Academic success depends on whether a Grade 1 learner is ready to learn in the
formal school environment and therefore school readiness should be regarded as
high priority. Learners from disadvantaged backgrounds are often deprived from a
stimulating environment with adequate learning opportunities, consequently resulting
in a lack of the school readiness skills needed for formal learning by the time they
enter Grade 1. Addressing the diverse needs of such vulnerable learners can be a
challenging and daunting task. This study focuses on the professional development
of Grade 1 teachers to promote school readiness in an inclusive education context.
Participatory Action Research was used to collaboratively develop a programme for
the professional development of Grade 1 teachers, within an emerging conceptual
framework based on the following relevant theories and models. The Concerns
Based Model of Teacher Development (CBMoTD) was implemented to identify the
concerns of the participating teachers from where their need for professional
development emerged, and defined the base from where the research project was
launched. The Attachment Theory provided a framework for intervention to restore
and strengthen teacher-learner relationships and provide support to vulnerable
Grade 1 learners. The models for action research (CRASP I) and professional
development of teachers through action research (CRASP II), clarified the process
which needed to be followed.
The research project consisted of five research cycles and data was generated from
collaborative discussions, field notes and individual reflections of participating
teachers on intervention in their respective classrooms, the reflective journal of the
researcher and a focus group interview. The data was collected and collaboratively
analysed throughout the research process.
The findings of this study indicate the essentiality of continuous professional
development and support for Grade 1 teachers in an inclusive education context and
emphasise the importance of listening to the voices of teachers in the development
of professional development programmes. This study brought hope to desperately
concerned Grade 1 teachers, proving that enhancing the self-efficacy of teachers
can bring back the joy of teaching in challenging teaching conditions.