Influence of Examination Based Teaching on the History Subject Discourse in Secondary Schools in Abogeta, Meru County, Kenya

African Research Journal of Education and Social Sciences, 5(2), 2018

Authors: Caroline Gakii Ntwiga and Boniface Njuguna Mwangi
Africa Nazarene University, P.O. Box 53067 – 00200, Nairobi
Email of the Corresponding Author:

Abstract: Overemphasis on passing in the examinations can create pedagogies that incline to the test and could have adverse effects on the intended curriculum and the output as well. This comes about when teachers shift goals from those of helping the learners gain a deeper understanding of what they are being taught to that of reproducing the taught content in order to attain high scores and hence good grade. The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of examination based teaching (EBT) on history subject discourse in secondary schools in Abogeta division, Meru County, Kenya. The study investigated how EBT influenced the teaching strategies, the history subject syllabus coverage and the history students’ application of knowledge, concepts and principles. The study was anchored on B.F. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning. The study employed survey and correlational designs. The target population consisted of 1203 form four history students and their 32 teachers from all the 24 secondary schools in Abogeta division. Through census sampling technique, 32 teachers were sampled while stratified and simple random sampling was used to select 120 history students to take part in the study. Data was collected using students’ and teachers’ questionnaires. The instruments content and face validity was ascertained through pilot testing and expert judgments. Calculation of reliability was done through the use of Cronbach’s Coefficient Alpha which give a value of 0.7. Data was analyzed by use of frequencies, percentages, means and the standard deviation. Hypotheses were tested at 95% confidence level using the Pearson correlation analysis. Most teachers were found to use EBT ( 3.22, s = 1.1). Further the use of EBT was found to have a strong and significant influence on the history syllabus coverage (r = 0.969, p < 0.05). However, EBT had a weak negative but significant influence on the teaching strategies(r = -0.403, p < 0.05) and students application of history subject concepts and principles (r = -0.394, p < 0.05).The study therefore concluded that EBT is widely used as a mode of instruction in schools and though it leads to syllabus coverage, it compromises the use of learner centered teaching strategies and above all diminishes students acumen in understanding, analysis, and application of history subject concepts and principles. The study recommended that teachers should restrain employing EBT as a mode of instruction in class and involve a variety of other teaching strategies to ensure that students use subject content effectively in and out of academic circles.

Keywords: Examination Based Teaching (EBT), History Subject Discourse, History Teaching Strategies, History Teaching Concepts and Principles


The purpose of education is to provide opportunities for the acquisition and development of relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes associated with sound moral and spiritual values. The study of history offers a wide range of materials involves numerous skills and leads to insight and generalization which challenge the varied capacities of each student (Meheta, 2016). In practice, teachers have curriculum guides outlining objectives and content that is expected of all students in a particular subject area (Burden & Byrd, 2013). Basically every subject in the school should provide skills like critical thinking, disaster preparedness, desirable moral standards, problem solving skills, positive altitudes and mutual respect (Boit, Njoki, & Chang’ach, 2012). Teaching methods in education refers to the instructional approaches that are used by teachers to help students to learn the content in a particular subject. This is how students make sense and understand the key facts, concepts, generalization and skills of a subject (Burden & Byrd, 2013). There are renowned modes of instruction that are used in effective subject delivery in the schools in Kenya (Karimi, 2013).  There is no single method that qualifies successful teaching of history. The choice of a suitable method depends on many factors such as the learner, the nature of the subject, the facilities available and the teacher’s attitude. However, the methods employed in teaching of history today should be associated with the learning activities of students like discussion method, project method, source method and dramatization and story- telling method (Pallavi, Nayak & Harichandan, 2016).

It was observed in history subject discourse that though the curriculum be the best, the most perfect syllabus remains dead unless quickened into life  by the right methods of teaching (Meheta, 2016). Examination based teaching (EBT) is an instructional practice where the teacher’s delivery of content endeavors to ensure student’s excellent performance in national examination. EBT has been blamed for history students’ inability to use learnt skills in practical situations even after performing excellently in national examinations (Wanga & Maina, 2015).

