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Dr. Karen Deller RPL Thesis
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Dr. Karen Deller RPL Thesis



Dr. Karen Deller RPL Thesis

Dr. Karen Deller RPL Thesis



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    Dr. Karen Deller RPL Thesis Dr. Karen Deller RPL Thesis Document Transcript

    • Towards the design of a workplace RPL implementation model for the South African insurance sector by Karen Deller THESISSubmitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree DOCTOR PHILOSOPHIAE in the Faculty of Human Resources Management at the University of Johannesburg Promoter: Professor WJ Coetsee Co-promoter: Dr L Beekman April 2007
    • STATEMENTI hereby certify that the dissertation submitted by me in partial fulfilment of the degreeDoctorate in Philosophiae at the University of Johannesburg is my independent work andhas not been submitted by me for a degree at another faculty or university.Name: Karen DellerDate: 23 March 2007 Page ii
    • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSAs is usual with an endeavour such as this, many people have contributed, although thework presented is all my own. I would like to acknowledge and offer my sincereappreciation to the following people who have supported and guided me through thisresearch: • The large, listed short term insurance company that allowed me access to their staff and granted permission for me to write up my findings; • The research participants who were willing to share their thoughts and frustrations to ensure that RPL in the workplace could be more meaningful in future; • My supervisor, Professor Johan Coetsee, for helping me to actually get to this point. Your quiet manner and lack of overt ‘academic-ness’ inspired me to keep going. I will always value your patience and your helping me to see that research and practice can merge at some point; • My beloved son, Jayden, who simply could not understand why I did not have time to play with him as much as I used to. The work is over - I can play again Jay!☺ • And finally to my soul mate Kevin. Thank you for creating the space to let me pursue my dream. You made me believe that I could do this. Thank you.Karen DellerApril 2007 ‘Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.’ - Mark Twain Page iii
    • TABLE OF CONTENTS STATEMENT .............................................................................................................................. ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................................................................................................ iii TABLE OF CONTENTS ............................................................................................................. iv LIST OF TABLES ...................................................................................................................... viii LIST OF FIGURES ..................................................................................................................... ix LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ......................................................................................................... x ABSTRACT .............................................................................................................................. xi OPSOMMING ............................................................................................................................ xiiCHAPTER 1 : CONTEXTUALISING THE STUDY .......................................................................... 1 1.1 Introduction ............................................................................................................ 1 1.2 Problem statement ................................................................................................. 2 1.3 Background to RPL and this research .................................................................... 2 1.4 Concept clarification ............................................................................................... 5 1.4.1 Recognition of Prior Learning and SAQA ............................................................... 5 1.4.2 Logic models, typologies and theories .................................................................... 6 1.4.3 Financial Services Board (FSB) and Financial Advisory and Intermediary (FAIS) Act.......................................................................................................................... 7 1.5 Personal interest in RPL ......................................................................................... 7 1.6 Motivation for and anticipated contribution of the research ..................................... 8 1.7 Aim, objectives and research questions of the study ............................................ 11 1.8 Design overview ................................................................................................... 15 1.9 Chapter outline and technical presentation of the thesis ....................................... 16 1.10 Chapter summary ................................................................................................. 17CHAPTER 2 : RESEARCH METHODOLOGY .............................................................................. 18 2.1 Introduction .......................................................................................................... 18 2.2 The research paradigm ........................................................................................ 18 2.3 Qualitative research ............................................................................................. 19 2.4 Research design for this study ............................................................................. 20 2.4.1 Introduction to programme evaluation ................................................................. 21 2.4.2 Secondary data analysis ...................................................................................... 24 2.5 Research methodology ........................................................................................ 25 2.5.1 Sampling .............................................................................................................. 25 2.5.2 Data collection...................................................................................................... 27 2.5.3 Data storage......................................................................................................... 29 2.5.4 Data analysis........................................................................................................ 29 2.5.5 Data displays........................................................................................................ 32 Diagrams .............................................................................................................. 32 Narratives............................................................................................................. 33 2.6 Strategies to enhance the quality of the study ...................................................... 33 2.6.1 Traditional scientific research criteria ................................................................... 34 2.6.2 Social construction and constructivist criteria ....................................................... 35 Page iv
    • 2.6.3 Artistic and evocative criteria ................................................................................ 38 2.6.4 Critical change criteria .......................................................................................... 38 2.6.5 Evaluation standards and principles ..................................................................... 39 2.7 Chapter summary ................................................................................................. 41CHAPTER 3 : PROGRAMME IMPLEMENTATION AND EVALUATION ....................................... 43 3.1 Introduction .......................................................................................................... 43 3.2 The implementation of the RPL programme ......................................................... 43 3.2.1 How was the decision to implement RPL made? .................................................. 44 3.2.2 How was the RPL programme rolled out to participants? ..................................... 46 3.3 The implementation of the programme evaluation ................................................ 49 3.3.1 Step 1: Identify the intended users of the evaluation ............................................ 50 3.3.2 Step 2: The evaluator and the intended users focus the evaluation ...................... 52 3.3.3 Step 3: Choosing an appropriate design............................................................... 