Friday, 23 September 2016

The continuous learning curve of an academic-cum-manager


Pixabay. CC0 Public Domain.
I joined the university after a ten year teaching position in a private primary and secondary school in Nairobi armed with a bachelors from a local university in education.

A Kenyan undergraduate degree in education comprises of foundational courses in education. The courses cover: philosophy, history, sociology, psychology, and communication of education. In my personal reflections over the years I have seen how disconnected the courses were managed (and possibly still being managed to date). This disconnectedness continues to be the main issue that any dedicated teacher has to learn after studies.

IDS Learning Event

The learning event came at a time that I had been struggling to engage technology in my teaching. The theories that had been covered in the undergraduate course were not aligned with the teaching environment. For a teacher, I felt it was a case of "dive in and swim by self". To complicate the issue further, my role as an academic and manager requires appraising faculty on pedagogy. My walk into the learning event was therefore one filled with great expectation on my ever-expanding horizon in teaching.

The event facilitation, and the general presentation of work arising from the African Universities' Research Approaches (AURA) programme, brought out my disconnected undergraduate experience. My personal discovery was how teachers of the theories were also bent on one theory - the behaviourist approach. Secondly it opened my eyes to the reality of how my present faculty is also behaviourist in teaching and in use of technology. Thirdly, that arising out of the learning is my personal struggle to teach using the connectedness of social constructivist approaches. These three learnings are shaping my outlook as the academic manager that I am.

The learning curve

Ever since my undergraduate education, I have held a curious mind on what it is to be a better teacher. This curiosity has made me examine the foundational courses deeply to unravel their value. The "three learnings" I have picked from the learning event are part of the curious academic’s journey into education.

The "three learnings" that I got from this event have awakened my desire to change in the following areas.

  1. My teaching (which I do on part time basis since my employment is a managerial one). The little teaching I do, I have placed my emphasis on becoming more of a connectivist or contructivist teacher. This I have found to be a journey that I will have to undertake for a while.
  2. My role as a manager in a learning institution has to move away from the behaviourist model and adopt some connectivist outlook to solving work related issues. This is important especially where I manage meetings and academics are involved.
  3. I have appreciated the value of time in the learning process. Learning how foundational concepts of theories after many years of practise means other academics might be going through the same. It is therefore important to give faculty time to experience teaching and see the value of growth in the profession.


Professional growth requires a mind that is in constant search of learning. The accidental meeting with AURA has opened my horizons to teaching and research that I have not covered in my undergraduate and post graduate education. The learning event, and the entire AURA programme, has been like a volcanic activity in my growth as a professional. It has provided me with several eureka moments that has given my learning curve a new direction.

Stephen Ng’ang’a is trained teacher with a post graduate degree in education management. He works as an Academic Manager at Strathmore University. In his role he is in charge of the teaching and learning processes of the university. He is extensively involved in the student experience from admission to graduation. This student experience requires the development of faculty capable of delivery. The role of faculty development is what has been his contribution to this programme.

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