School of Education

PhD study explores social and emotional learning in classrooms

UKZN staff member Dr Ntokozo Mkhize.
UKZN staff member Dr Ntokozo Mkhize.

UKZN staff member Dr Ntokozo Mkhize recently graduated with her PhD in Teacher Development Studies for her self-study project that explores social and emotional learning in her personal history and her selected Grade 4 classroom for her study. ‘I wanted to discover ways of improving my teaching practice to create a secure, compassionate, and loving learning environment,’ she says.

Mkhize demonstrates how school children’s voices should be positioned at the forefront in teachers’ self-study research in ways that respect children’s dignity and perspectives and acknowledge them as key contributors.

She offered a detailed portrayal of interactions during lessons in various subjects. She documented the lessons in her teaching developmental portfolio, which included journal entries and learners’ written and drawing activities. Mkhize emphasises ‘the importance of working together in educational settings to make sense of collective and individual experiences.’

Speaking about the highlights of her study, Mkhize said, ‘I have been seeing myself through my learners’ experiences and constantly reinventing through freely expressing myself as well as engaging in emotive conversations unconsciously.  The study has allowed me to reintroduce myself to myself and the world around me. I learnt that having an optimistic teaching and learning climate is a prerequisite for learning, forging relationships, and building character.’

Mkhize is grateful to her support system of family, friends and her supervisor Professor Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan. ‘Thank you for always believing in me and reminding me that I am capable of achieving anything in the world.’ She also dedicated her research to her late father, adding, ‘I have carried you in my heart and always strive to leave footprints that reflect your undying love for me. Thank you for colouring my childhood.’

She plans to conduct research that advocates for teacher development studies and social justice in education and to encourage teachers to study their teaching practice and to reflect on their past experiences as well as their own learning.

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