Nonyameko Zintle Songqwaru is a PhD student in the Education Department at Rhodes University, based at the Environmental Learning Research Centre. Her research interest is in the use of theory-based evaluation approaches in evaluating the Fundisa for Change Teacher Education programme. The research is aimed at providing insights to practitioners and policymakers in the education sector on some of the assumptions that underpin the design and implementation of professional development programmes focused on strengthening environmental learning.
Zintle has presented her research at national and international conferences namely at Southern Africa Education Research Association conference (SAERA) and at the South Africa International Conference on Education (SAICE) conference respectively in 2015. She has also co-authored three book chapters which give an orientation of the Fundisa for Change Teacher Education programme.
Zintle has also been involved in advocacy work to get the Fundisa for Change Teacher Education programme institutionalized within the professional development Directorate in the Department of Basic Education and in Schools of Education and Education Faculties in institutions of higher education. Her interest in becoming part of the Fundisa for Change programme stemmed from having been a teacher herself, teaching Life Sciences and Physical Sciences. She then decided to pursue postgraduate studies so that she can contribute to teacher professional development and teacher learning.
Sue’s research focuses on the development of teacher’s personal environmental pedagogical content knowledge as they participate in the Fundisa for Change course.
She has also been involved in writing some of the course material for Fundisa for Change, in particular course material for Teaching Climate Change, Natural Sciences Grades 7 – 9 in 2013 as well as editing the Teaching Water modules in 2014. She also taught a variety of the Fundisa for Change courses to groups of teachers and one group of curriculum advisors, over the last two years, and across the country.
Sue says each time she teaches one of the Fundisa for Change courses, the way she teaches the course changes slightly, responding to the needs of the particular group of teachers on the course. “Having the opportunity to research the course has been enlightening as the teachers give me feedback on the activities in a more structured and constructive way”, she said.
Speaking on her motivation to use Fundisa for Change as her research focus, Sue said she has been involved in in-service teacher training now for a number of years as well as the writing and editing of materials in Natural Science, Mathematics and Mathematical Literacy. “The Fundisa for Change course, with its three-fold focus on content, teaching practice and assessment strategies, brings together in one package, a very dynamic and interesting approach that I think has great potential for helping teachers in a coherent way to improve their classroom skills”, Sue added.
Phumeza’s study seeks to explore how sustainability concepts, pedagogical processes and assessment practices are represented in the Grade 12 ‘Enjoy Economics’ textbook. It will also explore the context, policies and mechanism of the textbook development and the choices made by authors in its development. Her study is informed by the Fundisa for Change national network of environmental educators that has a three- fold focus, namely know your subject, improve your teaching and improve your assessment. After completing her studies Phumeza says she intends to, “organise Economics teachers in East London area so that they can meet regularly, at least once a month and plan the way forward in terms of teaching the same topic and discuss areas of complexity within the syllabus”.
Commenting on how she is using her research in her teaching practices, Phumeza said she is beginning to note that in order for her to be able to impart meaningful knowledge to learners, she needs to start by empowering herself. The knowledge on sustainability and education for sustainable development is new to many teachers, so teachers need to be well-informed about it first. Phumeza says her motive to use FundisaForChange as her research focus stemmed from the fact that the project has the potential to contribute to the international education for Sustainable Development (ESD) agenda. The form of education and knowledge interests of Fundisa for Change programme resonate with an ESD interest in learning content outcomes, pedagogy and the learning environment.
This study uses the theory of formal translation equivalence to analyze the level of sameness in meaning between environmental education terms that have been translated into isiXhosa and their English equivalents. A tool will be formulated to demonstrate such analysis.
The findings of the study are likely to contribute to the quality of environmental education in isiXhosa medium classrooms in the Butterworth Education District by providing:
Information to key stakeholders such as subject advisors, School Management Team (SMT), book publishers and teachers about the types and quality of isiXhosa educational materials that are used for environmental education in isiXhosa medium classrooms.
Illumination on the quality of isiXhosa translated environmental education terms that are found in the education materials that are used in isiXhosa medium primary schools.
Nolitha says in future she plans to further engage with FundisaForChange program by leading or coordinating an environmental club at work which will actively engage learners in greening the school environment and keeping it worth living sustainably.
Of all the environmental problems facing human kind today, anthropogenic induced climate change is often regarded as one of the most damaging in its potential repercussions. For this reason, the knowledge and understanding of climate change amongst high school learners who represent future decision makers and stand as a proxy for the next generation, is of paramount importance. Mapaleng’s study was therefore designed to interrogate the understanding and knowledge of high school learners (Grade 11 in particular) in the Gauteng province. A key concern of the study is therefore the need to understand what might have shaped or influenced the learner’s perceptions and understanding of human induced climate change and how their opinions and perceptions were influenced by the current school curriculum (i.e. Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement – CAPS). The study also aims to interrogate to what extent age, electronic media exposure, natural surroundings and educational drive could be influencing the student’s perceptions and understanding of climate change. In an attempt to address all the pertinent factors influencing students’ perceptions and conceptualizations of climate change, Lev Vygotsky’s social constructivist perspective based in grounded theory is used in the study. Mapaleng says he hopes that the research findings will encourage policy makers to include climate change in the curriculum as a specific environmental problem to be studied by all grades especially the lower grades.
