Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Misalignment in Education

As I reflect on the living conditions in the townships, many black South Africans live in challenging situations.  In Emafini Primary School, all students are detrimentally poor.  Many lived in containers with no indoor plumbing or electricity.  When they get home, survival is their focus not homework.  Furthermore, this school had little to no instructional resources such as a few desktop computers with slow internet connection, chalkboards in classrooms, and a small library with donated books.  Conditions were bad.  Many of the students walked several miles to school. Even though, the school building was not inviting or clean, it was obvious that the staff members at Emafini Primary School are caring and inviting adults for students.  Most students had a zeal for learning and were smart.  I taught several math lessons and students were eager to participate and would quickly understand concepts.  I believe education is a lever to life’s opportunities for improvement.  However, socio-economics and teachers’ content knowledge are major factors that have a negative impact on the teaching and learning process. 

A dual education system with great inequalities put black South Africans at a big disadvantage.  Educational reform efforts by the Department of National Education (DNE) in the early 1990s were unsuccessful because it did not address policy implementation issues and the National Eductional Policy Investigation (NEPI) lacked understanding of the complexities in the policy development process (Cross, Mungadi & Rouhani, 2002).  However, key features of the Curriculum 2005 removed racial content, embraced equality, democracy and equity, supported the integration of education and training and focused on outcomes.  Even though, this was a major step for the country, the curriculum process has shortcomings that were evident in my visit such as lack of alignment between curriculum development, teacher development and the supply of supporting materials (Cross, Mungadi & Rouhani, 2002).   Several teachers at Emafini Primary School did not have a conceptual understanding of topics in their content.  As a result, those teachers focused on procedural knowledge and simplistic questions.   As I worked with my partnering teacher, we collaborated on several mathematical concepts and I explained how different concepts were interconnected.  I helped him gain a conceptual understanding of several concepts especially fractions.  Also, when I reviewed the grade 5 student booklet that was developed by the DNE, it focused on rote memorization of mathematical procedures and solving problems.  There were very few problem solving tasks in the booklet.  Also I was told that there were not enough booklets for all students.   The misalignment between materials, teacher knowledge and the intent of the curriculum will continue to be a stumbling block for poor black South Africans.  These issues must be resolved in order for their world to be transformed through educational opportunities for college or a career.  


Cross, M., Mungadi, R. & Rouhani, S. (2002).  From policy to practice:  curriculum reform in South African education.  Comparative Education, 38(2), 171-187.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Instructional Leadership in South Africa

Bush, Joubert, Kiggundu, and Van Rooyen (2010) states one of the most essential activities for principals and school leaders is managing teaching and learning.  Direct leadership involvement in the participation of curriculum planning and professional development is likely to improve student achievement.  As I reflect on my visits to several schools in Port Elizabeth, in general, principals stayed in their office and focused on managerial aspects of school such as technology infrastructure, budget, day-to-day operations, etc.  I believe these components are important to the functionality of school; however, teaching and learning should be top priority.  What I observed concurs with Bush and Heystek (2006) which discuss that South African principals focus on financial and human resource management and policies.  Therefore, the heads of department (HoD) are responsible for curriculum and instruction in schools.  The head of department is similar to what we call department heads,   in the fact that each subject area has a lead teacher, he/she renders support to teachers through mentorship and/or meeting regularly to discuss curricula and create conditions to support effective teaching and learning (Bush et. al, 2010).  This position differs because in South Africa, head of department evaluates teachers and monitor the curriculum.   These responsibilities place HoDs in a supervisory role instead of mentorship.  Our department heads are solely responsible for supporting teachers through modeling, observation and feedback to assist with refining their craft and meet regularly to share best practices.  They are expected to be instructional leaders in the school, especially within their department.  This position supports principals in their roles as an instructional leader.   Thus, as a school leadership team, principals, assistant principals and department heads meet to discuss instructional issues and problem solve. 

Bush et al . (2010) noted that in South African context, managing teaching and learning includes oversee the curriculum, ensure lessons, evaluate learner performance, monitor the work of HoDs to ensure they are monitoring teachers in their areas, conduct classroom visits and feedback and ensure resources and materials are available.  Thus, HoDs play the primary role of instructional leaders in a school even though, principals supervise their work.  In Port Elizabeth, it was not a practice for principals to observe teachers; however, they would receive feedback from the HoDs.   Nevertheless, at Grey Primary and High Schools, the principal visits classrooms to build relationships with students and examine the quality of student assignments and work.  I believe analyzing student work can/will provide insight on the quality of teaching and learning in a classroom.  Student work reveals the cognitive demand, alignment to curriculum standards, expectations, etc.   Thus, as instructional leaders our main priority should be student learning and outcomes. 

In order for HoDs to be effective, Bush et al. (2010) discuss that a systematic review of performance (i.e. monitoring and feedback) should be in place, model lessons, and employ content area strategies.  As HoDs assess teaching and learning, these strategic plans create common language and expectations among departments within a school. 

