|In-service Support for a Technological Approach to Science Education - Education Research Paper No. 16 (DFID, 1995, 48 p.)|
This introduction provides the rationale for the project and sets the context.
In many African countries, the majority of young people are unable to progress beyond general education. As it calls on very scarce resources, it is accepted that, to an even greater extent than in industrialised countries, the African curriculum must be relevant to everyday life. Literature on curriculum policy (Swift, 1992) and education policy documents from various countries within Southern Africa (Republic of Botswana, 1993; Government of Mozambique, 1994; ANC Education Department, 1994) show support for integrating technology, particular indigenous technology in the broad sense, in the science curriculum in order to bridge the gap between classroom science, and the students' environment. In Africa, several attempts to renew the curriculum along these lines have been reported. Botswana introduced a "science curriculum with social relevance" (Nganunu, 1988) and in Sierra Leone "a science curriculum that relates to the everyday life of students in their traditional setting" was designed (Baimba et al, 1993). All these papers describe curriculum changes using technological applications from the students' environment as illustrations of the science concepts. This project, however, focuses on context-led materials: it attempts to use everyday technological contexts as starting points for the usual concepts covered in a science syllabus.
In Swaziland, teachers and curriculum developers are currently debating how to modify the current Swaziland Integrated Science Programme (SWISP) to make the junior science curriculum more applicable to national needs. These concerns provide sufficient motivation for teachers to participate in curriculum development and INSET work with materials using a technological problem-solving approach. For this reason, Swaziland provided a suitable environment for the development and research study contracted by the Overseas Development Administration.
Evaluation of curriculum renewal attempts in developing countries (see, for example, Vulliamy, 1988; MacDonald and Rogan, 1990) has shown that innovations in the syllabus, examinations, textbooks or teaching strategies are resisted by teachers, unless self-confidence is built through well-planned INSET support. Joyce and Showers (1980) identify four 'levels of impact' of INSET, all of which have to be attained before any impact can be expected in the education of the children. In order to reach these levels, all of the following INSET strategies are needed: presentation of the 'theory' of the innovation, demonstration of skills involved in implementation, simulated practice, and individual feed-back on classroom practice. All of these strategies have been used in the project. As the last mentioned INSET strategy is most labour and cost intensive, the subsequent evaluation has paid specific attention to the contribution which in-class support to individual teachers makes to the modification of teachers' behaviour. The evaluation also specifically explored the added value of teacher-led INSET sessions for promoting teacher change.
Evaluations of INSET projects in developing countries have often been general, post-event descriptions of the INSET contribution to the intended change, usually in terms of 'degree of success'. This project's evaluation differs in three important ways. Firstly, the evaluation includes a long-term aspect, taking advantage of the opportunity to monitor individual teacher change through documenting the teacher's 'stages of concern' (Constable and Long, 1989) before and after participation. Secondly, the evaluation attempts to document various levels of teacher impact leading up to the desired change in classroom behaviour, using case analysis. Kinder and her colleagues (1991) developed a practical typology of English teachers responding in specific ways to school-focused INSET. This project adapts this analysis instrument to the context of a developing country. Finally, the extent of the innovation's 'diffusion' across the curriculum is measured in order to gauge the extent of teachers' identification with the new teaching approach.
In many developing countries, girls are under-represented amongst students studying science at tertiary level. For Swaziland, Smith (1988) shows that those girls who do take science at tertiary level perform generally better than their male counterparts. She also identifies a decrease of female interest in school science in Swaziland at lower secondary level. UK based research (Ramsden, 1992) suggests that contextualised science teaching may be more accessible to girls, and, therefore, may maintain a positive attitude to science education throughout secondary schooling.