Thoughts on the ECP Induction workshops for Engineering

Collegiality, laughter, energy, discussion… what a pleasure to be in an intellectual environment coming to grips with the Extended Curriculum Programme (ECP) in which all the workshop participants teach. Sitting in this workshop and looking around at all the enthusiasm, I am delighted that these committed and concerned lecturers are the people who teach on the ECP programme which is often regarded as the university’s step-child – its Cinderella programme. Perhaps one of the main reasons for this “Cinderellasation” is that it is regarded as “other” – it has “other” students; it has “other” teaching provision – although the ECP students cover exactly the same content and write the same assessments as the mainstream students. Often the ECP lecturers are regarded as “other” as well because the mainstream lecturers see only the time extension and the half load of subjects, but forget about the specialised, innovative teaching that happens on the ECP. Often the high calibre of teacher is overlooked.

ECP lecturers engaged in discussion

ECP lecturers engaged in discussion

“WOW! This ECP workshop is so valuable to us, the ECP teachers”, I think as we engage in discussions about the history behind the development and growth of the ECP, how the fundamental concept of academic support has changed into a question of social justice and redress, epistemological and ontological access. “Hey, what’s ontological access?” someone asks across the room. “Oh, very simply it means enabling ways of being for a student, e.g. learning to be a professional, an engineer, a manager, a paramedic”, someone else responds. So we learn about the history, philosophy and ideology underpinning ECP and slowly our knowledge of ECP changes and together with it an understanding of how our teaching needs to change to align with the principles of ECP. “Aha!” I think during a light-bulb moment “we, the teachers, are experiencing epistemological access because everything that was tacit and implicit about ECP is being made explicit and not only spoken about, but discussed in-depth – the process of epistemological access! And as the workshops change our knowledge and understanding, so our be-ing as ECP teachers will also change as the workshops enable our ontological access as well. Woo-hoo”.

It strikes me that these workshops have been carefully designed to impact upon the participants in a deep way in the sense that the learning that is taking place is deep learning. These workshops are offering us a chance to change not only our teaching, but our very being as teachers.  It seems to me that these workshops are not about finding a band-aid solution to teaching on ECP, but about enabling us on our deepest level.

ECP lecturers in Clotex & Mechanical

ECP lecturers in Clotex & Mechanical

Change… Hmmm. Immediately Freshlyground’s song “Chicken to change” pops into my mind shiny as a revelation and I get it up on YouTube to enjoy once more. I am struck by the lyrics:

“You are chicken to change. You are chicken to change – aah.

 Did you lose sight of the visions in your head?

Did you lose grip of the dreams that you once held?

You promised always to open the doors for us…”

I ask myself, “Am I chicken to change?” I ask myself, “Did you lose sight of the visions in your head about opening the doors of learning for ECP students? Did you lose grip of the dreams that you once held about enabling epistemological and ontological access for your ECP students? I remember a promise I once made to myself echoing in: “You promised always to open the doors for us, the ECP Students …” Hmmm.

Shaheeda (L) and Bernie (R)

post by Bernie Millar, ECP Co-ordinator in Clotex