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- Volume 28, Issue 2, 2014
South African Journal of Higher Education - Volume 28, Issue 2, 2014
Volumes & issues
Volume 28, Issue 2, 2014
Traditional tutorial system - fit for purpose or past its sell-by date? University students' pedagogical experiences : leading articleAuthor M.N. DavidsSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 338 –354 (2014)More Less
Universities in South Africa and elsewhere have seen a significant increase in student enrolment resulting in large class sizes. Consequently, the potentially detrimental effects of large classes on student learning have become a permanent feature that needs constant monitoring. An increase in student enrolment without a proportionate increase in teaching staff and resources arguably compromises the quality of teaching and learning. The tutorial system is a teaching strategy employed to minimise the negative consequences of large classes, but in the post-apartheid era, concerns have been expressed about its effectiveness. The context of this article is a compulsory Bachelor of Education (BEd) module, The History of Education at a higher education institution (HEI). In 2013, 820 students had to be accommodated in a tutorial system of 27 groups taught by 12 tutors. If the same formula is to be used, the projection for 2014 is 1 100 students divided amongst 44 tutorial groups of 25 students each. The article is concerned with the pedagogical value of the tutorial system viewed from the students' perspective and, therefore, focuses on the experiences of students as participants in a tutorial system as a supplementary and consolidating teaching strategy. The data were extracted from quantitative sections of the student course evaluation forms (N = 60) and a qualitative questionnaire (N = 50) administered to a random sample of students. Excel spread sheet and content analysis were employed to analyse the data sets. Using as a conceptual framework Shulman's pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and Wenger's concept 'community of practice' (COP) the findings revealed arbitrary, contradictory and unequal participatory learning outcomes. Given the diminishing 'fit for purpose' between learning objectives and outcomes, recommendations are made to make tutorials more meaningful and productive in the immediate future.
Author D. BhanaSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 355 –367 (2014)More Less
In 2008, the Department of Education (DoE) produced a report on social cohesion in higher education (HE) noting the importance of investigating and addressing race and student identities. Against this backdrop, this article examines how a group of black working class students at a university in KwaZulu-Natal talk about race. Despite widening participation of black students at the university, class, language and space were invoked during interviews including the middle class space of the 'Italian coffee shop' as entangled in the reproduction of inequalities. The analysis draws attention to the micro dynamics of class in students' understanding of race and its relation to broader social and historical forces which crystallise into sharp inequalities for working class black students. Within the university environment it is important to recognise students' differentiated experiences which serve to complicate a homogenous understanding of race. Treating all students in essentialist or undifferentiated racial terms would miss how class and race are invoked, maintained and produced within specific university settings and has important implications for the development of context specific interventions in HE.
Author N. De LangeSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 368 –385 (2014)More Less
While a university's core business of teaching, research and engagement is underpinned by national and global imperatives, the purpose of the university is embedded in students' realities of living, learning and working in the world. A key challenge for all academics, therefore, is to keep their academic project, whether in engineering or health sciences, 'embedded in the students', while at the same time, preparing them for work in the world. The purpose of this article is to argue that the university academic curriculum should be harnessed more vigorously to address HIV and AIDS - a reality impacting the student corps. The article, therefore, seeks to persuade, but also to ensure, that the work of higher education institutions (HEIs) remains 'embedded in its students', and that the curriculum is responsive and engaged, and contributes to the public good of South African society as a whole.
The influence of ecosystemic factors on black student teachers' perceptions and experience of early childhood educationSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 386 –410 (2014)More Less
The low enrolment and pass rate of black students motivated this study to explore how the ecosystemic factors influenced black student teachers' perceptions and experiences of early childhood education (ECE) at a former white university. The study aimed to understand black student teachers' perceptions and experiences of ECE; to provide recommendations to strengthen the ECE programme in order to meet the needs of the black students it serves; and finally to gain insight in order to address the need to recruit and retain black students. Qualitative research methods, such as 'photo voice' (Olivier, Wood and De Lange 2009), narratives and semi-structured interviews were conducted and examined through the theoretical lens of Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory. Initial analysis of the data revealed several categories, such as perceptions of career, status and programme; financial implications; support; and current experiences. Thereafter, further interpretation of the data explicated the following themes: 'history', 'it's all about money', 'community', 'cultural relevance' and 'me, myself and others'.
