Investigating a problem-centred pedagogy in a first-year engineering support course

Presenter: Renee Rix


Renee is a lecturer in the Numeracy Centre in CHED. Prior to joining the Numeracy Centre in 2015, she spent over 10 years teaching mathematics at Pinelands High School, where she headed the school’s mathematics department. Renee is passionate about supporting students to understand deeply any quantitative material they encounter, whether that be pure mathematics or numerical information in context. She recently completed her MPhil in Mathematics education through UCT’s school of education (2016). Her research focuses on the pedagogy of mathematics support courses for first-year students.


Seminar abstract

Many students find the transition from school to university mathematics difficult. Research on support for students in the transition abounds, most of it focusing on student perceptions and the impact of support on academic performance. However, very little research explores the pedagogy implemented in support courses. Yet this sort of research is necessary if we are to understand what knowledge these courses value and how they communicate it. Such an understanding is an important first step in establishing whether support courses might provide access to the knowledge privileged in mainstream courses, and also whether these courses are replicable. In this presentation, I will talk about my master’s research project, which aimed to contribute to our understanding of the pedagogy of support courses by creating a rich description of the pedagogy implemented in one mathematics support course for first-year engineering students. The pedagogy intended for the course was similar to the problem-centred approach (PCA) popular in white South African primary schools in the 1990s. Critiques of school-level PCA – such as that it affords insufficient “guidance” and that it is difficult to replicate – highlight the importance of understanding this course’s pedagogy. In this study, I analysed video records of one activity of the course. Davis’s notion of pedagogic judgement, used in his investigation of school-level PCA, served as my theoretical tool. In this talk, I will focus on the findings of my study – regarding what knowledge was valued in the course and how it was communicated to students – and the implications for teaching first-year mathematics and support courses. 


Wednesday, September 20, 2017 -
13:00 to 14:00

CHED Boardroom, 6th Floor, Hoerikwaggo Building, Upper Campus, North Lane.

Contact Information: 

Please RSVP to Mzi Mnyatheli by Monday, 18 Sept 2017.