An exploration of teacher beliefs and practices within a context of effective pedagogy in grade r/reception year classes in the greater Durban area of KwaZulu-Natal.
This research presents an understanding of Grade R teachers' beliefs and practices, and elucidates factors that constrain the belief practice domain. In asking the question, "What are the beliefs and practices of Grade R teachers within a context of effective pedagogy in Grade R/Reception Year classes in the greater Durban area of KwaZulu-Natal?" I produced data from Grade R teachers' perspectives. I reported on their beliefs on pedagogy, and the nuances of their practice, in order to develop an understanding of the different dimensions of pedagogy in Grade R. Using a qualitative, exploratory case study design I produced data on three Grade R teachers from different ethnic backgrounds, in three public schools, in the greater Durban area. The schools chosen varied from low, to middle class socio-economic background, catering for learners from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. A multi-method approach of data-collection was followed. This study used the social constructivist theory of Vygotsky, as a theoretical lens through which teacher beliefs and practices were examined. Drawing largely on data from observations and interviews, the findings of this study concluded that although teachers were observed to generally follow their pedagogic beliefs, several points of difference between their beliefs and practices existed. This study found that the belief practice domain was affected by a number of contingent factors such as teachers' understanding of the curriculum, teacher training and qualifications, and support from the Education Department, school and parents. In addition, contextual factors such as working conditions, learner-teacher ratios, provision of resources and facilities also affected teacher practice. There was evidence of a high value placed upon learning through play. However, the findings of this study illuminate the need for training Grade R teachers in: creating the conditions for learning through play, the use of collaborative play approaches, and guidance on scaffolding children's learning. This study concludes that the absence of an educational programme geared towards multiculturalism and diversity is of great concern.