UKZN’s School of Education is a partner in the Transformative Education/al Studies (TES) project recently awarded the Top University Research Initiative Award at the Durban University of Technology Annual Research Awards.

The TES project is an inter-institutional project involving researchers from the Durban University of Technology (DUT), Walter Sisulu University (WSU), UKZN and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).

TES is funded by a three-year grant from the National Research Foundation (NRF). The project was initiated by Professor Joan Conolly who recently retired from DUT and is currently being headed by DUT’s Dr Liz Harrison, who is a UKZN PhD graduate. The other project leaders are Professor Thenjiwe Meyiwa (HSRC), Professor Theresa Chisanga (WSU) and Dr Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan (UKZN).

‘The project aims to support academic staff members in Higher Education Institutions who are pursuing Masters and Doctoral degrees using the approach of self-study of educational practice. Another key focus of the project is on developing supervisor expertise in the area of self-study of educational practice,’ explained Pithouse-Morgan.

The project participants are 22 university educators who are undertaking postgraduate self-study research and their 13 supervisors. A diversity of academic and professional disciplines is represented, including Academic Development, Clothing and Fashion Design, Drama Education, Educational Leadership and Management, English Language Studies, Mathematics Education, Photography, and Teacher Development Studies.

‘We are in the second year of this three-year project. TES project activities so far have included twice-yearly inter-institutional workshops facilitated by international self-study experts, regular research support meetings at the individual institutions, presentation and publication of collaborative papers, and participation in online classrooms and list-serves. For 2013, we are also planning a TES project exhibition,’ said Pithouse-Morgan.

Findings from the first two years of this three-year project suggest that student and supervisor involvement in an inter-institutional, trans-disciplinary learning community of self-study researchers has provided a generative alternative to the more traditional one-to-one model of supervision that has been prevalent in many South African Higher Education Institutions.

Another key discovery is that supervisors have reported greater enthusiasm and self-motivation among their students who are undertaking research through the TES project as compared with those that are not involved in the project.

‘Linked to this is that students and supervisors have highlighted that they have enjoyed being exposed to a range of innovative and creative research methods through the TES workshops and other TES activities and that they have found these methods helpful in their research and in their educational practice,’ Pithouse-Morgan said.

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