During the first half of 2018 the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education (KZNDoE) with support of VVOB, conducted a needs assessment in 15 schools to understand the status quo and needs of educators to address the learner diversity in their schools and to develop research skills of departmental officials. The needs assessment informed the KZNDoE on their supportive role to schools.
Collaboration for inclusion
A child can experience all kinds of barriers to learning (systemic, intrinsic, extrinsic or pedagogical, or a combination of these). Teachers are the first to identify these barriers, but at times, identifying and addressing learning barriers requires specific expertise. Expertise that is scattered over several units in the Department and collaboration between individuals is needed to properly address these issues. This realisation is made by the provincial as well as national departments of education. As an illustration to such collaboration, the needs assessment was conducted by intersectoral teams.
Listening to schools
Intersectoral district teams engaged directly with the schools to conduct a needs assessment. They asked about the needs of teachers and principals to teach and lead for diversity. This differs from the usual collection of monitoring data. Both officials and principals/teachers appreciated this approach.
Nurturing peer learning
The needs assessment revealed that teachers and school leaders learn best from their peers. They find this peer-learning motivating and for many of them, it is their preferred way of learning. This creates opportunities for Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) of educators in which this collaborative learning is nurtured. It is not surprising that teachers are mostly supported within their schools. They receive feedback on their teaching by Departmental Heads and the principal/deputy principal. This finding indicates that good practices are happening around school-based support to teachers to address learner diversity. Support structures such as departmental officials could explore how they can nurture and enhance such school-based support. This would also address the systemic challenges that make it often impossible for district officials to support schools individually. Their impact will be bigger and more appreciated if they change their supportive role from individual support or once-off theoretical training to stimulating peer learning.
These lessons learned will be cornerstones of upcoming learning trajectories between VVOB and departmental officials. More insights will be shared during the Third Symposium on Teacher Education for Inclusive Teaching on 11-12 July.