An investigation into how teachers interpret and implement the curriculum in the further education and training phase in the English first additional language classroom

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The focus of this research is to examine how teachers interpret and implement the curriculum in an English First Additional classroom. The three sub-questions are (1) what are the theories and aims behind the two prescribed theoretical approaches (the communicative language approach and the text-based approach) as set out in the National Curriculum Statement? (2) how do teachers understand, interpret and use these two approaches? (3) do teachers assist students to develop the appropriate abstract cognitive academic language that is specific for the discipline? This is an interpretive, qualitative study. The data were collected from 27th of July to the 17th of August 2009 in a township school in the Western Cape. To develop thick description and explanations on the findings, the research techniques used were classroom observation, discourse analysis and interviews. In order to avoid any natural bias, and to contribute to the credibility of the study, 'triangulation' was used. The three components were: an examination of the English First Additional Language National Curriculum Statement; classroom observation and interviews. Forty-four lessons of three teachers were observed and recorded, supplemented with detailed field-notes. (In the final analysis, only two teachers' lessons were closely examined as the limited space in this minor dissertation was not sufficient for the detail the analyses presented.) To broaden the perspective, the teachers were interviewed in order to understand their views, theories and experiences. The main tool used to investigate teachers' interpretation and implementation of the curriculum was classroom discourse analysis. This study describes how teachers in one township school interpret and implement the curriculum. The classroom observations showed how the practical realities of teaching were often at odds with what the teachers claimed they were doing when discussing the curriculum on a theoretical level. The tools of discourse analysis allowed for a detailed investigation of the teaching and learning taking place. It appears that the teachers revert to traditional methods and pedagogies with which they were taught and so are unaware of these discrepancies between their understanding of the curriculum and their practice. Teachers are dealing with challenging and complex realities in the class, including huge work load, continuous assessment of large classes and recent influxes of underprepared students from the Eastern Cape. While the teachers were experienced and passionate about their work, there were several features of their teaching that hindered effective implementation of the curriculum. Some of the main hindrances were a traditional initiation-responseevaluation/ feedback method; the use of chorusing in the class and a lack of full theoretical understanding of the prescribed pedagogies. The paper ends with recommendations for teacher professional development, focusing on theorised practice that could lead to better implementation of the curriculum.

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 109-113).