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Exploring teaching methods at a private higher education institution through the lens of activity theory: a case study
Teaching methods in the higher education sector has changed over the years from traditional teaching methods (also known as talk and chalk) to that of a more participatory level. The private higher education institution that I selected to do my study at was of the opinion that it is in order to appoint lecturers who have completed a degree and have the necessary industry experience in the field of the programme (course) to be taught at the institution. Very few, if any, lecturers have completed an education qualification such as a post graduate certificate in education or have little or no teaching experience. Moving with the challenges that education sets for educators today, it became clear that the students at this institution were no longer satisfied with the teaching methods that the lecturers used to present their classes. This information was gathered from the quarterly lecturer evaluations that were done at the institution. It is done by means of criteria in the form of a questionnaire to all students. This questionnaire was drawn up by professional educators in management and was piloted and adjustments were made before it was handed to the students. One student asked the question in the additional comment box whether the lecturers at the institution were ready for the first cohort of students who matriculated with the outcomes based education system. This was discussed with the management team of the institution and a decision was made to do a research project on the teaching methods currently used by lecturers at this institution and to underpin the study with the activity theory that originated with Vygotsky. The institution gave me the necessary ethical clearance to do the study in the business faculty. Only the business faculty and not the art, design and information technology faculty was considered when gathering information from the quarterly questionnaires issued to the students. The reason being that the feedback indicated that there were problems regarding teaching methods in only the business faculty and not in the art, design and technology information faculty. The aim and objectives of this study were to determine (1) what teaching methods are currently used by lecturers in the business faculty; (2) what the perception is of the lecturers and students towards teaching methods currently being used in theoretical subjects in the business faculty; and (3) could participatory (active) teaching methods possibly bring about the emancipation of students in the business faculty. The research methodology used to collect this information was of a quantitative and qualitative nature. Section A of the questionnaires to the lecturers and questions in section A for the focus group interviews for the students were used as quantitative data collection. Qualitative data collection was gathered from section B and C in the questionnaires for the lecturers and section B which contained the questions asked to the students in the focus group interviews. To triangulate the data collected from the lecturers (questionnaires) and that of the students (focus group interviews), observation as a qualitative method of data collection was used where at least one lecture of each lecturer who participated in this study was observed. All lecturers in the business faculty were asked to participate in this study. The total number of lecturers who participated in the study was 9 (n=9). The total number of students in the business faculty at the time of the study was 241 of which four students (n=4) from the business management programme, eleven students (n=11) from the secretarial studies programme, eleven (n=11) from the event management programme and five (n=5) from the business marketing programme were selected to form part of the focus group interviews. All questionnaires and observation sheets were piloted before the study took place and the necessary adjustments were made. All lecturers and students were assured of their anonymity and no one’s names will be revealed to the management team of this institution. It was found that some lecturers in fact do use participatory teaching methods and one lecturer in particular made use of a method that could be likened to the flipped classroom concept. However, from the results of the questionnaire it was evident that the teaching methods of two staff members in particular were cause for. There is therefore scope for staff training to improve the teaching methods at this institution to deliver a far better service to its clients: the students, parents and industry. Recommendations for staff development as well as an improved induction programme for the novice students will be given to the management team of the institution.