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Academic agency and hope: beyond COVID-19
Start: 23/09/2020, 13:00
End: 23/09/2020, 14:00
Contact:Anthea Jacobs - 021 808 9258
Location: MS Teams

​Learning and Teaching Enhancement Seminar: 23 September 2020


You are invited to the next quarterly Learning and Teaching Seminar under the auspices of the Vice-Rector (L&T), Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel, and the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Division.

Academic agency and hope: beyond COVID-19

Dr Melanie Skead

Short biography
Melanie Skead is the Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning. She started off lecturing in English Studies and has been active in the domain of higher education academic development since 2003. She holds a PhD in English and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Academic Development from Rhodes University. Previously she has been manager of learning advancement at the University of Fort Hare, senior manager of teaching development at Nelson Mandela University, and senior lecturer in the Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching and Learning at Rhodes University before joining Stellenbosch University in 2018. Her research interests include the transformation of higher education through social justice, decoloniality, equity and academic agency in curriculum-making and systemic change.

In a relatively short time, much has been written on the global pandemic that has brought the world to a halt. In the midst of this crisis, we are challenged to see the possibilities for a renewed “pedagogy of hope," to not “succumb to fatalism" but to “muster the strength we absolutely need for a fierce struggle that will re-create the world'' (Freire, 2014).

This seminar will be an opportunity to reflect on notions of academic agency and how its achievement opens up possibilities for thinking and doing differently, beyond the COVID-19 moment. Agency is “an emergent phenomenon" (Priestley et al. 2015) and has the capacity to critically shape responses to challenging situations (Biesta, 2006). It is not something people have, but something they do (Priestley et al. 2015). The COVID-19 moment will impact on future agency and holds significant possibilities for renewal. We might, for example, emerge beyond COVID-19 with deepened compassion, humanity and wisdom. Our university could be shaped anew as a place where hope and humanity flourish and where measurement does not reign supreme.

Bandura reminds us that “to be an agent is to intentionally make things happen by one's actions". Agency enables “people to play a part in their self-development, adaptation, and self-renewal with changing times" (Bandura, 2001).

This seminar will highlight academic agency as a commitment to action that functions individually and collectively. Such action could manifest as resistance, transformation and innovation. Resistance to complacency carries possibilities for a discursive, constructive process of introspection, reflection and dialogue. We need to create favourable conditions for meaningful change not only in spite of, but also because of this crisis moment. Hope lies in realising that we are not just onlookers, but “agents of experiences" (Bandura, 2001). How might we use our agency to enrich our own and our students' experiences and environment at Stellenbosch University beyond COVID-19?

Time: 13:00-14:00 on 23 September 2020 on MS Teams

Enquiries: Anthea Jacobs (

RSVP by 21 September 2020

Click here to register: