A case study of the implementation of continuous assessment in grades 11 and 12 physical science classrooms in three secondary schools.
Shilenge, Veronica Zanele.
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The Department of Education has introduced a policy of Continuous Assessment (CASS) in grades 11 and 12. This, however, does not mean that the current policies such as senior certificate examinations will immediately change. It appears that the old and the new practices will co-exist. This implementation of CASS took place in some environments characterised by enormous infra-structural backlogs, resource limitations, inadequate supply of quality learning support materials and absence of common national standards for learning and assessments. Consequently, the purpose of this interpretive research is to investigate how CASS has been implemented in grades 11 and 12 Physical Science classrooms in three disadvantaged secondary schools. This research study is a qualitative case study of three secondary schools in a school circuit. The three secondary schools were chosen on the basis of their varying socio-economic backgrounds and history related to quality of work and innovation. The research study examines the contexts and processes that took place during the implementation of CASS in these schools. The principal theories underpinning this study are those supporting educational change and curriculum innovation. The argument is that different understandings of the nature of the curriculum have important implications for the implementation of curriculum change. The literature was reviewed to expand the argument that curriculum change has different meanings and is dependent on the context. In this research study, curriculum changes in South Africa, the meaning of curriculum changes, CASS and CASS policy are discussed. The research methods used to gather data are semi-structured interviews, document analysis and questionnaires. The participants in this study were grade 11 and 12 Physical Science teachers, the Science Head of Departments (HOD) and grade 11 and 12 Physical Science learners from each school. The three schools were visited in the second half of 2002. This research study considered the roles and importance of learners, teachers, school management team, community and external inputs for the successful implementation of CASS. The feedback from teachers, HOD's, and learners were analysed and discussed. The schools were found to have profiles and strategies that were unique, but also some principles, practices and characteristics were common. The overall findings show that CASS has been implemented in these classrooms, but the strategies that are mostly used are those which were used in a content-based curriculum. For example, tests, classwork and homework were common in these schools. This study therefore suggests that more thorough and different support and developmental programmes be put in place so as to equip teachers with the skills necessary to implement CASS. This study also suggests that further research in schools be conducted, so that the best procedures are used to ensure the effective implementation of curriculum innovation in South Africa.