An exploration of how curriculum changes affect the emotions of life sciences teachers.
Teachers in Post-apartheid South Africa have had to deal with the restructuring of the school curriculum on several occasions. Each time changes are made; teachers have shouldered the high expectations of various stakeholders, including curriculum developers, to implement these improvements effectively. However, these improvements are complex and challenging and an important ingredient for teachers to successfully embrace these; is their emotional orientation towards such changes. Unfortunately in South Africa, there is a dearth of how teacher emotions are affected by ongoing curriculum changes. This can be addressed by exploring the emotions that teachers feel as they implement changes to the curriculum. Against the backdrop of the several rapid changes to the school curriculum and the scarcity of studies on teacher emotions in South Africa, I became interested in exploring how curriculum changes affect teacher emotions. The school curriculum consists of a large number of different subjects but this study has centred on Life Sciences. As a consequence, the aim of my study was to explore how ongoing curriculum changes affect the emotions of Life Sciences teachers. This study adopted a qualitative approach and was located within the interpretivist paradigm. The research methodology followed was narrative inquiry and data was collected by employing the qualitative method of semi structured interviews. The research sample comprised eight Life Sciences teachers who had been in the profession since 1994 and who are currently teaching Life Sciences to Grades 10, 11 and 12. The sample was drawn from four secondary schools located in an urban area in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. The process of analysing qualitative data was an intricate one. Data was analysed using thematic content analysis. There was also close collaboration with participants to ensure that what was told was written. Analysis also involved relating back to research question to see the relationship that emerged. The results of this study revealed that teacher emotions are embedded in the process of curriculum change with emotional responses ranging from positive to negative but negative responses being more evident in many instances. Also, with the implementation process, emotional understanding and emotional labour are inevitable and important. This qualitative study is offered as an example of how teachers’ emotions are affected in the process of curriculum change. These findings could possibly be of value to curriculum developers in the Department of Education. This could possibly inform decisions and provide guidance on future curriculum changes. It is recommended that for future changes, curriculum developers’ work in close collaboration with teachers to gain insight of how changes in the curriculum affect them emotionally and thus be able to provide teachers with the emotional support that they require in order to implement changes in their classrooms.