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South African Journal of Chemistry

On-line version ISSN 1996-840X
Print version ISSN 0379-4350

S.Afr.j.chem. (Online) vol.64  Durban  2011




High school Physical Sciences teachers' competence in some basic cognitive skills



Mailoo Selvaratnam*

Faculty of Agriculture, Science and Technology, Mafikeng Campus, North-West University, 2735 South Africa




The successful implementation of the national high school Physical Sciences curriculum in South Africa, which places strong emphasis on critical thinking and reasoning abilities of students, would need teachers who are competent in cognitive skills and strategies. The main objectives of this study were to test South African high school Physical Sciences teachers' competence in the cognitive skills and strategies needed for studying Physical Sciences effectively and also to identify possible reasons for their difficulties and suggest methods for overcoming them. The study method used was the analysis of teachers' answers to questions that were carefully designed to test competence in explanation skills, mathematical skills, graphical skills, three-dimensional visualization skills, information-processing skills and reasoning skills. Seventy-three teachers from about 50 Dinaledi schools in the North West and Kwazulu-Natal provinces were tested. Teachers' competence was found to be poor in most of the skills tested. About 40 % (average performance in all 14 test questions) of them had difficulty in answering the questions. Teachers' lack of competence in cognitive skills and strategies would be an important limiting factor in the successful implementation of the Physical Sciences curriculum. An urgent need therefore exists for training teachers to increase their competence in the cognitive skills and strategies that are needed for studying science effectively.

Keywords: Cognitive skills, thinking skills, questions testing skills, problem solving, teacher training, high school physical science



Full text available only in pdf format.




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Received 7 October 2011
Revised 4 November 2011
Accepted 8 November 2011



Submitted by invitation to celebrate 2011 the 'International Year of Chemistry'.
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