The ‘four resources model' in South Africa: An analysis of an in-service teacher training intervention for literacy at foundation phase level and its uptake by teachers at a Cape Flats school

Master Thesis


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Despite a wide range of teacher training literacy interventions in South Africa at foundation phase level, literacy results have declined according to local and international tests. This research outlines the basis of these interventions and then compares them with a new teacher training intervention based on what has been called “the four resources model” (Luke and Freebody, 1990). This intervention, designed by a specialised teacher trainer and offered by a Western Cape based NGO, is currently taking place in some schools that have achieved poor literacy results at foundation phase and is sponsored by the Western Cape Education Department. The research outlines what an intervention based on the four resources model involves, where the approach is compatible with the CAPS specifications for literacy teaching and where it diverges from the CAPS, and explores how foundation phase teachers at one school respond to the intervention in their teaching. This programme has not yet been researched and is the only teacher intervention programme in South Africa that is based on the four resources model. It differs from other interventions because it emphasises the importance of meaning making and of writing (particularly shared writing) in literacy development, as well as the role of higher order thinking, as opposed to decoding and comprehension which are emphasised in the literacy curriculum and pedagogy and in other teacher intervention programmes. Data was collected through observations of teacher workshops and classroom visits of the teacher trainer, teacher trainer interviews, classroom observations and teacher interviews. Refracted through the reflections of the teacher trainer on her decades of experience in literacy training and on the current programme design, the analysis probes the value of experimenting with an enlarged understanding of literacy as outlined in the four resources model. It charts the ways in which teachers' understanding of literacy pedagogies slowly changes and adapts, revealing how teachers start to see the possibilities of creative engagement with text types, critical thinking, engagement with children's prior knowledge and linguistic resources. While the hope is that the intervention will improve tests scores, the research was not able to verify this since the timing of the intervention does not correlate with the systemic testing schedule and release of results, nor the next international benchmark tests. The research reveals that the four resources model intervention does emphasise higher order thinking skills, in contrast to other interventions, and that this could have a positive effect on the PIRLS tests results, in the schools where it is offered. It also shows that there are limitations to the four resources model, in that it does not address the inclusion of multimodal pedagogies nor does it consider the realities of multilingual classes in South Africa.