Learners, educators and leaders survey nine years of trans-global collaboration in Malawi

Abstract: 

Since 2004 Malawian educator-leaders and US-based university faculty and students have engaged to carry out a series of on-going participatory action research projects.This paper examines ongoing outcomes, as well as emerging conceptions of how learning, teaching and leading are enacted and carried out in southern Malawi. 

In rural Malawi, people fight to survive among social and political turmoil from a devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic; recurring famines and failure of the country to attain “food sovereignty” (ability to provide food where and when it is needed, as opposed to purchasing food, fertilizers or pesticides from the outside); implementation in 1994 of universal public education; and a struggle for democratic government. In such a context, notions of learning, teaching and leading that arose within the individualist Western world fail to account for how these constructs are conceptualized in collectivist societies world-wide (Chilisa, 2012; Bagshaw, 2009). Scholars pose that the greatest impediment to development in Sub-Saharan Africa is a lack of effective leadership (Lokkesmoe, 2011). Many argue that the way out of poverty for Sub-Saharan African is through education and leadership that holds the potential "to establish a democratic order; . . . an independent central bank; an independent judiciary; an independent free press and media; an independent electoral commission; a neutral and professional armed or security force; and an efficient civil service" (Moran et al., 2007). 
Yet few studies exist that examine indigenous understandings of learning, teaching and leading. This lack of scholarship powerfully impacts definitions of development and strategies by non-governmental and donor agencies.

Participatory action research (McIntyre & Lykes, 2004), critical post-colonial (Ashcroft et al., 1989), indigenous (Chilisa, 2012), and endarkened global feminist (Olesen, 2011) methods allow the exploration of values, customs, practices, and beliefs (Hofstede et al. 2010) that undergird learning, teaching and leading in Non-Western contexts. Data collection strategies include interviews and participant observation (Hammersley & Atkinson, 2009; Perakyla & Ruusuvuori, 2011), "power sensitive conversations" (Haraway, 1988), oral history (Gluck & Patai, 1991), document analysis (Potter & Wetherell, 1987), and case analysis including theoretical sampling (Flyvbjerg, 2011). Through member-checking collaborators examine transcripts and analytic memos (Hammersley & Atkinson, 2009). Indigenous methods inform all stages including generation of informant-validated depictions. Final products are co-constructed to ensure the integrity of depictions. 

This paper documents the ways participants, and the communities of knowing constructed through long-term collaboration, change over time. It holds promise to inform models of inquiry from the West that cannot account for how learning, teaching, leading and research itself are understood and practiced in Non-Western locations. Varying stakeholder perspectives recreate a sense of our work as we have encountered it: as messy, contradictory, humorous, poignant, and informing. While much of research seeks to smooth data into a seamless account, ours leaves multiple threads hanging, for audiences to pick up and weave into their own understandings of what research and collaboration might mean in an alternate universe like southern Malawi.

This publication has been peer reviewed.
Publication Type: 
Conference Proceedings
Authors: 
Barber, E.
Smith, T.
Mays, M.
Snyder, J.
Nock, D.
Kapenuka, L.
Ussi, A.
Bottomley, K.
Ziaya, C.
Duren-Winfield, V.
Martin, R.
Bradsher, T.
Reynolds, K.
Ingold, K.
Rose, C.
Stone, W.
Thompson, P.
Fletcher, A.
Year of Publication: 
2012
Journal, Book, Magazine or Other Publication Title: 
Paper presented at the International Conference on Education, Research, & Innovation, Madrid, Spain. Conference Proceedings
Volume: 
ICERI2012 Proceedings
Issue: 
ICERI2012 Proceedings
Edition: 
5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Section: 
ICERI2012 Proceedings
Pages: 
5884-5892
Publisher: 
IATED
Date Published: 
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Place Published: 
Conference Proceedings
Publication Language: 
English
ISSN Number: 
2340-1095
ISBN Number: 
978-84-616-0763-1