In 1996 I was promoted as Head of Department at Mount Pleasant Primary School, after only being in education for 3 and a half years. I felt I had achieved a great deal over those years, and the inspectors and the principal were very positive about my contributions and leadership.
In 2001, while Head of Department, I enrolled at Rhodes University in order to learn more about Information Communication Technology (ICT) in education, as well as to obtain greater clarity and insight into the theory behind outcomes based education. The MEd study at Rhodes opened my eyes, as the lecturers did not just ‘talk’ theory; they also modelled situations and allowed for in-depth questions and discussions. They highlighted the positives and negatives of whatever they had modelled. We had more than enough time for discussions on issues, so time was not really a barrier. We were introduced to learning theories and the practical implementation of constructivist principles. Assessment practices accompanied the constructivist learning principles and theory on assessment, and again more than enough time was allocated for discussion. We were also provided with a vast range of extra reading material on all of the above-mentioned.
As I started to explore the use of ICT on a much deeper level, I became ‘converted’ to constructivist principles, as I saw the value of being an active learner. I started to implement constructivist principles in my primary school classroom and started to invite fellow staff members to my classroom to share with them what I was doing. The principal asked me to host staff development sessions for the rest of the staff. I was able to win over some of the staff members to try out some of the new things that I modelled. This was very enriching for me as a person.
I became an advocate of Outcomes Based Education (OBE) and hosted teacher development sessions in the district in collaboration with Dr Robert Gerber and Mrs Elsa Lombard of the then PE Technikon. The Department of Education (DOE) invited me to share with their staff and teachers how I used various forms of assessment, how I designed my learners’ portfolios and OBE report cards, etc. At the same time, it is important to state that I realised that what OBE envisaged, would not be easy for all teachers to do as OBE requires access to resources that many disadvantaged schools did not have and still do not have and, in general, teachers are resistant to change
Due to my involvement and exploration, I moved from seeing teaching as a craft and as labour, to seeing teaching as an art and as a profession (Hoban, 2002). I transcended seeing teaching as just the development of a repertoire of skills, competencies and techniques that can be accumulated over a period of time. Teaching was now more an art to me, as an art implies seeing teaching and learning as something ‘messy’, and something that is not always crystal clear. Thus, what works for one group of learners, might not work for another group, and what worked this year will not necessarily work well the next year. Furthermore, I realised that one has to constantly examine one’s practice by means of reflection; hence I started to design simple questionnaires and journals in which learners could record their experiences of my classroom, their feelings and their learning experiences.