University of the Free State (SOUTH AFRICA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 4690-4699
ISBN: 978-84-616-3847-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain
This paper argues that research which is not uni-dimensional, which tolerates and mirrors the messiness of lived experiences of the people, is best suited to create sustainable learning environments at any level and/or site of education. While not undermining the value of empirical, technicist and positivistic research, I have come to realise that we tend to miss the point when operationalising such an approach in the study of human moments, especially those that have to do with change and transformation of discursive practices and social arrangements. I have found bricolage to be that research approach because it enables the researcher/bricoleurs to create something out of nothing. It also enables such a researcher to use whatever materials available are in one’s contexts to re-create anew processes and artefacts necessary for transformatory and emancipatory agenda. Bricolage as research approach is better poised because it thrives paradoxically on making sense of what seems chaotic and contradictory. It also tries to make sense of that which may seem obscure and incomprehensible. Bricolage is multi-layered, multi-perspectival and grounded on one research question being approached from a diversity of theoretical positions. This therefore makes it possible for a plethora of voices to inform its research aim, objectives, literatures, theoretical frameworks, methodologies, etc. In this paper using data from our Sustainable Learning Environments research team comprising 28 PhD and 22 MEd postgraduate students supervised in a cohort by 15 academics at the University of the Free State, I show how we work in 50 school communities comprising at least 200 participants at each to improve teaching, learning, curriculum and governance therein in participatory research approach. As the first layer of the research team we meet on monthly basis to support one another, to debate issues, to share literature, experiences and good research practices. However at the second layer each of us working in the school communities meets almost on fortnightly basis with local stakeholders to formulate practical strategies to improve the practice and theory of education in the respective schools. What is important for this paper therefore is that our students’ competencies as researchers seem to improve faster in this approach as they learn to negotiate with respect with the participants in their natural settings, to work with them and their peers as equal partners, to be open minded to listen to the others’ point of view and to agree or differ in an acceptable manner. Based on the above, we all are called upon to formulate and assume self-chosen positions as problem solvers and agents of change. Bricolage functions to create sustainable learning environments which resemble, promote and advance democratic real life settings which are not uni-linear, are unpredictable, cannot be quantified, where universal laws about them cannot be formulated, are not objective, reliable, verifiable and repeatable as empiricism would argue. Bricolage as the theoretical framework enables us to understand the complexities of research without reducing any variable for control and determination of causality and prediction, but to allow human participants and researchers to be themselves and understand the power they have in transforming their otherwise transient situation.
bricolage, postgraduate supervision, participatory action research, sustainable learning environments