‘Thinking and Making’ in the Design Foundation Year

MariMari Lecanides-Arnott, Design Foundation Co-ordinator, shares some of the interesting and creative activities her ECP students participated in over the past semester. The visual tour through these varied learning activities highlights the way in which staff have attempted to create an enriched and stimulating learning environment for their students which acts in direct ways to aid students’ access to both university knowledges and the professional practices of the broader Design industry.

Greetings to the Extended Curriculum Programme Community at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology! This picks up from our last ECP blog post of 8 February, Celebrating student work in Design Foundation, which advertised the 2015 Design Foundation Student exhibition that opened on Saturday, 13 February 2016. 

Orientation & celebratory activities in February

Orientation activities in February

February seems like a very long time ago, but the Design Foundation students and staff will attest to the fact that due to a full and intensive teaching and learning programme, the first semester of 2016 seems to have flown by.

The Design Foundation Year is the foundational year of study for the extended curriculum programmes for the Design disciplines, such as Fashion, Industrial, Jewellery and Surface Design. The aim of the Design Foundation year is to provide students’ whose schooling provided limited exposure to the Art and Design disciplines with epistemological access to the field of Design and full participation in university study. The curriculum and pedagogic practices therefore engage students with integrated, multidisciplinary and cognitively challenging teaching and learning activities. Some of these activities are showcased below and help to highlight how the academic staff in the Design Foundation year are continually striving to create an enriched curriculum and stimulating learning environment able to introduce but also connect students directly to their chosen field of practice. Below is a brief visual tour through some of the many celebratory, pedagogic and learning events and activities that defined our ECP students’ learning experience over the first semester.



From concept to product


Student excursions

Transformational Leaders: How to achieve equity in the South African university?

How can South African universities tackle the persistent inequality many of its students’ experience when it comes to learning success? While the South African higher education landscape has witnessed much change with respect to creating more equitable access opportunities for students previously under-represented, the sector still has a long way to go to ensure that these very students (who are mostly black) achieve the kinds of learning success their white peers enjoy. Suellen Shay, Dean of the Centre for Higher Education and Development at UCT offers her response to this important question. In a recent comment piece in the University World News, (pdf of article available at end of post, or click on link) she suggests ‘transformational leadership’ at our universities could offer some plausible responses to this ongoing challenge. She suggests that transformational leaders are committed to understanding the reasons for poor student success, ask the right kinds of questions about university curricula and importantly acknowledge the role that institutions play in shaping the student experiences and thus student success.


This article offers a slightly new angle on a long standing debate about how to make our sector, its curricula and pedagogic practices responsive to the needs of its students – an issue that in many respects defines the ECP project. In the spirit of academic and professional dialogue within the ECP community here at CPUT comments and responses to Prof Shay’s position would be welcomed. The following questions are offered as prompts to open up this conversation:

  • What do think about Prof Shay’s main argument in this article?
  • What are the other strategies required to ensure that all students irrespective of their schooling, socio-economic or cultural background have a reasonable chance of succeeding at university?
  • What are the major obstacles and opportunities to achieving equity with respect to student success in our sector, or institution or the ECP course you work on?



CPUT provides direction for the ECP Special Interest Group at HELTASA

Dylan Cromhout

Dylan Cromhout

Dylan Cromhout, ECP lecturer in Marketing and member of the Foundation SIG steering committee at CPUT, enthusiastically reflects on his recent participation at the HELTASA convernors’ meeting. He also shares the steering committee’s strategic plan to strengthen and sustain the work and reach of the Foundation SIG.


On the 26th of May 2016 I attended a Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA) Special Interest Group (SIG) convenors’ meeting at the Southern Sun Hotel in Johannesburg. Those that attended the meeting included three members of the HELTASA executive, Amanda Hlengwa (Chair) Rhodes University; Karin Wolff (Secretary) CPUT; Masebala Tjabane (SIG Coordinator) VUT, and the convenors of six of the eight SIGs.


Special Interest Groups (SIG) are part of the HELTASA organisational structure and were created as a platform where academic developers and academics with a particular research or professional interests could get together and share information about best practices. The SIGs cover a range of topics including; First Year Experience, Professional (Academic) Development, Tutoring and Mentoring, Writing Centers, Technology Enhanced Learning, Reflective Practice (Action Research), Foundation (Extended) Programmes, and The Southern Africa Universities Learning and Teaching (SAULT) Forum.

It was great to meet up with the Executive of HELTASA in such an intimate setting. I felt like I was able to get to know them better and was thus able to see that they are just normal people that care about education in South Africa. I found out that none of them get paid to be a part of the HELTASA Executive and that all of them have day jobs at various educational institutions in the country.  Mostly I was encouraged to be there amongst other people who, just like me, are truly passionate about education in South Africa.

A core theme from the report backs from the SIG convenors highlighted that it was clear that each SIG desired to encourage the sharing of best practice and that each SIG had experienced challenges as far as, their sustainability. It was a good day that involved a range of elements that blended together into what I think was a successful experience. Although there is still much work to do, I am confident that we as a SIG leadership team in conjunction with the other SIG leaders and the HELTASA Executive Committee will see real growth in the area of best practicing sharing in teaching and learning in Higher Education in South Africa in the upcoming years. And I am excited to be a part of the Foundation SIG and look forward to working with the rest of our team at CPUT to see our plans realized in order to ultimately increase the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning in Foundation classrooms in South Africa.

Here’s to the next two years… so watch this space!

The key strategic goal for the Foundation SIG under the convenorship of CPUT is to develop sustainable mechanism to encourage and promote the sharing of teaching and learning practices among South African institutions. CPUT will act as the pioneering institution implementing our proposed sharing model at institutional, regional and national levels.

  • Institutional Level
    • Classroom Fika’s
    • Sharing Circles for disciplines
    • Teaching & Learning Seminars
  • Regional Level
    • Yearly Regional Symposia
    • Article Presentations
    • Workshops
    • Sharing Circles
  • National & International Level
    • Article presentations at HELTASA
    • Foundation/ ECP pre-conference workshop at HELTASA
    • Sharing Circles during SIG slot at HELTASA conference