Distinguished Teacher Awards for Humanities Academics
Academics from the College of Humanities, Professor Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan (School of Education) and Dr Mvuselelo Ngcoya (School of Built Environment and Development Studies) have been recognised by UKZN for excellence in teaching.
They both received the Distinguished Teachers’ Award (DTA) during the current UKZN Graduation Ceremonies.
Said Pithouse-Morgan: ‘Being a teacher is central to who I am. This award feels both personally and professionally significant. It is also encouraging that others are similarly appreciative of what I value and wish to cultivate in my teaching. The award serves as a critical institutional recognition of the educational and scholarly value of the study of university teaching and learning.’
Pithouse-Morgan’s scholarship is in the field of professional learning, with a specific focus on better understanding and supporting teachers as self-directed and self-developing learners.
Most of her students are also practising teachers with diverse educational backgrounds who teach and lecture on a variety of subjects in schools and Higher Education Institutions. Her educational approach has developed through continuous dialogue between her professional learning research and her practice as a teacher educator.
‘I facilitate inquiry-oriented learning through using arts-based and participatory modes, such as drawing, letter writing, mind mapping, poetry, smart phone text messaging, and performances of scripts for television commercials,’ said Pithouse-Morgan. ‘Course readings include an array of resources such as online talks, blog posts, and online magazine and newspaper articles. Using diverse methods and resources heightens engagement and deep thinking, dialogue and sharing, enjoyment, taking action, and emotional growth.’
Ngcoya is both humbled and honoured by the DTA recognition saying: ‘I personally know many amazing lecturers in my School and College. So, to be recognised by my peers is important. It means I have to seek further ways to improve my teaching, to be more reflective, to keep trying new methods.’
For Ngcoya, the most difficult thing is to be courageous and release the handbrake from students. ‘The nature of the world, and the problems students and teachers are supposed to solve require careful thought and experimentation that contravenes the parameters of conventional systems of assessment. Therefore, I encourage students to use all kinds of tools: videos, reports, essays, photo-essays, oral presentations, and poetry, whatever they feel comfortable with. In the classroom, I try to draw from their experiences as well, have them present, teach, etc. I think they feel empowered when that happens. This is not easy work but I’m privileged that I teach postgrad students and my classes are of a good size that allows me to experiment,’ he said.
The academics noted that awards such as these were vital in that they recognised the contributions individual academics made in overcoming challenges and improving the teaching and learning endeavour at the Institution while encouraging innovative, responsive teaching, and drawing attention to how teaching and research could complement each other.
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan