A context-based problem solving approach in grade 8 natural sciences teaching and learning.
Khumalo, Leonora Thandeka Nontsikelelo.
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The demands of the new curriculum are such that problem solving is foregrounded as one of the core skills in the learning of the Natural Sciences. However teachers in general have difficulties in conceptualizing how this core skill should be incorporated into their everyday teaching of the Natural Sciences. Furthermore there seems to be some confusion in the literature on how the concept of problem solving should or ought to be understood. This is a qualitative case study to explore a grade 8 Natural Sciences educator who involves the learner's context when developing the curriculum, during teaching and learning and assessment. The educator allows the learners to use their context to negotiate during teaching and learning. The learners discuss the context-based activities in their groups and solve problems in their context, produce the portfolio boards by using the resources from their context and present their portfolio board to the class. The educator assesses the learners' activities in context and the portfolio boards. The educator and classroom activities are explored by using semi-structured interview as the main source of the data, unstructured interviews semi-structured obs~rvation schedule and classroom observation. The educator's understanding is explored by using a multifaceted methodology which targets the following key aspects namely, curriculum development, teaching and learning and assessment. In the activity theory the context is the unit of analysis. Activity theory is used as the lens and the conceptual framework in this study to understand how the educator develops the curriculum, teach learners Matter and Materials in their context and assess their context-based activities and the portfolio boards. The findings show that according to this educator he sees himself as the curriculum implementer rather than developer. The curriculum changes are at theoretical level rather than classroom level. Contextual teaching involves construction of knowledge from learners pre-knowledge and interests. Teaching within an Outcomes Based Education is transformative and educator as a mediator of learning. Problem solving needs more time but maximise non-routine thinking. Assessment is for learning, it is continuous and it contributes towards assessment for grading.