Evaluation of project to support Eastern Cape Mathematics teachers through ACE qualification: summary of findings
Duration of project: 2010 – 2012
Geographical base for project: Eastern Cape
Evaluation conducted by: Kelello Consulting
Evaluation period: 2012-2014
The project was a partnership between the University of Fort Hare and a NGO to support Mathematics teacher development in the Eastern Cape. Zenex funded two cohorts: the first from 2010 to 2011, and the second from 2011 to 2012. The evaluation tracked the programme through the second cohort of 75 teachers.
The aim of the project was to improve the quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics and to impact positively on learner performance. Teachers achieved an Advanced Certificate in Education (ACE) qualification in Mathematics after two years of successful part time study. The programme covered content knowledge, pedagogical skills and focused on improving classroom practice. The ACE was packaged into 10 modules and teachers were required to enroll for five modules in Year One and five in Year Two.
Teachers questioned the rationale for hosting both residential components at a Stellenbosch high school instead of at Fort Hare, which was more convenient for most participants. Furthermore, teachers were disgruntled because they were not informed upfront that they were responsible for the costs of accommodation and meals at a third residential workshop. This third residential workshop was only added into the programme once staff understood the extent of knowledge gaps amongst the registered cohort. However, this component was cancelled following complaints from the teachers.
Teachers were also concerned with the lack of access to technology for the e-learning component and the inconvenience of travelling long distances to the Telematic Centres.
Teachers felt that there was not enough contact with lecturers between residential sessions.
The design of the programme in three parallel streams for the different phases resulted in workload challenges for lecturers.
Teacher selection criteria posed challenges in the project. Even though there were strict requirements for teachers to qualify for selection to the ACE, these were relaxed because the programme enrolment targets were not met. The pre-requisite for entry into the programme was the successful completion of the Mathematical Thinking course. Only 42% of the teachers had met this requirement upon entry to the programme. This in turn led to questions about the quality of the cohort and also complaints about the unfair and inconsistent application of rules.
Content of course and modules
The course and modules were too broadly stated; outcomes were not clear and were therefore open to wide interpretation. The staff did not clearly define what they should be teaching on the course and this made it difficult to evaluate whether the programme would meet its objectives.
The alignment between staff perspectives on content selection and those articulated in the documents were weakly correlated. From existing documents it was clear that the programme was underpinned by a learning theory and strategic choices about what to offer and what to exclude. However, these are not commonly understood and expressed amongst staff members. As a result, some lecturers indicated that the programme was not intended to cover the entire curriculum, whilst others suggest that it was ‘trying to do too much’.
All teachers on the programme were required to facilitate/lead workshops for other teachers. Teachers found this task extremely challenging. Research suggests that teacher networks are becoming increasingly important in teacher development approaches. More details on why teachers struggled with this activity could make an important contribution to developing workable models for teacher networking.
- Strengthen collaboration and partnership between the university and the NGO supporting Mathematics teachers. Tighten joint planning
between institutions at programme and course design level.
- Improve communication to participants about various aspects of the programme including
academic expectations as well as logistics and financial matters.
- Tighten the programme aims and purpose as well as the programme outcomes. The programme purpose must be more clearly defined and must inform course and curriculum content outcomes. This relates to clarity of purpose, coherence, articulation and progression. As stated above curriculum outcomes are vaguely stated resulting in numerous interpretations. The programme needs more precise articulations of what is being taught, how and why and to what end.
- Increase the support to teachers between residential sessions. This can be done through
visits and the use of Moodle.
- Adhere to the course entry requirements of completion of the Mathematical Thinking short
course. Explore ways of assessing teacher competence before they enter the programme.
- Review the length and intensity of the residential programme as participants indicated that
they were exhausted.
- If possible use venues closer to where teachers reside and work.
- Provide funding for accommodation and meals for all residential components. The third
residential component will be useful in supporting teacher knowledge development, but
funding must be sought for this.