International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 18 - 20 July 2016
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Ways in which academic development can contribute to decolonizing institutional teaching and learning practices

Lynn Quinn, Rhodes University, South Africa,


The field of academic development (AD) in South Africa (SA) has, since its inception been underpinned by principles of social justice, equity, redress and transformation. As an axiological principle this has served us well. However, in the aftermath of the student protests of 2015/16, it is clear that SA higher education (HE) has a way to go to address the inherited inequities from our colonial and apartheid past. In this paper, we engage close-up with the implications for the practice of a group of academic developers in the context of an historically white, privileged university which until very recently has prided itself on its ‘excellence’ in all aspects of HE practice. The research projected was guided by the question: What must AD be like in order to contribute meaningfully to decolonizing institutional practices related to teaching and learning? The data for the project was generated from two focus group interviews with eleven academic developers who work in a Teaching and Learning Centre which has a reputation for doing ‘good’ work in a number of areas, including academic staff development. However, the ‘decolonial turn’ has caused us to question just how ‘good’ this work has really been if our university (and the other universities we work with) have been so slow in transforming. The interviews with AD staff provided rich data to formulate a response to the main research question. The analytical framework for the project was informed by social realist, Margaret Archer’s concepts of culture, structure and agency. This framework helped us to develop a nuanced understanding of why the much hoped for transformation has not occurred in our university and in SA HE more broadly. And more importantly to, 1) conceptualise the ideas, values, beliefs, theories ideologies (culture) which will be needed to cope with the uncertain future; 2) to identify the physical and social structures which are needed; and 3) develop the kind of internal conversations/critical reflexivity for ourselves and the lecturers with whom we work to enable us to imagine ways in which we can all contribute to a university which recognizes the right of all students to grow and learn; the right of all students to have access to a range of knowledges and to recognize the humanity of all our students .


Decolonization, academic development, transformation, teaching and learning practices.

Link to Full Paper (If submitted)


Conference Organisers

Paul Trowler
Lancaster University, UK

Alice Jesmont
Lancaster University, UK

Malcolm Tight
Lancaster University, UK

Paul Ashwin
Lancaster University, UK

Murray Saunders
Lancaster University, UK

Chrissie Boughey
Rhodes University, South Africa

Suellen Shay
University of Cape Town, SA

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