Social media communication spaces to develop literacies in a higher education language classroom contextSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 410 –435 (2014)More Less
This article reports on a study that explored how social media or social networking sites (SNSs) such as Facebook facilitate communication spaces as well as literacies development in a higher education (HE) language classroom context. The study's overarching theoretical orientation was social which challenges many contemporary writing theory and pedagogy assumptions. A social orientation necessitates stepping back from the pedagogical issues involved in the teaching and learning of writing and trying to find out how writing is actually used in a range of contexts, including social media. The qualitative study was situated in a comprehensive university and analysed the perspectives of 17 Public Management first-year English Additional Language participants on the use of the Facebook group page as a communication space in the language class. The data collection included the student Facebook group page postings, focus group interviews and journal reflection reports. Content analysis was used to code the data and access was identified as a critical orientation criterion to identify dominant themes from the data sources. The study found that the participants preferred Facebook as a communication space because of its convenience, mobility, learning freedom and team work. However, an access constraint that emerged was limited air time as mobile phones were mostly used to access the Facebook site. Although the participants often used informal texting in their wall postings, the research findings revealed that Facebook as an SNS could facilitate teacher-student communication if managed effectively.
Perspectives of student performance in the Health Sciences : how do physiology and professional modules compare?Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 436 –454 (2014)More Less
Physiology has an anecdotal track record of having lower pass rates than other professional modules in the Health Sciences (HS). The aim of this study was to compare the performance and associated contributory factors of students in physiology modules with professional modules at the same level of study. This was done by way of overall pass rates and average, maximum, and minimum marks for the period 2008-2010 stratified by programme/qualification, matriculation/National Senior Certificate achievement and language. The latter two served as proxies for alternative access and previously disadvantaged students, respectively. There was a notable difference in the mean 2008-2010 pass rates of students from the different professional qualifications and students generally performed considerably better in their professional modules as compared with their performance in the physiology modules. The performance in physiology modules of English first language (EFL) students was not significantly different from that of English second language students (ESL). The implications of these findings require further discourse on, inter alia, issues around physiology teaching; student learning modes; admission criteria; student preparedness for university; and student monitoring and support mechanisms. There also needs to be a greater interaction between physiologists and health professionals involved in the curriculum design.
Strategic management and the use of information and communication technologies by selected South African and American studentsSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 455 –465 (2014)More Less
This article focuses on research conducted into the value of strategy teaching and the impact of current information communication technologies (ICTs) on the business life of students in South Africa and the United States (US). The first objective of the research was to assess students' perceptions of the value of strategic management on their business life and what online practices they currently employ. The second objective was to identify students' modes of ICT access, awareness about possible ICTs, influence of sharing, submitting, amending and using information, taking time away from studies, and so forth. The third objective was to establish some differences between the two research populations in South Africa and the US. The majority of students indicated that they experience significant value in their study of strategy and there were also significant differences between the two populations about the perceived value of the ICT activities they perform.
Author A.H.M. JacobsSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 466 –483 (2014)More Less
This article builds on a conceptual analysis of institutional culture in higher education. A theoretical framework was proposed to analyse institutional documents of higher education institutions (HEIs). One of the elements of this theoretical framework is 'language', by virtue of literature revealing it as a constitutive meaning of institutional culture. The aim of the article is to explore how 'language' as constitutive meaning of institutional culture is constructed in the institutional documents of Stellenbosch University (SU). Not only is 'language' a prominent news item, but it is also the subject of on-going debate at SU. The author's exploration is centred around two leadership eras, since there is a significant relationship between leadership and institutional culture in higher education. The findings suggested that SU has well-prepared institutional documents. The aspect of 'language' seems to have had a great impact on SU's institutional culture. It features prominently in institutional documents and remains a contentious subject.
The development of a curriculum for an Introductory Financial Accounting module : an open distance learning approachAuthor J.S. Jansen van RensburgSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 484 –500 (2014)More Less
This article looks into the processes and procedures that were followed and the research conducted towards the development of a curriculum for a new Introductory Financial Accounting module at the University of South Africa (Unisa), which is an open distance learning (ODL) institution. Most of the aspects of curriculum development touched on will also be relevant for residential universities. The research method used to develop the curriculum was based on a thorough literature study of aspects of curriculum development. On the basis of this literature study, the curriculum development approach was devised and the determinants of curriculum development, that could have a special influence on the development of the new module, identified. The new module FAC1501, Introductory Financial Accounting, was introduced in the new one-year Higher certificate in Accounting Sciences in the School of Accounting Sciences' new programme qualification mix (PQM). Because FAC1501 had no previous student body, it was necessary to do a thorough literature review of relevant statistical evidence gathered by other researchers regarding various aspects of this curriculum project and to adapt it where necessary. This, together with the determinants identified, provided guidelines for the selection and arrangement of learning content and preparation of the necessary tuition material. The article emphasises the fact that curriculum development is a never-ending team effort in the sense that the ongoing process of monitoring and evaluating the curriculum together with possible changes in disciplinary knowledge, determines which factors should receive attention in the next cycle of curriculum development.
