Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 73



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developed in partnership with the schools themselves.
They include, among other initiatives, teacher and
school organisational development, equipping
learners with the skills they need for tertiary education
through the 100UP project, and the development
of professional-practice schools in which university
students and researchers use the schools for their
professional training. The professional-practice schools
are linked, with the objective of broader institutional
engagement. It is through the building of professionalpractice schools that the SII collaborates with other
disciplines and faculties, to draw on the broader
institutional resources in order to enrich the schooluniversity partnership.
Unique interdisciplinary model
For both Clark and Silbert, the interdisciplinarity
of the SII model is uniquely significant. Being able
to access and use the range of professional capital
a university has to offer allows the SII to harness
expertise into the partner schools (including all 20
secondary schools in Khayelitsha) in a way that is
focused on the schools’ needs. The collaborating
faculties also gain from their involvement in the
initiative, in that the exposure allows them to
generate new practices that are more appropriate
and applicable to the community context than
if they were doing their traditional disciplinespecific practice.
For students registered for the Bachelor of Social
Work, the SII provides a great opportunity to
complete their compulsory field practice. The
fieldwork in the schools has also been fertile ground
for postgraduates to develop research questions. But
importantly, notes Fatima Williams (a lecturer in the
Department of Social Development), the provision
of social work services in the schools means that
all areas of learners’ lives receive attention, not just
their educational needs.
“The reality of learners is that they are severely
impacted by any psychosocial issues, and do not
attend school in a vacuum,” says Williams. “The
social work services offered by the students help
the learners not only emotionally, but with their
performance at school, too.”
In the Faculty of Health Sciences there has been
a strong focus on interdisciplinarity between
occupational therapy, speech therapy and education
students. For Roshan Galvaan, associate professor
in the Division of Occupational Therapy, this
collaboration has created a space for researchers
to consider complex issues beyond disciplinary
boundaries.
For all researchers and students participating in
the school–university partnership, the community
context is valuable. Students in the Division of
Communication Sciences and Disorders – which
includes speech language therapy students
and audiology students – are developing new
approaches to practice within a community
development framework.
Student support strategies
“The students work with the school and community
to develop strategies to support and strengthen
language-literacy learning, which the school
identified as an area of need,” says Professor
Harsha Kathard of the Department of Health
Sciences Education. In her opinion, this opportunity
allows the students and researchers to develop
collaborative interdisciplinary practices that result
in creative, sustainable and responsive practice
innovations.
An important part of the SII model for school–
university partnership is the focus on reciprocity:
both partners benefit from the experience. The
schools themselves are actively involved in
identifying their own needs.
“The most exciting thing for me about this initiative
is how we can be the agents of change in difficult
situations. It is a great feeling working with
principals who leverage their relationship with us to
access the resources and support they know their
school needs,” says Clark.
By Natalie Simon. Images by the Schools Improvement
Initiative.
Quality Education 68





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