Cover Image
close this bookInitial Primary Teacher Education in Lesotho (CIE, 2002, 142 p.)
close this folderChapter 6: The National Teacher Training College and its Tutors
View the document6.1 Introduction
View the document6.2 College structure, management, and staffing
View the document6.3 Characteristics of the Primary Division staff
View the document6.4 Induction and continuing professional development
View the document6.5 Current job satisfaction and future plans
View the document6.6 Tutors' perspectives
View the document6.7 Teaching practice and the schools
View the document6.8 Perceptions of their own teaching
View the document6.9 Concluding Discussion

6.6 Tutors' perspectives

The picture that emerges is complex. The tutors come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and expressed a wide range of views. At times the survey data was inconsistent with what was said in the interviews. No one model of teacher training emerged. The College does not seem to have a widely shared philosophy or a sense of purpose. As one interviewee pointed out, there is no 'mission statement' anywhere. In this atmosphere, many tutors had developed their own 'personal theories' and in the interviews most were able to articulate their ideas. However, the classroom observations suggest that few put their personal theories into practice.

6.6.1 Perceptions of the good teacher

Asked to describe a good teacher, there was a fair degree of consensus, with most tutors embracing a person-oriented approach. There was a much stronger emphasis on personal and professional attitudes such as kindness, patience, dedication and commitment than on either skills or knowledge. The skills mentioned tended to be complex interpersonal skills such as involving and motivating pupils, diagnosing and dealing with pupils' needs, and supporting slow learners, rather than the discrete technical skills of lesson planning or delivery. The teacher's knowledge base seemed to be of less importance, and expressed vaguely as 'knowing the subject' and 'understanding children'. Many described the good teacher in terms of 'holistic' images. The most common description was that of a facilitator or interactive teacher, where 'teaching is dominated by doing', and who 'creates an environment conducive to pupils giving their own opinions.' Another common phrase was that they should be an exemplar or role model for children. Others said: 'like a parent'; 'makes pupils feel at home'; 'makes learning pleasant and unthreatening for pupils'; or 'has the spirit of teaching'. One summed it up: 'a teacher who involved her students in learning, who kept the students motivated, who brought the students' experiences into class'.

Thus the ideal teacher nurtures pupils with loving care and dedication; she runs a child-centred classroom using a variety of methods, has good social and interpersonal skills, and adapts the curriculum to the needs of individual learners. She has high 'professional' -moral and ethical - standards of behaviour and acts as a role model. It is assumed she knows the subject content and something about child development, but she is not expected to develop or change the given curriculum.

This picture is quite similar to that drawn by the entering trainees (see Chapter 3), but with one noticeable difference in that the trainees overwhelmingly emphasised that a good teacher 'makes things clear so that all students can understand'. This emphasis on 'teaching for meaning' did not appear so salient for the tutors.

It should also be noted that such views of the teacher are rather different from those outlined in the Preamble to the new Diploma in Education Primary curriculum document. Here the aims indicate an 'extended professional' view of teachers, who would be capable of developing the curriculum and evaluating their own and others' work, and who would 'act as agents of change within their communities.' The curriculum document lays much more emphasis on cognitive skills and the ability to solve professional problems, rather than just dealing with children and their needs in the classroom (National Teacher Training College 1997:11) (See Chapter 4). Perhaps the new image, with its different requirements, had not yet permeated the College discourse.

6.6.2 The College products

Interestingly, tutors are not sure how far the reality of training matches their rhetoric. When they were asked more directly what sort of teacher the College aimed to produce and how far this was achieved, a rather blurred view emerged, at least from the subject staff. One of the tutors summarized it:

I really do not know. I think they are well prepared for their work. They have been given enough content, they have been given enough resources, and they have been given enough practice under supervision, so they should be more or less good teachers. As I said, though, it also depends on their commitment.

Some said that NTTC graduates were better teachers than those trained by the NUL because they had the 'skills to go to the level of the child'. There were only isolated references to self-evaluation, to teachers as change agents or to reflective practitioners as stipulated in the curriculum document.

This ambivalence about their task is shown in a striking way in the survey, when they were asked to exemplify how the College ensured that students became good teachers. The most common answer was to 'send them on Teaching Practice', followed by 'teaching them skills', giving them content, and by developing their professional and ethical attitudes, in that order. This suggests an uncertainty, perhaps even a lack of real understanding, about how their own work can and does contribute to the development of young teachers. It is also contradictory, in that many expressed quite negative views of the schools' contribution to training through Teaching Practice.