University of Pretoria

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Challenges faced by teachers when teaching mitosis and difficulties experienced by learners when learning mitosis

posted on 2024-05-23, 10:42 authored by Susan NyirendaSusan Nyirenda, Johannes de VilliersJohannes de Villiers, Marien Graham

The nature of this study is pragmatic with a focus on positivism and interpretivism paradigms. Pragmatists concentrate on what works to address the research questions to gain a deeper understanding of solving tangible real-world challenges. A pragmatic philosophical approach led to an abductive approach that employed convergent parallel mixed-method research. Two phases ran concurrently, the quantitative phase and the qualitative phase. The quantitative phase utilised a survey research design to collect data using a questionnaire. The purpose of the questionnaire was to gain a perception of how the learning of the Grade 10 Life Sciences topics of mitosis occurs (teachers’ pedagogical knowledge, what instructional strategies and materials they use) and the difficulties experienced by learners when learning the topic of mitosis. The questionnaire was completed by 233 learners; of these learners, just below one-third (29.6%, n = 69) identified as male, while approximately two-thirds (67.0%, n = 156) identified as female, and only a few (3.4%, n = 8) preferred not to state their gender. There were very few learners that were 14 years old (approximately 1.0%, n = 2), just above a quarter (26.6%, n = 62) were 15 years old, the 16-year-old learners were slightly above half (52.8%, n = 123) and about one-fifth (19.7%, n = 46) were 17 years old or older. The SPSS software was used, which was important in handling large volumes of numerical data.


The datasets were statistically analysed to produce quantitative data for addressing the main research question. The quantitative data was not normally distributed, therefore, nonparametric tests were used for the inferential statistics. The qualitative phase employed a multiple case study design to collect qualitative data using a lesson observation tool and an interview schedule. The participants are eight Life Sciences teachers for Grade 10 in a circuit in Gert Sibande District, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. Eight teachers were observed teaching the topic of mitosis to Grade 10 learners generating the datasets presented. After the eight teachers were observed teaching, five of the participants responded to interview questions that were designed to identify challenges faced by the teachers when teaching mitosis, to explore how the learners’ academic achievements in the topic of mitosis can be improved and to investigate the difficulties experienced by learners when learning mitosis. Interview data was transcribed, and content analysis was conducted. Atlas.ti software was utilised to generate categories, sub-themes and themes of the datasets presented. Thematic analysis of the datasets presented yielded rich qualitative data used to address the main research question. Research ethical standards were observed, and pseudonyms (Emma, John, Steven, Sarah, Elizabeth, Mary, Precious and Patricia) were utilised to protect the participants' privacy. Personal identifying information was removed from the datasets. The datasets were meticulously analysed, and findings were used to address the main research question of the study titled “The teaching and learning of mitosis in the Life Sciences classrooms of Mpumalanga, South Africa”



Science, Mathematics and Technology Education

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