PiE 2013 Volume 31 Issue 4

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  • ItemOpen Access
    Hunger for knowledge: food insecurity among students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal
    (Faculty of Education, University of the Free State, 2013) Munro, Nicholas; Quayle, Michael; Simpson, Heather; Barnsley, Shelley
    The experience of food insecurity in the South African university student population is not well documented or researched. Data to assess vulnerability to food insecurity in a sample of 1.083 students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg Campus) was collected between 2007 and 2010 via a questionnaire developed specifically for this purpose. The results indicate that 20.8% of the sample experienced some level of vulnerability to food insecurity, with 16.1% reporting serious levels of vulnerability, and 4.7% experiencing severe to critical levels of vulnerability to food insecurity. Students on financial aid were found to be significantly more vulnerable to food insecurity when compared to those who were not on financial aid. A similar relationship was found between students in a bridging programme when their level of vulnerability to food insecurity was compared to those in mainstream programmes. The potential impact on university students’ educational outcomes and social and psychological well-being are discussed. The results are also contextualised within the retention and throughput efforts of South African higher education institutions, and recommendations for institutional responses are made.
  • ItemOpen Access
    External group coaching and mentoring: building a research community of practice at a university of technology
    (Faculty of Education, University of the Free State, 2013) Maritz, Jeanette; Visagie, Retha; Johnson, Bernadette
    Globally, a clarion call has been made for higher education institutions to establish creative and effective research capacity-building systems with the purpose of developing a next generation of scholars. The training and skills development of a researcher entail a process of increasing levels of participation in diverse communities of practice. We argue that external group research coaching and mentoring could provide a formative social context which negotiates the tensions of engagement. It could also improve accountability and building of a shared repertoire inherent to a research community of practice at a university of technology in South Africa. The purpose of this qualitative single-case study is to evaluate the practical relevance of the external coaching and mentoring programme in negotiating the tensions inherent in building a research community of practice. The findings indicate that the majority of students moved from a peripheral position of uncertainty and doubt to one of mutual engagement. A handful of students’ participation remained peripheral and, in some instances, became outbound. The ways in which the next generation of scholars engaged with each other and with the world profoundly shaped their identity. Rites of passage to membership of this research community of practice were negotiated and an initial shared repertoire of resources was developed.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Views from below: students’ perceptions of teaching practice evaluations and stakeholder roles
    (Faculty of Education, University of the Free State, 2013) Sosibo, Lungi
    Interest in teaching practice as an essential component of teacher education is growing. In spite of this, there is a dearth of research investigating students’ perceptions of teaching practice evaluations from them as beneficiaries. This qualitative study examines students’ perceptions of teaching practice evaluations administered by means of observations and criteria-based forms from a systems theory approach, with a view to establishing how effectively all aspects of support, structure and teaching practice evaluation interact and contribute to the development of new teachers. The sample was drawn from one of three campuses that offer the teacher education programme. Data was gathered from 12 focus groups of 57 students using in-depth, semi-structured, open-ended interviews. Results revealed that, although students generally found teaching practice evaluations meaningful, several systemic factors mitigated against their growth and development. Recommendations included strengthening partnerships between schools and university and among all stakeholders; development of a teaching practice theoretical framework and alignment of teaching practice in the campuses that offer the teacher education programme, and developing teaching practice frameworks and structures that could offer students meaningful learning experiences while they are in the schools.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Conceptualising transformation and interrogating elitism: the Bale scholarship programme
    (Faculty of Education, University of the Free State, 2013) Botsis, Hannah; Dominguez-Whitehead, Yasmine; Liccardo, Sabrina
    In this article, we consider the extent to which a scholarship programme at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) engages with the challenges of transformation. This scholarship programme highlights the transformative potential of a programme that focuses on excellence for a previously under-represented group, but also demonstrates how this type of programme reaffirms the dominant notion of excellence within the university space, which could be read as a reproduction of inequitable practices. Theoretically, we make use of Bourdieu’s concepts of ‘field’ and ‘capital’ to understand how a space that is socially elite, such as a university, engages with the issue of change. Transformation efforts such as Bale have meant that previously disadvantaged individuals have opportunities to pursue a university education, these efforts have also served to maintain and perpetuate elitism. This happy “marriage” between elitism and transformation ensures that the university remains elite, while simultaneously pursuing demographic equity and diversity. Bale students who successfully complete a university education reap many benefits, through their access to the cultural capital of a Wits degree. However Bale consists of an exclusive group of students who will personally benefit, while the broad interests of a top-notch University are served.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Mathematics: a powerful pre- and post-admission variable to predict success in engineering programmes at a University of Technology
    (Faculty of Education, University of the Free State, 2013) Van Wyk, Barend; Hofman, Wiecher; Louw, Cecilia