The use of EBT is attributed to an examination oriented education system where all weight of the student’s ability is thrown on grades; high grade achievers win affection from teachers while other students gawk in awe (Fang, 2014).  The Kenyan system of education is a one-off KCSE exam which is the ultimate decider of the path that a student will take after high school. The content delivered to students is a significant aspect of the output there after. If the mode of instruction comprises of some elements of the subject discourse, then the output will also be compromised quality wise. This is because pedagogies should facilitate in learners the development of critical consciousness and reflection on issues, lead to the desired change and transformation that benefit them and the society (Ornestein & Hunkins, 2013).

Teachers constitute a large single group of trained professionals; they are a force whose role in any change implementation is indispensable. According to (Burden & Byrd, 2013), teaching is a situation where teachers think and make decisions about the content, instructional strategies, instructional materials, delivery techniques, discipline and assessment of students. Teaching approaches and their variations are necessary to optimize learning; however, the variations should be within the benefits of the students and the goals of the education process (Kiruhi, Githua & Mboroki, 2009).

Examination based teaching (EBT) can be defined in regard to what it entails. This is an instructional practice where the teacher’s delivery of content endeavors to ensure student’s excellent performance in national examination. According to (Sifuna & Otiende, 2009), the characteristics of EBT can be traced back in 1000BC is the early civilization of Egypt. Teaching was done by a basic approach of learning, memorizing and repeating word for word. Learners were not encouraged to relate what they learnt to everyday life, nor were students allowed to apply what was learnt to problem solving. In EBT learners are taught content that is predicted to be examined while sometimes the same content is repeated several times for the students to memorize (Boit et al., 2012). In this instructional method, many teachers in class incline towards objective information that cannot be disputed; information that emphasizes on memorization of facts. Teachers wind up teaching towards the examination, the examinations itself becomes the curriculum (Krumbotz & Yeh, 2005). In this situation however, Otieno (2010) argues that educators should realize that there are aspects taught in schools that are not tested but which prepare learners for the world outside books.

EBT as a practice has slowly crept into classroom instruction in schools in Kenya. In the Abogeta Division of the Meru County, EBT is being blamed for history students’ inability to use the skills learnt in subjects in practical situation even after performing so well in the subject in national examinations (Wanga & Maina, 2015). This claim lacks empirical evidence. This is a problem that needs to be addressed otherwise the country will be required to hire experts to do tasks that Kenyan students could easily accomplish. The study therefore, attempted to investigate the influence of EBT on the history subject discourse in secondary school in Abogeta division, Meru County, Kenya. The study was further guided by the following hypotheses: a) EBT has no significant influence on teaching strategies in history subject discourse in secondary schools; b) EBT has no significant influence on the depth of history subject syllabus coverage in secondary schools; c) EBT has no significant influence on the students’ application of history subject Knowledge concepts and principles in secondary schools.


Teaching strategies are plans by which teachers organize learning experiences for learners in order for them to acquire the intended knowledge, skills and attitudes (Kiruhi, Githua & Mboroki, 2009). There are various methods, approaches and techniques that are used to teaching history, for instance the constructive approach, inductive method, deductive method, and co-operative learning. There is no method that is universally applicable ( Meheta, 2016), however when teachers concentrate in examination performance of their students they do not put into account the nature or abilities of their students since some approaches of teaching history like dramatization gives reality and concreteness to lower performing students (Pallavi et al., 2016).

It is worth noting that teacher’s academic qualifications, knowledge of the subject matter, competence and the methods of instruction have effective impact on the learning process (Codruta, Simona & Georgeta, 2011). Teaching strategies should emphasize the need for learners to ask questions, to experiment, to explore, to discover, to solve problems, to investigate, to do projects and to perform tasks. Examination centered mode of teaching encourages repetition and rote learning and is hardly relevant and fair to a student. Students feel valued when instruction and subject content takes into consideration the diversity of the learners and their aspiration in the future (Karimi, 2013).  In examination based teaching the teacher’s main role is to transmit knowledge while learners passively listen and take notes. This is opposed to the discovery teaching strategy where the teacher’s role is to facilitate learning and guide learners’ activities. Its main focus is discussion and problem solving in the process of learning (Kiruhi, Githua & Mboroki, 2009).  Burden and Byrd (2013), advocates the use of a variety of teaching strategies in order to put consideration the nature of students and the available facilities.

