The CHERTL PhD programme on Higher Education Studies began in 2010. We are very proud to be growing a community of engaged, confident and competent researchers who can contribute to the field.
22. Dr Joseph Chidindi
This study focused on the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education. The study identified the discourses drawn on by academics and those working within Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education to construct the roles and processes of external quality assurance practices. The study was grounded on the premise that external quality assurance processes in higher education can vary according to their contextual environment. There were a number of discourses that emerged in the research study. There was a discourse of ‘control’ in which Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education put in place compliance mechanisms, setting minimum requirements for universities to offer ‘credible’ higher education. There was a discourse of ‘power struggle’ in which universities endeavoured to maintain their institutional autonomy in response to what was perceived as Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education’s requirement of compliance. In the context of higher education in Zimbabwe, an important implication of the study was evident in the discourse of ‘gold standard’ of quality assurance which assumed that quality entails a generic best practice but which fails to take context into account. While a generic ‘global’ notion of best practice in quality assurance was dominant in the discourses of quality identified in this study, there were other discourses that focused on what quality might look like within the resource constraints of the context. The study highlighted the importance of collegiality between quality assurance organisations and universities to realise success of quality assurance intentions.
Dr Joseph Chidindi has experience in research in quality assurance in higher education at both Master and PhD level. He also has experience as an academic with a focus on research design and as a teacher with an interest in inclusive education.
21. Dr Gabrielle de Bie
This study analysed the foundational curriculum of anatomy and physiology which underpins professional programmes for BSc Physiotherapy and BSc Occupational Therapy at a particular Health Sciences Faculty. Analysis spanned a twenty year period which reflected, at national and institutional level, significant changes in health sciences education, approaches to healthcare, and requirements of a health professional. Against this backdrop, there occurred at the research site, a merger of the Departments of Physiology and Anatomy to create an interdisciplinary programme of Human Biology. The fundamental disciplines previously provided autonomous curricula specific to each of the professions; now medical students follow a PBL-based curriculum while the rehabilitative health students do not and the interdisciplinary Human Biology curriculum services instead a large class of merged cohorts of physiotherapy and occupational therapy students.
This research intended to establish whether the basic biomedical curriculum was structured in ways which enabled, or constrained, the integration of fundamental knowledge of physiology and anatomy into professional knowledge. The study used LCT to characterise the professional programmes - as they transitioned over the twenty year period - insofar the bases of specialisation and meaning-making required of respective professionals in clinical contexts and practices. Specialisation and Semantics were used to map changes in the fundamental curriculum as Physiology and Anatomy transitioned from autonomy to an interdisciplinary programme. Findings established that the interdisciplinary programme is not integrated, anatomy retains power and control of the Human Biology curriculum and physiology is relegated to less powerful knowledge. The rehabilitative professions are differentially specialised, and have different requirements of the fundamental sciences; the Human Biology curriculum does not provide the physiological basis necessary for clinical knowledge-building especially in Physiotherapy.
Knowledge is differentially structured within disciplines. When key foundational subjects are merged to create interdisciplinary programmes, there needs to be full consultation of all stakeholders in order to enable social inclusion and epistemological access to the necessary fundamental knowledge underpinning unique professional contexts and practices.
Dr Gabi has a background in biological sciences, professional experience in biochemical and biomedical sciences, and more than 15 years’ experience teaching Physiology at a medical school. She is passionate about bringing the student to science, and science to the student.
20. Dr Gitanjali Mistri
This study investigates what it is that influences the choices academics make with regard to their participation or non-participation in digital technologies related academic professional development in higher education. Although digital technologies for teaching and learning are common in universities globally, the uptake of opportunities to learn how to use these technologies by academics is variable. Using Margaret Archer’s Realist Social Theory (1995) this single-institution case study offers a critical examination of cultural, structural and agential conditions that enable and constrain academic professional development (APD) for the integration of digital technologies in teaching–learning interactions at the Durban University of Technology. Archer’s (1995) morphogenetic approach enabled an investigation of the interface between the conditions encountered by the academics (at macro, meso and micro levels), in order to theorise about the material, ideational and agential conditions that obtained and which in turn influenced the decision to participate or not participate in the APD programmes. Also emerging from the study is the significance of disciplinary knowledge structures to explain academics’ responses to academic professional development for digital learning.
Gita works as the coordinator of academic development for e-Learning at the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at the Durban University of Technology.
