Research and Evaluation Reports

Evaluation Report of the Umbumbulu Science Project

The evaluation of a two-year project to provide English language and pedagogical skills training to Science educators. The project engaged the services of English Language and Environmental Trust (ELET) and Dr Sharon Grussendorff to train and support educators in the English language and pedagogical skills respectively. The purpose of the evaluation was to assess the extent to which different interventions in the project were implemented and the impact these interventions had on the teaching and learning of Science and learner performance in the participating schools.

Duration of Project: 2005 - 2006


Geographical base for project:  KwaZulu-Natal

Evaluation conducted by: Dr. Relebohile Moletsane

Introduction

The Zenex Foundation funded a two-year science project run in Umbumbulu, KwaZulu-Natal, in 2002.

In November 2004, the Foundation took a decision to extend the project till the end of 2006 in order to address issues that were identified by the external evaluator as impacting negatively on the project's ability to improve learner performance in Science in project schools.

These issues that impacted negatively on the project's ability to improve learner performance in Science in project schools included poor competency among educators in teaching certain learning outcomes, such as Material and Matter in Chemistry, poor curriculum management by some school principals and Heads of Departments, poor English language skills of educators and learners, and poor pedagogical skills among Science educators.

The two-year extension gave the project the opportunity to provide English language and pedagogical skills training to Science educators. The project engaged the services of English Language and Environmental Trust (ELET) and Dr Sharon Grussendorff to train and support educators in the English language and pedagogical skills respectively.

Key Findings

The purpose of the evaluation was to assess the extent to which different interventions in the project were implemented and the impact these interventions had on the teaching and learning of Science and learner performance in the participating schools.

The evaluation findings discussed below are based on classroom observations, teachers' and principals' interviews and questionnaires and document analysis.

Project Implementation

  • There was evidence suggesting that the Science intervention, the English Language competency intervention and the pedagogical skills intervention had been implemented successfully by the project i.e. workshops were conducted and teachers were provided support in the classroom.
  • The Evaluator found no evidence that the structured programme had been implemented to assist school principals in managing project activities or the curriculum.

Project impact on teaching and learning (from classroom observations and interviews)

  • Content knowledge among teachers was impressive compared to other projects.
  • There was evidence of good and continued use of equipment and other materials supplied by the project in Science and English Language.
  • There was an increasing interest and enrolment in Science as a subject by learners.
  • There was an increasing awareness and use of learner-centred methodology by teachers. 40% of the observed teachers used this approach during their teaching.
  • The use of English as a medium of teaching and learning showed evidence of improving, with 20% of the observed teachers using English as the medium of instruction.
  • There was a slight increase in principals' awareness of the project and Science curriculum.

Factors impacting negatively on the project

  • The project focused on a very small number of educators to effect a meaningful change in the whole school. This was likely to make learners reluctant to respond positively to learner-centred teaching and the use of English because other educators in their schools did not use these approaches.
  • Some educators had a misconception that group work was the same as learner-centred teaching.
  • The majority of educators and principals appeared to be overly dependent on project facilitators, and appeared unable to do much by themselves.

Recommendations

Recommendations aimed at addressing factors that impacted negatively on the project, included:

  • Involving more teachers in English language competency and pedagogical training in order to transform and sustain learner-centred teaching and the use of English as a medium of teaching and learning in as many learning areas as possible.
  • Implementing a more structured programme to assist principals in managing the curriculum. This should be coupled with plans to assist principals and teachers to assume ownership of project activities and the curriculum. This would increase the probability of continued use of the skills and competencies acquired from the project following its closure.

The evaluator recognised that the success of these recommendations was highly dependent on the following critical factors:

  • the desire, willingness and commitment of teachers and principals to spend more time on project activities and the delivery of the curriculum. Often principals send representatives to project related workshops and meetings and some teachers do not attend all project related workshops;
  • commitment and realistic plans by project schools to sustain the activities of the project beyond the funding period and the involvement of the Valley Trust and partners; and
  • continued support and cooperation from the KZN Department of Education and Culture.
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