Schools-university partnerships for professional development: an impact assessment of the “lesson study” intervention on mathematics teachers in the Free State
Letloenyane, David Maleho
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School-university partnerships for the professional development of teachers continue to be used extensively in South Africa to enhance the quality of teaching and learning, especially in mathematics. The success of such partnerships in changing teachers’ classroom practices, however, remains in doubt, in part because very few studies present empirical evidence of the changes. The partnership trained and encouraged teachers to initiate and participate in schoolbased professional development initiatives through the formation of communities of practice. This study assesses the impact of one such partnership, which resulted in perceived changes in teachers’ instructional practices and curriculum decisions after the intervention. The partnership assisted mathematics teachers from one district within the Free State province to re-examine their teaching practices. Using retrospective pre-testing design and semi-structured interviews, the study established that there were significant differences between teachers’ pre- and post-test scores, which suggests that there were perceived changes in teachers’ instructional practices and curriculum decisions after the intervention. The findings also suggest that collaboration, peer observation and critical reflection assisted teachers to change and improve their content knowledge, instructional strategies, understanding of student learning processes and their ability to choose and implement effective teaching strategies. The findings suggest that this partnership through the formation of communities of practice (CoPs) had a positive effect on teachers’ classroom practices. The findings provide some empirical evidence that partnerships of this nature, between schools and universities, may prove valuable in attempts to improve the teaching of school mathematics, especially in the South African context.