What were the main aims of the initiative?

This example provides evidence of Kenyan primary school teachers using inclusive teaching strategies in a rural setting, despite many known barriers to the development of a sustainable inclusive education system. This qualitative study examines teachers’ uses of inclusive teaching strategies in primary schools, following a series of teacher trainings, classroom observations, individual semi-structured teacher conferences, reflective lesson plans and pre- and post-questionnaires. Moving beyond legal mandates and attitudinal assessments, the outcomes of this study demonstrate that, in a short time and among a small sample of teachers, administrators and Ministry officials, a culturally responsive approach to implementing inclusive learning strategies proved beneficial for meeting the needs of diverse primary school students in western Kenya.


Teacher trainings were specifically designed to help teachers to meet the needs of diverse students in primary school settings in western Kenya, drawing on existing school resources with continuous input from local government officials and inclusive education stakeholders. All schools were located in a rural, agricultural village community currently without electricity or running water, with a limited food supply and high rates of disease.


Location, setting, Scope, key events etc.

In Kenya, global barriers intersect with educational barriers with many consequences. These barriers understandably inhibit the development of inclusive education systems and create or exacerbate exclusionary conditions for students with disabilities. Global barriers (e.g. poverty, child labour, natural disasters, HIV/AIDS, gender, ethnicity, access to healthcare, access to food and availability of clean drinking water) (UNESCO, 2014) and educational barriers (e.g. tuition costs, school location and stringent entrance exams) (UNESCO, 2012) together create layered obstacles to accessing education. The authors co-taught a series of four teacher trainings that were jointly developed with local Ministry liaisons. Thirteen primary and special school teachers and five administrators attended the training events, giving a total of 18 participants from eight different schools in western Kenya.


What issues/challenges does the example address?

The following research questions were developed for the project:

  • Do teacher trainings on inclusive instructional strategies build teacher capacity and preparedness to support diverse learners in primary school classrooms?
  • Does providing teachers with knowledge of legal responsibilities and instructional strategies have an influence on developing sustainable inclusive practice?
  • Does providing teacher trainings organised through a disability studies perspective (e.g. social model of disability and education as social justice) translate into inclusive outcomes for students?

This example draws on multiple theoretical frameworks to inform a decolonising approach to the development of inclusive educational practices in post-colonial Kenya. Specifically, the authors drew on post-colonial studies, critical cultural theory, educational theory and learning theory to direct the project. The work of cultural theorist Frantz Fanon (1963) informed the foundation of the trainings. Despite Kenya achieving independence in 1963, many aspects of the colonial education system have held strong. Fanon’s work describes post-colonial groups of people as those ‘individuals without an anchor’, who cannot return to their pre-colonial roots (1963, p.·176). Recognising and responding to post-colonial realities with decolonising methodologies is critically important when working in post-colonial cross-cultural contexts.

In addition to decolonising methodologies, anti-oppressive pedagogy (Freire, 1970) and educational democracy (Dewey, 1985) further informed training pedagogy. Co-construction of knowledge, valuing the diversity and expertise within the teacher group and honouring local ways of knowing were the main foci of the project. Specifically, when introducing Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory (1985) and Rose and Meyer’s Universal Design for Learning (2002), the authors recognised the teachers as experts of their own context.



How was the Initiative implemented?

Various qualitative interpretive methods were used to collect data in this study (Bogdan and Biklen, 2007). A pre-questionnaire was given prior to the start of trainings and a post-questionnaire at the conclusion. Questionnaires allowed the authors to gain information about teachers’ experiences using inclusive teaching strategies and their general attitudes towards disability and inclusion. Following the trainings, with permission from each participant, the authors conducted informal observations of teachers in their own classrooms. Observations were followed by individual semi-structured conferences between 15 and 30 minutes in length that gave each participant an opportunity to reflect on their use of inclusive strategies and ask the trainers questions. Additional data was collected through fieldnotes and reflective lesson plans that teachers submitted in the form of a trainer-provided inclusive lesson planning template.


What where the key Outcomes? What impact/added value did they prove? What were the biggest challenges?

From an analysis of the data collected, four thematic categories have emerged as important: (1) barriers, (2) evidence of inclusion, (3) capacity and (4) sustainability. Each theme is discussed in detail below, with supporting examples from the data that confirm literature-based rationales.