Author S.B. KhozaSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 501 –513 (2014)More Less
This article draws on a case study of five engineering students who were studying chemistry at a university in South Africa. Chemistry was one of the compulsory modules for the course as it was claimed to be everything to engineering students, but it was also indicated as one of the most difficult modules because of its many concepts. The article gives these students a voice by investigating their experiences framed by the curricular spider web. The students' experiences told different stories around the claim. Data generation occurred through document analysis and one-to-one semi-structured interviews. The article prioritises the alignment of Technology in Education (hard-ware and soft-ware) and Technology of Education (ideological-ware) in order to do justice to engineering students. The study is important because it may contribute towards finding a solution around the high failure rate of students in learning chemistry.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 514 –532 (2014)More Less
Nearly 20 years into the new democracy, student success at South African universities continues to be differentiated along racial lines. The tendency has been to define the problem in terms of student deficit. This article suggests that this is a limited view of a complex problem. The study reported on investigated the case of a South African university's Department of Chemical Engineering and its historical struggle with the success of black students. The study explored students' progression through a design course and the associated pedagogical realities. Using a social realist approach, the study showed that the higher education environment is a complex of necessary contradictions which create a situational logic for agents. In the process of navigating the inconsistencies of a system in which academic development and quality assurance work against each other, it seems that black students get caught in the middle, with deleterious consequences for the country's transformative agenda.
Theorising research with vulnerable people in higher education : ethical and methodological challengesSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 533 –549 (2014)More Less
University students experience varying forms of vulnerability, which could have negative consequences for fulfilling their academic potential. The voices of these vulnerable students have not been adequately captured in existing research and can be best sought through qualitative research which targets the very students experiencing such vulnerabilities. This article, framed within the conceptual theory of vulnerability, uses Narrative Theory as a methodological approach to explore how university students experience the phenomenon of being at risk; how they cope with it; and how their narratives of vulnerability can inform student retention and support in higher education institutions (HEIs). Being at risk is a multidimensional concept, which is dealt with inadequately in institutional ethics policy and practice. The preliminary findings suggested that students at risk feel marginalised form mainstream support services. Further, the evidence suggested that doctoral students' training reproduces the marginalisation of vulnerability through inadequately addressing ways of researching with vulnerable people.
Do National Senior Certificate results predict first-year optometry students' academic performance at university?Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 550 –563 (2014)More Less
Matriculation results have previously been used as reasonable predictors of first-year students' academic performance at university. Although there have been some improvements in access to education for many South Africans, the quality of the National Senior Certificate (NSC) introduced in 2008 remains uncertain. The purpose of the study reported on was to determine whether matriculation subjects' scores can be predictors of student's academic success in the first year of the Bachelor of Optometry (BOptom) programme. The files of 84 first-year optometry students who wrote the NSC examination from 2009-2011 were reviewed and their matriculation scores were recorded. These scores were compared to their results in modules in their first-year BOptom programme. There was a weak correlation between students' matriculation and first-year optometry results. Overall, the matriculation scores showed a weak correlation between the first semester average and overall first-year marks. Thus, the study found that NSC scores cannot be used as sole predictors of students' academic success in the first year of the BOptom programme.
A glimpse of Generation-Y in higher education : some implications for teaching and learning environmentsAuthor A. Maurtin-CairncrossSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 564 –583 (2014)More Less
Every generation has unique and different characteristics which distinguish it from every other generation. This may result in respective wants and needs which may differ considerably. Students born between 1980 and 1996 (generally the early 1980s to early 2000s) are often labelled as Generation-Y, the Net Generation (Net Gen), Millennials or Digital Natives. These labels reflect the younger generation's upbringing, where information communication technology (ICT) is the norm. Research indicates that traditional teaching methods and materials need to be adapted to improve the match between the needs and preferences of Generation-Y students. Therefore, the current study was done to provide broad trends in students' perceptions of the inclusion of e-learning technologies in their courses and their use of interactive social media sites. The study illustrated that the majority of the participants access and use social network sites regularly. The findings may, therefore, be used to illustrate the importance of the inclusion of electronic, social network-based and mobi-type teaching and learning opportunities. University staff members, therefore, need to take heed of generational trends and the impact of the learning needs of Generation-Y students in this sector, as many of these students are currently in the higher education (HE) system.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 584 –604 (2014)More Less
Raising the chances of employment and improving the quality of education are the two most critical and interrelated challenges for eliminating poverty and reducing inequality in South Africa. To improve the quality of education, role-players need seamless access to critical information in order to guide planning and determine progress in different parts of the education system. Shortcomings in the current information infrastructure, especially at the nexus of the basic education and higher education systems, have resulted in an information gap that needs to be eliminated, before a comprehensive picture of the education system and the factors underpinning its performance, can emerge. Local and international experts were consulted to understand best practice; to describe information requirements; and to uncover the shortcomings in the existing infrastructure. Participants from the majority of the country's higher education institutions (HEIs) took part in a survey to verify and refine the shape and consequences of the information gap. This article provides a foundation for creating an improved infrastructure that would provide the missing, critical information highlighted in the study.
