The RITAL 2015 conference will host two keynote presenters, the first presentation will be by Prof Christine Woods, and the second address will be by Prof Ermien van Pletzen and Prof Moragh Paxton.The biographical information and abstracts are provided below.
KEYNOTE ADDRESS 1:
Associate Professor Christine Woods, has a PhD from Rhodes University and is an experienced academic development practitioner with 20 years of experience in higher education in South Africa and internationally. She is currently the Director of the Centre for Learning, Teaching and Development at Wits University. Professor Woods was a Fulbright Humphrey Fellow at Pennsylvania State University in the USA and Head of Educational Development at Central Queensland University in Australia. Prior to that, she was the Director of the Teaching and Learning Centre at the University of Fort Hare and Manager of the Academic Development Centre at the East London Campus of Rhodes University. She has developed national and international collaborative networks around learning and teaching research interests in the areas of educational technology, assessment, evaluation, alternate access provision, student engagement, curriculum development and learning design. She has a proven track record of undergraduate teaching and postgraduate supervision, and extensive experience in modelling best practice in learning and teaching and the use of web-based educational technologies to support active and collaborative learning in higher education.
Title of Presentation:
Navigating the road less travelled: Academics focusing on teaching in Higher Education
There is currently a great deal of uncertainty in Higher Education institutions in South Africa who are compelled to deal with issues of transformation and governance, and the economic realities concerning student fees following the national #FeesMustFall protests. In addition, greater demand for and access to higher education, rapidly evolving information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the rise of social media have added to the complexity of institutional contexts and the need for innovative pedagogies to support learning and teaching. Increasingly pressure is being brought to bear on academics to be both effective teachers and productive researchers yet these areas are not equally regarded in terms of career progression. It is apparent that teaching competence needs to be developed and rigorously evaluated in order to achieve an equitable balance between the status of teaching and research. In my presentation I draw on the elements of Activity Theory to offer a road map for academics focusing on teaching to navigate the road less travelled that aligns with career progression from emerging, through developing to distinguished practice. The progressive development of a complex range of attitudes, attributes, knowledge and practices that constitute ‘good’ teaching for development and accountability purposes will also be explored.
KEYNOTE ADDRESS 2:
Ermien van Pletzen and Moragh Paxton
Associate Professor Ermien van Pletzen is Director of the Academic Development Programme in CHED. She used to be based in the Language Development Group, where she specialised in academic literacies in the Health Sciences. Her research interests include academic literacies, student performance in higher education, and community-based health and disability services.
Associate Professor Moragh Paxton is in the Language Development Group. She has worked with the economics department to develop the Writing Project In economics and to evaluate the project for Teaching Development Grant funding. Her research interests include academic literacies and visual literacies at undergraduate and postgraduate level and across many disciplines.
Title of Presentation:
‘Proof of improvement’: How do we measure the impact of language development interventions on student writing?
A common practice in the Language Development Group (LD) at UCT is to design academic writing interventions that are located in particular disciplines and integrated (as far as possible) with the content materials and assessment practices of particular courses. This practice is informed by the New Literacies and Academic Literacies approaches, which has formed the foundation of much research in LD over the last decade. This work has been received well by colleagues in academic departments in several faculties at UCT. LD has experienced a growing demand for involvement in supporting students’ development of appropriate academic literacy skills in individual courses and even in whole curricula, for instance in Health Sciences. However, despite having general confidence in the quality and impact of our work, we have so far not made much progress in finding ways of concretely measuring and demonstrating the impact of our work or providing evidence of its quality. Such evidence would be invaluable for various purposes, ranging from providing evidence for individual performance appraisals to institutional reviews of the quality of the unit’s work.
A couple of years ago, when applying for funding to support a number of proposed academic literacies interventions at UCT, we have had to face the challenge of designing Monitoring and Evaluation instruments that would produce reliable and valid evidence of the impact of our language development work. This presentation aims to contribute to complex debates surrounding the possibility of producing ‘evidence’ of ‘success’ in interventions designed to ‘improve’ students’ academic writing. Drawing on a survey of available literature, our own qualitative data on students’ academic writing, as well as our experience in the last few years of designing Monitoring and Evaluation systems for state-funded teaching and learning projects, our presentation will demonstrate that it is indeed very difficult (or potentially dangerous!) to predict specific ‘outcomes’ for academic literacy interventions, and that it is therefore also problematic to try and trace linear ‘causalities’ between intervention and outcome. Despite these difficulties, our presentation will explore possible ways of generating valid and reliable qualitative and quantitative evidence that may be used to indicate whether and to what extent a particular academic writing intervention could be deemed ‘successful’. While our research in this area is at a preliminary stage, we propose that validity and reliability of evidence could be increased by closely and specifically aligning measures and indicators, whether qualitative or quantitative, to the objectives, assessment criteria and outcomes of the particular courses or curricula that academic writing interventions are located in.