Exploring Grade 9 Mathematics teachers’ usage of the curriculum planner and tracker in secondary schools in the ILembe and Pinetown districts.
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This study attempted to determine the extent to which Grade 9 mathematics teachers, from a sample of six schools, have utilised the Jika iMfundo Curriculum Planner and Tracker (CPT), formulated by the Programme to Improve Learning Outcomes (PILO), to manage their curriculum coverage. The study was conducted within three schools in the Pinetown District and three schools in the ILembe District, in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa. South Africa is still rated as one of the lowest-performing countries in relation to mathematics performance. Secondary school learners perform poorly despite efforts provided by the education authorities to support the teaching and learning of mathematics. One of the reasons accounting for this poor performance was the inadequate coverage of the curriculum. Put another way, it was noted that there was a need to help teachers develop strong curriculum management skills to strengthen support within teaching and learning. As a consequence, the Jika iMfundo Project, a campaign of the Kwa-Zulu Natal Department of Education whose implementation was supported by the Programme to Improve Learning Outcomes (PILO) and funded by the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), was introduced to assist teachers to unpack the curriculum. This project has been piloted in King Cetshwayo and Pinetown districts since 2015 to test it on a smaller scale and implement lessons learned prior to phased rollout across the province from 2018 with full implementation in all districts planned between 2018 and 2021. The purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which mathematics teachers utilised the CPT by focusing on the factors that both hinder and promote the utility of the CPT. In addition, the study explored the influence of the CPT towards curriculum coverage and the extent to which mathematics teachers and HODs (Head of Departments) have taken ownership of the tools in the CPT. The benefit that will accrue from this study is that findings will inform and possibly influence subsequent re-design of the Jika iMfundo Project. A qualitative research design was used within the interpretive paradigm. The participants were selected using purposive sampling and convenience sampling. Participants were Grade 9 mathematics teachers and their HODs. Data analysis was drawn from secondary data and primary data. Secondary data, collected over a period of three years (2015-2017), consisted of school reviews, self-evaluation documents, surveys and semi-structured interviews. Primary data, collected over two years (2018-2019), consisted of semi-structured interviews and document analysis. The analysis of secondary and primary data determined the enabling factors and challenges associated with CPT usage, the impact of the CPT on curriculum coverage and the ownership of PILO tools by HODs and teachers. Findings from this study indicated that the enabling factors were: a) the comprehensive nature of the CPT, b) the incorporation of reflections, c) workshops to train teachers and HODs on the CPT and lastly, d) the self-regulation and motivation of the teacher to use the CPT. The findings further revealed challenges that included contextual issues faced in schools, poor training of teachers and HODs in the usage of the CPT and late delivery of the CPT to schools. Generally, findings revealed that the greatest source of challenge stemmed from there being a lack of synergy between the Annual Teaching Plan (ATP) and the Curriculum Planner and Tracker (CPT). Some of the recommendations made were to engage in continuous teacher and HOD development on a termly basis, establish collaborative working environments where teachers form Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), greater support to deal with contextual issues and monitoring of teachers by HODs in lower Quintile schools and redesigning the CPT to better align with the ATP. This study could have implications for future studies that look into curriculum issues, gaps in teacher knowledge, confidence and beliefs about the teaching of mathematics. This study has the possibility of enabling future researchers and policy makers to look into designing the curriculum for the South African context in order to aid in curriculum reform.