The aim of the institutional report is to demonstrate efforts to bring about enhancements in each of the four Quality Enhancement Project (QEP) focus areas since the beginning of Phase 1 of the QEP in February 2014, to reflect on the journey towards enhancement and assess the extent to which the efforts have resulted in improvements.
The University of Johannesburg established a QEP Task Team (QEPTT) to steer, facilitate and coordinate QEP-related activities in the University. This includes:
the development of the UJ submissions to the CHE;
participation in national working groups, spin-off projects, etc. (to be identified by the CHE as part of the national QEP).
Four focus area writers:
University Teachers – Ms K Naidoo, Head: Professional Academic Staff Development, Academic Development Centre
Student Support and Development – Dr A van Zyl, Director: Academic Development Centre (ADC)
Learning Environment – Dr W Elston, Senior Instructional Designer/Project Manager,
Centre for Academic Technologies (CAT)
Enrolment Management – Ms T Gibbon, Senior Director: Division for Institutional Planning and Monitoring (DIPEM) and Ms Susanne Taylor, Senior manager, Special Projects, Academic Development and Support (ADS)
Final report: Prof R Ryan, Executive Director: Academic Development and Support (ADS) and Prof H Geyser, Head: Unit for Quality Promotion (UQP)
Secretarial support: Ms. I Pretorius, Coordinator: Quality Promotion, Unit for Quality Promotion (UQP).
The writers of the different Focus Areas consulted widely when compiling the progress reports. The report served at different fora in the University, namely:
The University Executive Committee of Senate (Senex)
The UJ Senate, where it was approved on 11 November 2015.
2. FOCUS AREA 1: ENHANCING ACADEMICS AS TEACHERS Includes: professional development, reward and recognition, workload, conditions of service and performance appraisal.
2.1 Summarise what the university considers to be the key issues in enhancing academics as teachers in one or two paragraphs. The University of Johannesburg places great emphasis on quality teaching and learning and recognises that academic staff members are employed to provide quality teaching. This implies teaching that is of high professional standard. The institutional commitment is reflected in the first instance in the broad strategic objective of Excellence in Teaching and Learning as well as in the university’s learning-to-be teaching philosophy. Key issues in enhancing academics as teachers at the University of Johannesburg are captured in the following core principles:
1. Teaching and learning in higher education is complex and concerns relating to teaching and learning cannot be addressed by ‘one-size-fits-all’ generic approaches to professional development. Thus it is important that the institution offers a number of different professional development opportunities for staff ranging from the recently approved formal postgraduate diploma in higher education and short learning programmes through to workshops and informal discussion groups. The broad context: university, faculty, discipline and individual, is important in ascertaining professional development needs. As a result, what is required is the provision of varied and multiple development opportunities for staff at all levels ranging from individual through to departmental, faculty and university-wide initiatives.
Thus, at UJ there are various initiatives (formal and non-formal) that have been and are in the process of being implemented to assist staff to become better teachers. The approach to professional development is collaborative, creative, flexible and needs-driven.
2. Continuous professional development is important to excellence in teaching and learning
The university is cognisant of the fact that the process of becoming an excellent teacher in a rapidly changing higher education context is an on-going endeavour and this requires an approach to professional development that provides opportunities for continuous professional career development as subject or discipline specialists and as teachers of the discipline. This includes providing opportunities for academics’ engagement with technology to facilitate learning as well as developing their capacity as researchers. In addition, given the current challenges and inequities in society and the importance of engaging with diversity and transformation there is a need to provide opportunities for academics to develop as responsive, engaged practitioners who are able to address issues of diversity and transformation.
3. Teaching is a scholarly endeavour
The importance of research and scholarship of teaching and learning and the development of teaching as a scholarly activity is an integral part of the institution’s strategic goals of ‘pre-eminence and stature as a teaching-focused institution which involves, amongst others conceptualising, ‘teaching developed as a scholarly activity’. This endeavour is supported by provision of resources through the Teaching Innovation Fund for scholarship of teaching and learning, by the establishment of the UJ Chair for Teaching and Learning, and by the importance accorded to the scholarship of teaching in the promotion process.
4. Recognition and reward of teaching
Reward and recognition for teaching and learning is regarded as being essential to encourage staff participation in professional development initiatives. Change in the promotion criteria, which requires all staff to submit a teaching portfolio, and which documents and provides evidence of their development as teachers of their disciplines is an important component of the university’s strategy to encourage academics to develop as teachers. Teaching excellence is also rewarded through the Vice Chancellor’s teaching award as well through faculty teaching excellence awards.
