Influence of secondary school students’ prior conceptions on learning outcomes: a case of HIV and AIDS education in a Secondary school in Kenya

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)

First Supervisor/Advisor

Dr. Lilian Vikiru

Second Supervisor/Advisor

Peter Kajoro


Institute for Educational Development, East Africa


The secondary HIV and AIDS education in Kenya is aimed at bringing about behavior change among the students through enabling them make informed decisions on issues regarding their sexuality to control the spread of the pandemic. An increase in case of sexually transmitted diseases, among secondary school students, pregnancy and abortions implies that secondary school students are engaging in unprotected sex predisposing themselves to HIV infection. Learners come to class with already formed ideas that explain the world around them. Some of these ideas are contrary to what is scientifically known about HIV and AIDS and have been referred to as misconceptions in this study. Misconceptions are known to be resistant therefore may persist after formal instruction. Using mixed approach, the study sought to explore the misconceptions that had persisted after the students had gone through the HIV and AIDS curriculum, how these misconceptions could possibly influence the students’ decision making and hence behavior. Firstly, syllabi, textbooks and students’ notes of the subjects in which HIV and AIDS education is integrated were analyzed. Secondly, questionnaires were administered to 94 form students representing half of the population. Further still, three teachers who had taught the form four students about HIV and AIDS were interviewed. Lastly, two focus groups of six boys and six girls were held. Although the questionnaires revealed that the students had a high level of knowledge as compared to the misconceptions they held, the FGD revealed that misconceptions about HIV and AIDS were deeply rooted in the students’ understanding of HIV and AIDS and could influence the students’ decision making and behavior as demonstrated in responses to hypothetical situations presented to them. If these misconceptions remain unaddressed, it is possible that the students could base their decisions about issues related to HIV and AIDS on the misconceptions defeating the purpose of HIV and AIDS education. Based on these findings, the study provides recommendations for practice, teacher education, and curriculum development, as well as for policy.

This document is available in the relevant AKU library