Exploring place-based education in geography teaching and learning as a means to re-engage students in Malawi

Chilungo Jana, Doreen Amina (2020-04)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY : The government challenges teachers to expand outcomes from the educational resources it provides for equal access for all citizens. However, there is a growing consensus that universal policies, such as externally mandated curricula are less effective in mitigating contextual challenges. Persistent disengagement of students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, has been reported in various educational systems, including Malawi‟s, despite the governments‟ policies to address inequalities. Teachers, unaided, fail to make abstract concepts accessible to their students and to achieve predetermined outcomes within the curricular mandates. For example, Geography requires that students be given the opportunity to explore their classwork in their own local places through field trips. However, teachers complying with curricular stipulations lack the time to familiarise students with their environments geographically. Students realise that their needs are not being met, fail to own their education, and hence disengage. There is, however, a body of literature that advocates place-based education as being instrumental in promoting a connection between classroom concepts with the resources from communities that students come from. This study focussed on a sample of Geography teachers in Malawian schools. The investigator sought to explore how Geography teachers could operationalise place-based education to re-engage their students to make Geography contents more accessible to all students in Malawi. This investigation assumed a qualitative interpretive paradigm that employed a multiple case study design. Three secondary school Geography teachers were interviewed using semi-structured questions and collaboratively analysed the Geography syllabus. A constant comparative method was chosen as a means of analysing the data to come up with holistic findings. The findings reveal perceived gaps in the stipulated curriculum that could be contributing to students‟ disengagement. Teachers struggle to keep language simple and straightforward for all students. They have to create different points of departure from what the syllabus mandates. Consequently, teachers fail to complete their assigned workload within a given time. In addition, data reveal that the overload experienced with the syllabus leads to rote learning for the sake of completing the syllabus. On the other hand, scholars point out that with place-based education it is possible to make the curriculum more meaningful for students within the confines of the stipulated syllabus. Place-based education regards the resources that are available in the students‟ own community as assets in introducing abstract class content. Drawing on this, an exploration of place based education for the teaching of Geography is suggested to support teachers to rethink their roles in re-engaging their students. The need for in-service professional development is also recommended to boost teachers‟ capacity to liberate their students from unnecessary rote learning or memorisation.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Die regering, op verskeie vlakke, daag opvoeders uit om uitkomste van opvoedkundige bronne wat hulle voorsien vir gelyke toegang vir alle burgers, uit te brei. Daar is egter ‘n toenemende konsensus dat universele beleide, soos eksterne gemandateerde kurrikula, minder effektief in die versagting van kontekstuele uitdagings is. Aanhoudende ontkoppeling van leerders, spesifiek van benadeelde agtergronde, was in verskeie opvoedkundige sisteme, insluitend Malawi, berig, ten spyte van die regering se beleide om ongelykhede aan te spreek. Opvoeders, sonder hulp, faal daarin om abstrakte konsepte toeganklik te maak aan hul leerders en om voorafbepaalde uitkomste binne die kurrikula mandaat te bereik. Byvoorbeeld, die Geografie dissipline vereis dat leerders die geleentheid gebied word om hulle klaswerk binne hul eie plaaslike plekke deur uitstappies te verken. Opvoeders wat egter moet voldoen aan die kurrikula bepalings, het nie die tyd om die leerders geografies met hulle omgewing te laat sosialiseer nie. Leerders wat besef hul behoeftes word nie aan voldoen nie, faal dan in die eienaarskap van hulle opvoeding, wat ontkoppeling tot gevolg het. Daar is egter ‘n groep literatuur wat aanvoerders is van Plek Gebaseerde Opvoeding (Place Based Education) as instrumenteel om die verband tussen klaskamer konsepte en bronne binne die gemeenskappe waarvandaan die leerders kom, te beïnvloed. Hierdie studie het gefokus op Geografie opvoeders in Malawiese skole. Die navorser het verken hoe Geografie opvoeders Plek Gebaseerde Opvoeding operasionaliseer om hul leerders te herkoppel om die Geografie inhoud aan alle leerders in Malawi meer toeganklik te maak. Hierdie ondersoek het ‘n kwalitatiewe interpretiewe paradigma aangeneem wat ‘n veelvuldige gevallestudie-ontwerp gebruik. Onderhoude was gevoer met drie sekondêre skool Geografie opvoeders deur gebruik te maak van semi-gestruktureerde vrae en die gesamentlike analise van die Geografie sillabus. Konstante Vergelykende Metode (Constant Comparative Method) was gekies as ‘n manier om die data te analiseer om met holistiese bevindinge vorendag te kom. Die bevindinge dui op moontlike gapings in die gestipuleerde kurrikulum wat dalk tot die leerders se ontkoppeling kan bydra. Opvoeders het ‘n stryd om ‘n deelnemende platform vir alle leerders te bewerkstellig. Hulle moet verskillende vertrekpunte vir wat die sillabus vereis, ontwerp. Gevolglik kan opvoeders nie hulle toegeskrewe werkslading binne die bestekte tydsraam voltooi nie. Verder toon die data dat die oorlading wat binne die sillabus ervaar word, tot papegaai-leer lei ten einde die sillabus te voltooi. Deur die Plek Gebaseerde Opvoeding lens, het navorsers aangedui dat dit moontlik is om die kurrikulum, binne die beperking van die bepaalde sillabus, meer betekenisvol vir leerders te maak. Plek Gebaseerde Opvoeding ag bronne wat binne die leerders se gemeenskap beskikbaar is, as bates ter inleiding van abstrakte klaskamerinhoud. Hieruit kan ons aflei dat ‘n verkenning van Plek Gebaseerde Opvoeding in die onderrig van Geografie voorgestel word om opvoeders te ondersteun om hulle rol te heroorweeg en innerlik te kyk om hulle leerders te herkoppel. Die behoefte vir professionele indiensopleiding word ook aanbeveel om opvoeders se kapasiteit ‘n hupstoot te gee om leerders van onnodige papegaai-leer of memorisering te bevry.

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