Wêrelde uitmekaar: raad vir plaaslike, wêreldbekwame navorsers

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’n Vinnig veranderende navorsingsomgewing wat voortgedryf word deur globalisering, internasionalisering, tegnologiese vooruitgang en die gebruik van vernuwende metodologieë vereis nie net vaardige navorsers nie, maar meer spesifiek wêreldbekwame navorsers. En dan stel 'n land soos Suid-Afrika ook sy eie eise. Hier is meer as een "wêreld" binne een land teenwoordig en mense moet oor taal- en kultuurgrense beweeg wanneer navorsing gedoen word. Hoe kan navorsers voorberei word vir al hierdie uitdagings?

Lees ’n gesprek van Estelle Kruger met Ewelina Niemczyk en JP Rossouw oor hulle LitNet Akademies (Opvoedkunde)-artikel:

’n Suid-Afrikaanse perspektief op die voorbereiding van wêreldbekwame navorsers
A South African perspective on the preparation of globally competent researchers

Reaksies/Responses: Ewelina K Niemczyk in English, JP Rossouw in Afrikaans

Wat is die agtergrond van die studie – hoe het julle bewus geraak van die noodsaak dat navorsers professioneel ontwikkel moet word en hulle blootstelling aan nasionale en internasionale beleid moet kry, en ook dat daar geleenthede vir samewerking binne en oor grense moet wees?

Definitely there was a valid reason for undertaking this kind of study that eventually led to this publication. As researchers we do not operate in a vacuum and our scholarly work is always driven by intrinsic or extrinsic factors and motives. My personal line of research for the past 13 years has focused on research education and research practice in different educational spaces and contexts. In fact, the previous article about access to research assistantships published in LitNet Akademies in 2017 was also linked to research education and capacity building of future researchers. The attention to this line of research is driven by the potential of novice researchers to become contributors to the economy and society. As Nicolas (2008) would say “researchers-in-the-making are by far the most important ‘vehicles’ for the transfer of university research to society”.1 His statement was valid in 2008 as it is now.

Hoe skakel hierdie artikel van julle met die vorige een oor die opleiding van navorsers: “Toegang tot navorsingsassistentskappe aan universiteite in die globale noorde en globale suide (Access to research assistantship opportunities in global north and global south)”?

Getting back to the current article, this piece has an interesting history. Through my involvement in diverse research projects in Canada, where I come from, I became familiar with a growing literature on preparing globally competent teachers and educating globally competent citizens; however, I found no empirical research specific to the development of globally competent researchers. Considering the evolving research landscape seeking solutions to challenges of global change, I had no doubt that all nations need competent researchers able to engage in research projects across disciplines and across geographic borders. I have spoken about it with my colleague, the co-author of this article, and we both were convinced that there is a need to explore this area. That’s how the development of globally competent researchers became the focus of my post-doctoral research at the NWU in South Africa.

We investigate the development of doctoral students as globally competent researchers because they are the ones expected to demonstrate comprehensive understandings of the complexities of research and an ability to think as researchers. At that stage they should also transition from knowledge consumers to knowledge producers. To that end, we explore the knowledge and competencies that globally competent researchers require to conduct quality research, but we also bring attention to opportunities and challenges associated with the acquisition of these competencies in South African higher education. We focused on the South African sample because it is context specific and ideal for the LitNet readership. We were also mindful of the fact that the existing literature on the development of researchers comes mainly from developed countries and we wished to portray the South African perspectives.

Wie is – behalwe ander navorsers hieroor – die teikenlesers van hierdie artikel?

Our intended readership includes professors/researchers mentoring and supervising postgraduate students and post-doctoral fellows; postgraduate students; post-doctoral fellows; research managers; deans of faculties; and research personnel. However, the list can go beyond that. This is also an informative read for the officials and policymakers of the Department of Higher Education as well as those students who may be considering a career in academia.

Hoe sou julle die begrip kapasiteitsbou in wêreldbekwame navorsing in + 25 woorde verduidelik aan belangstellende (maar oningeligte) universiteitsfakulteite om hulle meer betrokke te kry by die probleem?

Dit gaan daarom om navorsers te ontwikkel wat kennis en vaardighede het om in verskillende omgewings suksesvol navorsing te doen, en veral om bewus te wees van sake wat wêreldwyd belangrik is en met onderwys en opvoeding verband hou.

