The Relationship between Teacher Learning and Appraisal

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The Argument

The transformation of education in South Africa was premised on radically different theories of teaching and learning from those that underpinned apartheid education. The complex and multidimensional nature of the reforms created changes that disrupted teachers’ existing patterns of behaviour (Salisbury & Conner, 1994; van den Berg & Sleegers, 1996). These attempts to improve the quality of education included initiatives to increase the accountability and productivity of teacher work. The proposed policy reforms that followed had dramatic implications for the professional development of teachers. Teacher activities as well as attitudes, knowledge, values, and beliefs with respect to the teaching profession were crucial for these reforms to succeed. Chief among these education reforms was the developmental appraisal system, or DAS. The purpose of DAS was to enhance the competency of educators, and accordingly, the quality of education. More specifically, by facilitating the personal and professional development of educators, DAS seeks to improve the quality of teaching practices in classrooms (Department of Education, 1998).
In other words, DAS as a policy intervention targets the education system at the micro-level i.e., it targets the level of the entire range of educators as defined in the Employment of Educators Act (EEA) No.76 of 1998. This range includes educators in the classroom, departmental heads, deputy principals, education development officers, supervisors and area project office leaders. What is of concern is the distance between policy and practice, which seems to preoccupy much of the education policy literature. Official attention in South Africa seems to be focused on policy design without indicating how to translate such policy into measurable outcomes (Sayed and Jansen, 2001). The relationship between education policy and practice has been the subject of much research and debate (Darling-Hammond, 1998; Elmore, 1996; Fullan, 1991, 1995; Lieberman, 1998 and McLaughlin, 1998). The problem of policy implementation surfaces prominently in this body of research. In the South African context, Rogan and Grayson (2001: 2) note that all too often policy-makers and politicians focus on the desired outcomes of educational change, neglecting contextual factors that influence implementation.
Studies also show implementation processes, particularly those associated with large scale reforms, to elicit all kinds of conflicts, dilemmas, emotions, uncertainties and even resistance among teachers (Fullan & Miles, 1992; Gitlin & Margonis, 1995; Hargreaves, 1998; van den Berg & Ros, 1999). In many instances, policy failure can be attributed to poor implementation or lack of foresight in the policy process. Systematic change can also be undermined when leaders attempt to underestimate conceptual and practical complexities in the interest of fast-paced implementation. This is evident in the South African context where the imperative of political change underpins much of the education reforms. Therefore, in the context of my research, informed by concerns about teacher learning, I seek to gain insight into how the implementation of government policy on teacher appraisal, which is a form of teacher development, influences the way teachers strive to learn and seek to change their practices in different resource contexts. The purpose of this case study, therefore, is to trace the implementation of government policy on teacher development in different contexts, and to determine the extent to which this policy influences teacher learning in these diverse contexts. The Developmental Appraisal System (DAS) is the main focus of the study. Accordingly, the research question that guides the inquiry is: What are the effects of developmental appraisal policy on “teacher learning” as seen through the eyes of teachers working in different resource contexts?

The Policy Context for the Teacher Development Appraisal System

The impetus for the development of the developmental appraisal system is traced to the breakdown of the apartheid inspectorate system and subject advisory services in the majority of schools in South Africa (Department of Education, 1998). Between 1985 and early 1990 it became almost impossible for inspectors and subject advisors to go into township schools. Inspection as a means of fostering teacher development had been rejected as a form of political control by the apartheid state. This traditional method of evaluating teachers had not been designed to improve the quality of instruction or to bring about improvement in the schools. Inspection as an approach of appraising teachers did little to develop a climate of support and collegiality.
Thus, given the vacuum created by this rejection, it became important for the post-apartheid policymakers to develop an appraisal system. By 1993, all educator organizations and unions and all ex-departments of education were already involved in negotiations, which addressed the principles, processes and procedures for a new appraisal system. Simultaneously, further discussions and negotiations around the new appraisal system were taking place in the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC1 ) The ELRC is responsible for facilitating negotiations between the unions and departments of education at national and provincial levels. This led to the formulation of the guiding principles that informed the new appraisal system and the appraisal instrument to be used. On 28 July 1998, a final agreement was reached within the ELRC on the implementation of the new developmental appraisal system. The agreement is reflected in Resolution Number 4 of 1998. In terms of ELRC resolution, the new developmental appraisal system was to be implemented in 1999, with all its structural and other arrangements being put in place. At the same time, the effectiveness of the system would be monitored throughout the implementation process and it would be reviewed in April 2000 (Department of Education, 1998).

