Exploring educators' experiences of their interactions with learners in the Foundation Phase
The interactions between educators and learners in the classroom have been proved to be pivotal in learners’ academic performance and social interactions. Furthermore, positive interaction impacts on both the educators’ and learners’ emotional well-being. With this in mind, this study aimed to explore educators’ experiences of their interactions with learners in the Foundation Phase. The theoretical underpinning of this study, namely community psychology and systems theory states that interaction is a dynamic process between two individuals and that people must always be considered in context, taking into mind their family, community and social environment. This qualitative study used a case study design, utilizing a focus group discussion in two public schools to gather data. Ten female educators participated, six from the one school and four from the other. They were all English speaking and all had been teaching for more than five years. The discussions were directed by one main question, namely: “Tell me about your experiences of the interactions with the learners in your classroom”. Additional probing questions were also utilized. These two schools were chosen as one is well resourced and the other school is under resourced, and so they provide a different perspective on the subject being explored in this study. Thematic analysis was utilized and revealed the following main themes. Firstly, the educators reported being very aware of both the educational and emotional needs of the learners, as well as the impact of the family background on the learners’ behaviour. Furthermore, the experiences of the educators in relation to the learners were mostly negative, reporting often feeling frustrated, hopeless and angry. They did, however, have some positive experiences. As a result of the learners’ needs and their experiences, the educators employed various strategies to meet the identified needs of the learners, to manage the classroom environment and regulate themselves. These findings are considered in the light of international and South African research and found to concur with this literature, in that educators use interaction to achieve the tasks required by the curriculum, to manage classroom discipline and structure and to meet the emotional needs of the learners. Additionally, the difference in the two schools was revealed in the influence of external factors. The educators from the less resourced school experienced much frustration and stress in contending with the learners’ particularly challenging home lives, as well as the inefficiency of the education department, in matters such as assessing learners or placing them correctly, according to their needs. In the light of these findings, the researcher recommends further studies to determine whether what was reported by the educators in this study, can be generalized to all educators in the Foundation Phase. If this is indeed so, educators could be empowered to be more effective in their interactions with the learners in their class, which could, in turn, result in better academic performances for the learners and a more positive experience for the educators.
- Humanities