A prestigious national award was presented to Prof Susan van Schalkwyk for the contribution she has made to the field of teaching and learning in higher education.
Van Schalkwyk, who is the director of the Centre for Health Professions Education (CHPE) at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, recently received the National Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award presented by the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA).
Her selection for the award is a great achievement, HELTASA's Dr Rejoice Nsibande said in a letter of confirmation to Van Schalkwyk. “We hope that you [Van Schalkwyk] will be able to serve as a role model and leader in teaching excellence, both at your institution and in the higher education sector in South Africa," Nsibande's letter reads. The award was recently presented at the annual HELTASA conference and recognises excellence and leadership in teaching and learning in higher education.
“Receiving the award within the CHPE is a wonderful privilege and affirmation of our work," said Van Schalkwyk. According to her, the award gives voice to SU's new teaching and learning policy (2018), which speaks directly to strengthening the scholarship of teaching and learning and recognizes the professionalization of academics in their teaching roles.
Van Schalkwyk said that although she was “humbled and grateful" for being selected for the award, she also felt conflicted, as the success she has achieved throughout her career was made possible by the support and assistance of colleagues, family and friends. “I dedicate this award to all my wonderful colleagues in the CHPE, FMHS, SU's Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and the Health Professions Education community of scholars around the world with whom I work," she said.
To be considered for the award, candidates have to be nominated by their universities to submit a portfolio containing reflections of their career in teaching and learning.
“SU's review committee regarded Van Schalkwyk's portfolio as impressive," said Ms Jean Lee Farmer, a CTL advisor. “The portfolio provided extensive evidence of her leadership in teaching and learning and her related research. Both her teaching and research are underpinned by solid theoretical knowledge and deep critical reflection on her practice as an educationist. She engages with higher education in a scholarly manner and clearly has the enhancing of the science of higher education as her goal. Van Schalkwyk's portfolio illustrates the complexity of teaching in higher education and of the being and becoming of an educationist in this context."
In 2015, Van Schalkwyk obtained a C3 rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF), and was appointed as SU's first full professor in Health Professions Education in 2016. In 2017, she received the SU Teaching Excellence Award.
To date Van Schalkwyk has published 50 peer-reviewed articles and nine book chapters, and has presented her research at 27 national and 21 international conferences, workshops or symposia. She is also a member of the Bellagio Global Health Education Initiative (a worldwide collaboration seeking to develop curriculum for global health challenges) and serves on the editorial board of various academic journals in her field of study.