Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) Central to Conference DebatesGeneral

The 2016 Teaching and Learning in Higher Education conference featured various international speakers and presenters.The 2016 Teaching and Learning in Higher Education conference featured various international speakers and presenters.

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning was central to discussions at UKZN’s10th Annual Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Conference which attracted more than 300 local and international delegates.

The three-day conference hosted by the University’s Teaching and Learning Office was themed: “Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL): Advancing Teaching Innovation and Research Excellence in Higher Education”, which, according to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Teaching and Learning, Professor Renuka Vithal, has been developed and sustained for more than eight years at UKZN.

SOTL has underpinned a range of policy reviews and development initiatives, with one such activity leading to access for undergraduate students to postgraduate studies.

The Conference, an annual gathering of academics, researchers and policymakers, showcases innovation, generates debate, theorises opportunities and challenges in Teaching and Learning, and provides a platform for disseminating Higher Education and institutional research findings.

In her opening address, Vithal said this year’s Conference ‘is a milestone in that it represents the culmination of what started from humble beginnings as an in-house workshop on Teaching and Learning barely attracting a hundred academics to a national conference with international participation’.

However, said Vithal, a decade later the context had taken a dramatic turn and a myriad challenges had been in the public domain ranging from free Higher Education to decolonising the curriculum. She said it had become evident that Teaching and Learning had to be engaged, studied, practised and theorised in relation to many aspects of Higher Education.

She highlighted several developments in the University’s Teaching and Learning Office including the introduction of the University Education Induction Programme (UEIP), introduced in 2012, which had been taken by the about 500 academics who participated in its professional development courses.

‘This gives some indication of the extent of reflective practice by participating academics across the University in areas such as Teaching and Learning approaches, assessment, curriculum development and research supervision,’ said Vithal. 

Keynote speaker Professor Lee Shulman of Stanford University in the United States, who is President Emeritus of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, commended UKZN for engaging SoTL in ways that exceeded any college of any university he knew of in the United States.

In an interview on decolonising the curriculum, he said there was a world of African literature and changes would include using this literature of books, drama, poetry, visual arts and dance as the centre of the curriculum, for a student in South Africa, with less focus on Shakespeare and Jane Austen.

‘The adaptation to the local cultural norms, interests and passions has to be taken into consideration,’ said Shulman. 

Other keynote speakers included the Chair in Teaching and Learning at the University of Johannesburg, Professor Brenda Leibowitz ; Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at the University of Ibadan, Professor Ayo Bamgbose; the first African President of the International Association of World Englishes, Professor Ayo Bamgbose  and an Associate Professor at Berkeley, University of California, Professor Sam Mchombo.

UKZN staff among the keynote speakers included Professor Thabo Msibi who is an Associate Professor in curriculum studies in the School of Education; and Dr Langa Khumalo, the Director of the University Language Planning and Development Office (ULPDO).

Dr Rubby Dhunpath, the UKZN Director of Teaching and Learning and Conference Chair, announced that after 10 years as the premier Teaching and Learning conference, from 2017 the Conference will broaden its scope to become a Annual Higher Education Conference with teaching and learning as one of the sub-themes. The theme for the 11th Annual Higher Education Conference, to be held on 27, 28, 29 September 2017, is: “Higher Education Today: Crises, Contestations, Contemplations And Futures”.

Sithembile Shabangu