PhD Graduate Profile 2017-2019

2017

Aristides Manuel De Estevao Baloi

Aristide’s PhD focusses on transformative social learning in community-based irrigation scheme development in Mozambique.  Engaging with farmers, trainers, and market system actors in two sites over a three year period, Aristides examined how farmers’ learning of associative irrigation scheme practices can be expanded via co-engaged research and learning processes. The study offers a new model of transformative social learning which contributes to post-colonial curriculum transformation, and to improvement of agricultural livelihoods, well-being and sustainability amongst farmers moving out of poverty.

Joseph Chidindi
Quality assurance processes have become commonplace for universities around the world. Joseph Chidindi’s thesis analysed the implementation of the Zimbabwean Council on Higher Education’s quality reviews. The study found that quality enhancement was constrained when excellence is seen to mean the same thing everywhere and where context isn’t taken into account. There were also power struggles between stakeholders within and beyond the universities which led to superficial compliance with regulations and prevented the kinds of collegiality fundamental to quality enhancement.  

Gabrielle Jacqueline de Bie

Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists have to be able to access complex knowledge about anatomy and physiology to develop interventions for their patients. Gabi De Bie’s study looked at the structure of knowledge in a biomedical curriculum to ask how it is that students develop cumulative knowledge practices whereby new understandings build on previous ones. She showed that if universities merge subjects without careful consideration of how each discipline produces knowledge, it can undermine the development of cumulative knowledge building processes.

Nyameka Constance Kangela

This ethnographic research study tracked five mathematics teachers as they participated in a teacher enrichment programme in Grahamstown.  The participating teachers’ growth was analysed by looking for evidence of how their professional identity grew by using Wenger’s theory of belonging.  The study found that as the teachers embraced the notion of belonging to a community of practice they were able to accumulate shared histories of learning and teaching which assisted them in moving to a designated identity that emphasized a conceptual teaching approach in mathematics.

Ian Duncan Knott-Craig

The development of learner leadership at schools in South Africa has received scant attention in research in the last two decades. Addressing this need, this study employs Cultural Historical Activity Theory as an interventionist and analytic framework. It records the personal and moral growth of a group of learner leaders over a period of three years. The study shows how transformative agency may be enabled through workshop activities framed by cultural-historical awareness. The research makes an important contribution to this under-researched field. 

 Caleb Mandikonza

Caleb’s PhD focusses on mediation processes that support teacher educators to integrate sustainability principles and practices into teacher education programmes. The study produced co-engaged, in-depth case studies of changing practice with teacher educators over a three year period in two SADC countries. It shows how change-oriented learning support for teacher educators shapes collective agency for curriculum and institutional transformation. The findings are already informing a UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development Teacher Education Initiative in 60 institutions in 9 SADC countries. 

Gitanjali Umesh Mistri

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 Durban University of Technology as a case study, Gitanjali explored the conditions that enabled and constrained the professional development of academics for the integration of digital technologies in their teaching. Emerging from the study is the significance of disciplinary knowledge structures to explain academics’ responses to academic professional development for digital learning. 

Muzwangowenyu Mukwambo

Using Afrocentric methodologies and Cultural Historical Activity Theory, Mukwambo’s study explored the nexus between Indigenous Knowledge and Modern Western Science. It explored practical ways that IK can be integrated into Science classrooms in under-resourced rural schools in Namibia. The key finding is that the inclusion of IK in Science lessons has the potential to enable teachers to effectively contextualize Science and to make it accessible to learners. The study is opportune, given current debates about decolonization, Africanisation and curriculum transformation.

Sibhekinkosi Anna Nkomo

The focus of this study was the implementation and evaluation of a bilingual English-isiXhosa Extensive Reading Programme in two Grade 3 classes in Grahamstown. Extensive Reading entails access to a variety of appropriate reading materials and relaxed reading opportunities. Much research on measuring reading through speed, fluency and comprehension has resulted in the neglect of learners’ attitudes to reading. In a safe, informal context where reading was a social activity, this study found that learners gained confidence, improved their self-esteem, read more books, and participated in book talks.

