reflections on uct s teaching learning report 2010 n.
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Reflections on UCT’s Teaching & Learning Report 2010

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Reflections on UCT’s Teaching & Learning Report 2010. Nan Yeld. Quick facts & figures. Students . enrolment grew in every faculty except Science South African black, coloured and Indian students made up 43% of total enrolment (an increase of 32% since 2006 )

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  • enrolment grew in every faculty except Science
  • South African black, coloured and Indian students made up 43% of total enrolment (an increase of 32% since 2006)
  • first-time entering undergraduate numbers were 7% lower than in 2009
academic staffing
Academic staffing
  • The academic staffing complement grew by 9.3% between 2008 and 2010
  • This was slightly lower than the student headcount growth of 10.6% over the same period
  • Increases in absolute numbers of staff were significant only at the lecturer level
  • The proportions of staff at the professorial and assoc/proflevels decreased during this period (from 25% to 21%, and 21% to 19%, respectively
  • 31% of academic staff were 39 years or younger, up from 23% in 2008, and 40% of staff were aged 50 or older, down from 48% in 2008
success rates
Success rates
  • 25.2% of the total enrolment successfully completed a degree or diploma in 2010
  • In terms of course success rates, 2010 saw a very small undergraduate increase to 81.4%
  • success rates at the first year level were 81%, at the 200-level 83%, at the 300-level 88% and the 400-level 91%
  • Master’s : the potential completion rates are 68% for the 2003, 64% for the 2004, and 69% for the 2005 cohort years. Of the Master’s students who graduate, the average time is 2.4 years.
  • Doctoral: the potential completion rate for the 2003 doctoral cohort is 71%, and of those who graduate, the average time taken is 5.2 years.
However .....

... what graduation rates and course pass rates tend to disguise are performance patterns within courses, particularly in respect of levels of performance, and differentials between groups.

The main challenges relate to differentials between groups, and generally low levels of performance.

some observations
Some observations
  • In one first-year level course, 57% of the black students in the course failed, compared with 24% of white students. Only just over ¼ of the black students obtained 55% or more. In general, over a third of the class failed the course.
  • In a second-year level course, roughly 80% of the black students achieve 54% or less (40% fail).
  • In a third year level whole year course, while failure rates are low, 31% of the class obtains marginal passes (between 50 and 54%) and only 35% obtain 60% or more.

Generally, the proportion of students obtaining marginal passes is of concern, particularly at the more senior levels.

  • the second-year level the proportion (in this sample of courses) of marginal passes is 20% and
  • at the third- year level 31%, 21% and 24%.
  • Significantly, the numbers of students in these courses are not small (267 in the second-year course, and 153, 167 and 126 respectively in the third-year courses).
responses from faculties included several initiatives which are planned or underway
Responses from faculties included several initiatives which are planned or underway
  • The recording of lectures is seen as a very positive development, with no reported drop in lecture attendance. A challenge will be to design learning materials and physical spaces that encourage and facilitate optimal benefit from this new learning opportunity.
  • The issue of ‘vertical articulation’ of curricula (i.e. how courses build on each other, or how a major is constructed, from first to final year) was raised in several faculty responses. In particular, and in light of performance patterns in senior courses, it was recognised that the role and nature of prerequisite courses needs to be examined.

A common theme was the planned greater use of teaching opportunities outside of the regular two semester timetabled periods.

  • most responses recognised the need to recognise and address the needs of school leavers both now and in the foreseeable future. In particular, the need was expressed for more attention to be paid to identifying students’ educational needs on entry though pre- and post- admissions testing and appropriate educational interventions.
  • more systematic approaches to tutor training and academic course administration processes

Initiatives to extend the use of mentors and counsellors, in recognition of the importance of affective factors in student learning

  • The importance of space in the teaching and learning environment was emphasised in several responses.
  • Re-examination of the use of extended curriculum approaches to cater for a possibly greater proportion of students. Generally, there was evidence of increased acceptance and support for large-scale structural changes and faculty-level collaborations and partnerships with the Centre for Higher Education Development.
concluding remarks
Concluding remarks
  • Need for a committee structure ‘headed’ by an over-arching Teaching & Learning Committee
  • Development of an institutional Teaching & Learning Strategy, with operational priorities, targets and deadlines (& resources)
  • Convincing staff that UCT faces genuine and serious teaching and learning challenges that constrain our ambition to be a leading university.