Teachers' experiences of supporting students who are struggling to learn science: A phenomenological inquiry

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)

First Supervisor/Advisor

Dr. Simon Karuku

Second Supervisor/Advisor

Dr. Shelina Walli


Institute for Educational Development, East Africa


In a school setting, teachers and students are at the centre of the everyday experiences we call education. This study aimed at exploring and understanding the lived experience of science teachers when supporting students who are struggling to learn science in two rural district secondary schools in Kenya. Participants comprised 8 science teachers - 5 for chemistry and 3 for physics. Of the 8 participants, 6 were males, and2 were females. This qualitative research took a descriptive phenomenological design. Unstructured interviews (with simple interview protocol and audio-recorder) were used as data collection tools. Data analysis followed a phenomenological reduction process where a detailed line-by-line approach was adopted to isolating relevant thematic statements from the transcripts of data collected. Results of data analysis revealed five themes science teachers experienced when supporting their struggling students. These themes indicated teachers felt like: struggling with the struggling students; aligning themselves with significant others feeling pain and destabilized; circumventing the pitfalls; and success is possible with determination. Essentially, teachers expressed a wide range of attributes like care, sympathy, empathy, love, concern, determination, and resilience. In some occasions teachers expressed fury, despair or hopelessness, and frustration. The findings of this study may be useful to stakeholders in education in understanding the taken-for granted nature of teachers' lived experiences, which usually impact directly on teacher-student relationships, the teachers' self-efficacy, and pedagogical practices. The recommendations may be used to develop instruments for identifying struggling learners, design strategies best suited to support them, and thus creating equal success opportunity for both the struggling and achieving students in secondary schools.

This document is available in the relevant AKU library