Changes in science teachers' practice of learner-centred education as a result of action research in Lesotho.
Khoboli, Benedict Mapere.
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The study looks at Lesotho Science teachers' understanding, practice and explanation of learner-centred education (LCE) prior to, during and after different activities. Six Physics teachers from Maseru were selected from 20 who attended an initial meeting and workshop. The selected teachers participated in the research for two years, completing a Baseline Study, then 3 cycles of planning, acting, observing, and reflecting in the action research on LCE. During the Baseline Study and each of the action research cycles, the teachers' explanations, understandings and practices of learner-centred education were determined through analyses of discussions and meetings, lesson plans, classroom practices, responses to the literature and other support activities, and interviews with the teachers. The process was collaborative, with the teachers and the researcher working as a team in the planning, observations of classrooms, reflections and analyses. The teachers changed their understanding and practices significantly in the course of the study. Consistent with the Concerns-based Adoption Model (CBAM), their primary concerns shifted from classroom management issues and impediments to learner-centred education in their schools at the start, to adaptation, innovation, and conducting teacher-workshops at the end. Early in the project, they opted for a model of learner-centred education comprised of three levels: caring for learners and their learning; adopting learner-centred teaching methods and allowing learners to influence the content and desired outcomes of the learning. During the research, within the team and in classrooms, the teachers developed each of these levels, though they applied the third level more in their own learning as part of the action research, than in their classrooms. At the end, the teachers co-constructed a model of LCE which they felt was doable under the conditions in Lesotho (including school constraints and competing demands on teachers and curriculum), and which would meet the expectations of principals, parents and learners. The teachers changed not only in their professional knowledge and skills, but in social-professional and self-professional aspects. For example, they began inviting other teachers to observe their classes, they conducted workshops in their schools, and enrolled for higher degrees. The teachers persisted with the study for two years, not because of school expectations or pressures, but because they wanted to participate. Their motivation was high, arising from a mix of personal, professional, career and school factors. Their motivations shifted during the research, as their knowledge and concerns changed, and they came to see different opportunities from what they had imagined at the start. Through participation and collaboration, they extended the objectives and outcomes of the study beyond its initial focus on learner-centred education in classrooms: they defined and addressed their own personal, social and professional interests. The data demonstrated that teachers' engagement with in-service activities that provide for long-term project-based learning, critical collaboration, support and reflection, can bring personal and group change more significantly than in conventional district and national workshops.