Building research capacity: enabling critical thinking through information literacy in higher education in Africa

2013-09-09T13:57:38Z (GMT) by Mark Hepworth Siobhan Duvigneau
The next generation of researchers i.e. knowledge creators and users, should learn their skills in Higher Education. However, a study funded by the Institute of Development Studies in the United Kingdom, with the University of Botswana, the University of Zambia and Mzuzu University in Malawi found that there were barriers making it difficult for academic staff to conduct research and inculcate a culture of independent learning, critical thinking and information literacy. Interviews and a workshop were conducted with academic staff and support staff and indicated a need to develop academic staff’s research skills. Plus there was a need to develop teaching knowledge to help them create learning environments where their skills could be transferred and student research capacity grown. There was also a need to improve the information and technological infrastructure. Although examples of innovative teaching methods that did foster students’ research skills were evident despite a lack of information infrastructure. Developing a research culture and enabling academic staff to conduct local research was seen as fundamental for engaging and motivating the students; providing an opportunity for involving students in ‘real world’ research problems. It would also generate ‘southern’ content that would engage learners, rather than depending on ‘northern’ content. A virtuous circle was envisaged whereby developing staff’s research and teaching capabilities would, in turn, lead to developing student research capabilities and that could also contribute to the academic staff’s research output. To achieve this, a participative strategy was proposed that included a core unit that would develop these capabilities.