At the University of Mpumalanga there are vibrant academic support services for both staff and students, carefully planned, implemented and evaluated to ensure the success of students in their studies. These are co-ordinated by the Academic Support Services Division that resides within the office of the DVC, Teaching and Learning. As a Division, we engage our academics through a suite of formal and informal academic development programmes that are designed to develop and sustain their capacity and ability as university educators. These programmes are tailored to match the varied levels of experience among our academic staff.
Academic Induction for New Lecturers
Within 6 months of joining the UMP, all new academics are taken through an academic induction workshop. This workshop inducts and orients new academics in terms of the university’s vision, mission and values. The new staff members familiarize themselves with the major teaching and learning policies that regulate their practice at UMP. The induction process is also designed to show staff how their continuous professional development is supported throughout their association with the university.
Core modules for new and early career academics
University teaching, like every profession, requires academics to have specialized knowledge, skills and competencies that enable them to be effective facilitators of learning. This knowledge needs to be continuously updated and developed so that academics are able to assist their diverse students succeed in their studies. To support this, all our new and early career academics go through a suite of identified core modules that capacitate them on pedagogical approaches and facilitation styles. The following core modules are in place since 2016:
- Module on Teaching and Learning
- Module on Assessment and Moderation of Learning
- Module on the use of blended learning and ICT technologies
- Module on curriculum design
Senior academics are also encouraged to participate in these modules to refresh their skills.
Other career development modules
In order to become excellent teachers our academics are also urged to attend other career development workshops that require them to document evidence of good teaching practice. We support our academics to become reflective and reflexive practitioners who ground their teaching in research and reflection.
To achieve this, our academics engage in the following workshops:
- The Portfolio Development Workshop
- Evaluation of Teaching Workshop
- Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Workshop
- Study Guide Development Workshop
Formal Staff Development Programmes
To ensure that our academic staff become critical, reflective and reflexive university teachers, we assist them to pursue formal qualifications in higher education. The most popular ones that we currently offer are the Post Graduate Diploma in Higher Education (PGDHE) in partnership with Rhodes University and the Vocational Teacher Education Diploma offered through Haaga-Helia Vocational Education Institute in Finland. Our senior academics have been enrolling for these qualifications since 2016.
Student Evaluation of Teaching
As a division we help instill and enhance the quality and responsiveness of teaching and learning by running the student evaluation of teaching programme at the end of every year. The practice of affording students the chance to evaluate their lecturers and courses is one important way of giving them a voice and power to judge the quality of the instruction that they receive. The data obtained from the evaluation process is crucial for the lecturers’ critical reflections and improvement of teaching processes.
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
Effective university teachers are those who continuously research their teaching as well as teaching their research. Under this thrust, we train our academics to make teaching and learning the subject of their research and show-case some of their exciting findings in our functional weekly teaching community of practice sessions.
We are available to all members of the UMP academic community including students, for consultation on all matters that relate to the enhancement of teaching and learning. This approach has been very effective particularly for academics who value privacy and confidentiality in their engagements.
Peer Tutoring Programme
The Academic Support Services Division also offers a Peer Tutor Programme, mainly for first year students. The programme is meant to help students achieve greater success. It is offered in modules which students find challenging as reflected by students’ performance in tests and examinations. Tutorials are given weekly. Tutors work closely with module lecturers who advise them on the critical content to tackle. Tutorials give students a more relaxed environment for learning where they also learn from one another. Tutors are selected from senior students with outstanding academic performance. They are offered training to equip them with skills necessary for their task. Tutors also benefit from the programme as their communication skills are enhanced and their leadership and academic skills are strengthened in the process.
Academic and Mathematical Literacy
For some programmes there is a module on Academic Literacy and Numerical Literacy. The Academic Literacy component assists students in enhancing their academic writing skills. The Numerical Literacy component provides the basic mathematical skills that are required but not taught in mathematics related modules. Seminars on Academic Literacy and Numerical Literacy topics are conducted on need basis for those students whose programmes do not have these as a module. Academic Literacy and Numerical Literacy lecturers also avail themselves for consultation by students who may need their services. Seminars are conducted in partnership with academic literacy and numerical literacy lecturers who are deployed in the faculties.
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