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17 August 2018
SAAHE 2018: Deconstructed, decentralised, decolonised discourses and debates - UWC academics widen our horizons

(Published - 17 August 2018)

“Health care and health education are profoundly important concerns in South Africa today, and in Africa as a whole. Raising levels of health education can in turn raise levels of health care provision - and ultimately save lives across the continent.”

So said Professor Anthea Rhoda, Dean of the Faculty of Community and Health Sciences (CHS) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), reflecting on the work highlighted at the annual conference of the South African Association of Health Educationalists (SAAHE) in Durban in June 2018.

The theme of the conference this year was on “Deconstructed, decentralised, decolonised discourses and debates: Widening our horizons” - and UWC attendees sought to do just that.

Prof Anthea Rhoda presented research on an augmented tutoring programme, and how it strengthened tutor and tutee abilities. The work, conducted by a group of undergraduate physiotherapy students who graduated in 2017, not only made a useful contribution to the conference but also highlighted the high quality of work produced by the student group.

She also, in a poster developed in conjunction with Prof Jose Frantz (DVC Research and Innovation, and Prof Rhoda’s predecessor as CHS Dean) and Dr Gerard Filies (Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning Unit), discussed the use of the “Amazing Race” as a strategy to facilitate inter-professional teamwork and communication - and spark engagement - among South African Health Science students.

“If we can get students from different departments out of the classroom and working together in fun and interesting ways, we can find solutions and approaches we never would have thought of before,” Prof Rhoda explained.

Prof Jose Frantz further collaborated with colleagues from a variety of higher education institutions around the country (Prof Francois Cilliers - UCT; Prof Lionel Green-Thomson - Wits; Marykutty Mammen - Walter Sisulu University; and Mariette Volschenk - Stellenbosch University) to present a workshop on the impact of the CanMEDS framework on African HPE.

Specifically, they asked if the competency-based frameworks - developed in the global North - that are informing clinical teaching and learning practices have the potential to further colonise African health professions education.

“We need to consider a locally-developed competency framework, to fit South African contexts and reflect South African content,” Prof Frantz noted. “We also need to consider how this work fits into the decoloniality discourse currently underway in South African higher education - an important conversation for emerging professionals.”

A record number of other UWC attendees from a variety of departments in the CHS Faculty (as well as the Faculty of Dentistry) took part in the discussions at SAAHE, presenting on topics ranging from e-learning to writer retreats, and everything between.

Jill Wilkenson (Department of Dietetics and Nutrition) presented her work on the challenges of academic and teacher identity construction in the digital age, reflecting on issues of language and power represented in her own practice and classroom, and highlighting the many new ideas that academics must come to terms with.

Prof Michael Rowe (Department of Physiotherapy), no stranger to the complexities of teaching and learning or of e-learning and digital publications, presented a series of reflections on the impending impact of artificial intelligence and algorithmic decision-making in clinical practice - and the subsequent implications for health professions educators.

Dr Simone Titus (CHS Teaching and Learning Specialist) presented her PhD research on game-based learning approaches to facilitate cross-cultural learning among sports studies students - and how these fostered interaction both within and outside the classroom, bringing together students from diverse backgrounds, and facilitating an improved learning experience.

Danelle Hess (Department of Physiotherapy) and Dr Ronel Maart (Faculty of Dentistry) presented a workshop with their SAFRI colleagues from the University of Pretoria (Corne Postma and Argentina Ingratta) on clinical supervision that aims to develop patient-centred competence, and on the kinds of feedback that supervisors should provide to students during workplace-based assessment activities that are common on clinical placement.

Brendon Farao (Department of Psychology) presented on deconstructing behavioural change among health professional students - exploring a new model he’d developed for his teaching practice, which he used to identify students' maladaptive techniques and untested assumptions in their approaches to learning.

Prof Nondwe Mlenzana (Department of Physiotherapy) presented research examining the perceptions of undergraduate health professions students on the implementation of an inter-professional education module at a clinical site in the Western Cape, which showed that students felt that they were poorly prepared for teamwork in a clinical context.

Prof. Nicolette Roman (Child and Family Studies) presented her work on the impact of focused writing retreats on the flourishing of health professionals in the faculty. In addition to the positive influence on participants' sense of personal development, it was clear that the retreats also resulted in an increase in outputs.

All in all it was clear that UWC had a strong presence at the SAAHE conference and made important intellectual contributions to the development of health professions education in the country.

“SAAHE was a wonderful example of what can emerge from the inter-institutional and -departmental collaborations that are so important in health professions education,” Prof Rhoda said. “This kind of innovative collaboration and discussion is something we need more of in the higher education landscape.”