Original Research

Participatory action research and the construction of academic identity among postgraduate research students

Molaodi David Tshelane
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 9, No 3 | a188 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v9i3.188 | © 2013 Molaodi David Tshelane | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 March 2016 | Published: 30 December 2013

About the author(s)

Molaodi David Tshelane, Faculty of Education at the University of the Free State, South Africa

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This paper discusses the construction of academic identity among postgraduate research students who emerged from a participatory action research (PAR) project. The article reports on how postgraduate research students constructed their academic identity deliberately, as they pursue their studies in a sustainable learning environment (SuLE) project. The aim is to contribute towards an understanding of the impact PAR has on research work of postgraduate students in the Faculty of Education, at the University of the Free State, in South Africa. This paper draws on the work of Yosso’s community cultural wealth to amplify how a relatively unexplored methodology in postgraduate research studies can change and contribute towards the social justice agenda, and give hope to an unequal society ruptured by apartheid. A critical emancipatory research theory of the Frankfurt school was used as the focal lens through which the literature was reviewed, together with a participatory action research process to generate data. Free attitude interviews were applied to focus groups, workshops, and meetings of Master’s and doctoral research students, as well as individual supervisory dialogues, so as to ensure the in-depth views of the construction of students’ academic identity. Video-tapes as an instrument in the generation of the data, which was transcribed into text and further analysed in line with the objectives of the study were used. Finally, a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) technique was used to arrive at the following findings: (i) ingenious commitment to social justice; (ii) genuine commitment to serve communities; and (iii) inter-centricity of humanity in relations.


construction; academic Identity; postgraduate research students; participatory action research


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