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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


Attendance of e-learning colloquium

I attended the first few presentations of an e-learning colloquium on campus last Tuesday. Here are a few short notes I took during the short time I was there.

Begin a section of work with a short test to evaluate pre-intervention knowledge. The questions should be aligned with important content from the module. This will identify for students the areas that they need to focus on during the module. Following up with the same short test after the intervention allows you to evaluate immediately following the lesson / module whether or not students understood the main concepts.

Make sure that this isn’t seen by students as “busy work” i.e. something we want them to do that’s meaningless.

Sometimes “e-learning” seems to be be about moving content online. Even if it is interactive content, does it change behaviour, or do students use the same learning techniques they would use with offline content? I think that often “e-learning” for many teachers means using a computer and the internet to do the same thing they’ve always done i.e. there’s no change in practice.

Less than half of dentistry students accessed the e-learning site that staff spent ages creating. 4th year students would go if it was useful for exams, to get notes, curiosity. 5th year students see opportunity for advanced learning. Big disconnect between 4th and 5th year students in terms of how they see / perceive the service.

Students wanted to see more clinical cases on the e-learning site. Dentistry uses OSCEs (maybe we should contact them to discuss our implementation next year). Students also wanted mock tests with memos (seems like a good idea, but most participants thought that this was paramount to giving students the tests and answers)

Suggestions to ban access to social networks, as it slows down the servers. Evidence of a lack of understanding on the part of academics as to the value of incorporating a social component to the teaching and learning process?

Including new teaching techniques requires a change in student mindset. This needs to start in 1st year.

conference research

Innovative practices in education (colloquium)

Last week I attended a teaching and learning colloquium at Granger Bay, near the Waterfront. It was organised to showcase some of the teaching practices being used at the 4 teaching institutions in the Western Cape. I was fortunate to be invited to present one of the keynotes on Friday morning and since I’ve been thinking about PLE’s lately, that was the focus of my talk. Below you can see the graphical notes taken by Ian Barbour of the 2 keynotes of the conference.

[nggallery id=25]

Here are my notes from the 2 days.

Innovation through foundational provision and extended programmes: future trends, threats and opportunities (Professor Ian Scott)

It can’t go on with us doing “more of the same”.

Higher education is elitist, with a tiny proportion of the population being recycled through the system.

We are moving towards mass participation, with all the associated problems that this brings

Innovation = taking new approaches, doing things differently from the mainstream (creative solutions to problems)

The main difference between HEI that do well and those that don’t, is the attention of the institution (Carey, 2008). There is effort and professional accountability, systemic enquiry and research

Success = developing strong foundations and completing the qualification well. Not just about access. It’s dependant on complex issues e.g. teaching and learning approach, affective support, material resources

Future challenges in academic development:

  • Meeting the needs of the majority
  • Low participation and racially skewed
  • Poor and skewed graduation rate after 5 years = 30%
  • Under 5% of black youth succeeding in HE (unsustainable)
  • Makes little sense to continue on our current path, given the above stats

Who should extended programmes serve:

  • Mainstream students who are now failing or are dropping out for learning-related reasons
  • The majority of students who are not graduating in regulation time
  • But EP’s are reaching less than 15% of the intake, even though it’s a majority need (how can we justify the status quo?)

What can be done?

  • Extend the reach of EP’s in their present form, with a focus on improvement?
  • Move to a flexible curriculum framework with a 4 year degree as the core?
  • Can foundational provision be successful with limited student number, and if so, what are the limits?
  • How does this sit with the need for expanding the programmes?

If success is dependent on small numbers, we have a big problem

Institutional differentiation: Looked at stratifying HEI’s, but who would end up in the “bottom” levels. Moved towards “reconfiguring the institutional landscape” through mergers. But there is a danger of institutions losing their way, and not sticking to their mission. Is this a distraction from the central goal of producing more, good graduates?


Will differentiation lead to further polarisation of the student intake in terms of educational achievement? Because educational achievement is not potential, and is still polarised along racial, socio-economic lines.

Will there be pressure to remove EP’s from “research” universities? → which will result in less funding and educationally disadvantaged institutions becoming the “new mainstream”

Are these bad things?

To what extent can structural change, in itself, make a difference? Are there any alternatives?

Building student confidence through a class conference in an extended curriculum programme (Maryke Meerkotter)

Some students are resistant to the concept of evolution (in biology)!

Initially, 45 students split into groups and given topics for poster presentation. But it was too open.

Next year had more specific guidelines, with more focused topic (53 students), and individual talks about their own poster

This year, conference was very specific. 87 students, so much more structure was needed i.e. specific mammals were assigned to individual students. Questions had to be answered to prevent cut and paste.

