Are a Teacher's Knowledge and Skills Regarding the Use of Life Approach Useful for Teaching Christian Religious Education?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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