UJ comes to visit

On 31 August 2017, the ECP Unit at Fundani hosted colleagues from the Access Programmes of the Academic Development Centre at the University of Johannesburg. A special dialogue session was facilitated to enable colleagues to firstly, describe and explain how extended and foundational programmes are operationalised at both institutions and then, engage in more collaborative group discussions about the central themes involved in supporting ECPs.

The delegation from UJ was headed by Maxine Shandler, who is the Head of Access Programmes and she provided an interesting account of how the university operates both a centralised and decentralised or faculty-based model of extended provision across their institution. While the university has adopted a rather complex approach to managing their extended programmes the work of the Access Programme is strongly informed by the theoretical inputs derived from of Invitational Education, First Year Experience and Academic development. Their programmes have enjoyed much success across the university and have been able to counter the stigmatisation often experienced by ECP students. James Garraway, Head of the ECP Unit at CPUT started off the institutional presentation by sketching some of the successes achieved as a result of extended provisions, but also pointed out the continuing fracture points that challenge the ECP project both at CPUT and nationally. Individual faculty and departmental presentations were then made by select ECP co-ordinators and these highlighted the work of ECP across CPUT.

Most of the joint session was however, taken up by group dialogue discussions. During these round-table groups colleagues from both institutions were able to discuss and seek understanding about some of the core areas associated with ECP and foundational provisions at universities; namely, Classroom Practices, Administration and Policy, Students Development and Staff Development. These discussions yielded some insightful commentary on each of these themes, highlighted ongoing tensions and challenges and also identified good practices at both institutions. Some suggestion made regarding how to solidify inter-institutional collaboration and dialogue include; exchange programmes for extended curriculum staff at both institutions – to encourage better understanding of how ECPs are managed and opportunities for staff to teach in a different institutional context and longer institutional visits.

Regional ECP Symposium a huge success

On Wednesday 30 August the ECP Unit at CPUT hosted the annual Regional ECP Symposium. The event was attended by over 80 delegates and more than 20 papers were presented. Colleagues from 10 institutions nationally converged at the Saretec Building on the Bellville Campus to discuss and debate all matters ECP.

Delegates were welcomed to CPUT and the event opened by Prof Anthony Staak, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic. Prof Staak reminded the audience that the ECP project receives the most DHET funding and is therefore clearly positioned to address issues of both access and success. The keynote presenters were Associate Professor Rochelle Kapp and Dr Bongi Bangeni from UCT. Their presentation entitled ‘Negotiating Learning and Identity: a longitudinal perspective on student transitions’ considered the multiple transitions students experienced during their time at university and stressed the significance of contextual realities in the students’ university and home environment in shaping the nature of these transitions. They suggested that it is crucial for all university lecturers to recognise that ‘negotiating meaningful access to learning is inextricably connected to negotiating an intersection of race, class, linguistic, gendered and religious subject positions in relation to home, school and university’.

PRESENTATION SLIDES: Bangeni and Kapp_KeynoteAddress_ CPUT 31 August_2017

Feedback from delegates has been very positive, with many finding the symposium interesting and stimulating and offering a good balance between theoretical/research-based and practice-focused topics. Many indicated that they were keen to return to the symposium in 2018.

More photos of the event can be found on HERE

Benefiting from the NBT intervention

August signaled the conclusion of the NBT intervention activities for 2017 which were facilitated by the ECP Unit. Since March we hosted various activities aimed at orientating ECP leaders and lecturers to these National Benchmark Tests and then running the tests with a selection of the 2017 ECP cohort at CPUT.

Mechanical Engineering Students write their NBTs

Since May, the results from these tests were distributed among individual departments and various feedback sessions between CETAP (at UCT) and academic departments were hosted between June and August. CETAP also presented their CPUT profile findings to a Dean’s meeting in July. The nett result of this almost nine-month project, has been the compilation of a detailed and significant profile of our students – both on the ECP and mainstream tracks. Departments, HoD’s, ECP leaders and lecturers now have an additional, validated description of their students’ academic needs – valuable information from which to build and develop responsive and inclusive curricula and pedagogic interventions that better suit the needs of students. Many departments are now hard at work to make good on this valuable data and revise their curricula and pedagogies –  something we will be following-up with departments in 2018 and asking them to share their case-studies of innovation, spring-boarded from this NBT project.