Initial intent:

  • Relieve lecture stress
  • Students to engage with “irrelevant” content
  • Raise awareness of importance of course content
  • Allowed students to take ownership of the content, especially when assigned individual animals
  • Practice oral presentation
  • Exposed to poster making skills
  • To have fun trying something new

Initial scepticism and advice:

  • Doubt that it would succeed
  • Too much unnecessary work
  • Needs a good relationship with class, as lecturer should be confident that students can perform
  • Some envisioned chaos, so needed clear guidelines
  • Some advised no rewards, but students appreciated being acknowledged

Setting guidelines:

  • Holiday assignment
  • Written and verbal communication of assignment tasks
  • Guidelines about poster and oral presentations
  • “Computer literacy” = Powerpoint
  • Specific questions needed to answer in poster and presentation
  • Lecturer created a poster as an example, in subsequent years take the best examples of previous years
  • Provided rubrics for evaluation
  • Minimum requirements for posters, and not part of evaluation, so students who could afford more weren’t advantaged


  • Oral presentations marked by lecturer and teaching assistant (reliability)
  • Audience tested at the end of each session (to ensure attendance of non-presenting students)
  • Posters were peer marked, using similar content as the marking group (each student marked 3 other posters anonymously)


  • Assignment of topics
  • Find space for posters to be displayed
  • Due dates for posters to be mounted
  • Loading of oral presentations prior to talks (use email, caution with flash drives, time constraints)
  • Lecturer needs to listen and mark at the same time
  • Students were assigned posters to mark to avoid students marking their friends work

Empowers students to take ownership of course content, especially the “boring” courses. Recommended for small classes

Introducing concept mapping as a learning tool in Life Sciences (Suzanne Short and Judith Jurgens)

A lot of diversity in the course, in terms of student population

Some of the problems:

  • The gap between school and university
  • Testing of concepts reveals confusion
  • Basic concept knowledge is inadequate, lecturers want to make assumptions about what students come into the course with
  • Poor literacy levels for required university levels
  • Low levels of student success
  • Low pass rates
  • Unable to manage the large volume of content
  • Textbook content is “unfriendly”, not contextually relevant, language is inaccessible
  • Poor integration of knowledge
  • Don’t see how biology fits into scientific study
  • Don’t apply knowledge and strategies from other subjects, concepts are compartmentalised

Hay, Kinchin and Lygo-Baker (2008). Making learning happen: the role of concept mapping in higher education.

Concept map: an organising tool using labels to explain the relationship between concepts, the links making propositional statements of understanding. Can be interesting to see how different “experts” in the course see it differently. We need to first negotiate our shared understanding of the course before we can expect students to understand it.


  • To “deconstruct” faulty knowledge acquired at school and reconfigure it
  • Better grasp the relationship between all areas of study
  • Empower students with a learning and knowledge construction tool
  • Facilitate better use of the textbook

Don’t rely on one source

Facilitates textbook use:

  • overview of concepts and relationships
  • awareness of learning strategies
  • active use of resources
  • Assists with knowledge construction:
  • identified major concepts and links
  • identified gaps in school learning
  • useful as studying tool
  • knowledge construction can be individualised
  • Enables evaluation of student learning:
  • view of student understanding “at a glance”
  • encourage discussion of concepts and categorisation


  • time consuming
  • high levels of collaboration between staff
  • not all student work visually / spatially
  • takes practice to do well

A genre based approach to teaching literacy in a university bridging course (Taryn Bernard)

How do structure a writing course to develop academic literacy, including other cognitive skills in the first year, among diverse student groups?

Students compartmentalise knowledge and find it hard to integrate into other courses. How can this be addressed?

Students want to feel as if they’re dealing with university-level content, and not high school content


  • Text-type e.g. journal articles, books, essays
  • Abstract, goal orientated and socially recognised way of using language, limited by communicative purpose and formal properties
  • Social code of behaviour established between author and reader
  • “A term used for grouping texts together and representing how writers typically use language to respond to and construct texts for recurring situations”

Students need to be introduced to the “culture” of academic discourse

Genre-based pedagogy:

Student learning is affected not only by prior subject knowledge and by approaches to learning but also by the ability to deal with text genre (Francis & Hallam, 2000). An understanding of generic conventions increases success at university (Hewings & Hewings, 2001).

It’s important to validate prior knowledge, and many don’t see the purpose in academic discourse. Students sometimes feel it’s “too complex”

Quantitative literacy courses for humanities and law (Vera Frith)

UCT recognise information literacy as being an important graduate attribute

Quantitative information must be addressed in the disciplinary context

The more that content is embedded within a real-world context, the better

Students can be confused between focusing on the context, as opposed to the content e.g. placing emphasis on what they should be learning, with the contextual framework being used

The impact of horizontal integration of 2 foundation modules on first years knowledge, attitudes and skills (Martjie van Heusden and Dr. Alwyn Louw)

Earlier introduction to clinical placements have a significant influence on students professional development, especially in communication

Research assignments for first year med. students at SU:

  • Identify conditions
  • describe disorder
  • use correct referencing
  • submit to Turnitin with only 10% similarity allowed

Did knowledge improve? What about attitudes and motivation? Did it transfer to the 2nd year?

