solarXY > Interdisciplinary Research

Interdisciplinary Research

This page provides links to my interdisciplinary research, which will be updated with additional content as projects progress.

Engineering Education


Community of Practice (CoP)

The purposes of a Community of Practice (CoP) are:

1) “Direct access to research knowledge” (Porter & Roessner, 2006) (cognitive) to aid in innovation and progressive research through peers in the CoP (affective) and the structure of the CoP (systemic).

2) Develop students into independent researchers with individualistic research identities.

3) Remove some workload from the academic supervisor by delegating supervision, pedagogic and research tasks to members of the CoP, thereby also introducing students to these tasks before academic pressures set in.

The postgraduate journey is often insular and lonely, especially in multidisciplinary research fields such as renewable energy. The Power Systems Research Group was established by Dr Bernard Bekker in the engineering faculty at Stellenbosch University to provide a peer support network for these postgraduate students. This collaborative space enables the sharing of resources and provides opportunities for tacit learning. The main opportunities provided by the CoP is writing and research workshops, and weekly virtual seminars which is also attended by industry experts.

I administrate the ~50 CoP members, which include renewable energy postgraduate students, academic supervisors and industry guests. This includes the planning and coordination of weekly research seminars, management and maintenance of the research group website, and organising cognitive and affective opportunities for CoP members.

As a member of the CoP, I have observed the synergy between knowledge, identity and practice created within the CoP – these three imperatives exist conjointly and are the foundation of a well functioning CoP. As a result, Dr Karin Wolff and I have started working together to conduct research on the effectiveness of a community of practice in postgraduate education through social theory and the sociology of education, by observing the workings of this research group. It enables us to discern and investigate this synergy between the cognitive, affective and systemic imperatives of the group and individuals, as well as, how tacit learning is fostered and occurring within the CoP.


Supporting project-based education through a community of practice: a case of postgraduate renewable energy students (2021)

“Barnett’s model of a curriculum for supercomplexity is a useful starting point for differentiating between graduate competency dimensions according to epistemological (knowledge), ontological (being) and praxis (doing) imperatives. In other words, a holistic curriculum needs to entail all three dimensions. Gilmore et al (2017) develop this model of curriculum through the addition of an educational support layer entailing cognitive, affective and systemic (CAS) dimensions. For each of the curricular dimensions, there is a requisite education support dimension. Together, the dimensions represent a framework for the development of knowledge, identity and practice.” – Lewis et al (2021)

The cognitive, affective and systemic (CAS) imperatives for effective project-based education support, adapted from Gilmore et al (2017).