Makwena’s research seeks to understand the environmental knowledge in the curriculum and how it is recontextualised by various stakeholders involved in education. This will add to past studies around the curriculum and also contribute to future development or changes in the curriculum. The focus of her study is therefore, to understand the curriculum production processes and the choice of knowledge, and how other stakeholders like teachers, subject advisors, coordinators interpret it and what role they are playing in the curriculum development process. Makwena says she is using her research project to develop school based workshops for colleagues and contribute successfully to teacher development and as the Head of Department for Natural Sciences at Lot Phalatse Primary School near Pretoria she is obliged to contribute to develop teachers in her department. Her research is part of the Fundisa for Change teacher training program which also contribute significantly in teacher development.
Commenting on how she is using her research findings to improve teaching practises, Makwena said, her research is an eye opener not to teach environment knowledge in isolation but to include the deeper complexities of environmental issues in our daily teaching and learning.
Makwena said the gap experienced during teaching, and the curiosity to know how knowledge is chosen to be in the curriculum motivated her to use FundisaForChange as her research focus.
He has worked as a teacher for more than seven years. He taught Natural Sciences, Geography, Life Sciences, Mathematical Literacy, Physical Sciences (Physics & Chemistry) and Life Orientation. His interest is on teacher professional development particularly in the environment sector. He is looking at support mechanisms for in-service teachers to implement the new Curriculum in South Africa called Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), with specific focus on the environment and sustainability content knowledge contained in it. He presented his work in abstracts in two conferences in 2015. The first conference, organised by South Africa International Conference on Education (SAICE), was held in Pretoria from 21 – 23 September 2015. The presentation was titled “The ecologies of teaching Biodiversity practices.” The second conference was organised by the South African Education Research Association (SAERA) and it was held in Bloemfontein from 27 – 30 October 2015. The presentation was titled “The practice architectures of teaching Biodiversity.”
Jacques’s study investigates the processes influencing learner motivation in the web based enquiry on a local water matter. He uses a case study investigation that sets out to explore how high school learners in an independent school will learn through mediated learning engagement on a web-based platform. The study will look for themes which will provide insight into the occurrence of social and particularly transformative learning, which might have occurred and will further explore what enabled it, if it occurred. Commenting on how he has used his research in his teaching practices, Jacques says, “I certainly focus on the power and role of learning as identity(belonging) formation during collaborative work and actively develop the key “requirements” for creating a community of practice identified by Wenger, such as momentum, artefacts and shared repertoire”.
He said the reading into the theoretical framework by Wenger’s Community of Practice has given structure to various collaborative project that he is involved in namely:
Using community of practice theory to support the design of collaborative projects within St Andrew’s College Environmental club, supported by collaborative online software, such as OneNote. These project include the research, design and building of (vertical aquaponics gardens) “Window Farms”
Using community of practice theory, specifically the dynamics surrounding “boundary interactions” to contribute, as a member of the steering committee, to ISASA’s (Independent School’s Association of South Africa) “Environmental Sustainability Leadership Program”.
Jacques added that upon completion of his studies he would like further engage with the FundisaForChange program by further investigating the value of web based platforms in the advancement of ESD knowledge acquisition through student research and collaboration.
Commenting on his motivation to use Fundisa for Change as his research focus, Jacques said as a teacher he is actively interested in affecting change through content delivery. He says he recognises that staff do not necessarily have the content knowledge and skill to deliver environmental knowledge. “It was only natural to me to investigate the role the internet and collaboration using web based platforms could meet the identified challenge”, says Jacques.
Gavin is part of the Fundisa For Change programme, he has co-devised and co-presented a course on climate change for primary school teachers. Upon completion of his studies, Gavin plans to run more Fundisa For Change courses on climate change, and catchment and river management. Gavin says his research findings have helped him in improving his lecture content, as well as his Teaching Practice pedagogy.
Constance’s study aims at exploring, “How and to what extent do teachers integrate indigenous knowledge system in their teaching of Life Sciences curriculum”. The successful and effective integration of indigenous knowledge in science learning can only be achieved if teachers understand what integration of indigenous knowledge means and have the ability to properly integrate indigenous knowledge in their teaching. Thus, proper monitoring on how and to what extent at which indigenous knowledge is integrated in the teaching and learning of science in the classrooms by science teachers becomes necessary.
Consequently, the study seeks to explore through a qualitative case study methodology, the teachers’ understanding of the integration of indigenous knowledge in science education and to investigate how and to what extent teachers integrate indigenous knowledge in the Life Sciences classroom. Constance says upon completion of her studies she plans to further engage in a wide variety of whole school development activities and curriculum-based programmes to improve the quality of environmental and sustainability knowledge and skills in the CAPS curriculum. Constance said as a teacher, the Fundisa for Change programme has helped her to develop deep subject knowledge, with support on how to teach and assess the subject knowledge effectively.
Christina is currently registered for her pre-doctoral studies in the department of Environmental Education in which she will be pursuing some of the issues raised from her Masters research.
Christina presented her masters research at the EESSA conference in Namibia in 2014 which was preliminary findings from the research at that stage. She also presented in October 2015 at the SAERA conference, a paper on the environmental learning processes and environmental content knowledge in the curriculum that she is currently co-writing. Upon completing her studies, she plans to do some advocacy work in content enrichment with teachers as this was one of the areas identified in her research as needing attention.
Commenting on how she is using her research findings to improve your teaching practices, Christina said she is using more of the situated learning experiences in her teaching. “This has brought the section more realist to the learners than before where I hardly or made very little uninformed use of situated learning in teaching and learning of environmental content”, says Christina.
She says her motivation for using Fundisa for Change as her research focus stems from the fact that she is an educator and with the ever changing curriculum content and based on the yearly reports from examiners, there were issues needing attention in education. Fundisa provided this platform to look into some of the emerging issues.