Staff in the ECP Unit in Fundani, spent time over the last two weeks reconnecting with some of the departments we serve. In this round of visits we met with ECP staff, HoDs, administrators and students in the departments of Design, Dental Technology, Graphic Design, Human Resources, Management and Public Management.
Graphic Design ECP co-ordinator, Amanda and Professional Practice lecturer, Natasha, with their ECP students
Diane (Lecturer) and Fatima (Administrator) with their ECP Design class
The site visit activities provided an opportunity for the different stakeholders involved in ECP provisions across our institution to connect with each other. These visit mostly it involved lots of informal conversations and dialogue over tea, and in the case of Design, tea with scrumptious granadilla cake. Colleagues were able to share both the highs and lows of their first term – which for the Design and Graphic Design groups were filled with lots of upheaval and readjustment as they settled into their new spaces in the Design and Engineering buildings on the Cape Town campus.
Janine (ECP Unit) with Amanda and Cheri in the Graphic Design, drawing studio
For others it was an opportunity to have a quick informal chat with students, for example with Dental Technology and Public Administration ECPs, and visit the classrooms and learning spaces where students spend their time. Of course more serious matters were also discussed and importantly, various mechanism to address the specific concerns or problems faced by individual departments around staffing, resources, capacity building and development. What was certainly realised is that a honest, forthright face-to-face conversation with colleagues will always trump the ubiquitous email – that unfortunately – in our busy lives, can so easily be ignored.
New ECP students at CPUT were actively involved in undertaking the National Benchmark Test (NBTs) this past week, as Janine Lange, Research Associate at the ECP Unit in Fundani, and logistics coordinator of the testing, explains.
Over 800 new ECP students participated in the NBT testing that was arranged by the ECP Unit at Fundani last week (13 – 17 March 2017). This rather involved logistical arrangement was brought together by colleagues from CETAP at UCT, the ECP coordinators in various faculties and departments at CPUT, NBT invigilators and most importantly venue and catering staff on our main campuses.
Mechanical Engineering Students write their NBTs
ECP coordinators and lecturers were encouraged to allay their students’ natural anxiety about taking the test and offer supportive reassurances that the main function of the testing was to offer insightful diagnostic information about student needs that could feed into curriculum and pedagogic intervention.
Overall arrangements ran smoothly with many departmental ECP lecturers at hand to offer support and assistance to their students at the commencement of the tests. This small but vital contribution by individual staff was a crucial element for ensuring that everything worked well on the day.
Testing in the Applied Sciences
We now eagerly await the results, which will be distributed to individual departments. Students can also access their individual test results by visiting the NBT website – see http://www.nbt.ac.za/content/nbt-results
James Garraway, Institutional ECP Co-ordinator , shares his insights on the recent information sharing session on the National Benchmarking Tests.
On 7 March, the ECP Unit at Fundani hosted, Robert Prince from the Centre for Educational Testing for Access and Placement (CETAP) at UCT, on our Bellville and Cape Town campuses. Robert conducted an introductory presentation on the ‘new generation’ national benchmarking test initiative; new generation because we are trialing the test as a diagnostic, to help inform teaching in our ECP offerings. 24 ECP departments have signed up to undertake the test with their first year ECP cohorts of 2017. The tests are scheduled to take place between 13 – 17 March on both on various locations.
Presentation on the NBT by Robert Prince from CETAP on the Cape Town campus
The NBT has had a rocky ride at CPUT, having been rejected by successive Vice Chancellors and Senate as both too expensive (it is R80 per test) and potentially discriminatory in that it serves to exclude historically disadvantaged students. There have always been two responses here. Firstly, the university via ECP has funded students writing the tests in registration week, but this has not been successful with few students attending sessions. Secondly the ECP has made clear that the testing is NOT for selection but to identify potentially at-risk students so that once selected they can be given the support they need. In my view the benefits of using the tests to give students a better chance of success at the university far outweigh concerns around costing and the (incorrect) understanding that it is a selection tool.
Robert Prince, James Garraway, Mark Jacobs and Janine Lange
Most ECP students are writing the test at the end of the term. CETAP will then analyse the results, department by department, and give feedback on the sorts of teaching interventions students would require. One example given by Robert was the maths skill of factorisation, which is part of the maths test. If students score poorly here then it is an indication that students need to be overtly taught this maths principle, even if it was in the school syllabus. If it is not overtly taught then students will struggle with more advanced maths such as quadratics which require knowledge of factorisation. The proposal, then, is that staff across ECP will derive interventions based on the test results which they will ‘try out’ in Term 2. Then we can see if there is some change in student learning in following terms, and whether a more permanent curriculum change is necessary to best support students. This is good in itself but it can match to another purpose as well, the Quality Enhancement Project. In this project we are expected to report on how we have transformed the curriculum in response to student needs. The NBT diagnostic project clearly can contribute to the quality project.
Our blog has been offline and we were unable to post this Welcome message in January as intended. Instead we sent a email flyer which we have integrated here.
2017 – the year of the ECP Student
Most university lecturers and academics would agree that 2016 presented us with unique challenges and forced us all to revisit or reconsider some fundamental questions like what is the purpose of the university and how can our teaching practices and curricula become more responsive to our students’ needs? One of the indelible marks left by the 2016 academic year must certainly be a refocusing and reprioritising of our students and their academic needs. To aid this agenda the ECP Unit at Fundani, will be focusing its efforts on supporting ECP staff to align their thinking, reflections and practices on ways to centre the student in both their curricular and pedagogic activities.
Below is a snapshot of some of the planned events for TERM One:
Visiting academic : Dr Sally Baker
Workshops with ECP lecturers – Reading, writing and transition to university: practical suggestions for taking a strengths-based approach
Seminar – Transformation and inclusivity in the Australian higher education context: challenges of intention and implementation
Inter-institutional Academic Literacies Forum – Risky regimes: the assessment of student writing in institutional contexts
Nature walk conversations with Sally and ECP co-ordinators
National Benchmark Testing with the 2017 ECP cohort
Debunking the NBT – using the NBT as a diagnostic tool for curriculum revision and renewal and developing a curriculum to match your students’ academic needs
Running the NBT 13 – 17 March 2017
Feedback and review sessions with departments
Site Visits to ECP department and staff
Reconnecting with departments, lecturers and student
The CPUT Research and Innovation Fund for Teaching and Learning (RIFTAL) offers classroom-researchers and teachers-as-researcher with a great opportunity to formalise their often serendipitous research undertakings. A successful fund application will give busy teachers a way to prioritize their research and the allocation of money to appoint a research assistant, pay for transcription services or conference attendance will go a long way to make sure that your research can have a wider reach through conference presentation and publication outputs. The RIFTAL call for research proposals also presents the ECP community with a golden opportunity to guarantee that the innovative activities that define our curricular and pedagogic space are, not only investigated through systematic research, but that this work is made visible in the research-focused spaces of the university.
No project idea is too small or insignificant. The ECP Unit at Fundani is available to assist any ECP lecturer keen to submit a RIFTAL proposal. If you are interested send Lynn Coleman an email.