Science Student Teachers’ Challenges and Coping Strategies in an Open and Distance Learning Environment in Zimbabwe
A Zimbabwean university recently introduced a Virtual and Open
Distance Learning (VODL) programme to train science teachers to deal with the critical shortage of science teachers in one province. Thirty percent of the students withdrew from the programme within the first year. The study sought to determine the students’ coping strategies for challenges experienced by the seventy percent who remained in the programme. Questionnaires and focus group discussions were used to collect information from a random sample of 98 students. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics while responses from the focus group discussions and open-ended questions were manually coded, interpreted and merged into themes. Results indicated that students faced financial problems, inadequate resources and overwhelming material intended to be covered in a relatively short period of time. Though the majority of the students have a commitment to attain a professional teaching qualification, a significant number have not developed effective coping strategies. To reduce the attrition rate of the programme, the institution needs to develop a robust learner support system, invest in training lecturers in ODL methodologies and intensify involvement of the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture in the programme.
Keywords: ODL; Teacher training; Science education.
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