Teacher, Mr Luthando Molefe, graduated cum laude with his Master’s in Education for his research that offers an innovative and motivational example of an early-career teacher using arts-based and personal narrative methods to understand supportive teacher-learner relationships.
His research was supervised by Professor Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan.
‘I wanted to learn how the phenomenon explored has influenced the individual I am today, and how it can continue to do so. I wanted to understand how I might better my future practices regarding supportive teacher-learner relationships. Through a narrative inquiry research methodology, I learnt that in engaging with one’s self and one’s participants, a process of living, telling, and reliving and retelling stories gives rise to new thinking,’ said Molefe.
A sociocultural theoretical perspective helped him learn that development is a process. He also understood that learning is socially and culturally constructed in a given context. ‘Teachers need to pay special attention to learners’ personal, social and cultural backgrounds. This study helped me understand how working with my memories could contribute to my learning concerning supportive teacher-learner relationships to bring about change.’
In order to facilitate his understanding and bring forth change in classrooms, Molefe used multiple data generation methods: memory drawing, artefact/object inquiry, journaling and informal conversations with selected family members, primary school and high school friends, as well as a university friend.
He learnt three valuable lessons from this personal narrative inquiry: ‘Supportive teacher-learner relationships mean responsibility for taking care of learners’ internal (academic) and external (non-academic) needs. At the heart of supportive teacher-learner relationships are teachers who prioritise self-awareness to be conscious of their learners’ various circumstances,’ he said. ‘Teachers who build and maintain supportive teacher-learner relationships value and involve parents/guardians, learner peers, other teachers, community members, and other relevant stakeholders in teaching and learning processes.’
Molefe is grateful to his family, friends and supervisor for their support. He plans to complete his PhD and continue changing the teaching landscape.
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan