Learner centred pedagogy - an existence of virtual reality? : an investigation into grade three learners' experiences of pedagogy and schooling.
The rationale and motivation for this study was based on my personal need to try and understand the relationship between theory and practice (praxis) and the normative and empirical variables (hermeneutics) evident in my research, so as to contribute to the body of literature around learner centredness and learners' experiences of pedagogy and schooling. Review of educational studies conducted in South Africa reveals that most research is driven by 'common sense' understandings of learner centredness or what constitutes 'good teaching practice'. These studies illustrate that well intentioned but simplistic acceptance at the level of policy is hazardous and that we need to know more about practices within the classroom. Similarly, within South African policy documents, a paradox exists around the pedagogic discourse for learner centredness. The majority of education policy documents implemented after 1994 advocates a learner centred approach to teaching and learning, which is associated with weak framing over the instructional and regulative discourse while the National Curriculum Statements calls for a strongly framed pedagogic discourse. This paradox has significant implications for policy implementation at the classroom level. The objective of my study was to capture and analyse learners' experiences of Grade 3 teaching within one school context by focusing on control and regulation within the pedagogic relationship. Consequently, the research focused on the 'how' of pedagogic practice i.e. how do learners experience the transmission of knowledge through the educator's pedagogic practices? The case study involved non - participant observation to illustrate how different modalities of pedagogic practice provide for acquirers the principles for the production of what counts as a legitimate text. Bernstein's concept of framing was used to understand and analyse the locus and relative strength of control of how knowledge was transmitted, how it was received and of what may or may not be transmitted in the pedagogic relationship. The methodology employed in the research was based on developing an external language of description derived from Bernstein's internal language of description. The internal language of description was drawn from Bernstein's theory of pedagogic discourse. The external language of description provided textual pointers of specific characteristics relating to the internal framing of educational knowledge. It provided the means to identify specific pedagogic practices of educators and teaching strategies employed in the transmission-acquisition process. The findings depicted a mixture of pedagogic practices within one school context with one being based on a mixed pedagogic mode and the other on a performance pedagogic mode. The study revealed the possibility of extrapolating findings reliant on interaction with relevant literature around the framing of pedagogic discourse and the data obtained in the study. The conclusions reached in the study revealed strong framing over evaluation criteria, selection and sequencing of educational knowledge. While research has shown that weak framing over the pacing of knowledge is more likely to promote learning, the study revealed differential pacing of knowledge ranging from weak to strong. However, it was evident that learners had adapted themselves to the educators' modus operandi. Both educators in the study attempted to cater for differential learning needs of learners by the utilising different teaching strategies. The study revealed strong framing over hierarchical rule in terms of learner-learner interactions and educator-learner interactions. The research illustrated that giving learners control at the level of hierarchical rule posed a significant challenge for both educators. Both educators would make use of school and classroom rules as a means of maintaining social control. The study contributes to a better understanding of pedagogy and schooling. It makes clear that for learners to acquire the competencies and knowledge laid down in policy documents, the educator would need to make a pedagogic assessment in terms of the level of difficulty of the lesson, concepts and knowledge to be acquired and the differential needs of learners. This is more likely to increase the success of learners so that their enhancement, inclusion and participation in schooling does not become an existence of virtual reality.