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November 29, 2018

Extension of the Foundation Phase Literacy Project (Zenlit)

The Zenex Literacy Project (ZenLit) that commenced in 2014 reached its final year of implementation in 2017. Between 2014 and 2017, the Zenex Foundation designed and tested a model for improving the way literacy at Foundation Phase in both Home Language (HL) and English First Additional Language (EFAL) is taught and learnt. When the project was completed, the Zenex Board approved an extension of the coaching component of the project. The approval for the extension was informed by evaluation findings which showed that coaching plays a big role in ensuring that good teaching and learning practices are embedded.

Zenlit was premised on the idea that to improve learning and teaching practices in literacy, teachers must improve their literacy knowledge, pedagogical skills and Home Language competencies. In addition, Heads of Departments (HoDs) must be equipped to improve their abilities to manage and support teachers effectively.

The project intervention model consisted of training sessions for teachers and HoDs in 21 schools. The literacy training was aimed at improving teachers’ theoretical content knowledge and improving their abilities to teach reading and literacy skills in African languages and English. It also sought to improve teachers’ classroom management skills.

Training for HoDs was aimed at equipping them with instructional leadership and management skills. They received 11 days of leadership and management training; at least 7 one-on-one coaching sessions a year; coaching support to facilitate phase meeting at least 2-3 times a term; and participated in an HoD community of practice once a term.

Another key aspect of the intervention model was onsite support for teachers and HoDs by professional coaches. The coaching component consisted of classroom lesson observations, structured reflective feedback sessions and in-classroom demonstrations.

The evaluation of the Zenlit project showed that coaching is key to improved literacy teaching and learning practices in order to mediate learning, encourage behaviour change, reinforce good practice and support ongoing professional development of the teacher. Significant improvement in teacher’s classroom routines, weekly lesson planning, and their theoretical content knowledge were also notable gains. To sustain these gains and ensure that change is institutionalised and embedded in schools, the HoDs need to be equipped with the necessary skills to encourage, support and monitor the change on an ongoing, long-term basis.

Thus, the Zenex Literacy project was extended for an additional year (April 2018-April 2019) to ensure that HoDs can adequately support teachers’ learning and development through coaching.

The extended year will seek to achieve the following objectives:

  • Improved instructional leadership of HODs that will result in improved time on task, improved curriculum coverage and improved teaching, which will all contribute to improved learner performance.
  • Improved curriculum management and leadership of the Principal and Deputy – Principal that will result in improved support and management of HODs, improved resource management, improved accountability practices, and improved assessment and progression practices.
  • Strengthen the CoPs across schools, which will result in continuous professional development and networking, exchange of learning and best practice between schools managers, and thus strengthen the school system as a whole.

There are limited skills and financial resources in the South African education sector. It is acknowledged that it is difficult to deploy coaches in every school. Thus, the Zenex Foundation continues to explore models of intervention to improve teaching and learning practices in literacy that has sustained impact.

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