1967-1970 B.Sc Hons in Biological Sciences, University of Natal, Durban
1972-1973 Higher Diploma in Education, University of South Africa
1980-1981 Diploma in Specialised Education (Remedial Education), University of South Africa
1984-1987 M.Sc in Zoology, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg
1987-1991 PhD in Zoology, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg
1991 Postdoctoral Scholarship

Professional Activity

2015 National Research Foundation (NRF) - C2 Rating
2013 Fellow of the Society of Biology
2001-2012 Senior lecturer/materials developer in the Faculty of Education; retired December 2012.
2009-2012 Consultant to Higher Education South Africa on matters relating to school curriculum and comparability of qualifications between South Africa and other countries.
2008-2011 Founder Member of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education Committee of ASSAf.
2006-2011 Advisor on Life Sciences and Natural Sciences curriculum to national Department of Basic Education.
2004-current Professional Consultant to Umalusi Council.
1993-2000 Lecturer / Senior lecturer in Biology education at Natal College of Education.
1992 Visiting researcher at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
1971-1983 Teacher of Biology, General Science and Mathematics at various primary and secondary schools in KwaZulu-Natal

Research Interests

Curriculum and assessment in Biology
Professional development of Biology teachers
How children learn biological concepts
Language and learning Biology


Dates Title Funder Role
2015-2016 Contributor to Secondary 2 Biology textbook for Rwanda Pearson Education Contributing author
2015 Mobi-MC Pearson Education Author of multiple choice questions for Life Sciences Grades 11 and 12 mobile app.
2013-2015 Evaluation of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements for Natural Sciences and Life Sciences relative to the National Curriculum Statement and equivalent curricula of Kenya, British Columbia and Singapore. Umalusi Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training Team leader for Natural Sciences and Life Sciences
2014-2015 Maintaining Standards: Evaluation of Senior Certificate examination papers in Life Sciences from 2012-2014 Umalusi Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training Team leader for Life Sciences
2014 Curriculum for Natural Sciences in the National Adult Senior Certificate Department of Higher Education and Training Author of the Biology section of the curriculum.
2013 Norms and standards for concurrent functions and related monitoring and reporting processes DNA Economics in conjunction with the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Author of the Education report.
2013-2015 Conversion of Biology textbooks to ebooks Pearson Education Evaluator of animations produced by a production company. Author of interactive assets for inclusion in the ebook.
2014 Contributor to GCSE Biology textbook for Malawi. Pearson Education Contributing author

Postgraduate supervision


BUTHELEZI, G. 2013. A survey of Life Sciences teachers’ understanding of the theory of evolution. M Ed. coursework
SCHRODER, D. 2013. An investigation of the attitudes and conceptual changes that occur, and the factors that influence this change, when learners are taught evolution. M Ed. full thesis.
JAWAHAR, K. 2012. Exploring the use of systemic functional language features by Physical Science teachers to promote scientific literacy in Grade 10 classrooms. M Ed. full thesis awarded cum laude.
MKHOLO, S. 2011. Assessment in Further Education and Training (FET) Life Sciences: an analysis of assessment tasks in three selected schools in the Mpumalanga Province. M Ed coursework. (Co-supervised with Dr C. Bertram)
JOHNSON, K. 2010. Biology and its recontextualisation in the school curriculum: a comparative analysis of post-apartheid South African Life Sciences curricula. M Ed full thesis awarded cum laude. (Co-supervised with Prof W. Hugo)
ZUMA, S.C. 2007. Problems experienced by isiZulu-speaking learners in answering TIMSS questions. M Ed Full thesis awarded cum laude.
KHABANE, E.M.T.K. 2004. Natural Science assessment in a C2005 classroom setting. M.Ed coursework.
BHENGU, M.B. 2003. Investigating application tasks in teachers’ assessment practices: a case study of three Grade 7 Mathematics classrooms. M.Ed coursework.
NAIDOO, J. 2003. The impact of a Life Science module on teachers’ scientific literacy. M.Ed coursework.

