Original Research

A cultural-historical activity theory focus on the holders of indigenous knowledge as self-directed learners: Lessons for education in South African schools

Josef J. de Beer, Elsa Mentz
Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie | Vol 36, No 1 | a1398 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/satnt.v36i1.1398 | © 2017 Josef J. de Beer, Elsa Mentz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 June 2016 | Published: 23 February 2017

About the author(s)

Josef J. de Beer, School for Natural Sciences and Technology for Education, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa
Elsa Mentz, Research Focus Area Self-Directed Learning, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa

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This article demonstrates by means of four examples how the holders of indigenous knowledge were and are self-directed learners. They take the initiative to diagnose their learning needs and learning goals, identify resources for learning, choose appropriate learning strategies, and evaluate the outcomes. The construct of the ethnobotanical knowledge index is used to show how people in the Northern Cape in South Africa become self-directed learners to survive. By using third-generation cultural-historical activity theory, we show the lessons this holds for the classroom, which often is characterised by teacher-centred transmission mode teaching and learning, with very little self-directed learning.


Self-directed learning; indigenous knowledge; holders of indigenous knowledge; school education; ethnobotanical knowledge index


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