This paper explores and discusses the relevance of assessment to the pedagogical strategies/approaches used when teaching natural science and technology (science education) in a province in South Africa. Student assessment, as the South African Department of Basic Education (2011) asserts, is integral to the teaching and learning process. Hence, Bantwini (2017) contends that effective assessment should be carefully, thoughtfully and intentionally planned in order to achieve its goals. In his argument, Bantwini (2017) contends that that does not mean teachers should not pose spontaneous questions to learners, but the lesson assessment process should not be entirely based on unplanned questions, as to maintain congruence between the applied pedagogical and assessment approaches. Be that as it may, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2013) argues that the challenge for all of us is to equip all teachers with the skills and tools they need to provide effective learning opportunities for their students. The OECD (2013) argues that the skills that students need to contribute effectively to society are in constant change, but our education systems are not keeping up with the fast pace of the world around us. Most teachers, as the OECD (2013) observes, are not developing the practices and skills necessary to meet the diverse needs of today’s learners.
This paper employs a systems theory framework, which Senge (2006:7) views it as a conceptual framework, a body of knowledge and tools that has been developed over the past fifty years, to make the full patterns clearer, and to help us see how to change them effectively. Systems theory owes its origins to the study of ecology, through which scientists have discovered that complex webs of life exist throughout nature (American Association of School Administrators (2008). Systems thinking, as Senge (2006: 68-69) argues, is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots. Naicker and Mestry (2016) are of the view that if the interrelationships between the elements of a system are weak, it is unlikely that a system will succeed. Hence, there is a need for alignment between pedagogical approaches and assessment methods in order to benefit teaching and learning process. Accordingly, Senge (2006) believes that the art of systems thinking lies in seeing through the detail complexity to the underlying structures generating change... Subreenduth (2013) argues that even the best social justice intentions, when misaligned with the national practice, limit or diminish possibilities for social justice and equitable treatment. In their observation, Lewis and Petterson (2009) state that the impacts of investments in education in developing and transition countries are typically measured by inputs and outputs.
Methodology The reported study draws from four separate data sets that emerged from various studies undertaken in one of the largest provinces in South Africa. The studies focused on different issues that included teaching and learning of natural science, teacher continuous professional development as well as factors impeding the attainment of quality basic education. The participants in these studies were grade 4-6 teachers and districts officials comprising of Subject Advisors, Circuit Managers, District Directors and a provincial education officer, the Chief Director. In collecting the data, the teachers were interviewed using a semi-structured interview and some were even observed during the teaching and learning of science education. Whereas, the districts officials were all interviewed using semi-structured one-on-one and focus groups interviews. The continuous analysis employed triangulation of teachers’ data separately to elicit teacher views and thematic analysis. While the data from education officials was analysed by using content analysis.
Findings and discussion The tentative findings from this study reveals an existence of lack of congruency between pedagogical and assessment approaches. There also appears to be an incompatibility between the country’s Continuous Assessment policy Statement (CAPS) and the classroom realities. These findings are aligned and corroborate Bantwini’s (2017) findings in which he argues that the teaching and learning of science in the classrooms that were observed were hardly aligned with the DBE (2011) CAPS teaching aims for natural science and technology. Further evident from this study was that assessment was mainly used for compliancy purposes and not to quality assure the teaching and learning of the students. Various reasons were advanced for this behavior including the desire to meet the authorities’ expectations without considering the beneficiaries in the exercise or programme. I argue the danger of tick-box compliancy without considering the long-life implications on the students as programme beneficiaries. I view the tendency to please authorities as nullifying the whole process of teaching and learning that should benefit students by developing them to critical thinkers, problem solvers and productive future citizens of the country. The role of authorities, supposedly, should be to strengthen and sustain quality basic education; however, this study seems to indicate that it limits possibilities of using assessment to improve quality practices. I conclude that student’ successful learning is influenced by a myriad of factors including the alignment between the pedagogical and assessment approaches applied during the teaching and their learning. Thus, it is imperative that there is congruence between pedagogical and assessment approaches for benefit of student learning.
References Bantwini, B. D. (2017). “Analysis of Teaching and Learning of Natural Science in Selected Primary Schools in a Province in South Africa.” Journal of Education 67 (1): 39–64. Department of Basic Education (DBE) (2011). National Curriculum Statement (NCS). Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement. Republic of South Africa. Department: The Presidency. National Planning Commission (2011). National Development Plan 2030: Our future-make it works, Executive Summary. Republic of South Africa. Lewis, M. and Pettersson, G. (2009) Governance in Education: Raising Performance. Available at http://siteresources.worldbank.org/EXTHDOFFICE/Resources/5485726-1271361195921/Governance-in-education-master-22Dec09-GP.doc. Naicker SR & Mestry R (2016). Leadership development: A lever for system-wide educational change. South African Journal of Education, 36 (4): 1-12. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2013). TALIS 2013 Technical Report. Available online: www.oecd.org/edu/school/TALIS-technical-report-2013.pdf Senge, P. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Doubleday. Spaull, N. (2015). Schooling in South Africa: How low-quality education becomes a poverty trap. In South African Child Gauge 2015. Edited by A. De Lannoy, S. Swartz, L. Lake and C. Smith, 34-41. Cape Town: Children's Institute, University of Cape Town. Subreenduth, S. (2013). Theorizing social justice ambiguities in an era of neoliberalism: The case of post-apartheid South Africa. Educational Theory, 63 (6), 581–599.
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