Reading, writing and transitions to university: 6 – 16 February 2017
Thanks to a National Research Foundation (NRF) grant awarded on the Knowledge Interchange and Collaboration programme, the ECP Unit was able to arrange for a special visit by Dr Sally Baker. Sally is Research Associate at the Centre for Excellence in Equity in Higher Education at the University of Newcastle, Australia. She has researched and published in the area of student writing and transition, and has been an English teacher – specializing in academic reading and writing – for many years.
Sally’s primary involvement with ECP lecturers took the form of two workshop sessions on the Cape Town and Bellville campuses. These workshops, which were attended by just under twenty lecturers, focused on sensitizing lecturers around the issue of transitions to the university and using ESOL (Engligh for Speakers of Other Languages) pedagogies to offer practical suggestions for ECP lecturers about
- ways to recognise students’ strengths and diversity;
- suggestions of how to unpack reading and writing requirements;
- approaches to foregrounding reading and writing as a core part of teaching
Dr Baker also presented a seminar titled, Transformation and inclusivity in the Australian higher education context: challenges of intention and implementation on 9 February 2017 as part of the Fundani Seminar Series. During this seminar, Sally presented an overview of the work of her centre which seeks better understandings of what equity in the Australian higher education context might mean. In addition to providing a brief review of the impact of Australia’s colonial legacy, particularly on the country’s indigenous groups, Dr Baker introduced the concept of reflexivity which provides practitioners, teachers and scholars with the opportunity to constantly check the assumptions made about who and what ‘counts’.
A special walking-conversation was organised to allow ECP co-ordinators and workshop participants to engage with Sally in a more relaxed environment. Staff walked from Muizenberg to St James and during this time, they excitedly quizzed Sally about her work, shared ideas about their own practices and together engaged in the many challenges and opportunities presented by the ECP teaching and learning space. Sally was also able to visit a local literacy NGO based in St James to learn more about the valuable work they undertake with various communities in the broader Cape Town area.
In addition to spending time with the ECP community at CPUT, Sally was also busy forging research collaborations with colleagues at UWC (Economic and Management Sciences Faculty) and UCT (Language Development Group at CHED). She also co-presented aspects of her research at the Inter-institutional Academic Literacies Forum, on 15 February 2017 which was attended by colleagues from all of the region’s four institutions.
Feedback on the multiple events Sally participated in has been extremely positive. Sally’s energy, enthusiasm and passion for finding new and innovative ways to create more inclusive and socially equitable teaching and learning environments in the university was a defining feature of all her interactions with ECP staff. Hopefully this interest will find a way of translating into tangible and positive influences, especially for those able to engage with Dr Baker during her visit.