Prof Jill Adler receives Lifetime Achiever Award

The National Research Foundation (NRF) has awarded Witwatersrand University’s Distinguished Professor, Jill Adler, the Lifetime Achiever Award at the 2023 NRF Awards ceremony held on Thursday in Durban.

Introduced to the NRF Awards in 2004, the Lifetime Achiever Award recognises an individual who has demonstrably made extraordinary contributions to the development of science in and for South Africa.

These contributions, according to the NRF, must be of international standard and impact. The NRF is a government mandated research and science development agency.

Adler expressed her gratitude for the special recognition.

“This award for me gives recognition to the importance of educational research and educational research that is grounded in the realities of our mathematics classrooms. It gives meaning to the NRF vision for science and service of society,” she said.

Adler said the NRF has been one of the most important institutions throughout her academic journey.

The Professor was born and raised in Johannesburg and completed a BSc in Mathematics and Psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1972.

She pursued a teaching Diploma at the University of Cape Town in 1973 before taking up a teaching post at Harold Cressy High School in Cape Town.

In 1977, she returned to Johannesburg and joined the SACHED Trust, an educational non-government organisation (NGO) concerned with enriching the quality of education of those disadvantaged in apartheid South Africa.

She first taught mathematics to youth who were out of school following the Soweto uprising in 1976.

“Her work at the NGO over the next 10 years enabled her to further her social justice advocacy, seeking to address the educational inequalities in South Africa by improving mathematics education through the development and evaluation of distance education courses,” the NRF said.

At the same time, she studied for her Master of Education, graduating cum laude in 1985.

It was in 1987 that she moved into academia, lecturing in the Department of Professional Studies at the Johannesburg College of Education for two years before moving to Wits University’s Education Department as lecturer, Head of Department and Professor.

She was also a Chair of Mathematics Education at the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) between 2010 and 2019.

“Prof Adler completed her PhD in 1996 with a thesis that looked at the dynamics of teaching and learning mathematics in multilingual classrooms, specifically examining secondary teachers’ knowledge in this context,” said the NRF.

Her theoretical and practice-based innovations paved the way for new and transformative approaches in mathematics education, addressing two fundamental research problems.

“The complexities and challenges of teaching and learning mathematics in multilingual classrooms, and the enhancement of professional education for mathematics teachers. The latter came to the fore in the mid-1990s with the demand for ‘upgrading’ the qualifications and teaching quality of secondary mathematics teachers in post-apartheid South Africa.”

Working alongside a dedicated cohort of students, she spearheaded efforts to position mathematics education as a robust research domain within the university, and more broadly in the country.

In 2005, Adler led the renowned Marang Centre for Mathematics and Science Education at Wits University.

The centre quickly gained a reputation for excellence in postgraduate research and development, attracting students from across the African continent.

Between 2010 and 2019, as the DSI-NRF SARChI Research and Development Chair in Mathematics Education at Wits, she directed a large professional development project.

The programme reached over 200 secondary mathematics teachers and many learners across 80 schools in Gauteng and researching its impact together with a large research team of doctoral and postdoctoral fellows.

She is an Honorary Professor at Oxford University and University College London both in the United Kingdom.

She has published more than 60 peer-reviewed articles and four books, co-edited two special journal issues and contributed 50 book chapters, achieving more than 7 000 citations and has published 37 papers that have each been cited at least 37 times.

Over the course of her 45-year career in teaching and academia, she has garnered numerous accolades in recognition of her contributions to education.

Source: South African Government News Agency