The Transformative Education/al Studies (TES) project

Project Leader(s): Dr Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan (UKZN), Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa (DUT), Prof Theresa Chisanga (WSU), Dr Delysia Timm (DUT)
Funder: NRF
Project Details:
The Transformative Education/al Studies (TES) project was a response to two national educational priorities in South Africa: a) the pressing need to transform teaching and learning in the Higher Education sector; and b) the pressing need to enhance research and supervision capacity in the Higher Education sector. TES was a 3-year (2011-2013), National Research Foundation (NRF)-funded project led by investigators from a university of technology (Durban University of Technology – DUT), a research-intensive university (University of KwaZulu-Natal, UKZN), and a rural comprehensive university (Walter Sisulu University - WSU). Participants were 22 university educators who were registered students (staff-students) at the 3 participating universities and their 11 supervisors, who were staff members (or honorary staff members) at these universities or at the participating research council. The staff-students and supervisors were located within diverse academic and professional disciplines, including: Academic Development; Accounting Education; Communication; Clothing Design; Drama; Educational Leadership and Management; English Language; Engineering; Fine Arts; Gender Studies; Indigenous Knowledge Systems; Jewellery Design; Photography; and Teacher Development. Thus, the TES participants formed a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional educational research learning community. The participants were also diverse in terms of age, gender, race, and language and in terms of diverse levels of experience in research and publication, ranging from senior researchers with extensive publication records to new scholars just beginning their Masters’ studies. All TES staff-students and supervisors were involved in researching their own educational practice through self-study methodologies, i.e. their research was: self-focused and self-initiated; improvement aimed; collaborative; and sought to make a qualitative difference to educational experience within specific contexts and to contribute to collective action for social change and social justice. The central self-study research question of “How do I transform my educational practice?” was explored in relation to participants’ individual contexts and also across the learning community’s different contexts, becoming “How do we transform our educational practice?” The core aim of TES was to support and study the collaborative development of self-study research and supervision capacity as participants engaged with these questions.
The TES project was successful in meeting (and, in most cases, exceeding) all of its 2011-2013 research milestones. Moreover, in 2012, the TES project received the “Top University Research Initiative Award” at the Durban University of Technology’s annual research awards.
In 2014, the TES project team were awarded a 3-year Education Research in South Africa Grant by the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) to conduct a meta-analysis of the 2011-2013 TES Project. Our new project (2014-2016) is titled “Transformative Education/al Studies (TES): Pedagogic Implications for Research Capacity”. Through this meta-analysis project, we are seeking to learn lessons about supporting self-study research and also about supporting trans-disciplinary, multi-institutional educational research learning communities. Further explorations will include documenting the nature and processes of generating novel epistemologies and conceptualisations as well as developing innovative context-based methodological approaches. The award of this grant by the NRF highlights our research community’s recognition of the value and potential of self-study educational research in the South African context and beyond.
Dr Anastasia P. Samaras leading a research dissemination workshop with members of the Transformative Education/al Studies (TES) Project in July 2014

Teachers’ work and working teachers: Working in times of uncertainty

Project Leader(s): Dr Nyna Amin
Funder: NRF
Project Details:
One of the most critical challenges facing South Africa in the post-apartheid era is how to prepare teachers for the complexities and challenges they may face in the work situation because the educational landscape has undergone dramatic changes in the previous decade. The new paradigm takes for granted a well-established educational infrastructure and a professionally trained teacher supply base. It does not take into account the different levels of complexity in which new policies emerge in postcolonial societies. It also does not adequately account for the unequal educational contexts that were inherited from apartheid. Furthermore, teachers have been portrayed one-dimensionally over time, e.g. villains and failures; liberators; agitators; and victims, amongst others: each descriptor reflecting the political ethos of each period. Undoubtedly, multidimensional images are required as teachers are important players in the system. A research-informed platform, we argue, may offer the best way to produce counter-narratives to challenge the hegemony of pathologized perspectives of teachers over the past few years. In view of the present situation in South Africa, this project proposed an exploration of multiple facets of teachers’ work in South Africa. Teachers’ work is a complex notion that veers from formal, official prescriptions of what has to be done in terms of enactments of roles and functions to unanticipated contingencies so that the work teachers do differs from school to school. Multiple methodologies, both qualitative and quantitative will be deployed, with a variety of methods (interviews, focus group interviews, artefacts, transect walks, work diaries and observations) to elicit data to capture the depth and breadth of the work teachers are doing and to influence teacher education programmes in ways that may make them relevant, coherent with the current landscape of education, and to prepare a cohort of teachers to cope with uncertainty, complexity and diversity.

