Teachers Perceptions of Attention Difficulties with Reference to Learner Identification and OT Referral. A Case Study of Six Foundation Phase Teachers across Four Cape Town Primary Schools

Master Thesis


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Attention is a skill that is vital for learning to occur in the classroom where many competing factors may impede a learners' ability to pay attention. Moreover, the classroom environment has different role players and factors that impact the quality of teaching and learning that takes place. These include the teacher, other learners, the school, and other support structures such as an occupational therapist. Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder [ADHD] is a common, catch-all label used with learners who do not sit still or struggle to complete tasks independently, to name but a few observations done in classrooms by occupational therapist. Yet, a learners' learning and engagement is greatly impacted on by the teacher who acts as a mediator in the classroom. This research uses a qualitative research design to unpack the teachers' perceptions of these attention difficulties in the classroom. Particular focus was placed on how teachers identify these learners and the support structures in place to assist these identified learners. Through interviews conducted, six Grade 1 teachers were investigated and explored in order to gain a deeper understanding of these attention difficulties in the classroom as perceived by the teachers, and the support thereof. This research demonstrates that many of the teachers showed an understanding of the perceived attention difficulties that went beyond surface level. Furthermore, all the participating teachers have experience with attention difficulties and rely on their experiences rather than theoretical knowledge in order to help identify and support these learners. Overall, many of the teachers feel alone in supporting the learners as the home environments do not always play a helpful role within the learners' daily lives. Finally, support provided by on-site occupational therapist was found to be more beneficial for the teachers. However, there are still challenges experienced by teachers in managing big class sizes and covering the curriculum. It is recommended that further research is conducted on the role of an Occupational Therapist in the classroom. In addition to this, teachers require additional training around attention difficulties as a means of providing appropriate support in the classroom.