Physical sciences teachers’ perspectives and practices on the new Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement
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Previous reform efforts in the South African school system have been confronted with challenges during the implementation stages where teachers are acknowledged as central agents. A scarcity of comprehensive studies on physical sciences teachers’ perspectives and concerns exists and the manner in which these influences their practices during the current Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) reforms. The main research question for this study is what are physical sciences teachers’ perspectives, concerns and practices on the CAPS in the Motheo District of South Africa? To respond to the research question and the sub-questions, a sequential explanatory mixed methods approach, consisting of a stage of concern and open-ended questionnaires, observations, document analysis and semi-structured interviews was employed. Quantitative data were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) and interviews were transcribed, coded into themes and then categorised. There are several significant findings stemming from this study. Most teachers seemed more concerned about challenges experienced during the previous National Curriculum Statement curriculum (NCS) such as time constraints, insufficient content knowledge, insufficient practical skills and large workloads. Receptivity to change was largely due to expectations that CAPS would resolve these challenges (innovation expectations) rather than their actual experience with the CAPS curriculum (innovation experiences). When the innovation does not live up to their expectations, teachers may become indifferent towards the innovation. Most (92%) of the 81 participants taught chemistry and physics topics, though a significant number of them (36%) had only majored in one of these subjects. In times of curriculum reforms, existing teachers’ deficiencies in content knowledge and practical work are magnified when teachers have not majored in chemistry and physics. To cope with these challenges, participants in this study had devised different strategies, including using a variety of support materials and teacher-centred approaches. Despite these coping mechanisms, this study concludes that CAPS reforms might not have significantly changed teachers’ practices. This study recommends the re-training of physical sciences teachers in conducting experiments and regular workshops aimed at enhancing their content knowledge. The separation of physical sciences into chemistry and physics, and the introduction of trained laboratory assistants could be considered in the next curriculum change cycle.