HOMEPAGE: PERSONAL ONLINE PORTFOLIO & RESEARCH GATE PROFILE 2015

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andre.duplessis@nmmu.ac.za

PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES VIDEO
So how do I think? ... View the video and decide whether it is traditionally or future orientated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why this portfolio?
Compiling this portfolio has provided me with a learning space in which I could self-reflect who I am, where I am coming from, the changes occurring in my teaching and learning, my teaching experience and my responsibilities. It also afforded me an opportunity to present myself to the world out there. At the same time, it assisted me to reflect on where I am going. I was able to self-assess my capabilities with reference to subject expertise, teaching and learning expertise, whether I am an inspiring person or not, my leadership, my reputation among students, my reputation among my peers and reflection related to teaching-and-learning as well as community involvement. I discovered positive aspects, but at the same time I realised that there are so many things or aspects that I still have to address. One can never be perfect, one never arrives.

I came to the realization that I have grown during my seven years at NMMU on so many fronts due to the opportunities that have been made available AND which I have embraced. From starting as a lecturer in May 2007, being promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2012 and now being Head of Department since 2013, as well as receiving numerous awards at the NMMU, this is evidence to me that I am growing continuously as an academic. At the same time, it is clear is that I cannot claim at all that I have ‘arrived’, as personal development is a journey that never ends. Being able to reflect about my journey, has also enabled me to reflect on where I want to go and what I can do to improve.

I have come to the realization that I am touching people’s lives and that this is what teaching and learning is for me all about, being there and giving meaning to others by giving of one self. I also discovered that I am NOT perfect, I have many flaws!! There are still many things in my education 'armor' that I have to work on. It is never ending. There are also many colleagues that are doing things better than I do, people that inspire me!!

What also struck me, is that I became aware that the work that I am doing, is valued not only by faculty and the NMMU in general, but also by schools as well as internationally. This resulted in being invited as a plenary speaker once locally, as well as internationally in Lithuania at the University of Siauliai in October 2013. In 2014 I have been re-invited as plenary speaker in Lithuania in October 2014 as well as being a plenary speaker in the Czech republic in September 2014. I have also been asked to compile a video presentation of the Cyberhunt approach which had been screened at a high school conference in Lithuania in April 2014.

Research Gate Profile

Compiling this online portfolio also helped me to create my online research profile on Research Gate, a portal where academics share their expertise and publications, as well as obtain a rating for their publications. Below is an image of my Research Gate profile, as well as link to it.

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Andre_Du_Plessis/reputation/

 

Reflecting further: Where am I now in terms of thinking about myself, my humanness and pedagogy? As academic and HOD/HOP in the Faculty of Education, I was part of a journey in which I interrogated myself pertaining to a drawing that I have made that depicted a humanizing pedagogy. I also had to reflect what I saw in fellow HOD/HOP’s drawings pertaining to a humanizing pedagogy. The following became eminent after reflection regarding practicing a humanizing pedagogy and how a view my humanness. I present my written reflections as themes below:

Uniqueness

When we talk, discuss, read and listen to someone else’s opinions, perceptions and understanding of a concept or observation, we tend to think that our thinking and understanding is similar about a concept, even after we have articulated our understandings. This seems to be the ideal, but then our background and cultural tools are different. We cannot claim to be part of one objective reality; rather, we are part of our own subjective reality that suggests that there are multiple realities. This uniqueness of our understanding became evident when I reflected and wrote:

I have realized that when I look at my understanding of a humanizing pedagogy by comparing it to the collective drawings, that how I or someone else perceives, experience or understand the concept, interprets it, is not always, in fact in most cases our thinking, perceptions, experiences and understandings are different. It cannot be the same, as realities are different and we all have our own personal positions. The collective cannot always be 100% on the same level of understanding.

