Re-Making the Namibian Teacher: A Study of Teacher Reflection in an Era of Social Transition and Policy Reform.
Ralaingita, Wendi D.S.
Klees, Steven J
Spreen, Carol Anne
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After achieving independence from South Africa in 1990, the Namibian government began sweeping educational reforms. These reforms were built on a new philosophy of education that envisaged education as playing a transformative role in post-apartheid Namibia. New teacher education programs have been the cornerstone of these reforms and focus on learner-centered pedagogy, placing emphasis on critical reflection - a drastic change from the teacher-centered education previously found in Namibian classrooms. Recent research in Namibian classrooms indicates that teachers communicate an understanding of pedagogical principles endorsed in official policy, but this often does not translate into observable differences in classroom practice. This study examines this situation from a new perspective, moving beyond teachers' understanding of the technical aspects of methodology to focus on the beliefs they hold about education and teaching. Literature on teacher thinking, learning, and change tells us that teachers' beliefs are integral to teachers' practice and to changes in practice. These beliefs may be influenced by multiple, sometimes conflicting, messages that teachers receive through policy declarations, teacher training programs, and discussions with education officials, colleagues and parents. This study examines the meaning teachers in the Namibian context have made of such messages and the beliefs they have developed about the purposes of education, the role of the teacher, and the meaning of quality teaching, as well as the connection of these with their practice. Qualitative methods were used, including teacher and principal interviews and focus groups, classroom observations, interviews at the ministerial level, and document analysis. Deductive and inductive coding was used to generate and analyze themes in order develop a picture of the ways in which the purpose of education, the role(s) of the teacher, and the meaning of quality teaching are portrayed among teachers and at the policy level. Variations among teachers and comparisons between teachers and policy documents were examined. The findings show that teachers' beliefs often concur with ideas espoused in policy documents, though with differences in some key areas. The study also explores the challenges that teachers face in trying to teach in accordance with their beliefs, and implications for professional development are discussed.