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Responses of science teacher educators to the curriculum change process in South Africa.

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This study strove to establish how science teacher educators (lecturers) at three universities in a province in South Africa responded to curriculum changes related to C2005 and higher education. The following critical question is posed: How have science teacher educators in PRESET education responded to curriculum changes proposed for the Natural Sciences Learning Area of Curriculum 2005, the Norms and Standards of Educators, and modularization in the Higher Education curriculum? The framing of the study from 1996 to 2002 relates to the introduction of C2005 in schools in 1997 which coincided with curriculum changes in higher education prescribed by the NQF. The curriculum change process has to be seen in the context of developments during and after the demise of apartheid in South Africa. Responses of science teacher educators to post-apartheid educational policy developments driven by the NQF form the basis of this research. The production of data for the study occurred during 2001 and 2002. It involved an interpretive cross-case study of 11 science teacher educators' responses to the curriculum change process. The science teacher educators were selected from three universities in a province in South Africa. They had to be involved with preparation of student science teachers during PRESET for the Natural Sciences Learning Area of C2005. Data was obtained through a semi-structured interview schedule and an observation schedule. A document analysis was also conducted in the study. Qualitative data were first analysed qualitatively and represented at three leve ls of analysis. Stories of curriculum change experienced by three individuals were also presented as a second level of analysis. The theoretical frame that informed the methodology and analysis was developed in the context of a pre- and post-apartheid educational offering in South Africa. It operates in an interpretive and critical paradigm of research that includes change theories and other theories that can be used to account for ways in which science teacher educators have changed in response to C2005 and the NQF. These theories work together. Among them are those classified as Traditional Change, Adaptive Change and Advanced Change. Other theories such as theories in action and a theory of academic change were also used as a means to understand change in academic and other settings. Constructivism as a learning theory was included in the theoretical frame since science teacher educators are expected to use the theory as a rationale for the new curriculum. It is therefore an essential component of the theoretical frame in interpreting such change. Also significant is the role of situated cognition in enabling professional learn ing communities to make meaning of curriculum change and to act accordingly. Argyris' theory of organizational learning, the Concerns-Based Adoption Model, Complexity Theory and Systemic Reform also contribute to the development of the theoretical frame used to contextualize and interpret the data. The data analysis showed that the science teacher educators had made a more concerted effort to incorporated changes related to C200S into their curriculum materials and their actual teaching than the NQF's bureaucratic exercise related to modularization and the NSE. They were better able to account for their actions in terms of C200S than for modularization. This had occurred despite them not being bureaucratically accountable to the schools. The role of the new school curriculum as a major influence on change among the science teacher educators goes beyond the complexity associated with the change process. The influence of personal factors related to a moral response to school change (C2005) resulted in the science teacher educators making changes that were major and vastly different from their responses to the NQF's bureaucratically driven higher education changes. The responses of the science teacher educators to curriculum change shows that professional accountability does not flourish under bureaucratic control as displayed by demands of the NQF for modularization. The changes made by the science teacher educators was also vastly different from the responses of practising teachers to C200S. They made a concerted effort to change and there was no evidence of implementation failure compared to the practising teachers in terms of C2005. My research outcomes, therefore, have contradicted the standard findings of School Improvement research which alludes to the difficulties associated with teacher change, and the needs for long term systemic approaches related to large scale reform - where institutional management, external support, internal support, rewards and punishments work together. In the three universities in my study, such arrangements were loose couplings at best. But feelings of professional and moral responsibility in the direction of school-related change (C200S) were high for individuals and groups. Personal, social and professional interests were more obvious drivers of change than institutional interests and career interests. On the basis of the above, my research has suggested the following which serve as a positive contribution to theory pertaining to curriculum change: Much change theory developed in the context of schools does not apply to Teacher Education, because professionalism and education are primary concerns for science teacher educators: they chose to do their job well. Accountability is not only - or even mainly - about the institution and institutional monitoring systems. It is about professionalism and relationships within institutions and outside them. In this case, the responsibility the science teacher educators felt to schools, science teachers and their communities were much more powerful influences than responsibilities they felt to the reforms indicated in modularization and NSE. The professional imperative is not bureaucratically controlled. It flourishes in the absence of pressures related to forced compliance.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2006.


Theses--Education., Curriculum change--South Africa., Curriculum planning--South Africa., Teacher participation in curriculum planning--South Africa., Science--Study and teaching--South Africa.