Public Governance Academic Earns National Teaching and Learning Excellence Award

Professor Fayth Ruffin earned a 2019 Council on Higher Education (CHE) Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA) Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award.

The Adjudicatory Panel was comprised of academics from Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Mangosuthu University of Technology, North West University, UKZN, University of Venda, University of Western Cape, Walter Sisulu University and a CHE senior manager (acting). Nominees were required to submit teaching portfolios. In the Awards Booklet the panel explains that ‘strong portfolios demonstrate (1) teaching/learning that explicitly engages with context – social, economic and historical contexts, locally, regionally and globally; (2) how students are encouraged to develop critical thinking skills and (3) what students are able to do/achieve as a result of the teaching offered.’

According to Olivia Mokgatle, Director of National Standards and Reviews and Acting Director of Institutional Audits at the CHE, ‘Having been subjected to a rigorous selection process, the winners have shown how well they are able to situate the teaching and learning in their disciplines in locally relevant contexts that are meaningful and beneficial for students.’

Professor Ruffin contextualises her varied teaching strategies to advance critical thinking, in-depth analysis and to identify and discern solutions for local/global problems based on real-life simulations and scenarios. She is an advocate of participatory learning oriented assessments that enable students’ ongoing and steady improvement throughout a module or postgraduate qualification.

‘Prof Ruffin has transformed teaching. She introduced new teaching methodologies. Initially students were not happy with it, but over time they gravitated toward new teaching methodologies,’ said Professor Yogi Penceliah, retired Public Governance Academic Leader and Senior Research Associate. Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Acting) for the College of Law and Management Studies, Professor Brian McArthur said, ‘Fayth has always been an innovator in her teaching. Her strength is passion – passion for teaching, for her students and a deep care for quality. Her teaching is research-informed.’

Ruffin is a strong proponent of using research study results on African epistemologies, indigenous knowledge systems, community-based justice systems and entrepreneurialism to transform curriculum. Such research has been presented at African Union, United Nations, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, World Justice Forum and other events. She features experientialism in programme, module and overall curricula development and delivery. Her work extends University-wide by working with the DSI-NRF Centre in Indigenous Knowledge Systems and leading the development of a PGDip in African Indigenous Knowledge Systems for the College of Humanities, which will be offered in 2020.

‘I believe in “Being the change we wish to see” and “Realising epistemic freedom” as shown at these links,’ said Ruffin. ‘It is certainly an honour to be recognised for my commitment and work ethic toward innovative teaching and learning intertwined with research and community engagement. But none of this could happen without dedicated students and graduates who refuse to settle for mediocrity and like-minded colleagues who embrace continuous upgrading of teaching and learning modalities,’ she concluded.

Words: Ndabaonline
Photograph: Supplied