Exploring collaborative learning: a university educator’s self-study.
Dhlula-Moruri, Mandisa Nonceba.
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I am a university educator involved in preservice teacher education. This thesis presents the self-study project that I conducted to explore my personal and professional history of collaborative learning and my understanding of how I could apply my new knowledge in a tertiary teacher education context. My first research question was, What can I learn about collaborative learning from my personal history? To address this question, I went back over my personal history and looked for incidences when I learned collaboratively. My second question was, What can I learn about collaborative learning from my professional practice? For this question, I traced my choice of profession, my training, and my journey as a teacher/lecturer and lifelong learner to illuminate times of collaborative learning. As I engaged in this self-study project, I explored collaborative learning through the theoretical lenses of social constructivism and socio-culturalism. These perspectives on learning assisted me in recognising and acknowledging the power of the collective in raising children and in the classroom and university/school context as well. I also learned the importance of my culture, my upbringing, and my family history as drivers of my learning experiences. I used the personal history approach in this self-study project to gain an understanding of my learning and, through reflection, to improve my teaching practice. I couched my study thesis in a visual arts-based format using an extended curated photo album. Photographs assisted me on my journey back to my history, but they also helped me to paint mental pictures as I engaged in memory recall and reflective work during the study. The self-study methodology is collaborative, and I, therefore, needed my family and students for data generation and my critical friends to listen to my ideas and progress and give support by offering critique and help to broaden my point of view. I presented what I learned about collaborative learning in the form of guides, based on what I came away with from my personal history narrative. These guides emphasise indigenous socio-cultural understanding, values, uniqueness, teamwork, and the nurturing of self-confidence and self-esteem in collaborative learning.