Teachers who have knowledge of a topic teach with confidence and, conversely, are not confident in their teaching with content which they are not familiar. In South Africa, education research has shown that unfamiliarity in environmental content knowledge is a problem as for many teachers this content is new (having not been exposed to it in the previous schooling and tertiary education systems).
To take this one step further, international studies have shown that: “Concurrent with the need to understanding the complex content, is establishing pedagogies that support the designing of teaching and learning in an interactive, learner-centered way…”(Unesco 2014). That is, the methods of teaching affect the way in which the content is understood and learnt.
To address these issues in the Knysna area, the Knysna Basin Project initiated their Educator Empowerment Project. They engaged Environment Learning & Teaching (EnviroLearn) to conduct two Fundisa for Change courses (www.fundisaforchange.co.za ). The Fundisa courses focus on content knowledge, pedagogical and assessment practices, thus facilitating effective teaching processes.
This project was funded by The Table Mountain Fund.
The objective of the Fundisa courses was to facilitate teachers to:
- Improve their topic specific knowledge, and the possible contested knowledge
- Understand the knowledge progression
- Learn about subject specific pedagogical practices allowing for critical and creative thinking skills
- Improve their subject specific assessment practice for quality assessment and higher order thinking skills
- Understand how they can teach the local marine biodiversity within the requirements of the national curriculum,
Grade 10 – 12 teachers in the Knysna district attended the 2019 course. Each participant attended contact sessions and completed a Portfolio of Evidence of teaching. The course and portfolios were evaluated and moderated by Rhodes University, with all participants who completed all the requirements of the course obtaining a Rhodes University Short Course Certificate.
Grade 5 – 7 Natural Science teachers were invited to attend the 2020 course. Due to the COVID restrictions and various complications at schools, the course was conducted fully online. Although, this was not an ideal situation, we adapted and adjusted according to the requirements and competed the course in October 2021. Despite the difficulties, the course received the approval of Rhodes University and the teachers will receive their RU Short Course Certificates.
One school in the area should be recognized for their outstanding achievement. Eight teachers from Chris Nissen School participated in the online sessions and completed the nine assignments of the Portfolio of Evidence. This is a remarkable achievement, mainly due to the guidance of Mrs Steven-Nkebe.
Teachers have expressed their appreciation to the Knysna Basin Project and EnviroLearn for conducting this course. We look forward to receiving the certificates from Rhodes University and being able to host an event where the certificates are distributed to the teachers.
The Knysna Basin Project, EnviroLearn and all the teachers involved have expressed their heart-felt gratitude to The Table Mountain Fund for allowing this opportunity to happen!