According to Meheta (2016), strategies like discussion cum narration method of teaching history provides dual benefits to students. It provides adequate scope for students’ participation in the selection of topics or problem presenting ideas, analyzing ideas through exchange of ideas and taking decision with suitable support material. The use of examination based learning does not provide for discussions and narration which are thought to consume more time. It is therefore clear that teaching to the test does not only affect content organization but also the delivery of subject knowledge, principles and concepts altogether. Teachers abandon their best teaching routines in order to comply with standards-based education and be judged accountable (Kubow & Fossum, 2007). This implies  that the teaching strategies  used by  teachers  can either  deliver the intended subject content  or on the  basis  of pressure  to excel in the examinations, incline to teaching that puts more emphasis in examinations. There is therefore need to find out the influence of teaching inclined to the test on the effective strategies of teaching history subject

A syllabus can be defined as the depth and width of a subject content that learners are expected to cover within a particular period of time. It includes the knowledge,  skills,  attitudes  and values  related  to a subject and the resources  and means  through which  learning is accomplished  (Burden  & Byrd, 2013). According to  Wayne (2009), in the prevalence of examination centered instruction and hence high stakes testing, there was narrowing of the curriculum content because content was selected to march what was in the test. Essential subjects were those that were tested and subjects considered insignificant as far the examinations were concerned were eliminated. Some schools and teachers eliminated recess- this is because it was not in the test. Instead of being guided by the curriculum and aligning instruction and assessment with the curriculum the opposite happens, teachers commence with the test and incline content and instruction to the test. Education and instruction is not all about performing well in tests (Ornestein & Hunkin, 2013). It is important for stakeholders to realize that students require to have whole some subject  content  in other  areas not necessarily  for examination  purposes, this  is why this  study  is important.

According to Pallavi et al., (2016)  history  should instill in the learner the ability  to  rationally  inquire and analyze  issues  at hand, provide  intellectual  fulfillment to  the leaner  through  its  in-depth study,  influence  career  choices, whether one is to be good teacher, lawyer, social worker or a public  administrator. History subject is meant to enable students to manage the present better and plan for the future. Students therefore require to be exposed to the concepts and principles of history by participating in activities through instruction that address vital subject content (K.I.E, 2011).


The study adopted survey and correlational research designs. Survey was chosen because it enables the researcher to generalize the findings to a larger population. The study aimed at collecting information from respondents on their opinions in relation to the characteristics of EBT and the influence it has on the history subject discourse in secondary schools in Abogeta division Meru County. Correlational research design was also used as the study sought to establish the relationship between the study variables. A survey is a research method involving the use of standardized questionnaires or interview to collect data in a systematic manner (Bhattacherjee, 2012). Closed ended questionnaires and the likert scale were used to obtain primary data, secondary data was found in written literature. The target population of this study consisted of 24 secondary schools in Abogeta division with an estimated population of 1235 teachers and students; 32 history teachers and 1203 history students. The subjects of the study were drawn from the 24 secondary schools. The respondents were form four history teachers and students in particular students pursuing history subject. The questionnaires were administered to form four history students only. This is because the candidates had been longer in school as compared to the other students and therefore it was assumed that they would give more information in regard to the study. The information on the number of form four students in the division was obtained in the Imenti South sub county education office. The division had 32 history teachers and therefore the census method was used to acquire a sample for the teacher respondents, this is because of the small size and to ease the management of the population of the study. The students sample size was calculated as 10 % of the population (1203) giving 120 students. Using stratified sampling, the 120 students were drawn from the three strata or school categories; boys’ only, girls’ only and mixed schools. From each category, 40 students were selected using simple random sampling regardless of gender.

Data were collected using the history students’ questionnaire and history teachers’ questionnaire. Both questionnaires had a Cronbach alpha coefficient of over 0.7 which was sufficient for the study (Waldeck, 2013). Expert judgment was also involved in order to ensure that the instruments had content and construct validity. Both descriptive and inferential statistics were used for data analysis. Inferential statistics was used to test the hypothesis. The researcher   used Pearson Product Moment correlation to determine the correlation between the   examinations based teaching and   history subject teaching strategies, subject syllabus coverage and the students’ application of subject knowledge, concepts and principles in secondary schools in Abogeta division Meru County.


