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Challenges and Solutions: The Experiences of Newly Qualified Science Teachers

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Abstract

We explored the challenges that five newly qualified teachers (NQTs) faced in the teaching and learning situation and how they addressed their challenges. The teachers taught integrated science at the Junior High School (JHS; ages 12-15 years). Data were collected through observation, interview, and content analysis. We used the inductive and deductive analytic methods, and we found out that the NQTs faced the following challenges among others: (a) lack of resources for teaching and learning, (b) time management, (c) deficiency in content knowledge, (d) their students’ inability to understand the lessons taught, (e) student indiscipline, (f) lack of their students’ interest in science, and (g) their inability to complete the integrated science syllabus. The challenge of lack of resources and deficiency in content knowledge cut across all the NQTs. Some of the methods that they used to solve their challenges are (a) improvising equipment, (b) modifying their teaching, and (c) talking with parents. It was recommended, among other things, that the basic schools should be supplied with equipment/materials and also that preservice training should equip prospective teachers with skills to help them face their challenges.
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Article
Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) have been the focus of many
studies because the first years of teaching are fraught with many
challenges (French, 2004; He & Cooper, 2011; Liston,
Whitcomb, & Borko, 2006; MacMahon, 2006; Mckenzie,
2005; Özturk, 2008; Senom, Zakaria, & Shah, 2013; Sunde &
Ulvik, 2014; Wang, Odell, & Schwill, 2008; Watson, 2006;
Windschitl, Thompson, Stroupe, Chew, & Wright, 2010). Some
of the challenges cut across subject areas, others are peculiar to
the school, and others are peculiar to the individual.
The literature abounds in studies that have been done to
find the challenges of NQTs but few studies have been done
on NQTs who teach science, and almost all the studies have
been done in the more developed countries. Generally, these
studies are deficient in focusing on the solutions that the
NQTs have applied to their situations. This study enriches
the literature in this area by focusing on science teachers’
challenges as well as the solutions they have used. Knowing
their challenges and how the NQTs have solved them will
provide information that will help to equip future teacher
trainees to cope with similar challenges.
Background to the Study
In Ghana, NQTs are posted to teach in the villages. This has
its own challenges (Pryor & Ampiah, cited by Adu-Gyamfi,
2014). Schools in such areas tend to lack good infrastructure
and other facilities that are associated with those in the towns
and cities. Generally, pupils in village schools in Ghana
come from poor socioeconomic backgrounds and have more
challenges with the English language. According to Pryor
and Ampiah, cited by Adu-Gyamfi (2014), the pupils’ handi-
cap in the usage of the English language is one of the factors
that cause the teachers to use teacher-centered methods in
their lessons. In a study to find out the challenges faced by
the Junior Secondary School (JHS) integrated science teach-
ers in Ghana, Adu-Gyamfi (2014) found that their major
challenge was the nonavailability of teaching and learning
resources. All the teachers in that study were experienced
teachers with an average teaching experience of 5 years.
There was no indication in the study as to whether they were
trained using the 2007 specialist science curriculum or not.
X College of Education is one of the colleges that have
been equipped to train specialist science teachers to teach
integrated science at the JHS level with a new curriculum
706710SGOXXX10.1177/2158244017706710SAGE OpenBoakye and Ampiah
research-article2017
1University of Cape Coast, Ghana
Corresponding Author:
Cecilia Boakye, Institute of Education, University of Cape Coast, Cape
Coast, Ghana.
Email: pomboakye@gmail.com
Challenges and Solutions: The
Experiences of Newly Qualified
Science Teachers
Cecilia Boakye1 and Joseph Ghartey Ampiah1
Abstract
We explored the challenges that five newly qualified teachers (NQTs) faced in the teaching and learning situation and how
they addressed their challenges. The teachers taught integrated science at the Junior High School (JHS; ages 12-15 years).
Data were collected through observation, interview, and content analysis. We used the inductive and deductive analytic
methods, and we found out that the NQTs faced the following challenges among others: (a) lack of resources for teaching
and learning, (b) time management, (c) deficiency in content knowledge, (d) their students’ inability to understand the lessons
taught, (e) student indiscipline, (f) lack of their students’ interest in science, and (g) their inability to complete the integrated
science syllabus. The challenge of lack of resources and deficiency in content knowledge cut across all the NQTs. Some of the
methods that they used to solve their challenges are (a) improvising equipment, (b) modifying their teaching, and (c) talking
with parents. It was recommended, among other things, that the basic schools should be supplied with equipment/materials
and also that preservice training should equip prospective teachers with skills to help them face their challenges.
Keywords
challenges, teaching and learning materials, newly qualified teachers, integrated science, improvisation, solutions to challenges,
junior high school.
2 SAGE Open
that was implemented in 2007. Indeed, it is the only well-
equipped science college in the whole of the Central Region
of Ghana for implementing the 2007 integrated science cur-
riculum. It is, therefore, assumed that NQTs who had their
preservice education there have had the benefit of being
equipped to deal with challenges in the teaching and learning
of integrated science. Besides that, the two-semester-long
practicum (Institute of Education, 2005) the teacher trainees
experience as mentors in village basic schools as part of their
preservice training is supposed to equip them for that pur-
pose. The village teaching experience notwithstanding, with
the previous curricula some of the JHS science teachers had
challenges in the teaching of integrated science (Teacher
Education Division, 2007), and that was why the science col-
leges such as X College of Education were set up.
The purpose of this study was, therefore, to explore the
challenges that five NQTs trained at X College of Education
face in the teaching of integrated science at the JHS level and
how they have solved them.
The following two research questions guided this study:
Research Question 1: What challenges do the NQTs face
in teaching science at the JHS level?
Research Question 2: How do the NQTs solve the chal-
lenges they encounter in teaching science?
Literature Review
The Types of Challenges NQTs Face
The term “newly qualified teacher” has been used for differ-
ent durations of the teaching of teachers who are fresh from
college. This is because the exact time needed for a begin-
ning teacher to develop into a teacher expert is impossible to
determine (Průcha, cited by Wiegerová & Szimethová, n.d.).
