South African Journal of Higher Education - latest Issue
Volumes & issues
Volume 30, Issue 6, 2016
Contextual Approaches to Academic Development
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 30, pp 1 –7 (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/30-6-714More Less
One of the peculiarities of the literature on academic professional development with regard to teaching is its a-political nature. It pays insufficient attention to issues of equity, and to how privilege, geographical location, class and ethnicity influence the way that staff in higher education learn to teach. This is surprising, or paradoxical, given the strong world-wide concern for widening participation and student success in higher education. The approaches towards professional academic development have been dominated by literature from the global North, which does not take into account conditions in resource-constrained environments. We contend that literature from these Southern environments enrich the international body of literature. Thus there is a need for scholarly writing on learning to teach in higher education, which takes a specifically social, contextual and relational approach and which considers these within resource-rich as well as resource-constrained environments.
Against theoretical evangelism : imagining the possibilities of a critical approach to theorising in professional academic developmentAuthor K. NaidooSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 30, pp 8 –23 (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/30-6-715More Less
This article contributes to dialogue on theorising in higher education, with particular reference to professional academic development. It provides a critique of the evangelical adherence to dominant theories and argues that their uncritical use cannot contribute to addressing social injustices in higher education. It also argues for theorisation in professional academic development that is more sensitive to context. Drawing on insights from C. Wright Mills (2000), the article suggests that, by viewing theorisation through the lens of a sociological imagination, it is possible to engage critically with dominant discourses and come up with creative solutions that are aligned with a viewpoint that promotes social justice in professional academic development, as well as addressing social inequities and injustices in higher education.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 30, pp 24 –38 (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/30-6-717More Less
In this conceptual article we use Luckett’s model for an epistemically diverse curriculum, Kitchener’s levels of cognition and Maton’s concepts of knowledge and knowers to analyse a curriculum of a postgraduate diploma in higher education specifically for academic developers. We describe three meta-level frameworks which we offer to our participants to make explicit the pedagogy of the course. Our main argument is that a course which prepares participants to practise in the complex contemporary higher education context requires them to engage with specific kinds of knowledge, ways of thinking and ways of being so that they can contribute towards addressing the numerous and vexing teaching and learning challenges in their institutional contexts. We argue that analyses such as these help to make explicit the organising principles of a curriculum to the curriculum designers themselves who are then able to use the insights to strengthen the design, pedagogy and assessment of their courses.
Author L. DisonSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 30, pp 39 –55 (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/30-6-718More Less
One of the main aims of the Post Graduate Diploma in the field of Higher Education (PGDipE(HE)) at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS University) is to enable university lecturers to develop a reflexive approach to evaluating their underlying teaching and learning assumptions. The study reports on the strategies and tools for integrating reflective practice in the first module (LATHE)1 of the PGDipE(HE) and shows how course participants have responded to embedded meta-level questions incorporated into the assessment tasks. The article contributes to a more complex understanding of what it means to instil critically reflective practice in a professional qualification of this nature.
Author G.N. ShavaSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 30, pp 56 –72 (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/30-6-719More Less
In this article I argue that effective professional training in higher education has emerged as a major strategy for enhancing learner achievement in rapidly changing higher education teaching and learning environments. The changing context of higher education teaching in Africa presents new challenges for academics, and professional development is accepted as an effective means of addressing them. In-depth professional development in universities is essential for providing academics with the skills and knowledge they require in order to improve their pedagogical skills. Consequently, the goal of this qualitative case study was to understand the extent to which a professional development programme at a university in Zimbabwe has enhanced the performance of academics. By means of in-depth, semi-structured interviews, ten academics from the university discussed their experiences of participating in a professional development course. The findings revealed that although they were excited by the professional development programme, which was intended to enhance the quality of their teaching, and although they believed that students benefitted from their enhanced teaching, they felt overwhelmed by the demands of engaging in a formal course.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 30, pp 73 –93 (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/30-6-721More Less
Increasing the quality and quantity of published research has become an imperative for many universities in South Africa, but academic staff need more than policy mandates to flourish as writers. In this article the authors aim to inspire academic staff developers and research managers to initiate and support strategies to help academics write more and better, and to take pleasure in writing. Drawing on published literature and our own experiences, we turn a critical eye on writing development strategies used in our own research-intensive institution in Johannesburg, and strategies used in other institutions, mainly, but not only, in South Africa. We weigh up the benefits and drawbacks of five writing strategies: writing courses and workshops; writing groups; writing mentoring and coaching; PhD bootcamps; and writing retreats. We also provide a summary table of the claims made for particular strategies to promote capacity building and productivity, on the one hand, and emotional and social aspects of writing on the other hand. We conclude that by thinking critically and creatively, research managers and academic staff developers can indeed help academics to flourish as writers.
Coaching interventions for postgraduate supervision courses : promoting equity and understanding in the supervisor–student relationshipAuthor M. KeaneSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 30, pp 94 –111 (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/30-6-720More Less
There is considerable research which supports the view that the student’s ability to complete a doctorate is often fraught with factors relating to the complexity of their professional, personal and community contexts. In increasingly pressured settings, the quality of postgraduate supervision is critical, as is supervisory training.
In this article, I argue that some of the contextual difficulties experienced by supervisors and students could be addressed through the use of coaching principles and processes which help to open up conversations around selecting, reshaping and expanding ideas. These are the three aspects of Sternberg’s Triarchical Theory which includes contextual intelligence (Sternberg 1997).
