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- Volume 27, Issue 5, 2013
South African Journal of Higher Education - Volume 27, Issue 5, 2013
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Volume 27, Issue 5, 2013
Towards successful participation in academic writing : what can we learn from assessment? : part 1 : introductory articleSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1071 –1080 (2013)More Less
The main aim of this short introductory article is to provide a context for the three articles that follow. It begins with a brief review of the literature pertinent to student success or failure in the academy. It then moves to a description of the background of a research project which investigated the cognitive and academic literacy demands of formative and summative assessment tasks for first-year students in the Bachelor of Education (BEd) programme at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) School of Education (WSoE).
'I don't understand everything here ... I'm scared' : discontinuities as experienced by first-year education students in their encounters with assessmentSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1081 –1098 (2013)More Less
In this article, the authors examine students' perceptions of the written assessment tasks in a Bachelor of Education (BEd) first-year course. The authors examine the perceptions of 18 students on assessment, and make explicit their understanding of the textual forms appropriate for academic writing. The analysis presented in the article draws on data gathered from three focus-group discussions with 18 first-year students about their experiences of assessment. It shows that behind what appears as a lack of understanding of 'basics', such as referencing rules, lies a misrecognition of the textual forms appropriate for academic writing, in short, of academic criteria. The authors use the notion of discontinuity to describe the difficulty students experience regarding academic writing in comparison to their experiences of school writing. The analysis demonstrates three different discontinuities. Firstly, all the students, but particularly the average and the low-achieving students, experience the requirement to position themselves in relation to knowledge authorities as constraining. Secondly, academic writing foregrounds focus, elaboration and justification, which are criteria that only the high-achieving students in the group understand to be necessary in order to 'know what something is'. Thirdly, in view of their misrecognition of academic criteria (by focusing on content alone rather than on content and form), the average and the low-achieving students struggle to judge their lecturers' feedback on their writing. Conceptually, the discontinuities reflect the gap between the form of writing the students think they need to follow and the textual forms they are expected to produce.
Supporting teacher educator professional learning about assessment : insights from the design and use of a task analysis tool in a first-year BEd programmeSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1099 –1117 (2013)More Less
While there is an extensive literature in the field of professional development for teachers, much less has been researched and written about professional development for teacher educators (Smith 2003). In this article, the authors present and discuss their findings from an assessment research project at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) School of Education (WSoE) which offered opportunities for professional development to teacher educators in a Bachelor of Education (BEd) programme. The research project focussed on first-year assignments and examinations because of concerns about the under-preparedness of many first-year students for the cognitive and academic literacy challenges of university study. The authors present a tool for the analysis of formative and summative assessment tasks and then describe and discuss its use in the analysis of (i) a first-year assignment; and (ii) a first-year examination question. In the concluding section, the authors argue firstly, that the collaborative design and use of the task analysis tool enabled professional learning for teacher educators; and, secondly, that such learning can lead to the adoption of assessment practices that both transmit criteria of knowledge being taught and test students' mastery of these criteria at an appropriate cognitive and academic literacy 'level'.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1118 –1134 (2013)More Less
Debates about the relation between educational theory and teaching practice are embodied in assessment tasks that prompt student teachers to relate theoretical concepts and simulated or directly experienced practice-based contexts in relation to one another. To establish clarity on the ways in which theory and practice can be positioned in relation to one another in application tasks, the authors revisit the debate between Hirst and Carr (2005) about the role of theory in and for education. They analyse examples of assessment tasks according to a typology showing how such tasks demarcate conceptual and contextual objects of study in ways that are more or less visible to students. They argue that the more visibly the concepts are demarcated, the greater the possibilities are for student teachers to develop systematised bodies of educational knowledge that are able to provide organising insights into their developing practice. While the authors concede that there might be valid pedagogical reasons for doing so, they argue that when conceptual objects are less visible to students, the underlying message that is transmitted to students is that educational theory is neither specialised knowledge nor is it distinctively different from their common-sense perspectives. This approach is less likely to promote their acquisition of systematised knowledge for and of practice.
