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South African Journal of Science

Print version ISSN 0038-2353

Abstract

SELVARATNAM, M. Competence of matric physical science teachers in some basic problem-solving strategies. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2011, vol.107, n.1-2, pp. 1-7. ISSN 0038-2353.  http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/sajs.v107i1/2.262.

The National Curriculum Statement for matric physical science places strong emphasis on the development of critical thinking and reasoning abilities of pupils. The successful implementation of this curriculum therefore requires teachers who are competent in the cognitive (intellectual) skills and strategies needed for learning science effectively. Testing of teachers' competence in this aspect is therefore important. I therefore analysed teachers' answers to questions that were carefully designed to test competence in some basic intellectual strategies that are important for problem solving in physical science courses. A total of 73 matric physical science teachers, from about 50 Dinaledi schools in the North West and KwaZulu-Natal provinces in South Africa, were tested in five intellectual strategies: clear representation of problems, identifying and focusing on the goal, identification and use of relevant principles, use of equations for deductions and proceeding step-by-step with the solution. The teachers' competence was poor in all the intellectual strategies tested. About 60% (the average performance in all 13 questions used for testing) of teachers tested were unable to solve the questions correctly. An important objective of the curriculum is the development of critical thinking, scientific reasoning and strategies of pupils. This study shows that the achievement of this objective will be seriously handicapped because of the lack of competence of many teachers in intellectual strategies. There is therefore a need to train teachers in order to increase their competence in this aspect.

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