|Further Diploma in Education (Educational Management) by Distance Education at the University of Pretoria, South Africa (CIE, 2002, 55 p.)|
|6. Students' Views on Aspects of the Course|
The questions that we asked related firstly to the matter of content of the courses, with particular emphasis on strengths and weaknesses. More specifically, we asked whether students gained any valuable skills and what they thought they had learnt so far in this course. Secondly, we raised questions regarding self-development issues, where students reflected specifically on teaching strategies and attitudinal changes they experienced due to their FDE learning. In addition, we asked those who had completed the course whether they had been promoted since their completion of this course. Finally, we questioned students whether they would recommend this course to fellow staff, and if they intended to continue their education with the University of Pretoria.
The first theme we discuss relates to the curriculum content and skills, which were seen as relevant and helpful in their education practice. The cases illustrated in the curriculum review need some revision in order to meet the contextual particularities of the South African environment. While this course is of a managerial nature, some students did express some need for more teaching-related content, such as the new curriculum, Curriculum 2005.
Student also expressed their satisfaction with the skills they developed. In fact they found these to be most valuable. Skills such communication skills, time management, strategic planning, financial school management, co-operative skills, and negotiation skills were highlighted as most useful. With the complexities and countless challenges in their school environment, students found the problem-solving skills and agenda planning most beneficial. On a more personal level, interpersonal skills improved, which facilitates collaborative decision-making processes. Needless to add that many students used their managerial skills outside their schools, in church and at home. Teamwork also improved. Students' conception as to who should have these skills changed dramatically. In the past their thinking was that only headteachers were called upon to have managerial skills, whilst now they realise that all teachers should be granted the opportunity to acquire these skills. They also expressed their concerns of how staff were promoted to headteacher without the necessary skills to manage and lead a school. One student expressed this eloquently: That is why the FDE could be the yardstick for education in South Africa.
Another shared his view: The department should make FDE compulsory for all teachers. Although these may be the wishes of some, the unfortunate dilemma appears in schools where some students have expressed their reluctance to share their new learning, particularly when they are not headteachers. It would appear that headteachers would feel threatened by teacher-students in their school who are studying FDE. In addition to skills development, students mentioned how they could follow the example of the professional conduct of lecturers, with regard to how they treated the students as adults as well their punctuality: Lecturers are role models.
The second theme we discuss covers attitudinal and personal change issues. Most students said that indeed they have changed, both as a person and as a teacher. Some said they are far more positive, accept differences more easily, face challenges, accommodate mistakes and problems, and lastly can deal better with such problems. Not only have some students changed, but they noticed that their colleagues' attitudes towards them have also changed. One student explained how in her personal life she became more positive, accepting and less stressed. Another recognised that since she enrolled for the FDE, he enjoyed the teaching more. One student appropriately summed it up: To learn means you are more open to change.
Concerning a change in teaching strategies, some students talked about how they are able to plan better for their lessons. Building relationships with their pupils also improved. Communicating and listening to pupils benefited a great deal. Some students also realised that they are not the custodians of knowledge and that they can involve pupils to participate in the classroom. As such this student can now deal with the process if a pupil questions him in class. In the past that would threaten him. Now pupils may differ from him.
The third theme entails issues of the future and promotion. Due to this acquired qualification some students indeed were promoted, some to head of department, while others became headteachers. One student was granted an interview for a promotion post. Surprisingly, one student explained how he used his FDE background in his interview. He was able to deal with many difficult issues such as educational law and conflict management. Most students expressed their hope that the FDE course would be introduced at undergraduate level in order to improve the level and quality of teaching. Most students saw fit to recommend this course to fellow staff and friends.