Category Archives: My Research

Personal Development networks

Many managers spend a lot of money compiling files filled with paper work on how to do the work. However, when a group of engineers was surveyed, the engineers reported that they would 5 times more ask a colleague when they do not know how to do their work than visiting filing cabinets. This finding was confirmed in several South African educational settings.

In fact, 57% of the mathematics teachers of a secondary school in Gauteng reported that they relied on their colleagues to work effectively. When the staff of a secondary school in Gauteng was surveyed, 67% of the teachers indicated that they would rather ask a colleague when they do not know how to do their work. In this regard, 65% of the students enrolled for a module at an start for open and distance education indicated that they rely on their relationships with their colleagues to learn to do their work effectively. My research shows that teachers rely on their personal relationships with colleagues to get access to information, knowledge, advice, support, guidance, ability and concrete resources in their working environments, therefore I have coined such a set of relationships as the personal development networks of teachers.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 10.44.59 AM

Unfortunately school managers do not always give enough time for creating sustainable personal development networks. The quality of teachers’ work depends on their personal development networks, therefore teachers need to be provided with enough opportunities to create relationships with their colleagues. Meanwhile, teachers are using a variety of networking interfaces to take their relationships online.

Understanding the efficiency of your teams

Social Network Analysis provides a method to understans the efficiency of your teams. It is both a theoretical perspective and a method to understand human behaviour. Jacob Moreno, is regarded as the father of Social Network Analysis. Although he was not the first researcher who studied the relationships between pairs of people, he was the first person to visualize the networks in which human beings are embedded to understand, predict and describe the influence of these networks on human behaviour.
Moreno used dots and lines to draw sociograms or visualizations of the networks. In one of the first studies he used a sociogram to understand the behaviour of babies (see figure 1).

                                               Figure 1

He used this sociogram (figure 1) to show that a type of hierarchy exists between babies. Some of the babies are situated on lower levels because they were not recognized by any other babies, while other babies are ranked higher due to the fact that they were recognized by more babies. In another study he looked at a football team to understand their behaviour (see figure 2).

                                               Figure 2
The red lines indicate the likes and the black ones the dislikes. Moreno urged the players to indicate whom they liked, and whom they did not like.  He used this sociogram (figure 2) to explain why the team might find it difficult to play as a team.  The full back (top middle, figure 2) received dislikes from four other people, indicating that they might find it difficult to play as a team. The centre (centre of figure 2) received seven likes, indicating that he might be able to captain the team because both forwards and backs liked him. This information is not available to organizations and coaches although the impact of these underlying social networks might have devastating influences on the outcomes of team sports and organizations.
I would like to explore the likes and dislikes of the current Springbok team (2012).  I think a sociogram might provide information to explain why the team does not perform. And I have certain ideas about my reasons for making this statement. Ruan Pienaar (current scrumhalf) was booed three or four seasons ago off the field (as flyhalf) by a pavilion of South African rugby supporters who knew that Morné Steyn had a better kicking track record. I think it might have been a terrible experience walkin off the field under such pressure. I also think that Ruan Pienaar might have very strong negative feelings towards Morné, don’t you agree? I have seen him kicking good balls away before he would pass it to Morné. And I have also seen him passing those balls when he played next to another flyhalf.  I have also seen him passing very bad balls to Morné – as if he needs to prove that Morné does not belong in the team. Therefore I think he will do anything in his power not to boost Morné Steyn’s performance on the field – even if the Springbok’s have to loose the game. And to my astonishment Morné was dropped from the team playing on 29 September on Loftus, Morné’s home grounds. To me it seems like the perfect punishment – out of Ruan’s perspective.  When I was still teaching, my friend and the 1st team hockey coach could not understand why her team lost a game they already had in the pocket. The Monday the girls told me why. The one wing refused to pass balls to the striker because she dared to look at her boyfriend!   This same scenario can be found in organizations as well. If I don’t like you, I will not do anything to help you to outperform me.  Problem is that the performance of the whole team relies often on the quality of a relationship between two players.  Therefore SocialNetwork Analysis might provide an effective tool to understand why teams underperform.

Social Network Analysis is not a new method or methodology, it has developed over a period of 80 years in a powerful tool to understand and predict human behaviour. It is just under-utilised to understand human behavior.

Common errors hindering ethical clearance

In this post, I will list common errors that can hinder ethical clearance.

