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.


  • Publications, including 10 journal articles, 14 book chapters and 1 edited book. A total of 11 journal articles and 14 book chapters have been accepted for publication. In addition, 12 journal articles and 11 book chapters are under review.
  • One edited volume titled ‘The 4IR and teacher education in South Africa: Contemporary discourses and empirical evidence. Disruptions in Higher Education: Impact and Implications’ (Maringe and Chiramba) was produced and another book publication on ‘The creation of the new African University’ is in press (Woldegiorgis, Motala and Nyoni).
  • Three new book volumes were initiated in 2022: Beyond Decolonisation (Jansen and Motala), The de/recompositional grounds of the university in techno-rational times (Fataar, Keet and Motala) and Deliberation and debates toward improving higher education teaching and learning’ (Motala, Boughey and McDonald).
  • Four Special Journal Issues produced.
  • 32 presentations were made at conferences, seminars and webinars attended in 2022. The seminars, lecture series and book launches were all well attended and robust discussions formed part of the sessions that were mostly hybrid, combining virtual and physical presence. A highlight was the SARChI Chair T&L Launch seminar in March at which the two keynote speakers, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala and Prof Saleem Badat, on the topic Higher Education in the Era of 4IR – Teaching and Learning beyond COVID: Promises and Peril.
  • During 2022, SARChI T&L saw the graduation of two Doctoral students,

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.