Teachers become students

09 June 2008

Three from one: Dr Geney Gunston, Dr Charles Slater and Elmi Badenhorst, all staffers in the Department of Human Biology, will graduate with higher degrees in education.

Three UCT academics swapped their teaching roles to become students, and learnt the hard way of the difficulties encountered by their own students.

Lecturers Elmi Badenhorst, Dr Geney Gunston and Dr Charles Slater of the Department of Human Biology all graduate with master's degrees in education this week.

"I am very pleased to be graduating," says Gunston. "The whole process of being a student again has deepened my empathy for the students I teach: the challenges they face related to academic reading and writing, and time management, combined with the joy of learning and the elation of success."

Badenhorst added that in her eight years in the academic development programme she has encountered many disheartened first-year students who experienced learning difficulties during that telling first semester.

"These students were not academically prepared enough to thrive in a tertiary environment," she explains.

Six years ago, Badenhorst was involved in the design of an intervention programme for the Faculty of Health Sciences, and witnessed first-hand the improvement that students showed.

"To find an explanation, I read the theories of Vygotsky and Feuerstein, and became interested in the role of guided assistance in education. So here I am, a master's degree later."

Slater, who graduates with distinction, says the introduction of a problem-based learning curriculum in the faculty has been challenging, and a valuable way of engaging with the change has been to study further.

"The challenge now is to use this knowledge to enhance the learning experience of our students," he says.

All three agree: their studies were demanding but fulfilling.

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