Rethinking biology teaching at the University of Namibia
Insights from student profiling
The University of Namibia students today are very diverse. This is largely due to differing cultures, learning styles and levels of emotional and social maturity. Acknowledging this diversity will help avoid the “common sense” based predisposition of higher education teachers to treat every student the same. Diagnosing student needs and crafting learning experiences in response to revealed diagnoses is therefore imperative. In this study, second year Biometrics students were profiled with a focus on the social, economic, political and psychological aspects of their lives. Data from Sixty five (65) Biometrics students from the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Namibia were recorded using a two-part questionnaire. The first part of the questionnaire comprised personal and socioeconomic questions and the second part was a VARK questionnaire. The VARK questionnaire was used to determine a person’s sensory modality preferences. The percentage of the students who fell into the four modalities, that is, visual, aural, read/write, kinaesthetic or multimodal was determined. The most popular learning style was multimodal (61.3%). In addition, there was a significant relationship between the race of the student and their mode of transport to the University campus (Chi-square, p<0.001) with most of those who walk to campus and those using buses or taxi being black. A highly significant association existed between race and student funding (Chi-square, p<0.001), with the majority of black students on NSFAF funding (40). This study reveals the government’s commitment to the funding of higher education since the majority of the previously disadvantaged black students are funded by NSFAF. The internationalisation of Namibian higher education and cross-border provision of higher education have increased student diversity, hence the need to respond to such diversity in our academic practice. We therefore recommend the tracking of these students until they finish their degree program to see if application of the knowledge acquired through this study will improve student learning and performance.