Vol 25 No 2 (2016): Nordic Journal of African Studies
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Pre-Service Teachers’ Beliefs and Experiences Surrounding the Use of Language in Science Classrooms: A South African Case Study

Nonhlanhla Mthiyane
Nordic Journal of African Studies
Published June 30, 2016

Abstract

Proficiency in the language of learning and teaching (LoLT) is an important contributing factor to learners’ performance. While many studies have been conducted on the use of language in science and mathematics classrooms, the focus has been on practicing teachers, and not much is known about beliefs and experiences of South African students and student teachers whose home language is not English. This study examines student teachers’ beliefs surrounding the use of language in science classrooms. Semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with nine pre-service students enrolled for a science teaching qualification (Postgraduate Certificate in Education PGCE) at one university in South Africa. Findings indicate that English was a barrier in student teachers’ understanding of science concepts both at high school and at university, and that this led to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem as both learners and future teachers of science. Findings also suggest that a number of pre-service students entering the PGCE program lacked confidence in their ability to teach science in the medium of English, and that teacher training programs are not effectively assisting them to acquire strategies that they may use to confidently teach science to learners whose home language is not English. These findings highlight what may be an important gap in pre-service science teachers’ education in South Africa, and point to a need for initial teacher education programs that equip student teachers to effectively integrate science and language teaching