Professional experiences of beginning home economics teachers in Malawi : a grounded theory approach

Kunkwenzu, Esthery Dembo (2007-12)

Thesis (PhD (Curriculum Studies))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.


This dissertation is an interpretive analysis of the professional experiences of six beginning Home Economics teachers in Malawi. The specific aim of the study was to explore the opportunities, challenges and problems of the teachers in their first year of teaching. The data for the study were developed using a triangulation of five research methods, including a questionnaire, face-to-face interviews, classroom observations, teachers’ reflective diaries and focus group discussions. Grounded theory was used as the methodology and analytical framework of the study. Research in teacher education acknowledges that learning to teach is a complex process (Calderhead & Shorrock, 1997; Flores, 2001; Flores & Day, 2006; Solmon, Worthy & Carter, 1993) and that the first year of teaching has a very important impact on the future careers of beginning teachers (Stokking, Leender, De Jong and Van Tarwijk, 2003; Solmon et al., 1993). The transition from the teacher training institution to the secondary school classroom is characterised by a type of reality shock in which the ideals that were formed during teacher training are replaced by the reality of school life (Lortie, 1975). The results in this study point at the school context as the ‘reality definer’ in the professional experiences of the teachers. The findings also support previous studies of beginning teachers which have emphasised the vulnerability of beginning teachers and show the first year of teaching as a ‘sink or swim experience’. However, the results show a unique relationship between the school context and school expectations. In this dissertation I contend that it is this relationship that was fundamental to the professional experiences of the six beginning Home Economics teachers. In the dissertation I present a three-stage substantive-level theory of the beginning teachers’ experiences and argue for the redefinition of the perception of teacher learning in Malawi: from a definition of pre-service teacher education as teacher learning, to teacher learning as a ‘triadic process’ comprised of teacher education, school induction and continued professional development.

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