Teacher Development and Inequality in Schools: Do We Now Have a Theory of Change?

  • Yael ShalemEmail author
  • Francine De Clercq
Part of the Policy Implications of Research in Education book series (PIRE, volume 10)


The distribution of educational inequalities in South Africa clearly reflects economic and social patterns of inequalities, whereby poorly-resourced schools are also the ones with the less able teachers. This suggests that access to meaningful learning opportunities is a fundamental equality distribution imperative. In South Africa, the challenge is specific – for historical reasons of poor schooling and a racially segregated and unequal training system, the majority of teachers, more so in poor socio-economic provinces, display weak professional knowledge. Our aim in this chapter is two-fold: first, to analyse different teacher development models which have been tried since the early 1990s, bearing in mind the gaps in teacher knowledge evidenced in research. Second, to critically examine what begins to be agreed upon and what remains in dispute in the international and national literature about a new model of teacher development. Targeting teachers from poorly performing primary schools, the new model foregrounds curriculum coverage and tight regulation of a set of teaching practices in specific subjects – language and mathematics. To investigate this, we borrow Elmore’s idea of reciprocal accountability, which he defines as: for every unit of changed performance that is required, an equivalent unit of support and capacity building is expected to be invested.


Teacher Development Disadvantaged Schools Meaningful Learning Opportunities Large-scale Interventions Standardised Lesson Plans. 


  1. Barasa, F., & Mattson, E. (1998). The roles, regulation, and professional development of educators in South Africa: A critical analysis of four policy documents. Journal of Education, 23(1), 41–72.Google Scholar
  2. Beatty, B. (2011). The dilemma of scripted instruction: Comparing teacher autonomy, fidelity, and resistance in the froebelian kindergarten, montessori, direct instruction, and success for all. Teachers College Record, 113(3), 395–430.Google Scholar
  3. Bertram, C. (2011). What does research say about teacher learning and teacher knowledge? Implications for professional development in South Africa. Journal of Education, 52, 5–26.Google Scholar
  4. Bett, H. K. (2016). The cascade model of teachers’ continuing professional development in Kenya: A time for change? Cogent Education, 3(1), 1139439. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bisschoff, T., & Mathye, A. (2009). The advocacy of an appraisal system for teachers: A case study. South African Journal of Education, 29(3), 393–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bryk, A. S. (2009). Support a science of performance improvement. Phi Delta Kappan, 90(8), 597–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Centre for Development and Enterprise. (2014). What does research tell us about teachers, teaching and learner performance in mathematics. Johannesburg: Centre for Development and Enterprise.Google Scholar
  8. Charalambous, C. Y., & Hill, H. C. (2012). Teacher knowledge, curriculum materials, and quality of instruction: Unpacking a complex relationship. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 44(4), 443–466. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. City, E. A., Elmore, R. F., Fiarman, S. E., & Teitel, L. (2009). Instructional rounds in education: A network approach to improving teaching and learning. Boston: Havard Education Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cohen, D. K., & Ball, D. L. (1999). Instruction, capacity, and improvement. CPRE Research Report Series RR-43.Google Scholar
  11. Council on Higher Education. (2010). Report on the national review of academic and professional programmes in education. Pretoria CHE.Google Scholar
  12. Darling-Hammond, L. (1995). Changing conceptions of teaching and teacher development. Teacher Education Quarterly, 22, 9–26.Google Scholar
  13. Darling-Hammond, L. (2004). Inequality and the right to learn: Access to qualified teachers in California’s public schools. Teachers College Record, 106(10), 1936–1966.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Davis, E. A., & Krajcik, J. S. (2005). Designing educative curriculum materials to promote teacher learning. Educational Researcher, 34(3), 3–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. De Clercq, F. (2008). Teacher quality, appraisal and development: The flaws in the IQMS. Perspectives in Education, 26(1), 7–18.Google Scholar
  16. De Clercq, F., & Shalem, Y. (2014). Teacher knowledge and employer-driven professional development: A critical analysis of the Gauteng Department of Education programmes. Southern African Review of Education with Education with Production, 20(1), 129–147.Google Scholar