54 3.3.4 Step 4: Interpreting the findings, making judgements and generating recommendations ................................................................................................. 56 3.3.5 Step 5: Dissemination of the final programme evaluation report ........................... 56 3.4 Chapter summary ................................................................................................. 57CHAPTER 4 : DATA PRESENTATION AND DATA ANALYSIS .................................................... 58 4.1 Introduction .......................................................................................................... 58 4.2 Analytical procedures used by grounded theorists ............................................... 59 4.3 Open coding ......................................................................................................... 61 4.4 Discussion of the categories that emerged from open coding............................... 67 4.4.1 Category 1: Catalyst or reason for doing RPL ...................................................... 68 4.4.2 Category 2: Feelings towards the RPL process and FAIS in general.................... 69 4.4.3 Category 3: Questioning the purpose and validity of the programme.................... 70 4.4.4 Category 4: Preparation for the process ............................................................... 70 4.4.5 Category 5: Self-confidence about their ability to do their job and the RPL ........... 71 4.4.6 Category 6: Personal values ................................................................................ 71 4.4.7 Category 7: Perceived link between qualification and job performance ................ 72 4.4.8 Category 8: Role of support systems in controlling anxiety and stress and getting through the process.............................................................................................. 73 4.4.9 Category 9: Ability to cope.................................................................................... 74 4.4.10 Category 10: Need for confirmation from others ................................................... 74 4.4.11 Category 11: ‘Me’ and ‘I’ vs ‘We’ and ‘Us’ ............................................................. 75 4.4.12 Category 12: Understanding of academic approach and assessment principles .. 75 4.4.13 Category 13: Stress and time consuming nature of the RPL programme ............. 77 4.4.14 Category 14: Personalisation of the RPL process ................................................ 77 4.4.15 Category 15: ‘The RPL’ as opposed to naming the company involved in the implementation ..................................................................................................... 78 4.4.16 Category 16: Change in perception towards the project ....................................... 78 4.4.17 Category 17: Perception of feedback ................................................................... 79 4.4.18 Category 18: Results/outcome of the RPL programme......................................... 80 4.5 Axial coding .......................................................................................................... 81 4.5.1 Circumstances leading to the RPL process and initial reactions .......................... 85 4.5.2 Personal mastery – actions and reactions to the circumstance that required the candidates to do RPL ........................................................................................... 89 4.5.3 Choice of team learning and support, a consequence of personal mastery .......... 92 4.5.4 Change in perception – a consequence of personal mastery and team support ... 94 4.5.5 Outcome of the RPL process – reaction of the candidates ................................... 97 4.6 Selective coding ................................................................................................... 98 4.6.1 Storyline memo .................................................................................................. 100 4.7 Secondary data analysis of RPL workplace case studies ................................... 105 Page v
    • 4.7.1 Barriers to the RPL implementation as described in the case study ................... 107 4.7.2 Assessment methodologies employed ............................................................... 109 4.7.3 The implementation process followed by the implementers ................................ 109 4.8 Chapter summary ............................................................................................... 110CHAPTER 5 : LITERATURE REVIEW ........................................................................................ 112 5.1 Introduction ........................................................................................................ 112 5.2 Review of the most influential learning theories .................................................. 113 5.2.1 Behavourism ...................................................................................................... 114 5.2.2 Cognitivism ........................................................................................................ 115 5.2.3 Constructivism.................................................................................................... 117 5.2.4 Situated learning ................................................................................................ 119 5.3 Review of the most influential workplace learning theories ................................. 120 5.4 Review of the most influential RPL literature ...................................................... 131 5.4.1 The technical or market framework .................................................................... 131 5.4.2 Liberal humanist framework ............................................................................... 132 5.4.3 Critical or radical framework ............................................................................... 133 5.5 Chapter summary ............................................................................................... 146CHAPTER 6 : DESIGN OF A LOGIC MODEL FOR WORKPLACE RPL IMPLEMENTATION .... 148 6.1 Introduction ........................................................................................................ 148 6.2 Implication of the theories and practice for this research’s emerging logic model of workplace RPL practice...................................................................................... 149 6.2.1 Circumstances leading to the RPL process and candidates’ initial reactions to it 149 6.2.2 Personal mastery skills displayed by candidates ................................................ 158 6.2.3 Role of team support and/or group processes throughout the RPL .................... 161 6.2.4 Evolving perception of the RPL process ............................................................. 163 6.2.5 Meaning of the outcome of the RPL process upon completion ........................... 166 6.3 Introduction to logic modelling ............................................................................ 167 6.4 Developing a logic model for this research ......................................................... 169 6.4.1 The required results ........................................................................................... 169 6.4.2 The required actions........................................................................................... 173 6.4.3 The theory-of-change logic model ...................................................................... 175 6.5 The activities-approach model ............................................................................ 177 6.6 Advantages and limitations of logic models ........................................................ 180 6.7 Chapter summary ............................................................................................... 182 Page vi
