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- Volume 29, Issue 1, 2015
South African Journal of Higher Education - Volume 29, Issue 1, 2015
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Volume 29, Issue 1, 2015
Author G. YoungSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 1 –7 (2015)More Less
In June 2012 the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa's (HELTASA) Special Interest Group on Foundation Provision presented an Extended Programme colloquium at the University of Pretoria (the majority of the articles published in this edition were presented at this event). The title of the event, Building a firm foundation: Theory informing practice, reflected a strong view of the Special Interest Group on Foundation Provision that such research was ready for and in need of a next evolution. The research conducted and published up to this point often seemed to lack a coherent agenda to take it forward. There were some unifying themes such as evaluations of specific foundation interventions (see, e.g., Davidowitz and Schreiber 2006; Dednam and Dednam 2012; Downs 2005; Hlale 2010; Osongo 2006) or considerations concerned with concepts such as 'success' (Smith 2009) and 'epistemological access' (Boughey 2005; Ellery 2011) but overall the research in this field seems fragmented rather than integrated.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 8 –25 (2015)More Less
This article uses data gathered during monitoring and evaluation work at two higher education institutions (HEIs), policy documents, published articles, correspondence with key role-players at South African HEIs and other documents in the public domain in order to present a critique of the existing foundation provision and policy. The authors argue that foundation provision focuses on a narrow band of students, over a limited time period, and that it separates the educational thinking and planning for foundation students from mainstream students. This is to the detriment of either group of students and lecturers. The authors suggest questions for further investigation regarding foundation provision, based on the throughput trends across the country and institutional reports, which would shed light on the effectiveness of the present approach. They share two approaches which they believe offer productive alternative ways of thinking about the curriculum and arrangements for learning, for the benefit of all students and lecturers, namely, the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and the Capabilities Approach (CA).
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 26 –44 (2015)More Less
Foundation provision is a specially funded student support initiative for disadvantaged students enrolled at South African universities. This research focuses on academic staff development in foundation provision. As with staff development more generally, there is a focus on improving classroom practices to support student learning. Although general and foundation staff development practitioners experience similar difficulties in carrying out their work, there are also particular structural and cultural constraints in foundation staff academic development (AD). This research analyses foundation staff AD as an activity system, using Engeström's (1999) version of activity theory, in order to better understand and expose tensions in staff development. Issues that are highlighted using this methodology are: confusion between the object of staff development and the means to achieve it; the means to achieve the object may be insufficient; and structures/cultures such as short contracts and marginalisation may constrain how staff development is taken up.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 45 –59 (2015)More Less
The extended curriculum programme (ECP) in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Central University of Technology (CUT), Bloemfontein, South Africa, consists of six different instructional programmes. These programmes have been developed for Biomedical Technology, Clinical Technology, Emergency Medical Care, Environmental Health, Radiography and Somatology. This article provides an overview of the progress and development of the health sciences ECP at CUT as a proposed road map to academic success for a specific group of students. To obtain an objective picture of the health sciences ECP students' success, the assessment results of all the students registered between 2007 and 2012 were retrieved and analysed retrospectively. An increase in articulation was noted from 2010 to 2012 (i.e., from 70% to 84.4%) and an average articulation percentage of 80 per cent was achieved from 2007 to 2012. These figures indicated a successful transition from the ECP to the mainstream programmes. Moreover, 58 per cent of ECP students who registered in 2007 successfully completed their national diplomas in the extended timeframe. This group also delivered three B-Tech candidates and one student registered for a master's degree. The students' emotional growth and personal development were also prominent, as observed by the mainstream lecturers. The support offered to students in the current ECP includes a mentorship programme with a qualified psychologist, supplemental instruction (SI) and the sponsorship of all textbooks and registration fees for the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and First Aid training.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 60 –78 (2015)More Less
This article reports on the results of an investigation into the academic performance of first-year students in science and engineering programmes at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), South Africa. The increase in the drop-out rate and the decrease in the success rate in science modules such as Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry at first-year level is a serious challenge for South African higher education (HE). Science, engineering and health science faculties need to rethink admission processes, curricula and teaching and learning, as these modules form the core first-year curriculum in these fields. Placement versus selection remains a contentious issue in HE, and different admission criteria are applied in order to meet enrolment targets in higher education institutions (HEIs). This investigation suggests that post-admission placements have institutional advantages and increase the likelihood of student success. Current placement and admission practices are based on school performance. It is suggested here that the placement strategy in science-related programmes should be based on students' performance at school, the National Benchmark Test (NBT) and adaptation to HE at first-year experience. Structured articulation pathways can provide for placement into main stream, extended degree or diploma programmes and could improve graduation rates.
