The Division for Social Impact recently hosted an engaged teaching and learning workshop for attendees from Stellenbosch University, the Vaal University of Technology and Mangosuthu University of Technology.
Dr Antoinette Smith-Tolken, acting Head of the Division for Social Impact explained that the social impact strategy is Stellenbosch University's attempt to contribute intentionally to the country's development goals. "The impact door opens opportunities for collaboration in terms of academic talents from different disciplines. Social Impact provides a wider scope for engaging in societal issues. Previously for academics the imperative was to 'publish or perish', today it is 'engage or die'" she said.
Participants expressed that with the decolonisation of the curriculum, social impact has a strong role to play. They explored the way in which Antonio Gramsci's notion of traditional vs organic intellectuals speaks to social impact and the need for a different approach to produce different outcomes and being responsive towards societal contexts, needs and opportunities.
Participants also felt that higher education institutions need to revisit the way they are structured as there are structural barriers to doing multidisciplinary work. Sometime even when you work in the same space there is a resistance to finding a way to synchronise course work for students. Practices need to change within this new paradigm of social impact and practices need to allow for collaboration.
Dr Elmarie Costandius from the Visual Arts department, suggested that lecturers need to experiment with their teaching so that we can work against systems which we accept as the norm. "Community engagement increases the number of voices to include the lecturer, student and partner. It is in the discomfort, in the uncomfortable space that learning occurs. An inclusive critical citizenship education curriculum for students, lecturers and community members on a broader scale is desirable" she said.
Students are also keen to have contextual training before they immerse themselves in theory. "No-one can teach our students as much as the community can teach them" said Jana Muller from the the Rural Clinical School in Worcester. Dr Karin Cattell from the Centre for Teaching & Learning highlighted four graduate attributes which are desirable in a Stellenbosch University graduate: an enquiring mind; an engaged citizen; a dynamic professional; and a well-rounded individual. An engaged citizen is a leader and a collaborator, social entrepreneur and effective in a diverse environment.Transformation of society involves transformation of the self.
Should you wish to receive training in engaged teaching methodologies, please contact Benita Jansen in the Division for Social Impact on firstname.lastname@example.org.