Exploring meanings of teacher's experiences in an urban community where low income levels prevail

Megaw, Julie (2011-12)

Thesis (MEdPsych)--Stellenbosch University, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The contexts of the experiences of teachers in South Africa, particularly in communities with low income levels, seem to invite meanings of hopelessness. These meanings appear to be supported by dominant discourses that could determine and limit the practices or actions of these teachers. Within these contexts, however, there are teachers whose actions, reflections or motivations suggest the possibility of alternative or preferred meanings that may be marginalised or silenced by dominant discourses of hopelessness. The theoretical framework that provided the foundation for this study was social constructionism, which argues that meaning is constructed through social interaction and that there is no underlying or objective reality that can be revealed through observation or experience. An understanding of this social construction of meaning allows for the construction of alternative or preferred meanings by individuals or groups in contexts where dominant discourses do not serve their best interests. The aim of the research was therefore to explore and describe the meanings that the participants make of their experiences as teachers in a primary school in Cape Town in a community where low income levels are prevalent. The study further aimed to describe how these teachers experience contextual factors and how these factors contribute to their meaning-making. Furthermore, the purpose of the study was to explore local knowledge in the form of actions, motivations and reflections of the teachers that suggest possibilities for alternative or preferred meanings. In keeping with the social constructionist nature of the study, a qualitative, interpretivist research approach was used. Participants were selected through purposive sampling and focus group discussions were used to generate data. Digital audio recordings were made of the group sessions, which were then transcribed and analysed using the constant comparative method. The research findings indicated that the teachers who participated in the study experienced various contextual factors that contributed to their meaning-making. Their experiences of most of these factors were described in similar ways to comparable contextual factors as portrayed in the literature. Furthermore, these contextual factors were linked by the teachers, and dominantly in the literature, to meanings that could be summarised as hopelessness. However, alongside these meanings, the teachers gave rich or detailed descriptions of a range of actions, reflections and motivations that suggest possible alternative or preferred meanings to the hopelessness that their context seems to invite, and that dominant discourses in the literature appear to portray. These findings led to recommendations that were centred largely on meeting some of the support needs of teachers and children in communities with low income levels.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Onderwysers se ervarings in Suid-Afrika, veral in gemeenskappe met ‘n lae inkomstevlak, word belewe binne kontekste wat lyk asof dit die betekenisse van hopeloosheid ontlok. Hierdie betekenisse word blykbaar deur dominante diskoerse ondersteun, wat hierdie onderwysers se werksaamheid of optrede kan bepaal en beperk. Binne hierdie kontekste is daar egter onderwysers wie se handelinge, nadenke of motivering die moontlikheid van alternatiewe of verkieslike betekenisse aandui, maar wat gemarginaliseer of stilgemaak kan word deur die dominante diskoerse van hopeloosheid. Die teoretiese raamwerk wat die grondslag vir hierdie studie verskaf het, was sosiale konstruksionisme, wat daarop dui dat betekenis deur sosiale interaksie gekonstrueer word en dat daar geen onderliggende of objektiewe realiteit is wat deur waarneming of ervaring geopenbaar kan word nie. ‘n Begrip van die sosiale konstruksie van betekenis maak voorsiening vir die konstruksie van alternatiewe of verkieslike betekenisse deur individue of groepe binne kontekste waar dominante diskoerse nie hul beste belange dien nie. Die doel van die navorsing was daarom om die betekenisse wat die deelnemers, as onderwysers in ‘n laerskool in Kaapstad binne ‘n gemeenskap met lae inkomste, aan hul ervarings heg, te verken en te beskryf. Die studie was verder daarop gemik om te beskryf hoe hierdie onderwysers kontekstuele faktore ervaar en hoe hierdie faktore ‘n bydrae lewer tot hoe hulle betekenis skep. ‘n Verdere doel van die studie was om plaaslike kennis in die gedaante van die optrede, motivering en nadenke van onderwysers, waardeur moontlike alternatiewe of verkieslike betekenisse na vore kom, te verken. Vanweë die sosiaal-konstruksionistiese aard van die studie, is ‘n kwalitatiewe, interpretiewe navorsingsbenadering as navorsingsmetodologie vir hierdie studie gebruik. ‘n Doelgerigte steekproef is gebruik om potensiële deelnemers te identifiseer en data is deur middel van fokusgroeponderhoude gegenereer. Digitale oudio-opnames van die fokusgroeponderhoude is getranskribeer en is met gebruik van die konstante vergelykende metode ontleed. Die navorsingsbevindings het aangedui dat die onderwysers wat aan hierdie studie deelgeneem het, verskillende kontekstuele faktore belewe wat bydra tot die betekenis wat deur hulle geskep word. Hulle belewenis van die meeste van hierdie faktore is op soortgelyke wyse beskryf as vergelykbare kontekstuele faktore wat in die literatuur bespreek word. Hierdie kontekstuele faktore is verder deur die onderwysers en in die literatuur aan betekenisse wat as hopeloosheid beskryf kan word, gekoppel. Naas hierdie betekenisse het die onderwysers egter ook ryk of gedetailleerde beskrywings van ‘n reeks handelinge, nadenkings en motiverings gebied wat moontlike alternatiewe of verkose betekenisse bied tot die hopeloosheid wat deur hulle konteks uitgelok word en deur die dominante diskoerse in die literatuur uitgebeeld word. Die navorsingsbevindings het gelei tot aanbevelings wat hoofsaaklik daarop gerig is om in sommige van die behoeftes aan ondersteuning wat deur onderwysers en kinders in gemeenskappe met lae inkomstevlakke ervaar word, te voorsien.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/17807
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