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TABLE OF CONTENTS :

  • CHAPTER ONE: OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY
    • 1.1 The Argument
    • 1.2 Policy Context for Teacher Developmental Appraisal System
    • 1.3 Rationale for the Study
    • 1.4 Conceptual Framework
    • 1.5 Methodology
    • 1.6 Limitations
    • 1.7 Organization of the Dissertation
  • CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE CONTEXT FOR THE STUDY
    • 2.1 Introduction
    • 2.2 Conceptualisation of Key Terms Central to the Study
    • 2.3 Background and Development of Teacher Appraisal
    • 2.4 Notions of Teacher Development
    • 2.5 The Relationship between Teacher Learning and Appraisal
    • 2.6 Work Context Factors: Their Influence on Teacher Development
    • and Learning
    • 2.7 Teacher Learning and Appraisal: Changing Teachers’ Practices –
    • Research Findings
    • 2.8 Synthesis
  • CHAPTER THREE: A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR RESEARCHING “TEACHER LEARNING”
    • 3.1 Introduction
    • 3.2 Conceptualising “Teacher Learning”
    • 3.3 Theories of Teacher Learning
    • 3.4 How Teacher Learning as a Conceptual Frame Adds Value to the Study
    • 3.5 Synthesis
  • CHAPTER FOUR: RESEARCHING TEACHER LEARNING
    • 4.1 Introduction
    • 4.2 Research Context
    • 4.3 The General Approach: Building Teacher Cases
    • 4.4 The Sampling Frame
    • 4.5 Data Points in Assembling the Cases
    • 4.6 Processing, Coding and Analysis of Data for the Cases
    • 4.7 Enhancing Validity
    • 4.8 Limitations of the Study
  • CHAPTER FIVE: TEACHER LEARNING AS SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OF TEACHERS WORKING IN DIFFERENT RESOURCE CONTEXTS
    • 5.1 Introduction
    • 5.2 How Teachers Understand Appraisal Policy
      • 5.2.1 John Edwards Primary School
        • 5.2.1.1 Reflections on John Edwards Cases
        • 5.2.2 Bareng Primary School
        • 5.2.2.1 Reflections on Bareng Cases
      • 5.2.3 Retlafihla Primary School
        • 5.2.3.1 Reflections on Retlafihla Cases
  • 5.3 General Overview
  • 5.4 Relationship between Teachers Understanding of DAS Policy and their
  • Experience of Inspection
  • 5.5 Different Stages of the Developmental Appraisal System: Their
  • Effects on Teacher Learning and Development
    • 5.5.1 Preparation for Appraisal
    • 5.5.2 Self-Appraisal
    • 5.5.3 Peer Appraisal
    • 5.5.4 Appraisal by Panel Members
      • 5.5.4.1 Challenges and their Effects on Teacher Learning and Professional Development
  • 5.6 What do the Cases Reveal about Teacher Learning
  • 5.7 Chapter Synthesis
  • CHAPTER SIX: RETHINKING THE POLICY-PRACTICE RELATIONSHIP: THE DAS EXPERIENCE
    • 6.1 Introduction
    • 6.2 Putting Policy into Practice
    • 6.3 Research Findings on Policy Breakdown
    • 6.4 Analysis of the Effects of Developmental Appraisal System
    • 6.5 Conclusion
    • BIBLIOGRAPHY
    • APPENDICES

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