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29 May 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Pexels
Prof Melanie Walker
Fostering human capabilities in universities may potentially transform education, says Prof Melanie Walker.

Education is at the centre of human life, and has the potential to be a crucial support for democratic life. Prof Melanie Walker’s recent research paper strikes a balance in dealing with people, education and the implications for democracy through the lens of human capabilities theory and practice and her own research.

People and papers

In her capacity as the SARChI Chair in the Higher Education and Human Development Research Programme at the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof Walker recently published a paper titled: Defending the Need for a Foundational Epistemic Capability in Education. It appeared in the special issue of the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities in honour of renowned Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s 85th birthday.

Nurturing epistemic justice

Within the context of existing literature such as that of Sen’s concern with the value of education on the one hand, and public reasoning on the other, Prof Walker argues for a foundational epistemic capability to shape the formal education landscape – as well as quality in education – by fostering inclusive public reasoning (including critical thinking) in all students. It would contribute to what Sen calls the ‘protective power of democracy’ and shared democratic rights, which, he argues, are strongly missed when most needed.

“Sen’s approach asks us to build democratic practices in our university and in our society in ways which create capabilities for everyone. If our students learn public reasoning in all sorts of spaces in university, including the pedagogical, they may carry this into and back to society,” she said.

Educating for equality

Empowering society and fighting for justice are some of the crucial contributions made possible through fostering the epistemic capability of all students. “The capability requires that each student is recognised as both a knower and teller, a receiver and a contributor in critical meaning and knowledge, and an epistemic agent in processes of learning and critical thinking,” states Prof Walker.

In a young democracy like South Africa’s, inclusive public reasoning becomes all the more essential in order to achieve equality, uphold rights and sustain democracy as enshrined in the constitution, thereby improving people’s lives. 

News Archive

Digitising the Advanced Certificate in Teaching (ACT)
2017-02-06

Description: Digitising the Advanced Certificate in Teaching  Tags: Digitising the Advanced Certificate in Teaching

The 100% online ACT aims to help
teachers improve their qualifications.
More information is available at
http://www.ufs.ac.za/ACTonline.
Photo: Supplied


Online learning is fast becoming the most convenient and affordable way to study. In 2016, the South Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) became the first university in South Africa to launch a fully online course for current teachers to upgrade their qualifications; the Advanced Certificate in Teaching (ACT).

The IDEAS Lab digitisation team on our South Campus is responsible for converting the existing ACT modules from a blended format to a 100% online format. With this format all lessons and study material are available online, with no contact sessions required. The advantages of online, interactive learning far outweigh those of blended learning. Lessons are converted to videos online, which is not only more user-friendly, but students can also access the lessons repeatedly.

In addition, tutors are always available, with WhatsApp groups and the ACT Online Facebook page further facilitating the support provided. Discussions between or communication with students situated in remote areas is made possible, adding to an enriched student experience. Immediate feedback on activities serves as a diagnostic tool as well as motivation for the students.

Lesson videos are recorded at the IDEAS Lab Studio at the South Campus or onsite at various schools. Students are expected to complete a unit, which consists of two lessons, per week.
There are “think about your learning” activities after each lesson as well as “after readings” to ensure that students have grasped the material. In these and many other ways the online ACT is specifically designed to suit students’ unique needs and make their studies a satisfying and rewarding experience.

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