Situating professional development within the school context : a case study of a further education and training (FET) school.
Langa, Purity Phumzile Nokuthula.
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Traditional professional development approaches to assist teachers to implement the new curriculum in South Africa have come under criticism. This is because these do not provide the ongoing, context sensitive support that teachers need to improve their practice. This has raised the importance of situating teacher learning within the school context. This study explored how a group of teachers gave meaning to and expressed their understanding of themselves and their experience of school-based professional development. The purpose of the study was to understand the nature of school-based professional development at an FET school. In attempting to address the research questions, this study adopted a qualitative, interpretive approach. Since human interaction and context are important in the qualitative interpretative study, the tenets of symbolic interactionism were drawn on to guide this research study. This study also drew on the concepts of situated learning theory, which stresses the importance of context and therefore supports, the notion that learning opportunities should be grounded in environments where problems arise. This was a case study of a secondary peri-urban school in KwaZulu-Natal. lt involved three teachers who were purposefully selected. Data was gathered through three qualitative methods i.e. observation, interviews and a reflective journal. A process of open coding was used to analyse and interpret data. Findings reveal that the school did recognise the importance of schools as places where teachers can learn. However, the contextual factors such as inside politics, staff relations within the school, as well as the way management handled their role in managing professional development in the school made it a challenge to organise and promote collective teacher learning. lt further reveals that as a result of the difficulties and inconsistency of the official professional development programme, teacher learning was in fact taking place in various other ways. These included department meetings';-infQr:mal-teacher collaboration and mentoring. The study also reveals that various contextual factors affected curriculum development implementation. These included a lack of resources, large classes and learners' backgrounds.