Teacher development for religious and cultural diversity in citizenship education : a community of practice approach

Ferguson, Rene (2011-03)

Thesis (PhD)--University of Stellenbosch, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This research focuses on teacher-learning for religious and cultural diversity. The background to the study is associated with curriculum reforms in South Africa since democratization in 1994 and the growing interest globally in the integration of Citizenship education and Religion education. In South Africa, the new national curricula after 1994 introduced Life Orientation as a learning area / subject which includes Citizenship education with Religion education as key focus areas. The outcomes associated with these focus areas require school-based learners to demonstrate knowledge of diversity, co-operative and communicative forms of democracy and commitment to the values espoused in The Constitution. The question that arises in relation to the professional development of teachers in this regard, concerns whether teachers have the professional knowledge base to ensure that their learners acquire the knowledge and skills to enable them to participate as competent citizens in a pluralist democracy. Consequently the large-scale transmissionist approaches to teacher development that have dominated INSET programmes have been critiqued in this study for being inadequate for learning the complexities associated with diversity, citizenship and democracy. This study has hence advocated for teacher-learning through participation in communities of practice which arguably provide appropriate learning conditions in which dialogue and critical reflection characterise the interaction between teachers. On the grounds that South Africa’s social-political history enforced the segregation of racial groups and privileged Christianity above other religions or beliefs, a further argument is related to how this history has influenced teachers’ frames of reference and whether teachers’ frames of reference continue to influence how Citizenship education is approached in the classroom. Hence, the theoretical framework for this study has been formulated to address the issue of teacher-learning for Citizenship education and Religion education (Citizenship education/Religion education) and the extent to which the frames of reference of teachers influence their approaches to democracy, values, citizenship and diversity. To this end two learning theory perspectives have been explored, viz. Mezirow’s transformative learning theory (1991, 2000) and communities of practice, as conceptualised by Wenger (1998, 2006b). The efficacy of the communities of practice concept for teacher-learning for diversity was investigated against a transformative learning theory background, using a mixed methods approach. A cross-sectional survey was conducted amongst 60 secondary schools in the Gauteng province, followed by a phase of participatory action research (PAR) with three teachers over a period of approximately eight months. The survey questionnaire was designed to determine the perspectives of a sample of Life Orientation teachers towards learning and teaching religious and cultural diversity in Life Orientation. The findings were used to inform the action research process which in turn drew attention to the significance of the community of practice concept for assisting teachers to generate content knowledge for Citizenship education/Religion education from an inclusive and constructivist perspective. The findings of the survey questionnaire indicated that the majority of the teachers in the sample were not opposed to including religious diversity in their Life Orientation classes despite not having backgrounds in Religious Studies or meaningful in-service training. The PAR findings indicate the value of engagement by teachers in a community of practice for creating and acquiring appropriate content knowledge and for critical reflection on the meaning and application of democratic and personal values for Citizenship education/Religion education.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie navorsingsprojek fokus op onderwyser-leer ter bevordering van religieuse en kulturele diversiteit. Die agtergrond van hierdie studie is enersyds kurrikulumhervorming in Suid-Afrika sedert demokratisering in 1994 en andersyds die groeiende, wêreldwye belangstelling in die integrasie van Burgerskapopvoeding (Citizenship Education) en Religieuse-onderrig (Religion Education). Lewensoriëntering as ‘n leerarea/vak wat Burgerskapopvoeding en Religieuse-onderrig as primêre fokus insluit, is na 1994 as deel van die nuwe nasionale kurrikulum in Suid-Afrika bekendgestel. Die leeruitkomste van hierdie fokus vereis dat leerders kennis moet demonstreer rakende: diversiteit, samewerkende- en kommunikatiewe vorms van demokrasie en die verbintenis tot die waardes soos in die Grondwet vervat. Die vraag word gestel of die professionele ontwikkeling van onderwysers die nodige professionele kennisbasis bied wat kan verseker dat leerders wel kennis en vaardighede verwerf wat hulle in staat sal stel om bevoegde burgers te wees om aan ‘n pluralistiese demokrasie deel te neem. In hierdie studie word die transmissionistiese benaderings (transmissionist approaches) wat die indiensonderwysersopleiding (INSET) gedomineer het, krities ondersoek en bevraagteken ook hierdie benadering vir die onderrig-leer van kompleksiteite soos diversiteit, burgerskap en demokrasie. In hierdie studie word onderwyser-leer by wyse van deelname aan “gemeenskappe van praktyk” (communities of practice) onderskryf hoofsaaklik weens die moontlikhede wat hierdie benadering bied om gepaste leeromstandighede te skep waar onderwysers se interaksie deur dialoog en kritiese refleksie en terugskouing gekenmerk word. In die lig van Suid-Afrika se sosio-politiese geskiedenis waartydens die segregasie van rassegroepe afgedwing is en Christendom bo ander religieë of geloofsoortuigings bevoorreg was, word kritiese argumente gevoer rondom die invloed van hierdie geskiedenis op onderwysers se verwysingsraamwerke en hoe hierdie betrokke verwysingsraamwerke onderwysers se benadering tot Burgerskapopvoeding beïnvloed het. In die teoretiese raamwerk van hierdie studie word die grondliggende kwessies en diskoerse van onderwyser-leer vir Burgerskapopvoeding en Religieuse-onderrig (Burgerskapopvoeding/ Religieuse-onderrig) ondersoek asook die mate waarop die verwysingsraamwerke van onderwysers hulle onderrigbenaderinge tot demokrasie, waardes, burgerskap en diversiteit beïnvloed het. Die twee leerteorieë en perspektiewe van Mezirow se Transformatiewe Leerteorie (1991, 2000) en “gemeenskappe van praktyk”, soos deur Wenger (1998, 2006b) gekonseptualiseer is, word as vertrekpunte geneem. Die effektiwiteit van die konsep “gemeenskappe van praktyk” vir onderwys-leer in belang van diversiteit, word ondersoek teen die agtergrond van ‘n transformatiewe leerteorie deur gebruik te maak van ‘n gemengde-metodesbenadering (mixed methods approach). ‘n Deursnee-opname is aan 60 sekondêre skole in die Gauteng provinsie gedoen, gevolg deur ‘n fase van Deelnemende-Aksienavorsing met drie onderwysers oor ‘n tydperk van ongeveer agt maande. Die vraelys vir die opname is sodanig ontwerp dat ‘n steekproef Lewensoriënteringonderwysers se perspektiewe van onderrig-leer van religieuse en kulturele diversiteit in Lewensoriëntering bepaal kon word. Hierdie bevindinge is vir die aksienavorsingsfase gebruik wat die aandag gefokus het op die belangrikheid van “gemeenskappe van praktyk” as ‘n konsep wat onderwysers kan help om inhoudskennis vir Burgerskapopvoeding/Religieuse-onderrig vanuit ‘n inklusiewe en konstruktiewe benadering te genereer. Die bevindinge van die vraelysopname toon dat die meerderheid van die onderwysers, wat deel was van die steekproef, nie gekant is teen die insluiting van religieuse diversiteit in Lewensoriënteringsklasse nie ten spyte van die feit dat hulle geen agtergrond in Religieuse-onderrig of enige ander betekenisvolle indiensopleiding ontvang het nie. Die bevindings van die Deelnemende– Aksienavorsingsproses bewys die waarde van onderwyserbetrokkenheid in “gemeenskappe van praktyk” om inhoudskennis te verwerf en krities na te dink oor die betekenis en toepassings van demokratiese en persoonlike waardes vir Burgerskapopvoeding/Religieuse-onderrig.

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