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- Volume 27, Issue 1, 2013
South African Journal of Higher Education - Volume 27, Issue 1, 2013
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Volume 27, Issue 1, 2013
South Africa's Achilles' heel and Phoenixian possibilities : reflections on structured underdevelopment and transformation challenges : initiating the debateAuthor M. NkomoSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 5 –23 (2013)More Less
South Africa's education system is teetering on a slippery and dangerous slope. The choice is whether to stay mired in a state of stagnation, camouflaged by a beguiling new vocabulary of change, or to transform a crippling historic legacy through an authentic vision, one fuelled by trenchant, and sustained vigour. The thrust of this article is on the tertiary sector, although, to provide a backdrop, I also refer to the historical poverty of general, pre-university education to explain the enduring effects of a design which has nurtured the debilitating underdevelopment that bedevils the present. The article reflects on the heavy weight of an inheritance that has been transmitted intergenerationally and differentiated through racialised and gendered epistemologies, pedagogies, and curricula; all these are deeply embedded in institutional cultures that are routinely executed by an entrenched staff complement who are socialised with dated attitudes and practices. My reflections are largely informed by the report of the 2008 Ministerial Committee on the Transformation and Social Cohesion and the Elimination of Discrimination in Public Higher Education Institution (MCHET). Through identifying emergent trends, I ponder on some nascent trends that could lead to a meaningful and inclusive transformation, one with benefits accruing not only to small segments but to the whole of South African society.
Intellectual wellness behaviour levels of managers at two South African higher education institutionsAuthor P.A. BothaSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 24 –41 (2013)More Less
The complex challenges occasioned by transformation and other changes in higher education in South Africa impose significant intellectual demands on managers. This article reports on the results of an investigation into the intellectual wellness levels of managers at two South African higher education institutions (HEIs). The purpose of the study was to determine whether managers at two HEIs in South Africa engage in activities and behaviour that stimulate intellectual development and growth. A survey was conducted among 324 managers at both universities by means of a questionnaire. The study was carried out within the qualitative paradigm, and descriptive and inferential statistical procedures were used to analyse the quantitative data. The Cronbach's alpha of 0.82 showed that the instrument used was reliable for measuring the intellectual wellness behaviour levels of managers. T-tests were conducted to compare the mean scores of four selected managerial groups while a one-way variance analysis (ANOVA) was used to compare the mean scores of three managerial age groups. The combined average score of 84.38 per cent suggested that the managers had high levels of intellectual wellness. A minority number of respondents obtained scores less than 60 per cent, which indicated the need for intellectual wellness development interventions. These managers should engage in specific activities to stimulate their intellectual development and growth, such as keeping themselves informed about social and political issues; learning about scientific discoveries; seeking opportunities to acquire new competencies and skills (e.g., written and verbal, and computer and interpersonal skills) and improving their academic qualifications.
Author S.Y. EssackSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 42 –47 (2013)More Less
Quality teaching and learning is critical to producing high calibre university graduates equipped with the knowledge, skills and values to contribute to the knowledge economy and the economic growth and development of countries while ensuring self-efficacy and personal success. Teaching quality measures and indicators have, however, not enjoyed adequate debate and discourse within the higher education sector, and, as such are largely quantitative and measured by proxy in university ranking systems. Proxy teaching indicators used by the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings were correlated with U-Multirank indicators applicable to the Faculty of Health Sciences for the period 2007-2011, with the faculty considered as a microcosm of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. There were no statistically significant differences in the indicators between years. There were just two significant correlations, viz., the ratio of PhD to Bachelors degrees awarded significantly correlated with throughput from cohort at 95 percent and 99 per cent while the number of PhDs significantly correlated with graduate employment at 90 per cent. Teaching quality measurement by proxy is thus justifiably contested in university rankings. The challenge for university ranking systems is thus: (1) identifying suitable quantitative and qualitative indicators for quality teaching; (2) striking the correct balance between quantitative and qualitative teaching quality indicators; and (3) ensuring that the quantitative/qualitative indicators address both teaching inputs and teaching impact/learning outcomes.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 48 –59 (2013)More Less
With academics struggling to find the balance between research and teaching, there is a need to identify strategies that would assist academics in making the necessary changes to manage their time. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a strength-based change process based on the premise that academics are change agents who possess knowledge and experience that can make a difference. This article proposes an AI methodological framework for an academic development strategy focusing on integrating research into teaching. Currently, few measures exist that focus on assisting academics in incorporating research into their teaching and learning practices. The article aims to describe the strategies used to initiate a process that builds on the positive experiences of academics in teaching in an environment where academics may become overwhelmed when focusing only on barriers. The process described focuses on the aims of the academic development programme at each stage as well as the roles of the participants. The AI approach is a novel framework that can be used to initiate research capacity building among academics.