Inducting BEd Hons students into a research culture and the world of research : the case of a Research Methods course in the BEd Hons programme : part 2 : introductory articleSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1135 –1148 (2013)More Less
It has become a policy imperative that the training of future researchers in Education should start at the Honours level. This training presents particular challenges as students entering the Bachelor of Education Honours (BEd Hons) programme have diverse professional backgrounds and personal motivations for pursuing the programme. Moreover, the majority of the students have fairly substantial experience in schools, one of the primary empirical sites for educational research. This diverse student profile yields several challenges in relation to the teaching of a Research Methods course. In this article, the authors reflect on their experiences of offering a BEd Hons course to induct students into research against the traditional, literature-renditioned components which comprise the practice of research in the Social Sciences. Working with the notions of critical aspects and encounters, the authors found that students experience a tension between their desire to solve their identified research problems in a common-sense way and a teaching interaction that moves them to an abstract/theoretical level. In light of this, the authors identify that students experience difficulty with shifting their strong beliefs about knowing the answers (in terms of their research), to notions of doubt. Each of these beliefs marks different academic cultures that respectively refer to, on the one hand, a teaching practice-supervisor and, on the other, a participant observer-inquirer. The depth and richness of their experiences in the former tends to constrain the transition from predetermined answers to a curiosity driven mode.
Sexual harassment : the 'silent killer' of female students at the University of Ayoba in South AfricaSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1149 –1163 (2013)More Less
The current non-experimental study sought to establish the extent to which sexual harassment takes place at the higher education institution (HEI) under investigation, which for reasons of anonymity will be referred to as the University of Ayoba, in South Africa. The research problem of the study was articulated through the following research questions: (1) What is sexual harassment? (2) Does sexual harassment exist at the University of Ayoba? (3) How is sexual harassment handled at the University of Ayoba? The study targeted female fourth-year students in the Faculty of Education. Data were collected by means of a questionnaire and were analysed quantitatively. The findings showed that respondents understand what sexual harassment means. The findings furthermore revealed that sexual harassment is prevalent at the case study university; the biggest problem is evident in students who have had to repeat modules due to their refusing the attentions of sex-seeking lecturers. The results of the study indicated that incidents of sexual harassment are seldom reported adequately by victims, as they would rather be discussed among females. The implications of sexual harassment are discussed and recommendations are made on how to address sexual harassment at HEIs.
Managing diversity in higher education : understanding and tackling ethnic stratification in social comfortSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1164 –1180 (2013)More Less
Drawing on a higher education comparative study of 184 African-American students in the United States (US) and 310 Black South African undergraduate students in South Africa, the authors identify patterns of social comfort in relation to ethnic difference and similarity. Respective groups were administered identical Revised Social Scales. Factor analysis suggested two major categories of social comfort for African-American students, while Black South African students yielded three major emergent groups. A high correlation between these non-intimate and intimate categories was found among the out-group attitudes of African-American students, indicative of similarity in sample group attitude. The converse was found with black students; a low variable correlation indicates high variability in question-answering and low similarity in approach to various social situations with the out-group.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1181 –1196 (2013)More Less
Private higher education institutions (PHEIs) are important role players in the South African higher education (HE) landscape. Unlike their public counterparts, PHEIs receive no financial support from the government. These organisations thus rely on sound strategic management principles to ensure their long-term survival in a competitive industry. Modern marketing philosophy suggests that consumers and the satisfaction of their needs should be the reason for the existence of any organisation and should thus be the main driver for strategic decisions. This warrants the need for PHEIs to gain a thorough understanding of their clients' (students') needs and behaviour. The aim of this study was to determine the relative importance of various factors that influence students in their choice of PHEIs. In addition to an extensive literature study of the HE landscape and its peculiarities, as well as student choice behaviour, a quantitative survey was conducted on 600 full-time students at three PHEIs. It was found that safety and security conditions constituted the most important choice factor amongst the respondents. Comparable to numerous international and local student choice studies, academic reputation and reasonable class fees were consistently identified as being important choice factors. These findings should alert PHEIs to the important factors to be considered in planning student offerings. The study contributes to existing student choice theory, and may serve as a launching pad for future student choice studies at PHEIs.
Author R. DhunpathSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1197 –1212 (2013)More Less
Evaluation studies, especially of South African educational institutions and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) offering educational programmes, have been criticised for focussing inadequately on the ethnographic and anthropological dimensions of organisations. The dominant approaches to evaluation, it is alleged, have been structuralist and empirical-rational in orientation, serving narrow bureaucratic functions for funders and donors, based on self reports by programme participants. One way of resolving the dilemma of unreliable evaluation reports is producing richly contextualised organisational ethnographies which illuminate organisational contexts beyond superficial analyses. What are the potential benefits of an organisational ethnography, and what are the epistemological and ethical implications of such an endeavour? The author attempts to answer these questions by drawing on an organisational ethnography of a South African NGO offering language teacher development programmes, and tracing its mutating identity over three decades. The author uses insights derived from the traditions of empowerment evaluation (Fetterman 1999) and illuminative evaluation (Parlett and Hamilton 1976) as theoretical lenses to appraise the value of narratives in understanding organisational behaviour. Further, he appropriates discourse analysis to interrogate selected narrative data as a methodological lens in organisational analysis, and reflects on his experience of engaging in such a project. In the latter part of the article, the author revisits the methodological wisdom of engaging in an institutional ethnography, highlighting some of the ethical, representational and epistemological dilemmas in negotiating a non-conventional approach. He concludes the article with a brief allusion to the potential value of organisational ethnographies in mediating an emerging performativity driven higher education culture.
