Academic Monitoring and Support Under the Spotlight
Academic Monitoring and Support practitioners at UKZN attended the 2nd Annual Research Colloquium on Academic Monitoring and Support (AMS) to share their challenges and contribute to the solutions with the aim of improving teaching and learning practices at the University.
The Colloquium, hosted by the College of Law and Management Studies Teaching and Learning Unit in partnership with the Teaching and Learning Office, saw academics present research under the theme: “Beyond Academic Development: Reconceptualising and Institutionalising Academic Monitoring and Support”.
College Dean of Teaching and Learning Professor Kriben Pillay said this year’s Colloquium was continuing the dialogue on the refining and development of AMS practices across disciplines, mainstream academics and academic development practitioners which started at the inaugural AMS colloquium hosted by the College of Health Sciences in 2013.
‘The challenge that most universities continue to experience is that AMS is largely seen to be the responsibility of academic development staff, a responsibility that resides outside mainstream teaching and learning and outside the core responsibility of academic staff, said Pillay.
‘The corollary is the “professionalising” of the “academic development” sector, where there is a suggestion of “specialisation” that is not within the grasp of the disciplinary academic, and therefore AMS should continue to be the province of the specialist. I question this for a number of reasons, too many to unpack here, but highlighted for deeper engagement within dialogues that will hopefully be initiated by this Colloquium.’
The keynote address titled: “Academic Monitoring and Support as a Value: A Reflective Study”, was delivered by School of Management, Information Technology and Governance academic, Dr Shaun Ruggunan.
Ruggunan reflected on his journey as a Lecturer in Human Resources Management and spoke about ways of bringing academic development into mainstream teaching, demonstrating how and why academic development needs to happen in the classroom.
‘Through sharing these experiences and practices, I hope to provoke both a discussion and debate about how by reconceptualising how we work with students we shift our ideas of what academic development is beyond merely being transmitters of discipline content.
‘This reconceptualisation means we also have to see ourselves as transmitters of values. I contend that AMS needs to be internalised as a value by academics, and need not be an onerous or bureaucratic task outsourced to remote units. This may mean a profound mind shift in how we see our work as academics but ultimately holds benefits for both academics and students. I also suggest ways in which UKZN can support academics in achieving these aims,’ said Ruggunan.
Apart from the presentation of research, there were also three plenary discussions on Institutionalising Academic Monitoring and Support in which delegates split up to discuss this topic. The Colloquium ended with a critical reflection of the day’s process proceedings and how delegates could contribute to the way forward.
The first plenary session facilitated by College of Humanities academic Dr Angela James included panellists: Ms Angeline Stephens (Humanities), Ms Prim Naidoo (Law and Management Studies), Ms Roshanthni Subrayen (Student Services), Ms Urisha Naidoo (Health Sciences) and a student’s experience given by Mr Sabelo Mavundla of the School of Education.
Mavundla spoke about the challenges students from rural areas faced when moving from high school to tertiary education and the importance of orientation and support from lecturers and student service practitioners in making the transition a smooth one.
The second session, chaired by the Dean of Teaching and Learning in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, Professor Bala Pillay, critically reflected on tutorial provision at UKZN. The panel made up of Humanities Director of Professional Services, Mr Kishore Gobardan; Law and Management Studies Academic Co-ordinator, Professor Phil Stegen; Humanities School Operations Manager, Mr Calvin Thomas, and Pillay examined the issue of funding when it comes to mainstreaming tutorials.
After the group discussions were concluded, delegates gave feedback in the last plenary session on a Policy Framework for Harmonising Key Roles and Responsibilities for AMS Personnel at UKZN. Issues addressed included how Colleges wanted to reconceptualise AMS and a proposal was put forward for the possibility of the College structure being adopted in residences so that AMS practitioners were able to extend their services to more students.
UKZN’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, Professor Renuka Vithal, said the Colloquium was not only important for informing policy and guidelines for institutional change but also provided a platform for identifying and raising new questions which lead to research.
‘We are increasingly and vigorously being held accountable for providing quality education to our undergraduate students hence the need for this colloquium which provides a forum for sharing effective activities and programmes across Colleges and Schools as well as an opportunity to discuss research findings, especially outputs from the range of projects funded by the University,’ she said.