Explaining, naming and crossing border in Southern African higher education
Prof Piet Naude
This was one of the most challenging presentations I’ve ever listened to. I didn’t agree with a lot of what Prof Naude said, but he made me question my own beliefs and biases.
Ontology: language is the house of reality (language shapes reality)
In political discourse, language precedes actual violent acts. In Rwanda, people called each other “cockroaches”, and it’s much easier to kill a cockroach than to kill a human being.
Crossing interpretive borders in higher education:
- Utilitarianism: views universities as vehicles for the promotion of sectarian interests e.g. religious, political, economic → doctrines dictate the boundaries of science and denies the search for truth without fear nor favour (religious language abundant in university e.g. professor, sabatical, rector). University as a vehicle to continue the doctrine or belief e.g. when universities in South Africa advanced the notion of Apartheid in different fields (biology, politics, religion, etc.). “Truth” would be based on doctrine.
- Scientism: views “real knowledge” on the basis of empiricist, quantitative assumptions and a correspondent theory of truth. Science is the future, Humanities is the past. Some scientists are blind to the social construction of scientific paradigms. Blind to the link between science and the power or use of science. Blind to the complexity of personal and societal development.
- Liberalism: rests on presumed a-contextual and unversalist assumptions about the human person, rationality and knowledge whist actually reflecting post-Enlightenment, Western thinking. “Professional training is vicious”. I think therefore I am vs. ubuntu = I am who I am because of who we all are. “Vicious ideological nature of Western scientific thinking”. Are there non-empirical forms of validation that are equally valid as scientific ones? Are all forms of non-Western knowledge subject to verfication by Western evaluation practices?
If universities don’t exist for the public good, they become playgrounds for the rich. Commercial language can change the direction of education e.g. when a “vice chancellor” becomes a “CEO”
Crossing 5 metaphorical boundaries
- Centre – periphery: where you are born will determine your ability to succeed in the world / geographical (in)justice
- Conceptual – technical / applied (epistemic justice). People who work with their hands are not as “smart” as people who can “think”. In South Africa, we need a greater emphasis on technical / applied knowledge. More colleges, fewer universities.
- Uniformity (globalism) – plurarility (glo-cality) (cultural justice): where everyone wears jeans, watches BBC and speaks English. Emphasise a system where I can function at a global level but remain true to my local context. What is the impact on language / culture of the homogenising effect of university?
- Anthropocentrism – cosmocentric thinking (ecological justice): it’s a problem when science and technology seeks only to improve the lot of human beings at the expense of everything else.
- Past / present – future (noogenic justice): the world is in a mess, we need to prepare students to improve the future. Challenge students to imagine a future that does not exist, and give them the knowledge and skills to create it.
Perceptions of PBL group effectiveness in a diverse pharmacy student population
Study set out to evaluate student perceptions of differences in plenary vs small group work in a PBL context
4th years have better experiences with groups than 3rd years
Some students prepare only what THEY need to present in plenary sessions, whereas small groups mean that students must prepare better and more broadly
Students generally feel that the plenary sessions aren’t a “good way of learning”
Most students agree that working in small groups helps develop tolerance for language and cultural difference
Most students agreed that small group working helped them to work effectively
Cases in small groups helped students to clarify areas of difficulty
PBL seemed to work well across a diverse student group, perceptions were generally positive
Confusing / difficult conceptual work required the development of certain attributes e.g. communication, self-directed learning, tolerance
Some students found the small groupwork sessions frustrating and challening
Groups demand a large investment in time and energy, from students and staff
Problems must be resolved very early on
Continuous monitoring and evaluation of the PBL process is essential
Facilitators must pay regular attention of the changing needs of the students (students change and develop as part of the process, as do their needs, so facilitators must be aware of the changes and change the programme accordingly)
Use the positive benefits of diversity, rather than merely work around it (how can student diversity actually feed into the programme, encourage students to bring themselves into the cases, share their own life experiences in order to enrich the module)
Supporting and enabling PG success: building strategies for empowerment, emotional resilience and conceptual critical work
What are the links between students’ development and experiences: ontology (their sense of being in the world) and epistemology (how they construct knowledge)
Why do students undertake doctorates and what happens during their studies to help / hinder them?
Conceptual threshold crossing (Meyer & Land): the moments when you know that you’re being cleverer than you thought you were 🙂
What can staff do to enhance and safeguard research student wellbeing and nudge conceptual threshold crossing?
Building emotional resilience and wellbeing
Students kept learning journals for a duration of 3 years and included interviews during that period
“Troublesome encounters” (Morris & Wisker, 2011)
Doctoral learning journeys are multi-dimensional:
- Meeting course requirements (instrumental)
- Professional dimension
- Intellectual / cognitive development
- Ontological (how does it change the person?)
- Personal / emotional
How do doctoral students signify their awareness of working conceptually?
How do supervisors recognise students’ conceptual grasp of research (this applies equally well to UGs conceptual grasp of the discipline)
Conceptual crossing is evidenced by:
- Troublesome knowledge
- Movements on from stuck places through liminal spaces into new understanding
- Transformations (Meyer & Land)
Ontological change: seeing the self and the world differently and you can’t go back
Epistemological contribution: making new contributions to understanding and meaning
You have to find your own way, otherwise it’s a mechanistic process
Threshold concepts are:
- Transformative: developing an academic identity
- Irreversible: when you change how you perceive the world, you can’t go back
- Integrative: forming relationships between what seemed previously to be disparate ideas
- Troublesome knowledge: dealing with complexity
Learning moments that may indicate threshold crossings:
- Coming up with research questions
- Determining relationships between existing theory and own work
- Device methods and engage with methods
- Deal with surprises and mistakes
- Analsyse and interpret data
There needs to be a number of conceptual leaps, otherwise the thesis is a box-ticking exercise
Make sure that the doctoral project has boundaries. The work is part of a greater whole, and the more focused the work, the easier it is to define the boundaries
Research is a journey (risks, surprises, deviations, even though it looks mapped), but a thesis is a building (ordered, coherent, organised, linked)
Constructive, intellectually challenging relationships
Student wellbeing is essential for postgraduate success:
There are factors in the learning environment that pose challenges to student wellbeing
What are the wellbeing issues for our research students?
