Faculty of Education lecturer Dr Zelda Barends has implemented a Social Impact project aimed at improving Foundation Phase teaching and learning for both the student teacher and learner.
The “I Can Read – Read to Serve, Serve to Read" project was implemented in February this year, and is another example of how Stellenbosch University (SU) is an engaged teaching and learning hub that supports its students in developing the graduate attributes as set by the University.
According to Barends, the project started as a means to bridge the gap between the world of theory and practice for the student teacher. Through the programme, student teachers provide Home Language support activities focusing on phonics and word building (two of the core components for reading skill development) to learners in certain aftercare facilities in the Greater Stellenbosch community.
Currently 75 Bachelor of Education degree students are participating in the project. Activities include helping learners write a story which would later be published in a workbook for the relevant grade. The programme also adds to the development of the student teachers by preparing them to work with learners from various contexts.
“As a black woman, I had the privilege of going to schools my parents were unable to attend. At those schools, the teachers did not quite understand the issues each learner faced and what their barriers to learning were. Teachers often have a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching," she says.
“Teachers need to be aware of their bias and by engaging with learners early in their teaching careers they learn and consider each learner's context," adds Barends.
Barends says she wants SU's Faculty of Education to deliver teachers who understand and respect their learners, and who are equipped to deal with differences in the classroom.
Barends, who is also the coordinator of the Foundation Phase Bachelor of Education programme, says the project has had a positive impact on both the learners and SU students involved in the project.
“There has been growth in the learners; they write longer descriptive sentences now. In addition to this, even my students know now not to be quick to correct the learners. The students have learnt that just because a learner uses a language differently, it does not mean they are wrong. The students had their 'aha' moments in the classrooms," she says.
“I was pleased to witness the engaged teaching and learning that happened during the sessions. The literature speaks of culturally responsive teachers who are skilled at teaching in cross-cultural/ multicultural settings; that is exactly what we want our students to become," says Barends.