  17. De Clercq, F., Shalem, Y., & Nkambule, T. (2018). Teachers’ and HODs’ accountability on curriculum coverage: Pilo’s contribution to the theory of change. In P. Christie & M. Monyokolo (Eds.), Learning about sustainable change in education: Jika iMfundo 2013–2017. Johannesburg: SAIDE.Google Scholar
  18. Department of Basic Education. (2009). Report of the task team for the review of the implementation of the national curriculum statement. Statement by Minister of Basic Education on Curriculum Review Final Report Pretoria: Government Printers.Google Scholar
  19. Department of Basic Education and Department of Higher Education and Training. (2011). Integrated strategic planning framework for teacher education and development in South Africa: 2011–2025. Pretoria.Google Scholar
  20. Department of Education (DoE). (2007). The national policy framework for teacher education and development in South Africa. Government Gazette No. 29832, 26 April. Pretoria: DoE.Google Scholar
  21. Elmore, R. (2005). Agency, reciprocity, and accountability in democratic education. In S. Fuhrman & M. Lazerson (Eds.), The institutions of American democracy: The public schools (pp. 277–301). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Elmore, R. (2006). Leadership as the practice of improvement, international conference on school leadership for systemic improvement, OECD activity on improving school leadership. Prepared for the International Conference on Perspectives on Leadership for Systemic Improvement, sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), July 6, London.Google Scholar
  23. Elmore, R. F. (2016). “Getting to scale…” it seemed like a good idea at the time. Journal of Educational Change, 17(4), 529–537. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Elmore, R. F., & Burney, D. (1997). Investing in teacher learning: Staff development and instructional improvement in Community School District# 2, New York City. New York: National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education.Google Scholar
  25. Engelmann, S. (2005). Improving reading rate of low performers. Retrieved from Scholar
  26. Fleisch, B. (2001). Draft research report on the education action zones. GDE. Commissioned by the Joint Education Trust, Braamfontein.Google Scholar
  27. Fleisch, B. (2016). System-wide improvement at the instructional core: Changing reading teaching in South Africa. Journal of Educational Change, 17(4), 437–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fleisch, B., & Dixon, K. (2017). Identifying generative mechanisms from qualitative study of the early grade reading study in South Africa. Paper Presented at the UKFIET Conference, Oxford, 4–7 Sept 2017.Google Scholar
  29. Fleisch, B., & Schöer, V. (2014). Large-scale instructional reform in the global South: Insights from the mid-point evaluation of the Gauteng primary language and mathematics strategy. South African Journal of Education, 34(3), 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fullan, M. (2016). The elusive nature of whole system improvement in education. Journal of Educational Change, 17(4), 539–544. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fullan, M., Rincón-Gallardo, S., & Hargreaves, A. (2015). Professional capital as accountability. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23(15). Retrieved from
  32. Guskey, T. R. (1986). Staff development and the process of teacher change. Educational Researcher, 15(5), 5–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hargreaves, A. (2002). Sustainability of educational change: The role of social geographies. Journal of Educational Change, 3(3–4), 189–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hiebert, J. (2017). The unfortunate reputation of scripted instruction. Teachers College Record.Google Scholar
  35. Hiebert, J., & Morris, A. K. (2012). Teaching, rather than teachers, as a path toward improving classroom instruction. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(2), 92–102. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hoadley, U. (2012). What do we know about teaching and learning in South African primary schools? Education as Change, 16(2), 187–202. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hoadley, U. (2018). Pedagogy in poverty: Lessons from twenty years of curriculum reform in South Africa. Abingdon/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  38. Hutchison, D., & Styles, B. (2010). A guide to running randomised controlled trials for educational researchers. Slough: NFER.Google Scholar
  39. Janks, H. (2014). Globalisation, diversity, and education: A South African perspective. The Educational Forum, 78(1), 8–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Jansen, J. (2002). On the relationship between accountability and support. Paper presented to the National Consultation on School Development. Department of Education, 29 Jan 2002.Google Scholar