To some, it can last for 5 years (MertLife Survey of the
American Teacher; National Commission on Teaching and
America’s Future; Ingersoll; cited by Bozack, 2008), whereas
to others it lasts 3 years (Bartell, 1995) or more. In Anglo–
Saxon literature, other concepts such as beginning teachers,
novice teachers, and new teachers are also commonly used in
place of the NQT (Fransson & Gustafsson, 2008).
We took into consideration the inconsistency in the defi-
nition of a NQT/novice teacher in the reading of relevant lit-
erature because research on novice teachers does not always
preclude those who have taught for more than 1 year (Bozack,
2008). In this study, the NQT had taught for more than 1 year
but less than 3 years. More recently, wider literature on grad-
uate teachers with respect to the early stages of their career
indicates the following challenges: (a) threat of unemploy-
ment, (b) inadequate knowledge and skills, (c) decreased
self-efficacy and increased stress, (d) early attrition, (e) new-
comers’ role and position in a work community, and (f)
importance of workplace learning (Tynjälä & Heikkinen,
2011). After following five secondary preservice teachers for
2 years during their teacher education programme and their
first year of teaching in a study, He and Cooper (2011) found
that although the participants were proud of their accom-
plishments, they had challenges. The following are the chal-
lenges He and Cooper identified in their participants: (a)
testing pressures, (b) lack of administrative support, (c) lack
of up-to-date resources, (d) lack of parental involvement, and
(e) the difficulty of balancing their teaching responsibilities
and their personal lives. Liston et al. (2006) identified that
(a) some NQTs say the theoretical grounding that they
learned in teacher preparation does not equip them suffi-
ciently for the demands of daily classroom life, (b) they
wrestle with the emotional intensity of teaching, and (e) they
often teach in workplaces that are not adequately organized
to support their learning (Liston et al., 2006). In other situa-
tions, the challenges faced by some new teachers are that
they are prevented from implementing many innovative
classroom practices and they are isolated (Mckenzie, 2005).
Some of the range of dilemmas that novice teachers encoun-
ter is in areas such as curriculum, lesson planning, assess-
ment, management, time, and school culture (Feiman-Nemser,
2003; Oakes & Lipton, cited by Agarwal, Epstein,
Oppenheim, Oyler, & Sonu, 2009). Other challenges are (a)
inability to identify pedagogical implications for individual
students, (b) not knowledgeable in their subject, and (c) less
focused self-reflections (Reynold, cited by Bozack, 2008).
Veeman, cited by Bozack (2008), stated eight problems often
encountered by NQTs as (a) discipline, (b) motivating stu-
dents, (c) how to deal with individual differences, (d) assess-
ment of students’ work, (e) relationships with parents, (f)
class work organization, (g) inadequate teaching materials,
and (h) dealing with the problems of individual students.
After observing former graduates of a teacher training
programme from their preservice training to their first year
of teaching in a secondary school, Windschitl et al. (2010)
found that they all faced three similar challenges with respect
to helping their students to intellectually engage in the devel-
opment of scientific ideas. Their challenges are as follows:
1. Fundamentally, many of the beginners could not
identify the substantive relationships between con-
cepts in the form of scientific models that help learn-
ers understand, explain, and predict a variety of
important phenomena in the natural world.
2. The participants could only initiate a conversation in
the classroom but lacked the skill to sustain a science
discourse in the classroom.
3. They chose broad themes such as, “student owner-
ship,” “critical thinking,” and “relevance,” for plan-
ning their lessons. This made it difficult for
conceptualization and, therefore, was not effective.
Meanwhile, when they were students, they were
trained with the correct way of lesson planning using
the investigative paradigm. Most of them had forgot-
ten that. Panteli (2011), in a study to find out the
Boakye and Ampiah 3
induction needs of Cyprus’s newly qualified primary
school teachers, found that the vast majority of them
said that they encountered all the 33 problems speci-
fied in the questionnaire. Some of the problems are
(a) coping with individual pupils facing learning dif-
ficulties, (b) time management, (c) inadequate school
equipment, and (d) classroom organization and
management.
The literature reviewed so far shows the challenges faced by
NQTs vary and most of them are related to teaching and learn-
ing. These are the types of challenges we explored in this study.
Survival Strategies of NQTs
Several studies have shown that beginning teachers rather go
through a process of survival instead of learning from experi-
ences (Korthagen, 2010; MacMahon, 2006; Secret Teacher,
2012). This is because they face challenges such as strug-
gling for control, feelings of frustration, anger, and bewilder-
ment (Korthagen, 2010). The reality of the survival is
narrated in the following:
It is a year of perpetual newness. Teaching lessons you’ve never
taught before, facing hundreds of pupils you’ve never met
before, and reacting to many new situations every day. This
creates a workload that moves many NQTs’ focus away from
teaching and towards survival. Survival for a NQT is passing a
series of half-termly observations by a mentor or a member of
the senior staff. These observations are ranked on a four point
scale: unsatisfactory, satisfactory, good or outstanding. Put
simply, if you get satisfactory or better in each observation then
you will get through and can become a teacher. From these six,
hour long observations your year is mapped; six hours as a
judgement on your year of teaching. (Secret Teacher, 2012, p. 1)
MacMahon (2006) also stated that there are stages that
some new teachers go through during their first year of teach-
ing. The stages are “anticipation,” “survival,” “disillusion-
ment,” “rejuvenation,” reflection, then back to anticipation. In
the anticipation stage, the teachers are happy that they have
got a job and are eager and excited about their initial teaching
post. But reality hits because they become overwhelmed with
some aspects of the job, such as working full-time and others
that they did not anticipate. Then, they enter the disillusion-
ment stage, where they wonder whether they are in the right
profession. After going through half of the year, they feel
refreshed because they would have done some work and they
look forward to the end, which is in view. Having gained some
coping strategies, they gain some confidence and become
more optimistic about their capabilities.
