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Upskilling teaching talent in higher education

- Wits University

Seven Wits staff members graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education [PGDipE(HE)] during the Faculty of Humanities graduation ceremony.

The PGDipE(HE) was introduced in 2015, with the aim of enhancing the success of undergraduate and post graduate students through a formal professional development qualification at honours level.  It is offered as a two-year part-time qualification with four modules.

In 2015, the programme had its first intake of 15 students, all of whom were Wits staff members. From this group, 13 students successfully completed the programme and 10 completed it with distinction. The first cohort of students, who had already completed the module “Enhancing post graduate supervision” that counts as an elective, graduated in November last year.

 (Front from left) Janet Zambri, Thuli Dhlamini, Professor Karin Brodie (Head of the Wits School of Education), DrLaura Dison (PGDiPE(HE) Co-coordinator) and Jacqueline De Matos Ala. (Back from left)Agata Macgregor, David Merand and Estelle Trengove.

Dr Laura Dison, Senior Lecturer in the Wits School of Education, says that the programme will enhance learning and development in the University.

“This first PGDipE(HE) cohort is an inspiration to lecturers at the University. They have used the space within the PGDipE(HE) to reflect about critical issues for improving their teaching, assessment and curriculum development practices to enable optimal student learning in their teaching contexts.”

The programme is largely aimed at academics and has attracted other staff members outside the realm of academia such as Janet Zambri and Thuli Dhlamini, who both work at two of Wits’ libraries. 

For Zambri, a manager at the Library Client Services at the William Cullen Library, the programme spoke to one of her passions: teaching.  She is involved in the Targeting Talent Programme where she trains Grade 10, 11 and 12 learners in information literacy during the Programme’s two-week contact session in July.

Although she is trained as a librarian, she finds herself increasingly having to lecture.

“When I saw the flyer for the programme, it addressed the gaps that I saw within myself.  I wanted to be able to understand what it is that the academics expected of us when it came to curriculum and to be able to write meaningful reports, using the concepts and terminology used by the lecturing fraternity. I wanted to become a better lecturer to our students and wanted confirmation that we are in fact approaching the teaching that we were doing in a professional manner. Information Literacy is also about lifelong learning, and this is what I intend to do, continue learning,” says Zambiri.

Dhlamini, a Senior Librarian at the Wartenweiler Library, is also passionate about education. Dhlamini says that she enjoys working with students, and she hopes to pursue a masters degree next year as she has aspirations to be a lecturer one day.

The PGDipE(HE) programme is described by the students as “challenging” but rewarding because of the  knowledge and self-enrichment it provided them .

One of the graduates, Dr David Merand, Lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Academic Development Unit, says the course was perfect for his daily needs as a lecturer.

“I felt it was important to improve my knowledge and skills in the area of teaching and learning as that is a major part of my ’day job’. As this course is specifically focused on tertiary education it seemed a perfect fit for my needs,” he says.

Adapting to a changing world

“It is really impressive that colleagues take their teaching seriously and are willing to spend time and energy thinking deeply about how to research and transform their teaching, ” adds Professor Karin Brodie, Head of the School of Education. 

Brodie was also the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony. She told graduands that with the fast moving development in technology the question inevitably arises: Would computers be able to teach more effectively than humans? 

“While I’m not an expert in artificial intelligence, what I know about teaching suggests not. All of the research shows that while technology can support good teaching it cannot replace it, and it certainly cannot improve poor teaching.”

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