From mechanist to critical realist interrogations of academic literacy facilitation in extended degree programmes : part 1Author O. EybersSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 79 –90 (2015)More Less
The analysis in this article sought to critically interrogate those philosophical underpinnings that influence the curricular design of academic literacy instruction in extended degree programmes (EDPs). Contextual focus was given to the Introduction to Academic Discourse (IAD) course, a curriculum requirement of the Commerce Extended Studies Programme (CESP) at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. The methodology of the study included a comparative analysis of and an analogical-application of mechanist, idealist and realist ontologies of inquiry towards understanding beliefs and ideologies that contribute to the choices of current, emergent models of academic literacy facilitation within EDPs. The results of the investigation highlighted that each ontological lens proved effective as a theoretical framework for analysing foundational structures engaged in the facility of academic literacy practices. The study concluded by approaching academic-literacy implementation in the foundational domain within a social realist framework.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 91 –107 (2015)More Less
Academic development programmes at higher education institutions (HEIs) in South Africa are often underpinned by discourses that view students as deficit. Archer's social realist ontology offers a means of understanding reflexivities and agency of students in the higher education context. Using narrative data and drawing on Archer's (2003) theory of mediation between structure and agency through internal conversations, this study examined the socio-economic background of one particular student, Thando, and his agential journey to arrive at the academy. The analysis reveals Thando has a deliberate and determined stance towards achieving his project of obtaining a tertiary education in order to realise a better life for himself and his family. Despite what could be perceived as constraining socio-cultural conditions, Thando strategically circumvents such restrictions and acts in ways that help him pursue his project. It is argued that student agency needs to take a more central place within academic development programmes in higher education.
Reflections of science students on their experiences of an academic development programme in South Africa : part 1Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 108 –131 (2015)More Less
This article reports on students' experiences of an access programme in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, namely, the BSc four-year programme (BFYP). The programme has a preparatory 18-month phase after which students join the mainstream programme. The aim of the article is to give a voice to students who enrolled in 2008 and are either still in the system or have successfully completed the degree programme. The authors identify three performance bands, namely: good, moderate and poor performers. They focus on the students' experiences in the preparatory phase of the BFYP, reporting on their personal perceptions of the structure of the programme; on the challenges they faced; and their preparedness upon transition to the mainstream programme. The distinguishing feature of the article is that students' experiences are reported on through the lens of the different performance bands, adding shades of intensity to the different perspectives. Whilst the structure and features of the BFYP were experienced positively by most students across the performance bands, the voice of the poor performing students emerged in the study, expressing their sense of frustration; their inability to cope; and their failure to identify their challenges and to seek assistance. The need to equip underperforming students more effectively in terms of academic and life skills was the key finding of the study and should be of interest to the wider audience of educators and counsellors involved in access programmes.
Philosophy and role reflection of teaching practices in the communication science extended degree programme : part 1Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 132 –149 (2015)More Less
Higher education teachers approach their teaching practices in accordance with how they conceptualise teaching and learning. Higher education teaching and learning literature contains numerous theoretical conceptions among others, Carnell's (2007) model of teaching and learning that identifies four approaches to teaching and learning: didactic, cooperative, empowering and community. In the Department of Communication Science at the University of the Free State (UFS), Bloemfontein, South Africa, students enrolled in the four-year extended degree programme (EDP) attend academic facilitation sessions (AFSs) to improve their academic competencies. Since these AFSs follow the teaching and learning philosophies of experiential learning, social constructivism and cooperative learning, the AFS activities were measured against Carnell's (2007) model to determine whether the teaching approaches used in the AFSs are in line with these underpinning philosophies as expressed in the model. Through critical self-reflection, the roles of the teacher and learners were identified and correlated to Carnell's model. The results of the analysis indicated that the current teaching approach is mostly empowering and cooperative and that teachers need to address the community approach in their teaching activities to build towards collective knowledge construction in the EDP.
