A post-graduate certification in education (PGCE) programme as preparation for Foundation Phase teachers : the experience of novice teachers in KwaZulu-Natal primary schools.
This study seeks to investigate the extent to which novice Foundation Phase (FP) teachers who are former Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) students, perceive the programme as adequate for preparing them to become Foundation Phase teachers. Traditionally, the PGCE programme focuses on Senior and Further Education and Training (FET) teachers and it is clear what disciplinary knowledge these students bring from their undergraduate degrees. The disciplinary content knowledge that FP students bring to the PGCE is less clear. Students with at least one major (third year level) subject and two subjects at first year level, from the subject areas like Languages, Psychology and Sociology, are accepted into the PGCE FP programme. The PGCE focuses primarily on developing teaching skills. This study also seeks to determine in what ways the undergraduate degree was of help in preparing them to become Foundation Phase teachers. Individual interviews were conducted with six participants, who were practicing teachers, from a group of thirty six students who completed the PGCE in 2008/2009. The study is underpinned by Grossman's theory about teacher knowledge and teaching. Five of the participants who were teaching in rural schools perceived the programme to be adequate. They said that they acquired knowledge of psychological, sociological and linguistic foundations of reading and writing; process and instruction; and that they gained knowledge on how to plan for and use a wide range of curriculum materials. However one teacher, who was teaching at an urban school, indicated that the programme was not very useful in preparing her for Foundation Phase teaching. Rather, she perceived the knowledge she gained at the school where she taught after completing the PGCE as being relevant. She cited that she received support mainly from her mentor teacher who was her Head of Department. These findings seem to suggest that novice teachers learn more in well-resourced schools where there is good support and mentoring, whereas in poorly resourced schools that lack instructional mentoring, teachers tend to rely more on what they learn in formal programmes like the PGCE.
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