19. Dr Cathy O'Shea
The University of Fort Hare is part of a troubled South African education system and is located in a disadvantaged, rural area. The main aim of this study was to understand Fort Hare students’ reading practices, as reported by the students themselves. The thesis used a framework of New Literacy Studies, which views student learning as a process of mastering discipline-specific, socially constructed norms and values, and sees the adopting of a literacy as including the adoption of an identity. Since discourse, in the NLS tradition, has been found to be a mediating mechanism in the social construction of identity, a critical discourse analysis was adopted to begin understanding aspects of Fort Hare students’ reading practices and the links between these and their identities. Critical realism was the ontological underpinning of this study. This means that the study aimed to identify the tendencies of certain mechanisms – in this case, Discourses – to affect students’ reading practices, by analysing interview transcripts of focus group discussions held with students. One of the implications of the findings is that lecturers and others can work towards changing Discourses and so endeavour to enable reading practices. Educators could also take steps to address resistant attitudes and encourage reading.
Cathy O'Shea is a lecturer at the University of Fort Hare's department of Communication.
18. Dr Karen Ellery
This study examines the efficacy of the Introduction to Science Concepts and Methods (ISCM) science foundation course at Rhodes University in promoting epistemological access. It draws on Legitimation Code Theory to characterise ISCM curriculum, pedagogic practices and student responses. The findings indicate that two forms of access are legitimated: epistemic-context access which represents access to the theoretical or ‘powerful’ knowledge of specialised discourses, and learning-context access which is about becoming a particular kind of learner (knower) in an academic context. It is argued that, combined, these forms of access constitute epistemological access. It is further argued that transformative pedagogies that better develop learning-context and science knowers, whilst still focussing on epistemic science knowledge, are needed in higher education science curricula today to serve students from diverse social and educational backgrounds.
Karen is coordinator of the Science Extended Studies Programme at Rhodes University. She combines her love for science and education by teaching science in the programme and researching aspects of teaching and learning. Her current research, which stems from her PhD, is focussed on how higher education can better enable epistemological access in the sciences to all students.
17. Dr Sue Giloi
The knowledge-knower structures used in the assessment of graphic design practical work in a multi-campus context
This research explores the complexities of assessing practical Graphic Design work within a highly regulated Private Higher Education sector. Assessment in creative fields is characterised by the assessment of complex achievements, tacit knowledge, panel marking and the consideration of person, process and product. In order to uncover the underlying structures of what is valued in Graphic Design assessment the knowledge theories of Bernstein and knowledge-knower theories of Maton were used in this case study to both conceptualise specialised knowledge and knower, and to analyse the data generated in institutional texts and panel marking conversations. The findings highlight the difficulties of aligning Outcomes Based techno-rationalist concepts of assessment, with assessment practices that value and make use of a specialist gaze.
Sue has lectured photography at a number of public and private institutions in South Africa and the USA. She is currently Postgraduate Academic Manager at Inscape Education Group and a member of the management committee of the Design Education Forum of Southern Africa. Her interests in research include assessment, curriculum design, design thinking, practice-based research, photography and sustainability.
16. Dr Tarsizius Nampota
The study investigated the University of Malawi’s (UNIMA) experiences with governance reforms. It used Bhaskar’s Critical Realist Theory as its main theoretical framework and employed Archer’s Social Realist Theory in the research design and interpretation of the results. The study established that there has been a significant change in higher education governance practices in UNIMA between 1997 and 2013 from the state-centric model towards elements of the corporate model of governance, alongside some strongly defended aspects of collegial governance, particularly at departmental level. These shifting governance contexts were enabled by the interplay of complex structure, culture and agency at global, national and institutional level.
Tarsizius is the University Registrar of the Malawi University of Science and Technology. His research and professional interest is in the field of higher education governance.
15. Dr Kasturi Behari-Leak
Kasturi’s doctoral study explicates the range of agential choices exercised by new academics to mediate their contested spaces. The nuanced social and critical account of the material, ideational and agential conditions in HE shows that the courses of action taken by new academics are driven through their concerns, commitments and projects. Kasturi argues that despite the university’s espoused embracing of change, the current induction of new academics is inadequate to the task of transformation in higher education because systemic conditions in HE, conducive to critical agency and social justice, are not enabling. In her study, Kasturi shows that despite difficult contextual influences, the positive exercise of agency is a marked feature of new academics in this study. This has immediate implications for ways in which professional and academic development, and disciplinary and departmental programmes, could create and sustain conducive conditions for the professionalisation of new academics through more sensitised practices.
