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Nelson Mandela University (NMU) education lecturer Rochelle Thorne’s research for her doctoral degree put the spotlight on the benefits of group work and a pupil’s home language as a resource for learning.


By Roslyn Baatjies 

LONG ROAD: NMU education lecturer Rochelle Thorne

Thorne, 54, said most pupils were taught in English, only to return home and speak another language.

The former Sanctor High and Bethelsdorp Comprehensive School teacher will be capped at the university’s autumn graduation today.

“The learner has to make sense of the content in a second or third language.

“While I was a teacher, I allowed them to use the language they were familiar with.

“My study asks that we allow the learner to use their home language as a resource or tool to assist them in the learning of science,” she said.

Thorne did the data collection for her doctoral studies in grade 9 classes at three northern areas schools. “I collected data through group work, though it can be difficult in our schools, for various reasons, to do group work.

“But my study encourages teachers to see the benefits of group work.

“Learning is a social interaction.

“In my data observation, learners guided and questioned each other; eventually they made sense of the content.

“I observed that when they made sense of the content, they used their home language.

“When they needed to use scientific words, they switched to English.

“By that time, they understood what they were learning,” she said.

Born and raised in Gelvandale before moving to Hillside, the mother of two’s journey in education started after she graduated from Dower College in 1992.

“I could only get a post at Aeroville Secondary School in Somerset East [KwaNojoli] and taught there from 1993 to 1995.

“I then got a post at Arcadia Secondary School in 1996.

“In 2006, I started working in an admin position at Lawson Brown, but I longed to teach again, and in 2009 I got a position at Bethelsdorp Comprehensive School and was later redeployed to Sanctor High.”

During her 23 years of teaching, she taught maths, maths lit, and natural and physical sciences.

In 2016, she started working as a lecturer in the education faculty at NMU.

In 2010, her sister, Renee Ludick, suggested the two of them enrol for honours in education.

“I agreed and while Renee did not continue with the plan to study, I graduated in 2012.”

She went on to obtain her master’s degree in April 2014.

In 2016, she started her doctoral studies, which she completed under Dr Eileen Scheckle.

Thorne said she’d had many challenges along the way, including two major operations, a fractured ankle, the deaths of her nephew and father-in-law, and becoming very ill with Covid-19, but she said she was grateful to her husband, Rodney, and sons ZinZan and Taine-Josh, for their support.

“Rodney is my rock and biggest supporter. I want to thank him and my boys.

“But everything started with my parents, and I am grateful to them for allowing me to study.

“To be a teacher is a lifelong learning practice.

“It is good to develop yourself and broaden your knowledge,” she said.

This article appeared in The Herald on 17 April.

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Ms Elma de Koker
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Tel: 041-504 2160