The relationship among the postgraduate research climate, role clarity and research service quality : exploring the supervisors' and students' perceptionsAuthor K.K. GovenderSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 60 –75 (2013)More Less
Overall, there is little difference between postgraduate (PG) research students and research supervisors in terms of their perceptions, since they differed only in respect of two of the eight items used to measure their role perception, and nine out of 23 items used to measure organisational climate (OC) perceptions. However, with respect to the overall service quality, no significant difference was ascertained between the respondents. By means of structural equation modelling it was ascertained that with respect to PG research students, the OC significantly influences their perception of their role (RC), as well as their perception of the overall PG research service quality (SQUAL). However, in the case of the PG research supervisor, the OC only influences SQUAL, but the results are inconclusive with regard to the association between the PG research supervisors' RC and their perception of the SQUAL.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 76 –92 (2013)More Less
Visual literacy is crucially important in a contemporary society dominated by visual media, yet visual literacy teaching and education has not (yet) achieved sufficient recognition in terms of tertiary education curricula. One criticism against the use of social media technologies is the perceived inability of participants to distinguish between virtual and real worlds. This is the result of an education system that has not given adequate prominence to the development of critical visual literacy, but assumes that students will 'pick up' the necessary competencies along the way. The answer is not to try and resist the new paradigm of a mediated society where the virtual has increasingly taken the place of face-to-face human interaction, but to explore visual technologies in order to design subject-specific taxonomies of learning and appropriate methodologies for the teaching of visual semiotics. In this study poster elicitation was used to analyse data on visual literacy. The data were obtained from narratives written by 89 respondents after studying two posters about visual messaging. The data revealed that visual images do not constitute a universally understandable means of communication that function independently of language.
Author N.F. KirbySource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 93 –110 (2013)More Less
As a researcher with a qualification in the Natural Sciences, (and a teacher on a programme offering students alternative access to university Science studies), I was ill prepared to engage with the philosophical nature of my own studies towards a postgraduate degree in Higher Education. Naively, I came across postpositivism, the emergent, contemporary form of positivism. Amid a wide range of paradigmatic stances, and apparent misunderstandings of positivism in particular, I have been forced to find my own interpretation of postpositivism. This article is the result of these deliberations. Critical realism is found to be a sagacious ontological position to take within postpositivism. Not only is this framework revealed to be a good opportunity to explore anti-dualistic approaches to educational research, but it is a convincing compromise in the context of a Science faculty where the discourse is typically not relativist, and quantitative methods are hegemonic.
Author D.M. LaytonSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 111 –125 (2013)More Less
This article presents the findings of a research project conducted with a group of first-year university students for whom English was an additional language. The study showed that the process of group discussion enabled students to engage with each other's ideas to develop their own arguments. In doing so, they began to 'mimic' academic discourse, moving from what Cummins (1996) terms 'basic interpersonal communication skills' (BICS) in the direction of 'cognitive academic language proficiency' (CALP). The research also found that background texts given prior to discussion helped inform and deepen the talk, allowing students to develop strong positions and to acknowledge opposing viewpoints thus strengthening their written arguments. The article suggests that the development of written academic language in first-year students in South Africa, whose background strongly emphasises an oral tradition, can be enhanced by enabling them to engage in interactive group discussion.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 126 –143 (2013)More Less
The purpose of this study was to investigate fourth-year student teachers' perceptions of their experiences of teaching practice. Although the researchers had targeted all fourth-year students enrolled for the Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree at the Central University of Technology, Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa, only 48 completed and returned the questionnaires. The sample consisted of 26 (54.2%) male and 22 (45.8%) female students. The majority (62.5%) of the students came from the Natural Sciences programme. The study found that with the exception of their placement in schools, the student teachers were satisfied with their preparedness for the experiential training. They were equally satisfied with their school experience; the evaluation of their lessons; and the feedback they received from the evaluation of their lessons. The aspects of teaching where student teachers showed weaknesses were in the use of teaching aids and the use of different assessment techniques. On the whole, their overall confidence in teaching was high. Implications of the findings are indicated in the study.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 144 –161 (2013)More Less
It was common practice in the pre-1994 South Africa that many historical black universities and Further Education and Training (FET) colleges were deeply entangled in ongoing conflict, instability and crisis. The academic and administrative staff was in constant conflict with senior management while councils were also deeply divided among themselves, especially on the issue of governance and management. As a result of political changes in South Africa in 1994, the government proposed that the higher education system should be restructured to address past inequalities. Subsequent investigations into restructuring the education system resulted in a wave of mandated mergers across the sector. The Department of Education (DoE) made provision for the merging of technical colleges by addressing the social structural inequalities manifested through apartheid, and ensuring that limited resources are effectively and efficiently utilized. However, FET mergers introduced a number of organisational changes and dynamics resulting in heightened emotions, fear of job losses, having to move sites, and changes to conditions of service that were unfavourable. Using a questionnaire, this study investigated the perceptions of academic staff on how managers and management teams handled post-merger conflict in the establishment of the Ekurhuleni West College (EWC) for FET which was the result of the mandated merger of six technical colleges. The empirical findings included lack of conflict management skills, poor communication and lack of participative decision-making amongst role-players. The Conflict Resolution Model was developed in order to provide a substantial basis for assisting managers to effectively manage conflict during future FET merging processes, or at newly merged institutions.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 162 –183 (2013)More Less
Using online surveys for research purposes appears to have gained international recognition as a convenient and cost-effective data collection method. The problem is that the extant literature documenting the feasibility of this method in an education research context seems to be deficient. The question that emerges is: 'How feasible are Internet-based online surveys used as data collection instruments for educational research?' In the hope of expanding the scholarship, this article reflects critically on the successes and challenges encountered during the planning, design and activation phases of an online survey. The survey was used to collect data for a large-scale exploratory study with school governance and leadership as its overarching theme. Despite implementation of salient methodological considerations, the relatively low response rate alerts educational researchers to use online surveys as data collection instruments circumspectly.
