Botho TET Talks Emphasise Inspiration and Student Engagement in Teaching

On the 28th of February Botho University's Teaching Excellence Department hosted an enlightening symposium featuring lectures delivered by two higher education specialists from South African universities. Botho Teaching Excellence Talks (TET) is a creative platform for interactive dialogue among academics on issues that bear on the quality of teaching and learning.

For this edition of the forum Professor Nqambozi Gawe, a former Deputy VC of the Durban University of Technology, delivered a presentation under the title 'Teaching excellence and transformative learning.' Gawe underscored the crucial teaching goal of igniting a passion for learning in students.

She explained that it is important for lecturers not to just show off their knowledge to learners but also to ignite a passion for learning the subject in them. Gawe recalls a learning environment during her time at university in which learners were expected to parrot what they had read in textbooks or risk failing tests as individualised understanding of concepts was not accepted. Now, however, she notes the trend is rightfully moving towards more student involvement and flexibility in the learning process.

Her message was that students need to be given the freedom to grow outside the textbook and what the lecturer has taught, a goal which can be best achieved through 'inspirational teaching' which is describedas being "transformational in the sense that it has sustained positive impact on student learning."

She went on to share that the literature on teaching excellence identifies four overarching themes:Knowledge and passion for the subject; Understanding learning and knowledge; Constructive and challenging learning environment; and Students as individuals, partners and colleagues."

Meanwhile, Ms. Lindi Tlou, the Head of the Quality Unit at the University of Pretoria, delivered a presentation under the title 'Strategies for promoting excellent teaching practices through student engagement in quality assurance processes.'

Tlou placed particular emphasis on achieving a high level of student satisfaction and an exceptional student experience as criteria for excellence in academic institutions. Tlou discussed various models which attempt to define the role of students in quality assurance and identified the 'Student Co-constructors Approach' as her favoured model; this approach encourages students to actively participate and co-construct quality assurance policies and practices.

She says that the key benefits of adopting this approach are that it allows students to objectively assess the quality of the education they are receiving as well as the long-term value of the overall learning experience afforded by the particular institution. Ideally this transforms students from passive receivers of information to partners actively participating in constructing and shaping the quality of education. Inculcating this sense of responsibility for learning outcomes in the students themselves can only make it more likely that the students will make the most out of their time in academic institutions.

The ensuing discussions were lively and addressed the role of students in achieving higher education excellence from various perspectives, with many important factors highlighted such as the job satisfaction of lecturers and the overall learning culture of an institution.