Reasons Why NQTs Face Challenges
Some of the reasons given for why some NQTs face chal-
lenges are (a) teacher preparation programmes do not
prepare them for the real task they must accomplish,
(Korthagen, Loughran, Russell; Teichler, cited by Liston
et al., 2006; Tynjälä & Heikkinen, 2011); (b) teacher prepara-
tion programmes give too much attention to theory at the
expense of practical skills; (c) wrong theories are taught in
teacher preparation programmes (Liston et al., 2006); (d)
they are often placed in hard-to-staff-schools with insuffi-
cient supplies (Achinstein, cited by Rizza, n.d.); (e) they are
often given the most challenging assignments and work
under conditions that do little to foster their success; (f) they
work in isolation from their colleagues, receive little guid-
ance and mentoring, and virtually no useful feedback about
their developing skills and abilities (Bartell, 1995); and (g)
unlike many professions where beginners take minor respon-
sibilities, NQTs take full responsibility of their duties as soon
as they enter the classroom (Director General of Education &
Culture, 2010; Jensen, Sandoval-Hernández, Knoll, &
Gonzalez, 2008; Tynjälä & Heikkinen, 2011). Teaching is,
therefore, described as an early plateau profession (Tynjälä
& Heikkinen, 2011). This situation can also lead to isolation
and a praxis shock (Director General of Education & Culture,
2010). Posting policies sometimes aggravate the problems
that NQTs encounter. For example, in the United States and
in most parts of Europe, new teachers are posted to areas
with high needs in rural or urban areas where the students
have their own problems such as poverty and the students
speak many different languages making the class highly mul-
tilingual (Castro, Kelly, & Shih; Achinstein, & Athanases,
cited by Rizza, n.d.).
Sometimes NQTs do not outlive their challenges. Aitken
and Harford (2011) found in a case study that they conducted
with secondary school teachers in the Republic of Ireland
that both NQTs and returning teachers had broadly similar
challenges in the following areas: handling discipline prob-
lems, working with colleagues, negotiating a new school cul-
ture, and dealing with management. But in another study, the
only challenges that both NQTs and experienced ones shared
was classroom management skills. Some of the NQTs in that
study had high need for professional development in the fol-
lowing areas: (a) development of skills to create more teach-
ing and learning time in class, (b) addressing effectively
student discipline and behavior problems, and (c) classroom
management skills (Jensen et al., 2008).
Beginning science teachers encounter more complex
challenges in planning and teaching each day compared with
teachers of other disciplines (Sanford et al., cited by Watson,
2006). This is because their instructional practices involve
decisions about what to teach, how to teach, and improvisa-
tion among other things. Besides, some science teachers
have to teach across several different fields of science at
once. In many cases, there is a mismatch between these dis-
ciplines and the teacher’s own content preparation and field
experiences (Ingersoll, 2001; Sanford, cited by Watson,
2006). Watson (2006) used a sample of three novice science
graduate teachers from the University of East Carolina to
4 SAGE Open
find out the challenges of novice science teachers. The teach-
ers had all completed a bachelor of science degree in science
education. They had strong backgrounds in the sciences (60+
hr), and they were all excellent students with high grade
point averages (above 3.5). The novice teachers expressed
the following concerns: (a) the completion of endless paper-
work for which they had not been prepared, (b) the first sev-
eral weeks of school were fraught with many changes in
schedule and placements, and (c) problems in dealing effec-
tively with management and discipline issues, and lack of
mentoring from experienced teachers although that was the
norm (Watson, 2006).
The literature reviewed so far reveals that the challenges
faced by NQTs are varied.
NQTs Solutions to Classroom
Challenges
In the light of the challenges faced by NQTs, different sur-
vival strategies are used: “some thrive, some sink without
trace, and most find it difficult but struggle through” (Secret
Teacher, 2012). The fact that NQTs tend to struggle on their
own is supported by Tynjälä et al. (2011). According to
Howe, quoted by Tynjälä and Heikkinen (2011), “instead of
supporting new teachers, sometimes the tacit teaching cul-
ture advocates a ‘sink or swim’-mentality: beginning teach-
ers sometimes have even excessive burden placed on their
first years” (p. 12). He and Cooper (2011), after following
some participants through their preservice programme to
their first year of teaching, noted that when facing challenges
in their teaching, the participants developed various strate-
gies including (a) learning from their students; (b) getting
proper knowledge of their students and families by using
assignments; (c) sustaining their motivation to teach by
focusing on good experiences such as student accomplish-
ments, and commendations from parents; and (d) devising
individual methods to manage stress and frustration.
Equipping NQTs With Survival Skills
There are some suggestions in literature as to how NQTs can
be equipped to cope with their challenges (Darling-
Hammond, 2006; Zeichner & Liston, quoted by Darling-
Hammond, 2006). Zeichner and Liston, quoted by
Darling-Hammond (2006), suggested the continuous learn-
ing by NQTs to address their problems and those of their
colleagues. To this end, they suggested that programmes
must equip teachers with the following relevant skills:
. . . teachers must be able continually to learn to address the
problems of practice they encounter and to meet the
unpredictable learning needs of all of their students—and they
must take responsibility for contributing what they learn not
only to their own practice but also that of their colleagues.
This means that programs must help teachers develop the
disposition to continue to seek answers to difficult problems
of teaching and learning and the skills to learn from practice
(and from their colleagues) as well as to learn for practice.
These expectations for teacher knowledge mean that programs
need not only to provide teachers access to more knowledge,
considered more deeply, but also to help teachers learn how to
continually access knowledge and inquire into their work. The
skills of classroom inquiry include careful observation and
reasoned analysis, as well as dispositions toward an open and
searching mind and a sense of responsibility and commitment
to children’s learning. (pp. 304-305)
Darling-Hammond (2006) suggested that in the light of
the fact that there has been an increase in the range of
knowledge required for teaching that cannot be mastered
by any one teacher, and the fact that there is diversity in
the ways students learn, which demand of teachers to
show continual adaptation, it is necessary that in the prep-
aration of teachers, they are equipped with research and
also collaboration skills so that they can learn from each
other.
