Annual site visits with ECP staff commence

The annual start-of-year visits by the ECP Unit, Fundani with ECP lecturers in departments across CPUT started this week. Colleagues in the Business Faculty, specifically the Communication Cluster, PAG, Management and Marketing, hosted us this week and some productive discussions took place. Already some interesting ideas were put forward for specialized workshops for ECP Communication lecturers. We hope that as we continue to meet with the other departments, more creative suggestions on how we can add value to what lecturers do to improve ECP, will be put forward.

Meetings have already been scheduled with colleagues in Health and Wellness, Design, Architecture and Interior Design. We are keen to listen and share ideas on how to add value to the quality of ECP provisions across CPUT.

A Reflective Review of the ECP Unit, Fundani

James Garraway, HoD ECP Unit, Fundani, offers his insights on the Reflective Review process undertaken last week with colleagues from the University of Johannesburg.


Ness Mercel, Lynn Coleman, Kibbie Naidoo, James Garraway

The ECP Unit welcomed two colleagues from UJ, Kibbie Naidoo and Vanessa Merkel to our unit for the week of 5 – 9 February. Lynn Coleman had originally contacted them to help us to re-imagine ECP within the Fundani Unit. How, for example, could we think of doing things differently or better in the future. The initiative to contact them was inspired by our discussions with ECP colleagues from UJ and WSU (during institutional visits to CPUT in 2017), who have different operating modes from us. We were unsure what to call the visit but it panned out as being a Reflective Review rather than an evaluation of ECP. Vanessa and Kibbie spent a tough week interviewing ECP staff, HoDs, Senior Administrators including  Deans, the DVC(Academic) Prof Staak, colleagues in Fundani, and the HEMIS Director. On Friday we all met at Granger Bay to discuss some of the key issues raised during their interview discussions. During this session we reviewed and responded to the main findings of the interviews and charted possible ways forward. Of great interest  to us were ideas about how we could operate more closely with our Fundani colleagues, drawing on their expertise where necessary. It was also useful to get a sense of how we could operate more closely with ECP staff on their own academic development, as well as promote ECP as a core university teaching initiative. For myself, I found this to be a wonderful, often troublesome (as we confronted our own weaknesses) but stimulating week and I would recommend such reflective reviews for other CPUT units. In a sense, it cuts to the core of being academic, or being a ‘reflective practitioner’.

Once we receive their written report Lynn and myself will engage in discussion with the ECP coordinators and other interested parties.

 

Welcome 2018

For many the memory of the leisurely Christmas holiday period is now a distant memory and preparations for the start of the academic year are probably consuming every possible minute of the day. In the next week or so ECP lecturers will be welcoming their 2018 cohorts into their classrooms and hopefully this will be the start a stimulating and engaging academic year for all ECP students.

The first term at the ECP Unit at Fundani, will be a busy one where we plan to create multiple opportunities to connect with ECP lecturers and staff in Faculties and departments, but hopefully also with ECP students.

Line-up of some of the activities we will be involved in:

 5 – 9 February – Strategic Review with colleagues from the University of Johannesburg

12 – 28 February – Site visit with all ECP departments (James, Janine and Lynn will visit with departments, meet ECP lecturers and discuss how to support staff to deliver enriched teaching and learning experiences for all ECP students)

March

– Orientation sessions for ECP students (James, Janine and Lynn will offer special workshops for ECP students aimed at helping students understand what an ECP learning pathway is about and how to adjust to this new academic environment)

– ECP Classroom Fika (topic to be announced)

– Reflections of teaching in ECP book – city writing retreat for all aspiring chapter authors (submission of abstracts are due 25 February)

 

2017 in Review: ECP Unit reflects on the year

Dee (Admin Assistant), Janine (Research Assistant), Wooden Colonial man, James (HoD), Lynn (Staff Developer)

On 1 December, staff members of the ECP Unit, Fundani spent the morning reviewing their work for 2017. The primary aims of this session were to create a space for review and reflection of events undertaken and organised by the unit, provide points for commentary on the value, relevance and efficiency of the activities undertaken, attempt to build cohesion among team members and outline concrete and aspirations plans for 2018. After a short team-building activity where staff were given an opportunity to share our personal stories as a way of giving each other a glimpse into our non-professional lives, the main review activities for the day commenced. Each team member presented their ‘activities-profile‘ for the year and then offered a critical and reflective analysis of the strengths and shortcomings of these undertakings. Collectively the team then compile a critical audit of strengthens and opportunities.

