Exploring professional development experiences of the professionally unqualified practicing teachers in rural secondary schools.
Attempts to address global pressure to achieve Education For All (EFA) have been hampered by two fundamental challenges in developing countries, namely an acute shortage of teachers and the large rural populations in these countries. In addition there is a trend for qualified competent teachers to shun working in rural settings. While recruitment of professionally unqualified graduate teachers into the teaching profession has become internationally accepted, to address particularly rural school postings and EFA commitments, there remain outstanding questions regarding how such teachers grow and develop in those rural contexts. An understanding of how these teachers develop professionally is crucial. The study explored professional development experiences of professionally unqualified practicing teachers in rural secondary schools. Through a double site study involving two international sites, Zimbabwe and KwaZulu–Natal, South Africa, an interpretive/qualitative design was adopted. Three-interview series supported by document reviews and photo elicitations were employed to explore these teachers’ experiences. Data was transcribed and manually analysed inductively utilizing open coding. The findings suggest that professional development for these teachers occurs in a number of sites, namely: through the Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) / Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) programme; in the school through practice and school meetings; in the wider professional sites; and in informal communities. Drawing on Cultural Historical Activity Theory to describe, analyse and understand data, I argue that the professionally unqualified practicing teachers experience professional development through interaction in multiple domains of formality and experience: formal, non formal, informal and experiential. Professional development occurs across these domains however, findings show that these teachers feel incapacitated by lack of support. This implies a need for more supervisory and resource support. The teachers conceive their professional development experiences in rural secondary school contexts as underpinned by having to ‘make-do’, relational dimensions, interdependence and agency as well as resourcefulness, creativity and improvisation to address gross resource limitations. The thesis suggests a need for further research into enhancing professional development practices of the professionally unqualified practicing teachers in rural school settings. Professional development can be supported. Given that teachers are teaching in under resourced and geographically rural contexts where they have ‘to make-do’, this has a bearing on the achievement of EFA goals within the wider context. In relation to the Cultural Historical Activity Theory, my argument is that the framework provides a useful generic, analytical tool for thinking through how professional development occurs in multi-domains. However, on its own it does not provide a complete lens to make sense of the variations in professional development within the domains and levels of formality and experience. The thesis therefore argues for an additive model to CHAT, which includes domain based distinctions of formality and experience that may expand the framework and deepen its applicability specifically, in trying to understand professional development issues. The thesis therefore suggests the need for more studies, drawing on the framework and developing it to determine its applicability beyond this particular inquiry.
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