2.2 During Phase 1 of the QEP, what changes at institutional level (a) have been made, (b) are in progress, or (c) are in the planning stages that relate to enhancing academics as teachers? At the structural and cultural level the UJ has in place a number of strategies, policies and procedures that set the context within which initiatives to enhance academics as teachers are implemented and enacted. The strategic objective of excellence in teaching broadly frames initiatives relating to enhancing academics as teachers. More specific strategic goals relate to the development and enhancement of academics as teachers including those that speak to the importance of curriculum development as driver for change in pedagogical practice, for example:
Intellectually rigorous curricula that respond to the challenges of the 21st century
Curricula that speak to cutting-edge developments in disciplines and reflect latest trends in undergraduate education
Curricula that prepare students for active global citizenship.
The use of technology to facilitate learning is also emphasised in the strategic goals:
Constant and dynamic use of learning with technology
Lecturer engagement with technology.
This is further enhanced by recent developments in which UJ has partnered with an international company, ‘Academic Partnerships’, to prepare high quality fully online programmes. This has resulted in a renewed effort to develop staff in the use of the learning management system, Blackboard, and on the development of online modules. UJ is in the process of developing policies and procedures relating to distance and online teaching and learning.
In order to enhance the capacity of academic staff, which is another specific strategic goal, the university recognises the importance of ensuring that structures, incentives and rewards are in place to improve teaching and learning. The introduction of the Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education, which was recently approved by the HEQC, is an important development aimed at improving the capacity of academics as teachers. Staff will be encouraged to register for the qualification or to register for one or more of the modules which will be offered as short learning programmes. The completion of one or more modules may become compulsory for new and emerging academics.
One of the most significant institutional changes is the revision in the promotion criteria. In the revised promotion criteria teaching excellence is recognised through a mechanism which enables staff to weight teaching more heavily. All staff members are now required to submit a teaching portfolio in which they provide a teaching philosophy, details on their approaches to teaching and learning, assessment practices, the professional development workshops they attended and how this informed their practice, evaluations by students and peers, and other pertinent information. Support for this is, in some instances, provided by departmental or faculty mentors, who are more senior academic colleagues. In some faculties, the position of Vice-Dean Teaching and Learning play an important role in the development of academics for promotion. Professional Academic Staff Development (PASD) staff members in the Division of Academic Development and Support play a significant role in both the provision of development opportunities aimed at enhancing teaching and learning, as well as in mentoring staff and guiding them through the portfolio development process. There were concerns among some academic staff members that the introduction of promotion criteria that give prominence to teaching excellence created a far more onerous set of requirements when applying for promotion. The support provided by faculty mentors and PASD staff has accustomed academic staff to the importance of a reflective and evidence-based approach to foregrounding teaching and learning practices. The attendance of staff development programmes is an important part of the academic development process, and this is now appropriately recognised in the promotion process.
The emphasis on the development of clear, rigorous evidence-based criteria for the evaluation of teaching is safeguarded by the Teaching Portfolio Assessment Committee (TPAC) that also evaluates the portfolios. The TPAC comprises the Executive Director Academic Development and Support, the Chair of Teaching and Learning, the Director of the Academic Development Centre, the Head of Professional Academic Staff Development, an external expert, and two elected faculty members from the faculty in which the candidate is located. The TPAC reports serve at the Executive Committee of Senate (the committee in which applications for promotion are considered) and they also serve a developmental function for candidates. In addition, strategic initiatives to enhance staff capacity include the development of a policy framework for academic staff development with on-going monitoring and evaluation of progress in teaching and learning as a key component.
The University’s commitment to teaching as a scholarly activity is further evident in creation of a chair in teaching and learning. UJ is the first university in SA to create a Chair in Teaching and Learning. The post, initially for three years, is located in the Faculty of Education. The incumbent is expected to play an institutional role in facilitating the development of a culture within the university that views teaching as a scholarly activity, to supervise doctoral and post-doctoral candidates, to conduct research and to lead research group projects. The allocation of funding through the Teaching Innovation Fund to support research in teaching innovation is another institutional strategy aimed at encouraging staff to engage in scholarship of teaching and learning.
The Staff Qualification Programme (SQP), a strategy to support staff to obtain a Master’s and/or doctoral qualification as well as research capacity development initiatives also contribute to the development of academics as teachers as this enables staff to relate teaching and research and to ensure that their teaching is informed by recent research in their disciplines. The SQP provides valuable support for staff members who are registered for Master’s and doctoral studies in the form of an initial research grant, funding for teaching relief and an extensive workshop programme.
The table below indicates the progress that has been made in the last six years pertaining to staff with Master’s degrees and staff with Doctoral degrees: