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On-line version ISSN 2304-8557
Print version ISSN 0023-270X

Koers (Online) vol.74 n.1-2 Pretoria  2009




Mentoring novice researchers in higher education: A "communities of practice" perspective


Die mentor van ontwikkelende navorsers in hoëronderwys: 'n "Gemeenskap van praktisyns"-perspektief



S. Schulze

Department of Further Teacher Education, Unisa, Pretoria. E-mail:




This article reports on the mentoring of novice researchers, in particular of women and black academics, at a South African higher education institution. The model used for mentoring was informed by a "communities of practice" perspective which used situated and constructivist learning theories as a conceptual framework. One mentor and eleven protégés were involved. The protégés were divided into three groups of two, four and five participants each. Each group functioned as a community of practice (CoP) and embarked on a research project of its own choice. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the mentoring model, and therefore it explains the participants' views of their learning and development from a CoP perspective. Data were collected by means of interviews and observation. The findings indicate how the development of the protégés from legitimate peripheral to more central participation was influenced by the university context, activities and relationships in each CoP, and participants' individual dispositions. Recommendations to improve the model and for further study are made.

Key concepts: communities of practice; constructivist learning; higher education; mentoring; research development; situated learning


Hierdie artikel doen verslag oor die mentorskap van ontwikkelende navorsers, wat veral vroue en swart akademici insluit, by 'n Suid-Afrikaans hoëronderwysinstansie. Die mentormodel wat gebruik is, is deur 'n "gemeenskap van praktisyns" (GvP)-perspektief beïnvloed wat gesitueerde en konstruktiwistiese leerteorieë as konseptuele raamwerk gebruik het. Een mentor en elf protégés is betrek. Laasgenoemde is verdeel in drie groepe van twee, vier, en vyf deelnemers elk. Elke groep het gefunksioneer as 'n GvP met 'n navorsingsprojek van hulle eie keuse. Die studie het ten doel om die mentormodel te evalueer. Dit verduidelik dus die deelnemers se sienings van hulle leer en ontwikkeling vanuit 'n GvP-perspektief. Data-in-sameling is deur middel van onderhoude en observasie ge-doen. Bevindings toon aan hoe hulle ontwikkeling van wettige, periferale deelname na meer sentrale deelname beïnvloed is deur die universiteitskonteks, aktiwiteite en verhoudings in die GvP en hulle eie gesindhede. Aanbevelings om die model te verbeter asook vir verdere navorsing word ook aangetoon.

Kernbegrippe: gemeenskap van praktisyns; gesitueerde leer; hoër onderwys; konstruktiwistiese leer; mentor; navorsingsontwikkling



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