Despite the fact that mathematics is the cornerstone of scientific literacy, many South African learners do not perform adequately in this subject. Furthermore, adopting an Outcomes-based Education (OBE) approach has not contributed to an improvement of the situation. In fact, even in 2007, OBE has not been implemented at most tertiary training institutions in South Africa. Only a few educators (lecturers) implement OBE in the teaching of mathematics at tertiary training
institutions. Lecturers use their discretion to decide whether or not to implement an OBE approach in learning facilitation and assessment. At TUT problem-based teaching (PBL) and problem-oriented learning (POL) were introduced previously in some departments and executed with varying degrees of success. Even though no
formal decision had been made at TUT with regard to the acceptance of a specific teaching and learning model at the time of the current study, there was general agreement that OBE would be the teaching and learning model of choice, especially since (from 2009 onwards) all prospective
students will have received schooling in an OBE-based teaching and learning environment. (In the majority of departments lecturers are currently being groomed to implement OBE and the current
study formed part of this process.)
First-year students’ insufficient achievement in mathematics was, however, the main thrust behind this attempt to investigate renewal in mathematics assessment at TUT by means of action
research. An important aim of the study was to evaluate the nature of prevailing assessment practices on the different TUT campuses, the main aim being to introduce lecturers to effective strategies and
to encourage the implementation of these strategies by means of action research.
The overarching working assumption guiding the current research was the belief that suitable assessment would probably enhance the effectiveness of students’ learning (thereby impacting on their performance). The research focused on the following questions:
• Are tertiary mathematics facilitators adequately trained and prepared to implement outcomesbased
assessment strategies at TUT?
• To what extent are outcomes-based strategies effectively and regularly introduced in the teaching of mathematics at TUT?
Action research was chosen as research strategy because it was deemed suitable to facilitate improvement of current assessment practices. Furthermore, the cyclical nature of action research lent itself ideally to the introduction and handling of different facets of OBE during the different cycles. During the first cycle (questionnaires) information related to assessment practices was obtained. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected through questionnaires, personal
interviews, interviews with focus groups, observations, documentation and a reflective diary. This article, however, only focuses on the qualitative data obtained from lecturers. Respondents were exposed to assessment strategies in an attempt to enhance their insight into
contemporary assessment practices in an outcomes-based teaching and learning environment and, in doing so, empower them to execute their activities in a more accountable way. The authors report extensively on the findings and make recommendations for improving
assessment practices (obviously, at TUT in the first place, but, hopefully, at other tertiary training institutions as well).
The main findings were as follows:
• OBE strategies were not being introduced throughout TUT in the teaching of mathematics.
• Group work and peer assessments were rare occurrences.
• Some lecturers were convinced that new assessment methods would lower the standard of teaching.
• Uncertainty about the merger and the varying teaching conditions at the different campuses tended to inhibit lecturers, making them less willing to undertake assessment renewal.
• The lecturers cited large class groups, a lack of marking assistance and ignorance about OBE as reasons for failing to undertake assessment renewal.
• TUT should benefit from reviewing its admission criteria.
In conclusion, it should be said that respondents generally agreed that this research went some way towards preparing them for assessment renewal. Moreover, since TUT recently went through a merger, assessment renewal seems to be an idea whose time has come, a hiatus that deserves the attention of serious researchers and academics alike. The authors realise that this article is not a panacea, not a cure-all; obviously, we do not have all the answers. However, hope is expressed that
the study has made a significant contribution to this positive development and has contributed in some way to ongoing debates in the field.
AFRIKAANS: Hoewel wiskunde die hoeksteen vorm vir wetenskaplike geletterdheid, presteer talle Suid-Afrikaanse
studente nie toereikend in hierdie vak nie. Die inskakeling van die UGO-benadering op skoolvlak blyk boonop nie verbeterde prestasie in die hand te werk nie. Eerstejaarstudente se ontoereikende
prestasie in wiskunde het stukrag verleen aan ’n ondersoek na vernuwing in tersiêre wiskundeassessering aan die Tshwane Universiteit van Tegnologie (TUT) by wyse van aksienavorsing. In hierdie artikel doen die navorsers oor die navorsingsproses en uitkomste verslag, en maak aanbevelings ten einde praktykverbetering te fasiliteer. Respondente is aan vernuwing in assessering blootgestel met die oogmerk om hulle insig in kontemporêre assesseringspraktyke in
’n uitkomsgerigte onderrig- en leeromgewing te verbeter en hulle sodoende te bemagtig om op meer verantwoordbare wyse praktyk te stig.
Ramothlale, Elizabeth Faith(University of Pretoria, 2010-04-07)
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