Some Stats Associated with the 2017 NBT project

  • 24 departments, across 5 Faculties ran NBT tests with their 2017 ECP cohort
  • 631 ECP students took the tests in March over a two-week period
  • Over 300 lunch meals were provided to students writing both the AQL and Maths tests
  • 20 ECP lecturers attended the Introduction to the NBT presentation in early March
  • 7 separate feedback sessions with department were facilitated. Staff were able to discussed the detailed profile of their Faculty/Department ECP results with CETAP experts
  • 70 ECP leaders and lecturers attended these feedback sessions

ECP Regional Symposium – submit an abstract today

Our annual ECP Regional Symposium will take place on 30 August 2017. This is a wonderful opportunity for all ECP lecturers, researchers and practitioners to join together as a community to engage in critical, engaging and useful conversations about all aspects of ECP and Foundation education. Over the years, through this symposium, an important and vibrant space has been created for members of this community of practice to share their work and insights on how to improve and enhance the learning experience of their students.

The deadline for Abstract Submissions is Thursday 27 July 2017. Registration for the symposium will open online from around 3 August 2017. Full details on the symposium theme and abstract submission guidelines can be found on the attached flyer.


Summary of ECP Classroom Fika Sessions – May and June

Last term the ECP Unit facilitated ECP Classroom Fika sessions in May and June. The general theme connecting both sessions was ‘understanding who our students are’.

In May we reported on diagnostic information in the public domain, namely the NSC and NBT reports. We used these reports to sketch a picture of the kinds of knowledge and competencies students bring with them to university from their high school environment. Both reports offer valuable information about students’ level of preparation in core areas of quantitative reasoning, English language proficiencies and abilities to deal with the academic language and literacies demanded at university. Both reports, which are published on a yearly basis, are vital reading for all ECP lecturers and should form the basis of any curriculum or pedagogic conversations in departments.

MAY FIKA_Who are our students_compressed

Our June session was facilitated by Dr Bruce McKenzie, a now retired ECP lecturer from Nature Conservation. Bruce has been analyzing ECP students’ relative success in comparison to their mainstream counterparts. Bruce’s analysis offers a useful model on how to keep track of ECP students as they move through their diploma course. Also highlighted was how this form of analysis provides the necessary detail about student success which the HEMIS throughput data cannot track. Currently this analysis project has explored success rates in five ECP departments and in the coming months an additional four departments’ results will also be considered.

JUNE FIKA Bruce McKenzie_ECP success

Helping ECP students to ‘think like a physicist’

Dawit Worku, ECP lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Physics, shares his impressions of and reflections on the Teaching and Learning in ECP seminar held on Tuesday 6 June 2017 on the Bellville campus.


Last Tuesday, Dr Honji Conana and Associate Professor Delia Marshall, ECP lecturers at UWC’s Physics department, presented the findings of their research that looked at the influence of mainstream and ECP pedagogic practices on enhancing student’s abilities to undertake problem-solving in Physics. (click to download the presentation Conana and Marshall_6 June 2017_final)

Their research results highlighted that in general  ECP students were much better at tackling Physics problem-solving in ways that mimicked those of physicists. Theoretically the study used concepts of semantic gravity and density to plot out how pedagogic interventions in the ECP classroom differed fundamentally from their mainstream counterparts.

In the ECP classroom students spent more time reading and unpacking the problem, modelling and exploring the physical representation of the problem before attempting to solve with a mathematical representation. Also highlighted was the degree of interaction between student and lecturers in the classroom when compared with the mainstream class. The ECP classroom was a hive of students-lecturer interaction. This research draws attention to the possibilities that exist within the ECP classroom especially for lecturers to assist students to think like physicists and to model their understanding of Physics not as a discipline composed of formulas, but rather one interested in modelling the natural world. I found the presentation fascinating and full of possibilities for my own classroom teaching.

‘This conference has helped me gain perspective’ – reflections on the SANRC FYE Conference

Amanda Morris, ECP Co-ordinator in the Graphic Design department, share some reflections of her recent participation at the SANRC FYE conference in Johannesburg. Amanda also presented a paper at this conference.


