Original Research - Special Collection: Life Orientation or Life Disorientation

Courageous conversations in the Life Orientation classroom and teacher vulnerability

Christa Delport de Villiers, Sarina de Jager
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 17, No 1 | a1097 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v17i1.1097 | © 2021 Christa Delport de Villiers, Sarina de Jager | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 May 2021 | Published: 04 November 2021

About the author(s)

Christa Delport de Villiers, Department of Humanities Education, Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Sarina de Jager, Department of Humanities Education, Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


The Independent Education Board (IEB) introduced the need to facilitate critical conversations on controversial topics in the Life Orientation (LO) classroom at the National Conference in 2016. This shifted the focus of discussions to a facilitated critical narrative within IEB Subject Assessment Guidelines (SAGs) topics. This push followed youth activism against systemic racism at educational institutes, which initially created the perception that these conversations related to the socio-political status quo alone. However, the LO curriculum includes a range of topics that require critical narratives. Courageous conversations may trigger cognitive and emotional dissonance in both the teacher and learner. It is, therefore, crucial to interrogate the LO teachers’ lived experiences in facilitating courageous conversations. This study employed individual phenomenological interviews and a focus group discussion. The participants consisted of nine LO teachers from Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and North West province. Each individual interview focused on determining the contexts and the phenomenon of their lived experience of courageous conversations and each participant’s agency in their private capacity as professional educators. The focus group discussion centred around establishing gaps in the motivation, training and skill development of LO teachers to facilitate these conversations. The findings indicate that the courage required of teachers to challenge and be challenged, albeit in a safe environment, results in teacher vulnerability.


courageous conversations; vulnerability; Life Orientation; critical agency, dissonance triggers, autonomy, lived experience, negotiated space.


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