The meeting of the minds: SoTL 2018

Posted on 12/11/2018 · Posted in Dialogos, Recent news, Research

In a world hungry for new ways to reach students, the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Conference is an excellent opportunity for educators to explore and share their research as well as to reflect on teaching practices. The 11th annual SoTL conference, hosted at the end of October by the Language Centre’s sister division, the Division for Teaching and Learning Enhancement, was also an ideal opportunity for the Language Centre to share some of its findings on teaching and learning from the perspective of our bread and butter: language.

Dr Kabelo Sebolai, deputy director of the Language Centre, shared what he has found after investigating the so-called “articulation gap”. In his presentation, ‘Revisiting the Role of Language Ability in Academic Performance: The Case of Stellenbosch University’, he explained that this articulation gap was connected to the high dropout rate and low completion rate seen at South African universities. Kabelo revealed some strong correlations between student performance in matric English exams and academic performance at Stellenbosch University – even in the disciplines less associated with language processing!

The research group of the Language Centre’s Interpreting Service showcased its own approach to investigating the transfer of meaning in the classroom with their presentation ‘To Kill a Canary: Interpreters and Educational Practices at Stellenbosch University’. Since SU interpreters constantly have to unpack the meaning behind a lecturer’s utterances when interpreting into another language, they become extremely sensitive to how that meaning is packaged. By looking at how lecturers deliver their messages, the group identified key points that make or break messages, like the framing of an argument and the coherence of the message. This offered lecturers some novel insight into how they could adapt their lectures to help students follow them better in class.

The Language Centre’s Fiona Stanford partnered with Dr Ilse Rootman-Le Grange of the Faculty of Science to debrief on an exciting pilot project: directly incorporating literacy skills education into the discipline of science. In their presentation, entitled ‘Autonomy Tours: Reflecting on the First Offering of Science in Context’, Fiona and Ilse reflected on the new compulsory module for BSc first years and the challenges – and rewards – in developing a model with an embedded approach for the development of disciplinary academic skills.

It is important for the Language Centre to be involved in events like these – not only to rub shoulders with some of the foremost minds in academia, but also to contribute to the exciting and ever-developing world of teaching and learning.

Interpreting in action at SoTL

Interpreting in action at SoTL