Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

The Teacher as an Agent of Meaningful Educational Change

Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

The Teacher as an Agent of Meaningful Educational Change

Article excerpt

They fill me with a most beautiful variety of multicultural love, humor, religions and they make me the richest person in the world!

Over the past two decades the South African education system has been subjected to a barrage of education reform efforts. The advent of democracy witnessed a change in the educational paradigm from Christian National Education (CNE) to Outcomesbased education (OBE), which brought about a radical change in the School Curriculum. Curriculum 2005 was introduced in 1996, followed by the Revised National Curriculum Statement (RNCS) in 2002, the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) in 2012 and the recently introduced Schooling 2025 in 2014.

Synchronized with these curricular reform initiatives were professional development programmes, the aim of which was to help teachers understand the new curriculum reforms, and changes in the teacher appraisal system. Teacher development programmes were large scale efforts that took the form of the cascade model and were found to be far from adequate (Jansen & Christie, 1999; Jansen & Taylor, 2003; Taylor & Vinjevold, 1999). The result was the "watering down and/or misinterpretation of crucial information" (Fiske & Ladd, 2004, p. 162). In 2003 the Department of Education integrated the existing quality management programmes (Developmental Appraisal System [DAS], 1998; Performance Measurement System [PM], 2003; Whole School Evaluation [WSE], 2005) into one and introduced the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) as an instrument used to assess the performance of teachers. The abovementioned initiatives were all geared towards bringing about meaningful educational change. However, little if any attention was given to the teacher as an agent of educational change and the role of teacher beliefs in effecting educational change. Accordingly, this study asks how does a teacher bring about meaningful educational change in a diverse classroom. What are teachers' beliefs about diversity? Can teachers change their ingrained beliefs about diversity? How does educational change manifest in such a context?

The argument is presented as follows. I briefly sketch the background context to situate the identified intellectual puzzle. I then present a review of the literature on educational change and teacher beliefs. Thereafter a brief exposition of the theoretical framework that is utilized in this study is presented. The paper concludes with a critical engagement between findings of this study and the literature on educational change to unpack how a teacher can bring about meaningful educational change in a diverse classroom.

Background Context2

Educational reforms in South Africa have been framed by legislative policies that promote democracy and human rights. The South African Schools Act (Act no. 37 of 1997) catalyzed by the Bill of Rights and the South African Constitution formalized the process of desegregation of schools in South Africa. As a result of these Constitutional measures, the public schooling system in South Africa has undergone radical changes. These Constitutional measures created the opportunity for students from diverse cultural backgrounds to attend public schools of their choice.

The movement of students into "schools of their choice" naturally had a profound impact on schools and elicited a series of reactions from various stakeholders within the schooling system. Various dynamics were at play at the macro (national education) and meso (school governing bodies) levels of the education system, in an attempt to relieve the tension created by recent educational reforms and to address the issue of power. Of crucial importance however, are the dynamics at the micro-level (classroom) -the process of policy appropriation or misappropriation by teachers mediating between policy and its actual practice on the classroom floor.

One of the assumptions underlying this nationally directed educational reform process is that teachers will be both willing and able to adapt their teaching practices accordingly. …

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