Presenters: Megan Bam
Institution: University of the Western Cape
Conference: presented at the 2016 Inter-Institutional ECP Symposium in Cape Town
Host: Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Lessons learnt from tutor peer observation and reflective practice
Megan Bam, Faculty Tutor Coordinator, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences
The use of tutors to supplement the teaching and learning provision of undergraduate students is a widespread practice in the South African higher education sector. Much of the research into this aspect of the undergraduate teaching and learning space has been directed at the impact of this provision on enhancing the learning experiences and success of students. Limited research has focused on how to support tutors to improve their pedagogic skills and practices. This presentation reports on research into the perceived benefits and disadvantages of using peer observation of tutor practices as a means of improving the quality of tutor provisions, especially for extended curriculum programmes. The Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at UWC employs over 200 tutors per semester across the various departments and schools. Tutors are expected to attend lectures and tutorial briefings, prepare and deliver tutorials, assist with assessment and conduct student consultations. While the training and support of tutors in the Faculty is seen as critical to the success of the Tutor Programme, training is conducted on an ad-hoc basis. Feedback from tutors highlighted that they needed additional support in the classroom. The aim of the study was to assess whether the implementation of peer observation of tutor-run classrooms would add value in terms of developing and deepening tutors’ teaching practice. The research used a participatory methodology in that tutors undertook peer observations using a standard checklist, engaged in facilitated reflective exercises and submitted written reflective pieces. This formed the basis of the data generated by the study. The key findings indicated that tutors, while skeptical of the process initially, found peer observation beneficial in strengthening their own teaching practice. The implication of these findings, especially for tutor support programmes in other ECP offerings is that peer observation can be used as a tool for strengthening practices in the classroom setting.