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University, Newsletter
27 November 2020

UMP LECTURER EXPANDS HER SKILLS IN RESEARCH

Dr Mbusi believes her PhD will open up opportunities including leadership within the academic sphere in the field of Mathematics Education. The title of her PhD study was: The Use of van Hiele Theory to Address BEd Foundation Phase Students’ Misconceptions with Transformation Geometry. Dr Mbusi says the topic gave her an opportunity to interrogate and explore issues that had a significant impact on the understanding and academic performance of her BEd students. 

“Besides exploring students’ errors, the study involved the design of an intervention programme that sought to address the problems identified. As part of its contribution to the discourse, the study culminated in the production of a manual made up of key constructs and activities for teaching transformation geometry to BEd students,” says Mbusi. 

“My research focus areas included geometry and measurement, within the context of teaching and learning mathematics. For example, I prepared and presented a paper at a national conference on: The process of the development of a toolkit to support pre-service teachers’ understanding and presentation of ‘length’ in the mathematics classroom." 

Other research focus areas include the use of Indigenous Knowledge Systems as a vehicle for mediating learning and improving learners’ understanding of mathematics. 

“An example of this focus area includes a research study in which learners’ traditional dance moves were used to learn mathematics. This was a formal study at Masters’ level, which culminated in the design of a learning programme that outlined how traditional Xhosa dance activities could be used to facilitate the teaching and learning of various mathematics topics within the primary school curriculum."

Finding a work-life balance
Though her road to achieving her PhD has not always been smooth sailing, Dr Mbusi reveals that there were moments when she felt overwhelmed by the demands of her studies and finding a balance between her full-time job as a lecturer, and family.

“I tried setting separate time frames but I sometimes found myself missing deadlines for submission of both my work requirements and my studies as required by my supervisor from time to time. Fortunately, I had colleagues who were also doing their PhDs and had the same supervisor as me. We formed a WhatsApp group and checked on each other, encouraged and assisted each other. For example, we knew enough about each other’s research topics that one would share reference material with the relevant person when they came across it."

Dr Mbusi’s advice to other aspiring post-graduate students is to have an inner conviction that you are ‘ready’ for the commitment. “However, the reality is that sometimes people find themselves pressured, for one reason or another, into enrolling for post-graduate studies. In that case, the knowledge and anticipation of what you will be able to accomplish when in possession of your post-graduate degree, should be enough motivation towards committing to your studies.”

She further says that success will come through a combination of effort, commitment and being realistic about the added responsibilities. “For example, if you have to juggle between work and studies, then you must expect a lot of compromise, such as having to get used to less hours of sleep than before, while constantly making sure your work commitments do not fall behind.”

Journey at UMP
Dr Mbusi joined UMP in 2017 as a lecturer for Mathematics in the BEd programme under the School of Education. During her time at the university she received support from the offices of the Vice-Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor: Academic and the Engagement Division, by giving her the opportunity to network and engage with other professionals in her field. This she says has culminated in her participation in projects such as the Department of Higher Education and Training’s Primary Teacher Education Project and the Family Math Project through a partnership with the University of the Free State. 

“Most importantly, the UMP Department of Research and Capacity Development, through some training courses on, for example, proposal writing and research methodology, made it possible for me to obtain my PhD,” says Dr Mbusi.

Dr Mbusi began her teaching career in 1990 at a high school in Port Elizabeth and later on continued at various other schools in Butterworth in the Eastern Cape. 

“My love for reading, together with influence from other professionals in the field, motivated me towards studying further in the field of education in general and Mathematics Education in particular. Hence I later obtained the qualifications: BComm (UNISA), BEd, MEd (Rhodes University) and, recently, PhD (University of Johannesburg).”

She adds: “As I continued studying further, I saw the need to apply my knowledge in Teacher Education, where I could make more of an impact: I joined Walter Sisulu University in 2008, where I lectured in Mathematics Education at the Butterworth and Mthatha campuses. 

Over the years, she has contributed towards teacher empowerment and subject development, through, for example, developing training material for and facilitating Mathematics teacher workshops, and setting regional examination papers. 

Last year in 2019 Dr Mbusi together with her colleagues and some fourth year student teachers from the School of Education in Siyabuswa hosted a group of nine students from the St. Gallen University of Teacher Education in Switzerland. 

The South African Foundation Phase (FP) mathematics curriculum supports the development of conceptual understanding based on learners’ environment which they are familiar with. Examples of such contexts include activities that learners carry out as part of their daily lives, such as singing and dancing. 

Dr Mbusi shared with the Swiss students how to achieve conceptual understanding of patterns in mathematics by using SA cultural dance, music and artwork. Participants sang cultural songs using African languages, danced and clapped hands to a rhythm that could be translated into mathematical patterns involving counting; they observed geometric patterns that appeared in SA cultural artefacts such as in Ndebele houses and African traditional attire such as that of the Pedi, Swati and Ndebele. 

The integration involved sharing with the participants some of our African history as it relates to music and dance. All these activities culminated in the identification of different patterns that can be used in the mathematics classroom.

Currently Dr Mbusi is working on a research paper, which involves the exploration of the role of Family Math in improving mathematics teaching and learning in rural primary schools in the Siyabuswa area of Mpumalanga.  

@ Story by Cleo Makhaga. Pictures supplied.