Equipping teachers to support learners with psychosocial challenges: the potential of a linked PALAR-Life Design process
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In this thesis, I propose a linked Participatory Action learning and Action Research (PALAR) and Life Design (LD) process, as a means of equipping teachers to support learners experiencing psychosocial challenges. As an educational psychologist, I was interested in exploring the potential of integrating a traditional Life Design strategy into a participatory action learning and action research process, since it was evident that teachers first needed to build up their personal and professional self-efficacy. The inequitable distribution of resources within South African society is glaringly visible within the provision of basic education and teachers working within such contexts often feel frustrated and demotivated. South African teachers, who are interested in addressing poverty-related psychosocial challenges experienced by learners at school, are understandably anxious and overwhelmed by the complex challenges, making it difficult for these teachers to mobilise their potential agency as providers of support. In response to a request for assistance from teachers working at an under resourced school in a peri-urban context I collaboratively explored two linked processes to enable participating teachers to: i) improve their own feelings of self-efficacy and ii) develop capacity to support learners who experience poverty-related psychosocial challenges. The linked PALAR-LD process is suggested as a means of promoting agency among teachers in under resourced contexts, to rethink their role in the context of the psychosocial challenges as experienced by their learners. In both processes, participants are encouraged to collaboratively explore options for addressing the identified challenges and to network for support from available systemic resources. In the context of South Africa’s poverty-related psychosocial challenges which impact negatively on wellness and education, the adaptation of imported theories and models is one possible way forward, for contributing to knowledge and practice. The visual image below of interrelated rings with variety of textures and colours represent the PALAR process with multi-layered connections where different individuals with differing assets collaborated to support learners at the school affected by poverty-related psychosocial challenges. Data were generated from visual mapping activities, interviews and written and verbal reflections by participants including the university facilitator. The data were coded for themes relevant to collaboratively identifying and addressing psychosocial challenges impacting on teaching and learning. The results suggest that the PALAR-LD process encouraged reflection by the teachers on their personal and professional experiences of the process and the significance of relationships that were developed. Where contextual challenges caused teachers to lose sight of their purpose, the group LD process enabled the teachers to collectively explore their life narratives to reconnect with their past personal and career goals and to integrate the past and current narratives to guide the way forward. This provided a foundation for a PALAR process to identify and address contextual psychosocial challenges within their learners’ reality. The linked PALAR-LD process promoted transformation through the personal and professional growth of the individual participants. The process also initiated action within the school community to address the poverty-related contextual challenges. The findings add to the existing literature on in-service teacher capacity building, and could be equally valuable in the design of pre-service teacher education. This research project was made possible through multilevel collaboration between and among teacher participants, other school based and academic colleagues, parents and learners connected to the school.
- Education