Exploring an FET mathematical literacy professional learning community (PLC) as a space that contributes to teacher knowledge.
Mshengu, Joseph Godfrey.
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According to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study document, there was a high failure rate in grade 9 Mathematics, and the new subject Mathematical Literacy was introduced in grade 10 to grade12 as an alternative for learners who did not do well in Mathematics. Since this was a new subject, teachers of Mathematical Literacy were encouraged to work collaboratively as clusters in order to be able to face challenges of teaching this new subject and to review their classroom practice as Mathematical Literacy teachers collectively. This idea of working as a cluster was drawn from the Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Development which encouraged the formation of professional learning communities for teachers teaching the same subject. The objective of this study is to explore the types of teacher knowledge acquired by Mathematical Literacy teachers participating in the cluster and to further explore if this cluster reflected the characteristics of an effective professional learning community. The study is located within the interpretive paradigm and adopts a qualitative case study approach. Purposive sampling was used to select four Mathematical Literacy teachers to serve as participants of this study. Semi-structured interviews with the participants were conducted and two Mathematical Literacy cluster meetings were observed. The study is based in uMgungundlovu district in KwaZulu-Natal. The conceptual frameworks that underpin this study are Shulman’s domains of teacher knowledge which identified the types of teacher knowledge teachers need to have to be efficient in their practice, and Brodie’s characteristics of an effective professional learning community. The findings of this study show that participants mainly acquired general pedagogical knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, content knowledge, and curriculum knowledge during cluster meetings. General pedagogical knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge were mentioned most often because teachers focussed mainly on classroom management and teaching methods to make the subject matter understandable to learners. Knowledge of learners and their characteristics was not mentioned often, and knowledge of context and Knowledge of educational ends, purposes and values were the knowledge domains least mentioned or acquired by participants. In addition it was also noted that four of the characteristics of an effective professional learning community were identified during cluster meetings: collegiality, professional collaboration, shared trust and shared values, goals and visions. Therefore, the Mathematical Literacy professional learning community can, to some extent, is regarded as an effective professional learning community. This study recommends that more time should be allocated for Mathematical Literacy teachers to meet at least once every month. A further recommendation is that subject advisors facilitate learning activities that focus on and develop all seven domains of teacher knowledge.