An exploration of Grade 10 Life Sciences teachers' views on the implementation of the practical examinations in Life Sciences at selected high schools in the Estcourt region.
Practical work is a quintessential part of the Life Sciences (LS) Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) as introduced to South African high schools in 2012. The new policy specifies the type of practical work expected of learners, as well as the types of process skills that should be developed in learners by means of practical work. In addition, teachers of Life Sciences are required to set and administer a practical examination for their grades 10 and 11 LS learners. This interpretive study explores grade 10 LS teachers’ views on practical work and the practical examination that they have to implement, how they implement practical work in terms of CAPS requirements and their experiences of their capacity to innovate for implementation of the practical examination. Rogan and Grayson’s (2003) theory of curriculum implementation framed this study. In particular, their profile of implementation pertaining to practical work and their capacity to innovate guided the development of the research instruments and the data analysis. A qualitative case study approach was used. Purposive and convenience sampling were used to obtain the respondents (Grade 10 LS teachers) for this study. An open ended questionnaire and individual semi-structured interviews were used to collect data from LS teachers at selected schools of the Umtshezi ward of Estcourt region. The findings indicate that grade 10 LS teachers have four core views on practical work: to promote learning, stimulate interest, assist with class behaviour control and to integrate “hands on” with “minds on” activities. An overwhelming 24 out of 25 grade 10 LS teachers had negative view of the practical examination, due to, among others, large classes, lack of resources, time and support from school and parents, teachers’ lack of expertise and appropriate re-training. Some dilemmas that teachers encounter during curriculum reform are unveiled. Furthermore, the discrepancy between Grade 10 LS teachers’ views on practical work, their classroom practice and the LS CAPS requirements in terms of practical work is exposed. The mismatch between policy intention and practice is illuminated and it signals the need for both effective teacher professional development and a supportive school ethos.
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