The articulation between the mainstream and extended degree programmes in engineering at the University of Cape Town : reflections and possibilities : part 1Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 150 –163 (2015)More Less
Academic support and development in South Africa have been through a number of phases since the earlier 1980s. In 2013, the schooling system was still struggling to deliver high quality education to all students and frequent changes to the school curriculum had created some frustration for universities. There is a dire national need for good engineering graduates and universities are under pressure to produce more graduates and to increase the graduation rate. Universities must face the resulting challenges head-on and academic support will have to remain a crucial component of engineering programmes. Most academic support assists students with the transition from school to university. The authors argue that there is an important role for more of a presence of academic development practitioners in the transition from first year to second year, as well as the need for greater influence in the second and third years of the engineering courses. The form of this influence would vary but might include working with staff on pedagogy, delivery of conceptually difficult material and assessment.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 164 –180 (2015)More Less
This article reports on the findings of an action research pilot project called One-by-One. Six first-year students in the extended curriculum programme (ECP) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Bellville, South Africa, were mentored, supported and closely monitored during 2011 to overcome their low morale and fear of failure. The article draws on motivation theories, social theories of learning and student learning theories as the theoretical framework. These theories assisted with the focus of the project which, was on developing and strengthening the students' personal and collective agency capabilities. Data was collected through a questionnaire, written reflective journal entries and discussions in one-on-one mentoring and group workshop sessions. The significance of the project lies in the fact that it provided the staff with practical steps on how to develop and strengthen the students' perceived self-efficacy in the learning process.
Embedding graduate attributes into the foundation programme : reflections on process and product : part 1Author F.N. MashiyiSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 181 –197 (2015)More Less
In this article, the author explores how a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) extended curriculum programme (ECP) lecturer embedded the desired University of the Western Cape (UWC) graduate attributes (GAs) into the curriculum and describes his experience of the curriculum alignment process. Using document analysis, the researcher in the case study examined the Analytical and Critical Thinking-Foundation (ACF) module outline to determine how the UWC GAs were constructively aligned with learning outcomes (LOs), teaching-learning activities (TLAs), assessment criteria and assessment methods. A focused interview was conducted with the lecturer to determine how he had experienced the curriculum alignment exercise. The case study revealed that constructive alignment is central to good teaching and that ECPs are as important as regular programmes for embedding GAs as they provide a context for lecturers to align the curriculum, adjust their teaching and assessment practices and reflect on their classroom practices.
Teaching first aid in high schools : the impact on students in the health sciences extended degree programmeSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 198 –210 (2015)More Less
Previously, first-year medical and physiotherapy students participating in the extended degree programme (EDP) at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, spent eight weeks shadowing interns at a tertiary hospital during a clinical module. In 2011, student numbers had doubled from the previous year making it impossible to accommodate the entire group in the clinical setting. Consequently, the group was divided into two, allowing one group to participate in a service-learning project (SLP), while the other group spent four weeks in the clinical setting as before. The two groups switched after four weeks. A qualitative approach was used to determine students' perceptions of the SLP. Data was obtained from structured reflective reports about students' experiences of the one-week period during which they taught First Aid to high school learners. Open-ended, written response questionnaires completed by students at the end of the four-week SLP generated further useful data regarding the logistics and administration of the project as a whole. Similar to findings reported in international studies, analysis of qualitative data indicated an increase in student motivation in terms of their studies and vocation; an enhanced sense of civic responsibility and social justice; improved group interaction and personal communication skills; as well as increased compassion and decreased racism. Besides gaining First Aid knowledge and skills, students became increasingly aware of the population they would be serving once they graduated and of their role as professionals within this community. Thus, a service-learning teaching strategy may contribute towards producing service-driven and culturally competent physicians and community leaders.
Structuring an activity theory-based framework for evaluating a science extended curriculum programme : part 1Author R. KizitoSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 211 –237 (2015)More Less
Determining the merits of programmes designed to increase the participation of under-prepared students in higher education is a complex undertaking. A dominant approach to programme evaluation focuses on the effects of single variables on students' performance. While useful for understanding the impact of individual factors, this approach does not offer a holistic view of how activities and processes shape the learning environment. An approach that could address this concern is cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT). Within an activity system, a participant (subject) whose agency is the focus of the analysis, acts on and transforms an (object) producing an outcome through mediating influences of other factors, such as community, division of labour and rules. This article reviews a selection of empirical studies using activity theory-based analysis. From this review, tenets of contemporary versions of activity theory (AT) are explicated, illustrating areas of compatibility and incongruities with evaluation practices. A way of coimbricating these approaches to develop a methodological framework for analysing the science extended curriculum programme (ECP) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Bellville, South Africa, and for future evaluation work, is proposed.
