It is vital that teachers – including students pursuing teaching careers – are digitally literate and understand the enormous benefits of using ICTs (information and communication technologies) when teaching and dealing with students.
While Teaching Practice (TP) remains an integral component of teacher training, the inclusion of technology is imperative, said Dr Nageswari (Pam) Moodley of the Wits School of Education as it leads to improved student learning and better teaching methods.
She was addressing delegates at the “Our Teaching Practices Best Practice: Why We Think It Works” seminar which was hosted by the Community of Practice for the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics (CoP TLM) on 12 October. The seminar was a culmination of work done on the teacher development project led by Professor Vimolan Mudaly from the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Education. This is one of two projects the USAf TLM CoP has committed to.
Dr Moodley said the TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) model provides a framework for the integration of technology in education and allows teachers to give the best educational experience to learners.
Often, Dr Moodley said, technology is treated as if it is separate from teaching and learning in classrooms, wheras it should be fully integrated into the content and pedagogy.
She added that the Department of Higher Education’s Minimum Requirements for Teacher Education Qualifications (MRTEQ) policy regulates the design and development of qualifications for teachers and other professionals working in a schooling environment. However, Dr Moodley believes that the policy does not pay enough attention to incorporating digital technology and pedagogy into its guidelines and that this needs to be addressed.
“Universities, as well as lecturers, must also start thinking about what appropriate technology can be used in teaching and learning. Once we have acceptance of the use of technology, we can start adapting. Apps and programmes are available for students to use when they go out to do their practicals.
“Students doing their TP may not be able to apply the technology in the schools they are sent to, because some of the schools won’t have the technological tools available for them. However, after graduation, these students will have much broader skills which include online teaching which makes them more employable.”
She gave an example of how this could be implemented for second year B.Ed students:
- Micro-teaching where the students can be split into groups and teach using technology.
- Using staff from the education technology division for technology support.
- Using apps and special subject specific programmes accessed by the university for student use. These include quizzes, Mathletics, Sketchpad, Kahoot and Nearpod lesson plans.
- Creating mark sheets on Google forms and docs and using Google Teach.
- Using rubrics to assess students and their performance.
The University of the Witwatersrand’s TP Model
On Wits’ model of TP, Dr Moodley said that students are placed at 531 schools within seven Gauteng Department of Education districts.
“We have mentor teachers at schools and we also have external sessional tutors comprising former principals, professors, lecturers and teachers – all retired – who between them have many years of experience. Created this year for the first time is what we call a ‘tutor file’ check list. Every time the tutor visits the student, he or she has to check that the file is in order with all relevant documentation in keeping with the requirements for that year, including previous and current lesson plans,” she explained.
“Currently, all TP is classroom based and our students are provided with a student guide which provides all the relevant information that they need. Communication is done with them via our learning management system (LMS) which is Waze. All students are assessed using rubrics which have been developed for classroom based TP only.
“At the end of TP, we have a debriefing session where the tutors meet the students on site, face-to-face, and they are provided with feedback about how the TP went. Where third-year students are involved, they also discuss some of the key points that they need to develop for the following year.”
In 2021, the Wits School of Education designed a website for TP students, the tutors as well as the schools and their principals. This allows students easy access to information on what schools are available for TP because each school is only allocated a certain number of students. Once all places at a school are filled, no further students can apply there. This has eliminated unnecessary duplication and allowed TP to run smoothly.
Still in 2021, students had to complete a two-week online programme in line with CoViD restrictions before going into schools for a month. This year, all students, except first-years – went back into schools for six weeks. However, the online programme proved to be widely beneficial. It gave students a confidence boost.
“The majority of the students actually preferred the two week online programme preceding the school visits. It gave them exposure to three components – classroom management skills, lesson planning and virtual lesson presentations – which helped make it clear what the school placement required of them. They had to present their lessons on Teams or Zoom to their peers and tutors. It also gave them exposure to online teaching.”
Challenges encountered within Wits’ TP
“While the MRTEQ document, which is the policy we have to follow, makes reference to functional schools, demographics and school contexts have changed. There are many schools that are non-functional and that affects the quality of supervision provided to our students. There needs to be a shift to how our teachers are managed and being trained to be teachers,” she said.
“Another problem is that many institutions send out their students around the same time of the year (July to September) which results in the schools being overloaded. Furthermore, there are not enough mentor teachers for subject specialisation. This results in the mentors doing the bare minimum with our students and the standard of mentorship is compromised.”
She believes that it is imperative that schools are guided on TP. A policy or memorandum of understanding (MoU) – drawn up by one of the departments of education or included in MRTEQ – could provide guidelines to both schools and universities, with much benefit to the teaching profession.
- Students often left to their devices in the absence of mentors, due to teacher absenteeism.
- Students exposed to schools with discipline problems and violence towards teachers, resulting in psychological problems in the students ill-equipped for these situations.
- Deficiency in technological skills in classroom teaching.
Dr Moodley finished her presentation by sharing links to Formative, a facility aimed at helping teachers improve student engagement and accelerate learning. These can be accessed on:
Janine Greenleaf Walker is a contract writer for Universities South Africa.