The College of Humanities and the University Teaching and Learning Office (UTLO) hosted the annual Academic Monitoring and Support (AMS) Research Colloquium on the Howard College campus under the theme: “Enhancing Academic Excellence and Promoting Student Success through Mainstreaming Academic Monitoring and Support at UKZN”.
Opening the Colloquium, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities Professor Cheryl Potgieter described AMS as crucial for students. ‘We cannot have excellence without transformation and neither will be achieved without the commitment of all partners and stakeholders. As such, AMS must be located within a discourse of transformation and excellence, recognising students as partners on the road to achieving success.’
Potgieter stated that ‘we cannot implement AMS from a deficit paradigm and that AMS had to take psycho social factors into account.’
UKZN’s DVC for Teaching and Learning, Professor Renuka Vithal, and School of Education lecturer, Dr Samukelisiwe Mngomezulu, delivered keynote addresses.
Vithal spoke on perspectives and possibilities for enhancing AMS through curriculum review and renewal. ‘Academic monitoring and support interventions, activities and programmes to improve student access, progression and support, have arguably left curricula largely intact.
‘Recent student demands for radical curriculum reforms attest to this. However, when examined historically and internationally in other post-conflict societies, it is clear that this is to be expected given South Africa’s colonial and apartheid history,’ said Vithal.
She discussed a case of a radical Higher Education curriculum reform demonstrating that university curricula embed particular perspectives and are neither neutral nor value free.
Mngomezulu spoke on “Being in’ and ‘Being of’: Thoughts on AMS as Practice and as Scholarship: Lessons for Institutional Praxis”. In the presentation she called for an improved discourse and practice of AMS at UKZN.
Her findings highlight that in the institutional approach to AMS, students are either partially known or totally unknown, and therefore interventions are merely remedial and or at best reactive.
Mngomezulu believes that support programmes, such as intervention, should be organically formulated in ways that consider the entrant student as having experiences, values, challenges and possibilities.
She argues that a holistic approach to AMS presents a possibility to understand students and their nuanced support needs. ‘AMS is not only for one office but it is for the whole university community and joint forces from various university sectors. I am prompted by my personal journey, practice and research experience to ask this question: What is the way forward for AMS at UKZN?’
At the Colloquium, winners for the best presentations for the plenary session and under the three themes (first year student orientation and support, recent innovations in teaching and learning, and the role of language and mediated learning, with the objective of mainstreaming student academic support within the University), were as follows:
Theme 1: Mnqobi Njoko (CHUM/SBEDS) “Access to post-secondary education information at a rural schook: A case of two schools in KZN, Ntabamhlophe”
Theme 2: Abdulbaqi Badru, Barbara Mutula-Kabange and Laurien Freeman (UTLO) “Developmental lecturers’ perspectives of Moodle at UKZN”
Theme 3: Anusharani Sewchurran & postgrad students (S. Mbanjwa, N. Zwane, N. Khwela and N. Mthembu) “Reflections on Academic Monitoring and Support”
Theme 4: Veena Lutchmann & Poobendran Govender (CHUM/T&L) “Humanities Access programme: successes and challenges”
Plenary: Nirmala Gopal, Nirvani Naidoo, Velo Govender and Netsai Gwelo (CHUM/SAHS) “De-constructing myths of who’s ‘at-risk’”