Teaching at AIMS

The AIMS mission is to provide an excellent, advanced education to talented and highly motivated African students in order to develop independent thinkers, researchers and problem solvers who will contribute to Africa’s development. One of the key features of studying at AIMS is the highly enriching experience of students and lecturers eating and living together within a 24 hour learning environment, and the consequent friendly and informal atmosphere, coupled with active and meaningful participation during the teaching sessions.

Each year AIMS South Africa takes approximately 70 students from around twenty five different African countries with a complete mix of race, religion and gender. There are two intakes a year, one in January and the other in mid-August. By far the most common response to the question ”What does your year at AIMS really mean to you?” is ”the opportunity to meet, and live with, people from all over the African continent, and to meet, and get to know, the lecturers as individuals”. We should not underestimate the value of this feeling that AIMS is an institute in which we are all learning and teaching together with the common goal of sharing our knowledge and experiences
with each other.

Teaching and Learning Strategy

The teaching at AIMS is based on the principle of learning and understanding, rather than simply listening and writing,
during classes; and on creating an atmosphere of increasing knowledge through small group discussions. This is achieved by formulating conjectures and assessing the evidence for them, and sometimes going down wrong paths and learning from these mistakes. The essential feature of the classes at AIMS is that, in contrast to formal lecture courses, they are highly interactive; and time is allocated for class discussions. In this way, AIMS provides a climate of interactive teaching, where students are encouraged to learn together in a journey of questioning and discovery, and where lecturers respond to the needs of the class rather than to a pre-determined syllabus. The AIMS teaching philosophy is to promote critical and creative thinking; to experience the excitement of learning from true understanding; and to avoid rote learning directed only towards assessment. Students are helped and encouraged to develop their own ideas, both during and outside formal class times, and to absorb new ideas instead of being presented with the finished product. The teaching at AIMS is done through self-contained (modular) courses in which the advertised content is used as a guide, and lecturers are encouraged, and expected, to adapt daily to meet the needs of the students. The challenge for the lecturers is to create a sense of enquiry in all students who come from very diverse backgrounds. Each student should develop, and succeed, from their own particular starting point. AIMS considers the journey undertaken to reach a conclusion to be as important as the conclusion itself.

Language and Communication

All lectures at AIMS South Africa are presented in English. AIMS regards communication skills as a crucial part of the training both in respect of the spoken language and the written language. As English is not the first language of many of the students, English Language classes, taught by the Language and Communications Teacher, at various levels, are available and held regularly, particularly at the beginning of the academic year. Each student is required to give at least one 15-minute presentation, on a mathematical topic related to one of the courses, to the whole class with the help and advice of one of the lecturers. Sessions on scientific writing are also held – particularly near the research-project phase.