Kasturi is an academic and professional staff development lecturer in the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED) at the University of Cape Town. She currently convenes the New Academic Practitioners’ Programme, The Short Course on Teaching, and the Learning and Teaching in Higher Education module of the PGDip/Masters coursework, all of which focus on the development of emerging, new and established academics. Her current work is focussed on examining the interplay between structures (national, institutional, departmental and disciplinary), institutional culture and lecturer agency within the framework of ‘Africanising the curriculum’. Other areas of interest include critical pedagogies, social justice, and transformative staff development initiatives such as preparing and inducting the next generation of academics into higher education.
14. Dr Langutani Masehela
An exploration into the conditions enabling and constraining the implementation of quality assurance in higher education: The case of a small comprehensive university in South Africa
Langutani’s study argues that University of Venda has put in place quality assurance policies and procedures to improve the quality of teaching and learning, but these were not always implemented by academics. The claim was confirmed by poor student performance data in the institution. Langutani explored the conditions that enabled or constrained academics from implementing these policies. This study does not only provides insight on the conditions but it further provides recommendations on how these constrains could be overcome. Although these recommendations may not be generalized to all institutions, Langutani argues that these might provide useful insight for other institutions.
Langutani is an educational development practitioner at the University of Venda, where she has held this position since June 2012. She is currently responsible for running student support programmes such as the mentoring & tutoring programmes and the First Year Experience programme. Langutani would like to see herself as an active contributor in student success projects. These, she argues, would directly or indirectly impact on quality improvement and student support.
13. Dr Thandeka Mkhize
Thandeka’s PhD research project explored issues around the poor throughput and high drop-out rate in the Certificate of the Theory of Accounting (CTA) by focusing on Accounting knowledge as an object of study. The study asked why only 9% of South Africa’s Chartered Accountants are black Africans. It spanned nine universities and asked how this profession’s powerful knowledge is dispensed. This detailed analysis of the CTA raises questions about social inclusion twenty years after democracy in South Africa. It aimed to contribute to the understanding of Accounting knowledge at CTA level by clearly delineating what is its legitimate knowledge and who are its legitimate knowers.
Thandeka has worked in quality assurance at Durban University of Technology and the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her background in working at both operations and management levels and focusing on the relationship between internal and external stakeholders has meant she is well equipped for her current research focus on enhancing student success, progression and retention.
12. Dr Ruth Searle
The study, situated in the field of Higher Education Studies, adopting a critical realist stance and drawing on the social theory of Margaret Archer and the concepts of expert and novice, explores the experiences of postgraduate supervisors from one South African institution across a range of disciplines. Individuals outline their own particular situations, identifying a number of elements which enabled or constrained them and how, in exercising their agency, they develop their strategies for supervision drawing on a range of different resources that they identify and that may be available to them. Student characteristics, discipline status and placement, funding, and the emergent policy environment are all identified as influencing their practice. Their own concerns and interests and emerging academic identities also affect their choices and the manner of their engagement. The importance of such insights contribute to a better understanding of the supervisory relationships and processes.
Ruth Searle is a Senior Lecturer in Higher Education at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Over a number of years she has been engaged in developing the Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education, and the Masters programme in Higher Education with colleagues. Her areas of interests beyond that in the postgraduate sector, teaching, learning and the curriculum, student administration and professional development. She enjoys the variety of interacting with staff across disciplines, and across institutions.
11. Dr Eileen Scheckle
Eileen Scheckle works in the School for Initial Teacher Education at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. She is also an accredited TESOL trainer and runs various TESOL courses in South Africa. Her research concern is with access to the literacy practices required for school success.
Eileen's PhD study offers an account of reading clubs as a literacy intervention in a grade 8 English class at a former ‘Coloured’ high school in South Africa. It examines different practices of ‘reading’ used by learners in talking and writing about text. This study used a New Literacies perspective based on an ideological model of literacy which recognises many different literacies, in addition to dominant school literacies. Learners’ talk about books as well as personal journal writing provided an insight into what cultural mechanisms and powers children bring to the reading of novels. The data in this study, which is presented through a series of vignettes, found that grade 8 learners use many different experiences and draw on different discourses when making sense of texts. It was found, in the course of the study, that providing a safe space, scaffolding, multiple opportunities to practice and a variety of reading material, helped learners to access and appropriate dominant literacies. In addition, learners need a repertoire of literacy practices to draw from as successful reading needs flexibility and adaptability. Reading and writing inform each other and through gradual induction into literary writing, learners began to appropriate and approximate dominant literacy practices. This study would suggest that literacies of traditionally underserved communities should not be considered in deficit terms. Instead these need to be understood as resources for negotiating meaning making and as tools or mechanisms to access dominant discourse practices. In addition the resilience and competition from Discourses of popular culture need to be recognised and developed as tools to access school literacies.