We All Count Educational Project

Project Leader(s): Dr Thabo Msibi
Funder: HIVOS
Project Details:
This project seeks to address homophobia in schools by empowering teacher-educators across the country to competently teach about sexual diversity matters to pre-service teachers. Based on the premise that many of the challenges experienced by the LGBTI community with regards to HIV/AIDS vulnerability, limited access to healthcare services and general abuses in communities are driven by ignorance, the project positions education as a possible avenue through which homophobia and heteronormativity can be challenged, consequently improving the lives of LGBTI individuals.
The project has two interrelated outcomes. The first and main outcome focuses on training university educators to competently teach about sexual diversity in higher education institutions across the country; individuals from twenty higher education institutions offering undergraduate teaching programmes will participate. The second and minor outcome will focus on empowering 10 student-teachers (‘foot soldiers’) on facilitating sexual diversity teaching in schools. These ‘foot soldiers’ will offer training and support to schools wanting to be trained on sexual diversity matters in order to extend reach.
For the first outcome, the teacher-trainers will be invited to apply for participation in order to ensure that only interested individuals are trained. Focus will be mostly on facilitators teaching Life Orientation and Sociology of Education. A 3-day workshop in a Durban hotel will be held, with colleagues from the University of the Free State, GALA and the International Centre on Non-violence (ICON) collaboratively working with the project leader in facilitating the sessions. Participants will be required to integrate sexual diversity matters in their taught courses. Support will be offered to all participants in this process of integration, with students expected to evaluate the sessions.
The ‘foot soldier ‘ component involves training senior education students (3rd/4th year BEd, honours and masters) to be facilitators on teacher training. Ten students are currently being trained over on facilitating. Students with previous experience in the area have mostly been selected. Trained students will be sent, by invitation, to schools requiring training. All training sessions (facilitator training and school visitations) will be evaluated.

Inside Teaching in Higher Education: South African Academic Autoethnographies

Project Leader(s): Dr Daisy Pillay (principal investigator) & Dr Inbanathan Naicker and Dr Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan (co-principal investigators)
Project Details:
Inside Teaching in Higher Education is a book about becoming and/or being an academic in relation to the pedagogic settings of twenty-first century universities in South Africa. The contributors are well-seasoned academics, as well as emerging writers, and are also of different races and genders. As participants in, and consumers of university cultures, their autobiographies are enfolded within the emerging complexities of those cultures. This edited volume pushes the boundaries of autoethnography as a non-traditional methodology within South African higher education settings to reflect diverse academic perspectives as groundwork for optimism, sustained energizing commitment and mutating forms of educational activity. It raises debates about the potential of autoethnography for facilitating cultural understandings of the academic self and of university contexts, its transformative agenda for researchers and readers, as well as its potential to bring about new learnings through the recognition and healing of social, political and historical scars.

Rural School-Children Speak (RuSCS): The School-Children Narratives of A ‘Caring’ School in Rural Contexts of Lesotho and South Africa.

Project leader (s): Dr Fumane Khanare
The proposed study is located in debates emanating from the research focus referred to as “Rural Education”. Rural education is an area of study that studies people living in rural contexts. There are many determinations of what is considered ‘rural’. Both Lesotho (see Report on Youth and Adult Learning and Education in Lesotho) (OSISA, 2012) and South Africa (see Report of the Ministerial Committee of Rural Education (Department of Education, 2005) use locale codes to delineate among urban, peri-urban, rural districts and schools. The debate in the field is that rural communities offer many unique resources that can be leveraged to enhance care and support of school-children (Chikoko & Khanare, 2012; Moletsane, 2012). An important understanding is that research in the field needs to acknowledge the 'dynamism' of rural communities, including school-children as active agents in rural schools. The study is also located in debates on participatory research and schools as ‘centers of care and support’. This focus will enable the researchers to also examine a range of issues including mapping and mobilisation of resource in the rural schools; whole school relationships that promote care and support to school-children as well as ethical and methodological issues in researching children. More broadly by employing participatory visual methods, a high value is placed on enabling participation even where words are not easy to articulate. The study prioritizes school-children’s voices in relation to care and support.

Female secondary school science teachers’ experiences and views on gender and science

Project Leader: Dr Nonhlanhla Mthiyane
Although South Africa has made significant strides in the effort to achieve gender equity in education, women and Africans continue to remain underrepresented in the fields of science, engineering and technology. While a lot of research has been conducted on gender in education in South Africa, and on poor performance in science and mathematics education, not much focus has been paid to issues of gender in science and mathematics education. The purpose of this study is to explore female secondary school science teachers’ personal and professional experiences as learners and teachers of science. The study aims to gain a better understanding of the views and perceptions of selected science female teachers, related to gender and participation in science.
This study seeks to answer the following research questions:
  • How do female science teachers perceive their educational experiences in science and mathematics?
  • How do female science teachers view the role gender has played in their personal and professional lives as science learners and teachers?
  • What do female science teachers say about how their educational experiences influenced their academic and career choices?
  • What are female science teachers’ views and beliefs about gender in science education?
  • The study aims to achieve the following objectives:
  • To explore female science teachers’ experiences of school and university science
  • To explore the role female science teachers believe gender has played in their academic and professional lives
  • To examine how female science teachers’ educational experiences influenced their career choices.
  • To explore female science teachers’ beliefs and views about gender in science and mathematics education
  • To sensitize female science teachers about issues of gender in science and mathematics education

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