Stellenbosch University
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ESRRC a ‘safe space’ for new generation of education scholars
Author: Pia Nänny
Published: 21/08/2017

As the annual Education Students' Regional Research Conference (ESRRC) draws near, postgraduate students from the four universities in the Western Cape have already benefitted from two workshops organised to assist them in their preparation for the conference as well as their greater postgraduate journey.

The ESRRC provides a collegial space to postgraduate students from Stellenbosch University (SU), the University of Cape Town (UCT), the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), with research interests in education, to share their research and work in progress.

ESRRC 2017 will take place at Stellenbosch University on 2 September and 30 papers will be presented by students.

Two workshops preceded the conference: one on Abstract Writing presented by Prof Peter Rule, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum Studies and the Centre for Higher and Adult Education in the Faculty of Education at SU, and one on Presentation Skills presented by Prof Maureen Robinson, Professor in the Department of Curriculum Studies at SU and former Dean of the Faculty. 

Both workshops were attended by about 35 postgraduate students.

According to Prof Robinson, students indicated that the workshops gave them valuable information and useful skills, broke down some of their anxieties about presenting at a conference, and enabled them to immediately start planning their own submissions.

“The broader objective of the conference is to support and build a new generation of education scholars. The ESRRC provides a platform on which to safely test new ideas among fellow research students. The workshops are practical stepping stones to this end," Prof Robinson added.

The theme of the conference – “Education in an Era of Decolonization and Transformation: The Voice of Student Researchers" – links directly to that of the 2017 theme of the South African Education Research Association (SAERA) conference, to be held in Port Elizabeth in October. This is to signal that the student conference is part of the national research picture.

When students first present their research findings in a shared space, such as a conference, they may find it a daunting experience. The ESRRC gives students the opportunity to present their research and work-in-progress to an audience of their peers, in a safe and nurturing environment.

Mannini Kotele, Masters student in the Faculty of Education, and chair of the ESRRC committee for 2017, believes all students will benefit from attending this conference.

“I attended the conference last year as part of the audience, and if I knew then what I know now, I would have presented the little that I had on my thesis.

“It is a safe space for students, and the support from peers is very strong. It is a space where student researchers grow and network with their peers. It is also good preparation for other academic conferences, like the SAERA."

Photo: Prof Maureen Robinson presents a workshop on Presentation Skills.