Quartet nets super teacher awards

12 November 2007

This year UCT's highest honour for teaching, the Distinguished Teacher Award, has gone to Professor Jane Bennett of the African Gender Institute, Francis Carter of the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, Dr Jenni Case in education and development at the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Dr Ivan Joubert of the Department of Anaesthesia.

Each shared some of their challenges and successes.

Bennett, who has 27 years' experience, teaches undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the African Gender Institute.

Students remain the most rewarding aspect of her teaching career.

"It's who they are; how they think, reflect, imagine, and what their expertise brings into the seminar and lecture spaces."

The most challenging aspect?

"UCT's pedagogic norms, especially at undergraduate level. Fifty minute lectures, which are functionally 40 minutes long, in sloped lecture theatres, where students are in ranked rows, and always on their way 'somewhere else'. This is an utterly archaic approach to strong pedagogic planning. It drives me nuts!"

"So the teaching strategies require both clear structures and flexibility."

The challenges, Carter believes centre on transformation, both in terms of professional knowledge and representivity.

"Our regulatory discourse - even the syllabus - tends to suppress the links between design and implementation, and there must surely be a better way of bridging this gap in the curriculum.

"We've been working hard on an access and success project - targeted recruitment, financial aid, and academic support - but until we hit a 50% intake of black South African students we're not out of the starting blocks."

Carter teaches a Bachelor of Architectural Studies class of 65 in a studio setting.

Though the class is large for creative work where every student has an individual take on the issues, and where the work is "full of the chaos and opportunity which goes with design learning".

Case teaches first- and second-year chemical engineering to classes of up to 100 students.

"The job is never the same. You deal students from very different backgrounds and try to build a cohesive class community and productive spaces for learning.

With a high-school teaching background, Case takes her students seriously as individuals.

"I want to help each reach their potential. I'm very conscious of the gaps in my own knowledge and am constantly stretching myself. I think this helps in having empathy for students".

Joubert's students describe his lectures as "incisive, up-to-date, filled with factual information, current and evidence-based".

Head of Department, Professor Mike James, wrote in his nomination that Joubert "is nationally regarded as one of the best teachers in anaesthesia in this country".

Joubert excels at small group informal tutorials and formal teaching to larger audiences. Students say he has the ability to break down a complex topic into a few, well-defined principles, laying a sound foundation.

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