Original Research

Do student teachers see what learners see? – Avoiding instructional dissonance when designing worksheets

Rinelle Evans, Ailie Cleghorn
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 12, No 1 | a1015 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v12i1.1015 | © 2022 Rinelle Evans, Ailie Cleghorn | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 April 2021 | Published: 18 February 2022

About the author(s)

Rinelle Evans, Department of Humanities Education, Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Ailie Cleghorn, Department of Education, Faculty of Arts and Science, Concordia University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

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Background: The judicious use of worksheets ought to contribute to the establishment of literacy, with a special significance for multilingual classrooms where neither teachers nor learners are mother tongue speakers of the instructional language. Disparity between the pedagogical intention of the worksheet and learners’ interpretation of the message often creates instructional dissonance.

Aim and setting: The aim of this nested study was to establish the quality, and (mis)use of worksheets as implemented by student teachers during their work-integrated learning stint in selected urban South African primary schools.

Design and methodology: Using a self-designed grid, a qualitative document analysis underpinned by visual ethnography was conducted on 45 worksheets. These texts were prepared by the student teachers for literacy, numeracy and life skills lessons offered to 6- to 9-year-olds. Criteria used for the simple analysis included appropriateness for the age group, visual complexity, accuracy of language use, cultural compatibility, layout, clarity of instructions and alignment with expected learning outcomes.

Findings: Findings suggested the hasty conceptualisation and creation, or inappropriate choice of worksheets used as learning support material. Apart from linguistic barriers because of poorly formulated tasks, the worksheets were generally culturally insensitive, and contained grammatical inaccuracies compounded by technical and design shortcomings. These lacunae defeated the pedagogical purpose of most worksheets and generated instructional dissonance.

Conclusion and implications for teacher education: The careful crafting and implementation of worksheets coupled with sound content knowledge of language and literacy principles would alleviate learner bafflement and enhance the learning opportunity. We take the position that well-designed worksheets should serve a focused purpose and link directly to literacy and learning of the instructional language.


cultural sensitivity; foundation phase; instructional dissonance; learning support materials; worksheets


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