Department of Adult Basic Education

Prof NRA Romm

College of Education
School of Educational Studies
Department: Adult Basic Education
Research Professor
Tel: 012 484 1118


  • 1986: D. Litt et Phil (University of South Africa)
  • 1982: MA, Sociology – with distinction (University of Cape Town)
  • 1979-1981: BA Honours, Sociology – with distinction (University of South Africa)
  • 1975-1978: BA (University of South Africa)

Fields of academic interests

  • Enacting research with transformative intent

Field of Specialisation

  • Action/active research and engaged research
  • Researcher accountabilities and responsibilities
  • Principles of Indigenous research ethics (linked to a transformative research agenda)
  • Facilitation of adult learning


  • The Methodologies of Positivism and Marxism (Macmillan, 1991)
  • Accountability in Social Research (Springer, 2001)
  • New Racism: Revisiting Researcher Accountabilities (Springer, 2010)
  • Responsible Research Practice: Revisiting Transformative Paradigm in Social Research. (Springer, 2018:

Co-authored books

  • People's Education in Theoretical Perspective (Maskew-Miller Longman, 1992, with V.I. McKay)
  • Diversity Management (Wiley, 1996, with R.L. Flood)
  • Assessment of the Impact of HIV and AIDS in the Informal Economy of Zambia (ILO, 2008, with V.I. McKay)

Co-edited books

  • Social Theory (edited by N.R.A. Romm and M. Sarakinsky, Heinemann, 1994)
  • Critical Systems Thinking (edited by R.L. Flood and N.R.A. Romm, Plenum, 1996)
  • Balancing Individualism and Collectivism to Support Social and Environmental Justice (edited by J.J. McIntyre-Mills, Y.C. Nantes, and N.R.A. Romm, 2017, New York: Springer)

Chapters in Edited Books (Selected Publications)

  • 2017: “Social Dominance Theory”. Entry for the Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Theory, edited by Bryan S. Turner et al.  Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Inc. (DOI: 10.1002/9781118430873).
  •  2017: “Researching Indigenous ways of knowing-and-being”, in Handbook of Research on Theoretical Perspectives on Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Developing Countries, edited by P. Ngulube, 22-48. Pennsylvania: IGI Global publications.
  • 2017: “Conducting Focus Groups in Terms of an Appreciation of Indigenous Ways of Knowing: Invoking an Indigenous-oriented Paradigm”, in Research Methods in Health Social Sciences, edited by P. Liamputtong. New York: Springer (DOI:10.1007/978-981-10-2779-6_46-1.).
  •  2017: “Rethinking Discipline” (co-authored with V.I. McKay and S. Mohapi), in Re-aligning the Curriculum, edited by M. Magano, D. Robertson and S. Mohapi, 250-270.  Boston: Cengage.
  •  2017: “Foregrounding critical systemic and indigenous ways of collective knowing towards (re)directing the anthropocene”, in Balancing Individualism and Collectivism to Support  Social and Environmental Justice, edited by J. McIntyre-Mills, Y.C. Nantes, and N.R.A. Romm, 1-18, New York: Springer. A podcast conversation around this chapter as related to that of Francis Akena in the same volume can be found at:
