On bricolage and the creation of sustainable postgraduate learning environments
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In this paper I show how bricolage as a theoretical framework is used to understand and enhance the learning of the postgraduate students and academics working as a team. Bricolage is described as a metaphor for a research approach which creates something out of nothing and uses that which is available to achieve new goals. It is about finding many and new ways to resolve real life problems using that which is present in the context. It is not linear research, but research that acknowledges and works with the contradictions and incongruences in order to weave a complex text of solutions to the problems. It uses multiple voices, different textual forms and different resources, blurring neat disciplinary boundaries. In short, it splinters the dogmatism of a single approach. This theoretical positioning provides the vocabulary to describe and understand processes and interactions among the research team of 28 PhD and 22 Masters’ students being supervised by 15 academics, across the two campuses of the University of the Free State. For example, while all the actors in this team come from diverse and sometimes contradictory theoretical origins and fields of specialisation they tend to coalesce around the theme of creating sustainable learning environments in their respective research sites. To this theme they ask different questions, hence diverse aims and objectives. They also read different literature informed by the diverse groups of participants in their respective studies. Rather than being the sole determinants of their respective research agendas, they treat the participants as co-researchers who direct and inform the direction of these studies. Their methodologies acknowledge the multiple voices of those who directly experience the problem under investigation and thus can assist in the resolution thereof. They listen to all, irrespective of their station in life and, like bricoleurs, they weave meaningful solutions out of fragments of data and materials from very diverse sources of participants with different ways of doing things.