South African Research Chair in Teaching and Learning

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South African Research Chair in Teaching and Learning

South African Research Chair in Teaching and Learning

The DHET/NSF-DSI/NRF SARChI Chair in Teaching and Learning (PSET) (SARChI T&L) Tier 1 was awarded to Professor Shireen Motala in July 2020. The inception of the Chair took place in October 2020 and the first term of the Chair continues until 2024 in a four year cycle.


The purpose and goals of the Chair are to:

  • Undertake research on T&L within a holistic and theorised framework.
  • Use evidence-based research to inform T&L policies and practices at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
  • Recognise and promote good practice based on social and curricular justice.
  • Address the relationship between education equity and social equity, especially in a context of poverty and societal disadvantage.
  • Build the capacity of young researchers to contribute to the next generation of scholars.
  • Enhance the position of the Chair as an intellectual hub in T&L research through national, regional and international collaboration with meaningful impact on policymaking and policy discourse.



Productivity, as defined by this Chair, includes both the personal development elements and the perfor­mative indices as required by the institution and our key funder, the National Research Foundation. The achievements of the team are evident through publications, the seminar series, student supervision, collab­oration, research, and capacity development.



The publications  for 2023 include twenty-one journal articles and nine book chapters. Eleven other journal articles and thirteen book chapters have been accepted for publication. In addition, eighteen jour­nal articles and eleven book chapters are under review. Dr Otilia Chiramba has co-edited two books with Professor Felix Maringe, the first: ‘The 4IR and teacher education in South Africa: Contemporary discourses and empirical evidence’, published through AOSIS, and the second: Online Teaching and Learning in the COVID 19 Era, published through Palgrave Macmillan. Professor Shireen Motala, in collaboration with the academics from AMCHES, has published an edited book: “The New African University” published through Brill (Netherlands). In addition, the Chair has co-edited two Special Issues: ‘De/recompositional grounds of the university in techno-rational times’, by Shireen Motala, Aslam Fataar and Andre Keet, was published in the Southern African Review of Education in December 2023. The second Special Issue: ‘Higher Education Funding, Justice and Equity – Critical Perspectives’, is edited by Shireen Motala, Gerald Ouma, Moses Oketch and Mukhove Masutha, and published in November 2023.

Seminars and Conferences

The Chair hosted both internal and external seminars. The internal seminars form part of the Chair’s ca­pacity-building initiatives aimed to capacitate emerging and established researchers with the skills to pro­duce work of exceptionally good quality and to ensure the next generation of academics in South Africa is equipped to navigate the ever-changing higher education landscape.

The first internal seminar for this year hosted Professor Catherine Odora Hoppers followed by another with Professor Michael Samuel, and more recently with Professor Crain Soudien. The external, public seminar se­ries included presentations by Professor Pam Christie, Dr Jordan Naidoo, Professor Catherine Manathunga, and Professor Antonia Darder, among others.

During the year 2023, twenty-two presentations were made at conferences, seminars, and webinars. The sem­inars, lecture series, and book launches were all well-attended, both face-to-face and online. This year, members of the team presented at the following conferences: The South African Research Association (SAERA); Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL); Comparative and International Education Society (CIES); Journal of Educational Studies (JES); Southern African Institute for Management Scientists (SAIMS); University of South Africa (UNISA,TEI); and a joint National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) seminar in India.

Student Supervision

During 2023, SARChI T&L saw the graduation of two doctoral students and one masters student; the com­pletion of two doctoral students due to graduate in 2024, and the addition of two PhD students whose proposals have recently been approved by the Faculty Higher Degrees committee. Throughput rates are consistently good. Progress and academic support are offered by Prof Gert van der Westhuizen. Below is a list of doctoral and Masters students currently associated with the Chair.

The research objectives of the SARChI: T&L remain focused on expanding research capacity and producing Masters and Doctoral students; responding to economic, social and transformation imperatives; creating research career pathways; and contributing to human capital development (as per 1.2 SARChI Aim and Objectives). The objectives are aimed at developing researchers who are responsive to national priorities and strategies (1.3: SARChI Guiding Principles).

The SARChI Framework on the scope of the DHET/NRF SARChI Chairs in Post-School Education and Training (PSET) notes that pedagogical access and student success are priority areas on the DHET’s research agenda. Elaboration on these areas includes the factors that impact on pedagogical access and success in PSET contexts; the knowledge, skills and attributes that lecturers need to enable effective learning; and how these should be developed. The themes of the Chair’s research programme encompass all of these areas.

The choice of the theoretical frameworks in Figure 1 below articulates with the current research interests of the Chair which, in addition to the above, relate to access including epistemological access, inclusive pedagogies, quality and systemic reform. The research addresses the criticism that research on T&L lacks a sound theoretical base. Methodologically, it uses qualitative and quantitative research methods, including participatory approaches and quantitative modelling. The starting point for the research programme is to use a variety of methods to provide informed evidence-based analysis which is systemic, institutional and individual in impact. Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches will be explored.

  • Theme 1: Teaching Excellence: Undergraduate Education
  • Theme 2: Equity, Access and Success: Undergraduate Education
  • Theme 3: Access and Success: Supervision for Quality Postgraduate Education
  • Theme 4: Socially Just Pedagogy and the Decolonisation of the Curricula.

The aim of the Chair is to contribute to a robust national conversation and scholarship on higher education teaching and learning in a context of social transition, inequality and joblessness while taking account of the new digital and 4IR imperatives. The current research on T&L raises many pertinent issues and provides the basis  for the research programme. These include the dominant model of the student as a ‘decontextualised’ learner which does not take account of structural and socioeconomic inequities and fails to adequately reflect on the home-university-society nexus.

The primary focus of the research programme is on T&L in higher education and particularly the interrelated sub-fields of academic learning and academic teaching, and student learning together with knowledge, curricular and other nablers of access and success across undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

Theoretical Starting Points Sarchi Chair

The South African Research Chair in Teaching and Learning is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), administered by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and hosted at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Professor Shireen Motala is the Chair holder and leads the programme. The primary focus of the research programme is Teaching &Learning in higher education, and particularly the interrelated sub-fields of academic learning, academic teaching, and student learning together with knowledge, curricular and other enablers of access and success across undergraduate and postgraduate studies.