ALeRT – Accessing Learning through Responsive Teaching
The Impact Trust’s ALERT (Accessing Learning through Responsive Teaching) initiative recognises that developing teacher content knowledge and pedagogical depth is critical if we are to systemically improve education in South Africa where social inequality is mirrored in the education system.
Pedagogic knowledge is specialised knowledge based on a theory of learning development. It is not simply a collection of good practice routines that can be cobbled together with a script and given to teachers to deliver by rote. It is knowledge and know-how that resides within the teacher and manifests in a set of decisions, taken in each teaching moment, and in relation to the social and cultural context.
The kind of reflective, knowledge-based teacher practice that would unlock learning in marginalised communities is unlikely to develop spontaneously in the over-extended, emotionally harrowing spaces that are typical of most South African classrooms. ALeRT seeks to develop a ‘pedagogy incubator’, in collaboration with education researchers at the University of Cape Town’s School of Education. The objective: to assemble a range of teachers, both newly qualified teachers eager to improve their practice, and long-serving teachers who wish to find and develop more effective pedagogies for marginalised youth, to collaborate within a community of practice. They will draw on research insights from the education partners and work with the most marginalised children to master the transition from Foundation Phase, and successfully – joyously – complete the Intermediate phase of school.
The ALeRT project stemmed from teacher experience in literacy development efforts at Silverlea Primary School. One of the ongoing ALeRT literacy initiatives there is the Silverlea Primary Library Project.