Teacher identity and practice in the context of curriculum reform.
In the South African educational landscape curriculum transformation since Curriculum 2005 (C2005) to the now prevailing National Curriculum Statement (NCS) has been dramatic. In fact in the Foundation Phase and in Grade 10 a revised Curriculum and Assessment Policy (CAPS) document introduced in 2012 is presently being implemented. The continuous revision of curriculum policies is the background to the purpose of this research study, which is to understand how four experienced teachers of English Home Language (EHL) engage with changes in EHL policy and the impact this has on their identity/identities as teachers. The National Education Department often hopes that teachers are highly regulated by policies, and will thus change their practices in accordance to curriculum policy. My research project seeks to understand the complexity of the ways in which external regulations, embedded in the changing curriculum, govern teachers’ practices and consequently impacts on the identity of professionally qualified teachers. The study is framed by two critical questions: a) To what extent are the practices of experienced teachers governed by external regulation (in the form of the curriculum policy)? and b) To what extent does external regulation shape their identity as teachers? To this end, lesson observation and unstructured interviews were the data collection methods that were employed. This research is located within the interpretive paradigm. Data is gleaned from the stories told by four experienced teachers of English about their everyday classroom practices and the ways in which they translate and implement EHL policy from changing curriculum documents, as well as through observations of their teaching. These teachers work in four diverse South African educational contexts. The analytical framework that is used in this study suggests that teacher practice and identity is shaped by external regulations (such as policy requirements); internal regulations which are the contextual factors such as institutional school culture as well as core regulations such as their beliefs and values. Teachers’ sense-making of changing policy entrenched in curriculum documents; their translation of policy and its impact on teaching practices and consequent influence on a teacher’s identity are important for the answering of the research question. The findings reveal that these teachers find curriculum changes challenging and are reluctant to implement them entirely. Instead they select and adapt from the document what can fit with minimal change into their present repertoire of pedagogical practices. The impact of this on the identity of a teacher is minimal as teachers’ definition of who they are and the role they play is strong. Therefore the impact of curriculum changes on teacher identity appears to be minimal. I discovered that the four teachers in this study are resilient beings who adapt an externally regulated curriculum to fit their frame of classroom practices based on their beliefs of what constitutes effective teaching. To ameliorate the disjuncture between policy and practice would be an ideal situation. But realistically strongly regulated national policies will never be implemented as policy makers intend. Perhaps the lesson is looser regulations are thus more useful.