What we do well
  • events (the unit was able to successfully facilitate and host a variety of different staff development events – ranging from the popular classroom fikas, to the highly successful Regional ECP symposium in August)
  • research project (this is growing area of support, especially through the Action Research Project which currently attracts ECP lecturers in three faculties)
  • how we do development (a hallmark of our interaction with ECP staff in departments and facilities is to provide direct interpersonal contact and create the kinds of spaces that engender deeper and more sustained reflection and transformation of practices)
  • communication (the blog in particular was singled out as the flagship of our efforts to create a ‘virtual’ space or home for ECP lecturers across CPUT and a central connection point for our burgeoning ECP community)
Improvement areas
  • can we find better ways of interacting and engaging our community?
  • what are the best ways to support and develop members of our community?
  • should we only rely on interpersonal relationships?
  • how can we grow our research outputs in ways that benefit the ECP community?
  • how can the Unit operate in more efficient and strategic ways?

A key activity planned for early 2018 will be an external strategic review process. We will be assisted by colleagues from the University of Johannesburg, to critically evaluate our role, function and purpose within the university and importantly how this function can best be operationalised. The review session on 1 December was therefore a significant preparation task and crucial forerunner of this more intensive and broader consultative strategic process that will happen in February 2018.

Decolonizing higher education pedagogies: Michalinos Zembylas

Last Thursday, a healthy contingent of CPUT ECP lecturers attended the seminar by Michalinos Zembylas at UWC, entitled Decolonizing higher education pedagogies: Good intentions are not enough.

Prof Zembylas is Associate Professor of Education at the Open University of Cyprus, but has visiting Professor positions at both the Free State and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Universities. His research interests are in the areas of educational philosophy and curriculum theory, and his work focuses on exploring the role of emotion and affect in curriculum and pedagogy. He is particularly interested in how affective politics intersect with issues of social justice pedagogies, intercultural and peace education, and citizenship education.

Prof Zembylas presented a sort of ‘tour de force’ of decolonization theory, helping to distill what for many is a minefield of theoretical and ideological positions. However, he clearly asserted that principally the concept points to two important ideas; firstly the resistance to Eurocentrism and the acknowledgment of contributions by colonized populations across the world and secondly, the emphasis on a moral imperative for correcting the wrongs of colonial domination, thus the adoption of an ethical stance in relation to social justice for those enslaved and disempowered by persistent forms of coloniality.

Importantly Michalinos helped to differentiated between concepts and terms often used interchangeably with decolonisation like Africanization and transformation. However, the main focus of his presentation was to discuss how decolonization is (should be?) taken up and understood within the higher education setting. Here he highlighted three different approaches

  • transforming/disrupting the institutional cultures as they now exists, privileging neoliberal structures
  • exposing the dominance of Eurocentrism in curriculum and pedagogy;
  • transforming/disrupting this dominance by pointing to knowledge possibilities that have been denied relevance

He concluded by suggesting that five fundamental shifts have to be made to fully realise the decolonization project within higher education in South Africa

  1. awareness of colonization is not enough: its consequences must be exposed and challenged
  2. reject the discourse of deficiency: a dominant thinking in HE in SA attempts to understand student difficulty by framing students and their families as lacking academic and cultural resources
  3. acknowledge the sociopolitical context and its challenges and develop a strategic stepped approach to challenge colonized practices and structures
  4. good  intentions are not enough. You cannot be neutral. Neutrality amounts to perpetuating the status quo
  5. accept a loss of likeability. You will make enemies, but you have to live with this

In discussing the value of attending the seminar, ECP colleagues (Alex Noble, Lynn Coleman, Nike Romano, Nowhi Xintolo & Tasleema Mohammed) agreed that Prof Zemblyas’s ‘Different articulation of decolonization in HE’ slide was most useful in analyzing and identifying especially institutional  responses to decolonization. We also agreed that a more detailed engagement with all ECP stakeholders around this topic would be useful. It would provide individual lecturers with an opportunity to consider their own perspectives on the debates and encourage reconsiderations of their curricula and pedagogic practices in light of these debates.