  • 2015: “Mixed methods research” (co-authored with P. Ngulube), in Addressing Research Challenges, edited by M. Gumbo and E. Mathipa, 158-176, Johannesburg: Mosala-Masedi Publishers.
  • 2010:“Capacity building for educators of adults in three Southern African countries: South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia” (co-authored with Veronica McKay, with contribution by Herman Kotze), in: More and Better Education: What Makes Effective Learning in African Literacy Programs?: 417-478, Hamburg: ADEA/UNESCO UIE.
  • 2007: “Issues of accountability in survey, ethnographic, and action research”, in Challenges and Responsibilities of Social Research in Africa: Ethical Issues: 51-76, edited by A. Rwomire and F. Nyamnjoh, Addis Ababa:  The Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA).
  •  2006: “The social significance of Churchman’s epistemological position” in Rescuing the Enlightenment from Itself: 68-92, edited by J. McIntyre, New York: Springer.    
  • 2006: “An exploration and extension of Churchman’s insights towards the tackling of racial discrimination as a world problem”, in Rescuing the Enlightenment from Itself: 289-331, edited by J. McIntyre, New York: Springer.
  • 2004: “Facilitation as fair intervention” (co-authored with Wendy Gregory), in Community Operational Research: 157-174, edited by A. Ochoa-Arias and G. Midgley, New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.
  • 2003: “Inquiry and intervention in systems planning: Probing methodological rationalities”, in Critical Systems Thinking and Systemic Perspectives on Ethics, Power and Pluralism (Volume 4), 143-153, edited by G. Midgley, London: Sage.
  • 2001: “Cultural incongruity in changing Africa” (co-authored with Anthonia Adindu), in Africa's Development Crisis: 53-69, edited by A. Rwomire, Westport, CT: Praeger.
  • 1997: “From metatheory to multi-methodology” (co-authored with R.L. Flood), in Multi-methodology, 291-322, edited by T. Gill and J. Mingers, Chichester: Wiley.
  • 1997: “Implications of regarding information as meaningful rather than factual”, in Philosophical Aspects of Information Systems: 23-34, edited by S. Probert and R. Winder, London: Taylor and Francis Press.
  • 1996: “Towards multi-agency dialogue: Facilitation as fair education” (co-authored with W. Gregory), in Praxiology (vol.4): 323-351, edited by W.W. Gasparski, M.K. Mlicki and B.H. Banathy, New Brunswick: Transaction.
  • 1996: “Critical theory as a way to understand development”, in Reconstruction, Development and People: 196-221, edited by J. Coetzee and J. Graaff, Johannesburg: International Thomson
  • 1996: “Reflections on an action research project: Women and the law in Southern Africa”, in Critical Systems Thinking: Current Research and Practice: 251-270, edited by R.L. Flood and N.R.A. Romm, New York: Plenum.
  • 1996: “Systems methodologies and intervention: The issue of researcher responsibility”, in Critical Systems Thinking: Current Research and Practice, 179-193, edited by R.L. Flood and N.R.A. Romm, New York: Plenum.
  • 1995: “Participation in defining Tanzanian realities”, in The Tanzanian Peasantry: Further Studies: 3-22, edited by P. Forster and S. Maghimbi, Aldershot: Gower.