Successful schools that we visited exemplify several characteristics in Quadrant D as listed by the International Center for Leadership in Education.  The following are:  help students learn priority skills deeply, teach skills in context, look for evidence of good learning and share best practices.  They also structured and managed time effectively.  The International Center for Leadership in Education has four quadrants to describe instructional leadership:  Quadrant A – Level or Declining; Quadrant B - Partial Traditional Success; Quadrant C - Islands of Innovation; and Quadrant D - Rapidly Improving.  Below are characteristics of instructional leadership: 
Quadrant A Leadership
Quadrant D Leadership
Define learning in terms activities required to teach
Define learning in terms of skills and knowledge as results
Define learning from specific skills up to total student
Define learning from “whole” student down to specific skills
Cover as many topics as possible.
Help students learn priority skills deeply
Break apart curriculum
Integrate curriculum
Entire curriculum mandatory
Curriculum includes  some student choice
Teach skills in isolation
Teach skills in context
Focus is on deficiencies
Focus  is on proficiencies
Look for evidence of good teaching
Look for evidence of good learning
Standardize procedures
Share best practices
Give separate assessments
Give embedded assessments
Isolate instruction from community
Connect instruction to  community



Bush, T. & Heystek, J. (2006).  School leadership and management in South Africa: principals’
perceptions.  International Studies in Educational Administration, 34(2), 63-76.

Bush, T., Joubert, R., Kiggundu, E. & Van Rooyen, J. (2010).  Managing teaching and learning

in South African schools.  International Journal of Educational Development, 30(2010), 162-168. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Addo Elephant National Park

On Saturday, we visited the Addo Elephant National Park.  We drove throughout the terrain observing animals.  Below are several pictures:

Friday July 26, 2014

Today, Emafini Primary School had a school-wide assembly.  The assembly was held outside.  Students sung several songs and Mrs. Thamo, head of department said a prayer.  The principal announced that students will honor Nelson Mandela by cleaning the outside of the school for 67 minutes.  

Nelson Madela's legacy of service to others is celebrated around the world as governments, civil society groups and ordinary citizens plant trees, paint old-age homes, renovate dilapidated schools or simply offer a helping hand to those in need.  In November 2009 the international community – through a resolution of the UN General Assembly – declared July 18 ”Nelson Mandela International Day”.

 Pictures of the Schoolwide Assembly at Emafini Primary School

Trash that needs to be cleaned up on the campus of Emafini Primary School.  Throughout the neighborhoods, trash was everywhere.  

Differences In Our Similarities

Below are a few differences:

  • The driver seat in a car is on the right side
  • Drive on the opposite sides of the road
  • Students stand when they answer the teacher's questions
  • Students are not supervised during breaks
  • Electrical plugs have three-round prongs
  • Pork beans are served with breakfast
  • Use the metric system (meters instead of miles)
  • Money is called rand:  10 rand equals about $1 US 
  • Use alot of glassware instead of plastic and/or styrofoam
  • Principals do not observe teachers; observations/evaluation is the responsibility of the Head of Department

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Thursday July 24, 2014

Thursday July 24, 2014

My group met with the circuit manager.  This position supervises principals from the district level. During our discussion, the circuit manager mentioned how South Africa focuses on grade 12 test results, but those tests can give you a false sense of accomplishment.  For example, she had a school that was at 100 percent passing on the grade 12 assessment.  Everyone thought that was great until they realized only 3 students took it.  Furthermore, many factors should be taken into account when schools are being compared to each other.

We visited Lungisa High School which has grades 8 - 12.  There are a total of 958 students and 23 teachers.  Teachers do not have planning periods during the school day.  Students in grades 8-9 have 6 classes for 55 minutes per day and grades 10-12 have 7 classes.  Last school year, 59% of twelfth graders pass the assessment.  The principal said that they are aiming for 70% this school year.  Emafini Primary School is one of the feeder schools for this high school.
Lungisa High School

Friday, July 25, 2014

Day 3 In South Africa

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I taught Mr. Mahnyka's 5th grade math classes today.  It was great!!! On yesterday, afternoon, I met with Mr. Mahnyka to discuss upcoming concepts and skills.  We agreed that I should teach adding fractions with different denominators.  For my materials I used a Mathematics Design Collaborative (MDC) Formative Assessment Lesson entitled Pizza with Friends.  This lesson was about using equivalent fractions as a strategy for adding and subtracting fractions.  The lesson had a lot of visuals such fraction circles and fraction bars.  The following mathematical practices were address:  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.; 3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. ; 4. Model with mathematics. ; 7. Look for and make use of structure.

As I walked around while students were taking the pre-assessment to the lesson, papers were blank.  I was very concerned because I had planned a great lesson for the students.  I discussed my concerns with Mr. Mahnyka and he said that it is a language barrier.  In grades R – 3 all schoolwork and assessments are in their native language.  In grades 4 and higher, everything is in English.  Therefore, many times it is not the concepts and skills that students do not know, it is the language.  Anyway, I coached students through the pre-assessment task.  I felt they were not ready for the collaborative activity so I created math problems similar to the ones in the collaborative activity for them to work in groups.  It was very obvious that students rarely, if ever, worked in groups.  Students did not know how to collaborate and share ideas.  I walked around to each group and discussed roles and responsibilities of each member in the group.  This turned out to be a great lesson for students and teacher.  Mr. Mahnyka said that he had never seen so many mathematical concepts interconnected/related in one lesson.  So we discussed the importance of students having a conceptual understanding of concepts not just memorization of facts.  

Mr. Mahnyka and Mrs. Register

My group attended a Emafini Primary School faculty meeting.  At the meeting the principal opened with a reading from a book authored by Joyce Myers and discussed the significance of the reading, then Mrs. Thamo said a prayer.  Everyone introduced themselves and shared ideas of teaching and learning.  

We also visited Alfonso Arries School and Love Life Center.  The Alfonso Arries School has some classes with 120 students.  

Alfonso Arries School Principal's Office

                                                                               Students playing in the center of the school 


Group from UNCW and principal of Alfonso Arries in the middle (fifth person from the left)