 

Walter Sisulu University comes to visit

Mandla Mantshongo, Tabile Loqo & Mawethu Ngeleshe

Last Tuesday, 28 November 2017, the ECP Unit hosted colleagues from the Extended Curriculum Programme at Walter Sisulu University. Tabile Logo, WSU Institutional ECP Coordinator mentioned that her interest in discussing how CPUT manages its ECP grant funds  promoted the request to visit our institution and meet with key ECP roleplayers. Tabile was accompanied by Mandla Mantshongo (Finance Manager for all DHET grants) and Mawethu Ngeleshe (ECP Accountant). Discussions commenced in the morning with staff in the ECP Unit and then later ECP leaders across CPUT joined for a more dialogical engagement where best practices at individual faculty and department levels could be shared and discussed.

Tabile shared some informative details about the ECP offering at WSU. Currently WSU has 26 programmes across four campuses that service a total of 2770 students. All their programmes  implement the extended model. They were keen to hear about our differentiated approach to the implementation of the ECP models – the approach taken at CPUT is to allow departments and faculties to ultilise curriculum structures that best suit the specific educational needs of the department and students concerned. Some of the main take-aways or gems from our interaction over the day were; the detailed and direct financial control mechanisms used to oversee the whole Extended Programme Grant by the Institutional ECP Coordinator and the direct contact created between ECP students and the Institutional ECP Coordinator, through their semester-based programme review activities.  Colleagues from both institutions appreciated the opportunity to meet face-to-face and share practices and approaches linked to implementing ECP at our very different institutions. Plans are underway to extend and solidify these collegial interactions.

Stimulating HELTASA 2017

Dylan Cromhout, an ECP lecturer in Marketing Department in the Faculty of Business and Management Sciences and one of the Foundation Special Interest Group (SIG) convenors at CPUT, attended this years’ HELTASA conference. He offers some reflections on his engagement at the conference.


 

The 2017 Heltasa conference was hosted by DUT and took place in Durban at the Coastlands Hotel in Umhlanga from 21 – 24 November. The theme of the conference was “Higher Education Well-Being: Transcending Boundaries Reframing Excellence.” The subthemes included:

  • Greater purpose of higher education;
  • Access and parity of participation;
  • Reframing student success;
  • Enriching the Curriculum;
  • Knowledge in the academy.

The keynote speakers included:

  • Professor Bal Chandra Luitel from Katmandu University: “Developing education research as/for transformative preofessional development: A case of (post)graduate education research programme for greater good;”
  • Professor Yusuf Waghid from Stellenbosch University: “Towards a university in becoming: revisiting deliberation, responsibility and cosmopolitanism;” and
  • Professor Stephanie Allais from the University of the Witwatersrand: “The Value of the lecture in higher education pedagogy.”

I attended a pre-conference workshop about “Integrating technology in Higher Education,” where I learnt about using Google Docs and Edpuzzle to facilitate more effective learning. It was a good interactive sessions where we could effectively engage with our co-participants.

I also attended many of conference presentations; ranging from decolonizing the curriculum (a big theme at the conference), student well-being, e-learning, innovation in teaching and learning, #Feesmustfall, MOOCs, open education resources, and collaborative online learning. Overall it would seem that lecturers and researchers around the country are asking similar questions and pursuing similar means to solve the array of challenges found in Higher Education. A key focus remains on what effective teaching and learning means and what benefits it might yield for students.

I also facilitated a Foundation Special Interest Group (SIG) session as I was one of the out-going convenors at CPUT. The session was attended by numerous foundation and extended curriculum lecturers and researchers. I gave a presentation where I shared what CPUT, as convernor institution, had been doing for the past two years. Colleagues across the sector then shared and described activities and approaches undertaken within the Extended/ Foundation programmes at their institutions. As the out-going convenor I also had to oversee the selection of a new convenor institution and the establishment of an National SIG Executive Committee. This committee will be made up of one person from each institution. The new SIG convening institution is the University of the Free State who will oversee the activities of the SIG for the next two years. A description of this meeting is captured in the SIG blog and can be accessed via the link. (Click for blog post and video).

