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Short Course
Indigenous knowledge in Life Sciences
Although the Life Sciences CAPS curriculum calls for the inclusion of indigenous knowledge in the teaching of Life Sciences, very few teachers were trained in indigenous knowledge systems. By including the rich South African indigenous knowledge in Life Sciences teaching, more learners will see the relevance of Life Sciences in our daily lives. NWU is mandated to offer this short learning programme due to its expertise in the field. There is a large potential market for NWU, as we’ll be the only university offering such a programme. (This project also has a strong research component to it, with two NRF grants awarded to NWU).The rationale is to also sensitize teachers to the role of problem-based learning and cooperative learning in self-directed learning, and to assist teachers in becoming critical reflective practitioners.

Purpose of the course:

In this short learning programme, teachers will be showed how to incorporate indigenous knowledge in the classroom using the processes of science. Participants in the course will, for instance, conduct anti-microbial tests on medicinal plants that are culturally used. Apart from the laboratory inquiries, teachers will also be shown how to use generic methods such as De Bono’s thinking hats in the classroom. The programme also includes a visit to the Mphebatho Museum, where they will interact with the holders of indigenous knowledge. A strong emphasis will be to provide teachers with a more nuanced understanding of both the nature of science, and the nature of indigenous knowledge, as well as the principles underpinning self-directed learning. (This course is partly funded by the National Research Foundation).

Admission requirements:

Admission requirements: 
Any teacher responsible for teaching Natural- or Life Sciences, or teachers with a teaching qualification, and at least one biology/ botany/ zoology/ microbiology/ anatomy/ physiology module on first-year university or college level, would qualify to be admitted to the short learning programme.
Learning assumed to be in place: 
Students registering for this short learning programme should have a basic understanding of lesson planning, and should have preferably passed any biology-related module on first year university or college level.

Course outcomes and assessment criteria :

Course outcomes and the associated assessment criteria: 

Study Unit


Assessment Criteria


On successful completion of this short learning programme the student should be able to:

(1) Demonstrate knowledge of the tenets of indigenous knowledge systems, and its affordances for Life Sciences education.

(2) Demonstrate knowledge and skills to effectively incorporate indigenous knowledge in the planning and presentation of lessons.

(3) Demonstrate laboratory skills to conduct anti-microbial tests on medicinal plants in the school laboratory, using science-on-a-shoestring approaches.

This will be evident if the students (can):

(1)  Show mastery when discussing the basic tenets of indigenous knowledge, and motivate for its inclusion from an embodied, situated and distributed cognition perspective.

(2)  Plan (and present) lessons in which indigenous knowledge is meaningfully integrated with the content prescribed in the CAPS curriculum.

(3) Effectively facilitate anti-microbial tests on plant material, using everyday materials in an adapted Kirby-Bauer lab protocol.


Students wishing to obtain a certificate of competence will be requested to submit an evidence-based portfolio.
Method of assessment: 
In these portfolios, students will have to provide lesson plans of lessons in which indigenous knowledge was incorporated. Photographic evidence should also be provided of inquiry-based, laboratory investigations that learners performed in the classroom. The portfolios will also include reflections by teachers on the lessons presented. The student must attend all the contact sessions, and must obtain a minimum of 50% for the total of the portfolio in order to receive a certificate.

Additional information

Mode of delivery: 
Target group: 
All Natural Sciences teachers (Intermediate or Senior Phase) or Life Sciences (FET) would benefit from this short learning programme.
Contact us
Telephone number: 
018 285 2821