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UWC “Scholarship of teaching and learning” colloquium

I presented at the UWC scholarship of teaching and learning colloquium last week. Here is the presentation I gave, which is essentially a progress report of my PhD research project. I posted my own presentation a few days ago and here are the notes I took during the colloquium.

Can universities be caring? A meditation on equality (Prof. Joan Tronto)

How can a hierarchical organization (a university) create a democratic society?

“The ignorant schoolmaster” by Jacques Ranciere (Stanford University Press)

All humans share the same capacity for intelligence (even as they all have different wills to learn): sometimes students will learn nothing

What does it mean for teaching to begin from the assumption that all students are capable of learning at the highest level?

“The master always keeps a piece of learning – that is to say, a piece of the students ignorance- up his sleeve”. Must learning always be “one step behind” the stultifying master?

Nel Noddings – The challenge to care in schools: an alternative approach to education

Caring should be viewed as a species activity that we do to maintain, continue, and repair our “world” so that we may live in it as well as possible. That “world” includes our bodies, our selves and our environment.

5 phases of care:

  • Caring about (attentiveness)
  • Caring for (responsibility)
  • Care giving (competence)
  • Care receiving (responsiveness)
  • Caring with (trust and solidarity)

“Virtuous” circles in society, as opposed to “vicious” circles

Implications for analysis:

  • Defining needs
  • Allocating responsibilities
  • Exploring relationships of power

Care posits that what makes people equal is their vulnerability in needing care, and their ability to care for themselves and others

How would universities be different if we took this account of equality seriously? Get the presentation from Vivienne)

Neoliberalism: let the market solve the problem. This (falsely) assumes that people can make “correct” choices and are all equally able to make those choices

“Accountability” – Who is asking? To meet what needs?

Measures the value of education only in individual terms

To whom should the “educated” be responsible? Who is the “community”? What are the hidden meanings of community?

The degree is seen as a necessary “credential”, but is it enough? Is it encouraging shallow learning? Students want a degree, but we have to work hard to convince them that what they need is an education.

The Roman Republic was “enabled by its greatness to sustain the shortcomings of its generals and magistrates”…the same is true of institutions

“Institutionalism does not imagine a better future but one that will exactly replicate the present”

Are teachers and students on the same page, they have different ideas about what the university should be doing? Are they all pursuing the purposes?

Everyone agrees that the purpose of college education is to advance critical thinking, but studies have demonstrated that students graduating from American colleges have limited abilities to think critically.

“The disengagement compact”: “You leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone”

“Student-centered learning vs. faculty expectations about what students should know

Students think of universities as a set of games and rules that are set up to benefit the institution, and that they just need to play the game in order to get the degree

Is it enough to judge that a student has worked

If we hope for more democratic institutions, we must also hope for more democratic caring within universities

Institutional teaching and learning interventions at UWC: a capabilities perspective (Prof.Vivienne Bozalek and Dr. Arona Dyson)

The dangers of academic development being seen as “colonization”, with specialists coming in to “bring enlightenment” to academics

Trying to mainstream expertise in T&L

In order to lead a good life and flourish, persons need resources that best suit their particular context-specific circumstances

What are the valued functionings for higher educators see viviennes presentation for other details

“The course I was teaching was not just about learning physics. It’s about learning to think like a physicist and seeing the world as a physicist”. It’s not about decontextualised knowledge (see if this idea can fit into “Theory” article)

“Make things more visible and more conscious”

Analysing the professional development of teaching and learning at UWC from a political ethics of care perspective (Wendy McMillan, Delia Marshall, Melvyn November, Toni Sylvester, Andre Daniels & Vivienne Bozalek)

“When we slip into transmission mode, we are clearly not being attentive to, nor do we care about, the needs of students”

Responsibility goes beyond duty and formal obligation. We have a responsibility to students, yet too often we see it as a duty or an obligation.

Need to ask who is responsible and who should be responsible for meeting needs.

