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Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is rooted in critical pedagogy which, unlike mainstream pedagogy, sees learning as personal, situated, ideological and a negotiated process and praxis tha allows students to bring in their cognitive and lived experiences to enable change (Shor & Freire, 1987). This has influenced my Africanist standpoint in teaching political science using methods that enable deep learning through participation and context (see comments from student and peer evaluations. Understanding this, my personality as a teacher is reflected in my belief that learning experiences and process must be critical and reflexive – in a manner that helps the student to move from merely comprehending and regurgitating information to critically thinking through and analyzing such information to enable change. My goal therefore is to get students to articulate questions in relation to issues of power, social justice, and equity. That is why for me, “my best student is not the one who scored 90% but can’t analyze politics without preparation when approached by a journalist. My best student is the one who may score anything above the 50% pass mark but can give an excellent political analysis when woken up from sleep to do so” – Isike, CPOL 301 class,
16/02/2010. This is my teaching statement. Overall, I would consider myself a good and effective teacher and I do have students and peer assessments to confirm this. Find below a summary of my teaching practice.

1. Participation in professional development initiatives
• Attended Staff Academic Development Workshop 2016
• Teaching and Learning Workshop onb“Multilingualism, Multi-literacies and Innovative Teaching Technologies in Higher Education”, 2009

2. Enhancement of formal teaching qualifications (e.g. having obtained the PGDHET).
• Currently enrolled for a PhD in Higher Education at Rhodes University
• Obtained 30 credit points for Postgraduate Supervision Course 2016
• Completed the Assessing and Moderators Short Course by Rhodes 2017
• Attended Assessment of Student Learning in Higher Education 2017

3. Successful innovation in teaching methods and assessment, leadership of departmental initiatives to improve teaching, and evidence of the dissemination of these practices in the University or more widely through participation in discipline or field groups or groups for improving teaching. Since 2009, I have been using 5 – 10 minutes of every lecture to teach students graduate attributes to enhance their employability and good citizenship because a university degree confers worthiness not only in learning, but also in character. That is what distinguishes an
educated person from one who is simply literate. Student evaluation feedback suggests students appreciate this component of my teaching. For example, responses to Q31 show students agree in good numbers that I “motivate them about life generally” and that I am “a father and a mentor to them”. I use a range of assessment tasks depending on levels of studies which include pop quizzes, map tests, Problem, Analysis and Resolution Seminars (PARS) and group assignments, class tests and examinations using multiple choice questions, short answers and long essays. The overriding consideration here is that the assessment task is appropriate to the course outcomes and the level of study in the degree but also to the students’ needs. I revised the curriculum of Political Science and Public Administration between 2012 and 2013 to meet the human capital needs of South Africa in line with the National Development Plan (NDP) and other policy dictates of DHET, CHE, and the UNIZULU Teaching & Learning Charter. For example, I introduced research methodology as a compulsory module for all undergraduates at third year level to introduce students to postgraduate research in line with realizing the NDP 2030 mandate to increase doctoral graduates in South Africa by 200% in 2030. This is profound considering the impact of poor research training and culture on masters and doctoral throughputs in South Africa (see Motshoane and McKenna, 2014).

4. Engagement in research into teaching. Paper accepted for publication in 2017 in a top-notch journal of education, Africa Education Review Invited in 2013 by the Politics and international Studies Department, University of Cambridge to present my research on teaching African politics at workshop on “Teaching Africa in International Studies” Presented a paper at First Annual Teaching & Learning Conference

5. Very good teaching attested to by, for example, evidence from peer observations and student feedback, or an award for teaching. I have conducted students’ evaluation of my modules three times in the last 4 years. Overall, I score very highly (averaging 4.2) in feedback on my teaching which reflects my philosophy and methods. According to the students: “he always uses relevant examples to make sure they all understand and to keep lecture interesting”; “allows them to give their opinion and raise questions on the topic that is being discussed”; “he is a good lecturer…explains clearly and nice..likes the way he teaches, and he gives clear and organized notes