10. Dr Sherran Clarence
This study examined pedagogic practices of lecturers in Political Science and Law. The aim was finding a social realist alternative to social constructivist pedagogies that can take account of both knowledge in the disciplines, and who the knowers need to be. The study argues that, if what is desired in higher education is cumulative learning, where students connect different knowledges and skills together into larger 'constellations' of meaning such that this process transforms their habitus from being a student studying the law, for example, to being a novice lawyer, then pedagogy cannot be blind to knowledge, and the ways that it shapes learning, as it is shaped by those who learn it.
Sherran is currently an A W Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching, and Learning (CHERTL) at Rhodes University, where she is building on her PhD research with additional case studies. Her present research focuses on using tools drawn from Legitimation Code Theory to work with lecturers, developing social realist-informed approaches to teaching and learning in the disciplines.
9. Dr Hilda Freimuth
The thesis investigated Emirati students’ claims of experiences of cultural bias on the reading component of the IELTS examination through a critical realist lens. There were two parts to this investigation: a content analysis and a focus group study. Findings indicated that on average, an IELTS examination contained 14 cultural references with the majority of geographical references pertaining to the West. Emirati students also reported a number of common experiences which were traced back to numerous socio-cultural structures and discourses, confirming the student experience of bias as very real. These findings are significant as they contradict claims of neutrality.
Dr Hilda Freimuth works as Senior Lecturer and Student Learning Centre Co-ordinator at Khalifa University of Science, Technology, and Research. Dr Hilda has worked in the region for the past 11 years. She is currently conducting educational research for the various think tanks in the UAE and contributing chapters to books that focus on education in the UAE. She has also used her research skills to create two educational apps to help students around the world do better on the IELTS examination.
8. Dr Pamela Johnson
Arising from Marxist theory, critical theory investigates the mechanisms that enable continued domination in capitalist society, with a view to revealing the real, but obscured, nature of social relations and enabling these to be challenged by subjugated classes. Within the broad spectrum of Marxist theory, social relations of domination and subordination are assigned according to the relationship of social classes to economic production. However, the neo-Marxist perspective developed by Antonio Gramsci locates relations of power within the broader context of the political economy. The manner in which relations of power are cemented through the exercise of hegemony lies at the core of Pamela's thesis. It investigates the relationship between the State and the administrators of the University of Fort Hare, as well as the responses to the activities of the State and University Administration within the University itself, over an extended period of time between 1916 and 2000.
Pamela Johnson is a lecturer in the University of Fort Hare's department of political science and international relations.
7. Dr Jacqueline Lück
Jacqui's PhD began from a desire as a language lecturer to understand the programmes in which she teaches. Literature tells us that academic language development works needs to be embedded within disciplines but there is little guidance on how to do this. This is especially complex because language lecturers are usually outsiders to these programmes. Legitimation Code Theory gave her the tools to begin to understand how disciplines work and how cumulative knowledge is built. Jacqui also drew on New Literacy Studies to understand how social practices develop and relate to the knowledge structures of a first-year diploma and degree. Jacqui's analysis of the Public Management and Public Administration programmes at a Comprehensive University also adds to our understanding of different programme structures.
Jacqui teaches at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, where she has worked since 2005. She teaches Academic English to first year Law students and English Language Studies from first year to Honours students. Her teaching focuses on academic literacies and language, ideology and identity. She also supervises Public Management Masters students who have a keen interest in issues of educational access and governance.
6. Dr Bernie Millar
Bernie Millar has been teaching Information Literacy at CPUT since 2007. This includes teaching academic literacies to first year students and research methodology to fourth years. She also supervises Masters students in the Emergency Medical Science (EMS) Department where she undertook her research for her Critical Realist Ph.D. into the emergence of identity in paramedic students and professional paramedics. Currently she is co-supervising a Ph.D. student in EMS at UCT who is using Critical Realism as a conceptual framework. Her research interests cover critical realism, multilingualism in Higher Education, threshold concepts, concept mapping and developing innovative teaching strategies on the Extended Curriculum Programme.
