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Monday, July 25 • 4:00pm - 4:30pm
A Systems Approach to the Development of Research Capacity: A Case Study of a Systems Practice Masters Programme

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2879 This paper brings together a systems approach and an academic literacies perspective to offer a response to the problem of how to support professionals enrolled for postgraduate study in the transition to scholarly research practice. While such study presents exciting opportunities for practice-led research, there are a number of challenges for the academic staff member who supervises the research. For becoming a researcher and scholar is more than a process of bridging a gap between the world of work and academia, as these students seek to maintain their professional identities while navigating what is valued in the academy and the power relations in and between contexts. Recent approaches to research capacity development have shifted away from viewing the transition to scholarly research practice as simply a matter of transferring skills across contexts or as socialization into the valued research conventions. Rather, from an academic literacies perspective, becoming a research scholar means coming to participate in a practice characterized by particular knowledge, tools, values, behaviours, ways of using language, and power relations, some of which is tacit and some of which is explicit. From this perspective, language use such as reading and writing is central to the process of thinking, producing data, and generating new knowledge. Supporting students in this process can present a challenge to academic staff for whom, as experts, the process of doing scholarly research has become tacit. Pressure to increase graduation rates and to reduce time to completion in postgraduate programmes, has placed the role, practice and responsibility of the supervisor in facilitating the development of research practice under increased scrutiny. Many universities have intensified their efforts at supervisor and research training by creating human activity systems with purposes aligned with this goal. At the University of Cape Town where the research reported in this article is located, discipline experts have also taken the initiative to draw on language and literacy experts to support students in research writing development for the research report or dissertation. This contribution of the literacy expert has often been in the form of a course or series of lectures as a service to a programme or group of students. This paper reports on an example of the systemic collaboration, at the level of a programme, between literacy and discipline experts in the design of a dissertation process. This programme attracts students who are working full time, usually in engineering disciplines and is offered as a block release Systems Practice Masters Programme. The purpose of supervisory practice in this programme is to develop practice-led research drawing on systems theory and practice. The specific aim of the collaboration between discipline and literacy expert is to facilitate the holistic development of the reading and writing practices valued in scholarly research practice. This design incorporates the integration of activities, modelling and feedback that facilitates interaction between the conventions of the research practice, what the student brings to the practice, and the agency of the student. The systemic approach involves working together at programme level with a clear conceptual framework of academic literacies. In this paper we present the integrative design as an activity system. We present preliminary findings of our investigation of the development of students’ research writing practices and their perceptions of the dissertation preparation process. These findings are based on the analysis of student texts, focus group interviews and reflections on the impact of supervisory practice. Key words: Academic literacies; dissertation preparation; postgraduate research capacity development; practice-led research; systemic design for learning; systemic collaboration

avatar for Professor Ockie Bosch

Professor Ockie Bosch

President, International Society for the Systems Sciences
Professor Ockie Bosch was born in Pretoria, South Africa. He first came to Australia in 1979 where he was an invited senior visiting scientist with the CSIRO in Alice Springs. After one year in Longreach (1989) he emigrated to New Zealand where he was offered a position with Landcare... Read More →

Monday July 25, 2016 4:00pm - 4:30pm MDT
ECCR 245

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