Exploring the knowledge bases and professional learning of the part-time post graduate certificate in education (PGCE) students.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal introduced a part-time Post-Graduate Certificate in Education programme in 2008, to enable graduate teachers to study part-time in order to become professionally qualified. To date, there has been very little academic research on how these professionally unqualified student teachers acquire professional knowledge informally on the job and from the formal Post-Graduate Certificate in Education programme. This study addresses such a gap in the academic literature by exploring the acquisition of professional knowledge through informal learning from their schools where they are teaching and formal learning from the Post-Graduate Certificate in Education. Given that the Post- Graduate Certificate in Education programme may continue to play a pivotal role in the training of teachers, this study has gone some way towards enhancing our understanding of how part-time teachers acquire professional knowledge through formal and informal learning. This study, which is located in the interpretative paradigm, used 10 in-depth interviews with Post-Graduate Certificate in Education students (aged 25 to 42), who were purposively sampled to solicit their views on the acquisition of professional teaching knowledge. Grossman’s model of teacher professional knowledge domains proved to be the appropriate lens and heuristic tool for this study, as it offers insights into the acquisition of general pedagogical knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, content knowledge and knowledge of the context by these student teachers. The findings from the study suggest that teacher learning occurs in both formal and informal places. Drawing from a teacher knowledge model, it can be argued that propositional knowledge is acquired through academic institutions of learning and practical knowledge is obtained in different school situations of learning. Professionally unqualified teachers can learn general pedagogic knowledge and knowledge of context on the job, with the help of dedicated mentors. These findings could possibly be valuable for lecturers who are involved in teaching and preparing learning materials for Post-Graduate Certificate in Education programmes at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and other universities. In brief, the findings of the study could perhaps inform the curriculum and delivery of the part-time PGCE programme.