An exploration of foundation phase teachers' knowledge and practices of teaching IsiZulu mother tongue literacy in Grade 1 classrooms in three rural schools.
This study is an exploration of foundation phase teachers’ knowledge and practices of teaching isiZulu mother tongue literacy in Grade 1 classrooms in three rural schools in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The low literacy level of primary school learners is a concern across sub-Saharan Africa (Dubeck, Jukes & Okello, 2012). A research study conducted by the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU, 2012) stresses that teachers in South Africa lack the capacity for teaching reading, writing, and numeracy. It has been established that learners in foundation phase schools are struggling to read in isiZulu mother tongue at the correct level. The 2011 Annual National Assessment (ANA) systemic evaluation literacy reports discovered that learners’ performance in almost all grades is below the expected standard. The poor performance of Grade 3 and 6 learners’ in reading and writing is associated with the poor teaching of literacy in the foundation phase, as stated in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) reports (Howie et al., 2006; Howie, van Staden, Tshele, Dowse & Zimmerman, 2011). In the current study, the researcher hopes to understand the practices that teachers use when teaching literacy in isiZulu mother tongue, to understand the factors that influence teachers and teachers’ knowledge of literacy in teaching isiZulu mother tongue in the foundation phase. The framework in this study is based on teacher knowledge, focusing on subject knowledge, curriculum knowledge and pedagogic content knowledge (PCK). Teacher knowledge is relevant to this study because it explores the type of knowledge teachers need to have for effective teaching and learning. This is a qualitative case study that is located in the interpretive paradigm. This study adopts the interpretive paradigm so as to obtain individual feedback from the teachers about their daily practices of teaching literacy in real classrooms. Six teachers were purposively selected from three junior primary schools located in Greater Edendale, which is a rural area of the UMgungundlovu District, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Data was generated through semi-structured interviews and through lesson observations. The data were collected and analysed; thematic analysis was used to analyse interviews, and content analysis was used to analyse observed lessons. The findings revealed that teachers prefer to use the phonic method when teaching Grade 1 learners reading in isiZulu mother tongue. The study also revealed that the overcrowded vi classrooms led teachers to implement small group teaching and learning. It was also noted that some teachers did not have sufficient knowledge of teaching isiZulu literacy in the mother tongue, as most teachers were code-switching and code-mixing isiZulu and English words when teaching isiZulu mother tongue literacy. It was evident that literacy was not taught systematically, but was modeled on English literacy. The study further revealed that some teachers used integrated methods where they integrated shared reading with phonic activity and integrated phonic methods with play activities. Additionally, the study showed that writing was not taught by the teachers, except as a strategy for consolidation and when the students copied certain sounds from the chalkboard. It is recommended that teachers in the foundation phase need to be in possession of a distinct body of knowledge that includes subject knowledge, curriculum knowledge and PCK of teaching isiZulu mother tongue literacy for effective teaching and learning.