Higher Education

, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 65–80 | Cite as

Collaborative research in contexts of inequality: the role of social reflexivity

  • Brenda Leibowitz
  • Vivienne Bozalek
  • Jean Farmer
  • James Garraway
  • Nicoline Herman
  • Jeff Jawitz
  • Wendy McMillan
  • Gita Mistri
  • Clever Ndebele
  • Vuyisile Nkonki
  • Lynn Quinn
  • Susan van Schalkwyk
  • Jo-Anne Vorster
  • Chris Winberg
Article

Abstract

This article reports on the role and value of social reflexivity in collaborative research in contexts of extreme inequality. Social reflexivity mediates the enablements and constraints generated by the internal and external contextual conditions impinging on the research collaboration. It fosters the ability of participants in a collaborative project to align their interests and collectively extend their agency towards a common purpose. It influences the productivity and quality of learning outcomes of the research collaboration. The article is written by fourteen members of a larger research team, which comprised 18 individuals working within the academic development environment in eight South African universities. The overarching research project investigated the participation of academics in professional development activities, and how contextual, i.e. structural and cultural, and agential conditions, influence this participation. For this sub-study on the experience of the collaboration by fourteen of the researchers, we wrote reflective pieces on our own experience of participating in the project towards the end of the third year of its duration. We discuss the structural and cultural conditions external to and internal to the project, and how the social reflexivity of the participants mediated these conditions. We conclude with the observation that policy injunctions and support from funding agencies for collaborative research, as well as support from participants’ home institutions are necessary for the flourishing of collaborative research, but that the commitment by individual participants to participate, learn and share, is also necessary.

Keywords

Collaboration Educational research Corporate agency Social reflexivity Professional development 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was funded by the National Research Foundation (Grant No: 90353). Thanks to Peter Kahn, who played an extremely useful role as a critical friend in responding to a draft of the paper.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brenda Leibowitz
    • 1
  • Vivienne Bozalek
    • 2
  • Jean Farmer
    • 3
  • James Garraway
    • 4
  • Nicoline Herman
    • 3
  • Jeff Jawitz
    • 5
  • Wendy McMillan
  • Gita Mistri
    • 6
  • Clever Ndebele
    • 7
  • Vuyisile Nkonki
    • 8
  • Lynn Quinn
    • 9
  • Susan van Schalkwyk
    • 3
  • Jo-Anne Vorster
    • 9
  • Chris Winberg
    • 4
  1. 1.University of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.University of the Western CapeCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.Stellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa
  4. 4.Cape Peninsula University of TechnologyCape TownSouth Africa
  5. 5.University of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  6. 6.Durban University of TechnologyDurbanSouth Africa
  7. 7.North West UniversityPotchefstroomSouth Africa
  8. 8.University of Fort HareAliceSouth Africa
  9. 9.Rhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

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