Catherine Mary O'Shea

Reading in the ways expected by universities has implications for identity. Cathy O’Shea’s thesis analysed how students at the University of Fort Hare grappled with these identity demands. A strong resistance to reading was identified, emerging from the idea that those who take on academic practices consider themselves superior to their classmates. Institutional identity was also a constraining factor. The study argues that academics can support access to powerful knowledge by understanding the relationship between academic practices and student identity. (80 words)

Presha Ramsarup

Presha’s PhD offers the first in-depth, systemic and critical understanding of environmental occupations and their emergence via learning pathways in South Africa. Importantly, the study uncovers key gaps in the post-schooling skills development system that need to be addressed if South Africa is to develop the occupational learning pathways needed for inclusive, sustainable development. The study offers new methodology for learning pathways research that is already being taken up at national level to inform green work and learning pathway development. 

Pamela Vale

Mathematical learning is acknowledged as a great weakness in South African Technical and Vocational Education. This research examined the prior knowledge of measurement, of students beginning their College studies in Engineering. The research shows students possessed some conceptual embodied knowledge and some symbolic formal knowledge, at varying levels of stability, but that they struggled to bring them together effectively. The research identifies this weak link and provides important recommendations for schooling and college preparation in order to strengthen this relating.

Lise Westaway

This thesis contributes to scholarship that explains foundation phase learners’ underperformance in mathematics. Drawing on rich empirical data and rigorous theoretical analysis, the thesis argues that by understanding teachers’ modes of reflexivity, which are inextricably linked to their identities, one can make sense of their classroom practice. The thesis breaks new ground in that it is the first internationally to explore the fundamental influence of teachers’ reflexivities on learner underperformance in mathematics. 

 

2018

GIQWA, Nomfundiso Louisa, MEd (Rhodes), in Education, in the Department of Education. Degree by thesis: Thesis: Waste management knowledge, its production, recontextualisation and circulation in Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) training programmes. Supervisor: Distinguished Professor H Lotz-Sisitka.

There are very few studies that provide insight into workers’ knowledge in South Africa. Nomfundiso’s study investigated how waste management knowledge is produced and how it translates into workers’ training on waste management in the Expanded Public Works Programme in South Africa. The study identified that waste management researchers, policy makers and trainers generally don’t take account of workers’ prior knowledge of waste management. The study recommends approaches that can recognise workers' knowledge in EPWP training programmes to improve learning.

KAJEE, Farhana Amod, MEd (UKZN), in Education, in the Department of Education. Degree by thesis. Thesis: Knowledge and knowers in Educational Leadership and Management (ELM) Master’s programmes in South Africa. Supervisor: Professor H van der Mescht. Co-supervisor: Professor C Grant.

Responding to national concerns as well as perceived weaknesses in the field of Educational Leadership and Management, this study used Legitimation Code Theory to surface serious discrepancies in terms of both knowledge and knowers across Master’s programmes offered by six South African universities. The study concluded that weak programmes’ most significant weakness lay in envisaging students as knowers who were professionally proficient but critically weak, thereby perpetuating the legacy of an impoverished and socially unjust education.   

MAGADLA, Noluthando, MEd (WSU), in Education, in the Department of Education. Degree by thesis. Thesis: An investigation of the teaching of reading in isiXhosa in three Grade 1 classrooms in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Supervisor: Professor E Mgqwashu.

Using a Systemic Functional Linguistics lens, this study investigated the teaching of isiXhosa reading in three Grade 1 classrooms in the Mt Frere District of the Eastern Cape. The two participants were Grade 1 teachers in a rural, township and ex Model-C school. Classroom observations, unstructured interviews and documentary evidence were used as research methods. The findings revealed a correlation between home literacies in isiXhosa and the development of reading in isiXhosa for all learners. 

MAWELA, Rethabile Rejoice, MEd (Solusi), in Education, in the Department of Education. Degree by thesis. Thesis: Using reading to learn Pedagogy to enhance the English First Additional Language Teachers’ classroom practice. Supervisor: Professor E Mgqwashu.

As a literacy intervention, this study used Reading to Learn pedagogy t develop teachers’ pedagogical practices in the teaching of English First Additional Language. Eight English First Additional Language teachers at six rural schools near Kuruman in the Northern Cape Province participated in the study. The findings revealed that Reading to Learn pedagogy enhanced teachers’ classroom practice by expanding their content knowledge and developing their pedagogical practices. Furthermore it enhanced their learners’ critical reading skills and writing abilities.

