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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


BASSON, Maylene  and  LE CORDEUR, Michael. Professional development of Afrikaans Home Language teachers to enhance reading comprehension of non-mother-tongue speakers. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2017, vol.57, n.4, pp.1037-1056. ISSN 2224-7912.

This study investigated and addressed the professional development needs of teachers to improve their pedagogies regarding the reading comprehension of non-mother-tongue speakers in Afrikaans-medium Intermediate phase classes. A professional development programme was designed and implemented based on collected data. The investigation was undertaken against the background of the poor overall achievement of pupils in the national systemic evaluations and international assessment studies, which is currently a cause of great concern. Teachers have indicated that they feel frustrated and overwhelmed, because they do not have adequate knowledge to support the non-mother-tongue speakers in their classes. Therefore, they have expressed the need for professional development to assist them to improve their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in this regard. Action research as part of a mixed method approach was the design of choice for this study. Empirical data were generated by two cycles of this action research study. In this way, research questions could be explored without the constraints of using only one research method. The main approaches to data collection were quantitative (questionnaires) and qualitative (questionnaires, teacher journals, observations and interviews with the participating teachers). The data collection was supported by a literature study that investigated the professional development of teachers, reading models, approaches and strategies as well as comprehension strategies with specific reference to non-mother-tongue speakers. As this study included the professional development of teachers, a theoretical framework that addresses their knowledge base and the degree to which their continued professional development and growth should be supported was adopted. Teacher learning and the development of their PCK as described by Shulman (1986) were therefore included. Shulman investigated the content understanding of teachers as a special kind of technical knowledge required for teaching. He suggested that "high-quality instruction requires certain typologies, namely subject matter, content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and curricular knowledge". The most influential of these three typologies is PCK. PCK can be described as the subject matter required for teaching. It is the ability of teachers to interpret the subject matter, find different ways to represent it and make it accessible to pupils. In addition, Shulman concluded that teachers' teaching skills and pedagogical knowledge require a theoretical framework that addresses their knowledge as well as providing support for their continued professional development with specific reference to PCK. They therefore analysed ways in which teachers learn individually and in communities. They named their new conceptual scheme Fostering Communities of Teachers as Learners (FCTL). This model asserts that an accomplished teacher is a member of a professional community which shares its experiences with colleagues and reflects together on teaching and learning. Study findings prior to commencement of the professional development programme indicated that the majority of the respondents had received no professional development on reading models and reading strategies, nor on comprehension strategies to enhance the reading and comprehension skills of the non-mother-tongue speakers in their Afrikaans-medium classes. Furthermore, 84% of the respondents indicated that they do not explicitly teach comprehension strategies. The study found that the professional development programme may have had a positive influence on the PCK of the participating teachers regarding reading models and strategies as well as comprehension strategies. Similarly, the programme may have resulted in increased implementation of these strategies in their classes, as indicated by the 92% of participants who explicitly taught comprehension strategies after the conclusion of the professional development programme. The results show that the participants' implementation of action research may have contributed to effective application of reading and reading comprehension strategies. The responsibility to ensure that pre- and in-service teachers receive professional development, which includes the appropriate methodologies and strategies to adequately support the literacy skills of non-mother-tongue speakers, lies with universities and the Department of Basic Education. The study, its findings and recommendations can therefore be used as a resource for the development of training programmes to improve teacher PCK regarding the enhancement of the reading comprehension of non-mother-tongue speakers.

Keywords : professional development of teachers; pedagogical content knowledge; non-mother-tongue speakers; reading comprehension strategies; reading models.

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