The recent launch was attended by well over 50 staff members, including the Vice-Principal, Prof Johann Engelbrecht and the Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Prof Anton Ströh, all enthusiastic in their expectations. At the spear of the Forum are Prof Marietjie Potgieter from the Chemistry Department and Prof Ansie Harding from the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics.
It is anticipated that the establishment of a professional learning community in the Faculty will improve capacity among academic staff by providing a platform for identifying, creating, sharing and using knowledge of best practices in the scholarship of teaching and learning. An important objective for the establishment of the SCITAL Forum is the stimulation of research in tertiary science and mathematics education, a new and growing field internationally. There are a few mathematics and science education researchers in the Faculty at UP who are isolated in different departments and need the critical input of others to enrich their work. There are also academic staff members who wish to enter this research area and need mentorship to develop the necessary expertise in order to establish themselves in their own niche research areas and others who do not intend to become active education researchers, but who have a keen interest in the contribution that education research can make to improve their teaching practice. The SCITAL Forum aims to provide a place of belonging to all these groups.
At the launch Prof Potgieter gave an overview of her journey as a researcher in tertiary science education while Prof Harding described the well-established field of research in undergraduate mathematics education. The SCITAL Forum foresees regular meetings and workshops to gain momentum.