The impact of a communications intervention on engineering students extended curriculum programme at Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Many students in my Communication Skills class, especially those from rural areas, who had passed their Grade 12 English examination, were unable to express themselves competently, and as a result, they lacked the self-esteem and confidence to express their abilities. It has now been recognised that students are in need of a strong foundation that will bridge the gap from school to university and will allow them to cope with any situation within the workplace. The accent has changed from memorising factual knowledge, to acquiring literacy skills needed in everyday living and the world of work. It has become necessary to find a suitable means of helping these students to cope linguistically. This study uses grounded theory to focus on whether an intervention based on a natural approach to acquiring a language, could improve students’ oral and written skills as well as their confidence. Enthusiasm and the development of a love for language and an ‘I-can-do-it’ attitude were promoted instead of the traditional language exercises. Reading for enjoyment, participation and speaking out were encouraged – all underpinned by respect. The results of an oral presentation, a written essay and an interview with each candidate were analysed at the start of the seven-month intervention programme. A post-test of the three procedures was done to gauge change. An increase in both oral presentation marks and written work was also noted at the end of the intervention period. Themes such as confidence, learning to work with different people and understanding their ideas, an introduction to other cultures, tolerance and respect emerged. All these themes are part of the ‘envisaged learner’ in the Department of Education’s National Curriculum Statement Grades R – 9. The results have guided the development of a prototype intervention, which is central to the concept of self-esteem as a path for future literacy development in school and post-school education. Bolstering this sense of self-esteem is the key to working with new learners of English in the tertiary context.