Methods of teaching history to grade 12 adult learners: a case-study of an adult education centre in Winterveldt

Morake, Moroesi Esther
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This study focuses on the methods of teaching history to grade 12 adult learners at a major rural adult education centre (run by the Sisters of Mercy of the Roman Catholic Church), called D.W .T. Nthate Adult Education Centre, in the Winterveld. The grade 12 history class consists of adult learners of different ages, abilities, maturities and levels of knowledge. This research explored the possibility of making history teaching in a complex situation more interesting and more participatory. The case-study method of investigation was used to explore history teaching methods using the perspective of both the learners and the tutors. Learners wrote and spoke about the teaching methods they liked and with which they could identify and expressed their dissatisfaction with some of the other teaching methods used; tutors described their favourite teaching methods and how they employed them in the classroom situation. Some teaching methods were observed. This information and the insights obtained from these techniques of gathering data were related to the literature studied in the literature survey. This information presented a great challenge in making teaching of history more interesting and more participatory. Literature was reviewed in terms of the themes that relate to the topic of this research, namely: the historical context of adult education In South Africa; the place and importance of history in educatiu-:; princlplss of teaching adults; approaches and methods of teaching history; particip. to y methods of teaching adult learners, and an overview of curriculum change in South Africa (Curriculum 2005). The literature provided insight into the methods or teaching history in this specific situation. The literature was reviewed in order to uavelop minimum guidelines consisting of important elements In teaching hi?to: .' b grade 12 adult learners in the specific context of the study. A qualitative, fesoarch design was used to gather information. The history tutor and the vlce-pritid^ai from the chosen centre; the methodologist from the University of the No.<i; W est, and three tutors from two other adult education centres were interview in '"lie interviews were very useful In identifying the causes of the problem and in helping to produce history teaching minimum guidelines. Two observations were carried out to gather information about what happens during the history teaching-learning process. The observations were effective because it was easy to identify contradictions between the information gathered through this method and the other methods of gathering data. A structured, open-ended questionnaire was given to twenty-two (22) grade 12 adult learners to obtain their views on the current methods of teaching history to adult learners. The responses to the questionnaire were veiy useful because they gave the learners an opportunity to air their views. A class discussion was conducted to discuss issues not appearing on the questionnaire and to discuss problems that they, as adult learners, were encountering. The research results have been presented in the form of tables. Summaries of the participants' responses follow each table to give meaning to the summarised information contained in the tables. The discussion of the results is presented in narrative form. In the discussion, the researcher interprets the participants’ words and actions. From the researcher's observations, it is dangerous to say that the problem lies solely with the teaching methods the tutor at the adult education centre is using, or with the learners' ages, abilities, maturities, and levels of knowledge. Perhaos the problem stems from the tutor’s lack of content knowledge; the lack o'- .yiequate teaching and learning aids; the lack of exposure to a wide range of teaching r.^ -iods; the medium of instruction; the lack of involvement of adult learners in planrnox-: --id designing learning programmes and activities, and the personalities of the learners and tutor. However, the information gathered from the participants and literature showed that it is possible to making the teaching of history more participatory and wore interesting within the context of this study. From these findings the researcher developed suggested minimum guidelines for teaching history to grade 12 adult learners whicn are based on this specific situation of a rural adult education centre with inadequate re s o u n d and lack of exposure to a wide range of teaching methods.