Original Research

Exploring Senior Phase teachers’ competencies in supporting learners with specific learning difficulties: Implications for inclusive education

Mubi F. Mavuso
African Journal of Disability | Vol 11 | a901 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v11i0.901 | © 2022 Mubi F. Mavuso | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 June 2021 | Published: 31 August 2022

About the author(s)

Mubi F. Mavuso, Department of Psychology of Education, School of Educational Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: Teaching learners with specific learning difficulties requires competent teachers who can provide learning support. Competencies such as identifying learning difficulties, assessing learners, designing interventions such as curriculum differentiation and facilitating referral systems are crucial. However, Senior Phase teachers in South Africa seem to be challenged when it comes to providing learning support. Consequently, learners do not meet the desired learning outcomes.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to explore Senior Phase teachers’ competencies in supporting learners with specific learning difficulties in four mainstream schools.

Methods: A qualitative research approach and phenomenological research design were used. Eighteen teachers who were members of the school-based support teams, including learning support educators, were selected through purposive sampling. Data were collected through individual and focus group interviews, the analysis of support forms and field notes. A thematic data analysis was used to generate findings.

Results: The thematic data analysis revealed discrepancies relating to participants’ competencies in identifying language difficulties, short-term memory problems and contextual barriers. Also, participants differed in collaborating with peers, social workers, and the district-based support teams. Furthermore, some participants were able to design intervention programmes and facilitate internal and external referral processes.

Conclusion: The study concludes that teachers have different competencies in providing learning support. Therefore, the Department of Basic Education should provide a clear practical learning support strategy in the Senior Phase mainstream schools as well as continuous professional development for teachers couple with monitoring.

Contribution: It is envisioned that the study will contribute to understanding teachers’ competences in providing learning support for learners with specific learning difficulties in the senior phase. The study advocates for collaborative continuous professional teacher development focusing on interventions programmes to support learners with specific learning difficulties in the mainstream schools.


learning support; specific learning difficulties; teacher competencies; inclusive education; barriers to learning.


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