    • CHAPTER 7 : CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ..................................................... 184 7.1 Introduction ........................................................................................................ 184 7.2 Broad summary of the research ......................................................................... 184 7.3 Overall assessment of this research ................................................................... 186 7.4 Contributions of this research ............................................................................. 190 7.4.1 Significance for practice ..................................................................................... 191 7.4.2 Significance for policy......................................................................................... 191 7.4.3 Significance for theory ........................................................................................ 192 7.4.4 Significance for social issues and action ............................................................ 193 7.5 Personal reflections ............................................................................................ 194 7.6 Recommendations ............................................................................................. 195 7.6.1 Recommendations for implementation ............................................................... 195 7.6.2 Recommendations for workplace RPL policy makers ......................................... 196 7.6.3 Future research .................................................................................................. 198 7.7 Conclusions........................................................................................................ 198 7.7.1 Implementation................................................................................................... 198 7.7.2 Policy and theory ................................................................................................ 201APPENDICES Appendix 1: Example of a diagram created during this research ............................................. 203 Appendix 2: Example of a narrative memo created during this research ................................. 204 Appendix 3: Sample of coded text from the research .............................................................. 207 Appendix 4: Table summarising the outcomes from the open coding analysis ........................ 212 Appendix 5: List of the questions posed to interview candidates during axial coding ............... 222 Appendix 6: Summary of the analysis of the 18 case studies presented by Dyson and Keating (2005)................................................................................................................. 223 Appendix 7: letter of consent from employer ........................................................................... 232Bibliography ........................................................................................................................ 233 Page vii
    • LIST OF TABLESTable 3-1 List of stakeholders and the intended uses they may have for the data ........................ 51Table 4-1 Summary of the categories from the open coding analysis........................................... 64Table 4-2 Summary of the analysis at axial coding stage ............................................................. 83Table 5-1 Hodkinson and Hodkinson (2001) typology of learning............................................... 123Table 5-2 Possible ideal-types of formal and informal learning (Colley, Hodkinson and Malcolm (2002) ......................................................................................................................... 125Table 7-1 Comparing the quality criteria proposed by Kelly (1999b) to this research ................. 188 Page viii
    • LIST OF FIGURESFigure 1-1 Conceptual framework for this research ....................................................................... 13Figure 2-1 The grounded theory data analysis process implemented in this research................... 31Figure 3-1 The RPL process as implemented in the programme – sourced from the Prior Learning Centre in-house RPL brochure given to the candidates ............................................. 48Figure 4-1 Copy of the front and back of one of the index cards produced during open coding ..... 63Figure 4-2 Summary of circumstance – action/reaction – consequence – outcome process flow in the research data ....................................................................................................... 85Figure 4-3 Relationship between categories 1, 2, 7 and 13 ........................................................... 87Figure 4-4 Personal mastery continuums ...................................................................................... 90Figure 4-5 The link between team support and the categories from the open coding analysis ...... 93Figure 4-6 Hypothesised link between personal mastery, team support and change in perception . .............................................................................................................................. 96Figure 4-7 Grounded theory data analysis model steps linked to the events in this research ...... 101Figure 4-8 Types of RPL candidates ........................................................................................... 103Figure 5-1 Conceptual map of Chapter 5 .................................................................................... 113Figure 6-1 Learning culture continuum presented by Fuller and Unwin (2003; 2004) .................. 157Figure 6-2 Basic logic model proposed by WK Kellogg Foundation (2004, p. 1) ......................... 168Figure 6-3 List of results (outputs, outcomes and impact) required from the current research towards the design of a ............................................................................................ 172Figure 6-4 List of required actions (inputs and activities) required from the current research towards the design of a logic model for insurance-sector RPL implementation ..................... 174Figure 6-5: Theory of change logic model designed from the data collected in this research and presented towards the design of a logic model for insurance sector RPL implementation ........................................................................................................ 176Figure 6-6 Activities-approach logic model designed from the data collected in this research and presented towards the design of a logic model for insurance-sector RPL implementation ........................................................................................................ 178Figure 6-7: High level process flow to guide RPL implementation in the insurance sector........... 183 Page ix
    • LIST OF ABBREVIATIONSAPL Assessment of Prior LearningAPEL Assessment of Prior Experiential LearningCAEL Council for Adult and Experiential LearningETQA Education and Training Quality Assurance bodyFAIS Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services ActFET Further Education and TrainingFSB Financial Services BoardGET General Education and TrainingHET Higher Education and TrainingILO International Labour OrganisationNQF National Qualification FrameworkRPL Recognition of Prior LearningSAQA South Africa Qualifications AuthoritySETA Sector Education and Training AuthorityINSETA Insurance Sector Education and Training Authority Page x
    • ABSTRACTRecognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is an internationally accepted process of assessingnon-formal learning with the intention of matching it to academic credits. This allows thecandidate to earn either a full or partial qualification based on knowledge and/or skillsacquired outside of the formal classroom. The South African insurance sector was facedwith legislation requiring all financial advisers to earn academic credits before they couldcontinue in the industry. The sector believed that the RPL process would suit theircircumstances because most financial advisers had many years of workplace experienceand had mostly attended many internal, but often unaccredited, product trainingprogrammes. However, there was no RPL implementation model to guide a workplaceimplementation of this nature as most RPL models followed the practices set by formalhigher education providers and there was no consideration of the many variables that havean impact in the workplace.This research set out to design a logic model to guide the implementation of workplaceRPL in the insurance sector. The data was collected during the evaluation of an RPLimplementation programme that had good results but which used the moreindividualistically inspired RPL approach of formal education. The data was analysedusing grounded theory data analysis techniques (Strauss & Corbin, 1998 and Glaser &Strauss, 1967) and the result was the identification of 18 broad categories. Furtheranalysis reduced these to five categories, i.e. reaction to the circumstances requiring theRPL, personal mastery, team support, changing perceptions towards the RPL process,and perceived outcome of the RPL process.These categories were researched by looking at the most influential traditional andworkplace learning theorists, as well as the most influential RPL theorists. Finally, asecondary data analysis was conducted on 18 workplace RPL case studies described byDyson and Keating (2005). The results of this research were formulated into a logic modelto guide RPL implementation in the insurance sector. Using this logic model as a guide,further recommendations were made to guide workplace RPL implementation in the future. Page xi