There is abundant literature on using induction pro-
grammes to equip NQTs to survive their first years of teach-
ing (Bartell, 1995; Council on Alberta Teaching Standards,
2008; Keogh et al., cited by Tynjälä & Heikkinen, 2011;
Wang et al., 2008). According to Bartell (1995), teachers can
be left to struggle or get by as best they can during their first
challenging years of teaching, or they can be guided to be
successful. In a study in which He and Cooper (2011) col-
lected data from five participants over a 2-year period of
their preservice training and the first year of their teaching, it
was revealed that the NQTs had challenges. He and Cooper
recommended as a solution to the challenges faced by the
NQTs the following:
1. Opportunities should be provided to preservice teach-
ers to interact with the community and with diverse
student populations to better understand their respon-
sibilities beyond academic content instruction.
2. The teacher educators should experience the same
challenges faced by their teachers.
3. To better equip their teachers for the future, the pre-
service teachers should be trained in handling spe-
cific issues in context instead of just learning about
them.
The literature we have reviewed shows that NQTs have
varied challenges for which they are not equipped, and some
of them learn survival tactics to keep going. Some teacher
educators have suggested that the preservice teachers should
be equipped to handle some of the challenges in the preser-
vice programme. This article contributes to knowledge on
how NQTs solve some of the problems they encounter by
using a case study to understand their challenges and how
they solved them.
Boakye and Ampiah 5
Method
Research Design
This study was designed as a qualitative multiple case study
that explored the challenges faced by selected NQTs trained
at Foso College of Education in the teaching and learning
situation and how they addressed the challenges. Creswell
(2003) described a qualitative study as one that takes place
in the natural setting and the researcher goes to the site to
conduct the research to enable him or her to get detailed
information about the problem. We fulfilled that by going to
the schools where the participants taught to conduct the
research. Next, we introduce the five participants, with
pseudonyms for anonymity and then describe the data
sources and analysis.
Participants
The five participants were selected based on the fact that
(a) they attended X College of Education, which was the
only college in the central region of Ghana that was well
equipped for the specialist science programme; (b) the fact
that they had taught science at the JHS level for more than
1 year; and (c) they willingly volunteered their time for the
study. Next, we present information on the characteristics
of each of the participants who were all aged between 24
and 28 years.
William’s highest academic qualification was Senior
Secondary School Certificate and his highest professional
qualification was a diploma in basic education. With regard
to teaching experience, he had taught 5 years at the Junior
High School. He completed his preservice training in 2011.
Before embarking on the preservice training, he taught 3
years in a private school. He taught JHS 1 to JHS 3.
Edward’s highest academic qualification was Senior
Secondary School Certificate. His highest professional qual-
ification was diploma in basic education. He had taught for 2
years at the JHS level. He had no prior teaching experience
before his preservice training. He completed his preservice
training in 2011. He taught JHS 1, 2, and 3.
Bernard’s highest academic qualification was West Africa
Senior Secondary Certificate and his highest professional
qualification was a diploma in basic education. His total
teaching experience was 1 year 5 months at the JHS level. He
completed his preservice training in 2011. At the time of the
research, Bernard taught in two different classrooms, namely
JHS 1 and 3.
Asaph’s highest academic qualification was Senior
Secondary School Certificate and his highest professional
qualification was a diploma in basic education. His teaching
experience was 3½ years and that was at the JHS level. His
teaching experience before preservice training was 1 year in
a public JHS. He completed his preservice training in the
year 2010. Asaph taught integrated science in three different
classrooms namely JHS 1, 2, and 3.
Samuel’s highest academic qualification was West Africa
Senior Secondary Certificate and his highest professional
qualification was a diploma in basic education. His total
teaching experience was 1 year and 5 months. That com-
prised 1 year and 2 months teaching after professional train-
ing and 3 months teaching before preservice training. He
completed his preservice training in 2011. He taught JHS 1
to 3 students.
School Settings
All the teachers taught in public Junior High Schools in the
central region of Ghana. All the schools were in different dis-
tricts except two schools, which were in the same district.
The schools were in villages at varying distances from the
regional capital, Cape Coast. In Asaph’s and Bernard’s
schools, the buildings were uncompleted. All their students
were both males and females who sat on dual desks. On both
sides of their classrooms were sets of windows and the black-
board was cemented on the wall that faced the class. It was
only in Bernard’s case that the blackboard was on an impro-
vised easel.
Data Collection Methods
In this study, we used multiple data collection methods to
allow for the triangulation of data. The methods were inter-
view, observation, and content analysis. We developed one
semistructured interview guide, which comprised a section
on their demography and a section on their constraints in the
teaching and learning of science. The interview was for an
average duration of 30 min. All the interviews were audio
recorded. The lesson observation schedule was semistruc-
tured in the sense that it not only contained the teaching and
learning methods intended to be observed but also made pro-
vision for the collection of other data (field notes) that illu-
minated the teaching methods/activities predetermined in a
far less systematic manner (Patton, 2002). The guidelines for
making the NQTs’ observation protocol were based on the
goals of the integrated science syllabus for basic schools in
Ghana. It consisted of a list of process and experimental
skills and activities to engage students, on the extreme left
side followed by a column for ticking which of them applied
in the lesson, and in the last column was space for comments
if any. The purpose of this instrument was to collect data on
the pedagogical skills of the NQTs. Each NQT was observed
at least five times. Each observation lasted 70 min, which
was equivalent to two periods. The lesson plans of the NQTs
were also analyzed to find the teaching methods they had
been using.
Data Analysis
The NVivo software programme was used to code and analyze
the interview transcripts. Classroom observation data were
6 SAGE Open
coded manually and then categorized. Coding helps in effec-
tively labeling and retrieving of data (Miles & Huberman,
1994). The coding was done based on the themes that emerged
and those that were predetermined. Thus, both the inductive
and deductive methods were used to create the themes. Some
of the themes that were preexisting are (a) content knowledge,
(b) Teaching and learning materials (TLMs), and (c) time
management; and those that emerged are (a) weak background
of students and (b) student’s interest in science. Then, the
codes were connected to form categories for each case.
