Evaluation of the use of resource kits in professional development in science teaching
The research was done in a period of curriculum transformation and reform in South Africa, a period during which teachers attended many interventions by service providers other than the education department to sharpen their skills. In this study, I investigate teacher professional development and professional development programmes using two case studies, MTN-SUNSTEP (Mobile Telecommunications Network – Stellenbosch University Schools Technology in Electronics Programme) and SWAP (Schools Water Project). These INSET programmes were intended to assist with the improvement of science teaching in terms of the new curricula suggested for the country. The study proceeds by way of two case studies within an interpretive paradigm. The purpose of the study is to evaluate the two programmes based on the criteria developed through a literature review and to understand and give meaning to the process of teacher professional development that might have occurred in the programmes. This process is framed by my research question, “can resource kits enable professional development in science teaching”. Data was collected at various stages by way of field notes, questionnaires, interviews and observations at workshops. Teachers generally found the processes useful but do indicate dissatisfaction with certain areas of the programmes. Issues that emerged from the study were that teacher development processes need to be organized over a long period, the development of teacher networks needs to be nurtured, and support at school level was essential to ensure implementation. An important insight was that the research, once again, emphasized a key aspect of effective teacher development programmes. Effective programmes require a team consisting of three agents that bring their own expertise to the process namely, teachers, district officials and university staff. This team has to take into account the factors that ensure effective teacher professional development and should occur within the parameters of accepted professional development practices and learning support materials play an important role in supporting this process.