University of Johannesburg: Master Classes for Academics by the Division for Academic Planning, Quality Promotion and Academic Staff Development

Master teachers are not born; they become. They become primarily by developing a habit of mind, a way of looking critically at the work they do; by developing the courage to recognise faults, and by struggling to improve’. (Common 1989:385 in Leibowitz et al 2009:258)

Being and becoming a good teacher in higher education involves a process of continuously engaging reflectively in order to improve our teaching practices in the future. Staff in the Division for Academic Planning, Quality Promotion and Academic Staff Development (DAPQPASD) believe that reflection can be enhanced through dialogue and engagement with other good teachers. To this end, the Division initiated a Master Class series facilitated by academics from a range of institutions including UJ and representing a number of different disciplines. While the approaches of different facilitators to teaching may differ, the one characteristic that they all share is their passion for teaching in the discipline, their knowledge of principles underlying engaged teaching practices and their concern for student success. Invited facilitators challenge participants to think critically about their practices, the constantly changing context and to change what they do in order to be more relevant. The first masterclass for 2021 was held on 16 March. The facilitator, for this session was Prof Johannes Cronje, Dean of Informatics and Design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Prof Cronje is a pioneer in innovative teaching and learning in higher education and is not averse to disrupting the status quo and experimenting with new methods to create more dynamic learning and teaching spaces. His master class aptly entitled “Teaching and Learning in Disruptive Spaces” was the highly interactive session and attracted more than 192 academics from UJ. The purpose of the masterclass was to model and share insights on ways to actively engage participants in learning in the online environment. Through the use of simple techniques, for example story-telling and interactive WhatsApps Prof Cronje demonstrated how to create a dynamic learning space online. He believes that innovation in teaching ought to be underpinned by learning theories. In the session participants experienced first-hand what innovation that fosters learning looks like. Participants were encouraged to really engage with student using techniques that he used to facilitate engagement in the workshop. Feedback from staff who attended the session was extremely positive with one participant commenting that this was the best workshop that she attended in a long time and another said the following:

“Thank you very much for the insightful tips and it is evident that I need to be more creative and innovative in my teaching. I enjoyed your presentation”.

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