Results and Discussion
What Challenges Do the NQTs Face in Teaching
Science at the JHS Level?
The analysis of data revealed that all the NQTs faced some
form of challenge in teaching integrated science at the JHS
level. The areas in which the NQTs faced challenges are (a)
time management, (b) content knowledge, (c) teaching and
learning resources, (d) student understanding, (e) lesson note
conflict/writing, (f) student punctuality, (g) class management,
(h) student’s interest in science, (i) getting sources of informa-
tion, (j) workload, and (k) weak background of students.
Lack of teaching and learning resources. One of the challenges
that they all faced was nonavailability of teaching and learn-
ing resources.They all complained of not getting teaching and
learning materials. This was evident when I, the lead author,
observed their lessons. In addition to not getting TLMs,
Edward’s other challenge was his inability to get resource
persons. Edward’s situation is explicit in what he said:
Resource personnel, there are some things you will need some
people to explain them better but you don’t have those people
around.
He clarified the kind of help he needed in the following
comments:
Like the, like metals I mean, when you are teaching metals, you
look at the properties of metals like the malleability, the
ductility and so on you need, you can at least have the
blacksmith, you go to him or maybe invite him into and you can
send the people there and he can demonstrate it, the malleability
property of metal to them, to know that truly metals can be
either drawn into wires or they can change the sizes can be
changed or their form can be changed and so one, but I don’t
have those people around so . . .
For Asaph, his problem was about facilities for the teaching
and learning of science. This he articulated in the following
comment:
In this school apart from the TLMs, ok there are also some,
because of I can say that because we don’t have some industries
or some companies especially I was teaching electricity and then
how electricity is being wasted and the rest, you have to send the
people to an industry or company that makes use of a lot of
electricity for them to ask questions and observe how the
electricity is being used massively, but because this area we
don’t have any industry or any company we are not able to go,
so in understanding some concepts it becomes very difficult for
the kids, and then apart from that, I think that is that . . .
The unavailability of teaching and learning materials was
one challenge that they all experienced. Asaph was the one
who spoke at length on this challenge. This is how Asaph
expressed his frustrations with the teaching and learning
materials:
Having access to some of the TLMs teaching learning materials
in teaching, such as maybe some of the chemicals that help me
to teach them well, especially in teaching acid, base and salt in
form 3. It is basically titration, yes the process we use in titration
this is the case because of we don’t have any science lab, we lack
some of the instruments like the pipette, the burette, the conical
flask, the volumetric flask and the rest. We lack some of these
materials so teaching that topic in the JHS 3 is very difficult for
me. My challenges over here is lack of teaching material, that is
affecting me. Aside that I don’t think any other topics that I think
I have to go extra mile. Yes I will be eager to go extra but because
of limitation in the syllabus sometimes I am not able to give
them all the information about a topic so they lack something
about their topic, yes.
Samuel said this about the teaching and learning materials:
My greatest challenge has to do with equipments and materials
because in certain topics if you got materials around and you
read sometimes you see that you have understood the lesson,
and sometimes teaching lesson shouldn’t be, in teaching science
sometimes the lesson is more easy when taught with some of
these equipments and facilities. Sometimes when you are
teaching and you even mention, I was teaching a topic in form
one, and I mentioned calipers, the pupils were just looking at
me, they have not seen some before.
For William, one of his two challenges was the nonavail-
ability of TLMs and how to get them. The situation was the
same for all of them, and it really hampered the use of a variety
of teaching and learning methods according to the newly qual-
ified science teachers. Content analysis of the NQTs’ lesson
plans and the observation of their lessons showed that they
used mainly brainstorming, demonstration, and lecture. The
demonstrations were generally charts. Because of that the pro-
cess skills dependent on teaching and learning materials were
hardly attained as the interviews revealed.
The experimentation and then also this, I think the experimentation
is much difficult because some of the materials that should be
available so that you use for the experimentations are not
available, or if they are available they are few for the teacher’s
Boakye and Ampiah 7
use especially when I was teaching acid, base and salt, I have to
group them so that each will get some acid and some base, or we
have to experiment and add the acid to some base to produce
something but because the materials are not available I have to do
it for them to watch, because of that they wouldn’t get the feeling
of it, and I think because of that it makes the teaching very
difficult for them to understand. (William)
For Asaph, the only TLMs that he showed me they had in
the school are (a) one wash bottle, (b) one leaking separating
funnel, (c) one pipette, (d) six bars of magnet, and (e) some
iron filings. For Bernard, they did not have any except for
some empty canned tomato tins that the students had used to
carry stones from their homes to the school. The lesson
observations revealed that they were used as beakers and
Petri dishes. Edward had only a few cracked cylinders and
test tubes. Sometimes, when they used the cracked tubes,
they worked but according to him, he wanted complete test
tubes and not half tubes. He found the cylinders, test tubes,
and some expired chemicals in an old trunk used for storing
teaching and learning materials. The situation was not differ-
ent for William. In all, the lessons that I, the lead author,
observed mostly improvised materials were used for the
demonstrations.
Their challenges with TLMs corroborate what was found
in studies by He and Cooper (2011), Panteli (2011), and
Veeman, cited by Bozack (2008). The challenges identified
by them are (a) lack of up-to-date resources (He & Cooper,
2011), (b) inadequate teaching materials (Veeman, cited by
Bozack, 2008), and (c) inadequate school equipment (Panteli,
2011). The only difference is that in this study, the TLMs
were just not available and there was no case of obsolete
equipment as was found by He and Cooper (2011).
Challenges with content knowledge
The other challenge that they all reported in the interview
that they faced was the teaching of basic electronics.
I myself I have not seen, only the drawings or the picture, and I
have to explain for them to so I only give them definition and
then those parts. So make teaching of this topic (basic electronics)
very difficult for me. I cannot teach this topic whenever I am
being supervised by an external officer. (Asaph)
Sometimes last time on your second visit I did mention that if
you take most of the topics here you realize that most of these
topics were not taught when we were in the training college so
sometimes it is very difficult to deliver some of these topics so I
sometimes go through hell in teaching most of these topics.
