Exploring approaches to the teaching of life sciences.
Majozi, Thembisile Rosemary.
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There is a national outcry on poor performance of learners in Grade 12 Life Sciences in KwaZulu-Natal secondary schools. The focus of this research is to find out which teaching approaches are used by Life Sciences teachers to teach a section of environmental studies to Grade 12 learners, without making it difficult for learners to understand. The literature reveals that there are various teaching approaches (such as the executive approach, the facilitator approach, the liberationist approach, context-based approach and environmental awareness approach) which can be employed in science classrooms. The theoretical framework guiding this study is social constructivism, where Pollard’s (2005) model of teaching is used to interpret the social constructivist’s classroom. In light of the New Curriculum Statement (NCS) which aims to instill critical thinking in learners and learner-centred teaching approaches, I investigate this topic to explore to what extent teachers conform to the objectives of the NCS policy. This study is guided by a qualitative research paradigm and is interpretive. The research methodology adopted is a case study, and the instruments of data collection are classroom observations which were video-recorded and semi-structured interviews which were tape-recorded and transcribed into text. Field notes and document analysis were also used as instruments for data collection. Purposive sampling of three Life Sciences teachers was undertaken. Five major findings emerged, as follows: pedagogical concrete science, which relates to context-based teaching approaches and environmental awareness teaching; science in motion, relating to the facilitator teaching approach; teacher as knower, which relates to the transmission teaching approach; interactive science teaching, which relates to the inquiry-based teaching approach; and teacher in action, which is about the facilitation teaching approach. The study reveals that although teachers are employing a variety of teaching approaches, they are faced with contextual factors, for example, lack of science equipment, which make it difficult to carry out their role effectively. Recommendations to the Department of Education are to conduct in-service training to assist teachers in employing a variety of teaching approaches in science classrooms, and also to supply science equipment to schools.