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Supporting TVET students to improve English language competency : an action research study.

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According to South African education policy, Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges have a pivotal and strategic role to play in facilitating inclusive growth and development in society. However, whilst enrolment has increased, throughput rates continue to be low. One reason for this could be that subjects are taught in English, not the home language of most TVET students. Kolb’s Learning Styles theory suggests that each of us has a specific learning style – we tend to learn best in particular ways. Matching teaching methods to learning styles can thus improve learning outcomes. This study was conducted on the Estcourt campus of Mnambithi TVET College, in the midlands of the province of KwaZulu-Natal, where I teach an English First Additional Language intervention class. I hoped that by improving learners’ English, they could better cope with all their subjects. The key aim of the study was to match my teaching methods to their learning styles, and exploring the effects of this using action research. I first established the learning styles of my students, and then taught two rounds of classes in which I matched my teaching methods to their learning styles. Class evaluation, participant observation, semistructured interviews and focus group interviews were used to reflect on the effects of this. The study found no real correlation between students’ self-identified learning styles and their reflections on what helped them to learn. Rather, using methods that allowed students greater control over, and participation in, the learning process, and that allowed learners to engage collectively in learning, appears to be key. Findings also revealed the significance of listening to what students think about their learning experience in class and taking their feedback on what will work for them in the lessons. Findings also suggest that knowledge, content and skills that relate directly to students lives and experiences is most valued by them.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.