QUOTA SCHOLARSHIP AWARDED TO UKZN STUDENT
UKZN postgraduate student Ms Hayley Bentham has been awarded the Quota Scholarship by the University of Life Sciences in Norway. She will use the Scholarship to explore the role of teachers as researchers in Science Education.
Ms Bentham who has recently submitted her research dissertation titled: An Action Research Study Exploring how three Grade nine teachers develop their Understanding and Practice of Education for Sustainable Development for her Masters in Education degree will spend the next three years at the University of Life Sciences in Norway where she will read for her PhD in Education. The Quota Scholarship awarded by the University of Life Sciences presents students with the opportunity to undertake doctoral research in the area of Education.
Ms Bentham said pursuing her PhD in Norway would present the opportunity to learn about existing synergies in a foreign education faculty.
“I have learnt a lot here (UKZN) about academia and I feel that now would be a good time to learn about myself in academia and I feel that a foreign country may help me focus on this … I look forward to working with my Norwegian colleagues and finding an identity in a place where I may be seen as a professional who has something to offer the field of science,” said Ms Bentham.
During Miss Bentham’s Masters study she was part of a programme called Project SUSTAIN - a partnership between universities in Southern Africa and Norway aimed at promoting research geared towards developing “socially responsible and relevant” teaching methods in science and technology education. Ms Bentham has over the past two years focused on teachers’ understanding and practice of Education for Sustainable Development, looking at how teachers attempt to contextualize policy in their practice. She conducted her study in three secondary schools in the greater Durban area.
According to Ms Bentham teachers participating in the research believed it was important to strive to achieve an education that is relevant to learners. That this could be done through the implementation of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Her findings showed that teachers sought various avenues to implement ESD in their particular subjects. For example one teacher introduced a project where mathematics skills were used to explain the concepts of recycling and conservation.
Understanding the implications of education policy within their own classroom context remained a challenge for the three teachers in her study. Miss Bentham believes that this may be a very real challenge for most teachers in all sorts of contexts.
She said: “More often than not policy implementation is expected of teachers regardless of the countless alterations in already existing policies. Can we really blame teachers for their reluctance? Besides reluctance, teachers are equipped with many skills and strengths, but how is this being tapped into? Teachers need to be allowed to use their strengths and also be given the autonomy to interpret and implement policy in a way that is meaningful to their practice.”
Professional development courses although often very useful, should not be considered the sole solution in assisting teachers to understand education policy, said Ms Bentham. She suggested that teachers be given the autonomy and support to explore avenues of implementing policy in their own capacity, allowing them to take charge of their own professional development needs.
Ms Bentham is in the process of co-authoring a chapter for a Project SUSTAIN book titled: Perceptions on a Socially Responsible SMTE.