Receiving National Research Foundation, popularly known as NFR-rating, is one the highest achievement every academic wishes to fulfil. NRF-rated academics are much-sought after because their work is internationally peer-reviewed who “publish high-quality research outputs in high-impact journals” and also collaborate with leading international scholars in their fields of study.
When, the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) academic, Professor Thelma de Jager received her C-rated National Research Foundation researcher accolades, it was not only a personal accolade but one equally shared by the institution as well. Her achievement will also inspire and boost the number of women within the STEM field.
An HOD for Educational Foundation, de Jager has vast teaching experience spanning 40 years in primary, secondary specialising in ‘Learners with Special Education Needs’ (LSEN) as well as higher education. Her colleagues said this came as no complete surprise because she earned her stripes as an academic in the teaching fraternity. Some described her as a “respected leader in the faculty of humanities” and as someone who is able to “blend astute scholarship with warm collegiality”.
De Jager completed her doctoral study at the University of South Africa and a four-year teaching diploma at the Normaal College of Pretoria. De Jager has already been conferred numerous awards in recognition of her passion to teaching. Some of these include ‘Best Lecturer of the Year’ in 2011 and she was also selected as finalist in the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA) awards for ‘Best Lecturer of the Year’.
As a researcher, de Jager has supervised several doctoral, master’s students, and published articles in international and national accredited and peer-reviewed journals. She also received several excellence awards for Woman Researcher of the Year in the faculty of humanities.
According to TUT, de Jager’s body of work puts her among the most highly regarded education scholars in the country. She also served on several global forums and boards such as the advisory and editorial boards including, International Academy of Technology, Education and Development (IATED), the International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning and the Asian Conference on Psychology & the Behavioural Sciences (ACP2016).
De Jager was also senior reviewer at the International Academic Forum conference, and in 2016, she organised the South African Association for Research in Mathematics Science, Technology and Education conference held in Pretoria.
She also presented keynote addresses at various prestigious conferences, authored and edited textbook, among these are: General Subject Didactics, Creative Arts Education (in collaboration with other institutions), and the Science to Teach and Differentiated Instruction.
Currently, de Jager is the project leader of the South African team for the International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (ICALT 3) project. This involves 10 other countries with Netherlands as main project leader and the British Council on Inclusive Education, teaching for all (T4ALL) project. Previously, she received the NRF Grant and Saturn bursary to conduct research. Her research interests include ‘Differentiated instruction’,’ Inclusive education’, ‘Teaching methods and strategies’, ‘Science education’, ‘Technology assisted teaching and learning’, ‘Effective teaching practices’, ‘Models of teaching’ and ‘Metacognitive learning’.
De Jager’s has a passion to improve teaching pedagogy and her studies could impact education policy that speaks to the implementation of differentiated learning. Her students love and respect her, talking about her uncompromising way as she challenges and teaches them about the education system.