Besides the SIG session and the many interesting and thought-provoking presentations it was also good to catch up with old Heltasa “friends” and colleagues in-between sessions and over lunch .The conference ended off with a Gala dinner where some colleagues were honoured with teaching excellence awards. Colleagues from all over South Africa spent the rest of the evening dancing and boogieing to the live band playing 70s and 80s music.

Tenacity and hard work: PAG foundation curriculum about to become a reality

When the ECP Unit at Fundani was approached by Prof Harry Ballard, HoD for the department of Public Administration and Governance, to assist with conceptualizing their ECP offering, little did we know we would be embarking on a 18 month-plus curriculum design and development journey. The first workshops with Prof Ballard and his ECP staff started in May/June 2016. Last week marked the final formal workshop with lecturers who will implement the new curriculum and ECP model in 2018. Throughout the process the PAG Foundation lecturing team, which is currently comprised of Megan Alexander (Year coordinator), Andre Cornelius and Robert Schultz, displayed a level of tenacity and interest essential to ensuring that the initial idealistic conceptualisations would eventually be translated into concrete curriculum and pedagogic methods and strategies.

The impetus for the renewal process was the realisation that the Extended Model used in the PAG diploma wasn’t adequately serving the needs of the ECP students. When staff conducted a detailed student profiling exercise, they soon realised that the existing curriculum was misaligned to the educational needs of students joining both the mainstream and ECP programmes. The NBT testing in March this year, confirmed this assessment and provided evidence that over 80% of students completing Business related ECP courses, including those in PAG, needed extensive and foundation support with both academic and quantitative literacies. Furthermore students  were often unsure about what it meant to be a public servant and the central role of public administration in effective and efficient government practice. Making the shift to a new curriculum model was not, however, a seamless process as lecturers were very unfamiliar with the Foundation Model, having only ever been exposed to the Extended Model. They therefore grappled with making the paradigm shift to a curriculum model that prioritizes issues of student transition (both to learning in the university and becoming familiar with the field of practice), seeks to provide foundational conceptual understanding and breaks with the content typically taught at first year level.

Once over this major ‘threshold concept’, the possibilities presented by the new curriculum model become clearer. We received much insight and guidance from colleagues in the faculties of Applied Sciences (Gert Griesel) and Informatics and Design (Amanda Morris), who have successfully been implementing the Foundation Model for years. Through a series of workshops the new PAG Foundation lecturers were also exposed to various educational theories and principles linked to curriculum design, teaching, learning and assessment approaches. These workshops offered both moments of challenge and inspiration but vitally, the whole process allowed lecturers to gain valuable experience about the complex business of curriculum design and development. Being so intimately involved in the process of designing the curriculum, also mean increased levels of ownership and commitment to the ideals and intentions captured in the curriculum. The development process also involved high levels of collaboration between the lecturers, an approach that will be carried through in the strongly integrated approach adopted for the PAG Foundation year.

Currently the team is feverishly busy with finalizing their subject guides and developing course readers for students. In the new year, they will share the overarching aims and learning objectives that underpin their new curriculum and what pedagogic and assessment strategies will guide the implementation process with their 2018 ECP cohort.

Benefits of writing retreats – ECP lecturers reflect

Last week the annual ECP Writing Retreat was held at the picturesque Mont Fleur conference estate in Stellenbosch. A few ECP lecturers who participated in this year’s event share their experiences and highlight the benefits of this dedicated time away to think and do ‘writing’


 Megan Alexander, Andre Cornelius and Robert Schultz, Business

The 2017 ECP Writing Retreat at Mont Fleur arranged by Fundani, CPUT provided the ideal opportunity for participants to engage in intensive learning activities related to academic writing and publishing. Optional presentations included the development of a Title, an Abstract and Introduction for publication in journal articles. ECP lecturers were afforded the opportunity to devote specific time to their research projects. Individual and collaborative sessions served as valuable developmental engagement for our Foundation Year recurriculation project in the Department Public Administration and Governance (PAG) to be implemented in 2018. Mentor support and input were welcomed and led to further clarification of concepts, in turn leading to progress in our various projects. This type of staff development should form part of all academics’ professional growth. New lecturers, in particular, should be encouraged to attend in order to demystify the perceived fears that surround writing retreats. We are grateful for this opportunity.