    Although student attrition and retention are researched all over the world, there is no final formula available to ensure academic success for selected students. The purpose is to share research undertaken at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in order to investigate the role of mathematics in student achievement and retention in National Diploma engineering programmes. This study contributes to the identification of key aspects that exercise an influence on success at a University of Technology (UoT) in a country where students have diverse schooling experiences. An ex post facto study was carried out on a sample drawn from the first-time-entering National Diploma cohorts of 2009 and 2010 to determine a possible correlation between their National Senior Certificate (Grade 12) mathematics performance and their first semester mathematics performance, or with their first semester mathematics performance and the number of subjects passed after two years of study. The results indicate that the performance in Mathematics I has a better predictive value than any other variable investigated. The performance in Mathematics I may therefore be used as part of an early warning system for dropping out and in determining the size and nature of the support structures needed. Mathematics performance during the first semester at TUT is a significant determinant of academic success for National Diploma students in engineering disciplines.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Benefits and challenges of a teacher cluster in South Africa: the case of Sizabantwana
    (Faculty of Education, University of the Free State, 2013) Mitchell, Carol; Jonker, David
    This article explores teacher clusters as possible mechanisms for teacher development in dealing with a number of the difficulties facing education in the South African context. It describes the benefits and challenges experienced by primary school teachers who are involved in a self-sustaining teacher cluster (development and support group). This cluster is unique in that it focuses on psychosocial issues confronting the teachers in their classrooms. The study uses an interpretive qualitative approach to report on the experiences of the members of the cluster in an attempt to extract some lessons that may be useful to practitioners in the South African context. This study highlights the value of using a long-term developmental and organic approach to develop a community of practice for teacher support and development.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Reading the world, reading the word: why Not now, Bernard is not a case of suicide, but self-killing
    (Faculty of Education, University of the Free State, 2016) Murris, Karin
    Philosophical teaching gives permission to learners to explore the meaning of texts by drawing on their own experiences. By thinking out loud, they construct new meanings of texts. As a result of this oral work, what texts mean shifts in the unique relationship between text and reader and include child’s voice. If educators nurture children’s competencies and abilities in interrogating texts philosophically, their ability to read against texts will not only be strengthened, but the reading experience itself will also be transformative – but neither in the sense that South African educator Jonathan Jansen suggests, nor as proposed by Critical Literacy. Philosophical teaching assumes a relationship of ‘emptying’, not ‘filling’, and a conscious effort from the teacher to resist the urge to regard education as a formation of childhood. My argument will be supported by a transcript of a dialogue I facilitated with nine-year-olds discussing Bernard’s apparent suicide in David McKee’s picturebook Not now Bernard.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Funding sources for public higher education in South Africa: institutional responses
    (Faculty of Education, University of the Free State, 2013) Ntshoe, Isaac; De Villiers, Pierre
    Tuition fees and the use of student loans to complement government’s allocations have become unavoidable because of increasing competing new priorities for funding. This article addresses the funding sources of public higher education through tuition and loans. We explore the effects of shifts from first-stream income (government appropriations) towards second- (tuition fees) and third-stream (philanthropic funding and academic entrepreneurialism), and how tuition fees and student loans might impact on access, equity and throughput rates in South Africa. The qualitative study using semi-structured interviews was adopted to obtain data with expert information selected by purposeful sampling from four types of higher education institutions in South Africa. The data were also obtained from national policy and institutional documents. We make a case for the indivisibility between first-, secondand third-stream money incomes and between public-private benefits of tuition fees and student loans. We argue that the ability of institutions to raise third-stream income depends on their history, geopolitical location, programmes offered and their proximity to industry, so as to engage research activities that promote third-stream income. We further argue that institutions in mainly rural provinces, and students from poor family backgrounds, most of whom are Black, generally lack the necessary cultural and social capital to make use of opportunities in the form of bursaries and student loans.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The accommodation of multilingualism through blended learning in two Information Technology classes
    (Faculty of Education, University of the Free State, 2013) Olivier, Jako
    The South African society can be described as culturally diverse and multilingual. However, despite the advantages of mother-tongue education, English is often chosen as the language of learning and teaching at the cost of the other official languages. This article proposes that multilingualism, through the use of languages other than English in the classroom, could be accommodated through blended learning. Blended learning refers to the blending of traditional instruction methods, such as face-to-face instruction, with online learning. For example, through an evaluation of e-learning tools, it was established that wikis could be used for this study. The empirical research in this article focuses on the establishment and testing of a set of steps for the accommodation of multilingualism by means of blended learning in the subject Information Technology. The research took the form of a sequential embedded mixedmethods design, and both quantitative and qualitative approaches were used. Based on the literature and the empirical investigations, blended learning was implemented through the use of a wiki at two high schools in the Free State province, and the effectiveness of the intervention was tested through a quasi-experimental study. In conclusion, it was found that multilingualism could be accommodated through blended learning.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Mathematical literacy teachers: can anyone be one?