Hoe kan navorsers opgelei word wat in hoër onderwys in Afrika betekenisvolle bydraes kan lewer sodat hulle wêreldbekwame navorsers is “aware of a wider world, critical global issues and their impact on education in different contexts … committed to collaborate within multicultural and multidisciplinary settings”?2

Ons kan daarin slaag as ons in fakulteite daarop ingestel is om navorsers – gevestig of nog aan die bou aan ’n akademiese loopbaan – gereeld bewus te maak van die belangrikheid van internasionalisering, en van die plasing van die onmiddellike omgewing binne die groot wêreld van navorsing. Hierdie wêreld, veral in die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks, verwys nie net na ander lande “daar ver” of in Afrika nie. Ons het verskeie “wêrelde” binne ons eie land, en ons moet bekwaamheid ontwikkel oor kultuur- en taalgrense heen, sodat ons ook suksesvol navorsing kan doen in ’n vreemde omgewing wat dalk net 10 km ver is. Maar navorsers moet steeds op die hoogte bly van tendense in die geografies groter wêreld om binne die internasionale raamwerk sinvolle navorsing te doen.

Die deelnemers in hierdie huidige studie van julle is nege Suid-Afrikaanse beginner- en ervare navorsers in die opvoedkunde. Hoe het julle besluit op spesifiek hierdie navorsers? Die groep is besonder klein en julle erken dat “die bevindinge nie as finaal of veralgemeenbaar beskou” word nie. Tog word daar betreklik breë gevolgtrekkings en aanbevelings gemaak – hoe versoen julle hierdie twee aspekte van julle benadering?

Die deelnemers was betrokke by die Europese Opvoedkundevereniging, en vir die doel en fokus van die artikel op die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks is die Suid-Afrikaners se menings ter sprake gebring. Soos met alle kwalitatiewe navorsing kan daar nie veralgemeen word nie. Daar kan op grond van die dieper begrip van ’n verskynsel wel sinvolle aanbevelings gemaak word. ’n Leser moet hom in sodanige studies nie blind staar teen die betreklik klein aantal deelnemers nie. Dit is uiteraard ook so dat die beperkte empiriese data wat ontleed is, nie die enigste inligting was waarmee ons gewerk het nie – daar is ook ’n veel wyer literatuurontleding wat bygedra het tot ons begrip van die verskynsel, wat ons in staat gestel het om breë gevolgtrekkings en aanbevelings te maak.

Ewelina, as jy die raadgewer van die Suid-Afrikaanse minister van hoër onderwys was wat in 2019 ’n boodskap aan die Nasionale Doktorale Konferensie van die Nasionale Instituut vir Geestes- en Sosiale Wetenskappe moes lewer, waarop sou jy klem lê?

This is definitely a question that puts some pressure on me, but I would be happy to take up the challenge. I would focus on the areas connected to our work, of course, and the field of education. From the outset I would have to bring the attention to rethinking the current structure and curriculum of doctoral education and thus training of researchers in South African universities. I think that there is an urgent need to take inventory of the current level of preparation of future researchers, because that is the purpose of PhD programmes: to develop competent researchers. Now, becoming a researcher does not confine one to staying in academia; the acquired competencies are highly transferable and allow for transition into the non-academic labour market. There should also be more attention given to the aspect of transferability, since doctoral students are not trained exclusively for academic positions, but that is for another conversation.

The findings of our research, along with a relevant literature review, indicate the urgency to invest in well-structured and curriculum-sound programmes that transfer knowledge, skills and attitudes expected of today’s researchers. In fact, our findings point to a mismatch between what is offered in doctoral programmes in terms of training future researchers and the actual expectations which globally competent researchers need to meet in practice. The expectations from researchers in postmodern society are escalating, but the preparation or programmes preparing such researchers are not keeping up with these expectations. Considering how much value is attached in South Africa to research and research productivity, it is very surprising that research education, and thus development of novice researchers, is not given greater attention. In fact, internationally, researchers feel more pressure than ever before to secure funding for their research and are held accountable to higher standards for research productivity. Therefore they need to be prepared for such realities, otherwise without a proper level of research competence and global preparedness the consequences can be detrimental for individual researchers and for academic standards. In short, development of doctoral students as globally competent researchers needs to gain scholarly attention as a natural response to researching in the increasingly interconnected and interdependent world. Doctoral students need to acquire adequate competencies to conduct cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural research. Capacity to conduct cross-cultural research does not only mean to conduct research in different countries but also to do research across diverse cultural groups within a single nation, as is the case in South Africa.

