University of Cape Town: Three winners of new socially responsive course grants

The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning Associate Professor Lis Lange has named the first three recipients of UCT’s newly introduced socially responsive engaged teaching and learning course development grants.

The awardees are Leigh-Ann Richards and Elvin Williams in the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Division of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Health Sciences; Dr Helen Scanlon, Department of Political Studies, Faculty of Humanities; and Dr Vuyiswa Lupuwana in the Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Science.

Each received a R10 000 award to develop, design or revise a course that meets the criteria of engagement with external non-academic constituencies through a pedagogical process and approach.



“COVID-19 has offered the university unique opportunities to deepen UCT’s commitment to society.”

“COVID-19 has offered the university unique opportunities to deepen UCT’s commitment to society through our teaching, research and service,” Associate Professor Lange said in her announcement.

“Vision 2030 highlights the importance of embedding a socially engaged learning experience into the curriculum for students.”

As part of this imperative, and as an indication of institutional commitment, UCT invited applications for four socially responsive engaged teaching and learning course development grants. Three awards were made this year.

“All of these courses or reflexive practices are linked in very meaningful ways to the broader social responsiveness curriculum project at UCT.”

Lange said she looked forward to hearing more about the awardees’ work at future UCT Teaching and Learning Conferences.

Socially responsiveness occupational therapy

Richards and Williams will use their grant to develop a curriculum where a culture of social responsiveness is embedded in the education of undergraduate occupational therapy (OT) students.

“In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown forced the OT Division to rapidly adapt practice learning (PL) to respond to the health and social crisis in our practice contexts,” they said. “Our response was reactive to the pandemic crisis. While we were able to meet the requirements of PL, we strived to produce graduates who were able to consider and respond to contextual barriers and opportunities for occupational engagement and promoting participation in life.”



“We look forward to re-engaging with these partners in co-constructing a curriculum that will bring transformation in the profession, our practice education and service to others.”

In July 2021 the OT Division initiated a critical review of the practice learning curriculum to design a curriculum that supports socially responsive practice and the transformation agenda regarding social and health justice for all.

“The PL Review project was mandated to us to manage for the period July to December 2021 for implementation in 2022 to 2023,” Richards and Williams said.

Phase 1 has been completed. Here the focus was on extensive consultation with OT clinicians on the clinical platform, schools, NGOs, and the OT Division staff and alumni. The duo was committed to bringing all voices and ideas together. They are now in the design phase.

“We look forward to re-engaging with these partners in co-constructing a curriculum that will bring transformation in the profession, our practice education and service to others. We also hope that this grant will lay foundations for much-needed curriculum development and build authentic partnerships with the communities we strive to serve.”

Social justice and civil society

Dr Scanlon will use her award to develop a series of three short courses based on a course titled Fault Lines in Transitional Justice: Addressing historic abuses in South Africa. This course targets civil society actors working in the area of social justice and will be developed in conjunction with the Foundation for Human Rights.

The course supports new, integrative and path-breaking studies of South African experiences and is accessible to anyone interested in social justice. Collaborating with key actors in the South African coalition for traditional justice, Scanlon will develop modules centred on ongoing advocacy for truth, reparations, criminal accountability, and memorialisation. The intention is to create a strong environmental dialogue about local contexts of violence and strategies that have been used to confront impunity.

Scanlon said that it is envisaged that students in the political studies department will learn and benefit from engagement with civil society actors.

Transforming archaeology

Dr Lupuwana will use his award to design a course that engages and outlines critical discourse for transforming the discipline, which has long been critiqued for its colonial origins. Lupuwana said that in recent years the ‘positionality’ of archaeological practice had become a strong point of focus and restructuring globally. However, the theory of archaeology coming to terms with itself is still in its infancy.

This new course will focus on developing a critical lens for engaging with scientific and theoretical disciplines through an approach that favours benefit sharing and mutual access to knowledge. It will be framed around public and community archaeology approaches to the discipline.

One of the issues linked to critical and inclusive engagement in the practice of archaeology is providing spaces for students to interact with community, heritage, and heritage spaces. Lupuwana envisages the course will have practical outcomes in the form of archaeological exhibitions, community walk-throughs, art exhibitions and capsule comic books.

Having the space to develop a project that facilitates its implementation will be key to the course, he said.

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