Primary science teacher’s experience and understanding of the problem-based learning approach in the Shiselweni Region
Shabane, Ncamiso January.
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The study aimed at investigating Primary School Science Teachers’ experience and understanding of the learner-centred Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach which promotes active learner participation. A total of fifty one (N=51) science teachers from twenty one (N=21) different Primary Schools in the Shiselweni region of Swaziland were used in the study. In the Shiselweni region there has been a growing trend of learners performing poorly in science and lacking basic scientific skills and attitudes which, in most instances, could be acquired if learners were trained using the PBL approach. The study was guided by the constructivist theory and incorporated four key principles of learning which state that learning should be constructive, contextual, collaborative and self-directed. The constructivist theory was found appropriate for this study in that, in this theory, learning is supposed to take place when learners are given opportunities to actively engage with ideas and materials. The belief is that learning takes place when learners see it as constructive, contextual, collaborative and self-directed. The PBL approach incorporates both the constructivist theory and the above-mentioned key learning principles. The study’s key findings were that teachers in the region have a clear understanding and ample experience of the approach although learners continue to perform badly in science. The reasons for this are that teachers found it very difficult to change from being “fountains” of knowledge to being facilitators of learning. They prefer to teach the twenty-first century class the way they were taught during their studies. They rely more on traditional teaching methods than on current ones which promote active learner participation in class. The researcher therefore recommends that views and perceptions on both educators’ and learners’ understanding and experience of the PBL approach must be gathered from secondary up to tertiary level.