An exploration of foundation phase teachers' pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) for teaching literacy in a multi-graded classroom in rural context.
Mzimela, Patience Jabulile.
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Rural schools in South Africa often face numerous challenges that are largely aggravated by low numbers of learners, low numbers of teachers and a shortage of teaching and learning resources, to mention a few. Hence, the provision of one teacher per grade is perceived as a luxury in many rural schools. Consequently, such challenges have led to many rural schools being affected by multi-grade teaching. Multi-grade classes have more than one grade in one classroom, usually those grades that are close to each other. For instance, Grade R and Grade One learners will be taught in one class by the same teacher. This research study therefore focused on teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge for teaching literacy in a multi-grade foundation phase class. The teaching of reading in isiZulu Home Language was singled out as the literacy component to be investigated. Teachers at the foundation phase need to have a distinctive body of knowledge as they have to be able to blend content in literacy and the appropriate methods of teaching each literacy component. They need to understand how to organize each component of the content and how to deliver it accurately to learners through appropriate methodologies. Moreover, it is imperative to understand that it is a complex process for teachers to intersect content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge. The process becomes even more complex for teachers who teach in a multi-grade class. Reading as a literacy component was put under a particular lens as teaching and assessing this literacy component in a multi-grade context is highly challenging. This was an exploratory case study that was embedded in a qualitative research methodology. A primary school from Ndwedwe Circuit in the KwaZulu-Natal province was purposively sampled. Empirical data for this study were collected from this rural school because it was practising multi-grade teaching in all phases. To collect the data, teachers teaching multi-grade classes were interviewed using semi-structured interviews. Observations were also done during the teaching process and relevant documents were analysed. The documents that were interrogated included daily, weekly and monthly work plans, class timetables, and the school’s calendar. The findings suggested that teachers relied on traditional methods of teaching as the context was complex and beyond their professional capabilities. This study was therefore aimed at contributing to the discourse of how teachers in rural contexts can be trained on multi-grade teaching in order to provide them with appropriate pedagogical knowledge and skills that will empower them to support teaching and learning across grades.