The influence of teacher pedagogical practices on learner transitions in English medium classrooms from grades 3 - 4
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Decades of research investigations have linked a drop in the levels of academic performance to the transition from Foundation Phase to Intermediate Phase (Grades 3-4). The aim of this study is to investigate what precisely affects learners during the period of transition, and to establish whether the move from Grade 3-4 creates learning challenges. Understanding that these challenges do not only stem from a lack of basic coping skills, the current study examines South African schools focusing on the teachers’ pedagogical practices concerning English as LOLT from Foundation Phase to Intermediate Phase (Grades 3-4). This has led to the discovery of a certain type of comparative pedagogy between Grade 3 and 4 teachers. This study explored the influence of teacher pedagogical practices between Grade 3 and 4 learners regarding the relationship between transition and linguistic challenges at the commencement of Grade 4. The study is foregrounded in theoretical frameworks and methods that are derived from the British sociolinguist, Basil Bernstein (1924-2000) complemented by Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory. Both theories contain a sociological message. From Bernstein’s models of pedagogic discourse, the theories of classification and framing are highlighted as encompassing the genres of visible and invisible pedagogies. This study used qualitative data collection methods drawn from the interpretivist paradigm. Firstly, the researcher distributed questionnaires to gather teachers’ biographical data. Secondly, the study observed lessons of ten Grade 3 teachers and ten Grade 4 teachers. Lesson-observation assisted in comparing and evaluating Grade 3 learners and Grade 4 learners concerning English LOLT pedagogical approaches in different subjects. Thirdly, interviews with ten Grade 3 teachers and ten Grade 4 teachers were carried out. In addition, data was triangulated to see whether observed evidence and questionnaire data corroborated. The findings of the study indicated a different pedagogical approach between Grade 3 and Grade 4 whereby Grade 3 teachers’ positional relationship was more personal, thus weakly framed. In addition, the teachers were very interactive and gave co-extension in lessons. Grade 4 teachers had a more distant relationship in their lessons using a one- size-fits-all pedagogic approach. The Grade 4 teachers did not satisfactorily respond to the diversity of children’s learning characteristics; instead, they expected the learners to fit automatically into their Grade 4 contexts. In many ways, it is not the transition itself that can cause social discomfort and stress, but the factors in the environment. The study concludes that transitioning (which is a process, not an event) challenges, result from distributional injustice in learning since learning is a language-based semiotic activity that is influenced by structure through power and control. This study indicates that it’s not only learners who are engaged in the transitioning process in Grade 4, but the teachers also as they are faced with challenges in adapting their approach to suit the environment to be able to create cohesion between their strategies and learner-needs.