    (Faculty of Education, University of the Free State, 2013) Botha, Hanlie; Maree, Jacobus; Stols, Gerrit
    In this case study, Mathematical Literacy teachers were interviewed and observed in the classroom in order to provide insight into the way this subject, relatively new in South African schools, is handled. The focus of this research was the instructional practice of these teachers specifically in terms of their mathematical knowledge regarding the subject and its learners. The idea that this subject is inferior to other subjects in general, but to mathematics in particular, was alluded to by some participants, alongside of the notion that it was infra dig to teach it. The study revealed that a working knowledge of mathematics as well as teaching-and-learning skills are necessary for this subject to achieve what it was meant to do when it was introduced into South African high schools in 2006.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The efficacy of “catch-up programmes” in South African high schools: a legal jinx
    (Faculty of Education, University of the Free State, 2013) Nyoni, Jabulani
    The South African State is mandated by Sections 28(2) and 29(1) of the South African Constitution to make provision for the education of a South African child in fulfilment of the child’s constitutional rights. Teacher Unions (TUs) and provincial Departments of Basic Education (DBEs) have often promised South African high school student body, in particular, and society at large, in general, that the compensation of time lost during a teachers’ strike is duly accounted for during the implementation of subsequent compensatory intervention strategy (CIS) “catch-up programmes”. The article argues that, as long as CIS “catch-up programmes” remain voluntary for both educators and learners, without the backing of enforceable mandatory legislative instruments that would hold public schools and DBEs to account, learners will continue losing valuable contact time, thereby jeopardising their chances of doing well in their academic school work and being denied their constitutional right to basic education in the process. The use of postpositivist, legal, rational, qualitative interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) was meant to explore how high school principals, teachers and students experienced CIS “catch-up programmes” implementation processes by DBEs (Smith & Osborn, 2008).
  • ItemOpen Access
    The space between: pedagogic collaboration between a writing centre and an academic department
    (Faculty of Education, University of the Free State, 2013) Mckay, Tracey Morton; Simpson, Zachary
    The expectations placed on students with respect to appropriate academic writing may hinder successful participation in Higher Education. Full participation is further complicated by the fact that each discipline within the University constitutes its own community of practice, with its own set of literacy practices. While Writing Centres aim to help students navigate their apprenticeship into these practices, their location on the periphery of academic activity may undermine these efforts. This article reports on an intervention aimed at initiating a more integrated approach to the provision of writing development services. It was undertaken within a qualitative, interpretive design-based research framework. The results suggest that Writing Centres can add significant value by leveraging their unique location within universities, that is, in the spaces between academic disciplines, to assist students to achieve epistemological access to a discipline. Writing consultants (the focus of this study) need to interact with different academic discourses. The result is that they engage, to an extent, in disciplinary ‘boundary-hopping’. We argue that Writing Centres should facilitate this by fostering a space for engagement between disciplines. The article concludes by arguing that further research on using the interstices between disciplines as a resource for developing student academic writing is required.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Research politics: some issues in conducting research for government as a client
    (Faculty of Education, University of the Free State, 2013) Diko, Nolutho; Bantwini, Bongani D.
    Researchers are guided by their ideological and ethical viewpoints when conducting research. Doing research for government challenges them to confront these ideals head-on. This article explores the uncertain terrain researchers sometimes have to negotiate when conducting research for government, and discusses relations between researchers and government officials. It considers the authors’ approach in conducting research for a South African provincial government department in 2008/2009 and, based on that experience, analyses the politics underlying the research process. Despite the clear brief directing the research, they found that the study was never separated from the political environment in which it was conducted. The study goals shifted according to the shifting perspectives of the commissioning authority, causing tension between the researchers and the project management.
  • ItemOpen Access
    ‘Fit for change’: a preliminary exploration of the relationship between academic literacy practitioners and disciplinary specialists as a complex system
    (Faculty of Education, University of the Free State, 2013) Cattell, Karin
    At tertiary institutions in South Africa and internationally, academic literacy practitioners and disciplinary specialists have traditionally functioned as separate communities of practice. However, research indicates that academic literacy is most successfully acquired when it is integrated into and taught within the contexts of specific academic disciplines. This article explores the transgression of the boundaries between academic literacy teaching and study disciplines, in general, and the subsequent broadening of the social structures within which academic disciplines function at tertiary institutions. The relationship between academic literacy practitioners and disciplinary specialists at Stellenbosch University is correspondingly investigated as a complex system, focusing on the variable and non-linear interaction among the co-evolving components of the system and its environment, the emergent structure of the resultant transdisciplinary community of practice, and the ‘fitness’ of this community – its ability to cope with the challenges and opportunities brought on by constant change. The article will demonstrate the contribution that a complex systems approach could make to the collaboration between academic literacy practitioners and disciplinary specialists at tertiary institutions, in general, and at Stellenbosch University, in particular, and subsequently, to an understanding of the collective focus on student success in these two communities of practice.