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An exploration of selected South African history teachers’ content knowledge of African history.

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The dissertation presents an exploration of selected South African history teachers’ content knowledge of African history. Available literature says that teachers should have some benchmarks in order for them to be considered historically literate so that their learners benefit from them. The literature also reveals that, although it is impossible to measure how much content knowledge a history teacher should have, there is a certain level of content knowledge that is expected of them. The conceptual framework for this study that I use is called historical literacy as content knowledge. It consists of different four aspects: knowledge of historical dates, knowledge of historical figures, knowledge of historical places, and knowledge of historical events. This study was conducted in Mtubatuba, in the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. Ten (10) history teachers were conveniently sampled, and data was generated through a focus-group discussion and individual interviews (which included evaluative questions). The selected history teachers were asked questions which revealed their content knowledge of African history, and their views on their respective content knowledge. The findings are thematically presented in response to the two key research questions. The data revealed that the participants were able to display differing levels of content knowledge such as average level, below average level, above average level, and a level of excellence. While some were able to respond to the evaluative questions, some could barely respond, demonstrating below average content knowledge. The participants demonstrated higher levels of content knowledge of South African history, but performed poorly when responding to questions about other African countries. The participants who struggled to answer the evaluative questions believed that some questions were not fair to them, as they had not taught on the topics recently, and had even forgotten content. The participants who did well said that they were satisfied with their performance since the questions they were asked required their basic knowledge as answers. These participants said that they were asked questions that required them to give answers based on the information they had already known even before they started school. The participants were proud of answering questions correctly; there was also a feeling that questions that were asked empowered them in terms of content knowledge. The participants acknowledged that it was important to own a certain level of content knowledge so that a history teacher could be regarded as historically literate.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.