Science Teachers and Student-Teachers’ Perceptions of Challenges in the Development of Critical Thinking Skills: South African Secondary Schools

By Thelma de Jager.

Published by The International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: May 19, 2014 $US5.00

Secondary science school teachers (mostly from previously disadvantaged schools where curricula, facilities, and resources do not meet the basic educational needs of learners at these schools) encounter several challenges in developing learners’ critical thinking skills. Using critical thinking teaching methods inevitably leads to an increase of the teachers’ workload. This article draws on data generated from research conducted in South Africa, from questionnaires completed by science secondary school teachers (n=160) and 1st year student-teachers (n= 90) who identified challenges facing the development of learners’ critical thinking skills. The literature review, previous research, and secondary school teachers’ and student-teachers’ perspectives were integrated to identify these challenges. Challenges to the development of critical thinking skills that were highlighted by the research include motivation and attitudes of teachers and learners, large classes, lack of resources, socio-economic status of learners, language barriers, teacher training, workload of teachers, cognitive abilities of learners, and differentiated teaching. To conquer some of these challenges the study showed that teachers need incentives as a motivational strategy to become enthusiastic users of critical thinking methods. Continuous professional development of teachers and continuous development of learners’ critical thinking skills from pre-primary to secondary school were emphasised for the development of critical thinking learners.

Keywords: Critical Thinking, Problem Solving Methods, Science, Teacher Training, Active Learner Engagement

The International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning, Volume 20, Issue 3, May 2014, pp.1-13. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: May 19, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 646.225KB)).

Dr. Thelma de Jager

Programme Co-ordinator and Lecturer, Educational Studies, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa

Thelma de Jager is a didactic lecturer and programme co-ordinator in the faculty of Humanities at the department of Educational Studies of Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa. I was involved in primary and secondary school eduaction, involved in the teaching of students with special educational needs and tertiary education. My area of research interest includes preparation of pre-and in- service teachers to develop pupils’ critical thinking skills.