Facilitating student engagement : the University of Pretoria Archives 'Century in the News' exhibition as a case study

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • SDG 4
  • Abstract:

    Although greater numbers of historically disadvantaged students have been registering at South African universities since the late 1980s, their rate of completion is considerably lower compared to other students. Universities are under increasing pressure to democratise in order to address racial-ethnic gaps in graduation rates and to take cognisance of the diverse needs of students from a range of cultural and social backgrounds, varying levels of education and academic potential. A solution to this problem adopted by universities world-wide is the establishment of learning communities, where students could receive additional support from the institutions where they are registered to ensure the successful completion of their degree. A key feature of most learning communities is their interdisciplinary and interactive approach to education in which they incorporate active and collaborative learning activities to engage students more effectively. When considering the type of education that is offered by archives and museums, namely a combination of active learning and personal meaning making, museums seem to be ideally placed to assist learning communities in integrating diverse academic and social activities into a meaningful whole in order to convert these experiences into authentic learning. This article will demonstrate, as a case study, how specifically the University of Pretoria Archives are used for orientation purposes in a degree programme by the Faculty of Engineering to its learning community, in order to help students acquire the additional background knowledge that may not have been available to them at school, and to develop a conceptual understanding of key concepts in their discipline which would enable them to complete their degrees successfully.