Project leader : Prof L Wood

Educational research as social change (ERSC)

This strand supports collaborative and participatory forms of research that aim to empower communities to identify and work towards attaining educational goals that will result in sustainable improvement in quality of life.


  1. To build theory regarding methodologies to enable authentic partnerships for the generation of contextually and culturally relevant knowledge that leads to sustainable improvement in holistic wellbeing in education contexts.
  2. To develop theory to enable an improved systemic and critical understanding of how education systems and communities interact to impact on wellness.
  3. To develop evidence based strategies to enhance the holistic wellbeing of education communities, particularly those recognized to be most vulnerable.

NRF Project

Action research for community engagement by tertiary institutions: beyond service learning

Project Abstract              

Community engagement is a core function of the university in South Africa. In the field of education, this imperative obliges academics to work with school communities to address the many social challenges that impact negatively on teaching and learning. Although poverty and inequality are important determinants for lack of educational success, little is known about how such barriers to learning should and could be addressed by academics. There is thus a need to develop both capacity among academics for community engagement and to generate knowledge on how this could done in a way that meets both research and community development needs. Participatory action research is a creative, innovative, collaborative and self-developed way to work with communities, based on democratic values that promote the taking of responsibility for outcomes that benefit mutual interests. This study proposes to explore the usefulness of participatory action research, as a methodology for community engagement, by conducting a meta-analysis of the process to develop grounded theory about the practices and dynamics of community engagement by tertiary researchers. The outputs of this research will describe how relevant and contextualised knowledge can be created in collaboration with communities and provide grounded theory that will contribute to the emerging field of community engagement at tertiary level.

Newton Fellowship

Ubunye: Empowering parents in disadvantaged South African communities to support classroom learning

Twenty-one years into democracy in South Africa, access to quality education still eludes those who cannot afford to pay for it. The socio-economic adversities facing the communities in which schools are situated play a large role in their dysfunction. Yet, within such communities there is a wealth of human resources that can add real value to the quality of teaching and learning. This project aims to develop community members as teaching assistants, who will work hand in hand with teachers to develop a culturally and contextually relevant programme to empower parents/guardians to partner with the school in the education of their children. An action research design, using a qualitative approach to data generation and analysis, will ensure the participation of all stakeholders in the design, implementation and evaluation of the programme. The development of such a programme will help to improve parental involvement, as well as equip unemployed community members with skills that will improve their chance of formal employment and enhance personal development.


Project leader : Dr Ansie Kitching

A Holistic Integrated Approach to Schools as Enabling Spaces (SES)

The strand intends to contribute to social change and transformation in South African school through community-based research aimed at the development of a holistic integrated approach to schools as enabling spaces in which the promotion of well-being is at the core of all interventions.

The objectives are

  • To investigate the facilitation of psycho-social and educational wellbeing within South African school communities, with specific reference to challenges relating to support processes, human resources and related policies; 
  • to investigate ways to facilitate enabling relational spaces within South African school communities across all levels of interrelatedness;
  • to investigate the enhancement of safe and inclusive spaces for all; 
  • to critically reflect on the way in which the facilitation of enabling spaces in schools communities are restrained or enhanced by the various systems;
  • to develop holistic, integrated strategies to facilitate enabling spaces across all levels of interrelatedness in South African school communities;
  • to implement a holistic integrated approach to develop schools into enabling spaces;
  • to evaluate the impact of a holistic integrated approach to the schools as enabling spaces;
  • to inform teacher education from a holistic integrated approach to schools as enabling spaces. 



Project leader : Illasha Kok

Psychological well-being of teachers in diverse teaching settings

Students working within the focus are:

L E Jacobs (1) PhD student

Teachers’ well-being, metacognitive awareness and satisfaction with life in a Mild Intellectual Disabled school setting.

This study aims to explore if there is a link between well-being, metacognitive awareness and life satisfaction of teachers who teach in a MID school setting.  A model will be develop based on the relationships to contribute to the understanding of well-being of teachers teaching in a MID school setting.

Master students:

Mr KA Mmolaeng (2)

Developmental aspect of self-actualization of the wellbeing of teachers teaching in rural school

This study aims to examine the influence of age on the level of self-actualization in teachers teaching in rural areas with respect to their personal issues.

