Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

Multimodality in Science Education as Productive Pedagogy in a PGCE Programme

Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

Multimodality in Science Education as Productive Pedagogy in a PGCE Programme

Article excerpt


Unless initial teacher education can prepare beginning teachers to learn to do much more thoughtful and challenging work, and unless ways can be found, through professional development, to help teachers to sustain such work, traditional instruction is likely to persist in frustrating educational reform, and reformers' visions are likely to continue not to permeate practice broadly or deeply.

(Ball & Cohen, 1999: 6)

In post-apartheid South Africa, reform efforts in education have been characterised by curriculum change with little emphasis being placed on the professional development of the teacher. The breadth and scope of these curriculum changes necessitate a broadening of the teachers' subject knowledge as well as pedagogy to improve the teaching and learning process. Science and mathematics teaching, in particular, have borne the brunt of criticism as learners' achievements have been less than desirable in these disciplines. The country has to produce more scientists and engineers in a globally competitive environment while the declining uptake of students into these disciplines at tertiary level should be addressed as a matter of urgency. Even though the reasons for this decline are multifaceted, there is no doubt that the teacher plays a crucial role in motivating students and inculcating a positive attitude towards the subject. Ball and Cohen's concern about traditional instruction frustrating reform efforts would ring true unless teachers adapt their pedagogical practices.

The extant literature on the content knowledge of South African teachers reveals that many have not mastered the curricula they are expected to teach (Spaull, 2013: 25). Garbett (2011: 36) also argued that "teaching science effectively in primary schools is dependent upon understanding the complex relationship between learners' prior understanding, science content, teaching approaches, and pedagogical content knowledge". These sentiments resonate with the Department of Higher Education and Training's (DHET, 2011: 53) minimum set of competences required of newly qualified teachers, one of which is that they "must be able to reflect critically, in theoretically informed ways and together with their professional community of colleagues, on their own practice in order to constantly improve it and adapt it to evolving circumstances". How this will translate in reality remains a moot point as it could also be argued that the new Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) for Grades R-12 is very prescriptive and leaves little to the imagination of the teacher.

In this conceptual paper I address the following questions:

1. What are the policy changes that are proposed for teacher education in South Africa, particularly in relation to the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)?

2. Is the productive pedagogies conceptual framework appropriate for a new PGCE programme?

3. How does the notion of multimodality in science education fit in with the productive pedagogies framework?

In the next section I examine the policy changes advocated for initial teacher education programmes.

Policy changes in teacher education in South Africa

Teacher education programmes in South Africa underwent a comprehensive review process for accreditation purposes from 2006 onwards. The Council on Higher Education (CHE, 2010: 48) national review report on teacher education programmes highlighted the challenges faced by the PGCE programmes in general:

* Students' undergraduate majors are no guarantee to sufficient disciplinary knowledge to build pedagogical content knowledge (PCK).

* Time constraints lead to cramming within the one-year programme.

* It is sometimes difficult to foster a common understanding with part-time staff to achieve a unity of purpose and coherence within the programme.

An external evaluation report on the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) of the CHE (2009: 14) further stated that transformation is not just about the demographics of students and staff, but also the changing of teaching and learning practices. …

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