An analysis of learner-centredness within teacher education institutions : case study
Van Aswegen, Sonja-Mariè
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Over the past few years many changes have taken place in the content and presentation of teacher education programmes in South Africa due to the paradigm shift from teaching to learning. As a result, the primary learning environment for undergraduate students, the fairly passive lecture-discussion format where teacher educators talk and most students listen, is contrary to almost every principle of an optimal student learning setting. The current view in teacher education is that teacher educators should create learner-centred and learner-controlled environments where student learning and success determine the boundary. The idea of focusing on learning rather than teaching requires that teacher educators rethink their role and the role of students in the teaching and learning process. When focussing on learning rather than teaching, teacher educators must challenge their basic assumptions about how people learn and what the roles of teacher educators should be. It may be necessary to unlearn previously acquired teaching habits, and rethink the role of assessment and feedback in learning. Meaningful, formative assessment can play a key role in shifting to a learner-centred approach because it provides important information to both students and teacher educators at all stages of the learning process. To achieve this, it is essential that teacher educators do not simply add assessment as an extra to an existing, non-interactive scheme of work, but that they integrate assessment effectively and efficiently with their instruction. This requires a major shift in how assessment is planned and integrated and a working framework for integrating assessment with instruction can be most valuable to teacher educators. The purpose of this study was to: Determine the nature and scope of ESL teacher educators' tasks, within a Faculty of Education Sciences, at a tertiary institution. Determine the extent to which ESL teacher educators are implementing a learner-centred approach to teaching and learning. Identify the factors, if any, that impede the transition to a learner-centred approach to teaching and learning. Provide recommendations to facilitate the implementation of a learner-centred approach to teaching and learning. Determine how, when and how often ESL teacher educators are currently conducting assessment. Identify possible shortcomings of the existing assessment system of ESL teacher educators. Provide a framework for implementing assessment within a learner-centred approach to teaching and learning. A one-shot cross-sectional survey design was used in this study. The participants included all the teacher educators (N=5) within the Subject Group English in the Faculty of Education Sciences .at the Potchefstroom University. Three data collection techniques were used in this study, namely a questionnaire, semi-structured interviews and classroom observations. The purpose was to triangulate the data in order to get as complete a picture as possible of the extent to which the teacher educators' teaching and learning practicesre reflected a focus on learner-centredness. The results of the study can be summarised as follows: Descriptive statistics (means and percentages) were used to analyse the data. The data collected during the interviews were reported as narratives. The results indicated that the teacher educators in this study spent a significant percentage of their time on preparation for class meetings and assessment. Each teacher educator taught for the full twelve weeks of each semester and, therefore, did not have one week free of teaching the entire year. Although the teacher educators embraced some learner-centred methods such as group work and interactive class discussions, they still assumed most of the responsibility for the learning processes and classroom behaviour of the students. They mainly focused on what to present in the contact sessions and spent time organizing presentations of information rather than developing materials to facilitate learning. The teacher educators often reverted to more familiar, traditional approaches and emphasized the following issues as affecting the effective and efficient transition to learner-centredness: curriculum coverage and lack of time, lack of proper training, size of student groups, other teacher educators' cynical attitudes and students' attitudes towards learning. The teacher educators made use of a variety of assessment methods and assessed students continuously, but these assessments were not used for promoting student learning, but rather for grading purposes. Students received traditional feedback such as grades, marks and scores, but they seldom received feedback on what they did wrong and how they could rectify it. Overall, it was assessment of learning and not assessment for learning. A major factor impeding the implementation of a learner-centred assessment approach was the demand formative assessment methods placed on the professional time of the teacher educators. In order to utilise time effectively and integrate assessment with the instructional design, teacher educators expressed the need for a workable framework to assist them in planning their assessment practices.
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