In an effort to create a more inclusive and responsive curriculum for their ECP students in 2019, the HoD, Mandy Jones, and the ECP lecturers in the Marketing department devoted three mornings to workshop their existing ECP curricula.
Everyone agreed that their existing curricula did not adequately or appropriately meet the educational needs of their students. Lecturers were keen to explore, new and fresh ways to bring the student to the centre of their thinking and practices in the ECP classroom. The three-day workshop series focused on a detailed exploration of who their ECP students are, an analysis of their current curricula, how to infuse their curricula with the three domains of learning, thus knowing, being and doing, and then examine how individual lessons could cater more fully to the specific needs of students.
The committed group worked energetically over the three days and participated in the many activities and discussions that sought to help them better understand how to change their existing curricula and classroom practices. The lecturers also decided to form a ECP curriculum committee to drive forward the work undertaken during the workshop and ensure implementation in 2019.
Megan Alexander, Andre Cornelius and Robert Schultz, ECP lecturers in the PAG Foundation, took their curriculum development work to HELTASA this year. Below they share their experiences of this significant annual gathering of higher education scholars, researchers, academics and practitioners.
Heltasa 2018 afforded us the opportunities to engage in practice-sharing, networking and collegiality. Best practice, complexities and challenges in HE were brought to the fore through presentations, interactive posters, discussion sessions, table discussions, workshops and networking events. The ECP Special Interest Group (SIG) sessions were particularly interesting and helpful in that ECP databases would be formed or managed better. This would serve as a tool or vehicle for ECP academics to remain in touch, to share information or practices and to rally support for issues around concerns like policy change. Our presentation on Navigating Curriculum Implementation: the experiences of ECP lecturers in the Public Administration and Governance Department was well attended with visitors from a range of universities as well as CPUT colleagues. Questions and comments posed will allow us to further interrogate and respond to our curriculum and continually debate its relevance and purpose.
2018 marked the first year that the newly consolidated Design Foundation was implemented at CPUT. The academics and staff teaching on this programme decided to step back and attempt to critically reflect on the implementation experiences for the year. This review process was structured around three particular elements of their curriculum and teaching experiences namely; 1) individual subjects, 2) the overarching curriculum and finally, 3) the organisational structures that supported the functioning of the programme in all its elements.
In a workshop session on 13 November the staff teaching on the Design Foundation, worked alongside Lynn Coleman from the ECP Unit to explore and workshop the overarching curriculum aims for the Design Foundation year. This was part of Stage Two of the three-part curriculum review process. We were joined for some of this discussions by the HoD of Design, Monica di Ruvo.
The main aim of the session was to start a conversation about developing a curriculum aim statement for the programme and then look at how such an aim statement might inform the development of supporting learning outcomes. Staff were also introduced to Bloom’s Domains of Learning as particular curriculum analysis tool that could be used to develop and design both a curriculum aim statement and learning outcomes. This tool was enlisted to help account for and then represent how the aim statement attended to the cognitive (or knowing), values (or self and being) and psychomotor ( or skills and doing) domains of learning.
Some of the most generative aspects of the session were lecturers attempts to use different metaphors to capture the role and function of the curriculum. Lecturers put forward a number of metaphors like boat, anchor, umbrella, bowl, wheel and compass and offered motivations for why a particular metaphor was useful. Lecturers also crafted some interesting illustrations to express their views of the curriculum schema for the Design Foundation incorporating the three domains of learning. The activities and outcomes of the day are a necessary first steps as staff will need to work to refine and then formalise their curriculum aim statement and its supporting specific learning outcomes.
Staff will continue their general review process on 4 December, when they review and reflect on Stage Three – the organisational structures supporting the programme.
In the first of our series on (extra) Ordinary academics in ECP, we profile Prof Beatrice Opeolu, the ECP Coordinator in the Faculty of Applied Science. Prof Opeolu was recently appointed to full professor, a significant first for our ECP community at CPUT. To celebrate this significant achievement, we sat down with Beatrice and asked her to share her academic journey. What we discovered is a story about a passionate researcher and academic who cares deeply about education, the environment and humanity, and who wants to make the world a better, safer and cleaner place for the next generation.
A distinguished academic career
Beatrice suggests she always wanted to be a scholar of international repute from the time she started her undergraduate degree in Environmental Management and Toxicology at the University of Agriculture in Nigeria. In pursuing this dream she went on to complete her Masters degree in Environmental Biology at the University of Ibadan, Ibadan and then her PhD at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta. However, she knew that great sacrifices had to be made in order to achieve her academic aspiration which brought her to CPUT in 2008, when she accepted a Postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Chemistry. Nigeria’s loss was certainly CPUT’s gain as Beatrice quickly established herself as a serious and dedicated researcher and lecturer. She was appointed as the Coordinator, Extended Curriculum Programmes for the Faculty of Applied Sciences in 2011. Her hard work was rewarded when she was appointed Associate Professor. Describing herself as an environmental scientist, Beatrice’s research areas, which she describes as being at the ‘core’ of all her activities in her academic career, includes Environmental management and toxicology with a specific focus on water systems. This research topic might seem far removed from helping humanity. But at its essence the primary focus of Beatrice’s research is the pursuit of providing safe and healthy living environments especially for poorer community and finding sustainable and affordable ways of protecting our water systems. Achieving the title of full professor means that Beatrice is recognised internationally in her field and is an active, contributing scholar and leader in various research and scholarly networks. Currently, she is the Leader of CPUT’s Climate Change and Environment Research Focus Area. She is also the Vice-president of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Africa Geographic Unit and she co-chairs its Global Membership Committee.
Making an indelible mark on ECP
In 2011 Beatrice accepted the post of ECP coordinator in the Faculty of Applied Science and set about to establish and build a solid platform from which the ECP domain in the faculty could flourish. Over the past seven years Beatrice has become a formidable champion for ECP in her faculty and has been at the forefront of placing ECP at the centre of the academic project in the 10 departments that offer an ECP pathway. She works closely with HoDs and ensures that academics teaching on ECP programmes have good exposure to staff development opportunities that can ensure quality and enriched teaching and learning experiences for students in their courses. Prof Opeolu has also been a strong advocate of the NBTs which has allowed her to develop a strong body of evidence to define the student academic profiles of prospective students and therefore ensure more responsive curricula and pedagogic interventions. On Beatrice’s wishlist for ECP is an expansion of the provision to the many students identified through the NBTs as needing the kind of academic support currently only provided to ECP students. She would also like to see the improvement of infrastructural provisions necessary to provide students with the kinds of academic and learning spaces conducive to their learning and success. However, improved throughput rates and student success cannot be achieved without dedicated, well trained and committed staff – thus providing lecturers who teach on ECP with the necessary levels of job security and stability is another goal high on Beatrice’s agenda.
Role model, teacher, researcher, environmental warrior, ECP champion, professor – these are just some of the identities Prof Opeolu comfortably embraces on any given day, and that together provides the inspiration for the many students and colleagues who have crossed her path.