OSWEGO — When Fulbright Scholar Faith Maina of SUNY Oswego realized her Kenyan post-graduate students and even some new faculty members in her class at Moi University would encounter difficulties publishing the research papers they had prepared for her class, she took matters into her own hands.
The result is a new book, “Nurturing Reflexive Practice in Higher Education: Educators Engaged in Action Research Projects in an Institution of Higher Learning in Kenya,” edited and with acknowledgements and two chapters by Maina, who returned two years ago from her Fulbright experience in Eldoret, Kenya.
Published internationally by Nsemia Inc., the 155-page book gives editorial voice to nine of the Kenyan scholars with whom Maina shared academic research methods and the process of scholarly writing — the core of her Fulbright project in 2011-12.
“It was very satisfying — the best part of my career,” said Maina, a professor of curriculum and instruction who teaches courses on research in Oswego’s School of Education. “People were eager — even some of the faculty advisers were eager — to get something from me. Everybody wanted a piece of me. I was so busy I never got any time to breathe. It was so exciting to be in a place where your skills are so in demand.”
The published results include, for example, articles on unplanned pregnancies in the east African country and barriers to use of contraception, impediments to quality education for student mothers in Kenya’s public universities, an examination of cheating in Kenyan institutions of higher learning, gender disparities at decision-making levels in Kenya’s universities, and breaking the silence on girls’ issues of sexuality, including incest.
One of the authors, a lecturer named Chedotum Kibet Ambrose, died a week before Maina left the country, the result of a “stupid, stupid crime,” Maina said.
With the equivalent of about $10 in his pocket, he was shot by robbers near his home. Maina dedicated the book to him and included his paper.
Maina’s Fulbright proposal had grown out of her experience editing an academic journal at Moi. Women, in particular, weren’t getting promoted because their journal submissions were turned away for poor writing.
Seizing the opportunity to help Kenyan scholars grow, Maina taught the discipline of academic research to a class of 15, including 10 women, as a way to begin creating a culture of scholarship from a strong foundation.
“I encouraged them to look for topics that would examine what they were already doing,” she said.
That advice grew from Maina’s own belief in the power of reflexive practice, which encourages educators to look around and inside themselves and their experiences for solutions to seemingly intractable problems in the classroom and in the educational system.
“I was trying to nudge people to use their own reflections as part of their research,” she said.
In a country that has relatively few students who achieve doctorates, especially women, Maina said she is proud to say two of her women students who had been “stuck” in their graduate programs have now finished their degrees.
Those newly promoted scholars now are assistant professors who will have their own students to advise, producing ripples from Maina’s Fulbright project.
“That was really the whole idea, that they’d get the skills and then they’d share them,” she said.