Content vs. Methods: A glimpse into a Nursery Teachers Training College

Written by: Jody Unterrheiner

Yesterday I went to observe a lesson at one of the local Nursery Teacher’s
Training Colleges (NTTC). You could say that we were going to check out one of
our future competitors. This, in part, is true. But we wanted to see what current
teaching looks like in local NTTCs. How could we enhance Early Childhood
Development (ECD) education here; what is good that is already in place, and
what possibly needs to be improved and how can we be part of the solution.
Our planned NTTC is to not only benefit future students, but also to be a platform
for research and training for current nursery teachers, head teachers and also
tutors from other colleges.
Here’s some reflections from the visit.
I observed a year one lesson on measurement. The tutor had a chalkboard full of
notes which the students were copying as he was teaching. The actual lesson
content and suggestions for teaching were creative and certainly age-
appropriate, recommending young pupils use thread or sticks to compare their
height; they could even compare the height of their footprints or nearby
buildings and trees.
However in that room, full of about 50 student teachers; there was not one
practical object used for the explanation.
At one particular point in the lesson the tutor started talking about pre-
mathematics activities, how nursery mathematics activities were not “real
mathematics” and were to prepare pupils for “real mathematics work” which
they will start in primary school. My mathematics teacher friends would balk at
that comment, even I was quite startled.
I then gleaned through some student notes. I found coursework which included
mathematics content that would clearly not be taught to 3 to 6 year-olds (solve
for y if 5y + 6 = 2y + 12… hmmm). I also found pages of notes on using ICT and
computers to help teach ECD, I enquired if the students had the opportunity to
use computers during their certificate course and the reply was no, students had
to organise this themselves. I also found notes on teaching physical education
using games such as tunnel ball and hopscotch, etc. I asked the student teacher is
she knew what tunnel ball or hopscotch was; she replied that she had no idea.
I also saw the title Storytelling and some notes on storytelling. I enquired if the
student teacher had the opportunity to do any storytelling in class or hear
storytelling: also no.
From my initial observations it appears as though the content being taught is
quite good; however the methods of teacher and student participation is
extremely poor. I am quite excited with the prospect of creating a teaching and
learning environment where student teachers are able to learn these skills
practically, which should hopefully improve the overall quality of teaching and
learning for our young children here.
Our investigations, however, are still ongoing… more inspiration and planning
will come from observing future NTTC lessons.
Thanks for being part of this journey with us.