Faculty of Education
School of Educational Studies
Department of Curriculum Studies
Selected Highlights from Research Findings
In the process of changing education in South Africa, no significant attempts have been made to explore the beliefs and role perceptions that student teachers hold of a professional educator. In an effort to broaden the views of teacher educators on the existing deep-seated personal beliefs and images that pre-service teachers brought into an experience-rich one-year Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) programme, the researchers isolated the perceptions that pre-service teachers held of teacher roles as an indicator of professional development. Research on professional growth that was conducted in the early 1990s showed that the personal beliefs and images that pre-service candidates bring to programmes of teacher education usually remain inflexible. Candidates tend to use the information provided in coursework to confirm rather than to confront and correct their pre-existing beliefs. A candidate’s personal beliefs and images therefore determine how much knowledge the candidate acquires from a pre-service programme and how it is interpreted. In the current study, data regarding the student teachers’ perceptions of their roles were obtained using visual image collages that each student teacher had to construct individually. Each student teacher had to explain his/her collage to the interviewer in an open-ended style. The purpose of the collage was to elicit deep reflection, inner-exploration, anticipation and visioning by the student teacher to ensure that rich and thick explanations emerged as data. The researcher found that 96% of the prospective teachers explicitly imported the concept of multiple roles, which they see themselves performing in the complex classrooms of the knowledge era. Approximately 70% of the students conveyed ideas of nurturing and caring by means of the metaphor of being a ‘mother’ to learners. They typically said: “A school is a safe haven and only place of security for many children from broken families”. The presence of inclusion and the teaching of children with HIV and AIDS were strongly presented as reasons for the role of caring. The fact that many children would be orphans, due to parents dying from HIV/AIDS, was another reason for referring to the mother metaphor. The third most popular role manifestation (68%) was that of a knowledge provider enacted as a facilitator of learning. Prospective teachers concluded that their role would be “to teach learners how to access and evaluate the quality of all the available information” and not to only lecture the subject content. Therefore, they said that their role had changed from that of ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side’ and that new kinds of (power) relationships have to be forged with their learners
Contact person: Prof A Hattingh.
Prof Kobus Maree conducted research on post-modern narrative career counselling in several schools in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West and Limpopo. He was also involved in designing a combined qualitative/quantitative narrative to evaluate and assess learners with a view to administering career counselling in collaboration with co-researchers, some of whom are international experts in this field. In administering this post-modern approach to the career counselling process, the researchers viewed learners as active agents in their personal development. The overriding aim of the research was to develop a narrative that can be used to help learners make well-informed career choices. The need for a concise narrative to help disadvantaged school-leaving learners to choose their future careers in a relatively short space of time cannot be overemphasised. Learners who took part in the programme were exceptionally keen to participate. The team made a number of findings. There appears to be a dire need in all schools for career counselling. Even in 2009, very few schools have access to state-of-the-art career counselling services. Disadvantaged schools, in particular, are receiving the short end of the stick and have limited access to these (often overly) expensive services. There appears to be a dire need in all schools for ‘other’ assessment instruments than the traditional test-and-tell instruments. The career interest and broad personality profiles of disadvantaged learners, in particular, simply cannot be established by using only ‘positivist’ assessment instruments. A storied approach to career counselling lends itself superbly to determining these learners’ profiles. The notion of adaptability needs to be facilitated in every classroom. The logistics involved need a serious rethink. It is imperative to adapt qualitative assessment instruments in (South) African conditions. Furthermore, it is essential to adapt assessment instruments for use in all schools by teachers with all learners (and not only a small percentage of learners from affluent environments). It is imperative to develop career interest and personality assessment instruments that will not take overly long to complete and that can be interpreted by, for example, teachers in Life Orientation. Far too many learners exit from Grade 12 with little or no idea as to exactly where they are heading, or equipped with even the most basic information to help them make informed choices. This factor contributes significantly to the high drop-out rate at tertiary institutions
Contact person: Prof JG Maree.
The Department of Community Engagement was established in 2007 and ceremonially launched in 2008. The department’s mission is to advocate, initiate, facilitate, coordinate, promote, support, monitor, evaluate and report on all the University’s community engagement activities.
The department is structured in a manner that seeks to fulfil its mission. The Curricular and Research-related Community Engagement (CRCE) division is internally focused and seeks to integrate and embed community engagement into the scholarly endeavours (teaching and research) of the University, while the Community Engagement Programmes and Projects (CEPP) division seeks opportunities with external partners, whereby students can fulfil the obligations of their curricular community engagement modules.