TEACHING METHODS

 My teaching philosophy informs my teaching methods. As aforementioned, seeing learning as personal, situated, ideological and a negotiated process that allows students to bring in their cognitive and lived experiences into the classroom (Vygotsky, 1978) also allows for participatory and contextual approaches and methods of learning (Brown and Duguid, 2000). I use student-centred approaches (UP educational approach) such as group work, blended teaching, case studies, lecturing, role play, educational visits, discussions, and simulations. For example, when lecturing, I organise my students into debate/presentation groups which they also use as study groups for other group tasks. This is a “student as lecturer” approach that facilitates learning by doing (Knight, 2002). Depending on the level, I use a mix of these or separately at different stages of the module. For example, I find lecturing in the first 3 weeks of my IPL 320 and IPL 754 classes very useful in outlining the module, and teaching the first 3 themes because of their historical and theoretical contents. Thereafter I use blended learning (mix of digital media, internet-based and classroom learning mediums)1 as students need to watch selected documentaries on the war, nuclear proliferation and their impact on the Global South at their own time, location and pace, and then present their thoughts in class presentations (see Appendix 1, page 22). I also leave materials and notes for students on ClickUP. All through the semester, I use provocative (critical thinking) questions to probe my students’ minds in ways that make them think outside the box while also staying within the study guide. I have observed that these participatory methods encourage deep learning irrespective of the level of study. For example, for honours classes where students have developed their cognitive and critical learning abilities a bit more than undergraduates (Bloom’s taxonomy), I do more of lecturing (guiding, mentoring)1, than teaching (coaching, directing)2. However, I also allow for seminar presentations and simulations that foster meaningful participation. At both levels, this kind of participation enhances deep learning which is my goal as a teacher; to enable my students discuss politics, security and strategy contextually anytime, anywhere, any day Over the past 1. years, I have continuously adjusted my assessment rubric to reflect emerging trends within higher education policies and praxis in South Africa. As a scoring tool for assessing student’s performance, a rubric is important because it allows for standardized evaluation based on pre-specified criteria. This makes for grading to be more objective, consistent, defensible,and transparent as espoused in the UP-Assessment policy.

Overall, I use both continuous, formative, and summative assessment approaches (Biggs, 1999). I start with formative and continuous assessments to develop students through the semester up to the examination period and then use summative assessments in form of final examinations to test for other expected learning outcomes that are content based. At UP, I have used discussion-type questions as the thinking levels (Application and Analysis) of third year students (IPL 320) require pitching assessments accordingly. On occasions, especially for the first years, I also use diagnostic assessment within the first 2 weeks of class to test for learning needs such as writing skills to determine the level of intervention that could be required and how to pitch lectures.

With regards to the assessment tasks, I would think that the manner of assessment of learners should be graduated upwards with level of study, should reflect the different capabilities of students, and does not prejudice them in any way. I therefore have a responsibility to the students to develop and use a range of creative assessment tasks such as pop quizzes, class tests, Problem, Analysis and Resolution Seminars (PARS) and group assignments, essay examinations (Undergraduate), portfolio examinations (Honors), and position papers which are defended as part of examination (Masters). This is because as Luckett and Sunderland (2000) suggest, it is more helpful to use a range of assessment methods to ensure all learning outcomes are assessed and thus covered. The overriding consideration here is that the assessment task is appropriate to the course outcomes and the level of study in the degree. For instance, for all levels in 2018, I used a minimum of 5 pop quizzes (random tests done as part of formative assessments) per course, and I use the results of any one of the pop quizzes as continuous assessment. The reason for this is to reward students who attend classes regularly and as such would have written all 5 pop quizzes. The PARS activity is a group class work where students are given seminar topics for critical analysis amongst themselves and then submit a document for class discussion (IPL 754, SEC 877).

As a recognized academic in the field, I also moderate and externally examine for other universities nationally and internationally, and have used them to benchmark my assessments methods, and my findings show I am not outside the norm. Besides all three modules I teach are exit modules which are all externally moderated and examined as well to enable me to get peer-reviewed