  41. Jansen, J. D., & Christie, P. (1999). Changing curriculum: Studies on outcomes-based education in South Africa. Johannesburg: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  42. Mahomed, H. (2017). Progress and challenges with the implementation of the ISPFTED in South Africa 2011–2025. Challenges-implementation-integrated-strategic-planning-framework-teacher-education-development-South-Africa-2011–2025-ISPFTED. Retrieved from
  43. McLaughlin, M. W. (1987). Learning from experience: Lessons from policy implementation. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 9(2), 171–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Morris, A. K., & Hiebert, J. (2011). Creating shared instructional products: An alternative approach to improving teaching. Educational Researcher, 40(1), 5–14. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Morrow, W. (2007). Learning to teach in South Africa. Cape Town: HSRC.Google Scholar
  46. Msibi, T., & Mchunu, S. (2013). The knot of curriculum and teacher professionalism in post-apartheid South Africa. Education as Change, 17(1), 19–35. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. NEEDU. (2013). National report 2012: The state of literacy teaching and learning in the foundation phase. Pretoria: National Education Evaluation and Development Unit.Google Scholar
  48. O’Day, J. (2004). Complexity, accountability and school improvement. In S. Furhman & R. Elmore (Eds.), Redesigning accountability systems for education. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  49. Pournara, C., Hodgen, J., Adler, J., & Pillay, V. (2015). Can improving teachers’ knowledge of mathematics lead to gains in learners’ attainment in mathematics? South African Journal of Education, 35(3), 1–10. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Remillard, J. T. (2005). Examining key concepts in research on teachers’ use of mathematics curricula. Review of Educational Research, 75(2), 211–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Shalem, Y. (2003). Do we have a theory of change? Calling change models to account. Perspectives in Education: Assessment of Change in Education: Special Issue, 21(1), 29–49.Google Scholar
  52. Shalem, Y. (2018). Scripted lesson plans – What is visible and invisible in visible pedagogy? In B. Barrett, U. Hoadley, & J. Morgan (Eds.), Knowledge, curriculum and equity: Social realist perspectives. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  53. Shalem, Y., & Hoadley, U. (2009). The dual economy of schooling and teacher morale in South Africa. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 19(2), 119–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Shalem, Y., & Slonimsky, L. (2010). The concept of teaching. In Y. Shalem & S. Pendelbury (Eds.), Retrieving teaching: Critical issues in curriculum, pedagogy and learning. Cape Town: Juta and Company Ltd.Google Scholar
  55. Shalem, Y., Steinberg, C., Koornhof, H., & De Clercq, F. (2016). The what and how in scripted lesson plans: The case of the Gauteng primary language and mathematics strategy. Journal of Education, 66, 1–24.Google Scholar
  56. Shalem, Y., De Clercq, F., Steinberg, C., & Koornhof, H. (2018). Teacher autonomy in times of standardised lesson plans: The case of a primary school language and mathematics intervention in South Africa. Journal of Educational Change, 19(2), 205–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Steinberg, C., & Slonimsky, L. (2004). Pedagogical responsiveness to learning. Students confronting an unfamiliar text-based reality. In H. Griesel (Ed.), Curriculum responsiveness: Case studies in higher education. Pretoria: South African Universities Vice- Chancellors Association.Google Scholar
  58. Taylor, N. (2002). Accountability and support: Improving public schooling in South Africa: A systemic framework. Paper presented to the National Consultation on School Development Department of Education, 29 Jan 2002.Google Scholar
  59. Taylor, N., & Taylor, S. (2013). Teacher knowledge and professional habitus. In N. Taylor, S. Van Der Berg, & T. Mabogoane (Eds.), Creating effective schools. Cape Town: Pearson.Google Scholar
  60. Taylor, N., & Vinjevold, P. (1999). Getting learning right: Report of the President’s Education Initiative Research Project. Joint Education Trust.Google Scholar
  61. Van der Berg, S., Burger, C., Burger, R., & de Vos, M., du Rand, G., Gustafsson, M., Moses, E., Shepherd, D. L., Spaull, N., Taylor, S., van Broekhuizen, H., & van Fintel, D. (2011). Low quality education as a poverty trap. Stellenbosch: University of Stellenbosch, Department of Economics. Research report for the PSPPD project for Presidency.Google Scholar
  62. Winch, C. (2010). Dimensions of expertise: A conceptual exploration of vocational knowledge. New York: Continuum International Pub. Group.Google Scholar
  63. Young, M., & Muller, J. (2013). On the powers of powerful knowledge. Review of Education, 1(3), 229–250. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of the WitwatersrandParktownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations