External group coaching and mentoring: building a research community of practice at a university of technology

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Peer-Reviewed Research


Globally, a clarion call has been made for higher education institutions to establish creative and effective research capacity-building systems with the purpose of developing a next generation of scholars. The training and skills development of a researcher entail a process of increasing levels of participation in diverse communities of practice. We argue that external group research coaching and mentoring could provide a formative social context which negotiates the tensions of engagement. It could also improve accountability and building of a shared repertoire inherent to a research community of practice at a university of technology in South Africa. The purpose of this qualitative single-case study is to evaluate the practical relevance of the external coaching and mentoring programme in negotiating the tensions inherent in building a research community of practice. The findings indicate that the majority of students moved from a peripheral position of uncertainty and doubt to one of mutual engagement. A handful of students’ participation remained peripheral and, in some instances, became outbound. The ways in which the next generation of scholars engaged with each other and with the world profoundly shaped their identity. Rites of passage to membership of this research community of practice were negotiated and an initial shared repertoire of resources was developed.