Author N. GoughSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1213 –1233 (2013)More Less
Complex systems are open, recursive, organic, nonlinear and emergent. Reconceptualising curriculum, teaching and learning in complexivist terms foregrounds the unpredictable and generative qualities of educational processes, and invites educators to value that which is unexpected and/or beyond their control. Nevertheless, concepts associated with simple systems persist in contemporary discourses of higher education, and continue to inform practices of complexity reduction through which educators and administrators seek predictability and control. I focus here on two specific examples of complexity reduction in higher education, namely, the widespread adoption of 'constructive alignment' as a curriculum design principle and the similarly widespread imperative for teaching to be an 'evidence-based' practice modelled on Western medical science. I argue that a totally 'aligned' curriculum risks being oppressive, but that tactics of deconstructive nonalignment can be deployed to mitigate this risk. I also argue that acknowledging the complexity of higher education should dispose researchers to value multiple and diverse concepts of evidence rather than reduce them to understandings privileged by Western medical science.
Author K.K. GovenderSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1234 –1249 (2013)More Less
Since the examination process is sometimes 'enshrouded in mystery', this article adds to the postgraduate (PG) examination culture by reporting the results of an exploratory study conducted in two phases in the Faculty of Management Studies at a large research university in South Africa. Following an in-depth review of the examiners' reports for a three-year period (2009-2011), an electronic survey was conducted among the examiners of a business faculty at a large research university, who were appointed during the aforementioned period. It became evident from this study that there are variations in terms of the range of requirements. Yet, universally, examiners of doctoral (PhD) theses and master's dissertations strive to achieve the same objectives, namely that the candidate should undertake a substantial and coherent original piece of research worthy of publication. When developing their reports of theses and dissertations, the following themes emerged: literature, technical presentation, content, methodology, which themes are also more or less similar to other international findings. Furthermore, the examiners' perception of a good/poor/passable thesis/dissertation stems from or is linked to 'unpacking' the abovementioned themes. There is also much congruence between the comments in the examiners' reports and what they reported in the survey. The findings, albeit exploratory, can be useful to research supervisors, examiners, and PG research students.
Author C. GrantSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1250 –1263 (2013)More Less
In the context of higher education in South Africa and drawing on the author's experience as a lecturer in two higher education institutions (HEIs), this article presents her attempts to bring together - and into balance - teaching, supervision and research in an endeavour to offer a transformative learning experience for her post graduate students. It does this by foregrounding student assessment in the Master of Education (MEd) degree in the field of Educational Leadership and Management (ELM) where the development of a half thesis, underpinned by research, stands as the evidence of success. The author suggests that the MEd (ELM) degree be conceptualised differently in order that the half thesis be permitted to gestate over a two-year period. Within this conceptualisation, she argues that inspired teaching and meaningful research is best attained through a community of learning approach which seeks to foreground participatory learning, the advancement of scholarly discourse and the development of student agency. Through the use of a case study, the author provides evidence to suggest that a range of authentic assessment strategies which are purposeful and in alignment with the teaching strategies, the content and the intended outcomes of the qualification being taught are essential. She further argues that well-crafted, formative, recursive and sustainable feedback is an essential part of the gestation process.
A concept analysis of quality assurance and quality enhancement in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1264 –1276 (2013)More Less
As quality enhancement is a relatively new concept, there is a need for it to be analysed in the South African higher education context. Traditionally, quality in higher education has always placed an emphasis on quality assurance. This has led to the perception by academics that when measuring performance and quality they just need to comply with the bureaucratic requirements as prescribed by quality standards and criteria. However, if higher education is to benefit from the implementation of quality assurance processes, the emphasis must not be on compliance but rather on enhancement. This article critiques quality enhancement using the Theory of Concept Analysis. Concept analysis is essential because concepts are the building blocks from which theories can be built. Furthermore, analysis is necessary if the concept is to be operationalised. This allows researchers to specify what will result from implementing the concept. When the definition or attributes of a concept are unclear, the ability of the concept to assist in fundamental tasks is greatly impaired. Clarifying quality enhancement will enable higher education institutions (HEIs) and academics to put mechanisms and strategies in place to implement quality enhancement processes. In turn, this will produce a more positive perception of quality by academics.