TEACHING METHODS

 My teaching philosophy informs my teaching methods. As aforementioned, seeing learning as personal, situated, ideological and a negotiated process that allows students to bring in their cognitive and lived experiences into the classroom (Vygotsky, 1978) also allows for participatory and contextual approaches and methods of learning (Brown and Duguid, 2000). I use student-centred approaches (UP educational approach) such as group work, blended teaching, case studies, lecturing, role play, educational visits, discussions, and simulations. For example, when lecturing, I organise my students into debate/presentation groups which they also use as study groups for other group tasks. This is a “student as lecturer” approach that facilitates learning by doing (Knight, 2002). Depending on the level, I use a mix of these or separately at different stages of the module. For example, I find lecturing in the first 3 weeks of my IPL 320 and IPL 754 classes very useful in outlining the module, and teaching the first 3 themes because of their historical and theoretical contents. Thereafter I use blended learning (mix of digital media, internet-based and classroom learning mediums)1 as students need to watch selected documentaries on the war, nuclear proliferation and their impact on the Global South at their own time, location and pace, and then present their thoughts in class presentations (see Appendix 1, page 22). I also leave materials and notes for students on ClickUP. All through the semester, I use provocative (critical thinking) questions to probe my students’ minds in ways that make them think outside the box while also staying within the study guide. I have observed that these participatory methods encourage deep learning irrespective of the level of study. For example, for honours classes where students have developed their cognitive and critical learning abilities a bit more than undergraduates (Bloom’s taxonomy), I do more of lecturing (guiding, mentoring)1, than teaching (coaching, directing)2. However, I also allow for seminar presentations and simulations that foster meaningful participation. At both levels, this kind of participation enhances deep learning which is my goal as a teacher; to enable my students discuss politics, security and strategy contextually anytime, anywhere, any day Over the past 1. years, I have continuously adjusted my assessment rubric to reflect emerging trends within higher education policies and praxis in South Africa. As a scoring tool for assessing student’s performance, a rubric is important because it allows for standardized evaluation based on pre-specified criteria. This makes for grading to be more objective, consistent, defensible,and transparent as espoused in the UP-Assessment policy.

Overall, I use both continuous, formative, and summative assessment approaches (Biggs, 1999). I start with formative and continuous assessments to develop students through the semester up to the examination period and then use summative assessments in form of final examinations to test for other expected learning outcomes that are content based. At UP, I have used discussion-type questions as the thinking levels (Application and Analysis) of third year students (IPL 320) require pitching assessments accordingly. On occasions, especially for the first years, I also use diagnostic assessment within the first 2 weeks of class to test for learning needs such as writing skills to determine the level of intervention that could be required and how to pitch lectures.

With regards to the assessment tasks, I would think that the manner of assessment of learners should be graduated upwards with level of study, should reflect the different capabilities of students, and does not prejudice them in any way. I therefore have a responsibility to the students to develop and use a range of creative assessment tasks such as pop quizzes, class tests, Problem, Analysis and Resolution Seminars (PARS) and group assignments, essay examinations (Undergraduate), portfolio examinations (Honors), and position papers which are defended as part of examination (Masters). This is because as Luckett and Sunderland (2000) suggest, it is more helpful to use a range of assessment methods to ensure all learning outcomes are assessed and thus covered. The overriding consideration here is that the assessment task is appropriate to the course outcomes and the level of study in the degree. For instance, for all levels in 2018, I used a minimum of 5 pop quizzes (random tests done as part of formative assessments) per course, and I use the results of any one of the pop quizzes as continuous assessment. The reason for this is to reward students who attend classes regularly and as such would have written all 5 pop quizzes. The PARS activity is a group class work where students are given seminar topics for critical analysis amongst themselves and then submit a document for class discussion (IPL 754, SEC 877).

As a recognized academic in the field, I also moderate and externally examine for other universities nationally and internationally, and have used them to benchmark my assessments methods, and my findings show I am not outside the norm. Besides all three modules I teach are exit modules which are all externally moderated and examined as well to enable me to get peer-reviewed I normally provide clear assessment criteria in my study guide which are well discussed at the start of the semester to make sure everyone understands what is expected. In line with my teaching philosophy above, I would normally align the learning outcomes with assessment criteria and assessment methods and provide a marking scheme/rubric in the study guide (see appendix 1). In terms of Curriculum documentation, as can be seen in the appendix 1, my study guide, learning materials and assessment task are easily understandable to relevant readers including students, other academics, and curriculum developers in the field of political science. For example, apart from clearly linking the assessment criteria with learning outcomes, my IPL 320, IPL 754, and SEC 877 study guides also indicate performance standards that are linked to the learning outcomes (see pages 4
– 6, Appendix 8).

