The Relevance of Social Sciences Teacher Education Programme in Preparing Effective Secondary School Educators

The Relevance of Social Sciences Teacher Education Programme in Preparing Effective Secondary School Educators

Seema Goburdhun (Mauritius Institute of Education, Réduit, Mauritius) and Jay Ramsaha (Mauritius Institute of Education, Réduit, Mauritius)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/IJKSR.2017040101

Abstract

In Mauritius, the teaching of social studies presents educators with a unique set of challenges, as they are expected to have multi-disciplinary knowledge and multi-dimensional skills to be effective in classrooms. Many of these social studies educators have undertaken the PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) course offered by the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE), which is the leading teacher training institute in the country. This paper explores the relevance of the social sciences teacher education programme offered by the MIE in preparing secondary school educators to meet the challenges in their practice in the wake of current curricular reforms. The study used focus group discussions as the main tool to gather in depth views of the participants. Preliminary findings tend to show that although educators may possess skills, lack of mastery in multi-disciplinary knowledge influences their proficiency in classrooms. An analysis of the different modules of the social sciences programme also shows a gap between the educators' needs and the modules offered.
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Introduction

In the last few years, studies conducted in the field of education have shown that the quality of learning that occurs within the classroom depends to a great extent on the learning opportunities created by the teacher (Hattie, 2009; McCaffrey, Lockwood, Koretz, Louis, & Hamilton, 2004). What are the qualities that a teacher must possess and how are these qualities imbued in the teacher to ensure that conducive learning opportunities are created to promote effective learning? Recent studies (Ambe, 2006; Burning, 2006; Darling-Hammond, & Baratz-Snowden, 2005, Murphy, Delli, & Edwards, 2004; Wise & Leibraid, 2000) have stressed upon the role of teacher educators in preparing effective and proficient teachers and conclude that student learning depends largely on how teachers are prepared and supported. Moreover, professional training enhances the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of teachers so that they, in turn, improve the learning experiences of students. However, teacher educators do not operate in a vacuum. As to function effectively, they require a well-defined framework and a curriculum. Consequently, teacher training institutes are confronted with the challenging task of ensuring that their teacher education programmes provide the necessary components essential to produce well prepared educators.

Ball & Forzani (2009) argues that the curriculum of professional training should focus primarily on practice and should be the core of teacher preparation programme. Barnett & Hodson (2001) on the other hand state the relevance of teacher’s subject matter knowledge as a base for effective teaching. However, Hill et al., (2005) show that teacher’s subject-matter knowledge affects their instructional practice and their students’ achievement, according to Asu (2004, p.15) there are several outcome areas that are potentially affected by teacher training programme. These include: teacher knowledge, teacher attitudes and beliefs, teaching practice, school-level practice and student achievement. The importance of subject matter knowledge was highlighted by (Shulman, 1986) when he stated that subject matter knowledge encompassed a crucial component of knowledge base for teaching. Studies conducted on effective teacher education programme (Darling-Hammond, 2006: Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005) show two critically important components in teacher preparation: teacher knowledge of the subject to be taught, and knowledge and skill in how to teach that subject.

In the light of the above it can be concurred that effective teaching requires teachers with a deep knowledge of the subject, an understanding of how people learn, and an ability to use principles of teaching to stimulate student learning. Recent research has also addressed the question about the role of teacher education in developing teachers’ subject matter knowledge, that is content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge (Kleickmann et al., 2013; Tatto et al., 2012).) Content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge have been referred as aspects of teacher knowledge that are related to concrete topics taught at schools by (Ball et al., 2008; Shulman, 1987). In this paper, we use the terms ‘subject matter knowledge’ and ‘content knowledge’ interchangeably while making reference to the knowledge base of social studies educators. We extend the study by further arguing that to be an effective social studies educator, the academic qualifications, knowledge of the subject matter, competences and skills of teaching and the commitment of the teacher have effective impact on the teaching learning process and to accomplish this feat a teacher education programme that constitutes a right balance of content knowledge and elements of practice is essential.

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