Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Studying Ourselves as Scholar-Teachers in the Age of HIV and AIDS in Southern Africa

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Studying Ourselves as Scholar-Teachers in the Age of HIV and AIDS in Southern Africa

Article excerpt


In southern Africa, critically high levels of HIV and AIDS, particularly among the youth (see UNAIDS, 2007), have led to a growing expectation that all teachers should integrate HIV- and AIDS-related education into their subject areas (see, for example, Department of Education South Africa, 2000; Ministry of Education Lesotho, 2005). Research (for instance, Baxen & Breidlid, 2004; Simbayi & Skinner, 2005) and our own experience as teachers and education scholars suggests to us that such integration can be supported by teacher education that incorporates teachers' experiences and viewpoints into pedagogic processes and that acknowledges teachers as intellectuals and significant producers of knowledge. In this essay, we reflect on our experiences of learning and teaching in a graduate course for teachers called, "Studying ourselves as scholar-teachers in the age of HIV and AIDS in southern Africa." This course was part of a Masters level module on Health, Sexuality, and HIV/AIDS in Education offered in 2006 in the Gender and Education program at the Faculty of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Kathleen (at that time a novice teacher educator and Ph.D. student) designed and taught the course and Mathabo (at that time a schoolteacher and Masters student) was one of nine experienced teachers from the southern African countries of Lesotho and South Africa who participated in the course.


In my recent doctoral research, I undertook a self-study (see, among others, Loughran, Hamilton, LaBoskey, & Russell, 2004; Mitchell, Weber, & O'Reilly-Scallon, 2005) of my experience as a novice teacher educator (see Pithouse, 2007). As a component of this self-study, I designed and taught a Masters level course on HIV and AIDS in education. The learning activities that I designed for the course were aimed at providing opportunities and support for the students to make connections between their own experiences and concerns as teachers in the age of HIV and AIDS in southern Africa and a range of relevant literature and public issues. My understanding was that, as experienced teachers, the students would bring diverse professional and personal experiences to our class and that interaction with their own and each other's lived experience, as well as with academic material, could engender new knowledge and understanding about HIV and AIDS in education. I also wanted to create openings for the students to identify and inquire into individual areas of interest within the broad topic of HIV and AIDS in education. In this way, I hoped to facilitate the students' intellectual and emotional engagement with the complex and challenging topic of HIV and AIDS in education and to encourage them to envisage possibilities for taking action through their work as teachers and education scholars.

When planning the course, I decided to make it a requirement for the students to keep course journals. As part of my self-study process, I also kept a journal in which I recorded and reflected on my experience of teaching the course. I aimed to encourage the students to use their journals as informal, unthreatening spaces to muse on and articulate ideas and questions, keep reading logs, write drafts of their assignments, and express their thoughts and feelings about the experience of the course (see Richardson, 2003; Ballantyne & Packer, 1995).

The opening task for the course was a mini literature review, which required small groups of students to select one of a number of themed collections of texts I had compiled and then to work together to read and discuss some texts from their chosen collection. I devised a number of questions to guide the reading and discussion. These questions were designed to encourage the students to identify key public issues and scholarly conversations in the area of HIV and AIDS in education and to consider these in relation to their own experiences, concerns, and viewpoints. …

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