(Samuel)
According to Samuel, he had not taught basic electronics before
but he had problems with it and had, therefore, decided to get
tuition on it. William and Edward reported that they could teach
an aspect of the basic electronics but not everything.
It is part of physics, but physics, apart from electronics, even
electronics I can teach part but that side, that is the only problem
that I find but the rest, I can teach all the rest of the . . . (William)
Electronics, I am ok with it. But when it comes to transmitters, I
have never learnt that topic. That is transmitters. I have never
learnt it so I don’t know . . . (Edward)
Edward had this problem as well:
When it comes to chemistry there is this topic, systematic
naming of compounds, that topic I have never understood it and
fortunately for me, I don’t know if it is fortunate or unfortunate,
when I came it has already been taught so I don’t know.
For content knowledge, they all had some problems as the
lesson observation and interview revealed. But it was
Bernard who had the greatest problem. That is not surprising
because he was admitted without the requisite science back-
ground. Edward and Bernard had problems with chemistry.
Edward’s problem stemmed from his agricultural science
background. Their problem with basic electronics was to be
expected because it was never taught even though it was in
the addendum to the syllabus.
These findings corroborate what Tynjälä and Heikkinen
(2011) found in the wider literature with respect to early
career graduate teachers that one of their challenges was
inadequate knowledge and skills. Reynold, cited by Bozack
(2008) also found that NQTs were not knowledgeable in
their subject.
Time management
Time management was a problem to Asaph, Bernard,
William, and Samuel. This is similar to what Panteli (2011)
found in newly qualified primary school teachers that among
the 33 challenges that most of them were found to face was
time management.
Students’ understanding
Concerning students’ understanding of lessons taught, all the
NQTs except William complained of that challenge.
According to Edward, his students were handicapped
because of their poor knowledge of the English language and
because they did not have the basic knowledge expected of
them. In fact, in all the lessons I observed, the NQTs had to
intersperse the usage of English language with vernacular to
enhance the understanding of their students.
Indiscipline
Edward was the only one who faced the problem of indisci-
pline as was found by Veeman, cited by Bozack (2008). His
students were unpunctual, and noisy. Student indiscipline is
one of the factors that pose a challenge to NQTs (Jensen
8 SAGE Open
et al., 2008; Watson, 2006). For Bernard, the interview
revealed that his students were not interested in science and
that was a challenge to him. He needed to motivate them.
The challenge of motivating students by NQTs is also con-
firmed by Veeman, cited by Bozack (2008). It was only
Samuel who said he had a challenge with the completion of
the syllabus.
That the NQTs faced challenges is in consonance with
what is in the literature (French, 2004; He & Cooper, 2011;
Liston et al., 2006; MacMahon, 2006; Mckenzie, 2005;
Özturk, 2008; Senom et al., 2013; Sunde & Ulvik, 2014;
Wang et al., 2008; Watson, 2006; Windschitl et al., 2010).
Although the literature (Korthagen, 2010; MacMahon, 2006;
Secret Teacher, 2012) makes mention of the struggling to
survive by NQTs, there were no indications that the NQTs in
this study went through such a period. This may probably be
because they are used to the classroom teaching situation,
having spent a whole academic year of their preservice train-
ing in practicum in basic schools under mentors. That length
of practicum is characteristic of teacher training programs
that produce quality teachers (Center on International
Education Benchmarking, 2014; Darling-Hammond, cited
by Darling-Hammond, 2006)
How Have the NQTs Solved the Challenges They
Encountered in the Classroom?
In almost all the challenges, except for the challenge of get-
ting resource persons faced by Asaph and Edward, lack of
industries for field trips (Asaph), student indiscipline
(Edward), and students’ lack of interest (Bernard), the NQTs
survived by attempting to provide their own solutions to the
challenges they faced. For the inadequate TLMs, they had
been equipped in their preservice training at Foso College of
Education with the skills of improvisation, which enabled
them to improvise some of the needed equipment. Edward
improvised a cylinder, and for the pipette he used a straw.
With my knowledge in improvisation, an apparatus or instrument
like measuring cylinder we were able to use the bottle. Measuring
cylinder, funnel, we used the bottle. What do you call it, voltic
and those ones, so we make the children cut them into two, we
use the top one as funnel, and then the down one, the bottom as
the measuring cylinder. (Edward)
But it was not everything they could improvise. For some
of them, like Asaph, they bought some of the TLMs.
I bought this. Some of the time you wouldn’t have the filter
paper, and we wouldn’t have the litmus. I have to buy it and
also we have to organize electrical circuit, I bought my bulb, I
bought battery and then those wires used in connecting, I used
my money in buying some of those things but we have some
books that were bought by the headmistress, that is the Aki
Ola, sometimes I refer to it. It was bought by the school.
(Asaph)
One of the solutions that they generally used in solving some
of their challenges was contacting the people they felt could
help them, namely, (a) their head teachers for financial sup-
port to purchase the TLMs, (b) experienced teachers who
they regarded as mentors, and (c) resource persons. According
to Samuel, sometimes even if one had the money, the prob-
lem was where to get the TLM to buy. William sometimes
depended on the PTA (parent–teacher association) and that
did not work properly. For time management, Bernard
decided to reduce the number of objectives for his lessons to
enable him finish his lessons. To solve the challenge of stu-
dents’ understanding, Asaph did extended periods of expla-
nation and exercises. Edward mixed vernacular with English
to enhance their understanding and proposed that practical
work was necessary for enhancing understanding. For
Bernard, he assigned them research work to enable them to
understand.