MOYO, Mtheto Temwa, MCom (Zululand), in Education, in the Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching and Learning. Degree by thesis. Thesis: An analysis of the implementation of the teaching development grant in the South African Higher Education Sector. Supervisor: Professor S McKenna. Co-supervisor: Professor C Ndebele (Sefako Makgatho University).

Over R5 billion has been spent on the Teaching Development Grant to address poor graduation rates in universities. This study analyzed over 300 reports on the grant. While there were some success stories, the lack of strategic planning and the reliance on untheorized approaches to teaching and learning undermined the use of the grant. The historical legacies of our universities also meant that institutions with the lowest success rates were the least likely to have the capacity to spend it.

MTOMBENI, Thabile Nokuthula, MEd (UKZN), in Education, in the Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching and Learning.  Degree by thesis. Thesis: Knowledge practices and student access and success in general Chemistry at a large South African university. Supervisor: Professor J Vorster.

General Chemistry is compulsory for many degree programmes in the natural sciences. However, there is ample evidence that success in this subject remains a major challenge, particularly for black students. Using Legitimation Code Theory, the study makes visible the principles that shape the General Chemistry curriculum in one university and points to how changes to the structure of the curriculum could make it possible for more students to gain access to the knowledge of the field of Chemistry more broadly.

MUTAAYA, Sirajee Abu-Baker, (Makerere), in Education, in the Department of Education. Degree by thesis. Thesis: Decentralization and quality assurance in the Ugandan primary education sector. Supervisor: Dr C Smith (UJ).

This case study explored how school monitoring and evaluation informs policy making in Uganda’s decentralised education sector. The study adopted Critical Realists assumptions. Interviews were conducted with school personnel, members of government, and school district and education ministry officials. On-site observations and document analysis complemented the interviews. The findings indicates that although monitoring and evaluation processes are in place, decentralisation has resulted in an ambiguous quality assurance policy environment that poses a risk to the primary education sector.

NUDELMAN, Gabrielle Reeve, MA (UCT), in Education, in the Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching and Learning.  Degree by thesis. Thesis: A social realist study of employability development in engineering education. Supervisor: Professor LE Quinn. Co-supervisor: Professor J Vorster.

A key purpose of an engineering degree is to prepare students for the workplace. However, the findings of this study, which critically examined two courses specifically aimed at this purpose, show that, contrary to commonsense understandings, the acquisition of discreet workplace skills does not improve employability. An engineering degree needs to provide authentic learning opportunities that promote real-life application of knowledge, understanding of the roles of engineers and most importantly, opportunities for students to take on the identities of engineers.

RAMADHAN, Maryam Khamis, MEd (Dar es Salaam), in Education, in the Department of Education. Degree by thesis. Thesis: A critical analysis of the establishment, conceptualisation, design and curriculum component selection of Master of Education programmes at selected Tanzanian universities. Supervisor: Professor PD Wilmot. Co-supervisor: Professor B Brown.

This study responds to the need for quality teacher education in Tanzania. Using Bernsteinian and Critical Realist lenses, Maryam undertook an in-depth critical analysis of the way in which the curricula of two Master of Education degrees for teacher educators were developed and implemented at two universities. She uncovered, identified and explained factors enabling and/or constraining quality in the programmes. The findings are relevant and useful for the quality assurance boy of Tanzanian higher education and the two universities.

ROBERTSON, Sally-Ann, MEd (Rhodes), in Education, in the Department of Education. Degree by thesis. Thesis: The place of language in supporting children’s Mathematical development: Two Grade 4 teachers’ use of classroom talk. Supervisor: Professor M Graven.

This study illuminates the linguistic challenges to second language children’s learning of school mathematics. It describes the challenges teacher face in covering the curriculum, while simultaneously inducting learners into mathematical discourse. It highlights the need for proactive challenging of English as a language of learning and teaching as an obvious route to educational and economic opportunity. Furthermore, it counterbalances deficit discourses implicating teachers as a major contributors to South Africa’s poor mathematics performance.

SAULS, Gideon George, MPhil (UPE), in Education, in the Department of Education. Degree by thesis. Thesis: The national skills fund and green skills: Towards a generative mechanism approach. Supervisor: Distinguished Professor H Lotz-Sisitka.

