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R20.6 million Foundation Phase research programme launched

Date Released: Fri, 14 October 2011 10:00 +0200

A Consortium of four Cape based universities was launched yesterday (13 October) at Rhodes University a R20.6m “Quality teaching and teacher education research programme.”

The foundation phase research project which is funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) through a European Union grant, will be undertaken jointly by Rhodes University, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), Walter Sisulu University (WSU) and University of the Western Cape (UWC).

Aimed at responding to the challenge posed by a severe shortage of qualified Foundation Phase teachers, the Cape Consortium’s three-year research programme seeks to underpin the DHET’s plan of strengthening the capacity of higher education system to provide more and better qualified FP teachers.

The Consortium’s “Quality teaching and teacher education research programme” focuses on three objectives aimed at strengthening FP in South Africa: Research into teaching practices and teacher education practices, programme design of initial Teacher Education courses, and material development for teacher education.

The National Initiative focuses on three goals: increasing graduates specialising in FP education; designing FP teacher education programmes for institutions offering degrees in this field; and developing learning support materials for use in these programmes.

Scheduled to operate from 2011 to 2013, the Consortium’s research programme is premised on the assumption that improved knowledge of teachers and teaching practices should inform teacher education practices, and vice versa, with conceptions of quality, identity, practices, and access viewed as critical to understanding the relationship between teaching and teacher education practices.

During the three-year period, each university will work with a cluster of ten schools in the Eastern and Western Cape, in both rural and peri-urban settings. Here, teaching practices will be analysed and support materials will be trialled with teachers.

Envisaged outcomes include contributions to quality teacher education practices through evidence-based programme development, increasing the number of FP teachers and teacher educators, and ensuring more inclusive access for learners to quality learning experiences in FP classrooms.

Each of four participating institutions will be responsible for various research outputs over the three-year period, including new FP initial teacher education programmes initiated at UWC and WSU, a strengthened FP programme at NMMU, and reviving the BEd degree programme at Rhodes.

Additional envisaged research outputs include teacher education support materials, eleven PhD and eleven Masters theses, two monographs, four to six peer-reviewed articles in appropriate accredited journals, at least two papers presented at the annual DHET project seminars, a chapter written by the project team in the DHET book to be published about the research project, and contributions to forums, seminars, conferences and workshops on FP education.

Principal investigator for the consortium, Professor Jean Baxen, Deputy Dean (Research) at Rhodes University’s Faculty of Education, is working in collaboration with Dr Noluthando Toni, Prof Cyril Julie and Dr Christabel Mantlana who are the institutional coordinators at NMMU, UWC and WSU, respectively.

Story by Sarah-Jane Bradfield

Photo by Judith Doubell

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