Liz Wolvaardt

Liz WolvaardtMy journey with action research began with attending a postgraduate certificate in higher education (PGCHE) at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. The programme coordinator, Pieter du Toit, built the programme around the use of action research as the inextricable component of educational professional development. During this programme I reached a number of professional insights which led to a shift in my professional activities from an external focus of academic programme development of my school within the university to an internal focus on my own professional development as an academic. The logical step in my own development was to embark on a doctoral journey. My living theory journey allowed me to combine my own understandings and development as a person and an academic, my professional background in public health and my concern that despite public health being poorly presented and poorly perceived in the undergraduate medical curriculum the status quo remained unchallenged. In particular my two values of care and agency are the foundation for all my work in this area.

My professional and academic journey was one that started in clinical nursing (BCur degree) continued in public health (Master of Public Health) after international exposure in Europe and stood still doing the academic programme coordination for a school of public health in South Africa. The impetus for my change was the PGCHE that reminded me of my motivation for joining the school (academic pursuits and not administrative tasks). In this period I also met Jean McNiff and Jack Whitehead who presented a living theory workshop at an action research conference in South Africa and I never looked back. Now with my doctorate in higher education I still work for the same school of public health, but it is as a transformed practitioner in a transforming school.

My life in numbers can be summarised as clinical work (8 years), volunteer work at the World Health Organisation (3 years), programme coordination and academic (6 years) and academic (7 years). I have expanded my interest in medical education and teach both on a regional medical education/research fellowship programme (SAFRI) as well as on the PGCHE on a voluntary basis. My interest in the scholarship of action research is reflected in my activities in the African Journal for Health Professions Education (AJHPE) where I am an associate editor and – more importantly – as a reviewer for e-JOLTS.