The impact of a discourse-based teacher-counselling model in training language teachers for outcomes-based education
De Villiers, Eleftheria
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As outcomes-based education (OBE) is an approach to learning that fosters usable knowledge and skills in learners, with attitudes and values that are aligned with the ideals of the South African Constitution, it was a cause for concern when evidence presented by the Curriculum 2005 Review Committee suggested that the new approach to education was not being implemented successfully. The Committee stated that a lack of appropriate teacher-training and in-service support was one of the primary causes. It was thus decided to attempt to address this issue in a South African context in this research study. The study recruited teacher-trainees using semi-random sampling methods and subjected a final sample of eleven teacher-trainees to a two-year study in which they received counselling on the most effective ways of adapting their teaching styles to an OBE mode. Baseline data was gathered from pre-intervention recordings of their teaching styles in real classroom situations, after which these recordings were viewed and assessed by the trainees themselves, and by peer and counsellor assessment, using standardised assessment forms. Areas in which teaching styles might undergo improvement were identified by the clients themselves, while the counsellor shared theoretical perspectives with the trainees concerning the value of developing their own and the learners' autonomy, establishing low-anxiety classrooms in which learners could feel free to express themselves and could practise uninterrupted speech in a second language, the value of designing their own materials, the strengths of including group work in lessons and ways of enhancing the effectiveness of group work. The relationship between the counsellor and her trainees was of a consistently supportive and empathic nature. Collaboration between the trainees was emphasised, as they were expected to support one another in becoming more effective facilitators. Any judgment on possible improvements had to be phrased in considerate and empathic terms, yet retaining objectivity. It was felt that trainees would be able to replicate the modes they had been taught in their own classrooms, so it was essential that their own development was modelled on critical crossfield and specific outcomes derived from OBE terminology. After much reflection, asd a number of interventions that followed the guidelines posited by Bowers (1987) in his teacher-counselling model within the research framework of an action research spiral (Middiewood, Coleman and Lumby 1999), final video recording were made of trainee-teachers in order to determine if they had indeed succeeded in effecting positive changes to their teaching styles. After each of these recordings had been analysed by the counsellor and the trainees themselves, it was found that major improvements had indeed been effected in the majority of cases. Learners in trainee lessons had been encouraged to speak for much greater periods of time, showing greater initiative. Group work was included in their improved lessons. After discourse had been studied and categorised according to Van Lier's (1996) discourse analysis model, it was found that the quality of classroom Initiation-Response-Feedback had developed from lower-order to higher-order IRF along the Van Lier IRF sub-continuum (1996), indicating that teachers were dominating the structure of classroom discourse to a far lesser extent in their second lessons, opening the classroom interactions to a conversational mode in which the course of the lessons could be determined by learners and thus be more unpredictable. This learner-centeredness was a positive outcome in the study and was further proof that teachers were beginning to apply themselves in an OBE mode. After a year of reflection trainees provided data in a focus interview which showed evidence that they were much more comfortable with OBE and were eager to use the outcomes-orientation in their lessons, as they now understood it as a more effective way to educate learners.