The experience of using the 'newsflash approach' to democratise teaching, learning and assessment at a South African universitySource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 184 –195 (2013)More Less
In this article, the use of print media in university curricula is considered, in order to help theorise our practice in higher education in South Africa and elsewhere. Furthermore, the potential contribution of such media to the kind of education to which we aspire, is interrogated. Our reflections are based on an assessment of the use of different media (hard copy or web-based content of newspaper articles) in a third-year community development module, at a large contact university in South Africa, over a five-year period. The module focused not on academic literacies per se, but on disciplinary content, work-related skills, and the development of critical thinkers and citizens. We considered Bloom's (1956, amended) taxonomy of learning objectives and activity theory to structure our reflection. It is concluded that the use of popular media can add value to the class learning experience, although there are notable concomitant challenges, which are discussed.
Author T. PitsoSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 196 –208 (2013)More Less
The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) has become a global reality and most universities use it to achieve different objectives which indicate variations in how it is understood, used and encouraged. Some universities view it as the tool for broadening scholarship and thus as additional to established scholarships of discovery, integration and application similar to Boyer's (1990) meaning. Other universities employ SoTL in promotion and tenure while yet others have not engaged it in meaningful ways. This article provides the findings of a year-long study that focused on examining the constitution of SoTL in seven South Africa universities in terms of how it was understood, used and encouraged. Written, oral and episodic accounts were elicited and analysed to illuminate current SoTL standing, value and transformative potential on teaching and learning. Current SoTL conceptions illuminate a researcher-centred SoTL and its impact on teaching and learning practices occupies the backseat.
Author L. RamrathanSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 209 –220 (2013)More Less
Higher education institutions (HEIs) within South Africa, in particular, have experienced a high rate of student dropout within undergraduate programmes. Reasons for such a high dropout rate, as contained in the extant literature suggest that the majority of students drop out because of biographical and financial reasons. The international literature suggests that student dropout is located within the discourse of students' experience of higher education. This article reports on an institutional study on student dropout at a South African HEI with a view to exploring, through a fine-grained analysis, the issues that researchers need to conceptualise when researching student dropout. Through the analysis of data generated by the mixed methods approach, the article presents a conceptual framework for exploring personal, biographical and institutional issues impacting on student dropout. Through this framework, new insights on this phenomenon are illuminated and one such illumination relating to insidious institutional violence is presented.
Governance in Malawian universities : the role of dialectical reasoning and communicative rationalityAuthor L.B. ShawaSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 221 –238 (2013)More Less
Contrary to much research that describes governance problems in African universities within lenses of positivism, this article takes a critical theory approach. Based on insights from in-depth interviews with university administrators, academics and student union leaders, the article reveals tensions among these university actors, which stem from the neopatrimonial aspect of the big-man syndrome. The big-man syndrome poses as the taken-for-granted aspect that facilitates misuse of power among university actors. Thus, the article demonstrates that in Malawian universities most governance problems result from misuse of power among actors facilitated by the big-man syndrome. A proposal is presented for actors to contain the big-man syndrome and allow for democratic governance by employing dialectical reasoning and the Habermasian theory of communicative rationality.
Author C. ViljoenSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 239 –262 (2013)More Less
The aim of this study was to identify whether social support, academic fit, the psychological conditions of meaningfulness and availability, and engagement can predict first-year students' intention to stay on at an educational institution. A quantitative, cross-sectional design was used to achieve the specific research objectives, making use of a convenience sample (N = 304). The measuring instruments were based on the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, the Psychological Conditions Scale, the Academic Fit Scale, the Work Engagement Scale, and the Intention to Leave Scale. The results indicated that social support had direct and indirect effects (via academic fit) on students' intention to stay, as did academic fit, the psychological conditions of meaningfulness and availability, and engagement. The findings of the study emphasise the importance of helping students to fit into the academic environment; choose the right career; and receive sufficient social support to ensure that they stay on at an academic institution and complete their studies.