Conference delegates at the 15th SU SoTL Conference were once again afforded the opportunity to attend engaging workshops, keynotes and presentations. The theme of this year's conference was “Assessment matters. Re-imagining assessment culture and practices for a transformative student experience".
Every year the SoTL conference provides a platform where academics share and celebrate teaching and learning practices and research. It also aims to address all aspects of teaching and learning at the University in an open, supportive and intellectually stimulating atmosphere. Scholars and teachers from various faculties at SU have an opportunity to present their research, innovations and reflections, educate one another and inspire emerging scholars at the event, which is organised annually by the Division for Learning and Teaching Enhancement. This year, the conference took place in hybrid format, with face-to-face pre-conference workshops at the Devon Valley Hotel, and the rest of the conference presentations online on MS Teams. The conference was attended by 231 registered participants and 77 abstracts were submitted in different presentation tracks.
In his conference opening address, Prof Deresh Ramjugernath, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Learning and Teaching, referred to the need for SU as an institution to look past the notion of learning and teaching per se, but to actually talk about learning, teaching and assessment. Prof Ramjugernath suggested that perhaps the name of the conference be changed to the Scholarship of Learning, Teaching and Assessment Conference. Another key reference in Professor Ramjugernath's address was the notion of “a transformative student experience". In fact, as one of the strategic themes of the University, he emphasised that it is not just applicable to students, but also to teaching staff. It is a transformative journey for all involved in learning, teaching and assessment.
One of the highlights of the conference this year was the keynote address by Prof Paul Ashwin, Professor of Higher Education and Head of the Department of Educational Research at Lancaster University in the UK. The topic of Prof Ashwin's keynote was “The role of assessment in a transformative university education". He suggested that stronger educational arguments be developed for the power of university education that explains why academic knowledge is powerful and who it enables students to become. He furthermore argued for ensuring that assessment is focused on evaluating students' engagement with powerful knowledge and their ability to use this knowledge in the world.
Other highlights of the conference included a keynote panel and a closing panel. The topic of the closing panel was “Future of Assessment at SU: From fear of failing to joy of learning". The session was characterised by lively group discussions. During the keynote panel, on the topic of “How assessment practices can be changed to support a transformative student experience", conference delegates could listen to inputs from three different panellists, representing the international, national and institutional contexts. Prof Lan Yang from the Education University of Hong Kong spoke about the importance of feedback orientations of both students and lecturers. Prof Francois Cilliers from the University of Cape Town reminded conference delegates to be “active owner" of assessment instead of “passive receivers". The third panellist, Prof Richard Stevens from SU, shared initiatives to advance assessment practices in the Law Faculty.
The conference ended on a high note with the announcement of the best presentations. The following papers were adjudged the best in various categories:
- Research track: “Towards a framework for the development of teamwork skills in Accounting students by Riana Goosen & Gretha Steenkamp (School of Accountancy)
- Innovation track: “Teaching identity construction in academic texts through modality and visuals" – by Taryn Bernard (FASS)
- Delegates' Choice: “Bringing Africa into the classroom" – by Patricia Zweig (FASS – Research Alliance for Disaster and Risk Reduction)
- Best PREDAC Poster (as voted by the conference delegates): “Procrastination is the thief of time" by Melissa Botha, Kerotse Kekana & Sabrina Matthee (EMS)
All the conference sessions and presentations were recorded and are available in the SoTL 2022 Conference Team. Also visit the conference website at https://www0.sun.ac.za/sotl/ for more information about the conference programme and to access abstracts from all the presentations.