An Activity Theory analysis : reasons for undergraduate students' absenteeism at a South African universityAuthor L. ScheckleSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 605 –623 (2014)More Less
The study reported on in this article sought to ascertain the extent of undergraduate student absenteeism; the reasons for its occurrence; and the actions performed afterwards. Activity Theory is the theoretical framework against which reasons for absenteeism of students enrolled in three- or four-year degree programmes across degree levels in four faculties at a higher education institution (HEI) in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, were surveyed. A research sampling method was used whereby 696 of a potential 1 428 students responded to a structured and semi-structured questionnaire requiring qualitative and quantitative responses. An interpretive paradigm was used for the analysis. The activity system's mediating elements comprising subjects, rules, community, division of labour, tools and objects, capture the range of cumulative influences and their interdependency. As substantive theory, Allardt's (1989) Sociological Theory of Welfare assesses well-being. The study found that students' absenteeism reflects challenges regarding existence needs, compromised learning quality and a risk to throughput. Consequently, some 'objects' might need to be redefined. Departmental and institutional strategies are recommended.
Assessing the effectiveness of academic development programmes : a statistical analysis of graduation rates across three programmesSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 624 –638 (2014)More Less
This article reports on a study that used statistical analysis to estimate the impact of the first-year academic development (AD) courses offered by three diverse AD programmes (in the commerce, engineering and science faculties) at the same South African Higher Education Institution (HEI). Specifically, in measuring impact the study compares the graduation performance of AD students relative to mainstream students. The study used a larger sample and a more comprehensive multivariate specification to identify the determinants of academic performance than previous studies. The study found that the AD programmes, as they were constituted during the period under investigation (1999-2003), did not improve the graduation rate achieved by AD students relative to their mainstream peers. Therefore, the study raises the question as to whether the type of AD programme investigated can alone provide the solution to the problems faced by the South African HEI community in its efforts to meet the increased demand for graduates from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.
'Walking our talk' : exploring supervision of postgraduate self-study research through metaphor drawingSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 639 –659 (2014)More Less
The authors of this article portray their learning as a group of eight academics who met to examine the roles and relationships of supervisors of postgraduate self-study research. In the article, they represent how through a metaphor-drawing activity they were able collectively to rethink their experiences and understandings of becoming and being supervisors of postgraduate self-study students. They used a metaphor-drawing activity to gain further understanding of self-study supervision, while also learning more about how visual methods can assist in self-study research. Significantly, in their drawings the supervisor was portrayed as a partner working with the student during the supervision process, rather than as a provider of expert knowledge. Through collaborative interactions and sharing of their personal images of supervision of postgraduate self-study research with critical friends, they were able to reconsider their practices in a reflexive manner that provided insight into possibilities for enhancing their supervisory roles and relationships.
Author L. WoodSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 28, pp 660 –672 (2014)More Less
Twenty years into democracy in South Africa, poverty and disease continue to limit the life prospects of the majority of people. Researchers in higher education have an opportunity, not to mention a moral obligation, to direct their research towards finding ways to ensure that the expected fruits of democracy can be more evenly dispersed throughout society. Yet, in general, the knowledge produced by the academy has had little positive impact on the quality of life of those on whom research is conducted. This article argues for the need to adopt more inclusive and participatory paradigms and methodologies that challenge entrenched views that research is the prerogative of the academy. In particular, the author proposes that an action research paradigm may offer suitable ways to navigate new educational pathways suited for improving and sustaining social life in the 21st century. Such an approach will help to ensure that academic research remains relevant in today's complex and fast-changing world.