Benefits of writing retreats – ECP lecturers reflect

Last week the annual ECP Writing Retreat was held at the picturesque Mont Fleur conference estate in Stellenbosch. A few ECP lecturers who participated in this year’s event share their experiences and highlight the benefits of this dedicated time away to think and do ‘writing’

 Megan Alexander, Andre Cornelius and Robert Schultz, Business

The 2017 ECP Writing Retreat at Mont Fleur arranged by Fundani, CPUT provided the ideal opportunity for participants to engage in intensive learning activities related to academic writing and publishing. Optional presentations included the development of a Title, an Abstract and Introduction for publication in journal articles. ECP lecturers were afforded the opportunity to devote specific time to their research projects. Individual and collaborative sessions served as valuable developmental engagement for our Foundation Year recurriculation project in the Department Public Administration and Governance (PAG) to be implemented in 2018. Mentor support and input were welcomed and led to further clarification of concepts, in turn leading to progress in our various projects. This type of staff development should form part of all academics’ professional growth. New lecturers, in particular, should be encouraged to attend in order to demystify the perceived fears that surround writing retreats. We are grateful for this opportunity.

Felicity Harris, Mechanical Engineering

As a first time attendee of the Writing Retreat and a novice writer, I did not know what to expect or even if I had done enough in my writing to warrant being there. But the retreat was most certainly the best place to be if you are in my position. It helped to demystify the whole idea of writing for publication and broke it down to the basics that would help to get anyone started and motivated to write.

Amanda Morris, Graphic Design

Often when I think of writing it brings to mind the process of putting pen to paper or in our contemporary contexts, putting fingers to keyboard and creating a record of thoughts, ideas and processes. I assume that the thinking which informs my writing will flow naturally and that the process of thinking and writing will happen concurrently. I have found this recently to not be true…

While at Mont Fleur attempting to delineate clearly what I was trying to write about, and then research, I discovered writing is more than just “putting it down on  paper”. Every paragraph I write is a manifestation of a process that is so much richer than what is visible on paper. Before I “write”…I read, I interrogate what I have read, I make deductions or formulate arguments and then I put this down on paper. Sometimes reading three articles lead to writing one good sentence/point and sometimes reading a single statement leads to the formation of an entire argument. There is a process of reading, thinking, and then only “writing” that I have discovered at Mont Fleur.  It has helped me see the value of reading and truly reflecting on what I have read, in the writing process. This has been helpful for me because traditionally I measured my progress on how much writing I have done but I now realise that reading and reflecting is key in “good” writing practice. We should not be too focused on the “output” but rather put emphasis on the “input”. Value what has gone into preparing a piece…whether it be a paragraph on a page or chapter in a book…

Nowhi Xintolo, Nursing

Making a decision to participate as a novice in academic writing was ambivalent; when I viewed the list of other participants I was a bit intimidated however I experienced a different environment altogether. The geographical lay out of the venue itself (Mountain its slopes and its vegetation) was a calming factor that allowed deep thoughts and free flowing ideas that one can put down on paper. The guidance that one got from facilitators made it a comfortable field to play along and learn how to structure academic writing. The Moves and the steps directed my thoughts and ideas fruitfully to the development of an abstract and a topic.

The open fires discussions of sharing experiences from established authors were encouraging and made one see the journey of self – development and long life learning with a different eye than one dominated with fear of doctors and professors that have a list of publications longer than an arm.

It was a great learning experience to sum up the to me the title of the book “the value in the valley” became a leaving experience (Iyanla Vanzant)  author; Motivational speaker and Priestess)

A highlight from the National ECP colloquium

Moses Basitere, ECP lecturer in Chemical Engineering, recently attended the National ECP colloquium jointly organised by DUT and MUT in Durban on 20-21 September 2017. In this post he shares some personal highlights of the event.


DUT and MUT partnered in the spirit of collaboration to bring together public universities in South Africa to engage on Foundation Provisioning imperatives. The theme for the colloquium was “Pushing the Frontiers of Foundation Provisioning: Reflecting on more than a decade of practice –Are we winning?” The keynote address was delivered by our very own CPUT ECP Institutional Coordinator, AssProf James Garraway. The main aim of the event sought to continue disseminating best practices in advancing student success in the ECP educational space. The presentations at the events addressed the following subthemes;

  • Implementation of different foundation/ECP models
  • Forms and relevancy of student support in ECP
  • Effective ECP practices which inspire effective learning
  • Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) in ECP • Technology enhanced Teaching and Learning

I joined the conference on September 21 and I gave a presentation titled “An evaluation of the effectiveness of the use of multimedia and Wiley Plus web-based homework system in enhancing learning in the Chemical Engineering Extended Curriculum Program Physics course”, sharing teaching practices in the chemical engineering department ECP. The presentation was well received and created a debate on how we can integrate different multimedia technology in the classroom to achieve maximum student’s participation in and outside the classroom.

The main highlight of the presentations on Thursday for me was given by prof  Alfred Mvunyelwa Msomi titled” Transforming teaching and learning to accommodate student cultural backgrounds in a first year mathematics classroom at a University of Technology”. This was an interesting topic as it dealt with the current request/demand by “fees must fall” students protest movement on how we can decolonize curriculum with a special focus on south Africa and Africa as a whole. He demonstrated how mathematics can be taught accommodating student’s cultural background by making example and scenario that students can be able to relate to on their daily lives.