Educators’ reflections of the Swaziland junior secondary Integrated consumer science curriculum: towards development of a unique content area.
Mabuza, Dumisa Celemusa.
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The purpose of the research study is to explore educators’ reflections on the Swaziland Junior Secondary Integrated Consumer Sciences curriculum with the intention of improving it, particularly its subject matter. The study was necessitated by a common understanding and observation that Consumer Sciences educators are locked in a battle in which they are implementing a curriculum that does not spiral up from primary phrase through secondary phase (JC) to senior phase. The curriculum is supposedly integrated, yet in fact, the curriculum is fully dictated by curriculum and examination bodies, thus leaving the educators without a voice. Interestingly, reflection is the best system of learning that can transform educators, assisting them to overcome emerging challenges and to investigate the past, present, and the future. The study, therefore, pursues educators’ reflections, with the intention of empowering educators to take action to improve the curriculum. This action research, grounded on a critical paradigm, was used to address the following research questions: a) what are educators’ reflections on the Junior Secondary Integrated Consumer Sciences curriculum? b) Why do educators reflect in particular ways? and c) What lessons may be learnt from the educators’ reflections which could improve the curriculum? This study, through an extensive literature review, concluded that, for educators to be effective in any curriculum issue, three forms of reflection (own, public, and certified) must be employed as the lens through which to review the curriculum. In the case of the Consumer Sciences educators, their own reflections, in particular, had to be developed for the educators to be able to balance influences from both certified reflections and public reflections. This may be achieved only once educators understand their identity; thereafter they may begin to reflect. This study was conducted through face-to-face interviews, observations, reflective activity, and focus-group discussions. The data was analysed using a framework analysis. Literature review led to the development of a Microscopic Curriculum framework framed by Van den Akker’s curriculum spider web, useful in analysing and interpreting data. The findings of the study reveal that Consumer Sciences educators’ rationale for teaching is greatly informed by demands of the discipline internationally, as per their training and a need from the public to impart hands-on skills to learners. This became evident in teachers’ drive to foster learning outcomes as outlined by the curriculum policy document. Even though the educators could not differentiate between aims and objectives, skills, and knowledge, and xvii lacked conceptualization of other curriculum concepts, the action research was effective in their emancipation. Furthermore, contents in Consumer Sciences are dominated by influences from both certified reflections (knowledge, information, concepts, and theories) and public reflections (skills, practical competences). Educators are being controlled by these forces, thus lack clarity and a rationale for inclusion of certain content. Educators believe that some content does not adequately represent the focus of the discipline in this modern age, recommending removal of certain content, while supplementing other. Also, the assessment in Consumer Sciences is controlled by both certified reflections (assessment of learning) and public reflections (assessment for learning). It therefore lacked self-assessment and peer-assessment on the part of both students and teachers. Intervention through action research empowered educators to take action in reviewing the curriculum, so that it reflected the interests and needs of the learner, clarifying how assessment as learning can improve their teaching. The findings of this study indicate that educators reflected on challenges while organising and financing the teaching of Consumer Sciences. First, insufficient time is allotted to the teaching of the subject. Time allocated does not cover content. Time is also lost during the second term and during everyday subject change-over. Educators therefore teach on Saturdays and holidays to make up such lost time. Secondly, hardware resources such as computers, sewing machines and stoves are inadequate, compelling educators to teach learners in groups while sharing these resources. Educators demonstrated willingness to use computers and software to aid teaching, yet facilities do not allow for such technology, thus compelling teachers to exploit the traditional face-to-face learning environments. Lastly, financial resources are not professionally managed by the school principals and the heads of Consumer Sciences departments. The study findings compared with those found in the literature eventually gave birth to a Tri-Star curriculum theory. It has been observed that action research has been effective in developing the own reflections of educators, empowering them to challenge the curriculum issues that were oppressing them. It is therefore recommended that research that actively engages educators apropos of their scope of work be used frequently. Action research should be used in teaching Consumer Sciences. The National Curriculum Centre (NCC) should remove certain content, as per recommendation of the focus groups in this study.