Nhlanhla Mpofu is an Associate Professor in Language-in- Education, a South African National Research Foundation Y rated researcher, a Fulbright alumna, COIL alumna and an Executive member of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS). Her research explores second language learning approaches in second language classrooms where English is the medium of instruction. Through this research focus, she seeks to gain a strategic, epistemological and pragmatic understanding of the nuanced discourse of knowing how to teach in language. She draws her orientation from knowing sciences positioned within the Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies (CSP). Drawing from this research foci she explores teaching knowledge from an epistemological repertoire that is contextually embedded and held together by the dispositional and linguistic resources at the control of the practitioner. Her findings are important in dismantling the hegemonic positivist orientation that disempowers the teacher, from the critical role of a knowledge constructor to that of a transmitter.
Her research focus is two-fold. First, she seeks to understand how pre-service teachers build their teaching knowledge during preparation and from their own experiences. To capture the rich, in-depth portraits and nuances of teacher preparation programmes, her research sites are both in traditional and distance education modes of delivery in national and international contexts. Following this research focus, she examines the preparation of teachers in institutions of higher education by specifically concentrating on how they construct teaching knowledge by engaging in critical thinking, reflective practice and problem solving.
From an orientation that teacher preparation that only includes general pedagogy, content and pedagogical content knowledge is inadequate without proficiency in the language of learning and teaching (LoLT), her research also aims at exploring how pre-service and in-service teachers construct English Across the Curriculum (EAC) knowledge during preparation and in the practice of teaching. Through this research focus, she aims to explore how both pre-service and in-service teachers are prepared to be EAC practitioners. This means, for example, helping Geography, History, Mathematics, Technology, Life Sciences or Physical Sciences pre-service and in-service teachers to effectively integrate language structures in teaching their content knowledge. To attend to the context and uniqueness in which teaching, and learning takes place, the research sites in this study are drawn from different universities and classrooms across South Africa and the United States.
Her first research strand works to (i) problematize our understanding of English as a Language of Instruction (ELI) in multilingual contexts; (ii) develop new language teaching methodologies that draw from culturally sustaining pedagogy and informed by disciplinary linguistic requirements, and (iii) re-orienting second language education research in multilingual education systems. To achieve the aim of her first research strand, Nhlanhla, leads a research project, ” Exploring the preparation and experiences of teachers using English across the curriculum: An interdisciplinary approach” funded through a National Research Foundation (NRF) Research Grant.
The second focus of her research is in higher education studies where she publishes on issues that examine academic student access, retention and success. Her orientation in this research strand is drawn from Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies (CSP) that seek to dismantle the hegemonic stances of deficit models that have traditionally been privileged in higher education.