School stakeholders’ perceptions of Graduate Teacher Attributes in a South African context: Expanding the conversation

Year: 2015

Author: Carl, Arend, Fourie, Magda, Ruiters, John, Hanekom, Chrischelle

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This research project, situated within a South African higher education context, comes against a backdrop of an increased focus on graduate attributes in university education and specifically, with regard to teacher training. Unlike other professions, which are regulated by professional boards that determine the type of competencies and standards graduates in those fields should emerge with, in South Africa Faculties of Education are largely left to determine these attributes themselves.

With the institutional graduate attributes of Stellenbosch University as point of departure, the Faculty of Education has had several internal conversations which have culminated in a policy document that began to craft a description of the Stellenbosch University Teacher/Education Graduate. Simulataneously the Faculty embarked on an extensive programme renewal process, due to national higher education and teacher education requirements. The notion of graduate attributes is thus integrated within programme renewal initiatives.

Barrie (2013) calls for a more inclusive approach to developing graduate attributes. He asserts that outside stakeholders are important for developing attributes since they bring a direct experience of the competencies required, and the challenges that need to be faced. Similarly, Oliver (2013) argues that the perspectives of graduates, employers and programme teams are important in providing evidence for the selection and integration of certain attributes. Thus, we view the development of an evidence base for graduate attributes in the same strategic way in which we view curriculum alignment, teaching, and assessing graduate attributes. The key research question addressed in this research project was:

What are the attributes that a Stellenbosch University teacher/education
graduate should display?

The purpose of this project was to develop a broader and more inclusive definition of the attributes of the teacher (both graduate and in training) that is trained at SU and to uncover attributes and characteristics that potential employers value. The perspectives of external stakeholders, in particular principals and teachers of schools where our students do practice teaching or enter employment, are crucial, on account of their practical experience of which attributes are necessary and to what extent our students already possess those attributes.
The presenters will discuss the outcomes of this project and share perspectives on the research process and to what extent the research question has been answered.