Negative impacts cripples creativity and encourages you to take the path of least resistance, where the project is more about a qualification and less about innovation
Important to switch off from the process and engage in the world in different ways, as a coping strategy when experiencing difficulty
Crossing borders between face-to-face and online learning: the evaluation of an online tutoring initiative
Collaborative learning has as its main feature a structure that encourages students to talk
Created an online module because student numbers increased, shortages of venues and tutors, timetable clashes, changing student profile and needs
Blended approach could help with logistical problems, expose students to a new way of learning, more challenging activities, develop wide variety of skills
Uses Gilly Salmon’s model for teaching and learning online as a point of departure, provides scaffolding to take students through a process of familiarising students with the environment
Students’ perceptions of online components were generally positive. However, students reported challenges with effective textual communication and typing, time management (which seems odd, since blended learning seeks to help with time issues), self-expression, understanding of concepts that are read rather than heard, poor familiarity with computers and the internet → disadvantage, feedback is immediate with face-to-face, relationships → face-to-face is a more personal interaction
Used Community of Inquiry framework to develop good online teaching practices (see Kleimola & Leppisaari, 2008 for breakdown of different “presences”)
- Needs to be agreement about turnaround time for feedback from facilitators
- Purpose of each activity should be clear
- Understand the benefits of the activities
- Must model effective online behaviour
- Communicate expecations clearly
- Promote the mind shift that needs to take place
- Create a non-threatening environment
- Don’t assume students are familiar with the environment
- Explain the role of face-to-face and online activities
Was there integration of online and offline activities? Used real-world examples to develop conversation around activities
Students’ learning satisfaction from a blended learning environment for physiology
What aspects of technology provide benefits / advantages to the learning process. NOT whether technology is inherently good or bad
How collaborative groupwork affects students’ writing
Shena Lamb-du Plessis, Laetitia Radder
Aim was to get the students to write in as many different ways, and as regularly as possible during the course
Used group journal reflections and group progress reports
Peer feedback is valuable when students know from the start that they will be sharing their work with others
Developing a writing identity means pushing students to think for themselves and to imagine themselves as writers
A process of developing and clarifying thoughts by sharing them with an audience
Groupwork can shape the meaning of the work
Group dialogue helped to define / outline the writing requirements
Students felt that personal expression validated their viewpoints
Helped to develop self-confidence when they realised that others shared their experiences
Must introduce conflict management strategies, orient students to role allocation, discuss writing tasks to restructure meaning
Exploring the tension between institutional learning management systems and emergent technologies: staff perspectives at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Daniela Gachago, Eunice Ivala, Agne Chigona
What are “emerging technologies” and can they disrupt teaching practice?
The impact of technologies in education falls short of the rhetoric:
- They are used to support and improve current teaching practices
- Teachers and students use a limited range of technologies
- Used to reproduce existing practice, as opposed to transforming practice
- Supports passive, teacher-centred and didactic instruction
Need to redefine e-learning: “can no longer be viewed as a purely institutionally based or narrowly defined set of activities” (HEFCE paper, 2009, 5). Difficult because institutions are reluctant to give up their power and control
There is a shift of the locus on control:
- Control moves to students and lecturers
- Transfer of authority of knowledge and ownership of technology
Type I technologies replicate existing practices, Type II technologies allow students and lecturers to do things that they couldn’t do before
In complex-adaptive domains, knowledge doesn’t provide prospective predictability but rather, retrospective coherence. Learning should be self-organised and collaborative (Williams, Karousou, Macness, 2011)
“Hard” technologies: constraining and limiting, stifles creativity e.g. LMS
“Soft” technologies: freedom to play
Soft technologies require skill and artistry. It’s not just what you do but how you do it.
Qualities of disruptive technologies (Meyer, 2010):
- Designed to offer options, motivate students, provide connections to the lives, jobs and communities of students
- Capitalise on willingness of students to experiment and fail, to improve, and to keep at problems until solutions are crafted
Laurillard (2002, 141): We’re playing with digital tools but with an approach still born in the transmission model. There is no progress therefore, in how we teach, despite what is possible with the new technology
Laurillard’s conversational framework: there’s no escape from the need for dialogue, there is a constant exchange between teacher and student:
Laurillard (2002). Rethinking university teaching.
No one approach is better than the other. We need to have a mix of approaches to get the maximum benefit of using different tools
“It’s a way of doing life. It’s not about computers. It’s not about mobile learning. It’s just learning – it’s just life”
Analysing teaching and learning at five comprehensive universities
What are the mechanisms in the world that exist in order for us to have the experiences that we do?
Move beyond the statistics of higher education, and ask what must the institution be like in order for this to be (im)possible?
What is the role of Culture (ideas), Structure (process), and Agency (people)?
Most institutions continue to reflect their individual histories as rural/urban, disadvantaged/advantaged, traditional/university of technology. There seemed to be little cohesion in terms of what it means to be a comprehensive university.
Comprehensive universities emphasise the management discourse that focuses on the “complexity to be managed” rather than a “knowledge discourse” i.e. what is knowledge / research, etc.
There are implications for academic identify and research output
“Powerful ways of knowing”
Often students are constructed as deficits i.e. they are deficit in language, life skills, motivation, etc.