Community Engagement

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The Department has projects where training is being done off-campus to extend it to the real world of community psychology. The teaching philosophy behind the projects are to teach Educational Psychology through an experiential learning modality where it is accepted that students, who have an honours degree and experience as counsellors or teachers have an abundance of experience they bring to the course. During these outreach project opportunities are being created to take students beyond the city boundaries to rural areas and other sites to increase exposure, to share experiences, to engage with diversity and to learn from each other while developing an understanding for community psychology in the South African context.

Research project in Westbury – studying community knowledge holding and sharing

A group of researchers from the University of Johannesburg is involved in studying children learn from community knowledge holders. The purpose is to study examples of interactions between community knowledge holders and children outside school, in order to make recommendations to schools on how methods of community knowledge sharing can benefit teaching and learning.
The project involves Knowledge sharing events at the Westbury Youth Centre.

We envisage the participation of elders, the community leaders, grand-parents and great grandparents, and the activist community members who work with a passion on community projects focusing on for example health, reading, literacy, work programmes, history, arts, music, and so on.

Our belief is that knowledge rests in communities, including the knowledge used for making a living, and participating in growing our democracy. Knowledge for livelihoods cannot be limited to what children learn from school textbooks. Knowledge is the way we live, and what we need to survive; it determines our life styles and life chances. Knowledge, therefore, is much more than what is learned in schools. The problem is – what children learn at home and in the community is not valued in schools in any formal way.
The focus of this project is on children learning from community knowledge holders outside of school. The purpose is to collect and study examples in order to make recommendations to teachers in schools on the WHAT and the HOW of children’s learning.
The main question of the project is: In situations of education where community knowledge holders interact with children outside of school – what do the children learn, and what methods do adults use to teach?

The research is seen as a collaborative project on COMMUNITY KNOWLEDGE HOLDING. For 2016 the focus will be in support of existing community projects of the UJ CERT, the LEGACY project and the COMMUNITY ARCHIVING project.

The phases of the project include a planning phase during which we invite and agree participation, conduct KNOWLEDGE SHARING events during which we’ll video-taping interactions with groups of children, analyses of the videos and reporting back to participants.
The project group include Lizelle Tayler (Masters student), Khomotso Ntuli (project resource person), Gert van der Westhuizen (coordinator), Madney Halim (CERT), Martin Bouwers (Westbury Youth Centre), and Rubina Sethare Meltor (participant)

First-year experience and service learning

The Department is involved in the first-year excursion through its postgraduate students who attend the excursion as part of the service learning in the MEd Educational Psychology curriculum. They provide support to the first-year students. The following is an extract from a reflection after the excursion by Lucy Robinson and published with her permission.

“From the outset of the Achterbergh experience I was struck by how empowered the BEd first -year group is. There was a tangible sense of pride at the idea of being Super Teachers, Nation Builders, Rock Stars and Movers and Shakers. I reflected on how when I was studying to be a teacher, I felt some sense of shame and embarrassment that I was only becoming a teacher. This has subsequently changed, but was the case when I first started my BEd. Group slogans such as “We aspire to inspire before we expire” gave me a glimpse into the kinds of people that are part of the Bed first-year group – wow! These students are PROUD to be future teachers and they are EMPOWERED to do so.

“As I mulled over the idea of pride and empowerment, I became curious as to what it is that has sparked this pride and given room for the students to be empowered. The notion of ‘voice’ research came to mind. Essentially, ‘voice’ research has to do with listening to and taking heed of the voices of children and young people. Welty and Lundy (2013) describe the ‘voice’ model as including four aspects: space, voice, audience and influence. I have been struck by how the lecturers and staff understand what it means to give their students a voice and the Achterbergh excursion is a beautiful example of this. I believe that the Achterbergh experience provides students with the four key elements of ‘voice.’ Achterbergh provides students with the space for meaningful engagement to take place. Achterbergh provides a platform where students are encouraged to share their views and their views are acknowledged and listened to. The students feel confident in sharing their views because they have the security of their views being heard. Achterbergh gives students a voice in an inclusive environment where the maturity of their answers is not judged. Through excellent facilitation by the lecturers and other staff members at the camp, the students’ views are guided and shaped through discussion and negotiation, but are never deemed immature or irrelevant. When the whole student group is together, students are sharing ideas amongst approximately 140 other students and therefore the audience is large. Achterbergh gives students ‘the right of audience’, which Welty and Lundy (2013, p. 3) refer to as “a guaranteed opportunity to communicate views to an identifiable individual or body with the responsibility to listen”. The students are tasked with the responsibility to listen from the outset of the excursion and this is a value that is upheld throughout the duration of the excursion. Finally, Achterbergh provides students with an environment where they carry influence. I believe students leave the Achterbergh excursion with a sense that what they say matters and that it carries weight. For example, the vexation and venture activity teaches students that they have the power to influence and implement solutions to see change occur.

“In my opinion, Achterbergh provides the initial platform for the introduction of the four elements of voice to be laid – space, voice, audience and influence. Although the idea of ‘giving voice’ can be seen as patronising, like a gift to be given (Walton, 2013) my perception is that the lecturers and facilitators on the camp saw the issue of voice as a right that the students have. By starting off their teacher training with a ‘voice’, I believe students are given the foundation to truly be ‘super teachers’. Achterbergh provides students with a ‘lived experience’ of ‘voice in action’.”

Work-integrated learning (WIL)

WIL is an integral part of our honours in Educational Psychology. The students have to complete six months of WIL as part of their practicum module. This is a requirement from the Board for Psychology. Lecturers who act as supervisors indicate that they thoroughly enjoy the clinical supervision where they indirectly play a role in supporting clients at the various service learning sites. This clinical supervision allows the lecturers to stay abreast with what is happening in practice.

A total of 25 outside educational psychology supervisors were appointed to support the work of the students in schools and organisations. Meetings were held with these supervisors to obtain feedback about the work of the student counsellors and educational psychologists. This interaction with educational psychologists in schools, organisations, the Department of Education and private practice is of importance to the Department to stay relevant and to integrate theory and practice.

From a Stable to a Counselling Centre

The Department of Educational Psychology is involved at Kingsway Christian School as part of the Faculty’s community engagement initiative. The school is funded by various organisations and serves children mainly from the Zandspruit informal settlement. Its vision is to meet the needs and provide life-enriching opportunities for socio-economically disadvantaged children who have previously had limited options for bettering their lives.