Mr M Jacobs (3)

Implementation of the GCE curriculum in an inclusive environment: Teachers coping strategies.

This study aims to explore the coping skills of teachers during the period of the implementation of the new curriculum for the learners in the General Certificate of Education: Technical Occupation.


Ms LE Jacobs

Mr KA Mmolaeng

Mr M Jacobs

Dr. I Kok (project leader)


This research focus aims to explore the state of well-being of teachers in diverse school settings in South Africa. The purpose is to investigate the issues that might affect them and/or their work negatively and/or positively in the workplace. The insight of the participants are utilised to develop an understanding of well-being of teachers within different school settings. In conclusion a framework that indicates awareness and/or action steps towards school-site health promotion of teachers is developed. 


Project leader : Dr Charles Viljoen

Project 1 (Dr. CT Viljoen)

Health promotion in schools: an exploration into the health literacies of key role players

Project 2 (Masters project – Joleen Keyser)

Health promotion in schools: a qualitative exploration into the health literacies of parents

Project 3 (Masters project – Marijke den Hond)

Health promotion in schools: a qualitative exploration of health literacy amongst school management

Gesondheidsbevordering in skole: ‘n kwalitatiewe verkenning van gesondheidsgeletterdheid by skoolbestuur

Project 4 (Masters project – Celetia Reinders)

Health promotion in schools: a qualitative exploration of health literacy in learners

Gesondheidsbevordering in skole: ‘n kwalitatiewe verkenning van gesondheidsgeletterdheid by leerders

Project 5 (Masters project – Monique van Voore)

Health promotion in schools: a qualitative investigation of health literacy in school management

Gesondheidsbevordering in skole: Gesondheidsbevordering in skole: ‘n kwalitatiewe verkenning van gesondheidsgeletterdheid by skoolbestuur

Project 6 (PhD – Work in progress to be finalised November 2017 – Ignetia Mashau)

The teacher as a promoter of health: conceptualisation and practical implication

Project 7 (PhD – Proposal stage preliminary title – Judy Ayers)

Towards the establishment of health promoting schools in South Africa: a model for key role players


Joleen Keyser

Monique van Voore

Celetia Reinders

Marijke den Hond

Ignetia Mashau

Judy Ayers

Dr. Charles T. Viljoen (project leader)


The main focus of this research project is to understand the nature and scope of health literacies demonstrated by key role players (i.e. parents, learners, educators, school management and private sector) in their endeavours to promote health in schools. 

In the first instance, what is the nature and scope of the various key role players’ (read: parents, learners, educators, school management and private sector) health literacies in their endeavour to promote health in schools?  Secondly, based on the insights into how the various stakeholders perceive and construct their own health literacies, what can be done in a practical way to assist and support their efforts in promoting health in schools?


Project leader : Dr Elsabé Wessels

Teacher Well-being

This project involved community based research with teachers, specifically those who work in under-resourced contexts. These teachers face many challenges within their workplace that negatively affect their experiences of well-being. Research indicates that if teacher well-being improves, teachers create a more enabling climate for teaching and learning. I work collaboratively with teachers to help them find ways to improve their well-being, following a participatory action learning and action research (PALAR) design. Findings indicated that frequent, informal social contact with colleagues, coupled with explicit action to focus on positive emotions, improved teachers’ experiences of well-being.

Grade R teachers

I support Grade R teachers in rural areas to establish Communities of Practice with the purpose of empowering them to address the challenges of overcrowded, under resourced classrooms. As part of service learning, the Final year student teachers support the Grade R teachers to improve their classrooms as well as create learning and teaching support material.

Students that would like to participate will have the opportunity to meet and work with teachers in the Mafikeng district


Project leader : Tarsisio Nyatsanza

Project 1 (Prof Lesley Wood & Tarsisio Nyatsanza)

Children’s narratives of HIV and AIDS through Creative and Expressive Arts


Project 2 (Pro Lesley Wood & Tarsisio Nyatsanza)

Facilitating the Gull Community Project – Stilfontein


Project 3 – Journal Articles: (work in progress – Tarsisio Nyatsanza)

The Decolonization and Transformation of Education in South Africa.

