ABSTRACT for Theme 3: Creating transformational communities of practice, of the Conference on ‘Action Research: Exploring its Transformative Potential’ at the Action Research Unit of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, 19-20 August 2010.


Joan Conolly

Durban University of Technology



The three video clips of Joan’s presentation on YouTube (each under 10 minutes) can be accessed from:



1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vy0FXXNH2hU


2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6HTTHXYkCs


3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpYjWtGIGt4





Transforming our educational practice: Some critical reflections on the educational influence of self-study


Sixteen years after the democratic elections in South Africa, the higher education sector is still deeply troubled, and characterised by a lack of transformation of the curriculum, learning, teaching and assessment practices, and depressingly low throughput in both the undergraduate and post graduate sectors. Educators in the higher education sector bemoan the ‘underpreparedness’ of the incoming students, who are themselves deeply dissatisfied. Simultaneously, employers in all sectors are registering concern about the lack of relevant and usable skills and workplace capacities in graduates, and the rate of unemployment is rising. Clearly this is an untenable situation. Following Einstein’s injunction that “Insanity consists of doing things in the same way and expecting a different outcome”, we at DUT have instituted an action research self study program in the hope that this will break the log jam, and float our students down the river of success.


In this paper, I report the purpose, the aims and the strategies employed in the Self Study for Transformative Higher Education (SeStuTHE) project at DUT. I will share what I see happening in the group, in the institution, and in other institutions. I will report how my own awareness as facilitator and leader of the group has shifted, and how I am reflecting on my own efforts to improve my practice, and my educational influence not only among group members but also in the wider community. I will also share the impact that this project is having, including instances of success and achievement.