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Book launch: Responding to the necessity for change: HE voices from the South during the COVID-19 crisis
Author: Nicoline Herman
Published: 09/11/2020
Division for Learning and Teaching Enhancement Book Launch: Responding to the necessity for change: Higher Education voices from the South during the COVID-19 crisis


During the closing session of the Stellenbosch University virtual 2020 Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) conference, Dr Antoinette van der Merwe (Snr Director Division for Learning and Teaching Enhancement) introduced delegates to a recently published online book entitled Responding to the necessity for change: Higher Education voices from the South during the COVID-19 crisis edited by Drs Sonja Strydom, Nicoline Herman, Hanelie Adendorff and Ms Mine de Klerk from the Centre for Learning Technologies and the Centre for Teaching and Learning.

The chapters in the book are authored by professional academic support staff and teaching academics and describe their experiences around educational challenges and opportunities during the first semester of the COVID-19 period.  The book attempts to offer honest, reflective insights into the scholarly and practical activities of a proportion of staff members involved in the continuous support of sound teaching, learning and assessment (TLA) practices during this period of emergency remote teaching (ERT). The authors celebrate lessons learned, but also aim to build on identified opportunities for change and further critical reflection.

Authors were invited to reflect on their contextualized experiences during the first semester by asking the following questions based on the framework of Rolfe, Freshwater and Jasper (2001): What, So-What and Now-What? It was furthermore suggested to the authors that they align their chapters with the Designing Learning, Teaching and Assessment (DeLTA) framework. The framework was conceptualized by the CTL in its mandate of supporting lecturers with their teaching function. ‘DeLTA’ is the acronym for this process and framework, but ‘DeLTA’ is also the mathematical symbol for change and is represented by Δ.

Two overarching themes serve as key threads across all the chapters. Firstly, a reframing of the notion of change can be observed – from merely a disruption to an invitation to adapt and respond to emerging and discomforting conditions in the context of TLA. Each chapter illustrates how the COVID-19 crisis in some way triggered a necessary change, whether this manifested as a new perspective, a developed professional practice or the implementation of a new TLA approach.

Secondly, the notion of ‘care’ underpins the narrative of nearly every chapter. The authors reflect on highly collaborative and iterative processes of finding new and practical solutions in the ERT period whilst ensuring that they maintain their awareness of sound pedagogical principles and compassion for peers, students and themselves.

Institutional role-players who may not have worked closely together prior to the pandemic describe how they became increasingly dependent on one another’s professional expertise and knowledge domains. They had to invite a larger number of voices and consider other staff members’ and students’ lived experiences more attentively in order to balance the  implementation of practical solutions with the shared objective to maintain the quality of SU’s academic offering.

Consequently, the chapters reveal a heightened awareness of the need at SU for a professional academic support approach that is firmly rooted in empathy and a TLA philosophy that draws on a pedagogy of care.

The book is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License and is freely available. Click on the picture of the cover page below to access the book: 
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Reference:

Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D. & Jasper, M. (2001). Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: A user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.