4.1 Introduction

The study sampled 32 history teachers and 120 history students. However, 25 teachers’ questionnaires and 117 were successfully completed and returned constituting 97% response rate. According to Babbie (2014), a response rate of more than 70% is sufficient for a study.  The study respondents were fairy distributed in regard to gender since 52.1% (61) of the respondents were female students while 47.9% (56) were males while 52% (13) of the teacher respondents were males and 48% (12) were females. The purpose of the study was to investigate the influence of EBT on history subject discourse in secondary schools in Abogeta division, Meru County, Kenya. The history subject discourse was defined in terms of the teaching strategies applied (learner or teacher centred), the depth of the syllabus coverage and the level of students’ application of subject knowledge, principles and concepts.

For each objective, statements in a five point Likert scale were scored and a weighted mean computed. The computed mean was such that a mean value of 1 to 2.8 – disagree, 2.9 to 3.2 – undecided, 3.3 to 5- agreed. In order to capture the dependent variable EBT, history teachers were required to gauge the extent to which they adhere to several aspects of Examination Based Teaching on a five point Likert scale where strongly agree was rated number 5. The more a teacher practiced these aspects the more it was certain that the teacher practiced the Examination Based Teaching. The three dependent variables, that is teaching strategies applied, the depth of the syllabus coverage and the level of students’ application of subject knowledge, principles and concepts had a weighted mean of 2.8, 2.7and 3.2 respectively (as rated by history learners). On the other hand the dependent variable (aspects of EBT) had a weighted mean of 3.6 as rated by history teachers.

4.2 Test of Hypotheses

The researcher aimed at testing the three formulated null hypotheses in order to find out whether there exists significant relationship (influence) between each of the dependent variables and the use of EBT in Abogeta division, Meru County. To accomplish this, Pearson product moment correlation analysis was conducted and the results are as shown in Table 1. It was evident from Table 1 that there existed a significant negative relationship between all the independent variables and the dependent variable (p < 0.05). Thus, all the three null hypotheses were rejected and the alternatives adopted. The use of EBT had the strongest negative significant influence on depth of history subject coverage (r = – 0.832) implying that EBT leads to shallow coverage of syllabus. Likewise EBT encouraged teachers to use teacher centred strategies and inhibited learners’ prowess in applying history concepts and principles. However, EBT had a weak correlation with teaching strategies (r = – 0.403) and learners application of principles and concepts (r = – 0.394).


4.3 Influence of EBT onTeachers’ Teaching Strategies
The study went further to establish the teacher’s opinion on the extent to which EBT has influenced their teaching strategies. Table 2 shows the teachers responses.

Table-2-perceptions-of-teachers-on-the-influence-of-EBT-on-their-teaching -strategies

As evident from Table 2, 64% (16) of the respondents said that EBT averagely influenced their teaching strategies, while 24% (6) of the respondents said that EBT was very influencing in their teaching strategies.

4.4 Teacher’s Experience and the Influence of EBT on Teaching Strategies

The researcher went further to find out whether the use of EBT depended on the teachers teaching experience. A cross tabulation was done between the rating of teachers on the influence of EBT on their teaching strategies and their teaching experience. The results are shown in Table 3.


A chi-square test analysis was done to find out whether there exists significant relationship between the number of years a teacher has taught and the influence of EBT on the teaching strategies. Table 4 shows the results of Chi-Square test.


Since the obtained level of significance for the association between teachers’ teaching experience and influence of Examination Based Teaching on the teaching strategies was greater than p value,  0.05, χ² (6, N = 25) = 5.122a, p = .528, the null hypothesis was not rejected. Thus, the study concluded that there was no statistical significant association between teachers’ teaching experience and influence of EBT on the teaching strategies.


