Ms Marilyn Jordon, Mr Thanduxolo Rubela, Mr Thembinkosi Nene, Mr Siyabonga Magoso and Mr Joey Mshengu proved that hard work, commitment and dedication pay off when they graduated with their Master’s in Education. Dr Jaqueline Naidoo supervised their research. 

Magoso explored the collaborative activities that Further Education and Training (FET) business studies teachers engage in during cluster meetings. His findings highlight two major activities, namely, moderation and setting assessment tasks. Teachers meet quarterly to moderate formal assessment tasks written in the previous term. They also collaborate to set such tasks for various grades. 

Magoso remarked that discussion of subject content is not sufficient to promote teacher learning and development and that the business studies cluster is an effective Professional Learning Community (PLC) since it reflects most of the characteristics of functional learning communities. 

Rubela examined the learning activities of Grade 12 Life Sciences in a professional learning community. The study found that these include memo discussions, moderation of examination papers, sharing teaching strategies, setting cluster papers, lesson presentations, group discussions and demonstration of practical tasks. They thus focus on assessments, content discussions, and sharing new teaching strategies. He concluded that this PLC partially reflected the features of effective professional learning communities. 

‘All teachers should attend professional learning community meetings and the Department of Education should play a more active role in supporting and encouraging them to do so,’ said Rubela. 

Jordan’s study explored the impact of the Continuous Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) programme on senior school managers within the Uthukela District. As a senior school manager for 15 years and based on her personal reflections and observations, she believes that the link between teacher professional development and improved learner performance is vital. 

‘School managers, being at the forefront of leadership, are tasked with ensuring that their schools are effectively led and managed; therefore, they need to be skilled. In South Africa, any teacher who has seven years’ teaching experience can be appointed as a principal, irrespective of the fact that they have limited leadership and management qualifications or experience,’ said Jordan. ‘As a result, the administration, management, leadership and governance of a school can be entrusted to someone with minimum management or leadership experience. There is a need for quality continued professional teacher development programmes.’ 

The findings revealed that the participants viewed professional development as the pursuit of formal award-bearing qualifications and that CPTD was regarded as a development tool by senior school managers, despite having a limited knowledge of the programme. 

Nene’s study explored the role of principals in supporting teacher professional development in school-based PLCs. It found that principals understand teacher professional development and play a key role in supporting it in schools. 

‘This has been implemented through the promotion of teamwork, collaboration and mentoring within their schools. Principals identified some factors that enabled them to support professional development in schools, such as motivated teachers, implementation of Jika Imfundo, regular class visits, involvement of teachers in decision making and regular developmental meetings,’ said Nene. 

He noted that the challenges include the high teacher workload and a lack of time for professional development activities. ‘Principals now have strategies in place to overcome some of the challenges that hindered them,’ added Nene. 

Mshengu analysed the types of knowledge teachers acquire by participating in an FET Mathematical Literacy PLC in UMgungundlovu district. Knowledge acquired included general pedagogical knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, content knowledge and curriculum knowledge. The teachers shared information and resources during cluster meetings and had the opportunity to work together, and discuss and solve their problems as a group. 

‘Trust was also evident during cluster meetings because if a teacher has a problem during his/her classroom practise, he/she trusts that fellow PLC members will offer the solution. Cluster meetings demonstrated shared values, goals and a vision for better student learning. While the goals were not formally prescribed, the way the teachers conducted themselves indicated that they shared the same values, goals and vision,’ he said. 

Words: Melissa Mungroo 

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan