2020 Elsa Mentz
2020 Elsa Mentz
Malcolm Knowles Awards for Significant Lifelong Contributions to the Field of Self-Directed Learning
2020 Professor Elsa Mentz
Director of the Self-Directed Learning Research Focus Area
Faculty of Education North-West University Potchefstroom, South Africa
Professor Mentz has tremendously impacted the knowledge about and practice of self-directed learning in South Africa and far beyond. Beginning her efforts to promote self-directed learning locally, she first worked with a small research project group within her Faculty of Education at North-West University to develop a commitment to endorsing the promotion of self-directed learning as a strategic initiative throughout the Education curriculum.
When that was accomplished, she developed a core group of 12 faculty researchers, using consultancies, workshops, strategy-sharing, and assistance in planning and evaluating self-directed learning implementation efforts while researching, presenting, and publishing her findings. She wrote grants to secure funding for self-directed learning research in schools and higher education institutions and, in so doing, enabled interested researchers and graduate students to work with her to establish self-directed learning as a nationally recognized research area in her country and beyond.
She has supervised seven full dissertation master’s and doctoral students researching self-directed learning, and another three Ph.D. students will submit their theses in November 2019. Within a few years, she and her colleagues earned the designation of a Research Focus Area, and the NWU appointed her as director thereof.
The Research Focus Area in SDL has since grown to 57 researchers under her leadership, including a number from other disciplines. This is one of the largest research entities in North-West university and the only research entity on self-directed learning in South Africa. By 2013, they had designed and hosted an International Conference on Self-Directed Learning in Potchefstroom, South Africa, and the second International Conference on Self-Directed Learning was held in November 2018 in Potchefstroom.
In November 2019, the third International Conference on Self-Directed Learning, organised by the Research Focus Area Self-Directed Learning of which Dr. Mentz is the director, will be held in Johannesburg. Within the past few years, due mainly to the efforts of Professor Mentz and the researchers in the Research Focus Area SDL, self-directed learning has been included as part of the Teaching-Learning Plan of North-West University.
The National Research Foundation of South Africa has awarded Professor Mentz the title ‘NRF-rated researcher,’ an honor bestowed on only about 15% of all researchers in the country. This was done in recognition of her work in self-directed learning. In the past ten years alone, she has authored or co-authored two books and more than 40 articles and book chapters, most relating to different aspects and applications of SDL in the classroom, in addition to 11 published conference proceedings. She has also presented sessions on SDL at numerous national and international conferences in many countries, including three presentations at the ISDLS. She is the founder and chair of the SDL Special Interest Group at EASA (the Education Association of South Africa). Also, she serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of SelfDirected Learning. She has been invited numerous times to talk about self-directed learning research and practice on a national radio station in South Africa.
Professor Mentz has made a tremendous contribution to research and practice in self-directed learning.