The exposure of in-service teachers to the notion of themselves as curriculum developers : an action research approach to the Promat Educational Studies (curriculum) course.
This study was based on the Promat Educational Studies (Curriculum) course which introduced curriculum concepts to a group of forty-two rural KwaZulu in-service teachers, studying for the final year of their Primary Teachers' .Diploma in 1996. The study was primarily interested in the responses of these teachers as they explored -curriculum concepts and developed their own understandings of curriculum. Research questions focused on the teachers' personal views of the notion of curriculum and the suitability of various curriculum models that could be used in their classrooms. Action research was proposed as a valuable tool for teachers to reflect on their classroom practice in a systematic and participatory manner, with a view to improvement in the process of teaching and learning. Action research was also used as a teaching methodology in presenting the Educational Studies programme, thus providing the teachers with an opportunity to experience action research. The questions also focused on the views of teachers concerning their possible role in the process of curriculum development, change and decision-making in schools. Prior to the programme, data on teachers' notions of curriculum were obtained by means of a questionnaire. Journal writing, lecturer diaries and classroom discussions were used as a means of collecting data during the course of the programme. Semi-structured interviews were conducted as a summative form of data collection and triangulation. Findings suggested that teachers, prior to the Educational Studies programme, had a limited notion of the concept of curriculum. They had a restricted view of teacher professionality and understood their role as implementers of a received curriculum. The programme broadened teachers' views on curriculum concepts and accompanying theories and models. The exposure to curriculum theory increased teachers' confidence in their ability to bring about change in their classrooms and schools. They expressed feelings of empowerment and recognised the important role they could play in the curriculum process. What was significant, however, was that despite the fact that the teachers were able to articulate these views within an "educationist context" (Keddie, 1971), they did not realise these within the Educational Studies classroom. While they recognised and embraced the potential of action research, their own actions as learners did not support a fully-developed form of action research because of the power differentials and situational constraints which they experienced. They were acutely aware of the imperative to pass, which appeared to take precedence over democratic participation. Findings suggested that INSET programmes which expose teachers to curriculum theory and the fundamental notion of themselves as curriculum developers, are useful for changing mindsets and are essential preconditions if teachers are to begin to take ownership of change in classrooms. Whether they are able to do so successfully, is a question for further research.
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