Enabling student teachers of literature to become agents of change.
This thesis reports on a study involving student teachers of literature in a teacher education programme who used literary texts as catalysts for implementing change. The researcher asserted that if student teachers are empowered with sound disciplinary knowledge, effective pedagogical tools and an understanding of how to bring about academic and social change, they can make a difference to the lives of their learners, irrespective of context or resources. Critical pedagogy served as the theoretical framework for the study which was characterised by a system of interventions within six participatory action research cycles. The researcher found that participants responded positively to co-operative, experiential learning strategies in lecture-rooms that were perceived to be safe. When participants recognised that their views were respected, their interactions with others were characterised by respect as well. They realised that having agency and voice did not mean denying others the same. They felt empowered to make decisions and access resources, and they embraced challenges perceived to be valuable. By the end of the study, participants recognised that teachers can serve as primary resources in schools if they empowered themselves with deep content knowledge, pedagogical skills and a transformative agenda, and if they actively engage learners, scaffold learning, build on prior knowledge and skills, affirm histories, and enable a classroom where learners’ contributions are valued. Participants established that to serve as agents of change in the classroom, teachers need to critically reflect on their practices and confront their prejudices. In addition, they need to ascertain the underpinning philosophy of their practices. Only then can they determine the roles and functions that comprise their identities as teachers. Ultimately, the researcher draws on the knowledge from participatory action research, critical pedagogy and literary texts to enable change agency in a lecture-room at a School of Education. The thesis adds to the discourses on teacher education, participatory action research, critical pedagogy and change agency and contributes to knowledge by showing that using participatory action research and critical pedagogy in a lecture-room is feasible and useful in enabling the transformation and empowerment of students.