Ph D

JAWAHAR, K (Current). Exploring the congruency of multiliteracies in South African physical science education policy, textbooks and assessment
PREETHLALL, P. (2016). The relationship between Life Sciences teachers’ knowledge and beliefs and their teaching practice with regard to investigative practical work. Ph D. School of Education, UKZN
PEDEN, M. (Current). How do farmers become biodiversity conservationists? Implications for an Education for Sustainable Agriculture. Ph D, School of Education, UKZN. (Co-supervised with Dr P. Rule).
KEKE, B. 2014. Exploring Life Sciences teachers’ engagement with ongoing learning through Professional Development Programmes. Ph D, School of Education, UKZN
SAMSON, A-H. 2014. The role of communities of practice in implementation of curriculum change among Life Sciences teachers in South Africa and Canada. Ph D. School of Education, UKZN
KIRBY, N. 2013. Factors affecting Life Science student performance: Potential for remediation? Ph D, School of Education, UKZN.
MOLAPO, L F. 2012. Linking everyday practices and environmental practices and environmental knowledge in Lesotho secondary schools. D.Ed Faculty of Education, UKZN (Co-supervised with Dr M. Stears)
FAURIE, A.S. 1996. A comparative study of communication in elephant shrews (Macroscelidae). Ph.D.; Dept of Zoology and Entomology, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg.

Post doctoral research associate

Dr. N. F. Kirby February 2014 – 2016.


KIRBY,N. & DEMPSTER, E.R. 2015. A picture paints a thousand numbers – and tells a story. A postpositivist approach to building substantive grounded theory using decision tree analysis. South African Journal of Higher Education. 29 (6), in press.
JOHNSON, K., DEMPSTER, E.R. & HUGO, W. 2015. Exploring the recontextualisation of biology in the CAPS for Life Sciences. Journal of Education, in press.
COLEMAN, J., STEARS, M & DEMPSTER, E.R. 2015. Student teachers’ understanding and acceptance of evolution and the nature of science. South African Journal of Education, 35, 1-9.
GRANKLINT ENOCHSON, P., REDFORS, A., DEMPSTER, E.R. & TIBELL, L.E.A. 2015. Ideas about the human body among secondary students in South Africa. African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education. DOI: 10.1080/10288457.2015.1050804.
KIRBY, N. & DEMPSTER, E.R. 2015. Not the norm: the potential of tree analysis of performance data from students in a Foundation Mathematics module. African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education. DOI: 10.1080/10288457.2015.1028716
KIRBY, N.F. & DEMPSTER, E.R. 2014. Using decision tree analysis to understand Foundation Science student performance. Insight gained at one South African university. International Journal of Science Education, 36, 2825-2847.
DEMPSTER, E.R. & STEARS, M. 2014. An analysis of children's drawings of what they think is inside their bodies: A South African regional study. Journal of Biological Education, 48, 71-79.
DEMPSTER, E.R. & STEARS, M. 2013. Accessing students’ knowledge in a context of linguistic and socioeconomic diversity: the case of internal human anatomy. African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 17, 185-195.
JAWAHAR, K. & DEMPSTER, E.R. 2013. A systemic functional linguistic analysis of the utterances of three South African Physical Sciences teachers. International Journal of Science Education, 35, 1425-1453.
DEMPSTER, E.R. 2012. Comparison of exit-level examinations in four African countries. Journal of Social Sciences 33, 55-70.
MOLAPO, L., STEARS, M. & DEMPSTER, E.R. 2012. Teachers’ interpretation and implementation of the curriculum with regard to environmental education: A case study of three Lesotho schools. Acta Academica 44, 202-229.
JOHNSON, K., DEMPSTER, E.R. & HUGO, W. 2011. Exploring the recontextualisation of biology in the South African Life Sciences curriculum, 1996-2009. Journal of Education 52, 27-57.
MAPUTLA, N., DEMPSTER, E.R., RAMAN, J. & FERGUSON, W. 2011. Strong hybrid viability between two widely divergent chromosomal forms of the pouched mouse. Journal of Zoology. 285, 180-187.
KIRBY, N. & DEMPSTER, E.R. 2011. The (re) construction of a philosophical and pedagogical position for the Foundation Programme at UKZN with particular reference to the Biology module.South African Journal of Higher Education 25, 1103-1124.
DEMPSTER, E.R. & ZUMA, S.C. 2010. Reasoning used by isiZulu-speaking children when answering science questions in English. Journal of Education 50, 35-59.
ZUMA, S.C. & DEMPSTER, E.R. 2008. isiZulu as a language of assessment in science. African Journal of Research in Science, Mathematics and Technology Education 12: 31-46.
DEMPSTER, E.R. & REDDY, V. 2007. Item readability and science achievement in the TIMSS 2003 study in South Africa. Science Education 91: 906-925.
DEMPSTER, E.R. 2007. Textual strategies for answering multiple choice questions among South African learners: what can we learn from TIMSS 2003? African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Sciences and Technology Education 11: 47-60.
DEMPSTER, E.R. & HUGO, W. 2006. Introducing the concept of evolution into the South African school curriculum. South African Journal of Science 102: 106-112.

All Publications