5.1 EBT Influence on History Teaching Strategies
In order to establish the EBT influence on the teaching strategies adopted by history teachers, learners’ opinion on statements in a likert scale were sought. Most of the students disagreed to the statements that: The mode of teaching commonly used discourages rote learning and memorization of history facts; Students’ discussion is used to a large extent during lessons; Students are required to conduct research for some topics and present findings in class; Our history teacher avoids giving notes in point form as lesson progresses; Our teacher uses teaching resources such as charts and maps; Our teacher invites resource persons to narrate first hand historical events; We visit historical sites to enhance what we learn in class and Our teacher uses audio-visual materials such as drama, videos in teaching. All these statements were anti EBT the fact that most learners indicated they were not applicable in their schools, implied that most history teachers were pro EBT.

These findings were congruent to Boit, Njoki and Changach (2012) who found that EBT prevented teachers to engage all the methods of instruction meant to attract the learners’ interest in class, and integration of life skills in their teaching. These are contrary to the education goals which are expected to be achieved in the school system. Similarly, in a study done in Pakistan, Rehmani (2003) noted that teachers are bound to switch their teaching methods to mainly the lecture method and adopt teacher and curriculum centered approaches to teaching and learning so as to ensure good performance in examinations.  (Boit et al., 2012) echoed similar sentiments and noted that these teaching approaches turn students into learning machines all day long throughout the four year period. Students wake up at dawn, and attend lessons up to 9 pm daily, without the respite that should punctuate learning such as visit to historical sites, viewing of educative videos, talk by a resource person and others.

According to Verma, (2009) when the teaching strategy employed in class encourages rote learning and memorization of facts it discourages the development of critical thinking; a vital element in the study of history subject. On the other hand, when teacher dictate notes in point form students in the long run are encouraged to memorize the content. Further, the study found that learners were never engaged in research and presentations. This was contrary to (Pallavi et al., 2016) who reiterated that though projects and research have their own disadvantages like being expensive and disrupting school work; they enhance the pupil’s co-operation in planning and execution, they enjoy immiscible satisfaction and pleasure which are pivotal aspects in the subject discourse.

Overall, the mean response of learners regarding the history subject teaching strategies was 2.8 implying that teacher centered strategies and approaches dominated the teaching of history in Abogeta division secondary schools. A Pearson test showed that r = – 0.403, p < 0.05, implying that the use of EBT had a significant negative relationship with learner centered teaching strategies. However the relationship was weak. The finding was similar to (Karimi, Nyaga & Ounda, 2014) finding that methods used to teach secondary school students in Imenti South District, denied learners the opportunity to actively experience a learning process. Learning was mainly teacher centered where learners acquired knowledge mainly through teachers’ dictation, discussion of past papers among students and students copying notes from textbooks. This approach to learning may make learning boring, thus, creating a negative attitude towards learning. As a result learners may not achieve their academic aspiration (Ahmad & Rao, 2012; Karimi et al., 2014). For a sound education system that seeks to nurture the recipients and manages to release their potential for national development and cohesion teachers must not only focus just on acquisition of a good grade but also ensure provision of a holistic education, which involves imparting appropriate knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that helps learner identify and develop their actual strengths.

5.2 Influence of EBT on the Depth of History Subject Syllabus Coverage
In order to examine the EBT influence on the depth of history subject syllabus coverage, learners’ opinion on some statements’ were sought. Most of the students disagreed to the statements that: There are no sections in our class text that our teacher has not touched; Our teacher gives research work as recommended in the syllabus; We are encouraged to get more information from online sources; Our teacher does cover all the content details as recommended in the syllabus. This finding concurs with (Pallavi et al., 2016) who found that EBT leads to shallow content coverage and although the teacher might have mentioned each item in the syllabus learners are deprived of the concrete foundation.  However, the learners did agree with to the statements that; ‘We are almost through with form four history subject syllabus and that Our class teacher gathers information from other text books apart from the main class text book’. Thus one noted advantage of EBT according to (Boit et al., 2012) is that teachers are able to touch every section in the syllabus and keen students are able to further consolidate the facts on their own.
Overall, the mean response of learners regarding the depth of history subject syllabus coverage was 2.7 implying that although teachers were able to touch all the areas in the recommended syllabus, they spared no time for in depth research, use of resource persons, field visits, and detailed background information. A Pearson test showed that r = – 0.832, p < 0.05, implying that the use of EBT had a significant very strong negative relationship with the depth of history subject syllabus coverage. That is, the use of EBT influenced teachers to avoid in depth coverage of history syllabus. The finding corroborated Karimi et al., (2014) study which found that EBT was strongly correlated to superficial syllabus coverage. In order for the learners to fully appreciate various historical events such as the struggle for independence in Kenya or the Indian mutiny of 1857, teachers should endevour to give the detailed background and the context in which these episodes took place.

