Diverse school contexts and novice teachers' professional development.
This study is an exploration of the influence of different school contexts on novice teachers’ professional development and learning. The study sought to understand and interpret how 1st year novice teachers who were exposed to a new UKZN teaching practice approach, learnt and developed in varying school contexts. It also attempted to understand how these teachers exposure to knowledge/experiences of contextual diversity during their training contributed to their development in their present school contexts. A qualitative approach with an interpretive framework was used, as this approach allowed for the phenomenon (novice teachers’ development in diverse school contexts) to be studied in natural settings and it foregrounded the social and cultural context. The study was underpinned by the teacher development framework designed by Amin and Ramrathan, and Samuel’s force field model and the situated learning theory. Amin and Ramrathan’s approach foregrounded contextual diversity as this is the reality of the post-apartheid South African schools. As the study also sought to explore novice teachers’ professional development in work contexts, it drew on the situated learning theory and Samuel’s force field model as a means to assess the extent the role the various forces (biography, curriculum, institutional and contextual) play in influencing novice teacher development. The case study methodology was used to elicit insight and clear perspectives of novice teachers’ multiple truths and realities with regard to their professional development in the contexts they worked. The participants were purposefully selected. They were three 1st year teachers who had completed the B.Ed degree at the same university. They were of the same race and gender. These participants taught at different school contexts. This enabled me to assess how these varying contexts shaped their professional development. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews. The use of semi-structured interviews allowed for new data to be generated through probing and clarification of answers. The interviews were audio-recorded to ensure that all data was available for analysis. The findings of the study reveal that the nature of the school contexts has a direct bearing on the professional development of the participants. Factors such as the school leadership and management styles, school resources and school based professional development programmes influenced how these teachers developed. The biography of the participants had a significant role in ensuring that they were able to rise above their many challenging experiences and thereby enhance their professional growth and professional development.