Mary GrosserProf Mary Grosser, a researcher in the Optentia Research Focus Area on the North West University’s Vaal Triangle Campus (NWU Vaal), was recently elected to serve as vice-president for the Africa region of the International Association for Cognitive Education and Psychology (IACEP).

This organisation was founded in 1988 and consists of professionals from around the world who are interested in advancing cognitive education. This diverse community include teachers, therapists, assessment specialists, administrators and research professionals.

IACEP is the international parent organisation of IACESA (International Association for Cognitive Education in Southern Africa) of which Prof Grosser is the current president. IACEP aims to make use of research and education to accomplish a number of things. The first is to advance the cognitive education of children, youth and adults internationally; to promote, stimulate and disseminate applications of the development, acquisition and application of logical thought; then, to encourage and provide opportunities for the professional growth of individual members; to inform the public about the practice of cognitive education; and lastly to advance the standards of education in related areas.

Though most African countries still make use of rote teaching and learning methods, Prof Grosser hopes to extend the reach of cognitive education on the continent. Early advances in this regard are initial discussions that are underway with Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka, Nigeria about the possibilities to promote the ideals of cognitive education in collaboration with Optentia and IACESA in the teacher training curriculum of the university.

Cognitive education research in South Africa

Prof Grosser heads up the Holistic Learner Development in Diverse Contexts sub-programme within the Optentia Research Focus Area. She is one of a small group of researchers in South Africa focusing their attention on cognitive education.

Through the Schools as Thinking Communities project South African pre-service and in-service teachers are trained and supported to apply and infuse well-established approaches to the teaching of thinking skills and strategies, as well as dispositions to learn and think across the curriculum. This is done to enable learners to develop the propensity of skilfully and mindfully applying cognitive tools when confronted with general and academic-related problems and challenges.

Currently, the Schools as Thinking Communities project works with three schools in the D7 and D8 District of the Gauteng Department of Education. An important aspect of teaching in a school that decides to become a thinking community is that learners should be encouraged to become smarter at thinking by developing a questioning disposition. Learners should learn that they do not only have to wait for questions to be posed to them.

*The mission of the Optentia Research Focus Area is to develop and organise knowledge for the optimal expression of individual, social and institutional potential, with specific interest in the African context. The research focus area utilises the inputs from various disciplines in the social sciences, including Psychology, Industrial/Organisational Psychology, Educational Psychology, Sociology, Educational Sciences, Employment Relations, and Social Work. Visit Optentia’s website for more information on their research and projects:

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