Attending the South African National Resource Centre (SANRC) First Year Experience (FYE) this year has been a revitalizing experience. Often as academics we get into the evil cycle of self-pity and trying to find someone to blame for the discouraging events we experience in our classrooms. When I attend conferences like the SANRC FYE it reminds me that despite the discouragement we experience sometimes, there are ways in which we can, through research, investigation and careful study be agents of change.


One of the keynote presentations that made me look differently at what we do was by Dr. Tia Brown Mcnair. Dr McNair encouraged those who work with first year students to consider whether their FYE empowers students or whether it helps them develop agency within the academic environment. This question is an interesting one as we (myself included) often see ourselves as the “liberators” of our students. We do not always recognize that they already come with a set of values, principles etc. that guide their practices and behaviour. Dr McNair described empowerment as providing students with knowledge/information that helps them understand that they can be successful. She describes the development of agency as not just giving students the knowledge or information needed to succeed. Dr. McNair stressed the importance of creating awareness among students of the communities that they are participating in as part of their educational/academic experience. She also explained that their interactions in these communities should be reciprocal. Students should be experiencing their role in their communities and how what they do impact/affect their community.An important recurring theme at the conference, was that just having a FYE does not guarantee any impact. FYEs should offer quality experiences that add value and achieve the desired results. The expectations set for such a FYE need to be set at a realistic level and should consider the needs of students. There was a comment, again by Dr. McNair, that we cannot just replicate what other institutions are doing but rather should tailor make FYEs based on who our students are and what will serve them.

Good practice

One of the other conversations that I found stimulating at the conference was around no longer referring or referencing “best practice” but rather “good practice” and even maybe beyond that to refer to “good practitioners”. This would give recognition to the fact that contexts and student attributes are different at different universities. Another issue that was raised at the conference was that one should not assume that students understand why we design learning interventions in the manner we do. It is our responsibility as first year educators to clearly state the purpose, the task and the criteria in any given activity. We should help students understand what is valuable to them in the educational experience and try to help them develop as intentional learners.

This conference has helped me gain perspective again, on where we are positioned at a national and also institutional level. I feel consoled by the fact that there are others with the same or similar experiences and that we can learn from each other by sharing experiences and expertise.

Enhancing disciplinary literacy: problem-solving in introductory physics

The ECP Unit will host distinguished ECP researchers, Dr Honjiswa Conana and Prof Delia Marshall from UWC on 6 June 2017 as part of our on-going Teaching and Learning in ECP Seminar Series.

Delia Marshall

Honjiswa Conana

While the presentation offer specific insights in the disciplinary area of Physic education, the pedagogic practices and theoretical tools used to inform Honji and Delia’s work will be of value to all ECP lecturers keen to enhance their students’ access to disciplinary knowledge.

Seminar Abstract

How can research on academic literacies throw light on the challenge to widen access to undergraduate science studies? This talk will present a study conducted on the pedagogical practices and student learning in two undergraduate Physics courses, a mainstream and an extended course.

The focus of this talk will be on the disciplinary practice of problem-solving.  Concepts from the sociology of knowledge, specifically Legitimation Code Theory, will be shown to offer a useful analytical framework for characterising the movement between abstract principles and concrete contexts in problem-solving and understanding how meaning is encapsulated in the dense representations of physics. The study showed that with more time and careful pedagogical attention, the extended course was able to make more explicit the literacy practices and epistemological functioning of the discipline.  

The need for pedagogical approaches that make disciplinary knowledge more accessible and relevant to students has been foregrounded by the current South African debates on curriculum reform. In this paper, we touch on what this might mean for physics pedagogy.

VENUE: Fundani Preview Room, 2nd Floor Library Building, Bellville Campus

TIME: 12:45 – 2:00

Update from the HELTASA Foundation Special Interest Group (SIG)

In November 2015, CPUT became the HELTASA Foundation SIG convenor. As convenor institution we have been responsible for helping to build the profile of the SIG and encourage continued dialogue, practice sharing and research into extended and foundation provisions. At the recent HELTASA conference in November 2016, the SIG facilitated an interesting dialogue session with colleagues from across South Africa. A primary aim of this session was to review the role and relevance of ECP and foundation provisions in the context of deep contestations around equity, transformation and access brought about by student protests in 2015 and 2016. Below is a short video summary of the event and the key insights it generated.

YouTube link