Author J. NyoniSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1277 –1289 (2013)More Less
This article is a narrative report of the findings from an analysis of multicultural facilitators' discourses on their e-readiness in the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) affordances in open and distance learning (ODL) mediation experiences. Firstly, the findings revealed by qualitative deconstructive discourse analysis (DDA) indicated that the majority of ODL facilitators/instructors lack e-readiness skills that are critical in the effective manipulation of ICT affordances in teaching and learning in ODL environments. Secondly, some facilitators did not fully understand what undergirds ODL pedagogy, principles and practices. The institution's academic lecturers are periodically given e-training but this seems to be inadequate. The author argues that a comprehensive orientation tutorial package covering e-readiness, e-training and ODL principles and practices should be organised for all inexperienced as well as newly employed lecturers to prepare them appropriately for the rigors of ODL pedagogy.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1290 –1304 (2013)More Less
South African universities today must prepare teachers to meet the needs of diverse learners, including disabilities, linguistic differences, and extrinsic barriers to learning. This need was highlighted in the Education White Paper 6 which challenged South Africa's segregated service model which focused on deficits. This article was informed by a study in which the authors used a participatory action research model and an interpretative paradigm to analyse their learning about the challenges of effective leadership and about themselves as co-leaders involved in curriculum development work. Based on the results, recommendations are made for faculty teams doing similar work in response to governmental policy initiatives.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1305 –1323 (2013)More Less
This article reports on a study that focused on the ways in which the quality of teacher education may be enhanced by mentoring, specifically conversational strategies used by lecturer mentors and the expected and actual impact on student teachers' learning. The notion of knowledge productivity in mentoring conversation was highlighted to emphasise the importance of mentoring in the professional preparation of teachers. Using a comparative case design, 12 conversations between a student teacher and his/her mentor were video-recorded and analysed with regard to mentors' conversational moves to help students attain learning goals. This was compared with student teachers' perceived knowledge productivity as measured in terms of stated intentions to change practices. An instrument was developed to code the mentor's conversational moves. The findings of the study suggest that: (1) the mentor's approach during conversation differed, signifying how different strategies relate to the attainment of learning goals; (2) conversational moves did not significantly influence the student teacher's perceived knowledge productivity. We noted two dominant moves: a scaffolding and prescriptive one, and an exploring one; and (3) student teachers who have a closer relationship involving regular interaction with a mentor, benefited in terms of higher knowledge productivity. Although the findings indicate an overall positive effect of mentors' conversational moves on student teachers' learning outcomes, almost 60 per cent of the conversational talk was non-learning goals related, as opposed to relational talk. No direct relation was found between specific mentor conversational moves and perceived knowledge productivity.
Psychological well-being and postgraduate students' academic achievement in research methodology at an ODL institutionAuthor S. Van der WesthuizenSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1324 –1342 (2013)More Less
The purpose of this study was to determine the degree to which psychological well-being variables (sense of coherence, research self-efficacy, locus of control and hope) could predict the academic achievement of students enrolled for a research methodology module at a postgraduate level in an open and distance learning (ODL) context, while controlling for the effect of biographical variables (gender, age, culture group, home language and employment status). An availability sample (N = 840) of postgraduate students enrolled for a course in research methodology across three years was used. Stepwise linear regression showed that gender, culture group and language predicted 17.6 per cent of the variance in academic achievement in this module. When the psychological well-being variables were added, only research self-efficacy emerged as a statistically significant predictor, adding 1.5 per cent of the variance explained in academic achievement in this research methodology module.
Author J.G. MareeSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1343 –1348 (2013)More Less
The value of twentieth century philosophy of education is beyond dispute, yet it should be acknowledged that current perspectives, seen in isolation, no longer serve the needs of twenty-first century education philosophy. Kuhn (1970) pertinently demonstrates that so-called scientific truths at a certain time in history may not remain 'true' when a paradigm shift happens. Philosophy of education tenets therefore need to be revisited continually so that professionals in the field can update research paradigms, stay abreast of developments and remain relevant in a changing world - and this is exactly what Yusef Waghid's book will help them to achieve.