A social learning theory model for understanding team-based professional communication learning for computer science students

Keywords: Scenario Pedagogy, Social Learning, Communities of Practive, Knowledgeability across Landscapes of Practive


The study interrogates an annual course with undergraduate computer science students that takes place against the background of national student protests at universities across South Africa to effect equitable access to universities. It uses reflections by computer science students of their experience of collaborative work on a Scenario Pedagogy (SP) course, as well as the results of a survey of student collaborative practices in a digital space as a window into their learning trajectories. The study demonstrates and offers an understanding of how SP can contribute to developing computer science students as communicators in their discipline at university and future workplaces. It explores the usefulness of Communities of Practice (COP) and Knowledgeability across Landscapes of Practice (KLP) theory as an analytical tool-set as well as a descriptive language for investigating and explaining learning events. The changing and changed landscape of higher education and the world of work present new challenges and opportunities, particularly in curriculum development and delivery. Utilising “authentic” pedagogies and social learning theory provides appropriate tools for meeting these challenges. Exploring reflective practices and their contribution to the emerging of transformed practices and identities in the South African higher education sector would be a fruitful avenue of future research.

Author Biographies

C. A. Kalil, University of Cape Town

Lecturer, Professional Communication Unit

T. Grant, University of Cape Town

Professional Communication Unit



Archer, A. and D. Newfield. 2014. “Challenges and opportunities of multimodal approaches to education in South Africa.” In Multimodal approaches to research and pedagogy: Recognition, resources and access, ed. A. Archer and D. Newfield, 1‒18. Oxon and New York: Routledge.

Bremner, S., A. Peirson-Smith, R. Jones, and V. Bhatia. 2014. “Task Design and Interaction in Collaborative Writing: The Students’ Story.” Business and Professional Communication Quarterly 77(2): 150‒168.

Burrell, G. and G. Morgan. 1979. Sociological Paradigms and Organizational Analysis. London: Heinemann.

Chatfield, A., V. N. Shlemoon, W. Redublado, and G. Darbyshire. 2013. “Creating value through virtual teams: A current literature review.” Twenty-Fourth Australasian Conference on Information Systems, 1‒11. Australia: RMIT University. http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi? article=3346&context=eispapers.

Cope, B. and M. Kalantzis. (Eds.). 1993. The Powers of Literacy: A Genre Approach to Teaching Writing. London: Falmer Press.

Drenan, L. M. 2017. “Engaging students through writing: A collaborative journey.” South African Journal of Higher Education 31(3): 63‒81.

Farnsworth, V., I. Kleanthous, and E. Wenger-Trayner. 2016. “Communities of Practice as a Social Theory of Learning: A Conversation with Etienne Wenger.” British Journal of Educational Studies 64(2): 139–160.

Gee, J. P. 2003. What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Grant, T. and A. Archer. 2019. “Multimodal mapping: Using mind maps to negotiate professional communication practices and identity in higher education.” South African Journal of Higher Education 33(1): 74‒91. http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/33-1-2758.

Grant, T. and C. Kalil. 2011. “Information systems as a social space: developing academic and social literacies in students.” International Journal of Humanities and Social Science 1(9): 29‒39.

Grant, T. 1999. “Scenario learning: An outcomes-based approach to enhance students’ communication ability.” South African Journal of Higher Education 13(3): 36‒45.

Grant, T. 2012. “Scenario pedagogy as a negotiated, multimodal approach to developing professional communication practices in higher education.” Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Cape Town.

Gruba, P. and H. Søndergaard. 2001. “A Constructivist Approach to Communication Skills Instruction in Computer Science.” Computer Science Education 11(3): 203‒219.

Habermas, J. 1984. The theory of communicative action volume 1: Reason and the rationalization of society. Translated by Thomas Mc Carthy. Boston: Beacon Press.

Han, S. J. and M. Beyerlein. 2014. Managing culturally diverse virtual teams: A systematic literature review. Working Paper. https://www.ufhrd.co.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Soo-Jeoung-Han.pdf.

Karanja, E., D. M. Grant, S. Freeman, and D. Anyiwo. 2016. “Entry level systems analysts: What does the industry want?” Informing Science: The International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline 19: 141‒160.

Katzenbach, Jon R. and Douglas Smith. 1993. The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-performance Organization. Brighton: Harvard Business Press.

Kolb, D. A., R. E. Boyatzis, and C. Mainemelis. 1999. “Experiential Learning Theory: Previous Re-search and New Directions.” In Perspectives on Cognitive Learning and Thinking Styles, ed. Robert J. Sternberg and Zhang Li-Fang. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Kress, G. R. 2010. Multimodality: A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication. London: Routledge.

Lamb, R. and E. Davidson. 2005. “Information and Communication Technology Challenges to Professional Identity.” The Information Society 21(1): 1‒24.

Langa, M. (Ed.). 2017. #Hashtag!: An analysis of the #FeesMustFall Movement at South African Universities. Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. Johannesburg South Africa. http://www.csvr.org.za/publications/latest-publications/2674-hashtag-an-analysis-of-the-feesmustfall-movement-at-south-african-universities.pdf.

Lawrence, H. 2013. “Personal reflective writing: A pedagogical strategy for teaching business students to write.” Business Communication Quarterly 76(2): 192‒206.

Litchfield, A., J. Frawley, and S. Nettleton. 2010. “Contextualising and integrating into the curriculum the learning and teaching of work-ready professional graduate attributes.” Higher Education Research and Development 29(5): 519‒534.

Mbembe, A. J. 2015. “Decolonizing knowledge and the question of the archive.” Speech delivered at Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research on 22 April 2015. https://wiser.wits.ac.za/ system/files/Achille%20Mbembe%20-%20Decolonizing%20Knowledge%20and%20the%20 Question%20of%20the%20Archive.pdf.

Mezirow, J. 1990. “Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood A Guide to Transformative and Emancipatory Learning ‘How Critical Reflection Triggers Transformative Learning’.” https://my.liberatedleaders.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/How-Critical-Reflection-triggers-Transformative-Learning-Mezirow.pdf.

Omidvar, O. and R. Kislov. 2014. “The Evolution of Communities of Practice Approach: Towards Knowledgeability in a Landscape of Practice – An Interview with Etienne Wenger-Trayner.” Journal of Management Inquiry 23(3): 266–275.

Roberts, J. 2006. “Limits to communities of practice.” Journal of Management Studies 43(3): 623‒639.

Selber, S. A. 2004. Multiliteracies for a digital age. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Smart, K. L., N. Hicks, and J. Melton. 2013. “Using Problem-Based Scenarios to Teach Writing.” Business and Professional Communication Quarterly 76(1): 72– 81.

Walther, J. B. 1996. “Computer-Mediated Communication: Impersonal, Interpersonal, and Hyperpersonal Interaction.” Communication Research 23(1): 3–43.

Wenger, E. 1998. Communities of practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wenger-Trayner, E., M. Fenton-O’Creevy, and B. Wenger-Trayner. (Eds.). 2015. Learning in Landscapes of Practice: Boundaries, Identity, and Knowledgeability in Practice-Based Learning. London: Routledge.

Yukawa, J. 2012. “Communities of Practice.” http://www.jyukawa.com/main/cop.

How to Cite
Kalil, C. A., and T. Grant. 2021. “A Social Learning Theory Model for Understanding Team-Based Professional Communication Learning for Computer Science Students”. South African Journal of Higher Education 35 (3), 45-64. https://doi.org/10.20853/35-3-2912.
General Articles