5.3 Influence of EBT on the students application of History knowledge concepts and principles
In order to determine the influence of EBT on the students application of knowledge concepts and principles in history subject discourse, the history learners’ opinion on some statements’ were sought. Most of the learners agreed to the statements: that they could understand the concept of dates in history such as ‘which came before: 350 B.C. or 50 B.C.? ; that by studying history they are able to understand the present existing social, political, religious, and economic conditions of the people; and that by studying Kenya History, they have improved their sense of patriotism. The finding was in agreement with Little (2010) who asserts that a prudent history student should rise beyond mere memorization of some dates and events but also demonstrate deeper understanding by analyzing and discussing other episodes far away from the real event.

However, most learners also disagreed with the statements: that by analyzing drawings in caves, inscriptions on walls, some artifacts, they could reconstruct and describe life of a certain community objectively; that they could give a talk on tolerance with different faiths, different loyalties, different cultures, different ideas and ideals; that apart from giving facts on World Wars, one could deal with how and why questions comfortably; and that one could differentiate between a riot from an uprising as a historical event narrative. All these statements represented some tasks which required a deeper and thorough application of history knowledge, concepts and principles. These findings concur with (Yi-Ching, 2009) who found that EBT has a negative wash back effect in that it encourages teachers to narrow the curriculum and lose instructional time, leading to teaching to the test. In addition, students are not able to learn real-life knowledge, but instead learn discrete points of knowledge that are tested (Ahmad & Rao, 2012).
Overall, the aggregated mean response of learners regarding their application of History knowledge concepts and principles was 3.2 signifying that learners neither agreed nor disagreed. However when their mean response was correlated with the extent to which their teachers used EBT, the result showed that there was a weak negative but significant correlation (r = – 0.394, p < 0.05). This implied that the teachers’ use of EBT did not enhance learners’ capability to apply history knowledge, concepts and principles. This finding corroborates other studies by Ahmad and Rao, 2012, Boit et al., 2012; Karimi et al., and Yi-Ching, 2009.


The purpose of the study was to investigate the influence of EBT on history subject discourse in secondary schools in Abogeta division, Meru County, Kenya. From the findings and discussion thereof, the following conclusion was made:

Most of history teachers in use EBT and as such teacher centred teaching strategies such as lecturing and dictation of a few shallow notes are predominant. Students rarely tackle research based assignments, rarely search for material from internet; hardly make educational trips and resources persons are hardly invited. The major motivating factor in remains the success in examination and thus uplifting the subject mean score and hence the school Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination (KCSE) mean score.

In a bid to finish the syllabus in time and do some revision, most teachers fail to delve into content details as envisaged in the syllabus and instead do super visual treatise. This practice has resulted to learners less capacity to apply history knowledge, concepts and principles and thus jeopardizing the realization of Kenya National goals of education.

A number of recommendations were made:

Teachers should avoid using EBT as a mode of instruction and instead apply both expository and heuristic approaches in order to not only complete the syllabus but also involve the learners fully in acquisition of history knowledge, concepts and principles. The strategies used in content delivery should discourage rote learning and memorization of history facts. Teachers should use resources such as charts and maps often to enrich their teaching strategies.

Students should be well exposed on the objectives and the content of the syllabus as this makes them read on their own from various sources ahead of the teacher. Further, the students should be encouraged to get more information from online sources to enrich what they learn in class.

Teachers should incorporate the necessary aspects of the syllabus like field trips, and resource persons, in order to expose students more in depth content.

Teachers should restrain from giving students examinations to take home as home work but should instead exploit student’s abilities by giving them  projects and research work.

Teachers should ensure that the subject content and their teaching strategies create or develop critical and analytical skills in students so that they can confidently handle history in and out of academic circles.

The Ministry of Education should lay emphasis on the ability of a student in handling a subject than grades the students acquire in the examination. The overall student’s examination grades should be a combination of student’s subject ability over a period of time rather than one examination.


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