Felicity Harris, Mechanical Engineering

As a first time attendee of the Writing Retreat and a novice writer, I did not know what to expect or even if I had done enough in my writing to warrant being there. But the retreat was most certainly the best place to be if you are in my position. It helped to demystify the whole idea of writing for publication and broke it down to the basics that would help to get anyone started and motivated to write.


Amanda Morris, Graphic Design

Often when I think of writing it brings to mind the process of putting pen to paper or in our contemporary contexts, putting fingers to keyboard and creating a record of thoughts, ideas and processes. I assume that the thinking which informs my writing will flow naturally and that the process of thinking and writing will happen concurrently. I have found this recently to not be true…

While at Mont Fleur attempting to delineate clearly what I was trying to write about, and then research, I discovered writing is more than just “putting it down on  paper”. Every paragraph I write is a manifestation of a process that is so much richer than what is visible on paper. Before I “write”…I read, I interrogate what I have read, I make deductions or formulate arguments and then I put this down on paper. Sometimes reading three articles lead to writing one good sentence/point and sometimes reading a single statement leads to the formation of an entire argument. There is a process of reading, thinking, and then only “writing” that I have discovered at Mont Fleur.  It has helped me see the value of reading and truly reflecting on what I have read, in the writing process. This has been helpful for me because traditionally I measured my progress on how much writing I have done but I now realise that reading and reflecting is key in “good” writing practice. We should not be too focused on the “output” but rather put emphasis on the “input”. Value what has gone into preparing a piece…whether it be a paragraph on a page or chapter in a book…


Nowhi Xintolo, Nursing

Making a decision to participate as a novice in academic writing was ambivalent; when I viewed the list of other participants I was a bit intimidated however I experienced a different environment altogether. The geographical lay out of the venue itself (Mountain its slopes and its vegetation) was a calming factor that allowed deep thoughts and free flowing ideas that one can put down on paper. The guidance that one got from facilitators made it a comfortable field to play along and learn how to structure academic writing. The Moves and the steps directed my thoughts and ideas fruitfully to the development of an abstract and a topic.

The open fires discussions of sharing experiences from established authors were encouraging and made one see the journey of self – development and long life learning with a different eye than one dominated with fear of doctors and professors that have a list of publications longer than an arm.

It was a great learning experience to sum up the to me the title of the book “the value in the valley” became a leaving experience (Iyanla Vanzant)  author; Motivational speaker and Priestess)

A highlight from the National ECP colloquium

Moses Basitere, ECP lecturer in Chemical Engineering, recently attended the National ECP colloquium jointly organised by DUT and MUT in Durban on 20-21 September 2017. In this post he shares some personal highlights of the event.

 


DUT and MUT partnered in the spirit of collaboration to bring together public universities in South Africa to engage on Foundation Provisioning imperatives. The theme for the colloquium was “Pushing the Frontiers of Foundation Provisioning: Reflecting on more than a decade of practice –Are we winning?” The keynote address was delivered by our very own CPUT ECP Institutional Coordinator, AssProf James Garraway. The main aim of the event sought to continue disseminating best practices in advancing student success in the ECP educational space. The presentations at the events addressed the following subthemes;

  • Implementation of different foundation/ECP models
  • Forms and relevancy of student support in ECP
  • Effective ECP practices which inspire effective learning
  • Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) in ECP • Technology enhanced Teaching and Learning

I joined the conference on September 21 and I gave a presentation titled “An evaluation of the effectiveness of the use of multimedia and Wiley Plus web-based homework system in enhancing learning in the Chemical Engineering Extended Curriculum Program Physics course”, sharing teaching practices in the chemical engineering department ECP. The presentation was well received and created a debate on how we can integrate different multimedia technology in the classroom to achieve maximum student’s participation in and outside the classroom.

The main highlight of the presentations on Thursday for me was given by prof  Alfred Mvunyelwa Msomi titled” Transforming teaching and learning to accommodate student cultural backgrounds in a first year mathematics classroom at a University of Technology”. This was an interesting topic as it dealt with the current request/demand by “fees must fall” students protest movement on how we can decolonize curriculum with a special focus on south Africa and Africa as a whole. He demonstrated how mathematics can be taught accommodating student’s cultural background by making example and scenario that students can be able to relate to on their daily lives.