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An exploration of foundation phase teachers’ learning in a professional learning community.

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Date

2023

Authors

Nyathi, Thembisile Racheal.

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Abstract

In the South African context, the Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development (ISPFTED) Department of Basic Education and Department of Higher Education and Training, regard Professional Learning Communities as an effective model for teacher professional development at a local level (Department of Basic Education, 2011). The purpose of this research study was to explore the nature of teacher learning activities for teachers in the Foundation Phase PLC and the kinds of teacher knowledge they could acquire through their participation in the selected PLC. The study was located within an interpretive paradigm and adopted a qualitative case study design. Semi-structured interviews and participant observations were used to generate the data to respond to the key research questions of the study. The participants comprised five (5) Foundation Phase teachers, who were members of the PLC. This study adopted Kwakman’s (2003) categories of professional learning activities and Grossman’s (1990) domains of teacher knowledge as conceptual frameworks. The findings of the study revealed that the Foundation Phase teachers participating in the Professional Learning Community (PLC) activities learned through interacting with facilitators and sharing experiences with their colleagues and peers. It was also found that teachers learned through modelling as Foundation Phase (FP) learners. Furthermore, the study revealed that teacher learning and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) also occurred outside workshops through WhatsApp group platforms. However, the findings revealed several challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, inadequate internet connection, lack of resources, lack of support in some schools, and heavy teaching workloads, which impacted the teachers’ participation in the activities of their PLC. Nevertheless, the findings of the study reveal that subject matter knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, general pedagogic knowledge and knowledge of the context were learnt. The findings show that there was more emphasis on pedagogical content knowledge. Based on the findings of this study, it is recommended that the teacher learning activities should include concepts from all four FP subjects. This will enhance teachers’ ability to teach all learning areas with confidence. The facilitation roles should be rotated amongst all members of the PLC for the effective functioning of the PLC. Members of the PLC should agree on the time and venue for meetings to allow members to attend meetings regularly.

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Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.

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