An Alternative Approach for Designing and Teaching Communication Skills to University of Technology Students

Ernest Pineteh


This article examines the contents and teaching strategies of communication skills courses at a South African higher institution: Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). It seeks to understand why the courses have not been very responsive to increasing academic and professional challenges undergraduate students’ experience at this university. Also, it proposes alternative contents and methods of teaching that can ensure that these courses remain relevant to the diversity of vocational diploma programmes offered by the university. The article is written against the backdrop of conceptions of ‘unpreparedness’ and ‘disadvantage’ repeatedly used by academics of this institution to justify the poor academic performance of students.

The article draws on data gleaned from sustained one-on-one interviews with fifteen students and four communication skills lecturers as well as on course reflections with 1st year students collected during one academic year. This empirical data revealed that Communication courses provide a unique space for the development of generic cognitive skills which are critical for academic development and which can put graduates at a competitive advantage in the workplace. However it argues that for these courses to provide students with lifelong academic and professional skills, existing curricula and teaching approaches should be revised. This is because the current delivery methods are seemingly very pedantic, less stimulating and do not promote higher-order thinking in students. This piece therefore recommends a model, which focuses on the development of metacognitive skills such as critical thinking, creative and innovative thinking as well as problem solving.

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International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email:

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