Our line of research shows that current organisation of doctoral programmes is often set up for degree production rather than the development of competent researchers capable of contributing to the knowledge economy of a nation or citizens who will be able to serve as agents of change. The South African government’s initiatives to expand doctoral programmes and production of PhDs need to be followed by quality development of research programmes. Serious consideration needs to be devoted to the nature and functioning of these programmes. Getting into specifics, doctoral degrees offered by research dissertation only lack proper provision for comprehensive research methods training and hands-on activities that foster researcher identity building. Such an incomplete or limited structure of the doctoral programmes carries several systemic consequences. For start, the preparation received is not proper for an entry‐level qualification of an academic career, which leads to lowering of academic standards. The South African scholarly literature is actually very clear about the fact that PhD by dissertation only based on studies of specialised topics is not suited to serving as a doctoral qualification in academic and non‐academic contexts. Doctoral programmes need at least one year of advanced coursework covering qualitative and quantitative research methods, research practice with associated opportunities and challenges (eg how to apply for funding, write a book chapter, manage conflict with participants / research members), research ethics, philosophy of education, to mention just a few components. The recommendations in our article suggest the need to organise research workshops and webinars (with use of technology); inviting speakers to share their research (designs, struggles, limitations, etc); promoting cross-cultural research to gain intercultural sensitivity; and rewarding inclusive-collaborative research between novice and expert researchers (eg research assistantships). Programmes have the responsibility to facilitate the socialising of students to see themselves as part of a research community and to see the profession they are becoming a part of as being valuable and important both to them as individuals and to society.

The restructuring of programmes is, of course, connected to having substantial resources in terms of funding and academic capital, which means that the South African government and funding agencies have to invest in research talent. In addition, advantage needs to be taken of advanced digital technology and the potential of virtual research communities. I know it sounds idealistic, but this is the only way to keep up with ever-changing research landscape and competitive global knowledge economy. I am going to be bold and say that South Africa cannot afford not to invest in development of researchers if the country wishes to flourish and compete with more developed nations. We need to plan for tomorrow; we cannot allow ourselves to get comfortable in what worked yesterday. Things are moving fast in a globalised world and that also relates to research and scholarship. I foresee all key players, such as professors, researchers, students, the Department of Higher Education, granting agencies, and other government officials, engaging in active conversations about raising the quality of training future researchers.

I will end with an anecdote about the Cobra Effect that fits our topic to a large degree. In India, under the British rule the officials were concerned that there were too many cobras. In order to reduce their population, people were paid for each cobra killed. When the administrators found out that some people had started to breed cobras to kill them and collect the reward, they stopped the scheme. The farmed cobras were set free, causing the population to explode.

Now, getting back to the development of researchers: at the moment there is too much focus on the agenda to increase enrolment of PhDs and not enough on the quality of PhD programmes and research training offered. The unintended consequences, just as in the anecdote, may actually intensify the problem we are trying to solve. We want PhDs because they are expected to become the knowledge producers, innovators and contributors to prosperity and sustainable development of the nation. However, without quality research training, the number of degrees will increase but intended goals will not be met.

Is daar enige nuwe navorsingprojekte op julle horison, of gaan julle verder en dieper op hierdie spesifieke reis?

The next phase will still focus on global competence, but branching out a bit to areas such as research productivity. We have learned a lot through this research study and took seriously into consideration emerging literature and often unexpected information that participants shared with us. For the purpose of this paper we could only focus on a fraction of data gathered, but we have something novel coming up for LitNet Akademies readers.

Eindnotas

1 Nicolas, J. 2008. Researchers for tomorrow. University Affairshttps://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/researchers-for-tomorrow/.

2 Niemczyk, EK. 2018. Developing globally competent researchers: International perspective. Manuskrip aanvaar vir publikasie. South African Journal of Higher Education, 32(4).

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Kommentaar

  • Nico M Ferreira

    Dit bly vir my tragies as so 'n indiepte artikel, wat die wese van die akademie aanraak, geen kommentaar uitlok nie.
    Mi behoort dit verpligte leesstof vir alle dosente, mentors, studieleiers en promotors te wees.
    Duidelik word hier 'n vinger gewys na die "...onvoldoende opleiding en voorbereiding van studieleiers en promotors...".
    Net jammer dat die rol van biblioteke/bibliotekarisse geen melding kry nie.
    Nico M Ferreira

  • Estelle Kruger

    Dankie, Nico, vir jou kommentaar.
    Ons doel met die onderhoude is om mense se aandag oor die kwessie aanbod te trek en ons is bly dat ten minste jy daarop reageer.
    Groete
    Estelle

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    Jou e-posadres sal nie gepubliseer word nie. Kommentaar is onderhewig aan moderering.


     

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