An innovative new initiative led by the University Teaching and Learning Office, in partnership with the School of Education, resulted in 30 academics from different UKZN Schools and Colleges joining student teachers on a recent visit to a diverse array of KwaZulu-Natal secondary schools.
The UKZN Teaching and Learning Policy recognises that the schooling backgrounds of students impact on their performance in Higher Education and that awareness of the schooling experiences of students assists academics in their teaching. It also advocates that teaching staff should be familiar with the full range of educational contexts from which students enter the University.
The KwaZulu-Natal secondary schools visits gave academics an opportunity to interact with high school learners, teachers and principals, providing them with valuable insights into different schooling conditions.
Professor Bice Martincigh of the School of Chemistry and Physics and UKZN’s 2011 Distinguished Teacher endorsed the initiative: ‘I would like to thank everyone involved for the opportunity given to the academic staff to join the Edgewood students on their visit to local schools. I found the trip extremely informative and enlightening. The two schools I visited were a stark contrast of attitudes. What would be extremely interesting would be to see the students’ perceptions of the different schools and perhaps to tie that up with the performance of students from those schools who come to UKZN.’
Universities may not have the capacity to alter the conditions of their student’s schooling environments but they did have the capacity to understand more fully the diversity of students’ experiences, including the effects of schooling and socio-economic background, language, gender, disabilities, and giftedness. Without an understanding of these attributes, we cannot as academics claim to know our students fully.
Ms Shelley Donelly from the School of Accounting, Economics & Finance said: ‘I thoroughly enjoyed the school visits. Quite an eye-opener for me and a great experience.’
Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Teaching and Learning, Professor Renuka Vithal stated that she was very pleased with response to this first set of school visits and that further visits are planned for later this year.