Professional learning of foundation phase teachers in the advanced certificate in teaching (Act) programme.
Kimathi, Faith Kananu.
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This is a case study of three Foundation Phase (FP) teachers enrolled on the Advanced Certificate in Teaching (ACT) programme. It explores what they learnt about teaching English as First Additional Language (EFAL) and how this learning impacted on their beliefs about literacy teaching and their classroom practices. The study aims to contribute to the on-going debates about teacher learning and take up from teacher professional development (PD) programmes in South Africa. The research question which guided the study is: What kinds of knowledge do the FP teachers acquire from the ACT programme and how do they apply and recontextualise this knowledge in teaching English as First Additional Language (EFAL)? The study involved three FP teachers from three primary schools in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, who were purposively selected as the analytical cases from a larger group (173) of teachers who enrolled in the ACT programme at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, in 2014. The case study followed the interpretivist paradigm and a qualitative method, with an element of a longitudinal approach. This made it possible to work closely with each teacher in her context for a period of 18 months, in an attempt to understand teacher learning through the eyes of the participants. The appropriateness of this approach became evident after recognising that it was not possible to separate my interpretations from the participants’ background, history, context and prior understanding. Data were generated from multiple sources: interviews, field notes, classroom observations and document analysis. Data were reduced and inductively analysed to give the reader a clear and systematic presentation of the three teachers’ stories and descriptions about their experiences and pedagogies. These generated biographical descriptions which provided a deeper understanding of three different contexts. Deductively, three different lenses were also used: Reed’s (2009) conceptual framework to analyse the Learning Guide of the ACT literacy Module 4; the principles of teaching First Additional Language (FAL) to describe teachers’ pedagogies; and the Interconnected Model of Teacher Professional Growth (IMTPG) to examine the nature of teacher change. Altogether, these generated rich descriptions and discussions about teacher learning and the impact on teachers’ pedagogies. The document analysis of the ACT literacy module aimed to understand what principles of literacy and domains of teacher knowledge were privileged in the intended curriculum. The analysis was achieved by using Reed’s (2009) knowledge conceptual framework to understand the exemplified domains of knowledge. The results of the study showed a strong focus on the practical domain of teacher knowledge, as compared to the subject matter domain. Texts in the LG4 on emergent literacy theories and assumptions of effective teaching are clear, but the conceptual knowledge is not explicitly taught, which is needed to support the practical knowledge. The principles of teaching FAL were used to map the ways in which the three teachers changed their teaching of English literacy. Anne and Lisa developed a deeper understanding of most of the principles of teaching FAL, such as bilingualism and creating opportunities for learners to build new vocabulary and to read fluently in English, while applying the Krashen’s hypothesis of acquiring FAL. The third teacher, Jane, portrayed moderate - weak presentations of the FAL principles in the six observed lessons. The former displayed mostly a core change (networks of growth), unlike the latter with predominantly a peripheral change which might not last in practice, according to IMTPG. However, the three teachers acquired insufficient knowledge on writing skills as espoused in the literacy modules. Complexity theory (Opfer & Pedder, 2011) is used as a way of explaining the different learning outcomes for the three teachers. Complexity theory suggests that the individual teacher, the learning activity (in this case, the ACT programme) and the school organisation and context all influence the process of teacher learning and change.