Trust is essential in faculty development, and is linked to hope

In order to be attentive to the needs of others, we must be attentive to our own needs

Be sensitive to the context

It’s important to recognize the fact that time is needed to really engage with the concept of caring in teaching and learning

Universities can be seen as cold and uncaring places, so there is a space for an Ethic of care approach

The integration of student development and academic learning: A case study (Birgit Schreiber)

The student is seen as a homogenous, passive recipient, rather than a heterogeneous, active participant

Traditional programmes are rigid and unyielding

Remediation and medical-deficit model has prevailed

Critique of “working in the gap”:

  • Underpreparedness is remedied by short-term interventions
  • Students can be “upskilled”
  • Neglect of epistemological challenges
  • Preserve the status quo

“cognitive and affective dimensions are related parts of one process”

Meaning making is related to self-authorship; the self as a cohesive construct (Astin, 1977)

Learning is a broad process across cognitive, affective and social domains I.e. it is synergistic and complex

Stress and Motivation are significant predictors of academic performance

Think differently about failing…look at it as a way of identifying what you need to do differently in order to pass

Individuals in small groups saw other members as resources, groups were perceived as supportive and normalizing

The introduction of a compulsory module as an intervention to facilitate success for science students at UWC (Judith Jürgens)

First year students display (CHED, Ian Scott):

  • Weak literacy skills
  • Poor work ethic
  • Lack of cultural and epistemological capital of “first-degree-in-the-family” students
  • No understanding of holistic learning
  • Limited study skills, other than memorization
  • Emotional immaturity
  • Lack of inspiration to become an intellectual

Development of personal responsibility for learning, civic responsibility and environmental awareness as scientists

Facilitators of learning, rather than tutors of content

Formative assessment of competencies based on student-chosen evidence and justification in portfolios

Conscious development of familiarity with the language of potential attributes and skills

Careful alignment between streams and cross referencing to avoid fragmented learning

Facilitators encourage self-determination while modeling scientific writing, thinking and behavior

Think of students as less experienced colleagues

Are students responsibilities overt and explicit? Do they understand that they will be accountable to those responsibilities?

Assignments alternate between individual performance and collaborative projects

Assessments are “open book”

Module is resource intensive (people, logistics / venues, infrastructure)

Using appreciative inquiry to develop a faculty development programme around integrating research into teaching: defining the process (Jose Frantz, Anthea Rhoda & Jo-Celene De Jongh)

To what extent are we encouraging academics to become scholars?

Challenge of integrating research, teaching and learning, and community engagement

Appreciative inquiry:

  • Define
  • Discover
  • Dream
  • Design
  • Drive

Faculty development in this context was about changing the mindset of academics

Attrition was a problem, as people dropped out at each stage of the process

Finding time to mentor the process is a challenge

How do you make sure that the change is sustained?

Authentic learning at UWC: Using emerging technologies to promote innovation in teaching and learning (Kathy Watters & Vivienne Bozalek)

“Learners need to be engaged in an inventive and realistic task that provides opportunities for complex, collaborative activities” – Herrington

Elements of authentic learning:

  • Authentic context (avoid oversimplifying the context; preserve the complexity of the environment; immersive 3D environment) -> “flow”
  • Access to expert performances and modeling of processes
  • Make use of multiple perspectives
  • Collaborative construction of knowledge (rewards based on performance of the group; success cannot be achieved other than through working collaboratively)
  • Opportunity for students to articulate their understanding
  • Coaching and scaffolding (moving through the ZPD with guidance from MKO)
  • Assessment must also be authentic

“Pedagogy of discomfort”

Authentic activities should be ill-defined

“Inert learning” remains inert, which is why learning needs to be active

Enhancing student learning in a first year accounting module at UWC via the use of ‘clicking’ (Ronald Arendse & Judith Jürgens)

Risk for lecturers – fear of the unknown and lack of expertise, also not being in control of the technology (if the lecturer is uncomfortable, students may respond to that)

When there is non-participation in class, lecturers assume lack of ability. Clickers increase participation in class by removing the usual barriers (provide anonymity, therefore safety). Student: “Putting up your hand in class is kind of dangerous, both socially and academically”


  • Technical issues
  • Familiarity takes time
  • Writing effective multiple choice questions is time consuming
  • Bases for student errors are not always obvious
  • Class wide discussion is difficult to manage

Moving away from clickers (expensive to initially set up), MXit currently working with university to develop platform for online testing

By Michael Rowe

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm interested in technology, education and healthcare and look for places where these things meet.