Teaching and Learning Conference on Edgewood Campus
The 7th Annual Teaching and Learning Higher Education Conference was held on UKZN’s Edgewood campus from 25 to 27 September.
Hosted by the University Teaching and Learning Office, the Conference theme was “Re-envisioning African Higher Education: Alternative paradigms, emerging trends and new directions”.
The annual gathering of academics, researchers and policymakers showcases innovation, generates debate, and theorises opportunities and challenges in teaching and learning during the Conference which provides a platform for disseminating Higher Education and institutional research findings.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Professor Renuka Vithal, outlined the rationale for the theme of this year’s Conference. ‘It may be argued that failure and attrition is institutionalised in the South African Higher Education system. Universities continue to come under on-going criticism, most notably for the quality and numbers of graduates.
‘While enrolments have grown substantially, a number of undergraduate cohort studies conducted in the last decade show dropouts remain high and graduation rates low,’ said Vithal.
‘At least one provocative observation that can be made is that increases in enrolments are possible because of the high attrition; and if the system did begin to do better at retention it would impact enrolments - assuming it is operating at capacity.
‘Some evidence for this has begun to emerge at UKZN most notably in science programmes in which spaces are limited, due to, for example, laboratory space. As the University’s academic monitoring and support systems have begun to yield benefits, students are staying in the system in larger numbers and staying longer for a number of reasons or not graduating as quickly and thereby impacting new entrant enrolments. This dual increase in enrolment and retention impacts quality of teaching and learning and delivery of curricula,’ said Vithal.
‘Yes we know the schooling system is not yielding the quality of student that is desired by Higher Education. But, unless we move to a more enabling future-orientated Higher Education curriculum discourse, a self-fulfilling prophecy lodged in mediocrity will continue to be sustained and hold the system down as a whole.’
The Director of Teaching and Learning and Convenor of the Conference, Dr Rubby Dhunpath, echoed Vithal: ‘Whilst globally, there is consensus that Higher Education is integral to the well-being of a nation, governments are investing less and less in Higher Education, leading to an increase in private sector-funded universities, and an increasing number of privately-funded students in public universities. While this development has widened university education opportunities, it has pedagogical implications.
‘In this conference academics and researchers and allied staff continue to add their voices to contemporary Higher Education debates, and share innovative approaches to education that show how these tensions can be addressed by appropriate approaches to curricula, pedagogy and technology,’ said Dhunpath.
‘While lecturers may no longer control the elevator of education in the way they once did, they are still responsible for igniting the lamp of learning – even though it may require the click of a mouse rather than the squeak of chalk.’
Keynote speakers at the three-day Conference included Professor Philip Altbach from the Centre for International Higher Education at Boston College in the United States and Professor Guy Standing from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in the United Kingdom.
Professor Ian Scott from the University of Cape Town and Professor Paulus Gerdes from the Universidade Peadogogica in Maputo delivered plenary addresses.
A host of academics from Africa and beyond presented papers on a wide variety of topics ranging from “Improving access to learning using podcast delivered on mobile technology” by M Madiope, R Ranko-Ramaili and M Ally to “Patterns of Thought in Studying Patterns in Mathematics” by S Bansilal.
- Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer