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Teacher professional development : the case of quality teaching in accounting at selected Western Cape secondary schools
In South Africa the education system has undergone three major phases of change since the inception of democracy in 1994. Such a degree of change requires teachers to adapt and keep pace with each phase. Professional development provides the support teachers need to learn, and be part of, pedagogical transition. The way teachers were trained during their initial training does not match what is required from them a number of years later. Accounting is a subject that has received on-going criticism because of the poor performance of learners and declining numbers of those opting to do the subject. Professional development is crucial in ensuring quality teaching. Research proves that quality teachers ensure quality teaching and improved learner performance. Goldhaber (2002:2) suggests that providing learners with good teachers is crucial. The main purpose of this research was to examine the teaching of Accounting in schools in the Western Cape within the concept of quality. The aim is to understand what professional development programmes Accounting teachers are engaging with and what the effect is of such initiatives. Phenomenology is used as the theoretical strategy for this research. The main epistemological assumption is that a way of knowing reality is through exploring the experiences of others regarding the phenomena being investigated: namely quality teaching in Accounting and professional development of teachers of Accounting. Experiences and voices of respondents were the medium through which I explored the teaching of Accounting and the extent to which, and ways in which, professional development activities they engage in affect their teaching as well as, ultimately, the performance of learners. A mixed methods approach, framed within an interpretive paradigm, was used in this study. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected and analysed. Multi-stage sampling was used to identify the districts, the schools and teachers for the questionnaires. All subject advisers from the districts sampled were interviewed. The teachers for the interviews were purposively sampled. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with teachers and subject advisers in the Western Cape in order to elicit their views on the phenomena being studied. Teachers completed questionnaires that included both quantitative and qualitative data. The questionnaires were designed to facilitate teacher reflection on their beliefs about what constitutes quality teaching in Accounting, as well as their current practices, and to provide information on the professional development activities they were engaged in. Data revealed that there are many teachers who are successfully providing quality teaching. There are, however, many schools where learners are not receiving quality teaching and there is thus a need to reform teaching practice. The findings indicate that professional development has a large role to play in updating and upgrading teachers’ skills and subject knowledge. The need for updating the content knowledge of teachers and for transforming their pedagogical practice are areas that should be dealt with urgently to correct declining trends in the performance of learners offering Accounting at school level. This thesis concludes with recommendations for improving the quality of teaching in Accounting that aim to enhance learner performance in the subject. Recommendations are made for professional development opportunities that transform and improve teaching practice with the final aim of leading to improved learner performance. Recommendations for further research in the field of Accounting at school level are included.