    • OPSOMMINGErkenning van Vorige Leer (EVL) is n internasionaal aanvaarde proses om nie-formeleleerervarings te assesseer en aan akademiese krediete gelyk te stel. Sodanige erkenningstel die kandidaat in staat om óf ‘n volle kwalifikasie óf ‘n gedeeltelike kwalifikasie teverwerf op grond van die kennis en/of vaardighede wat buite ‘n formele klaskameropgedoen is. Die Suid-Afrikaanse versekeringsektor het voor wetgewing te staan gekomwat vereis dat alle finansiële adviseurs akademiese krediete verdien voordat hulle magaangaan om in die bedryf te werk. Die sektor was oortuig daarvan dat die EVL-proseshulle omstandighede die beste sou pas, aangesien die meeste finansiële adviseurs baiejare se ondervinding in die werkplek het en meestal baie interne, maar ongeakkrediteerde,opleidingsprogramme oor die verskillende produkte bygewoon het. Daar was egter geenEVL-model beskikbaar om implementering van so ‘n aard te rig nie, aangesien die meesteEVL-modelle die praktyke gevolg het wat deur formele hoëronderwys-verskaffersdaargestel is en daar was geen oorweging van die vele veranderlikes wat ‘n impak op diewerkplek het nie.Hierdie navorsing het dit ten doel gehad om ‘n logika-model te ontwerp om dieimplementering van werksplek-EVL in die versekeringsektor te rig. Die data is ingesameltydens die evaluering van ‘n EVL-implementeringsprogram, wat goeie resultate getoon hetmaar die meer individualisties geïnspireerde EVL-benadering van formele onderwysgebruik het. Die data is ontleed deur gegrondeteorie-data-analisetegnieke (Strauss &Corbin, 1998 en Glaser & Strauss, 1967) te gebruik en gevolglik is 18 duidelike kategorieëgeïdentifiseer. Verdere analise het hierdie kategorieë tot vyf verminder; d.i. reaksie opomstandighede wat EVL vereis; persoonlike beheersing; spanondersteuning; veranderingvan persepsies oor die EVL-proses; en die waargenome resultaat van die EVL-proses.Hierdie kategorieë is nagevors deur die idees van gerekende tradisionele enwerkplekleerteoretici, sowel as van EVL-teoretici te bestudeer. Sekondêre data-analise islaastens op 18 werkplek-EVL-gevallestudies, wat deur Dyson en Keating (2005) beskryf is,gedoen. Die resultate van hierdie navorsing is in ‘n logika-model geformuleer om EVL-implementering in die versekeringsektor te rig. Die gebruik van hierdie logika-model het totverdere aanbevelings gelei om die implementering van werkplek-EVL in die toekoms terig. Page xii
    • CHAPTER 1 : CONTEXTUALISING THE STUDY ‘Probable impossibilities are to be preferred to improbable possibilities.’ - Aristotle1.1 IntroductionIn terms of the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services (FAIS) Act 37 of 2002, allfinancial advisers and intermediaries are required to become licensed with the FinancialServices Board (FSB) if they wish to offer advice and sell financial services. In order to beawarded the Financial Services Board license to continue advising/selling, the advisersand intermediaries need to prove that they meet minimum qualification and competencyrequirements (Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act 37 of 2002). The FAISAct was passed to create a new level of professionalism in the South African insuranceindustry and to protect the consumer (Insurance Sector Education and Training Authority,abbreviated as INSETA, 2004a).The number of affected advisers and intermediaries was estimated to be 75 000 in 2004(INSETA, 2004a). Those who were unable to prove compliance had two options if theywanted to continue as a licensed financial service professional: they could either attend aformal training programme and be formally assessed to acquire the required minimumqualification or they could apply to have their current insurance competencies assessed foracademic credit without first attending any training programme. This latter processembodies what is referred to as recognition of prior learning (RPL) by the South AfricanQualifications Authority (SAQA)1.Large employers in the insurance sector expressed the need for an RPL process thatwould accommodate the workplace requirements and the staggered FAIS compliancedeadlines (A. Marais, personal communication, 23 May 2004). No such process existedand this research was conceptualised and implemented with the cooperation of one largeinsurance sector employer to address the need for a sector-specific RPL process.1 The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) is the authority responsible formaintaining the National Qualification Framework (NQF) in South Africa. Page 1
    • This introductory chapter introduces and contextualises this research. It provides anoverview of the rationale for the research, defines the research problem and the aims andobjectives, and gives an overview of the research approach to be followed. The chapterconcludes with an overview summary of each of the chapters that follow.1.2 Problem statementThe primary concern of this thesis is to develop a logic model for the sustainable andpedagogically sound implementation of workplace RPL in the insurance sector. Nosustainable workplace RPL implementation model exists in South Africa and unless one isdeveloped for the financial services sector thousands of advisers will have to re-attendtraining and write examinations for knowledge they already have simply because theycannot prove to the FSB that they have the knowledge. This will arguably cost the industrymillions of rands in terms of money and lost production time.1.3 Background to RPL and this researchThe International Labour Organisation (ILO) (2000) has expressed the view that betterrecognition of the skills of individuals would be beneficial for both the employer and theemployee. These benefits include social, economic and political benefits. Whileconcurring with this view, it can be argued that these benefits will only be realised ifworkplace RPL is implemented within the paradigm of workplace pedagogical practice, asopposed to traditional classroom pedagogical practice. To achieve this, the RPLimplementer must be aware of the paradigm of workplace pedagogy and workplacerestrictions, and understand why RPL has not been widely implemented in the workplace.Broadly stated, RPL is a practice that gives currency and recognition to a person’sprevious learning, regardless of how and where that learning was acquired. Thisrecognition can be in the form of academic credits or advanced placement (SAQA, 2001).However, the way that RPL is defined and implemented is largely determined by theeducational context and policies of the institution implementing the RPL (Harris, 2000).In South Africa there are many contexts within which RPL can be practiced, includinghigher education (HET), further education (FET), general education (GET), Adult BasicEducation and Training (ABET), workplace-based training centres and in the workplace Page 2
    • itself. Also, each classroom and workplace context will be different and not even twoworkplaces within the same industry will be identical.In addition to the variety of contexts within which RPL may take place, there are differentreasons that may lead a candidate to embark upon RPL. These include (SAQA, 2002;Harris, 2000): Access or advanced standing; Credit for a full qualification; Credit for a partial qualification; RPL to prove job competence for promotion; RPL for job seeking.Given the number of contexts within which RPL may occur and the many possible reasonsfor doing RPL, it is reasonable to deduce that a single model to guide the universalimplementation of RPL is not viable. In addition, Dyson and Keating (2005) state that mostof the RPL literature and research has been compiled in relation to the higher educationalcontext. Over time, the RPL implementation models that have been proposed byresearchers from the formal academic context have become accepted by practitioners inother contexts, often without regard to the differences between: the contexts, the RPLcandidates, the reasons for doing RPL, and the methods most suited to RPL within thecontext (Dyson & Keating, 2005; Harris, 2000; 2002). This research aims to partiallyaddress this shortcoming in the literature by developing a logic model to guide theimplementation of workplace RPL in the South African insurance sector. This modelwill be proposed as a solution to assist those advisers affected by the FAIS legislation.Despite the South African government’s frequently stated role for RPL as a tool for ‘socialtransformation’ (SAQA Act, 1995; SAQA, 2002; Departments of Education and Labour,2002) the SAQA policies give no national implementation plan to guide RPLimplementation specifically in the workplace. This could be one of the reasons why therehas been little implementation of RPL in South African workplaces (Deller, 2003).However, even though there is a guiding model and some research on RPL in the highereducational context, RPL in this context is also not progressing quickly along the path towide-scale RPL implementation. Breier and Burness (2003) report only 1200 cases ofRPL in the university and technikon sector in 2003, although they do report ‘wide spreadinstitutionalisation of RPL policies and practices among the 16 universities and 10 Page 3