HIV and AIDS Metaphors and African Languages


Project leader : Johnnie Hay

Overarching Subject Group Educational Psychology and Learner Support project

This project has been approved in 2015 and runs till 2019. It aims to serve as umbrella project for the Subject Group under which numerous researchers in the subject group can find a research home.

The title of the project has been formulated as follows:

Initiating and supporting psychosocial and educational wellness in diverse community contexts: innovation, development and intervention from an educational psychological and learner support perspective

The following sub-projects have been identified in the form of objectives under the umbrella title:

The research objectives envisaged currently for this project are to determine how:

1)     Health promotion and health education can be initiated and promoted within all school and other community contexts;

2)     BEd Honours Educational Psychology and Learner Support students facilitate psychosocial and educational wellness whilst being student counsellors or learner support educators in training;

3)     The BEd Honours Educational Psychology programme with its included practicum component equips students to meet diverse community, student, academic as well as professional requirements (of the HPCSA) during training and after graduation; 

4)     Trauma intervention by counsellors-in-training and registered counsellors can be delivered in order to comprehensively support individuals, specific groups and  communities within the unique South African context - by employing psycho-educational practices;

5)     Education support services of the various provincial departments of education can be supported in terms of efficient psychosocial and educational service rendering;

6)     Legal and ethical aspects of psychosocial and educational intervention are contended with in the diverse individual, group and community settings; and

7)     Educational psychology practices are implemented and utilised in communities with the aim of collaboratively working with the community stakeholders towards sustainable pathways to address contextual challenges.


Sub-project 5: Supporting education support services (ESS) of the various provincial education departments

This project has started with survey research of education support service rendering (specifically district-based support teams) in the North-West and Free State provinces during the latter half of 2015 – and it is envisaged that it will be extended to other provinces in the near future.

The ultimate goal is to develop mechanisms on how to support ESS optimally in provinces in order to ensure optimal service rendering. A number of M and D students have already been involved in strengthening this sub-project, with topics such as the following:

*  Suksesfaktore betrokke by funksionele skoolgebaseerde ondersteuningspanne in landelike laerskole in die Noord-Wes Provinsie

* Development of support strategies for the effective functioning of educators at special school resource centres (SSRCs)

* School psychological services’ support in implementing inclusive education in Zimbabwe

* Riglyne vir skoolhoofde vir die vestiging van funksionele voldiensskole binne die inklusiewe onderwysstelsel van Suid-Afrika


Sub-project 3: The perceived contribution of the BEd Hons Educational Psychology alumni of 2002-2018 to psychosocial and educational wellness of diverse communities – and their experiences of the training they received at the NWU as Registered Counsellors

This sub-project (of the umbrella Subject Group project) will be running from 2016 to 2018, and involve interested RSPR students (and their supervisors from the Subject Group) who would like to do their research projects on the experiences and perceived contribution of NWU alumni Registered Counsellors to psychosocial and educational wellness of the diverse communities they are working in.  


Project leader : Petra Engelbrecht

The implementation of inclusive education in diverse cultural-historical contexts


This project is a result of more recent research experiences in research projects in Malawi, South Africa, Guatemala, Palestine, England and Finland on the implementation of inclusive education in what is regarded as higher-income and lower-income countries. The project focuses on the continued divergence of views of inclusive education and the need to develop an understanding of the conceptualisation of inclusive education in diverse cultural-historical contexts and resultant localised versions of inclusive education.

Relevant recent publications include:

Engelbrecht, P. & Ekins, A. (2017).  International perspectives on teacher education for inclusion.  In M. Hughes & E. Talbott (Eds.). The Handbook of Research on Diversity in Special Education. New York: John Wiley & Sons (pp. 425-444).

Engelbrecht, P., Savolainen, H., Nel, M., Koskela, T. & Okkolin,

M. (2017). Making meaning of inclusive education: classroom

practices in Finnish and South African classrooms.  COMPARE: A

Journal of Comparative and International Education, DOI:


Werning, R., Artiles, A., Engelbrecht, P., Zoila, M., Hummel, M. & Rothe, A.  (2016). Keeping the promise?  Contextualising inclusive education in developing countries.  Frankfurt: Klingner Verhaf.


"Community-based educational research to improve the quality of life of people engaged in contexts of learning and development"