For the challenges with the completion of the syllabus,
Bernard made his students responsible for part of the learn-
ing by giving them reading assignments on portions of the
content to be discussed later in class. The fact that the NQTs
generally used their own initiative was because they were not
equipped to handle the problems. They, therefore, devised
their own individual methods as was found by He and Cooper
(2011). That is why one of the reasons given by NQTs in the
literature for having challenges is because teacher prepara-
tion programmes do not prepare them for the real task they
must accomplish (Crebert et al.; Murtonen et al.; Stenström;
Korthagen, Loughran, Russell; Teichler, cited by Liston
et al., 2006; Tynjälä & Heikkinen, 2011). But, in this study,
the NQTs were equipped to some extent for the challenge of
nonavailability of teaching and learning materials. They
might have solved the other problems from their experiences
in their preservice training but that was not found out by this
study. Some of the education courses they studied in preser-
vice training such as the “Principle and Practice of Education”
deals with some of their challenges such as “discipline.” The
fact that NQTs tend to struggle on their own is supported by
Tynjälä and Heikkinen (2011).
Conclusion
The NQTs face the following challenges: (a) lack of resources
for teaching and learning, (b) time management, (c) defi-
ciency in content knowledge, (d) their students’ inability to
understand the lessons taught, (e) student indiscipline, (f)
lack of their students’ interest in science, and (g) inability to
complete the integrated science syllabus. The challenge of
lack of resources and deficiency in content knowledge cut
across all the NQTs.
The NQTs are not able to solve all the challenges they
face. With some few of them, they struggled in consonance
with Tynjälä et al. (2011) but for most of them, they devised
survival skills (He & Cooper, 2011; Secret Teacher, 2012).
For the teaching and learning resources, they solved only
Boakye and Ampiah 9
the TLM aspect to some extent by improvising the ones
they could.
Implications
Although the study used only five cases and only one college
and ideally it should not be generalized to all NQTs of the
science colleges of education, nonetheless, the study pro-
vides important considerations that may be useful for equip-
ping teacher trainees in all the science colleges of education
in Ghana with the possible challenges they may face in
teaching science at the JHS level and how to handle them.
Besides, the fact that teachers face challenges is a reality
(French, 2004; He & Cooper, 2011; Liston et al., 2006;
MacMahon, 2006; Mckenzie, 2005; Özturk, 2008; Senom
et al., 2013; Sunde & Ulvik, 2014; Wang et al., 2008; Watson,
2006; Windschitl et al., 2010).
For the lack of TLMs that the NQTs encountered, it is a
well-known fact that in Ghana, TLMs are not generally
available for teaching science at the primary and JHS lev-
els (Adu-Gyamfi, 2014; The Gamelian World, 2014). This
is why improvisation of science equipment is factored into
their preservice training. Considering the fact that the
NQTs’ challenges with TLMs also include things they can-
not improvise a situation that may be common at the JHS
level in Ghanaian basic schools, there may be the need to
investigate resource availability for teaching science at the
JHS level, and if found to be inadequate, the ones that can-
not be improvised should be supplied. There may also be
the need to factor into the preservice training of JHS sci-
ence teachers the sources (universities, senior secondary
schools, and science resource centers) of some of the
equipment/materials they need, so that they can avail
themselves of them.
Although the NQTs tried to survive in the face of most of
their challenges, by devising their own strategies which is
good, there may be the need to generally equip JHS preser-
vice science teachers to face the challenges they will meet in
the teaching and learning situation. There may not be similar
challenges as was found in this study. But the fact remains
that they may face challenges. This can be done in the fol-
lowing ways:
1. By giving them experiences in the preservice pro-
gramme, that will equip them with the skills of seek-
ing answers to difficult problems of teaching and
learning. This means that in addition to providing
them access to more knowledge, teacher educators
should help them to continually access knowledge
and to inquire into their work as was suggested by
Zeichner and Liston (1996).
2. The preservice teachers can also be equipped with
research and also collaboration skills in their training
so that they can adapt and also learn from each other
as was suggested by Darling-Hammond (2006).
3. The preservice teachers can be trained to handle spe-
cific issues in context instead of just learning about
them (He & Cooper, 2011) so that they have the real
experience of the challenges. That will help them to
cope if they happen to meet similar challenges.
4. Induction programmes can also be used to equip
NQTs of the science colleges of education with the
skills to survive their first years of teaching
(Council on Alberta Teaching Standards, 2008;
Keogh et al., cited by Tynjälä & Heikkinen, 2011;
Wang et al., 2008).
The fact that the NQTs were handicapped with respect to
science content knowledge, which may also be true for this
category of teachers because they were trained in similar
institutions and may have similar backgrounds, it may be
proper for them to be given inservice training periodically to
fill the gaps in their science content knowledge.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author-
ship, and/or publication of this article.
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Author Biographies
Cecilia Boakye is a senior lecturer of science education. She is at
the Institute of Education, University of Cape Coast.
Joseph Ghartey Ampiah is a science educationist. He is a profes-
sor and the current vice chancellor of the University of Cape Coast.
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For novice EFL lecturers, the early years of teaching are quite challenging, as what they find ‘ideal’ in pre-service education is different from the realities of the classroom. The unfamiliar curriculum, limited supports from institutions, and socialization issues are general challenges for new lecturers. This study aimed to explore the voices of novice EFL Indonesian lecturers about the challenges faced and the strategies used in their early teaching experience. In this qualitative case study, the data were collected through interviews with four participants (novice EFL Indonesian lecturers). This study found that there were two major challenges that novice EFL lecturers faced in their early teaching experience, namely student-related challenges (students’ low proficiency in English, students’ negative learning attitude, students’ low critical thinking) and institution-related challenges (unavailability of suitable syllabus and high demand of the university to the teachers). In responding to student-related challenges, novice EFL lecturers employed some strategies such as grouping students into mixed-ability groups, adjusting the materials to the student’s level of proficiency, setting rules and consequences with students, and designing activities that promote critical thinking. In coping with institution-related challenges, these teachers collaborate with other English lecturers to develop a module and they consult with their coordinators to navigate the situation.
... Vast literature points to the conclusion that NQTs have varied challenges for which they are not equipped, and some of them struggle through their first few years. In view of this, teacher educators have advocated that NQTs should be equipped to handle some of the challenges during the pre-service programme (Boakye & Ampiah, 2017;Banja, 2016;Mulenga, 2015). Accordingly, in this chapter challenges are discussed along with what the ideal situation ought to be considering that these challenges often prohibit NQTs from performing their duties as teachers to the best of their abilities ...
