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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Fitmast : a case study of one programme of inservice training for science teachers (biology) Harris, Alton Denzil


A case study was made of FITMAST (Formal Inservice Training of Mathematics and Science Teachers.), an inservice education programme for science teachers in South Africa. The objectives of FITMAST are: a) to upgrade the academic qualifications of teachers and, b) to improve the teaching competence of the teachers. In the case of FITMAST, equal emphasis was initially placed on the acquisition of both the above aims. However, the recognition that teachers wanted from attending the FITMAST courses, was first-year university credits. Such wishes necessitated an emphasis towards more academic content in order for the University of the Western Cape to grant such credits. Consequently less time was devoted to improving the teaching competencies for the participants; a move that the teachers were critical of for they continued expressing the desire to have their teaching competencies improved. FITMAST is thus caught up in a "Catch 22" situation: an emphasis shift in either direction will have to be made each at the expense of the other. Faced with an apparently unresolvable position, a tension is created insofar as the devotion of time to either of the objectives is concerned. This study, in accepting that the above-mentioned tension exists, will seek to: a) find how this tension and other problems that surrounds FITMAST manifest themselves in the teachers' perceptions and , course experiences, as well as within the views of the administrators and, b) provide in the form of recommendations, a direction for change based on the teachers' course experiences. Four modes of data collection were employed: a) Interviews were conducted with the Biology teachers that attended FITMAST in June 1987. The administrators were also interviewed during that period. b) A questionnaire, constructed from the interview data obtained from the teachers, was mailed to all the Biology teachers that had participated in FITMAST since its inception in 1983. c) Field notes were recorded during the researcher's attendance of the FITMAST session in June 1987. d) Documents with regard to FITMAST were also consulted. The major findings that emanated from this study were: 1) The teachers' expectations of FITMAST were not met by the programme. 2) The amount of course work encountered during a residential session of FITMAST is too much. 3) A sizeable amount of the course work covered in FITMAST might be familiar to the teachers. 4) The distance teaching component merely evaluates the teachers' understanding of the work covered in the residential component. 5) Teachers believe that didactics should form a major part of the FITMAST programme. The following recommendations were made: 1) Prospective participants should be informed about the exact nature of the FITMAST courses primarily through an orientation session in which former participants can share their experiences with the new recruits. 2) The amount of course work covered during the residential session should be reduced. 3) The distance teaching component should become part of the instructional process. 4) The time devoted to didactics should be extended as an urgent response to a strongly expressed need of the teachers to enrich their didactic experiences. The researcher further recommends that a feasibility study be undertaken of an alternative format that is proposed should the distance teaching component become part of the instructional process.

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