Faculty of Law Workshop on credit load and notional hours in the context of LLB Curriculum Transformation

Posted on May 25, 2023

As part of the University and faculty-wide curriculum transformation drive, Dr Alfred Hlabane led a session on credit load and notional hours for the LLB programme on 17 May 2023. 

Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law, Prof Maimela, welcomed attendees, mainly UP Law staff members, and said: ‘We are on the journey of curriculum transformation, for having an inclusive and transformed curriculum.’ He asserted that this workshop was a response to the challenges highlighted by the academic departments on credit load and notional hours in the faculty-wide workshops that were held in the previous year.

The forum aimed to discuss the challenges so that a unified and consistent proposal for the LLB Curriculum in 2024 and into the future could be developed and proposed to the Council on Higher Education (CHE) for accreditation. The workshop served as both an informational event and a forum for the Faculty to discuss the next steps for implementing the revised LLB curriculum, emphasising reducing the course load and increasing the number of notional hours.  

After emphasising that ‘curriculum as a concept is sensitive and touches on numerous aspects’, Dr Hlabane asserted that a curriculum could be viewed from a narrow or broad perspective and understood as a plan/blueprint. This written document includes strategies for achieving the intended learning outcomes and the formal intended curriculum. Curriculum could also be interpreted as pertaining to the experiences of students. this incorporates nearly all aspects of the University, creating a unique environment for fostering students’ self-actualisation. The curriculum could also be viewed as a subject/discipline, such as mathematics, science, engineering, facts, concepts, and generalisations of the subject/discipline.

He continued his discussion of a curriculum by elaborating on its many methods and viewpoints, which included intellectual, humanistic, technical, and behavioural perspectives. He then discussed curriculum at different levels: Macro (CHE, DHET, SAQA, Professional bodies), Meso (institutional context, Programme outcomes), Micro (module outcomes, module content) and curriculum types which included intended curriculum, enacted curriculum, hidden curriculum and assessed curriculum.

Dr Hlabane asserted that the purpose of his presentation was to look at the academic as a curriculum worker. What this means is to position the academic as someone who can interpret and adapt to learning programmes, design original learning programmes, and understand the principles of the curriculum. This is particularly important for the Faculty of Law, which focuses on transformation. He asserted the importance of transformation, particularly that of institutional culture.

The Curriculum Transformation Framework Document affirms the importance of institutional culture, which emphasises ‘an institutional culture of openness and critical reflection’ for true curriculum transformation.

Prof Joel Modiri contributed to the discussion by highlighting the importance of universities helping students become effective learners, ‘We should assist students to become effective students. Universities cannot provide vocational, intellectual, and well-rounded education; otherwise, universities will become overburdened.’

Dr Hlabane discussed the policy considerations of a curriculum and briefly expanded on the National Curriculum Framework, Higher Education qualification sub-framework and NQF level descriptors. He asserted that a nested approach was employed in curriculum development at the Faculty of Law. This approach encompasses NQF and level descriptors, qualification types, degree designator and qualification specialisation.

Following the context, Dr Hlabane arrived at the crux of the workshop, as he defined credits as ‘a measure of the volume of learning required for a qualification’ and notional hours, which he described ‘as the volume of learning expressed in time (the time required for an average student to complete all activities related to mastering outcomes)’. Prof Gustav Muller noted the importance of defining the notional hours as they were the ‘minimum time required’, highlighting that students may need more time than suggested.

Dr Hlabane presented a credit map and notional hours, which he defined as ‘the number of credits allocated to a module gives an indication of the volume of learning required for the completion of that module and is based on the concept of notional hours. Notional hours include “time for lectures, assignments, projects, tests and exams”.’

Dr Hlabane introduced the concept of Constructive Alignment, a curriculum design theory that aligns teaching and learning activities and assessment tasks with desired learning outcomes. He further explored its practical application by raising questions about module selection, content inclusion, knowledge and skill organisation, and methods of measuring success.

Overall, the workshop provided a platform for colleagues to collaborate and find the best way forward for a transformed LLB curriculum, considering credit load and notional hours, as part of the University and  faculty-wide curriculum transformation drive.


- Author Palesa Mbonde

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