School of Education

‘Learning from Learners’ in Self-Study Research Results in PhD in Education

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A doctoral degree in Education was the prize at the end of self-study research by Dr Siphiwe Madondo in which he used children’s popular culture to elicit English creative writing and keep learners motivated and inspired in a Grade 6 class.

The thesis, supervised by Professor Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan, was presented in an imaginative manner using artefacts, photographs, drawings, collages, and poetry.  The study recognised the significance of children’s perspectives and expertise, situating them as valued partners in educational research and practice.

Madondo is a Zulu-speaking teacher in a primary school in a semi-rural area, serving an isiZulu-speaking community. The school uses English as a medium of instruction, and it is taught as a First Additional Language. With this in mind, he wanted to explore children’s popular culture as a resource for teaching and learning English creative writing.

A sociocultural theoretical perspective helped Madondo understand teaching and learning as culturally and socially constructed. His methodological approach was self-study of practice.

‘I was the primary research participant, and the other participants were the learners in my class. I worked closely with three critical friends (fellow teachers and doctoral students). My first research question was: What can I learn about children’s popular culture and creative writing from my childhood memories?’ said Madondo. ‘In response, I recalled my past experiences of children’s popular culture learning from them as a resource for teaching creative writing. I also explored my own past experiences relevant to the teaching and learning of creative writing. I recalled and narrated my fun experiences as well as memorable educative experiences using self-study methods such as memory drawing and artefact retrieval.’

His second question was: What can I learn through exploring children’s popular culture as a resource for teaching and learning English creative writing in an IsiZulu-speaking Grade 6 Class? Here, Madondo conducted English, Social Science and Technology lessons that integrated children’s popular culture content as a resource for teaching and learning creative writing.

He provided a detailed description of what transpired during the teaching and learning with examples of classwork produced by learners while employing collage and poetry as arts-based methods to analyse and reflect deeply in searching for meaningful answers.

‘This study enabled me to learn from my learners as they taught me about what was in their hearts. I experienced how popular culture content and forms can elicit creative writing and keep children motivated and inspired.  Self-study encouraged and empowered me to improve the way I teach,’ said Madondo.

He believes his ‘study has recognised the significance of children’s perspectives and expertise and considered them as valued partners in educational research and practice.’

Madondo thanked his family, friends and supervisor for their support.

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