I draw on data from postgraduate and supervisor courses I have facilitated at a number of universities in South Africa. I am not attempting a thorough analysis of the data; instead, I am using it as a rationale to show how contextual influences on professional academic development may be more consciously addressed. I first outline some of the pedagogical principles of three coaching models and then give three examples of coaching tools I have used in courses for supervisors.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 30, pp 112 –126 (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/30-6-722More Less
Within research-intensive institutions, a dominant research discourse constrains academics’ engagement with professional development opportunities for teaching. This study shows how academics at the University of Cape Town overcome these constraints through asserting agency. An analysis of their narratives reveals how an ability to navigate time and engagement with the professional development space is informed by alternative approaches, which we have labelled as pragmatic, social and reflexive. Each approach provides a different basis for justifying engagement with professional development opportunities for teaching in terms of the functions that these opportunities can fulfil. We argue that this set of justifications reflects academic agency in action and serves to lessen the power of the dominant research discourse. In so doing, they also undermine their colleagues’ forms of rationalisation for locating teaching as secondary within the institution.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 30, pp 127 –145 (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/30-6-728More Less
This study forms part of a wider NRF project that sought to examine the enabling and constraining conditions in the uptake of professional development opportunities by academics as teachers at eight South African universities. This case study isolated two rurally-based, historically disadvantaged South African institutions (HDIs). Qualitative data from institutional self-evaluation reports were augmented with semi-structured interviews conducted with five members of the senior management and ten academics at each of the institutions. Thematic analysis of the data revealed constraints around promotion policy and the value accorded to research development over teaching development, the inability of rural institutions to attract and retain staff, as well as the huge workloads that consumed time that could have been used for professional development. The study recommends reconsideration of theoretical frameworks that inform professional development in rural universities and a re-look at practicalities in the modes of delivery when planning for professional development interventions in rural settings.
Author M. OmingoSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 30, pp 146 –160 (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/30-6-730More Less
The overall aim of the study was to use Archer’s morphogenetic approach to analyse how lecturers learn to teach in private universities in Kenya. In developing suitable academic development strategies, this approach can be useful in analysing the structural and cultural emergent powers and the emotions that prompt lecturers, in different contexts, to learn how to teach. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect qualitative data from twenty-five lecturers who were purposively selected. The analysis indicated that the university’s policy statements, the teaching and learning conditions and student composition presented structural and cultural limitations that lecturers had to respond to. Although their emergent structural and cultural powers prompted in lecturers a greater desire to learn to teach, the lecturers’ experience of emotions such as worry, threat, curiosity and disappointment played a greater role.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 30, pp 161 –175 (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/30-6-731More Less
The focus of this article is a teaching and learning activity system which is studied for the purpose of understanding and resolving contradictions in the system. For purposes of this study, the activity system was examined from the perspectives of university teachers and senior university managers. Data was obtained from interviews with university teachers who had expressed an interest in teaching and learning and who had demonstrated considerable ability in university teaching. Interviews were also conducted with senior managers responsible for teaching and learning at the institution. We applied the tools provided by Activity Theory (Engeström 1987; 2008) to analyse the data and propose recommendations for how university teaching might be better supported by university managers in contexts of considerable change and challenge. This required identifying and addressing areas of difficulty within and across the system for the purpose of enabling improved outcomes. In this article, areas of contradiction are analysed and constructive suggestions are made for using the identified areas of difficulty as sites for growth and development.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 30, pp 176 –190 (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/30-6-732More Less
In higher education institutions globally, academic development practitioners whose work is to professionally develop academic staff in the area of teaching, have historically come into the profession without specific formal training. Their ideas and practice stem from the context of their work and life experience, and their knowledge grows with experience on the job. As a result, there is a great variety of knowledge and expertise that shapes professional development activities in higher education institutions. The aim of this article is to report on the findings of an investigation which drew on the collective wisdom of academic development practitioners who participated in a workshop on the topic of professional development. Activity Theory was used as an interpretive lens to identify key aspects from the data and align these onto a ‘Ladder of Learning’ – a hierarchically structured framework to inform appropriate professional development activities for academics. The insights gained from the findings may be used to strengthen academic professional development practice in support of ongoing improvement of the quality of teaching.
Author B.L. LeibowitzSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 30, pp 191 –206 (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/30-6-733More Less
This study explores the relationship between intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation and contextual social and material conditions influencing the desire of academics to learn to teach at three South African universities. It considers these three influences from the perspective of self-determination theory, and argues that the theory is relevant for a discussion on motivation to learn to teach, but that the theory should be modified to take into account a more socio-political perspective. A careful analysis of these forms of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in combination with contextual influences has implications for national and institutional policy on professional academic development. The study suggests that extrinsic forms of motivation may play an important role in encouraging academics to participate in professional development opportunities, but they are rendered less effective by sub-optimal social and material conditions, and thus by issues of social injustice and inequality. The study is based on interviews with 31 academics at three South African universities.
‘I have a chameleon-like existence’ : a duo-ethnographic account of border crossing by two academic development practitionersSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 30, pp 207 –223 (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/30-6-735More Less
The practice of situating academic development practitioners within faculties poses challenges for practitioners from outside the particular discipline. Literature highlights how discourse and culture create tensions amongst role-players in cross-disciplinary contexts. This duoethnographic account examines the experiences of two practitioners as insider-outsiders in a health sciences disciplinary space. Duoethnography is a collaborative methodology where researchers, in dialogue, critique the meanings they give to social and epistemological constructs. Drawing on border crossing as theoretical lens, the study signals how the insider-outsider location might be mediated to support quality teaching. Border crossing highlights the construct of frontiers and associated identity work. The study identified critical success factors for collaboration – physical presence over time; knowing what is valued; an established identity as scholar and competent practitioner; a community of practice; recognition and an acknowledgement by faculty management; and personal flexibility, sensitivity, approachability and willingness to change.