New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Using an Empowerment Evaluation Approach in Establishing a Baseline for Inquiry-Based Teaching Practice

Umesh Ramnarain, University of Johannesburg (South Africa)

Clive Rudzirai, University of Johannesburg (South Africa)


Studies in South Africa have revealed that despite curriculum imperatives for learners to have more autonomy in doing science inquiry, practical work remains largely teacher controlled. This situation is contributed to largely by the teachers’ lack of experience and expertise in inquiry-based teaching. In light of this, there is an increasing need for teacher learning and development in order to develop a teaching faculty capable of actively organizing student inquiry and active learning. This study investigated an empowerment evaluation approach in influencing and shifting the practice of Physical Sciences teachers towards an inquiry-based pedagogy. According to Fetterman (2002) empowerment evaluation proceeds in four steps. It commences with ‘taking stock’, and this entails an assessment of the current teacher pedagogical practices (their teaching methods and competencies). This is followed by setting realistic and immediate goals, where there is consensual agreement between the teacher and the researcher. The third step will involve participating teachers selecting and developing strategies to accomplish the set goals. The final step will be helping the teacher determine the type of evidence required to document progress credibly towards their goals. The research reported in this paper focusses on the first step of empowerment evaluation, namely ‘taking stock’. An exploratory case study design was used. Three Physical Sciences teachers were purposively sampled according to their eagerness to shift their practice towards an inquiry-based pedagogy. In ‘taking stock’ data were collected on the pedagogical orientation of the teachers. I We administered an instrument called the Pedagogy of Science Inquiry Teaching Test (POSITT). The test consists of case-based objective items based on realistic vignettes of classroom teaching situations on science topics. The results of POSITT showed that the preferred pedagogical orientations for all three teachers were active direct and guided inquiry. The analysis of lessons observed however, revealed that teachers in their practice tended to reflect a teacher-centred orientation. The findings from this ‘taking stock’ phase of empowerment evaluation established a good baseline that informed the subsequent step were goals for professional development were jointly established with the teachers.

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