An exploration of clusters as teacher learning communities for grade 12 geography teachers in the inland circuit.
Myende, Sanele Siphosenkosi.
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Since the advent of democracy in 1994, South Africa has undergone enormous changes in education system. With a change in education system, the curriculum is expected to change. This means that teachers as agents of teaching and learning need to adapt to the ever changing system. However, there has been great concern that teacher development has not been supportive of these changes. Therefore, more effective teacher development initiatives are required. The main objective of teacher development is to enhance classroom practice and to ensure better learning outcomes in South African schools. This study investigated teacher clusters as a new initiative for teacher development in South Africa. The main aim was to explore to what extent two Geography teacher clusters function as teacher learning communities. The study was located within the interpretative paradigm and a qualitative approach was adopted. Semi-structured interviews and observations were used. Five participants were interviewed and cluster meetings were observed twice. The study was based on one district and circuit in KwaZulu-Natal. Findings show that two major activities take place in cluster meetings. Firstly, assessment is a major activity, which includes setting of question papers, moderation of scripts, discussing previous question paper standards and developing memoranda together. Secondly, content discussions are based on content knowledge of a subject. A range of researchers concur on the following features/ characteristics of professional learning communities: shared vision, values, and goals; collegiality and collaborative learning; supportive conditions; shared personal practice; a collective focus on student learning; shared trust amongst the teachers; and teacher driven and shared leadership. Clusters did not demonstrate all characteristics of teacher learning communities. Shared trust, shared vision, values and goal, shared personal practice, teacher driven and shared leadership were not present across clusters. However, collective focus on student learning and collaborative learning were identified as being present. Therefore, it is imperative for the Department of Basic Education to strengthen clusters to function as professional learning communities