Teachers’ experiences with strategies for teaching learners with visual impairments in Oshana Education Region-Namibia
Tobias, Elina Ileimo
PublisherUniversity of Botswana, www.ub.bw
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Teaching learners with disabilities has been a worldwide concern. Through discussions and interventions by various stakeholders, learners with disabilities gained access to formal education; firstly, in isolated, segregated places, and then in special schools and lately, in inclusive schools. Although learners with disabilities have gained access to education, it has been observed that learners with visual impairments (LVI) in special and inclusive classrooms in Namibia are underperforming. The purpose of this study was to explore the teachers’ experiences in using strategies for teaching LVI, as well as to identify effective teaching methods and strategies for use with LVI. It further looked at the support offered to teachers when teaching LVI and how to strengthen the teaching of learners with visual impairments. This study utilised Vygotsky’s theory of social constructivism and Bronfenbrenner’s model of bio-ecological systems as a theoretical grounding. Employing an interpretivist research paradigm, the study adopted a qualitative approach with a phenomenological design. Two secondary schools were selected as research sites. Utilising purposive sampling, fifteen (15) academic staff teaching LVI, school principals and teacher assistants were engaged in in-depth one-on-one interviews and focus group discussions. In addition, non-participant classroom observation, documents analysis and field notes were used as data sources. The data were analysed using NVivo11 qualitative software. The data generated from various sources were triangulated and analysed using thematic analysis. The study revealed that teachers in the schools had general teaching qualifications. Therefore, they lacked the passion, skills and knowledge required to use teaching methods and strategies specifically for teaching LVI. However, the study identified effective teaching methods for use with LVI, such as, group work, pair work, individual work and peer tutoring. Furthermore, effective teaching strategies were identified: storytelling, use of voice intonation and facial expression, use of LVI names, use of Braille resources, Braille text materials, utilisation of models and tactile materials, use of audio recordings and ICTs, creating a mobility friendly environment, open communication and the use of outreach and experience. The study noted that teaching methods work hand-in-hand with teaching strategies for effective and efficient delivery of lessons. Broadly, the reason for teachers’ inability to apply effective methods and strategies for teaching LVI was attributed to a disconnection between passion, skills and knowledge to create, adapt and, or modify the strategies accordingly. Furthermore, the findings of this study revealed that teachers faced various challenges in teaching LVI and sighted learners. These challenges included providing adequate time, teaching resources, and Braille materials. Problems relating to mobility, orientation and the use of Braille, which is the main form of communication, also have to be overcome. However, based on the findings of the study, an evaluation of teacher preparation and continuous professional development in inclusive methods and strategies of teaching LVI was recommended. In addition, the study provides significant knowledge that could inform policy formulation while assisting training institutions and teacher educators on best practice.
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