Moving beyond barriers to the development of an inclusive education system in Kenya, this section provides a discussion about evidence of inclusive practices in action, capacity building and sustainability. The findings above describe a significant step in the development of inclusive pedagogy that focuses on all students in the classroom community, without segregating students on the basis of disability. The fact that teachers were able to consider these new instructional approaches and apply them differently suggests that they are thinking about the students’ needs in new ways. These pedagogical choices are aligned with considerations from Universal Design for Learning (Rose and Meyer, 2002), Multiple Intelligence Theory (Gardner, 1985) and other best inclusive instructional practices that require teachers to know and understand their students’ learning styles in order to provide more access to academic content. Teachers’ uses of inclusive teaching pedagogy represent a shift away from the transmission model described by Freire (1970) that has been the dominant ideology driving instruction in Kenyan schools.

Taken together, these elements provide evidence that the barriers to the development of an inclusive education system are permeable and subject to change. Factors influencing the prevalence of disabilities often intersect in their complexities and mutually reinforce patterns of disadvantage and oppression.


Has the initiative been evaluated or are there plans for this in the future?

The analysis within this study was informed by a constructivist grounded theory approach, along with a constant comparison method as outlined by Charmaz and Mitchell (2001). Continual comparative analysis allowed for evaluating data while it was collected, as well as requiring the authors to complicate their understandings of the findings throughout the analysis (Charmaz, 2005). Specific coding procedures, outlined by Bogdan and Biklen (2007), were followed to analyse open-ended responses on pre- and post-questionnaires, classroom observation notes and reflective lessons plans. Coding occurred in three phases, beginning with open coding and axial coding and ending with selective coding that supported the identification of significant themes and outcomes (Creswell, 2013). In an effort to ensure inter-coder reliability, all data was analysed co-operatively and systemically according to an established coding matrix (Patton, 2002). The authors met and/or communicated weekly – as permitted by distance and time zone differences – to consistently and collectively review the data with organised records maintained through the use of NVivo software. Within this analysis, particular focus was given to data that informed the understanding of developing capacity among local communities of practice and evidenced inclusion in action in schools. In an effort to understand how participants are conceptualising their own lived experiences and the continued development of inclusive education, the authors also analysed post-training lesson plans submitted by teacher participants and maintained on-going progress and collaboration check-ins electronically with local Educational Assessment and Resource Centre representatives.


Have any plans been made for future direction of the initiative?

The results of this study suggest that developing inclusive attitudes towards students with disabilities is not linear. In other words, attitudes are a critical factor and need to shift; however, attitudes do not have to change before results can be observed in practice. In other words, attitudinal change could potentially be facilitated by a community of committed educators with a willingness to try inclusive strategies, coupled with the understanding that diverse instructional approaches may reach a wider range of students. In this scenario, teachers are positioned as agents of change within their schools who influence attitudes towards disability on a larger community scale.

Teacher trainings aimed at introducing and supporting the use of inclusive pedagogy provided teachers with additional means of including more students with disabilities. Successful inclusion of diverse students was evidenced by increased attendance, participation and performance by students with disabilities. Simultaneously, teachers reported more positive attitudes and preparedness as a result of professional development supporting inclusion. New considerations for teacher training provide one clear avenue for building teacher capacity to increase access for students with disabilities in Kenyan classrooms. As the Kenyan government is in the process of asserting new directions in education, promise is seen for the development of an inclusive system of education that is founded on cultural strengths and driven and sustained by local communities of practice.


What are the main learning points?

One obvious limitation of this project is that authors Elder and Damiani are white American outsiders working in a post-colonial Kenyan context. Although the authors acknowledge this limitation and addressed it in part by making every effort to enact critical decolonising and indigenous methodologies through local expert knowledge and collaboration (from author Oswago and project stakeholders), they cannot be certain that they did not perpetuate neo- or post-colonial oppressions. Although the authors are aware of the violent and oppressive history of Eurocentric perspectives in education in Kenya, awareness does not guarantee that participants in the project did not experience certain oppressions. There is also the potential that participants felt internalised colonial pressure to provide practice-affirming responses during trainings and observations. Efforts to minimise these realities were taken into consideration by giving participants opportunities for flexibility of implementation of strategies and anonymous reflection.


Are there further information about supporting materials?

Elder, B. C., Damiani, M. L. and Oswago, B. O., 2015. ‘From attitudes to practice: utilising inclusive teaching strategies in Kenyan primary schools’ International Journal of Inclusive Education. (Last accessed November 2015)


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Brent C. Elder, Doctoral candidate/lecturer at Syracuse University

Mobile number in Kenya +254 719 692 393

Mobile number in U.S. +1 805 570 4170

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