    • technikons who responded’ to the survey they conducted. The lack of progress inimplementing RPL was also reported by the combined ministerial study team of theDepartments of Labour and Education (2002, p. 86) when they reviewed SAQA in 2002.They reported: ‘of all the expectations placed on the NQF, the aspiration for a system ofRPL was perhaps the most significant; hence the failure to provide any large scaleprovision of RPL has been one of the greatest causes of current disappointment.’Some of the reasons for this lack of implementation could include: The lack of context-specific conceptual frameworks for RPL practitioners in the different contexts. Practitioners from different frameworks and contexts define RPL differently and they have different expectations for RPL implementation (Harris, 2002). Without an understanding of the contextual differences in RPL implementation, the context with the most research will dominate – at present this is understandably the higher educational context. This research should contribute to an understanding of RPL in the workplace context. The lack of widely available information and about RPL. Besides the SAQA RPL Advocacy Campaign run for three months in 2002, there has been little publicity around RPL and its benefits. This has resulted in a low level of public awareness about RPL and its potential. Uncertainty as to the place of RPL within the full human resources strategy of a business. Even training specialists and workplace assessors are unsure how to fit RPL into their human resources strategies (Deller, 2003). This uncertainty will not result in the ‘sustainable model for RPL’ hoped for by SAQA policy (SAQA, 2002; 2003). The lack of resources available to business, particularly small business where 57% of people are employed (Mdladlana, 2002). The logistics and resources involved in the generic RPL process flow is seen as too complex and too prohibitive for many businesses to apply (SAQA, 2002). The complexity of the skills development process and its terminology has made employers reluctant to engage with the process. The Department of Labour (2005) stated that there were two reasons commonly given by employers to explain their non-participation in the skills development and Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) processes. These were a lack of information about the SETAs and documentation and procedures that were too complicated to engage with (Department of Labour, 2005, p. 39). Page 4
    • The proliferation of bodies responsible for the generation of standards and qualifications and quality has led to an absence of strategic leadership and co- ordination. This is causing confusion within the corporate sector and leading to delays in implementation. (Departments of Labour and Education, 2002). The development of unit standards is a labour intensive and voluntary process, which is taking longer than expected. The lack of unit standards will hinder the implementation of RPL and the skills strategy (Departments of Labour and Education, 2002).Before moving into the value that this research will add both academically and practically,it is pertinent to clarify some key concepts that will be used throughout this research and toaddress my personal interest as an RPL practitioner.1.4 Concept clarificationAt this stage it is pertinent to define the key concepts that will be used throughout thisresearch:1.4.1 Recognition of Prior Learning and SAQARecognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is an international concept that was first mentioned inSouth African legislation in the South African Qualification Authority Act, 1995 (Act No 58of 1995). This Act gave life to the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), which isthe legislative body responsible for the development and implementation of the NationalQualifications Framework (NQF) in South Africa. SAQA’s mission is to ensure that theNQF contributes to the full development of each learner and to the social and economicdevelopment of the nation at large (SAQA, 2002). RPL is one of the strategiesrecommended by SAQA to ensure that this mission is achieved and RPL is referred to asa fundamental component of the national skills development strategy in South Africa(SAQA, 2002).SAQA intends for South Africa to address its need for a more skilled, flexible andproductive workforce through RPL. This has made RPL a fundamental part of the SouthAfrican government’s skills development strategy. RPL is defined in National StandardsBodies Regulations (No. 18787 of 28 March 1998, issued in terms of the SAQA Act 58 of1995) as follows: Page 5
    • ‘Recognition of prior learning means the comparison of the previous learning and experience of a learner howsoever obtained against the learning outcomes required for a specified qualification, and the acceptance for purposes of qualification of that which meets the requirements’.This definition raises the following issues with regard to RPL: It points out that learning can occur in many different ways and that informal and non-formal learning can also result in credits; It states that assessment of the learning must be in relation to specific learning outcomes required for the qualification in question; and It implies that if an RPL candidate meets the requirements they will be awarded the credits or full qualification.All SAQA and NQF documentation states that RPL should not be seen as a temporaryintervention that will fall away when the past unfair discrimination is redressed and allpeople have access to education and training. It is widely emphasised in policydocumentation (SAQA, 2000; 2002; 2003) that RPL be seen as a sustainable model thatcan be applied widely to assist candidates to prove their competence, regardless of howand when they acquired that competence.The explicit objectives of SAQA in relation to RPL are that it will: ‘Facilitate access to, and mobility and progression within education, training and career paths; and Accelerate redress of past unfair discrimination in education, training and employment opportunities’ (SAQA, 2002).1.4.2 Logic models, typologies and theoriesThe purpose of this research is to design a logic model to guide the implementation of RPLin the workplace. Patton (2002, p. 162-163) defines a logic model (also termed a theory ofaction) as a logical and graphical representation showing the connections betweenprogramme inputs, outputs and processes that is used to guide and predict practicalimplementation. Simply put, a logic model provides a step-by-step view of a process thatcan be followed when implementing whatever it is representing. Page 6
    • Logic models are different from both typologies and theories. Broadly speaking a typologyis the systematic classification of different types (Oxford Dictionary, 2005) using certaincharacteristics to guide the classification. RPL typologies have been proposed (Osman,2001; Harris, 2002) but these fail to provide the workplace practitioner with sufficientinformation to guide implementation.Theories come in many shapes and sizes. Neuman (2003), for example, lists five differentcategories of theories, ranging from pure induction or deduction at the simplest level to anoverall framework of assumptions, beliefs and constructs at the most complex level. Thisresearch cannot hope to deliver up a full theoretical framework for workplace RPL becauseof its limited sample and the fact that it is a single event. But it may be able to contributeto the development of an encompassing RPL theory if its outcomes are validated bysubsequent research findings in the future.1.4.3 Financial Services Board (FSB) and Financial Advisory and Intermediary(FAIS) ActThe FAIS Act was introduced to regulate the business of Financial Service Providers(FSPs) who give advice to clients. In terms of the Act, providers and their advisers arerequired to be licensed by the Financial Services Board (FSB) and their professionalconduct is determined by enforced measures. One of these enforced measures is thatadvisers and intermediaries must embark upon a structured learning process and earnacademic credits by specific deadlines. The level and number of academic credits isdetermined by the complexity of the financial products marketed by the individual adviser,with more complex, long term investments requiring higher levels and greater number ofcredits than short term, low complex investments like funeral policies. The level refers tothe National Qualifications Framework (NQF) managed by SAQA. It is a hierarchicalframework of all nationally registered qualifications from the lowest level at NQF level 1(roughly equivalent to grade 9) all the way up to an NQF 8 qualification (roughly equivalentto doctorate level).1.5 Personal interest in RPLMy personal involvement with RPL started six years ago when I was tasked withimplementing one of the very first workplace RPL implementation projects in South Africa. Page 7