Author T. BernardSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 238 –261 (2015)More Less
This article reports on research that investigated public perceptions of transformation within South African universities, with a particular focus on the incorporation of foundation programmes into university curricula. Foundation programmes are an initiative on behalf of both governmental and higher education institutions (HEIs) to grant wider and equal access to higher education (HE). However, it is evident that public views regarding university plans and admission policies are varied and the actions on behalf of both governmental bodies and universities are interpreted in diverse ways. These interpretations are problematic if they are misinformed, yet are able to influence or limit participation in HE. The study utilised methods developed within critical discourse analysis (CDA) to closely analyse three media texts that articulate various perceptions regarding the changing HE system. In line with Gee's (1996) model of CDA, these three texts are viewed as individual instances of societal discourses about HE, but also provide insight to ideologies relating to education and access.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 262 –269 (2015)More Less
This article discusses access and throughput in South African higher education, showing how these continue to be racially skewed, and linked to an inequitable education system. We argue that attempts to address these inequities by some of the intervention programmes that are offered at tertiary level do not always achieve their intended goals, and that interventions are increasingly being sought at secondary school level. Second, we provide an overview and synthesis of the seven articles in this issue, noting the particular contribution each makes to an understanding of the theme of promoting access to higher education in an unequal society. Third and in conclusion, we point to three issues that emerge from the articles, and which are important in mapping the way forward, namely: the need to acknowledge that injections of finance may secure access, but do not necessarily secure success; a concern about the proliferation and fragmentation of interventions which do not ultimately have systemic impact; and the need for multi-site, multi-method and longitudinal studies that track students' experiences through university and beyond.
Author Z. RichardsSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 270 –293 (2015)More Less
The terms often used in conceptualisations of academic talent are highly variable, with each term employed holding specific ideological implications. This article aims to provide a broad overview of the concept of 'academic talent' in the international and South African literature. In an attempt to connect international academic discourses to the local context, the review explores several discourses of academic talent within the South African context. It is argued that holistic, student-centred approaches towards nurturing academic talent will allow for contextual considerations in the identification of individuals selected to participate in talent development programmes. It is also argued that inclusive approaches to developing talent appear to be premised on the view that learners from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds can be nurtured towards academic success. Addressing educational disadvantage is not a 'quick fix' but requires intensive support and an understanding of issues facing disadvantaged learners (including values orientation conflicts, self-esteem and self-concept). What is pertinent in the article is that the assumptions and values upon which the constructs are based need to take into account individuals within a particular context. Contextual variability, therefore, requires reformulations of the construct.
Developing equitable selection criteria for talent development programmes in inequitable contexts : part 2Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 294 –312 (2015)More Less
This article explores the challenges of designing equitable selection criteria for a pre-university 'talent development' programme for high school learners from disadvantaged communities. It is argued that by giving due consideration to personal and environmental factors, it becomes possible to more reliably assess academic talent in inequitable contexts. The authors suggest that the experiences of the Go to University to Succeed (GUTS) programme in selecting learners could be transferred to other countries which, like South Africa, grapple with large inequities in socio-economic status and quality of education.
Increasing access to higher education : reflections on a border crossing curriculum designed for an enrichment programme for talented high school learners : part 2Author E. BrennerSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 313 –334 (2015)More Less
Curricula in programmes that aim to increase access to higher education for learners from disadvantaged communities often need to provide maximum benefit within a short contact period. With this in mind, a new subject, molecular literacy, was introduced into a residential enrichment programme for talented Grade 10-12 learners who attended for two weeks annually. This curriculum, which included concepts from different subject areas, was designed to encourage learners to think more broadly and outside the narrow confines of school subjects. The longitudinal progression of content knowledge was coherent; the cognitive demand increased each year; and learners were encouraged to question and think critically through the use of various pedagogies. In this article, the author argues that a constructed subject area that crosses borders can, with careful curriculum design, play a valuable role in assisting learners to acquire the social and cultural capital to gain access to and succeed in the higher education environment.
Schooling in the shadow of benevolence : the experience of scholarship recipients in affluent schools : part 2Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 29, pp 335 –353 (2015)More Less
In a quest for improved educational outcomes that will lead to access to and success in higher education and the workplace, many affluent independent South African high schools offer scholarship places to talented and deserving learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. Learners selected for 'inclusion' in these schools can be presumed to be given unquestioned benefits and yet the voices of these scholarship recipients are seldom heard. By listening to these learners in a study framed by the idea of 'voice research', the authors found that while the learners are grateful for this opportunity, they are also aware of the limits of benevolence and find that their full participation in the academic, sporting and social life of the school is constrained by their own disadvantaged economic positions. With reference to literature and the voices of the participants, the authors conclude that while offering many advantages, scholarship programmes have limitations which need to be acknowledged at both an individual and a systemic level.