Exploring science teachers' experiences of diversity in the multicultural science classroom.
I have found that as a rule of thumb, when the majority of our learners in our science classrooms respond to expectation under examination conditions, the teacher's focus is on the minority who did not succeed. However, when only a minority of learners respond expectedly, then I feel teaching approaches have to be seriously questioned. My personal studies and readings in the education field, revealed a myriad of explanations and approaches surrounding the above problem. Literature has revealed that our greatest benefits can be achieved by successfully coping with the diversity of learners found in our science classrooms. There is no doubt that the problem is large, and thus a proper understanding of the problem is paramount to its resolution. This is where my study focuses, a case study that checks for gaps in science teachers' understanding of multicultural diversity in their classrooms and the impact of such understanding on classroom practice. Approaching the problem from an interpretive viewpoint within a social-constructive paradigm, the issue of multicultural diversity, especially in the field of science, is a "relatively" new concept in the South African context. Europeans and especially the Americans have at least forty years of experience in this field, their economy, low unemployment and advanced technology being a measure of their successes in multicultural science classrooms. At a theoretical level much of the American experiences do have direct relevance in our South African setting and is thus used throughout my study as a point of reference. The study used as its tools semi-structured interviews of 5 science teachers, (respondents), observations of a single lesson of each of the respondents and analysis of documents used in the observed lesson. The study was conducted in a middle to low socio-economic suburban secondary school of Kwazulu-Natal where science teachers' understandings of multicultural diversity was found to be somewhat traditional, simplistic and parochial. The study further revealed how a poor understanding of the issues of diversity amongst learners impacted on the teachers' abilities to successfully adapt the science curriculum and their teaching approaches to meet the needs of their diverse learners, and thus create equitable learning opportunities for all learners. Recommendations proposed in this study stem from the fact that though the respondents have some knowledge of the diversity in their science classrooms, their attempts to cope with the diversity based on currently available guidelines, viz. OBE, C2005 and the RNCS, still falls short of achieving equitable learning opportunities for all learners. Thus the study recommends serious attention to issues of multicultural science education with respect to language barriers and practice of appropriate teaching and learning methods. It also recommends appropriately designed training for both pre and in-service teachers and teacher educators. The study further recommends making science more meaningful by localising the Eurocentric curriculum and lastly, diversifying our teaching force to better reflect the increasingly diverse learner bodies.