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Teaching Life Orientation: Senior and FET Phases

| March 16, 2016 | 0 Comments

Editors: Ignatius Gous and Jennifer Roberts
Published by: Oxford University Press
Reviewed by: Fiona de Villiers

As the editor of an education magazine, I am comforted by the frequent rate at which I receive stories about the increasing number of schools that are planning specific and regular time slots daily for their teachers to discuss and share their own teaching. Such reflection is becoming a hallmark of quality schools.

Oxford University Press produces numerous books that are perfect for promoting discussion about classroom strategies.

Teaching Life Orientation: Senior and FET Phases (TLO) is one of them. Those thrust into the role of life orientation teacher will be pleased to learn that this superb resource has been compiled by some of the sharpest academic minds in the country.

It’s often hard for teachers to explain to themselves or others exactly what life orientation is. On page 3 of TLO, you will learn that it is the subject in which “students are oriented in and towards life”. The Department of Basic Education’s Revised National Curriculum Statement Policy (CAPS) is more specific:
Life orientation guides and prepares learners for life and its possibilities and equips them for meaningful and successful living in a rapidly changing and transforming society. The focus of life orientation is the development of self-in-society. It promotes selfmotivation
and teaches learners how to apply goal setting, problem-solving and decision-making strategies.

Using this definition, one could certainly assume that all subject teachers could practise lifelong learning by involving themselves in the study of this textbook, and then applying the principles therein to their own subject.

TLO is suited to every teacher because, say the editors, “it takes the important strategy of metacognition as its guiding principle in presenting its content.

“Metacognition… is about being aware of what we think, how we think, and why we think in the ways that we do… if teachers are metacognitively skilled, they will be able to say, ‘I don’t just teach. I think about teaching better.’”

This key first chapter in the book ends with understanding metacognition in action. Say the editors, teachers who employ metacognition:

• Know themselves, their abilities, their joys and their fears.
• Are able to answer questions such as: “Who do you teach? Why do you teach? What is the best way to teach? What do you need to know in order to teach better?”
• Have awareness about the best available teaching strategies.
• Attend to their metacognitive experiences. They understand why they feel the way they do and how to attend to their challenges.
• Plan, monitor and evaluate.

Chapter two is a fascinating look into self-awareness; starting with the teacher’s – so that she may then grasp some awareness of her students. Here, readers will learn about temperaments and personality types. The Prism Break strategy is detailed: it “creates an awareness of who you are and the personalities of other people”. This will help you to put chapter three (the focus here is on learning strategies) into practice. After going through the exercises, you will be able to “help learners understand the usefulness of each and every lesson they attend”.

It is perhaps especially chapter four that should be mandatory reading for all teachers. Author Johnnie Ray presents a fascinating history of life orientation as a school subject in South Africa.

Furthermore, he lays out in detail why life orientation has, over the years, got such a “bad rap”, arguing that its teachers should be the best in the school: they, after all, must focus on the “combination of cognitive-academic, emotional and behavioural learning, whilst
teachers of other subjects have to focus predominately on developing cognitive learning through facts and insight”.

In chapter five, author Miemsie Steyn examines exactly how crucial it is for life orientation teachers to be able to counsel students in an appropriate manner. Chapter 6 is allied: here, readers will familiarise themselves with a host of useful tools with which to build resilience.

Once teacher study groups have thoroughly studied part one of TLO, they can use what they’ve learned as they move through chapters seven to 11. These deal with the key focuses of the life orientation curriculum; the development of the self in society; health, social and environmental responsibility; constitutional rights and responsibilities; physical education; and careers and career choices.

Throughout this superior text, teacher readers will be supported by superb references, summaries and activities. I guarantee that they’ll emerge from a close study of TLO as
much better, energised educators.


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Category: Autumn 2016

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