Professorial Inaugural address: Professor Gert van der Westhuizen
To improve learning, we should develop our understanding of how learning interactions work and how that can be used to improve learning in the curriculum, according to Prof Gert van der Westhuizen.
Van der Westhuizen, a Professor of Education in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) says that the public concerns about poor learning in the education system, observable in low pass rates, and poor levels of learning performance needs to be taken seriously, for the sake of the future of education in general.
In his address Prof van der Westhuizen spoke about the problems of cognitive injustice, and how the focus on understanding learning interactions better, can make a difference. This was the theme of his presentation in the Council Chambers, Madibeng Building, Auckland Park Kingsway Campus on Monday, 16 November 2015. The topic of his inaugural address is titled: Cognitive Justice in Learning Interactions.
Relying on his research into learning conversations, and considerations of what cognitive justice is about, Prof van der Westhuizen explored the challenges of Cognitive Justice as an imperative for education transformation in South Africa.
“It is worth noting that inquiries into cognitive justice in learning interactions need to be part of the bigger project of changes in higher education, and curriculum transformation in the education system”, Prof van der Westhuizen said. “The time for this is ripe, judging from all the recent student interventions on the national scale, not only calling for #feesmustfall, but also for #relevancemustrise. It seems that educators are making themselves to be part of this #watershedtime by mobilizing revisions of curricula beyond preparing for external reviews,” he said.
Prof van der Westhuizen stressed that the call for action is to revise concepts of knowledge because learning performances can be improved through learning interactions. He adds that Interactions in educational settings are the main activity centres of education. These are the settings where participants meet to pursue educational goals, guided by pedagogic plans as well as practices of conversation, are some of the conclusions he came to.
Cognitive Justice in Learning Interactions