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South African Institute of Physics

Physics Teacher Development Overview

1         Overview

The South African Institute of Physics in partnership with the Institute of Physics (UK) and the University of Johannesburg coordinates a Physical Science Teacher Development Project that seeks to promote teacher professional development on a broader scale.  This project is considered to be a plausible quality-enhancing strategic flagship initiative geared towards the provision of essential training in various critical areas of need in response to serious concerns expressed with regard to the overall quality of the basic education system in South Africa.  Commensurate with the core strategic vision of the project, a Memorandum of Understanding has already been signed by the parties involved.


In terms of its design and conceptualisation, the project takes the form of a sustainable, continuous and intensive programme offered over a three year period with dedicated and selected cohort of teachers.  In addition, the project provides both in-service and pre-service training opportunities in order to holistically and adequately address teacher professional development needs. 


Development of laboratory competence and skills forms an integral part of the project over and above the teaching of relevant content.  Training in this regard is provided in specific areas such as improvisation, laboratory safety, laboratory maintenance and repair of equipment.  Teachers are afforded opportunities to perform practical work in state-of-the-art Physics laboratory facilities at the Doornfontein Campus of the University of Johannesburg.  These laboratory facilities have been fully endorsed by the Engineering Council of South Africa as the best in the southern hemisphere.  Through their involvement in the project, teachers are particularly exposed to a Virtual Physical Laboratory (VPLab) which provides a meaningful platform for the simulation of physics demonstrations thus developing a coherent conceptual understanding of physics concepts.

1.1       Philosophy of the project

The project is underpinned by “Training the Trainers Philosophy”.  Teachers graduating from the programme would provide training to their peers as part of an evolving dynamic phenomenon.  This will serve to ensure that professional development opportunities are provided in a coherent and sustainable manner for the benefit of both in-service and pre-service teachers.

1.2       Certification

As a quality assurance measure, the project is continuously evaluated in a bid to closely monitor its impact in relation to the achievement of the envisaged outcomes.  The project is essentially an accredited learning programme providing a credit-bearing certificate on successful completion of training.  The certificate is offered under the auspices of the University of Johannesburg.

2         Friday Programme Introduced


When the project was initiated teacher development workshops were conducted during school holidays for a period of 3 to 5 days.  However a review was carried out which indicated that having training sessions only during school holiday was in adequate.  Most other teacher development programmes used the same method but they did not succeed.


In order to improve the chances of success and enrich the teachers’ skills the project teach in consultation with the teachers introduced a biweekly training session where teachers will have intense training sessions on Friday afternoons every forth night.  Hence teachers will have lectures twice a month for a period of three (3) years.


·         Training Hours per day = 4 hours

·         Training Hours per month = 8 hours

·         Training Hours per year = 96 hours

·         Training Hours after 3 yrs = 288 hours


In addition to the above teachers will also participate in once off the holiday workshops held for 3 to 5 days.

3         Projected Outcomes

1.      On completion a certificate is offered under the auspices of the University of Johannesburg.

2.      Physics teachers in historically disadvantaged schools will receive additional training on teaching physics and improve their skills in delivering physical science.

3.      Physical science teachers will develop improved confidence and competency hence they will be able to attract more students to study physics

4.      Increased competency will result in higher pass rate hence an increase in the pool of learners with physics background who can be trained in various Science Engineering and Technology disciplines

5.      Historically disadvantaged high schools will receive quality physics tuition and will perform laboratory investigations required by the national curriculum.

6.      Access to supplementary physics print and experimental resources that are not available at participating schools.

7.      Stimulation of interest in physics for both pupils and teachers

8.      More girls studying physics


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