Call for Abstracts
Abstracts: Keynote and Special Invited Presenters
Dr Bongi Bangeni, Coordinator, Language Development Group: CHED
Ass Prof Rochelle Kapp, School of Education, University of Cape Town
Negotiating learning and identity: a longitudinal perspective on student transitions to and within university
Our presentation draws on findings from two collaborative qualitative longitudinal studies on student transitions conducted within the Academic Development Programme at the University of Cape Town between 2002 and 2012. These studies tracked the language, literacy and identity shifts of over 100 students from ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds over the course of their undergraduate years. The data illustrate the ways in which student learning is often impeded by limitations of choice within degree structures. Also shown is how high-school discourses and decisions made at high school level continue to impact on students’ pathways on entry, at senior levels and even after the successful completion of the first degree. Equally significant is the agency demonstrated by the students in the face of this constraint. However, the data show how students are able to be agentic at certain times, in certain spaces but not in others. Precipitous moves from steady progress to failure (and vice versa) from one year to the next are a reality. Thus, the findings critique the exclusive focus on individual attributes divorced from context in research on student transitions. The qualitative longitudinal approach foregrounds the centrality of context and the student perspective, enabling us to situate learning and identity in time and space. It problematizes the notion that intense support and reduced load in the first year prepares students adequately for progression to their senior years. While debates about what constitutes inclusive curricula in our current socio-political climate in HE have tended to focus on authorship and what is taught, we argue that a focus on teaching and learning practices is key in contributing to discussions around models of support and assessment within ECP and mainstream teaching.
SPECIAL INVITED PRESENTATIONS
Dr Honji Conana, Teaching and Learning Specialist, Science Faculty, University of the Western Cape
Supporting students in accessing undergraduate science: researching curricular and pedagogical approaches
The notion of ‘the multiple challenges students encounter when they first come to university’ provides a useful framing for conceptualizing introductory physics learning. Learning physics is a challenge to many students because traditionally in physics, students are expected to move effortlessly between the various representational formats (e.g. from verbal descriptions, to pictorial, symbolic and mathematical representations), but this is often not made sufficiently explicit in the pedagogy. Success in physics learning entails not only understanding new concepts, but it also entails taking on new ways of thinking, which lead to important epistemic shifts. In this presentation, I will present research conducted in the context of an ECP physics course, explicitly designed to help students access the disciplinary discourse of physics and to begin to ‘think like a physicist’. 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 that is entailed in physics teaching, as well as for understanding how meaning is encapsulated in the dense representations of physics. The presentation will show how, with more time and careful pedagogical attention, the ECP course was able to make more explicit the disciplinary practices and epistemological functioning of the discipline. The extra curriculum time in the ECP course also enabled different pedagogical practices. This extra time allowed for teaching that could be more responsive to the students’ perceived needs, giving the lecturer more time to set up in-class activities for students, and to respond to students’ questions and difficulties. The need for curricular and pedagogical approaches that respond to students’ needs and that make disciplinary knowledge more accessible and relevant to students has been foregrounded by the current South African debates on curriculum reform. In this presentation, I suggest what this might mean for physics pedagogy.
Daniel Munene, Head: Academic Development Unit, Commerce, University of Cape Town
Making education development initiatives key drivers to student success at university.
The availability of various kinds of student support for new entrants to university is crucial for the successful integration and full participation of these new cohorts. This is even more important for students completing extended curriculum programmes (ECPs) or similar such courses. The high achievers who join ECPs are often first generation entrants to university. They also come with numerous educational, economic and social challenges compared to their peers in regular programmes. The nature and type of support available for these students is crucial if they are to fully participate in the university learning journey. This support includes a range of educational development initiatives that begin with the admission process, progressing to orientation practices, leading onto curriculum and career advising and other psycho-social support. All these educational development practices augment good teaching and allow for a holistic learning experience for students. This presentation will focus on a range of educational development initiatives offered through the Academic Development Programmes at UCT. It will showcase in particular, how for the past decade, the work of the Education Development Unit (EDU) has enabled better transitions and academic successes for students in the Commerce Faculty.
Dr Mark Winter, Senior Subject Coordinator: Maths & Computing, Academic Development Centre, University of Johannesburg
Nama Kone, Senior Coordinator: Engineering, Academic Development Centre, University of Johannesburg
Initial gaps in mathematics knowledge and ways to address them: the case of extended Engineering students
In this presentation, we document and quantify gaps in knowledge relating to mathematics understandings among students entering the Extended Engineering Programmes at an urban university in South Africa. We also consider the academic support provision offered to students who achieve less than 50% for their mathematics subjects. In order to include a qualitative lens we also take into account the nature of these interventions and the related academic gains for students. The study used data from three cohorts i.e. 2014, 2015, 2016 and students who participated were purposively selected based on their initial low performance in mathematics. Data collected included diagnostic test marks, term marks, and examination marks.
Additionally a further ‘subset’ of students who failed the mathematics module at the end of Term 1 were tracked. These students were also provided with specialized academic support in the form of specialized content and academic advising. When the initial diagnostic test results were considered, it showed that students who performed poorly had specific problems with factorization, regarded as a critical component of mathematical problem-solving in Engineering. The findings suggest that the academic support offered to students was effective – as the majority of students who were identified as ‘at-risk’ at the beginning of the year and were recipients of the additional support, passed their mathematics modules.
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