Original Research: Social Responsibility and Education

The professional development of life sciences teachers in an ecology of practice.

Neal T. Petersen, Josef J. de Beer
Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie | Vol 31, No 1 | a377 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/satnt.v31i1.377 | © 2012 Neal T. Petersen, Josef J. de Beer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 July 2012 | Published: 21 November 2012

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Neal T. Petersen, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Josef J. de Beer, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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South Africadoes not produce enough scientists to cater for the developmental needs and economic growth of the country. Learners perform relatively poor in national and international assessments because many teachers do not possess the requisite pedagogical content knowledge and skills to confront the ongoing curriculum change. The ethnographic study reported in this article, supports previous findings of teachers teaching Life Sciences mainly by means of transferbased teaching methods. From the basis of the theory of the Zone of Proximal Development it is argued that existing teacher developmental programmes are inadequate to face this problem; the gap between the actual developmental level of the teacher and the demands regarding teaching is too large. A new developmental platform for teachers, namely an effective ecology of practice, must be developed. It will contribute to more context-specific teacher developmental programmes and will therefore provide better in the individual needs of teachers. Social accountability towards teachers should be seen in their empowerment, and in this article the authors make recommendations about the professional development of teachers within ecologies of practice.


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