The overall thrust of the department is towards a ‘scholarship of engagement’ that seeks to complete and sustain the loop of knowledge generation through community-engaged research. This focuses on the identified challenges faced by the University’s own constituencies, which feed back into the curricula in the various disciplines to further empower scholars to engage new or different challenges that may be encountered
Contact person: Dr CJG Bender.
The University has three core functions: teaching and learning, research, and community engagement. It acknowledges that there is some intersection among them.
Curricular community engagement takes place where the roles of teaching and learning, and community engagement intersect. Research-related community engagement, on the other hand, takes place where research and community engagement intersect. Where there is no intersection, non-curricular community engagement takes place, for example volunteerism and community projects, which proceed as separate activities.
The CRCE division has established a contextual and conceptual framework for curricular and research-related community engagement based on qualitative institutional and curriculum research. This framework is developed for academic programmes and is regarded as a methodology of teaching, learning and research that requires knowledge-driven, mutually-beneficial partnerships with external entities so that the University can benefit from more academic staff engagement with and in communities, as well as enhanced student learning and research productivity. The external community, on the other hand, benefits from increased knowledge and capacity to address community issues.
Curricular community engagement is a credit-bearing, educational experience and encompasses a curriculum (learning content), teaching, learning, research and scholarship activity that engages academic staff, students and community service agencies/organisations and community members in mutually beneficial and respectful collaboration. Their interactions address needs and assets that have been identified by the community, deepen students’ civic and academic learning, and enrich the University's scholarship.
At the University of Pretoria, curricular community engagement can be divided into various types of community activity, such as community-based learning, academic service learning (an example of best practice), community service, internships, clinical practicals, practicums, work-based learning, experiential education, community-based education, cooperative education, community-based projects and community outreach.
The following three research projects demonstrate the qualitative research that has been conducted on the contextual and conceptual frameworks and curriculum inquiry for curricular community engagement
Contact person: Dr CJG Bender.
A critical conceptual analysis of the South African higher education context reflects the lack of a structural and functional framework for the conceptualisation of community engagement in higher education. Dr Gerda Bender of the Department of Community Engagement has explored and published a framework and model for the conceptualisation of community engagement for a better understanding of community engagement at higher education institutions in South Africa. The silo, intersecting and infusion (cross-cutting) models for community engagement were presented and the attributes of a community-engaged university affirmed. The conceptual analysis confirmed that engagement is fundamentally a dynamic and relational process (partnership), that it ‘happens’ at multiple levels in higher education institutions and in multiple sites in and over time, that it involves a political and an ethical dimension, and that it is a fundamentally educative practice
Contact person: Dr CJG Bender.
This research study, with its analytical and theoretical enquiry into community engagement, revealed the four main dimensions of curricular community engagement: purpose or outcomes for the academic programme and module, content (syllabus), collaborative partnership (with a service provider and community), and educational community engagement practice. This study, conducted by Dr Gerda Bender of the Department of Community Engagement, dealt with the manifold interactions among these four dimensions, as well as the nature of each dimension. Given that the curriculum is based on the interaction, not on the individual parts, future research should determine the dynamic interaction of the academic programme with module outcomes, content (syllabus), collaborative partnerships and community engagement practice. Curricular community engagement encompasses theory and practice, so it must respond to the appeals of education action researchers that curriculum enquiry should deal with practice and curricular settings and be done by practitioners. Curricular community engagement practitioners should involve the service agency and community members in curriculum research and thus conduct cooperative and participatory action research, aimed at enhancing the scholarship of engagement
Contact person: Dr CJG Bender.
In researching the shift in attitude from a philanthropic approach to a scholarship of engagement in higher education institutions in South Africa and providing a conceptual framework, it is acknowledged that curricular community engagement requires new methods and strategies, which in turn require training and skills-building for the university and the community with which it builds a partnership. This research led to a proposal that creating and developing an academy of community-engaged scholars to deepen knowledge, share methods and improve practices would be a priority for the professional development of academic staff. The research finds that changes such as the introduction of academic service learning (ASL), which includes greater institutional engagement and responsiveness to community and societal needs, is becoming more central to institutional change at many universities in South Africa. It has been found to promote academic excellence, which is significant because the involvement of academic staff members is essential if ASL is to be embedded in academic programmes. It is suggested that the research university addresses this by institutionalising ASL and making the curriculum responsive to these needs
Contact person: Dr CJG Bender.