Evaluation of a Zenex Foundation-funded programme to deliver a BEd course to Eastern Cape teachers
Duration of Project: 2005-2008
Location of project: Eastern Cape
Name of Evaluation Service Provider: Paul Hobden
The project was set in high schools in the historically disadvantaged areas of Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape. The project sought to address problems in Mathematics education through:
- providing a BEd course that enhanced and reinforced the Mathematics content knowledge of high school teachers;
- the provision of teaching resource materials;
- assisting teachers to set up peer support networks; and
- providing intensive classroom support and mentoring.
The service provider delivered the BEd course funded by the Zenex Foundation to 38 teachers. These teachers completed the formal component of the BEd in 2007 and in 2008 continued to receive a year of onsite classroom support from the service provider. The extended evaluation in 2009 looked at the impact of this project after the intervention, while the first part of the evaluation covered the intervention from 2005 – 2008.
The basic purpose of the original evaluation commissioned to run from 2006 to 2008 was to provide information to the Zenex Foundation about the extent to which a three-year qualification could make a positive contribution to the quality of Mathematics teaching in Grades 10 to 12 and to document what could be learned from the process.
The essential purpose of the extension of the evaluation was to:
- continue with independent and external learner testing and school visits to assess changes in teaching practices in selected Grade 10 classes;
- track the movements of all BEd project teachers within and between schools; and
- monitor the senior certificate results.
Key findings from the original evaluation
The evaluation found the professional development component of the project was a complete success in that it provided a structured programme which maximised teachers’ opportunities to develop themselves to become effective Mathematics teachers taking their context into account.
Improvement in Mathematics was only seen in the learners’ basic GET skills but the scores were still very low. While this was an indication of some progress, it was too little too late, and learners were falling behind with Grade appropriate work. There was no evidence from the Mathematics testing that achievement was better in the project schools in 2008 compared to the control schools.
In general, the evaluators found that the majority of teachers were able to translate their professional development skills from the degree course into the classroom (such that they could be considered competent qualified Mathematics teachers) but this did not necessarily result in improved Mathematics achievement. This was deduced from extensive classroom observations and interviews.
Key findings from the extended evaluation report
The key findings included:
Impact on teaching practice
As a consequence of the Mathematics BEd programme, the teachers did produce more positive learning environments than those teachers who had not done the programme. These differences decreased once the programme stopped.
The evaluators found with some confidence that where there is a competent teacher in a functioning school, the chances are high that learner marks will improve over time. However, where only one or the other exists the chances of learner success are minimal.
Impact on the careers of the BEd teacher cohort
The tracking of the teachers showed that the BEd provided an opportunity to gain promotion. Most teachers applied for promotion with a third of the original cohort being promoted (40% of those who graduated i.e. 6 HODs, 2 Deputy Principals, 1 Subject advisor).
There was a lack of stability in the Mathematics teaching cohort with significant movement across the schools with nearly 40% moving schools. Sixteen of the teachers who received the specialist Mathematics BEd degree were still Mathematics teachers.
Recommendations from the extended evaluation report
The recommendations included:
The evaluators stood by their original recommendation that a serious intervention with learners was required before Grade 10 to make sure that learners entering Grade 10 had the basic Mathematics skills. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the extent of the backlogs in the basic Mathematical skills of learners was too great to expect teachers to embark on grade appropriate content and although there is pressure from the Department to ‘do’ catch up work in Grade 12, this was an impossible task.
There was an urgent need to develop a multi-grade Mathematics workbook/programme to help teachers and learners to bridge the existing developmental gaps throughout the system.
Trained teachers needed to be placed in functioning schools in order to practice their newly gained competencies.
While the BEd prepared teachers to deliver the curriculum at FET level, it did not assist them to deal with developmental learning backlogs of the learners. There was a need for professional development to meet the reality of learning needs in the classroom. Professional development options would assist teachers to cope competently with learning backlogs in classes before being able to practice newly found grade appropriate skills.