Social responsibility and sensitiveness towards others

As human beings, we have a responsibility to show that we care, but not wrapping another person in cotton wool. We have to reach out, but at the same time be conscious that our position does not have to be identical to those of another fellow human. This became evident when I stated:

I was feeling that I have a responsibility, a social one. One has to help his fellow students and colleagues. I was feeling, this implies, i.e. the drawing implies that one has to be conscious of where the ‘other’ [person(s)] positions himself or herself.

Equity and sincere in learning

Academic staff seems to see themselves as on another level when they think of and compare themselves to their students. We seem to think that we are more knowledgeable and skillful. This probably emanates from the way that we saw our teachers and lecturers when we were at school and studying at university, as the system perpetuates the lecturer or teacher as the knower and the student or learner as the inexperienced empty vessel. This is exactly what a humanizing pedagogy tries to change as it aims to promote co-learning and rethinking our current ‘power’ relationship. This was highlighted be the following words:

We as academic lecturers see us as ‘bigger’ as our students, ‘bigger’ in the sense of being more knowledgeable in our subject as well as in terms of experiences. The figure [my drawing] does not show the ‘pouring of knowledge’, rather, it highlights assisting, but not just giving [in a traditional sense]. It is walking with on the path by lending a hand(s), not just [giving] a hand. In a manner, it is scaffolding learners [students], i.e. taking them from where they are to where they could be – potential.

I am a co-learner

Revisiting my picture, I became aware that it actually portrays me to a great extent. The learner or student is not the solo learning person; I am also a learner during our interactions:

I am also a learner. I am also in a learner’s position pretty much of the time as others lend a hand to my thinking and growing as a person too. We all learn from one another. We learn good and bad or not so good things too.

Disagreements and not knowing it all are part of learning

Learning does not imply the mere agreement and acceptance of everything from the lecturer. It is much more than agreement, in fact, learning happens when the mind is stretched and when we are challenged, when our thinking about something is turned into disequilibrium. This emerged when I wrote:

We have to disagree in many instances. These disagreements are valuable to take us forward, to rethink our own thinking and own positions. We need the hand, feet and input of others too.

It is in order to NOT always to know all the answers as leader

Leaders are fallible; we do not always have the answers. I was also struck by what I have written, when I read the following:

As a lecturer and as a leader, one is not the ‘know-it-all’, have all the answers and does not always have a perfect plan of or on how to ‘conduct’ leadership and showing the way. Lecturers and leaders also need hand holding. It is sometimes about letting go … As we are all unique, there will be negotiated understanding, understanding that is temporal. It is about humanness, about letting go, forgive, forget, move on … It is about change, being reflective and reflexive. It is about transformation.

It became clear to me that leadership is not just about changing others; it is also about transforming yourself, i.e. your thinking, doings and perceptions as leader of what is ‘right’ and what is the way forward.

Learning and doing has no end

Learning what a humanizing pedagogy is, is not a solo endeavor, it is a collective activity that is ongoing and does not have an end. The spiral in the ‘hand’ drawing represented the above to me. Equally important, there is not just one finger on each hand, all the fingers need their fellow fingers to work together:

It is ‘how’ one uses his or her fingers that are important. One does not use all one’s fingers in the same manner. Discovery and becoming aware of one’s humanness is a process, one is going through spiraling phases in different ways. No end in sight.

Sharing and receiving is vital

A humanizing pedagogy does not imply a one sided dimension, i.e. one person giving and the other merely receiving. It is about giving and sharing from both parties, as depicted by the Bartho drawing. I highlighted the following:

We share, but at the same time the receiver should come to the realization that sharing does not just mean receiving all the time, but also giving in other ways what one possesses, the receiver can also share.

Learning from one another is key to progress

The community drawing made me realize that we learn from one another all the time. I wrote:

Learning from one another is vital. Everyone has something to contribute in his/her way. The size can differ, but it still counts. It entails moving into and out of the centre and standing on the periphery at some times, probably most of the time.

Conclusion: What emerges?

It is evident that I have been transformed in so many aspects. This portfolio is testimony to it. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that my personal transformation has not ended, as it is an on-going dynamic life-long process.