The field of educational grantmaking is an under-researched area in South Africa. In this study Gideon undertook an in-depth, critical analysis of the National Skills Fund and its responsiveness to the rapidly emerging demand for green skills and sustainable development in South Africa. The study identified key mechanisms influencing grantmaking in the National Skills Fund. It recommended strategic approaches that inform a more pro-active approach to aligning the National Skills Fund grantmaking function with sustainable development goals in South Africa.

SHILONGO, Erica, MEd (UMEÂ), in Education, in the Department of Education. Degree by thesis. Thesis: Factors that shape learner achievement in socially disadvantaged and rural contexts: A social realist study in two rural senior secondary schools in Omusati region, Namibia. Supervisor: Professor E Mgqwashu.                    

Using a Social Realist Lens, this study used survey questionnaires, unstructured interviews, documentary evidence, classroom observations and field notes to understand the factors that shaped learner performance in the Omusati region of Namibia. The research participants were teachers, 12 learners and their parents/guardians. The findings revealed that learners constantly navigate their socio-economic conditions and succeed academically.

VAN STADEN, Wilma, MSc (North-West), in Education, in the Department of Education. Degree by thesis. Thesis: A review of climate-smart system innovations in two agricultural colleges in the North West Province of South Africa. Supervisor: Distinguished Professor H Lotz-Sisitka. Co-supervisor: Professor R O’Donoghue.

The Agricultural sector in South Africa is highly vulnerable to climate change. Yet there is little curriculum innovation for Climate Smart Agriculture taking place in South Africa’s Agricultural Colleges. In this study Wilma collaboratively developed a curriculum innovation review tool informing integration of Climate Smart Agriculture in SA’s agricultural colleges. Working intensively with two colleges in the North West province, the study shows that the curriculum review tool can pro-actively support integration of Climate Smart Agriculture into Agricultural College curricula.

 

2019

Meredith Armstrong

Preparation and support for schooling in the home have long been recognized as critical for long term success in education.  This study involved Meredith spending time in a marginalized community in Port Elizabeth on a daily basis in order to explore the way caregivers and children went about learning to learn.  The study provides detailed insights on the way poverty impacts on language and literacy development and works to thwart the desires of caregivers who want nothing but the best for children.

Caroline Bell

One of the major environmental problems facing humanity is ocean degradation. Caroline’s study addresses the much neglected area of upskilling of Marine Science and Management professionals in South Africa. The study provides in-depth understanding of the complex nature of upskilling practices of marine professionals, and shows that there is a need for giving attention to the intersection of learning, specialisation, and sector community building in upskilling practices. Importantly, the study shows that marine environmental conditions themselves significantly shape upskilling processes. [80 words]

Percy Chinganga

This study probed the contested terrain of leadership formation in the Anglican Church of South Africa. Drawing on activity theory and critical realism, the study found that the various bodies involved in leadership formation in the church could work towards a shared understanding of the leadership project through expansive learning. The study concludes by proposing a model to this effect.

Beata Dongwi

This doctoral work showed that reasoning and visualization are thinking processes that are inextricably linked when solving mathematical problems. Using the theory of enactivism, this work was able to show how reasoning and visualization co-emerged as embodied processes that selected Grade 11 learners employed when solving geometry word problems.  The significance of this study lies in interrogating the much-neglected learning process of using visualization as a strategic problem-solving strategy in mathematics.

Mlamuli Hlatshwayo

Calls for decolonisation echo loudest in university corridors. This study uses an investigation of the field of Political Studies to show that central to curriculum decolonisation are issues of both what knowledge is legitimated and the extent to which students are expected to become particular kinds of knowers. Findings uncover ways in which the development of a critical gaze was required in this field and the study demonstrates tools for ensuring that all curricula are inclusive, open and socially just.

Experencia Jalasi

Over 2 million low energy cook stoves have been distributed to communities in Malawi to address climate change challenges. Few have given attention to how this socio-technical innovation aligns with local cultures of cooking practice. Experencia, through a three year transformative learning process, engaged women, NGO distributors and government officials in addressing this issue. The study is a world-first, as it centres on concerns of the rural women who use these stoves. Importantly, it shows their agency for driving change. 

