Thursday, 30 July 2015

We've been busy!

The Structure, Culture and Agency team have been busy. Two new research articles emanating from the project have been published:

James  at the writing retreat, 2015
Garraway, J. 2015. Academic staff development in foundation provision. South African Journal for Higher Education, 29 (1) 26 - 44.
Foundation provision is a specially funded student support initiative for disadvantaged students in South African universities. This research focuses on foundation academic staff development. 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 academic development. This research analyses foundation staff development as an activity system, using Engestrom’s 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.

Quinn, L. and Vorster, J. 2015. Pedagogy for fostering criticality, reflectivity and practice in a course on teaching for lecturers. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher EducationOnline.
Lynn and Jo at the writing retreat, 2015
Using the concepts of criticality, reflectivity and praxis, the paper presents an analysis of our reflections on participants’ responses to the assessment requirements for a course for lecturers on teaching.  The context in which the course is being taught has changed considerably in the last few years in terms of the mode of delivery, as well as the number and diversity of participants. Our analysis has generated insights into ways in which the course is not meeting all the learning needs of the participants, nor preparing them adequately to demonstrate, in writing, Their learning. Using insights gained, we suggest pedagogic processes and strategies for ensuring that the course focuses on both writing to learn and learning to write; And for assisting participants to acquire the practices to demonstrate their learning in written assessment tasks, using the requisite literacy including criticality, reflectivity and praxis.

A colloquium entitled Contextual Approaches to Professional Development with Regard to the Teaching Role was held at Devon Valley, Stellenbosch, on the 27 July 2015. (The programme is attached). This featured presentations on the research as well as presentations by others in Southern Africa who are conducting research into contextual approaches to academic development. In all, 70 people attended and 20 presentations were made. The day culminated with a panel about theories that may inform research into this field. The final set of findings and recommendations on the basis of the research should be completed in August or September, and will be sent to relevant organizations and role-players. The Structure, Culture and Agency project has funding from the National Research Foundation until the end of 2016. Activities in process and plans are for a book on "Theorising learning to teach in higher education: Sociomaterial, social practice and realist approaches" to be edited by Brenda Leibowitz, Vivienne Bozalek and Peter Kahn, and a monograph on the findings of the project. 

Colleagues at the colloquium, including from the Free State, Rhodes and beyond

John Hannon from La Trobe University and Peter Kahn from Liverpool University, at the colloquium and the retreat.