The influence of Lesotho Grade R teachers' science content knowledge on their classroom practices
Maraisane, Mamontsuoe Lintle
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Previous research has identified teachers’ knowledge as a strong factor in influencing classroom practice, hence teachers are regarded as the main locus in the education system. Accordingly, a number of studies have focused on teachers’ content knowledge and how it shapes learners’ performance. The focus has tended to be on higher levels of education, ignoring teachers in early childhood sectors. Despite research on Grade R teachers’ science content knowledge (TSCK), little is known about how it influences classroom practices, and vice versa. This is therefore the focus of the study, notably in Lesotho. The study aims to contribute to the existing body of knowledge in Early Childhood Education sector as well as science teaching. Shulman’s Teacher Knowledge Framework and Content Knowledge for Teaching (CTK) framework form the framework of this study. A mixed methods approach, based on a sequential explanatory design, was followed, with a survey of 100 Grade R teachers’ science content knowledge measured in the first phase to inform the second phase. Four teachers from the main sample were purposely and conveniently selected to be interviewed and observed to participate. The observed and interviewed participants’ lesson plans were analysed to add to the credibility of the study. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used in quantitative part, while the qualitative interviews, observations and document analysis were used to triangulate qualitative findings. The findings suggest that teachers’ CK was fragmented; they had expected common content knowledge, limited specialised content knowledge and adequate horizon content knowledge. The study also found that Grade R teachers’ content knowledge had weak or no influence on their classroom practices. In conclusion, it re-affirms the importance of Grade R teachers’ science content knowledge and that they may be other factors not discovered by this study that influence their practices. The study recommends that the teacher training institutions and the Ministry of Education and Training organise ECD programmes such that teachers are enriched with content above the level they teach in order to enhance their CK.