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This book covers a critical issue in teacher development-the step between being a ‘trainee teacher’ and a competent professional. It makes an invaluable contribution to academic discourse by presenting one of the most topical but sometimes most ignored issue in education. This book proposes that newly qualified teachers move from initial teacher education to orientation through to mentorship and then ultimately continuous professional development. This is premised on the understanding that a full understanding of the interconnected factors affecting newly qualified teachers (NQTs) need to be tackled in a holistic manner. The book, therefore, proposes an all-inclusive framework that builds on the different elements of an all-encompassing solution. In doing this the first step is defining the problem that requires solving. The book presents a very strong argument in support of mentorship of newly qualified teachers in schools by pointing out the gaps between practice in schools and what is taught and learnt in teachers’ colleges/ universities. The book highlights the holistic nature of the benefits of a culture of mentoring and points out the need to train mentors. It covers pertinent issues such as teacher education and teacher competence. At the centre of the book is a discussion of the challenges NQTs face in their new work places (schools) and what school support systems are in place for them. This book is anchored on the principle of contributing to the improvement of quality in education through raising standards in the quality of teaching of newly qualified teachers. It describes and analyses the situation of NQTs in Zambia and compares this with other African countries. Although the issues discussed in this book concern teachers across the education spectrum, the current discussion focuses on the newly qualified secondary school teacher. The discussion is backed by comprehensive references to relevant and expansive literature. The book is critical and analytic rather than merely descriptive, with relevant and appropriate supporting, country specific content and context and illustrations drawn from numerous countries across the African continent. Voices of mentees have been included to draw in the reader and help to connect them to the text and help them to see how ideas might become enacted in different contexts as a way of moving the practice of mentoring forward. Finally, with a deliberate leaning towards the practical implications of the issues raised, the book offers plausible solutions for teacher education. It must be emphasized that this book is not intended as a prescriptive manual, but as a guide interrogating policies, models, structures, and processes relative to newly qualified teachers. I hope that this book will prove helpful to all stakeholders as they interact with its contents. Lastly, this book provides special appeal to students of education, educationalists, policy makers and general readers concerned about what teachers learn during their education and how they practice it in the school and classroom. This book should be of interest to Teaching Service Commissions, Professional Teacher Associations, Regulatory Teacher Bodies, Teacher Unions and similar entities. While several country-specifc examples have been given throughout the text, much of the discussion takes a non-country format. It discusses the place of newly qualified teachers within the context of different but highly similar education systems in Africa. Citation Banja, M.K. (2022). Support systems for newly qualified teachers in Africa: policies, practices, challenges and future trends. Lusaka: Marvel publishers
... It can be implied that the objectives of science curriculum are exquisitely planned as to content and purpose for the learners however, the time for lesson delivery can be considered for improvement by curriculum planners. Boakye and Ampiah in 2017 enumerated the top seven challenges encountered by newly qualified science teachers in the Central Region of Ghana, which included time management [6]. If this is observed by the newly hired teachers, it is also likely to be experienced by experienced teachers. ...
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... This result is supported by the research conducted by Tatar, Tüysüz, Tosun, and İlhan (2016) which cited the Science curriculum as the major cause of poor achievement in the subject, indicating that the science curriculum may be quite difficult or has been structured in a way which makes the subject a difficult one. Also, Boakye and Ampiah (2017) intimated that some teachers were not able to complete the Science syllabus and, as a result, students may find it difficult to answer questions in the areas which were not covered by the teachers. ...
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Determining and understanding the challenges faced by new teachers and their corresponding support needs is a major issue for policy development and for addressing quality issues that many educational systems face. "How well are new teachers equipped to face the challenges they encounter in the classroom and achieve their school tasks/activities?" is the research question of this paper. The analysis uses TALIS data and the results constitute the first step of an on-going research project on new teachers and teacher education and training. The paper provides descriptive statistics related to 1) The new teachers and their activities in the classroom and in the school, 2) The challenges they face and the support mechanisms they benefit from, and 3) The new teachers' perception of their working environment. When relevant, the results will be discussed in light of the similarities and differences between the new and the more experienced teachers.
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One of the critiques of professional preparation cited in this volume is that teacher education courses offered at universities are "not relevant to what is happening in schools." This may be a generous assessment. More fundamentally, we are not sure what gets taught during teacher preparation, only that it varies dramatically from one institution to the next, depending largely on the personal experiences and worldviews of the instructors. In this chapter we take a practice-based view to this issue, arguing the following: 1) Current preparation of teachers, especially in the area of teaching methods, is uninformed by knowledge of how young people learn or how novice teachers learn to teach. 2) There are no commonly acknowledged sets of K-12 instructional practices in the various subject matters that the field of teacher preparation would consider "core" to the success of new educators. 3) If a set of subject-specific high-leverage practices could be articulated and taught in teacher preparation, the broader teacher education community could collectively refine these practices as well as tools and other resources that support their development in various classroom contexts. 4) Without an identifiable set of core practices to anchor instruction by both teacher educators and beginning teachers, improvement in instruction will continue to be isolated, individual, and haphazard. Part of the solution is to bring current research to bear on the development of practices that all aspiring educators in the various subject matter areas can become proficient in-a recognizable beginner's repertoire. This set of practices would be grounded in important learning goals for K-12 students, the literature on how students learn, and emerging longitudinal research about how novices learn the craft of teaching. This effort would be part of a larger agenda that of developing a science of performance improvement for early career educators. By this we mean an evidenceinformed system of learning opportunities, tools, and formative assessments tailored to the needs of teaching novices, that can support continuous movement towards effective and equitable classroom practice. From the standpoint of teacher education, the foundations for this endeavor would include defining a set of instructional practices that are fundamental to support student learning, and that can be taught, learned, and implemented by those entering the profession. The following story of our work with teachers over the past five years is focused on such practices in secondary science, but the lessons learned are easily translatable to other subject matter areas.