Lynette Sibongile Masuku

Too many children in South Africa fail to progress beyond the first years of schooling. With this as central problem, Sibongile investigated local cultures of children, with emphasis on their sophisticated knowledge of cattle. Seeing this as an important medium of cultural expression, she develops a strong argument for post-colonial approaches to teaching and learning in education. Her work provides a leading African study in respecting the knowledge of young children as a foundation for early learning and curriculum development.

Mary Murphey

We are all faced with the complexity of dealing with mixed messages about environmental risk presented via the media. In this study Mary considers the complexity and contradictions in multi-media messages and how they influence our agency for change. Reflecting on her own experiences in addressing conflicting signals embedded in many environmental media texts, she develops a transformative learning approach using the semiotics of storytelling for communicating complex environmental concerns in environmental education. The thesis itself, offers such a story. [80 words]

Evelyn Muthama

The national university funding formula greatly rewards research output but fails to consider how the histories of our institutions continue to have effects. This study, as part of a larger project on institutional differentiation, analysed data from all seven historically black universities and identified how both university contexts and neoliberal forces in the so-called knowledge economy affect research production. The study also identified that financial incentives for research production can limit our conceptions of research and result in unintended consequences.

Josephine Mwasheka Nghikefelwa

An investigation into the mediation of the representations of gender roles in God of Women: a critical discourse analysis of pedagogic practices in selected Namibian schools

The study used Feminism and Critical Discourse Analysis to explore the role of pedagogical practices in the mediation of stereotypical gender representations in God of Women, a literary set-work for Grade 9 ESL learners in Namibian secondary schools.

How teachers’ pedagogic practices shape learners’ understanding of gender representation through classroom discourse was the study’s focus. Teachers focused more on the form than the content.  There was absence of discussion on gender stereotypes in the text.  Learners maintained the traditional gender roles as endorsed by their teachers. 

Peta Lyndrianne Myers

The four-year Accounting programme is the gateway to becoming a chartered accountant. Worryingly, too few black candidates complete this programme successfully. The findings of this social realist study into mechanisms that help and hinder student success offer practitioners and policy-makers insight into the struggles of some Accounting students with the language, practices and ways of being required for success; and that make it difficult, especially for black students from poor backgrounds, to take advantage of learning opportunities available to them.

Elizabeth Ndjendja

Investigating Mathematical Proficiency Testing in Namibian School High Stakes Mathematics Examinations: An exploratory study

This exploratory study investigated possible adaptations of Namibian high stakes mathematics examinations, to allow assessment of mathematical proficiency beyond predominantly factual recall and procedural skill. Adapted marking rubrics incorporating proficiency and relational complexity yielded insight into learner proficiency and current examination design. Remarked results correlated with original attainment, but showed proficiency variations within grade groupings. The lack of questions requiring the presentation of mathematical reasoning and organization was a feature of current examinations that constrained the full assessment of proficiency.

Kenneth Jakobo Nzwala

Examination of teacher mediation and its impact on foundational reading skills in Grade R classrooms in Namibia

Given the Namibian literacy quagmire among learners in all grades, this study used Vygotsky’s theory to explore how children learn through teacher mediation of foundational literacies in Grade R classrooms. 

The study revealed that teachers lacked an understanding of emergent literacies and could not effectively mediate learners’ foundational literacies in Grade R. This resulted in teachers implementing the Grade R literacy curriculum in a rather schoolified manner, leading to the perpetuation of low literacy levels in the country.

Victor Tichaona Pesanayi

African communities have been disconnected from land, and from traditional agro-ecological practices including seed saving and water harvesting. In this study Tichaona recovers African cultures of agriculture. Working generatively with agricultural colleges and farmers in South Africa and Zimbabwe he re-centres the smallholder farmer in agricultural education and learning systems. His expansive, boundary-crossing learning network approach to transformative learning in agricultural learning systems offers a new model for agricultural education and training in Africa with significant theoretical and practical implications. [80 words]

Gillian Reid

This study examines the identity shifts experienced by a group of academics who left South Africa for jobs in Abu Dhabi because of changes to the higher education system here that impacted on their sense of themselves as academics. Unfortunately, the move left them confronting many of the same conditions they had fled with the result that participants ultimately experienced an even greater loss of academic identity than in their home country.

Last Modified: Thu, 28 May 2020 17:13:09 SAST