Research assignments contributed to improved student attitudes

Saw an improvement in writing and research skills

Assignments promoted self-esteem, increased background knowledge and allowed students to ask informed questions

Foundation matters: issues in a mathematics extended course

Important to be aware that students come into the course with mixed abilities, which affects how they perceive the course

Language support for communication skills of foundation Engineering students at CPUT (Marie-Anne Ogle)

Students ability to study is crippled by their lack of confidence in their ability to speak well


  • Students don’t speak or hear English often
  • School teachers don’t give presentation training
  • Student lack self-esteem / confidence
  • Students don’t have an understanding of their own problems
  • Only 1 language lesson/week in a very crowded timetable


  • Transparent goals
  • Everybody must talk
  • Students choose the subjects they want
  • Intensive reading programmes to support this
  • Students manage their own library
  • Students take over the class towards the end
  • Fun for self-motivation

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” (Ludwig Wittgenstein)

Use of clickers in Engineering teaching (Daniela Gachago and Dr. Mbiya Baudouin)

Useful because:

  • Results are anonymous, instant, recorded for later
  • helps to increase attention span, keeps students focused
  • Every opinion counts, not just the correct one
  • Works well with interactive learning and teaching style
  • Direct feedback about students conceptual understanding

Good feedback tool for students, identifies misconceptions instantly that can be addressed immediately, students also become aware that others have similar problems i.e. they’re not alone

Important to use equipment to stimulate discussion

Mazur sequence (see also this transcript of Mazur presenting on using technology to engage students, as well as this video presentation).

You can forget facts but you cannot forget understanding

Use of clickers must be must be accompanied by discussion

“The more a lecturer talks, the less a student understands”

Students enjoy the experience of using new tools in class, very positive response, but they do need a short introduction


  • System takes time to set up, and technical troubleshooting not always easy
  • Can waste time
  • Questions need to be changed often
  • Type of question asked needs to change
  • Can have “clicker fatigue”

Using clickers as a tool in classroom instruction to facilitate student learning (Mark Herbert)

Focus not on what student don’t know, but what they require to develop into successful practitioners of the discourse

Students exposed to how knowledge is constructed, structured and communicated

Lecturers facilitate student learning

Students must prepare for lectures (but do they?)

Constructive feedback given regularly and as soon as possible

Class attendance improved

Student interaction can stimulate learning. Students will often find the correct answer when discussing among themselves, without lecturer involvement

Student confidence increased as a result of using clickers

Innovative pedagogical practices using technology: my personal journey (Ingrid Mostert)

Blended learning model for ACE in mathematics

Bulk SMS (e.g. Frontline)

Off-campus access can be hampered with slow loading times, different to intranet

Someone else has already solved the problems that I have. The more people who know about my problem, the quicker it’ll get solved.

Moodle has a module for mobile access, which allows students to participate in forum discussions through a mobile interface

Can use mobile tech to conduct surveys. Is there a cost for students? Yes, but it’s minimal relative to SMS

Sharing experiences make the load lighter

Exploring the extent to which clickers enable effective student engagement (Somikazi Deyi, Edwine Simon and Amanda Morris)

Use real world events / contexts to make coursework relevant. What is important to students? Use that as a scaffolding for the course content

Planning is important

Students engage more deeply with complex questions. We should challenge them and raise our expectations of what they’re capable of

Difficult to draw conclusions after one session. Need to follow trends over time

Realise that other people have different perspectives and world views

Try group voting as opposed to individual voting

conference education technology

eLearning colloquium

I attended an eLearning colloquium on campus earlier today, and posted some notes on my site.


E-learning colloquium

This morning I presented an overview of e-learning at a small colloquium at my university.  I didn’t know who would be in the audience so I decided to take a step back and have a look at the e-learning landscape as I see it.  I tried to look briefly at the following:

  • The current generation of students (the so-called Net Generation)
  • Education as it is and why that won’t work
  • Education as it will be and it’s implications for teachers
  • Social media and why it’s important
  • Examples of specific technologies and the implications of using them
  • Challenges faced in e-learning
  • The way forward
  • E-learning in the mobile space

Clearly with such a broad area of discussion, it was difficult to deeply explore each topic.  As I said, this was a broad overview of the e-learning and potential applications in the higher education space.

Download the OpenDocument version here: e-learning_an_overview