    • This project involved 1 000 domestic workers and there was a dearth of practicalguidelines for RPL delivery in the workplace. This was the catalyst for this research.Over the ensuing years I conducted a full literature search, attended both local andinternational conferences on RPL and managed new workplace RPL projects. Practicesfor RPL implementation evolved and became the basis for this formal research project.My bias is that I am a workplace practitioner. I have conducted training in a formalclassroom, but my preference is for practical, workplace instruction that is structured,guided and relevant to the immediate needs of the workplace.Throughout the research, specific care has been taken to avoid my bias having an impacton the outcome of the research because it has the potential to impact upon the validity,reliability and generalisability of the outcomes. These measures include methodologicaltriangulation, the keeping of a reflective journal and the employment of a rigid dataanalysis methodology. These measures are critical if the full value of this research is to berealised for the various stakeholders; not least of which are the learners who need to beFAIS compliant in order to retain their livelihood. The anticipated contributions of thisresearch are discussion in the following section.1.6 Motivation for and anticipated contribution of the researchAs will become apparent, this research is about the RPL experiences of a group ofinsurance sector employees employed by one company. On an empirical level, theresearch aims to capture and analyse these experiences so as to formulate an improvedmethodological process (a logic model) for workplace RPL implementation within thesector. This research is important because the literature review revealed that no suchscientific research has yet been conducted. Methodologically, the research is alsoimportant for the discipline of qualitative research as a whole as it adds to the growingbody of relevant and practical research that is emanating from this design methodology(Terre Blanche & Durrheim, 1999).On a theoretical level, the research draws on both workplace learning theory and RPLtheory to substantiate parts of the evolving logic model, and it is therefore anticipated thatthere will be an iterative flow back into the generally accepted body of scientific research.Should this happen, one of the key contributions of the research will be the crystallisation Page 8
    • of the view that RPL is context-specific and that models developed in one context (forexample formal higher education) cannot be readily transferred to another context (suchas the workplace) without the realisation of the potential for a less than optimal outcome.This point is partially made by some authors (for example Harris, 2000; Michelson, 1999a)who do point out ‘the main issue to keep in mind is that prior learning, and particularly priorexperiential learning, is itself situated learning – it is informal and particular and deeplyconnected to context’ (Harris, 2000). However, they do not conclude that if prior learningis acquired in a situated context then it should possibly best be assessed in a situatedcontext.In addition to the theoretical contribution of a contextual RPL model, this research willmake a social and economic contribution to the insurance sector and its employees’ urgentneed for the acquisition of academic credits to ensure legal compliance. As a result, thekey practical contribution of this research is the development of an RPL model that willmake RPL implementation within this unique context possible. The South Africanworkplace is a different meta-context to any other international workplace as we haveunique socio-political drivers for RPL in South Africa. These include: • The need to reconstruct and develop South African society by closing the gap between those who could access higher education and those who could not (Marock, 2000; Committee of Technikon Principals, 2001); and • The need to recognise the knowledge and skills embodied in employees, so that this can be linked to improved access to further training and consequently to improved wages, life style and working conditions (Marock, 2000; Michelson, 1999b)Besides the socio-political rationale for RPL, there are other practical reasons why RPLneeds a uniquely South African model for its implementation. Luckett (1999) and Geyser(2001) both point out that although RPL is a widely applied concept internationally, theunique circumstances in South Africa mean that the lessons and methodologies fromabroad cannot simply be imported. Other uniquely South African issues facing RPLimplementation are: Page 9
    • • Low levels of literacy and numeracy skills in South Africa and the existence of eleven official languages make it difficult for candidates to be RPL-ed, because many assessment tools rely on language – so more practical methods of assessing competence need to be tested (Sanders, 1999; Luckett, 1999). • The existence of an NQF and the infrastructure of 25 SETAs all striving to place 80 000 learners onto 666 registered learnerships by May 2005, with increasing targets each year (Department of Labour, 2005, p. 42-51). All of these learners will require some form of workplace assessment and the currently employed learners will require at least a small portion of RPL. All of this activity will create a demand for workplace RPL. However, this demand will outstrip the supply of services if RPL is offered using a more traditional, developmental RPL model which is hugely resource intensive (SAQA, 2003). • The lack of a single body that could take responsibility for RPL implementation (such as the CAEL2 in the USA and TAFE3 in Australia) will make the process more difficult (Departments of Education and Labour, 2002). A South African model for RPL needs to take this into account. • The lack of registered assessors and moderators leaves South Africa with a tremendous backlog (Departments of Education and Labour, 2002). • The lack of South African qualitative RPL research and case studies. Breier and Burness (2003) and Harris (2002) have identified this as a problem and they stress that uniquely South African research into RPL is needed to assist practitioners and to conceptualise, categorise and implement RPL in South Africa. This research will be one of the few qualitative workplace RPL studies to be conducted in South Africa.From the above, it is clear that the development of a uniquely South African RPLimplementation model for the workplace will have wide reaching implications, not only forthe insurance sector but also for other sectors. The South African economy is indesperate need of skilled workers (Bernstein, 2007) yet many competent citizens areunder-utilised simply because they cannot show evidence of their competence. An RPLmodel that is developed with due consideration of South Africa’s needs will be able to2 CAEL – Council for Adult and Experiential Learning3 TAFE – Technical and Further Education Colleges Page 10
    • assist individuals to take advantage of the many opportunities available for qualified staff.This could arguably have far reaching consequences for the South African economy.1.7 Aim, objectives and research questions of the studyThe primary research aim of this research is to develop a logic model for RPLimplementation in the insurance workplace. This model will be designed using thedata collected during the programme evaluation of another workplace RPL implementationin the insurance sector. This primary research aim is broadly stated, following theguidance of Marshall and Rossman (1995, p. 26), who state that qualitative ‘researchquestions should be general enough to permit exploration but focused enough to delimitthe study’. This suggests that the questions and objectives need to make provision forflexibility in qualitative research. In order to both understand and achieve these broadresearch aims, the advice of Miles and Huberman (1994, p. 18–22) was followed. Theysuggest that researchers should construct a conceptual framework to help them ‘decidewhich variables are most important, which relationships are likely to be most meaningful,and, as a consequence, what information should be collected and analysed – at least atthe outset.’Following the development of the conceptual framework (shown in Figure 1.1), thefollowing empirical research questions were formulated to guide the programme evaluationin this research: 1. How was the decision to implement RPL made? 2. How was the RPL programme rolled out to participants? 3. What individual factors contributed to RPL success? 4. What contextual workplace and broader environmental factors contributed to RPL success? 5. What technical assistance was needed to complete the RPL process? 6. Was the RPL programme considered successful? 7. How should South African business manage RPL implementation? Page 11
