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Exploring the collaborative learning of senior phase mathematics teachers in a 1+ 9 mathematics cluster in the Maphumulo Circuit.

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Teacher learning and teacher development require that teachers work collaboratively in professional learning communities in order to enhance their classroom practices and expertise. However, different scholars argue whether professional learning communities can attempt to make a difference in an ever-changing school system or whether they hold promise for long term sustainable, system-wide teacher development and learner achievement. The objective of the Professional Learning Communities is to provide a supportive and engaging platform for the continuous learning and development of teachers and schools to enable better learning and achievement by learners. This study explores how Senior Phase mathematics teachers learn collaboratively in a 1+9 mathematics cluster as a new approach for teacher learning and development in South Africa. The study also aimed to examine to what extent this 1+9 mathematics cluster served as an effective Professional Learning Community. This study was located within the interpretive paradigm and a qualitative case study design was adopted. Semi-structured interviews and observations were used to generate data. Five participants were interviewed and five cluster meetings were observed. The study was conducted in Ilembe District at Maphumulo Circuit in KwaZulu-Natal. The findings reveal that the main focus of this cluster is teacher collaboration and learning. A major activity of this cluster was the discussion of effective teaching strategies, content and sharing teaching methods. Teachers also discussed the sharing of teaching resources and ideas. The setting of common assessment tasks and lesson presentations were also activities that teachers engaged in. Different researchers concur on the following attributes of professional leaning communities: shared vision, values and goals, collaborative learning, supportive conditions and a collective focus on student learning. The findings of this study show that the above attributes of effective Professional Learning Community were displayed by this 1+9 mathematics cluster. Based on the above-mentioned findings, it is recommended that teachers build professional learning communities in their schools or with neighbouring schools and that teachers should use Professional Learning Communities as platforms to discuss challenges related to teaching and learning. A further recommendation is that schools should have a School Development Team (SDT) that will focus on appraising and developing teachers on current teaching approaches.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.