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Science teachers’ beliefs and teaching practices in Tanzanian secondary schools

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posted on 2023-06-09, 12:37 authored by Albert Tarmo
Recent attempts to improve science teaching and learning in Tanzania required teachers to adopt a learner-centred pedagogy. Although researchers widely acknowledge a lack of sustained success in science teachers’ adoption of learner-centred pedagogy, the reasons for teachers’ reluctance to adopt learner-centred pedagogy remain debated. Various contextual constraints, including resource shortages, overcrowded classrooms, ineffective teacher education, and high-stakes exams, render learner-centred pedagogy unsuccessful. However, in the Tanzanian context, teacher educators and researchers seem to overlook the critical role science teachers’ beliefs about science knowledge, teaching, and learning play in their teaching practices. Thus, attempts to identify and address Tanzanian science teachers’ deeply held beliefs are uncommon. Therefore, I interviewed six secondary school science teachers to explore their beliefs about science knowledge, teaching and learning and to show how these forms. I also observed their lessons to examine how the teachers’ beliefs manifest in their classroom practices. The findings showed that teachers largely espoused ‘traditional beliefs’ about science knowledge, teaching, and learning. They viewed science as a fixed body of discrete facts that mirrors natural phenomena. They believe the body of science knowledge is absolute and handed down by omniscient authorities, such as textbooks and teachers. The teachers consistently described teaching science as conveying textbook facts for students to accumulate and reproduce during exams. Social and contextual factors, including teachers’ childhood, schooling, and training experiences, as well as the bureaucratic demands, paradoxical curriculum, and students’ reticence reinforced these beliefs. Teachers’ beliefs, though consistent with their teaching practices, were largely antithetical to the principles and practices of learner-centred pedagogy. Therefore, I propose that Tanzanian secondary school teachers consider their beliefs and the social and contextual conditions of the schools in adopting learner-centred pedagogy. They weigh their beliefs against the social and contextual conditions to decide how to teach. These results suggest that teacher educators and policy makers should seek to transform teachers’ beliefs about science knowledge, teaching, and learning through learning trajectories that require teachers to articulate and interrogate their beliefs. Such attempts should consider the social, cultural, and material contexts of the schools in which teachers teach.


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