Learning to Learn in Large Classes

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 11:05
Location: Hörsaal 4C G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Mariam SEEDAT KHAN, Sociology, University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa
The rapidly increasing number of students entering institutions of higher learning in a post apartheid South Africa, presents a challenge for academics, administrators, students and management alike. Excellence in teaching should be an absolute certainty at an institute of higher learning. Without this certainty the future of higher education in South Africa is ill-fated.  This paper seeks to address the challenges that both academics and students face with an increasing number of learners appear in the classroom. The impetus for this paper lies with the annual increase of student numbers in the Social Sciences at twenty three Universities all over South Africa. While student numbers continue to increase, the number of academics that service these students remain constant; and in some cases are reduced. Little evidence of infrastructure improvement or its prioritisation is forthcoming. The results of this paper is based on participant observation through teaching and interacting with first year students; at two universities in South Africa over a period of five years from 2010-2015. Both the University of Kwa ZuluNatal and the University of Johannesburg had first year classes in excess of 1000 students. As a result of this qualitative study from an academic lived perspective; the results have indicated that the increasing number of students does not correlate with the number of graduates after a three year period. Large classes in the social sciences are not an uncommon feature in any institution of higher learning in South Africa. What was once a comfortable class of 100-200 students has now increased to classes in acess of 1200 students. The changing learning environment affects, students, academics, the process of learning and a series of other critical factors that are transferred into our communities and society at large.