BESIDES teaching the basic state curricula, the HCET utilises a range of special teaching methods, techniques and interventions.
The Basic Concepts and Language Programme
The biggest challenge facing the HCET – and indeed the entire South African education system – is to produce literate and numerate learners. This challenge is particularly acute in deprived areas where learners have a developmental deficit.
The HCET realised early on that it would need to take active steps to achieve this goal. Its main instrument for doing so is the Basic Concepts and Language Programme (BCP).
Devised by a developmental psychologist, Dr Louis Benjamin, and tested in schools on the Cape Flats, BCP is aimed at developing the cognitive and conceptual abilities – and ultimately the literacy and numeracy – of learners from disadvantaged or deprived backgrounds.
Following a four-year pilot phase, it has been permanently integrated with all teaching in the Foundation Phase. It is also used as a remedial intervention programme for learners of all ages.
Learners have been intensively tested to ascertain the programme’s efficacy. The sustained findings are that it has significantly improved the scholastic functioning of learners, raising their performance up to and even beyond grade level.
Picture Writing comprises a visual approach to improving the use of language developed by the American educator Beth Olshansky. First piloted in the intermediate phase at Umthombo Wolwazi in 2009, it has been highly successful, and is now being introduced across all learning areas.
Learners start by producing a set of drawings in order to tell a story. The pictures are discussed in group sessions, and learners start to develop written texts. The pictures and texts are then refined and combined in properly printed and bound story books, written and illustrated by the learners themselves.
The programme has greatly developed learners’ use of language and improved their sense of their own potential as well as their confidence and self-esteem. This has contributed to the culture of reading at the HCET, with up to 5 000 books taken from the library every year. Teachers have also raised their expectations of learners’ potential.
Thinking Maps are eight types of diagrams or visual patterns corresponding with eight different ways of thinking. They provide teachers and learners with a common tool for gathering, organising and using information.
Developed by Dr David Hyerle, originator of the Thinking Schools movement, thinking maps are widely used in the United States, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. They have also been successfully introduced in public schools in Ethiopia.
At the HCET, Thinking Maps have been introduced from Grade R to Grade 9. Early indications are that they will significantly enhance teaching and learning.
Developed in the United States in the 1980s, and introduced in South Africa during the past decade, this programme involves the use of cloth dolls which are given names, personalities, and family and cultural backgrounds. Learners are encouraged to engage in discussions surrounding the dolls, usually in group sessions.
Piloted among all HCET learners from pre-school to Grade 9, Persona Doll sessions help learners to solve social problems, including conflicts, and develop interpersonal skills. The aim is for children to transfer the skills they develop in relation to the dolls to experiences and situations they encounter in their own lives.
The HCET recognises that the performance of teachers in the classroom play a vital role in educational outcomes. As a result, a defining feature of its approach is the ongoing professional development of teachers. All trainers and teachers are encouraged to improve their professional qualifications, and are assisted to do so.
Besides this, all teachers from Grade R to Grade 9 are trained in mediated teaching. This approach encourages teachers to focus on developing their own and their learners’ analytical, conceptual and problem-solving skills rather than on rote learning. Teachers are supported and coached in their classrooms, and encouraged to reflect on their teaching practice.