Suite of courses teaches the teachers

03 November 2008

For the many academics thrust into lecture theatres and classrooms without a thorough grounding in teaching, the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED) offers a Higher Education Studies Programme that aims to give lecturers a professional and theoretical foundation for their teaching in the higher education context. Courses can be taken as stand-alone or can accrue towards a postgraduate diploma or master's degree. Two UCT academics, Dr Brandon Reed of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Ilse Lubbe of the Department of Accounting, spoke to Monday Paper about their experiences of the programme.

Although Reed has been teaching in his department for more than a decade, he wanted a more theoretical understanding of the teaching and learning in his classes.

The Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (LTHE) course is structured to do exactly that.

"One of the most important things I took from LTHE was just how important it is to recognise that students (and their backgrounds) play a central role in the development of an effective teaching and learning environment. As a consequence, I have taken a fresh look at the courses I teach to ensure that I account for these issues in my approach."

For Reed, a particularly useful exercise was recording one of his lectures. One of the fellow LTHE students sat in on the lecture and afterwards they reviewed the video footage to see whether Reed had managed to achieve his outcomes.

A senior lecturer in accounting, Lubbe always wanted to further her studies, but what next? The Higher Education Studies programme answered that question.

"Having been in the business world for several years, and now lecturing commerce students to prepare them for the demands of the professional qualification, CA(SA), I realised that we can learn a lot about the way students learn, and our roles as academics to support student learning."

Excellent results by their students in the final exams of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants pointed to the already sound pedagogic principles used in the department's teaching (their extended tutorial system, for example).

The course also gave her insights into the way lecturers assess students, she says.

"By setting exam questions that test understanding rather than repetition of the facts, students tend to adopt a deep approach to their learning as they are required to learn not only facts (which leads to a surface approach, based on short-term memory) but are required to apply the facts to practical, integrated scenarios."

The most valuable part of the programme? "The opportunity to grapple with education theory and its application in practice."

For further information on CHED's higher education programmes, contact Zelda Carlse or telephone 012 650 3478.

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