    • From these conceptual questions the following broad research objectives can be derived: Objective 1: To employ a qualitative methodology to establish and describe the experiences of RPL candidates during an RPL implementation process; Objective 2: To link the experiences of the RPL candidates to the literature that describes workplace learning and assessment practices so as to understand their experiences, both as part of this learning paradigm and as part of the RPL implementation process; Objective 3: To link these experiences to other workplace RPL case studies so as to identify trends and categories that add value and clarity to the experiences of the RPL candidates; Objective 4: To build a logic model for workplace RPL implementation that is based upon both an analysis of the experiences of the RPL candidates and an analysis of workplace learning theory and RPL theory; Objective 5: To apply the insights gained from both the RPL candidates and the scholarly articles on RPL and workplace learning in order to redefine and reconceptualise current RPL implementation approaches contemplated for the insurance sector (and possibly even in other similar workplace sectors, such as banking where FAIS compliance is also a factor for employability).The conceptual framework that gave clarity to these questions and objectives isgraphically depicted in Figure 1.1. It summarises the ‘main things to be studied’, showsthe variables, factors and constructs, and the possible relationships between them (Miles& Huberman, 1994). Page 12
    • Factors Workplace Implementation impacting context Outcomes process adoption (i.e. unit of analysis) RPL adviser explains RPL process. Workplace factors: Demographics. •Economic (cost of a Side effects – Prior history with innovation. Candidates worked alone on positive and solution); •Social responsibility portfolio of evidence. negative (can’t have mass Prior history and knowledge of RPL or INSETA/SAQA retrenchment); •Legal (must comply). training initiatives. Candidates given support on request. FAIS Organisational norms, compliance – culture, work arrangements, yes or no? policies to encourage study, Candidates submit portfolios after Legal factors: work breakdown and flow. completion of some evidence for National Educational review. Improvements Management support for the for workplace policy and framework (SAQA, NQF, RPL); RPL programme. Assessor assesses – feedback given RPL in future? Legal environment (FAIS). and candidates collect additional Technology available. evidence to complete portfolio. Other Assessor assesses final product and outcomes? makes final decision. How do these outcomes fit Individual factors: Moderators check validity of final with the • Economic (can’t afford Skill, attitude, decision. literature? retrenchment); perception of RPL •Legal (must comply); candidates Credits awarded to competent • Social and educational candidates. history; • Attitude to need to comply.Figure 1-1 Conceptual framework for this research Page 13
    • Working from the left to the right, Figure 1.1 starts with the conceptualisation of the broadmacro factors impacting the RPL adoption. These include workplace factors, legal factorsand individual factors. These macro factors are seen as ‘given’ and largely unchangeable.The legal factors impact both the employer and the individual in that they determine thebroad legal framework within which both FAIS compliance and RPL must take place. Theorganisation is subject to the workplace factors in that it cannot afford to lose largenumbers of staff due to non-compliance, yet it must comply with the legislation thatrequires FAIS compliance. Lastly, the affected individuals within the organisation bringtheir individual factors into the RPL situation. These vary from individual to individual andare arguably a consequence of their social and educational history. All individuals mustcomply with the legislation but it is postulated that their reaction to the law is determined bytheir previous experience with studying, their social history and whether they can afford theconsequence of being non-compliant. These three macro factors that impact the adoptionof RPL lead into the second column, which identifies the workplace contextual variablesthat may have an impact on RPL implementation. It can be argued that these are uniqueto each employer and could have an impact on the generalisability of the research as awhole. They also impact the skills, attitudes and overall perception of the staff towards theRPL programme (this is depicted at the bottom of the second column). Variables that areconsidered to be important are: • the demographics of the workforce (race, age, gender, cultures, geography, job position, etc.); • the organisation’s prior experience with innovative ideas (because if the staff have been exposed to innovative ideas like RPL before and these have worked, the staff may be more inclined to embrace a new innovation); • prior history with RPL and other INSETA training initiatives (because if they have some experience of working with outcomes-based training and unit standards then the RPL will be easier to relate to and less intimidating); • the workplace norms surrounding study, workflow, etc. (because where these facilitate individual success, it can be argued that there is more likely to be success, whereas some workplace cultures have norms that are counter- productive to individual success); • the support of management for the RPL programme (where management is openly supportive, the RPL programme will probably have a greater success rate); Page 14
    • • the technology available (RPL requires resources such as the internet so if these are not available in the workplace learners will have to source them elsewhere).These workplace contextual variables in turn lead into the implementation process,summarised in the third column. Here the basic RPL process is sketched from top tobottom. It commences with the RPL adviser explaining the process, the learners workingalone, seeking assistance when they require it and submitting their portfolios forassessment when ready. The assessor assesses their work, provides feedback andallows them to remediate. The assessor’s decision is validated by the moderator and thelearner is awarded any credits that are due to them. All three columns (macroenvironment, micro environment and implementation of this project) feed into theoutcomes column which, at this stage, is a series of questions that have been used toguide the objectives stated above. The empirical research questions were formulated as aresult of being able to visualise the conceptual framework and they follow the flowintuitively.This moves us into the next section, which briefly outlines how the research was designedand implemented, given the theoretical research questions, aim and objectives.1.8 Design overviewAccording to Terre Blanche and Durrheim (2002), there are three broad paradigms in thesocial sciences: positivist, interpretative and constructionist. Each of these brings with it aunique view of reality (ontology), a view about the nature of the relationship between theresearcher and what can be known (epistemology) and recommendations for designingand conducting the research (methodology). My particular ontological, epistemologicaland methodological perspectives place this research in the interpretative paradigm, whichsuggests a qualitative research methodology. This research will, however, (followingPatton, 2002, 69–70 and Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 30) be approached pragmaticallyrather than simply adhering blindly to the methodology embedded in a particular paradigmand its defining epistemology and ontology. Page 15
