Sharing knowledge at PhD Week

Rhodes University Faculty of Education celebrated 10 years of running PhD weeks at the new Education Lecture Theatre.

The Department welcomed 25 Swedish PhDs and their professor for the 2015 PhD week.

For the first PhD week in March 2015, we have a total of 95 PhD scholars and their lecturers in attendance with 31 of these being lecturers and PhD scholars from Sweden’s Umea University’s School of Education.  

“This is our biggest PhD week, and our first where we have had an international group of PhD’s joining us from another continent”, said Murray & Roberts Chair of Environmental Education and Sustainability Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka. “This facilitates international exchange of knowledge in education, and develops understanding of how research and education systems work in diverse contexts”

“The PhD weeks provide an opportunity for our PhD scholars to ‘test their ideas’ in a scholarly community, and to bring issues into debate during the PhD journey,” added Professor Lotz-Sisitka.

The Education Faculty PhD weeks were established to strengthen PhD scholarship, and to create scholarly communities where PhD level research issues can be debated and discussed. These range from issues related to social theory and methodology or how to work with research questions in relation to context, evidence, quality and analysis.

The PhD weeks are highly appreciated by the PhD scholars.  The Education Faculty reports that PhDs that attend PhD weeks regularly are also likely to complete their PhDs in good time. 

Through interaction with other PhD scholars, the possibility exists to develop wider perspective on postgraduate research which is helpful if one goes on to providing research supervision after the PhD.

“As the PhD offerings in the Faculty expanded after introduction of the Higher Education Studies PhD programme, the PhD weeks also expanded, and one can regularly expect up to 60 PhD scholars from the Faculty gathering at any one PhD week,” said Prof Lotz-Sisitka.

“Normally the scholars meet in two groups – one co-ordinated by Professor Sioux McKenna for CHERTL and one co-ordinated by Professor Lotz-Sisitka and colleagues from the Department of Education. As both groups are in the Faculty of Education, they also seek to provide shared sessions,” she added.  

The thematic focus of the March 2015 PhD Week which is "Education, the public good and transformative practices: Understanding our research as a contribution nationally and globally.

Rhodes University’s Faculty of Education for its 10 years running PhD week hosted and welcomed Swedish PhD students and their Professor. The two Universities were sharing knowledge and ideas on how to capture and approach their research through the various platforms provided. Every day of the week was divided into two time slots, the morning slot used by lecturers and the afternoon PhD students were divided into group. These group were mostly based on the research interest of an individual and two or more if possible presented their papers and then took notes of the feedback which they were given by those present.

At the opening day of PhD week the two lectures delivered gave an overview over the Swedish and Southern African School and post-schooling systems and the contemporary challenges and the need for new educational knowledge in society. Both Swedish and Southern African perspective were outlined and these were done by Professors from the respective Universities. These lectures looked at inequality and what it meant to have access to the schooling system and being included through the structures of the University. Also presenting on how these system can allow you to have access but still exclude you through the material offered by the system. The system does this through structure were one party has better chance of succeeding than the other. Further saying that the disadvantage begins from the foundation stages and if the pattern continues in the same manner than nothing will change. These challenges are impactful based on the economic pattern and growth. In South Africa structural adjustments have been placed and were supposed to improve the situation but they have not. In Sweden the systems are getting better and this evident in the number of graduates.

The Swedish perspective was given by Professor Karin Sporre and Assistant Professor Carina Ronnqvist of Umea University while the Southern African perspective was delivered by  Professor Heila Sisitka & Sioux Mckenna of Rhodes University.

On day two of PhD week the lectures which were presented focused on language learning and how issues of identity in South African and in contemporary global research education system were a matter of inclusion.  At these lectures stated that when doing this research, an individual must think about ways to give young people access to literacy without removing their identity. Looking at the Eastern Cape as an example which is an 80% Xhosa speaking area but still English and Afrikaans dominate even though spoken by a minority. Finding people unable to understand things that they use because they do not understand or are unable to read that which is written on the things that essential to them. In this lecture the Eastern Cape was described as being a diglossic region, where there are two languages used for different purposes in one region. Here in the Eastern Cape Xhosa is used in public spaces for oral use but in a formal context where writing and reading of information is in use then English dominates.

They also looked at how to use play to understand theoretical learning. Explaining that they presented the work to students in their own language so that they can see if they are grasping what they were learning and able to apply it at a later stage. The ones who were being taught in their own language progressed and could understand the work much better than before. To ensure that proper education was occurring, those teaching had to be linguistically capable to do. Which is not always the case, a lecturer from Umea who conducted her research in India says at one of the school when reading an English book they read it one word at a time and the context to them did not matter. This to her seemed a bit pointless as it was unlikely for those children to learn to speak English.

On day three of Rhodes University PhD week post-colonial perspective influencing education. The two lectures for the day both moved towards decolonisation in their presentations. Working with indigenous issues in research is very complex. To get what you want with your research a person needs to move away from the manner in which their mind is set. The post-colonial schooling system is failing to teach children about their history and in most cases it’s because the teachers themselves do not know anything about the indigenous culture that they need to be teaching the children. The lectures also look at how colonisation and other historical events are being discussed at school but the home ground history is excluded from all of this. This is very said as some languages have died because of the lack of transfers or no transfer of them does not happen. In post-colonial era people do not know anything about their culture or language, it has been either diluted or consumed by westernization.

But now a pattern has imaged where grandchildren are learning about their cultures and they are revitalising the language’s which the parents do not even know. In Sweden a lot of Sami people lost themselves and their culture because they were not recognise as a people. Researchers must ensure these things do not happen again by creating research that creates platform were all cultures are acknowledged in both text and oral form.

Article source: Communications and Marketing

Source:  Communications and Marketing

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