29 April 2022

The recent graduation of nine UMP academics towards the Post Graduate Diploma in Higher Education (PGDHE) is testament to the fact that UMP is successfully implementing its Academic Plan, which sets out to develop and support the capacity of staff as educators.

The programme, funded by the university through the University Capacity Development Grant (UCDG) from the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), is part of several initiatives aimed at developing and enhancing the capacity of staff as university teachers.

Deputy Director: Academic Support Services Division, Dr Severino Machingambi explains that the purpose of PGDHE is to enhance the professionalization of teaching staff by capacitating them with sound learning theories and skills that enhance and respond to the learning needs of diverse students to experience success in their studies.

“The act of enrolling academics for the programme is predicated on our strong belief in the inextricable link between the academic staff teaching competencies and student learning outcomes,” he says.

Dr Machingambi adds that the PGDHE is fast becoming a standard qualification that inducts and orients academics for their complex roles as university teachers at institutional, national and international level.

Raising the bar

Academics who have undergone the PGDHE are able to engage deeply and critically with the scholarship of teaching and learning. They subject their teaching and learning processes to research, which leads to what is known as research-led teaching.

“This represents a huge departure from the situation where lecturers just base their teaching on their own past learning experiences, since they will be able to engage students in the knowledge generation and production process through research driven and critical thinking skills. In this way, the PGDHE raises the standard of teaching and the ability to transform practices and student learning outcomes,” explains Dr Machingambi.

He further says that in the early phases, UMP had an academic staff complement characterised by a wide range of experiences and an equally wide range of levels of knowledge and understanding of teaching and learning in higher education.

“Research conducted in South Africa by Boughey and others has revealed that in order to be effective facilitators of learning, academics need to be well grounded in both disciplinary and pedagogical knowledge.

This situation prompted us to consider enrolling our academics for the PGDHE programme so as to transform the teaching and learning culture and to improve student learning outcomes at the university,” he adds.

“The academics that graduated on 8 April enrolled in 2020 and completed in 2022 have shown resilience, which was not only evident in their good grades but mostly in the fact that they enrolled during a pandemic and forced all contact sessions to transition to online. This notwithstanding, the cohort did very well, with two academics graduating with distinctions.”

Feedback from some of the academics.

Prof Andrew Maredza: Faculty of Economics, Development and Business Sciences

"I have transitioned from being a relatively more banking-approach oriented facilitator towards leaning more to social constructivism. My teaching philosophy is now student centred – recognising students as important partners in the learning process.

I have since learned the importance of incorporating the 'Ubuntu philosophy' in my teaching as well as my professional conduct with peers and students, and that authentic assessment promotes deeper learning and critical thinking. The alignment of the three blocks of assessment, teaching/learning activities and  outcomes has also improved."

Dr Liaan Minnie: Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Sciences

“The PGDHE has broadened by horizons in all aspects of teaching and learning. One of many examples is that I am more understanding of my students’ context and have adapted formative assessments to improve learning instead of just obtaining marks from students.

I have fine-tuned my teaching approach by grounding my teaching strategies in proven teaching styles, such as constructivism and active, participatory learning. These approaches will hopefully result in improved student performance and learning. It empowers lecturers with theoretical and some practical underpinnings of becoming more effective teachers.”

Dr Christina Kappo-Abidemi: Faculty of Economics, Development and Business Sciences

“I now realise that the discipline of knowledge is not enough to be a practitioner. The art of teaching and engaging with students, irrespective of their background, is very important. I have learnt to treat students case by case and not expect a uniform behaviour or approach to learning.

Introducing peer and self-evaluation of assessment during teaching will enhance students' learning. My perception of evaluation has changed from a policing approach to a learning approach. I have also learnt that I can develop an instrument that is relevant to my discipline and applicable to my development as well as enhance student learning for personal purpose.”

Ms Itumeleng Sebola: Faculty of Economics, Development and Business Sciences

"The course offers lecturers the opportunity to actually become a student and to experience the challenges students face. The growth of being equipped with new knowledge is phenomenal because the transformation becomes evident in the implementation of what you have learned in your teaching practices.

My teaching philosophy has been enhanced – why I teach the way I do and the justification of my teaching strategies. Most importantly how my teaching philosophy will benefit my students, especially in the current teaching context."  

Mr Sibonginkosi Gumede: Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Sciences

"The course has helped me clear pre-existing myths about teaching. It has made me  understand how students learn in order for me to provide an environment conducive to them.

It has improved my teaching skills – through the understanding of how students learn which results in providing an improved teaching and learning environment and experience. The course discourages working in silos, which subsequently promotes collaboration among colleagues for the sharing of knowledge and experiences."

@ Story Lisa Thabethe. Pictures Supplied.