I had a great conversation with a colleague today, that stemmed from an ongoing discussion we’re having in our department about moving our practical assessments towards an OSCE-type format. We’ve been thinking about standardising on our assessments for a while but have never had dedicated time to work on it…not that we have any now, but we’ve finally realised that it’s important enough to make time. Besides, it’s something I’m particularly interested in as it ties in closely with my PhD research.
Piggy-backing on that conversation, we then started talking about the possibility of a standardised, national physiotherapy core curriculum, developed by lecturers from all departments in the country. We would look at the SAQA outcome levels, as well as HPCSA requirements for the profession, our shared teaching, learning and assessment practices, our content, and anything else related to producing graduates who are physiotherapists, as opposed to people who know about physiotherapy.
I’ve been told that some South African physiotherapy academics (and clinicians) are close-minded control freaks, jealously guarding their own little worlds, who would. But (mostly) I don’t believe that, and if they are, it’s only because the rest of us haven’t made the benefits of sharing clear.
So, a collaborative national core curriculum in physiotherapy is my pipe dream…anyone interested?
Another SAAHE has come and gone and once again, it was an absolute pleasure to attend. The conference was well organised, the presentations were interesting and informative and I think everyone was able to go home having received something of value. I’ll try and share some of my notes and reflections over the course of the next week or so (although I’m going on a faculty academic writing retreat on Monday and will be caught up with that for 3 days).
I have a few suggestions for next years conference organisers (being held at Wits):
Record all the presentations (audio only, to make it less complex), collect all the presentation slides, and together with the accepted abstracts, zip all three and make them available for download as soon as possible after the conference ends. I’m constantly amazed that we aren’t doing everything we can to make sure that all the experiences and innovative practices can’t be accessed by anyone who didn’t attend. Make all delegates aware that their content will be shared in this way, but give them the opportunity to opt out if they prefer not to share.
If possible, provide all attendees with temporary access to the internet. It’s frustrating when you want to tell the world about what’s happening in your little corner and you can’t.
Register a Twitter account (how about “saahe”?) and provide regular updates about how the planning process is going. Use the conference home page to inform visitors on how to follow your updates. You could use it to alert people about abstract submission, which ones have been accepted, dates, etc. This way you’ll regularly keep us informed and hopefully get us excited when the time comes.
These are just a few simple things that might help to raise the profile of the conference and of South African health education in general.
I just read an interesting short article discussing the research priorities of certain South African higher education institutions. While some institutions rank highly and excel in specific areas of research, government does not seem to adequately support these institutions in terms of pushing those research agendas.
With the move towards a more scholarly approach to teaching and learning in higher education, and the concept of research-based learning gaining a foothold in academia, it’s difficult to deny that teaching and research are becoming two sides of the same coin. While there’s still tension between finding time to participate in “pure” research and what is sometimes seen as the tedious task of undergraduate education, it seems that there may be a solution in the form of integrating research and teaching.
Two weeks ago I attended a teaching and learning workshop on campus that was pretty interesting. I just received an email from the coordinator highlighting the following key points that were raised:
- Our students…experience many social problems and this could be regarded as a barrier to their learning.
- As lecturers we have to make active use of the support structures on campus when we are constructing our curricula, which means we have to involve our librarians and the individuals in the Centre for Student Support Services and other support structures on campus in an active
process of collaboration. This could mean that we involve these individuals in meetings, making explicit what we require from them and they will in turn make their expectations and needs explicit.
- Lecturers mentioned that we should consider what we as teachers in higher education could do to improve the teaching and learning on campus rather than focus on the deficits that students have.
- We need to coordinate the academic and support structures on campus so that we can provide a holistic higher education experience to our students.
- The academic programme, support structures and social activities should add value to students’ experiences so that when they graduate they are confident, competent and independent
- We admit students with different language backgrounds and different mother tongues and we should look at ways of using this as a resource.
For me, the main benefit of attending the workshop was finding out just how many resources are available to the students. Whether or not they’ll make use of them is another story 🙂