DEVELOPING SOCIALLY RELEVANT SCIENCE, MATHEMATICS AND TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION
Academics and postgraduate students from UKZN’s Faculty of Education reiterated their commitment to devising socially relevant science, mathematics and technology education (SMTE) at the recent Project SUSTAIN research week, held in Umhlali from January 22-27.
The workshop brought together academics, researchers and students from Norway, the United States, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia, and comprised a series of presentations on the theme: Making a difference: How do researchers contribute to sustainable and socially responsible research in science, mathematics and technology education?
The Co-ordinator of the Southern African chapter of Project SUSTAIN, Dr Busisiwe Alant, a Senior Lecturer at UKZN’s School of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, said that the research week presented an overall opportunity for postgraduate students to strengthen their research skills, highlight Project SUSTAIN’s achievements over the past three years and respond to the challenges of disseminating research produced by its students.
Project SUSTAIN, a co-operative venture between Southern African and Norwegian universities, was introduced three years ago with the purpose of encouraging research into SMTE that is relevant, socially responsible and acceptable to learners from diverse backgrounds. The project currently funds 18 postgraduate students from UKZN, the University of Pretoria, the University of Zambia and the University of Malawi.
In line with the theme of the research week, Mr Hans Erik Lefdal from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences presented a session on the leadership roles that researchers should strive for in securing change for SMTE research, whilst Dr Mike Savage, a retired Science Educator living in Hawaii, presented a talk on Science Education in Africa: How can educators and researchers make a difference? via Skype. Other presentations included a workshop on qualitative data analysis, conducted by Professor Iben Christiansen, an academic at the School of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education (SMTE) on the Pietermaritzburg campus.
During the research week, Project SUSTAIN announced its plans to publish a book in 2011 titled: Perspectives on a Socially Responsible Science, Mathematics and Technology Education. The book will highlight the research undertaken by the postgraduate students during the course of the project. It will be edited by Project SUSTAIN’s leadership: Dr Alant; Dr Mercy Kazima, Senior Lecturer in Mathematics Education and the Dean of Education, and Professor Dorothy Nampota, Head of the SMTE School and Chemistry Lecturer (both based at the University of Malawi); Professor Gilbert Onwu, Chemistry Lecturer and Head of SMTE (University of Pretoria); Professor Astrid Sinnes, Lecturer in Biological Sciences (Norwegian University of Life Sciences); and Professor Bill Kyle, E Desmond Lee, Family Professor of Science Education (University of Missouri, St. Louis, USA).
Dr Alant said that students are encouraged to see themselves as “agents of change” in SMTE research and should “interrogate the way in which their research contributes to socially responsible and sustainable development in SMTE”.
Project achievements to date include: initiating participation and interaction between community members and teachers on SMTE; the provision of research infrastructure at the Universities of Zambia and Malawi; developing a CD on African Studies in Science Education; collaboration with the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) to develop research capacity through partnerships in science and technology education; and the allocation of scholarships to its postgraduate students for scholarly research at partner universities.