5. Dr Amanda Hlengwa
Drawing on critical realist philosophy as a meta-theoretical framework, this study explores the conditions that enable and constrain the infusion of service-learning in university curricula. In this study four discipline-based cases are analysed within the context of an over-arching case of one South African university. The cases broadly represent the disciplinary array of Rhodes University, a small traditional research-intensive university in South Africa. The study shows that the nature of the discipline has a significant influence on the emergence of service-learning and the form it takes in each context. Key agents draw on available structural and cultural mechanisms to either maintain the status quo or they exercise their personal properties and powers to mitigate existing conditions.
Amanda lectures in CHERTL at Rhodes University. She has worked in the field of higher education as an academic developer for a decade. She sees her contribution to the field of higher education studies emerging primarily from two areas. Curriculum development concerns, with particular focus on the relationship between disciplinary knowledge and teaching and learning. The second contribution is linked to her role as Rhodes University’s co-ordinator of the DHET funded New Generation of Academics Programme (NGAP). Both interests are underpinned by her commitment to the transformation agenda of higher education.
4. Dr Philippa Kethro
Philppa’s research addresses design studio pedagogy in higher education, where problematic interactions between teachers and students concern shared interpretations of the visual meaning of the students’ designed objects. Philippa used critical realist philosophy and social systems theory to explain the effect of pedagogical ways-of-knowing visual, non-verbally communicated design object meaning in these interactions. Three macro design pedagogical ways-of-knowing were identified: design inquiry, design representation and design intent. Micro, implicit distinctions within these ways -of-knowing affect the emergence of shared visual design meaning between students and teachers. Design teachers may then make such distinctions explicit in design studio teaching.
Philippa is involved in practice-based research design and methodology programmes and in curriculum development initiatives. She lectures in the department of Visual Communication Design at the Durban University of Technology.
3. Dr Delia Melanie Layton
This study considers the extent to which the tutorial system, as guided by the policies and pedagogical practices at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), a comprehensive university, is serving social justice by enabling first year students’ to gain epistemological access and achieve academic success. The study explores to what extent approaches to teaching and learning and the ways in which tutorials are constructed are enabling the acquisition of powerful disciplinary knowledge and in doing so, contributing to transformation.
Delia is a lecturer at the University of Johannesburg teaching a first year academic literacy course that aims to support students in making the transitions needed in their use of language. Delia participates in the UJ ‘Scholarship of Teaching and Learning’ research project, with a social justice approach to teaching and learning. She has had two articles (based on her PhD) accepted for publication, the one, co-written with her supervisor, in an international education journal. The other, will be published in a leading South African journal. Delia is currently a co-supervisor for the ‘Institutional Differentiation’ Doctoral programme at Rhodes University.
2. Dr Penny Niven
The study draws from a collection of papers written over 5 years as Penny emerged as an academic developer in two rather different HE institutions in South Africa. The field of AD is contested, complex and unstable, and academic developers themselves are well-meaning but often poorly theorised and poorly prepared for the varieties of work they do with students and staff. By drawing on her own history and by linking it with the broader history of the field over 30 years, Penny was able to reach insights about the nature of academic development in universities and begin to develop guidelines for a more secure knowledge base and assured identity for those who find themselves researching the field.
Penny has continued to work, mainly online, helping with assessment for the various certificate and diploma courses run by CHERTL at RU. She has also written and run a private postgraduate writing course for Masters students at UKZN. Two published papers emerged from her PhD study.
1. Dr Liphie Pereira
The study is an in-depth exploration of the conditions from which the introduction of a new curriculum in Swaziland emerged. It offers explanations about the curriculum change and its implementation that are based on how structural, cultural, and agential mechanisms operating at a deeper level of reality interacted to condition the emergence of the new curriculum and the way it is implemented. It therefore provides insight into enabling and constraining effects of mechanisms (that exists independently of what we see, think, believe, or know) on curriculum-change decisions and the ability of teachers to implement curriculum changes.
Liphie is from Swaziland. Her PhD study was funded by Kellogg Foundation. She is a Business Education lecturer at the University of Swaziland. She is now working on introducing a master’s degree in Business Education at the University of Swaziland.
Last Modified: Thu, 08 Jun 2017 11:39:49 SAST