Journal articles

  • 2018: Reflections on a multi-layered intervention in the South African public education system: Some ethical implications for Community Operational Research. European Journal of Operational Research, 268, 3: 971-983.
  • 2018: Systemic thinking and practice toward facilitating inclusive education: Reflections on a case of co-generated knowledge and action in South Africa (co-authored with L.D.N. Tlale). Systemic Practice and Action Research, 31: 105-120.
  • 2018: A Systemic Approach to Processes of Power in Learning Organizations: part I – literature, theory, and methodology of triple loop learning (co-authored with RL. Flood). The Learning Organization,
  • 2018: A Systemic Approach to Processes of Power in Learning Organizations: part II – triple loop learning and a facilitative intervention in the ‘500 Schools Project’ (co-authored with R. L. Flood). The Learning Organization (in press).
  • 2016: Guest editorial for the special issue of South African Review of Sociology, entitled Research processes directed towards social development, 47, 1: 1-4.
  • 2016: Nurturing research relationships: Showing care and catalysing action in a South African school research-and-intervention project (co-authored with L.D.N. Tlale), South African Review of Sociology, 47, 1: 18-37.
  • 2015: Reviewing the transformative paradigm: A critical systemic and relational (indigenous) lens. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 28: 411-427.
  • 2015: Conducting focus groups in terms of an appreciation of indigenous ways of knowing: Some examples from South Africa. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 16, 1: Article 2. 
  • 2015: Reflections on focus groups sessions held with teachers regarding inclusive education: Reconsidering focus group research possibilities (co-authored with N. Nel and L.D.N. Tlale), Australian Educational Researcher, 42, 1: 35-53.
  • 2015: Narratives of agency: The experiences of Braille literacy practitioners in the Kha Ri Gude Mass Literacy Campaign (co-authored with V.I. McKay), International Journal of Inclusive Education, 19, 4: 435-456.
  • 2015: Ubuntu-inspired training of adult literacy teachers as a route to generating “community” enterprises (co-authored with K.P. Quan-Baffour), Journal of Literacy Research, 46, 4: 455-474. For a podcast presentation please see:
  • 2015: Assessing the Kha Ri Gude mass literacy campaign: Linking developmental evaluation with research (co-authored with M.M. Dichaba), Australian Journal of Adult Learning, 55, 2: 220-241.
  • 2015: Development of technological efficacy via an e-learning programme: South African parliament employees (co-authored with F. Mbuli). Participatory Educational Research, 2, 3: 1-11.
  • 2014: Exploration of transformative paradigm with pragmatic twist to contribute to educational change. International Journal on New Trends in Education and their Implications, 5, 2: 134-144. 
  • 2014: Active and accountable social inquiry: Implications and examples. Participatory Educational Research, 1, 2: 13-20. 
  • 2013: Revisiting Social Dominance Theory: Invoking a more retroductively-oriented approach to systemic theorising. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 26, 2: 111-129.
  • 2013: Employing questionnaires in terms of a constructivist epistemological stance: Reconsidering researchers’ involvement in the unfolding of social life. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 12: 652-669. 
  • 2008: Active research towards the addressal of HIV/AIDS in the informal economy in Zambia: Recognition of complicity in unfolding situations (co-authored with V.I. McKay), Action Research (Special Issue on Development) 6, 2: 149-170.
  • 2008: A systemic approach to addressing HIV/AIDS in the informal economy in Zambia: Methodological pluralism revisited (co-authored with V. McKay), International Journal of Applied Systemic Studies 1, 4: 375-397.
  • 2002: A Trusting Constructivist approach to systemic inquiry: Exploring accountability, Systems Research and Behavioral Science,19, 5: 455-467.
  • 2002: Reconsidering the exploration of power distance: an active case study approach (co-authored with C-Y. Hsu, Omega 30, 6: 403-414.
  • 1998. Interdisciplinary practice as reflexivity. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 11(1): 63-77.
  • 1997. Becoming more accountable. Sociological Research Online. Available at
  • 1996. Inquiry-and-intervention in systems planning: Probing methodological rationalities. World Futures, 47: 25-36.
  • 1995. Knowing as intervention: Reflections on the application of systems ideas, Systems Practice, 8, 2: 137-167.
  • 1983: Habermas's critique of the positivist distinction between facts and values: The relevance of this critique for sociology, Research Bulletin of the HSRC 13, 8: 43-46


Prof Norma Romm holds a DLitt et Phil in Sociology (1986). Her doctoral research was concerned with exploring different interpretations of Marx’s methodological position – with reference to debates around scientific Marxism and (more humanistic) critical theory. Norma has worked for various universities, including the Unisa Sociology Department (where she was Associate Professor of Sociology), University of Swaziland (Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences), University of Hull, UK (Deputy Director of the Centre for Systems Studies), and European University Cyprus (Professor of Sociology and Dean of the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities). She has also engaged in commissioned contracted research work for various organisations such as the International Labour Organisation, Association for the Development of Education in Africa, and the International Organisation for Migration.

She has authored, co-authored, and co-edited several books and has published over 100 research articles, dealing with issues such as: learner-centred education; increasing the capacity of adult educators; social development; community operational research; social theorising in relation to development; the facilitation of co-learning in group processes; discursive accountability; systemic inquiry; considerations of racism as a world problem; and innovative ways for researchers (professional and others) to exercise accountability in research processes as well as in the write-up thereof.

Over the course of her career, Norma has supervised dozens of Master’s and Doctoral students. Topics of supervisees have been very varied, including fields of Sociology, Social Theory, Management (Theory and Practice), Education, Setting up Learning Processes, Social Development, and Systems Thinking and Practice. Research methodologies used by students have also been very varied, including library research, survey research (with attention to considering how questionnaires may themselves be influential in shaping respondents’ understandings), interviewing (combined with semi-structured questionnaires), focus groups, active intensive interviewing (individual and group interviewing), and (different types of) action research. (Innovative combinations of various approaches have also been used, with students being guided to justify choices of procedure – to themselves and to audiences.)

When conducting research projects, Norma believes in applying multi- and inter-disciplinary orientations to the exploration of social issues, so as to increase the range of perspectives and the range of our thinking about possible options for action in relation to concerns raised.