Type of research and researcher’s details

  • Risk category not correctly identified: rather indicate a higher than lower risk when humans are involved: high risk refers to studies where teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse, cerebral palsy, dyslexia, epilepsy, etc is investigated. Therefore most of the research conducted with regard to teaching and learning will fall under category 3 or lower. If humans are involved, it cannot be category 1.
  • Title of project is not consistent used throughout the document
  • Conflict of interest not recognised: If the researcher is also the lecturer, conflict of interest need to be addressed. How will the lecturer deal with the situation to safeguard the participants
  • Research questions, problem statement, and subquestions, purpose and anticipated outcomes of the research not addressed during description of the background to the study
  • Sample size is not clearly described
  • criteria for participant selection is not described
  • data collection instruments for focus group interviews, observation, interviews, questionnaires and online surveys are not attached to the forms when applying for ethical clearance
  • each instrument not on separate page and numbered in a logic sequence

Obtaining permission, consent and assent

  • procedures followed to obtain permission to conduct research are not listed
  • researcher did not describe how permission, consent and assent will be obtained
  • When children younger than 18 are involved, assent from child as well as consent from the parents/caretakers need to be obtained
  • example letters to be used to ask permission, consent and assent are not attached to the forms.
  • letters are signed, which indicate that the assent, consent and permission were obtained prior to the request for ethical clearance. In such a case ethical clearance will be refused as the request will be regarded as retrospective

Requirements with regard to letters to ask permission, assent and concent

  • title of research not provided
  • name of researcher and contact details not provided
  • purpose not indicated
  • did not indicate time/effort etc required from students – how long will the interview be?
  • did not indicate that videos/photographs will be taken
  • did not describe how identity of participants will be protected when images and videos are used
  • did not tell the participants that they can withdraw from study
  • did not tell them that participation is voluntarily – most important when using own students as participants


  • All checklists not completed
  • If a yes or no is required, it is not indicated for all listed issues
  • Did not use n/a if not applicable

CV’s of all researchers requiring ethical clearance

  • CV’s not attached
  • CV’s do not indicate why this person will be knowledgable to conduct the research

Declaration form

  • declaration form not signed
  • no declaration form attached

Please comment if you can identify issues I have not addressed, this will help to provide complete guidelines for completing ethical clearance requests.

Ethical issues that need to be addressed

Various ethical issues need to be addressed during a research project. In order to address these issues, researchers have to:

  1. recognise issues of respect, fairness, and dignity for all those who are involved in or affected by the research (Connolly 2003:27, Sullivan and Cain 2004:603).
  2. provide a thorough description of the research process so that potential participants have the information needed to make an informed, voluntarily consent (or assent in the case of minors, or provide permission in the case of institutions/organisations) (Connolly 2003:14-15, Cottingham & Jansen 2005:4, Duma, Khanyil and Daniels 2009:53).
  3. ensure the safety of the participants (Cottingham & Jansen 2005:3, Duma, Khanyil and Daniels 2009:53).
  4. honour and maintain anonymity, confidentiality and privacy (Connolly 2003:23, Duma, Khanyil and Daniels 2009:53, Ellsberg & Heise 2005:53).
  5. ensure beneficence, by minimising risks and maximising benefits of a study (Connolly 2003:23, Duma, Khanyil and Daniels 2009:53)/
  6. take precautions to avoid inadvertent reinforcement of negative social stereotypes concerning particular groups, unfair exploitation of vulnerable research participants, and to ensure that no distress is caused to people who have suffered traumatic events (Flaskerud & Winslow 1998, Sullivan & Cain 2004).
  7. protect the physical and psychological well-being of their participants in order to ensure that participation do not result in in distressing ethical misfortunes (Duma et al 2009).
  8. provide arrangements for support, if needed, before, during, and after the research for participants who have experienced traumatic events (I believe failure falls under this issue) (Cambell & Wasco 2005).
  9. make appropriate appropriate support mechanisms for researchers and participants alike, including briefing sessions and the opportunity to meet with the researcher (Connolly 2003:27).
  10. ensure that information about the research is ommunicated in a way that is meaningful to the individuals concerned (Aitken, Gallagher and Madronio 2003:340-341)
  11. gain written and verbal consent (assent if younger than 18 with permission from parents, caretakers) (Connolly 20013:30)
  12. inform participants prior to the research of sensitive questions that will be asked during interviews, as well as the procedures thereof ((Ellsberg & Heise 2005:35)
  13. guarantee confidentiality, anonymity and privacy (Ellsberg & Heise 2005:35)
  14. be aware of cultural differences that may exist between the researcher and the participants (Duma, Khanyil & Daniels 2009:53)
  15. ensure that, if an interpreter is involved, that the interpreter speak the same dialect as the participant (Bot 2005:176-179)
  16. ensure that interpreters receive training on documents, topics, background, objectives and purpose of the study, length of the interviews and procedures for maintaining confidentiality (Bot 2005:176-179)
  17. put strategies in place to deal with the participants’ immediate and ongoing emotional needs, and where necessary, refer them in the case of a crisis to relevant support services (Connolly 2003:34)
  18. locate and contact vulnerable research participants without endangering their safety (Duma, Khanyil & Daniels 2009:56-57)
  19. ensure that interviews will be conducted in a private and safe settings (Connolly 2003:34).
  20. I will add as I find reference to more issues …..