Finally, feedback is provided to students in the form of timeous return of test/assignment scripts and constructive comments on scripts/online submissions to improve their learning. Specific students who need further clarity are encouraged to consult individually. I also use my assessment results as a self-assessment tool to reflect on my teaching and learning practice as I believe I have part responsibility for student performance I believe feedback on my teaching practice is useful as part of critical self-reflection I routinely undertake to help me improve and develop professionally. I have thus conducted students’ evaluation of all my modules at UP in 2018 and 2019 (appendix 3). For example, I received a score of 4.0 average for the IPL 320 student evaluation of 2018 and 4.7 for IPL 754 in 2019 (appendix 4) with feedback on my teaching which reflects my philosophy and methods. Some common comments from students across all levels in 2018 and 2019 include: “he always uses relevant examples to make sure we all understand, and to keep the lecture interesting”; “allows us to give our opinion and raise questions on the topic that is being discussed”; “he is a good lecturer explains clearly and nice…likes the way he teaches and he gives clear and organized notes” (appendixes 3 and 4).

Since 2009, I have been using 5 – 10 minutes of every lecture to teach students graduate attributes to enhance their employability and good citizenship because a university degree confers worthiness not only in learning, but also in character which distinguishes an educated person from one who is simply literate. Student evaluation feedback suggests students appreciate this component of my teaching (see appendix 5). I thus have feedback of very good teaching and learning practice attested to by students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and by the Head of Department who has received feedback from students directly and who nominated me for this award My teaching practice has also impacted on student learning positively as reflected in the pass rates for IPL 320 which improved significantly from less than 70% on average between 2015 and 2017 to 99% pass rate in 2018 (see appendix 6). There was also an increase in the percentage of students with distinctions (11%). To this end I have received commendation from several students who were positively impacted by my teaching practice in the IPL 320 class of 2018 (see appendix 5). A commendation email from the IPL 754 class of 2019 is speaks to the impact of my teaching practice on student learning (appendix 7)

I have also incorporated feedback from student evaluations in IPL 320 and IPL 754 in 2018 to improve the study guides in and my teaching strategy and practice in both modules in 2019. I responded to some of the germane concerns expressed by students as seen in the appendix and these have helped me to improve my practice and learning for students. For example, some concerns from students’ critical reflections in IPL 754 in 2018 which were addressed in 2019 study guide and teaching include “need for more focus on African”; “more opportunities for debates/presentations”; “an assessment task to cover the theme on deterrence” (see appendix.

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Publications
• Isike, C (2019). “Digitalization and Political Science in South Africa” In: Kneuer M and Miller, H (eds.) Digitalization and Political Science: A Global Perspective. Barbara Budrich Publishers.
• Isike, C (2018). “The impact of University of Zululand structural and cultural contexts on my postgraduate supervision practice, 2011 to
2016”. Africa Education Review, 5(2), 1 – 19

Further education

• PhD in Higher Education Studies (in view), 2017 to 2020, Rhodes University, Centre for Higher Education and Research in Teaching and
Learning (CHERTL)

Wider involvement with Teaching and Learning

• Invited as Lead Presenter at Workshop on “Teaching Practices and Models of Political Science across SADC and Beyond” organized by the Angolan Political Science Association (AACP), 30 October 2019.
• Mentorship of Teaching Assistants in IPL 320 (Jervin Naidoo, 2018; Rich Mashimbye, 2018; Nomzamo Malindisa, 2018) by inculcating and sharing my teaching practice with them.

Self-reflection

I showed initial reluctance to develop a teaching portfolio of my teaching and
learning practice. However, over time due to my personal interest in being a
good teacher beyond academic qualifications, I decided to develop my portfolio and I realize this has further empowered me because of the way it has allowed me to reflect on and, more importantly, identify areas of my practice that I might want to change or develop. Hence, instead of seeing the process as a requirement for promotion and credit, developing a portfolio of my teaching and research activities has helped me to understand how the various learning theories are reflected in my practice. As portfolio development must be seen as work in progress, I have the privilege to continue to develop my portfolio throughout my teaching career both to provide evidence of my work and to reflect on my on-going development as a rounded academic in my discipline.


In the last year since I have been at UP, my reflections have shown me the significance of continuing professional development (CPD) in teaching and learning practice. I have thus attended and completed a number e-learning and assessment workshops and apprised myself on the use of digital tools. This experience has motivated me to develop my newest research focus; Digital politics (politics and the internet) not only in terms of teaching and learning and research, but also how digitalization impacts and is impacted by the practice of politics. I have also used student feedback and my reflections to incrementally decolonize both the content and reading materials of the security and strategic studies modules in the department of Political Sciences (appendix 8)