Teaching and Learning at Research-Intensive Universities: A Critical/Social Realist Account

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In South Africa, the Higher Education Quality Committee, a statutory body with responsibility for quality assurance, is currently completing its first round of institutional audits. In the audits, issues related to teaching and learning have been a particular focus given poor levels of performance in the system overall. This paper uses a framework developed from Roy Bhaskar's (1979) critical realism and Margaret Archer's (1995, 1996, 1998) social realism in order to conduct a meta analysis of teaching and learning at five 'research intensive' public universities. The framework thus involves the notion of a ‘layered’ ontology and accounts for the need for structure, culture and agency to be analysed separately in order to arrive at understandings of teaching and learning. Data for the analysis are self evaluation portfolios submitted by institutions for audit purposes, audit reports produced by audit panels and statistics related to graduation and throughput rates.

Focusing on the domain of culture, the paper responds to questions related to the way students, staff and the curriculum are constructed at the five institutions in the study and the implications these constructions have for the enhancement of teaching and learning and, thus, for improved chances of success particularly for black South African students. It is expected that insights from the research will resonate with those with experience of other ‘traditional’ universities across the world.


Keywords: Quality Assurance, Social Realism, Critical Realism, Teaching and Learning
Stream: Organisational Learning, Organisational Change
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Prof. Chrissie Boughey

Dean, Teaching & Learning, Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching & Learning, Rhodes University
Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Chrissie Boughey (MA, MA, DPhil) is Dean, Teaching and Learning at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. She is also Director of the Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching & Learning at the same institution. Her research interests lie in social inclusion and exclusion in higher education and particularly in the way teaching and learning can be used to provide 'epistemological access' to first generation university students. She supervises extensively at doctoral level and has been involved in a number of national initiatives intended to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in South African higher education.

Ref: L09P1427