Exploring grade six educators' understanding of the integration of the natural sciences and technology in the Mafukuzela-Ghandi Circuit, Ethekwini Region.
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This qualitative study sought to explore Intermediate Phase Natural Sciences and technology educators’ understanding of the integration of Natural Sciences andtechnology. This was donein order to ascertain whether there wasa relationship between their understanding of this integration and their classroom practice. The exploration was guided by the following three main research questions: 1. What understanding do Grade 6 educators have regarding the integration of Natural Sciences and technology? 2. How is their understanding enacted in their classroom practice? 3. What informs these educators’ practice in the classroom? A descriptive, explorative, qualitative research design was employed, and the data were generated from the following three phases: Phase I (questionnaire): finding out the Grade 6 educators’ understanding of the term “integration”. Phase II (class observation): finding out how this understanding of integration was enacted in their classroom practice. Phase III (focus group): finding out what informed the educators’ practice in the classroom. The theoretical framework thatguided the analysis of the data was Activity Theory. This framework allowed for aspects of the context and historicity within which teaching and learning in the classroom occurs to be brought to the fore. With respect to the first question, this study revealedthat Grade 6 educators’ understanding of the term ‘integration’within the Natural Sciences and technology curriculum may be divided into two sections: a) General, and b) Curriculum based. In terms of the former understanding of the term integration, it was noted that a general understanding of the term ‘integrate’was agreed upon amongst the participants. Five out of six participating educators pointed to the idea of integration as being about “merging”; “joining”; “combining” and “linking” two or more “things” or aspects. Only one educator used the terms “integration” and “inclusion” interchangeably. However, with regard to the latter, the Grade 6 educators referred to cross-curricular integration as well as the integration of Natural Sciences and technology, and hence the following six perceptionswere revealed: Perception1: Integration allows for technology LA to support the Natural Sciences. Perception 2: Integration allows for the Natural Sciences to support technology. Perception 3: Integration requires an understanding of both Content Knowledge (CK)and Pedagogical Content Knowledge(PCK). Perception 4: The integration of Natural Sciences and technology is a way to motivate the populace. Perception 5: The integration of Natural Sciences and technology is a way to integrate Skills. Perception 6: A lack of integration - Natural Sciences cannot be linked to technology. In terms of the second question, this study found that theGrade 6 educators found it difficult to integrate Natural Sciences and technology in their classroom practice. All of the Grade 6 educators in the six participating schools treated Natural Sciences and technology as separate subjects. Furthermore, Natural Sciences was the main subject taught in all of the lessons observed. As a result, there was no proper integration of Natural Sciences and technology in their teaching despite the fact that there was evidence in the interviews of a proper understanding of the term integration. Thus, with regard to the third research question,the results show that the Grade 6 educators’ classroom practice was informed by the chalk-and-talk and textbook approaches. The participants gave a multitude of reasons for this practice ranging from a lack of funding to a lack of learning and teaching support materials (LTSM) about integrating Natural Sciences and technology Content Knowledge (CK). The findings of this study point to the enormous challenge faced by the Department of Education inlevelling the playing field so that the integration of Natural Sciences and technology can be implemented smoothly at classroom level. Taking into consideration such challenges, the recommendations and possible solutions to these problems are discussed at length in the last chapter of this dissertation.