A course on Teaching about Water in the CAPS was conducted at Treverton in KwaZulu-Natal with Grade 6 and 7 teachers for Social Science and Natural Science technology on the 8-9th March and 13-14th of April 2016. The course was aimed at supporting teacher training on fulfilling the Curriculum Assessment Policy (CAPS), a requirement of the schools in South Africa. Facilitation of the course was led by Janet Snow from Environmental Learning and Teaching.
The training course shed light on the nature of assessment, the purposes ofassessments and what forms of assessment are expected from teachers in the CAPS. The focus was on two main purposes of assessment namely, assessment of learning which measures learner’s achievements and assessment for learning which helps the learner to learn. The course sought to help teachers to establish a balance in their assessment practice in relation to classroom activities for the benefit of learners.
As part of the training teachers analysed CAPS documents identify sections that refer to the different aspects of assessment. Some teachers brought some of their lessons plans, classroom activities and assessment tools. Facilitators and teachers made input into the teachers’ materials as practical critique of the documents in view of the purposes of assessment. Since the course focused on assessment for learning teachers’ assessment tasks and rubrics were foregrounded in the discussions. Properly developed rubrics guide learners to achieve their expected tasks at the expected level while developing their knowledge on the concepts. As part of the training participants embarked on an excursion to a local wetland, an experience that they used to develop assessment tasks and appropriate rubrics for that activity.
On the role of Fundisa for Change, one of the facilitators, Caleb Mandikonza from Rhodes University’s Environmental Learning Research Centre commented that his role as a facilitator was to recognize the formidable knowledge and wide ranging experiences teachers had and brought to the training contexts. At the same time he worked to enhance content knowledge on the concepts in question, his view was to contribute to improving the quality of the tasks by making meaningful input on the presentations made by the teachers. As such, teachers must be able to see themselves changing their work practices from working as usual to working as unusual in order to make their classrooms better learning spaces for their learners. This position is particularly important, as put forward by one of the course participants, that in most communities teachers and schooling are the learners’ only hope for a better future.
Although facilitation was led by Janet Snow, Caleb Mandikonza and Gavin Heath, the course was very engaging with teachers presenting their contributions. Following the training the teachers formed a WhatsApp group for sharing information on their teaching and assessment practices.
By Patience Shawarira