    • Bogdan and Bilken (2003, p. 2) have the following to say about qualitative research: ‘(w)euse qualitative research as an umbrella term to refer to several research strategies thatshare certain characteristics. The data collected have been termed soft, that is, rich indescription of people, places, and conversations, and not easily handled by statisticalprocedures.’ They go on to say that researchers in this paradigm do not start out withhypotheses to test and that the main focus is on understanding the behaviour from theperspective of the participants. This definition and viewpoint fits both the purpose andobjectives of this research.After careful consideration of the purpose of the study, the research questions and mysituation as a practitioner in the field of workplace RPL, it was further decided that optimalresults and understanding would come from a programme evaluation of a workplace RPLimplementation process. The data collected during the programme evaluation will beanalysed using the techniques of grounded theory data analysis. The specifics of theresearch design and research methodology will be described in great detail in the nextchapter. What remains for this chapter is to present a chapter-by-chapter overview of theremainder of the research thesis.1.9 Chapter outline and technical presentation of the thesisThis first chapter has presented the reader with an overview of the research. The problemof needing a workplace RPL model for the insurance sector has been articulated and thebroad context has been sketched. Chapter 1 also set the scene by clarifying the use ofkey concepts and justifying the need for the research. The balance of this research ispresented as follows:Chapter 2 commences with a discussion on the broad research paradigm that informs theresearch design and research methodology in this research. The various techniquesemployed are described, including programme evaluation, sampling, data collectiontechniques and grounded theory data analysis technique. This chapter also summarisesthe secondary data analysis. Chapter 3 describes the implementation of the programmeevaluation for this research. Page 16
    • Chapter 4 focuses on the presentation of data and the analysis of this data using thetechniques described. Samples of raw data are presented in the annexure to give thereader insight into the actual words used by the RPL candidates. The discussion in thischapter links the data to the emerging logic model. Chapter 5 presents the literaturereview, starting with a quick review of the most prominent theories of learning, which leadsinto a review of the most prominent workplace learning theories. The chapter concludeswith a summary of the categories that emerged during the data analysis in Chapter 4 andshows how these are supported by the reviewed literature.Chapter 6 presents the theory for logic modelling as well as a series of logicmodels which culminate in an all encompassing logic model to guide workplaceRPL implementation in the insurance sector.The research concludes with Chapter 7 – the conclusions andrecommendations chapter. The research contributions are detailed, along withcautions arising from the limitations of some of the research design features.The recommendations are presented in relation to the research objectivesstated in this first chapter.1.10 Chapter summaryThis chapter summarises the background to the research and states the broadresearch purpose, aim and objectives. Essentially, the research is formulatedto design a logic model for the implementation of workplace RPL in theinsurance sector. The key driver behind this need is to give intermediaries andadvisers affected by the FAIS legislation an alternative to traditional training soas to enable them to earn the academic credits required to become licensedfinancial service providers. Although this is in itself a significant contribution ofthe research, the chapter also includes a discussion of other researchcontributions – both methodological and theoretical. Page 17
    • CHAPTER 2 : RESEARCH METHODOLOGY ‘A goal properly set is halfway reached.’ - Abraham Lincoln2.1 IntroductionThis chapter builds on the rationale for selecting qualitative research methodology todevelop a logic model for workplace RPL implementation. The various protocols forcollecting and analysing data are presented and discussed in relation to the researchmethodological literature so as to justify and explain the choices made during theresearch. The chapter describes the research design and methodological decisions made,including those dealing with sampling, data collection and data analysis. In addition, thegrounded theory data analysis techniques are discussed as a precursor to Chapter 4where these will are practically applied to analyse the data collected in Chapter 3.2.2 The research paradigmHenning, van Rensburg and Smit (2004, p. 12) points out that ‘(r)esearch cannot beconducted in a theoretical vacuum’ because researchers bring with them backgroundknowledge which they use to interpret what they see. This background knowledge ‘tells uswhat exists, how to understand it, and – most concretely – how to study it. In the socialsciences such background knowledges are called paradigms’ (Terre Blanche & Durrheim,2002, p. 3).This research takes place within the interpretative paradigm, which guides the researcherto understand the world of lived experience from the point of view of those who live it. Thefocus in this research is on the people who have a stake4 in RPL – either from theperspective of needing to be RPL-ed or from that of a policy maker or other role-player. Inthis paradigm, the candidates’ subjective experiences are considered to be real and theyare taken seriously (ontology). The researcher reaches an understanding of the4 The term ‘stakeholder’ was first used by Richard Stake (1974) and it refers to a personwith a vested interest in a particular programme. Page 18
    • stakeholders’ experiences by interacting with them and collecting their first-hand reports(epistemology) and relies on qualitative research techniques to collect and analyse thedata (methodology).2.3 Qualitative researchToday, qualitative research is found in virtually all recognised social science disciplinesand study areas (Patton, 2002; Merriam, 2002; Denzin & Lincoln, 1994) and within eachdiscipline it has evolved differently - to a point where there is little consensus on exactlywhat must be in place to classify a study as qualitative research (Patton, 2002). However,it can be argued that there is one thing all qualitative researchers agree on, and that isthey are anti-positivistic: they reject the idea of stable laws that govern social reality.The definition of qualitative research that fits best with my ontology and epistemology isthat of John Creswell (1998, p. 15) who states: ‘(q)ualitative research is an inquiry processof understanding based on distinct methodological traditions of inquiry that explore a socialor human problem. The researcher builds a complex, holistic picture, analyses words,reports detailed views of informants, and conducts the study in a natural setting.’Authors such as Patton (2002), Bogdan and Bilken (2003) and Strauss and Corbin (1998)are of the opinion that the following characteristics are key to qualitative research: Context: Qualitative researchers believe that the social world can only be understood if the natural social context is taken into consideration. This implies that qualitative researchers observe and note the sequence of events and the circumstances surrounding the particular dimension of social reality that they are researching. In addition, this also implies that particular events or human activities may have different meanings in different subcultures, cultures or historical periods. Descriptive data: Qualitative researchers typically gather data in the form of words, narratives, or pictures and rarely in the form of numbers. Their data includes interview transcripts, memos and field notes and a great deal of care is taken to record the precise words used by the stakeholders themselves. Page 19
    • Process and sequence: Qualitative researchers are not really concerned with the outcomes of the event they are studying – they are more concerned with the social processes and sequences that evolve in the research. Inductive: Qualitative researchers construct concepts, typologies, models and theories that are grounded in the situation they are researching. These researchers rarely collect data to test some or other pre-conceived model, hypothesis or theory. This led Bogdan and Bilken (2003) to state that ‘(t)heory developed this way emerges from the bottom up (rather than from the top down).’ They go on to state that because the theory is grounded in the actual data collected it is difficult to plan ahead and specify detailed research questions, methods and approaches. They feel that qualitative research is more like a journey and that the researcher simply follows the path.Broadly then, qualitative research is different from quantitative research because it seeks tounderstand what is going on from the position of a participant; rather than predict what willhappen from the position of an outsider. As such the research design and techniques thatqualitative researchers use are different from those used by quantitative researchers andthere is less emphasis on the way that data is collected and measured and more emphasison the subjective experiences of the participants.The following section deals specifically with the research design, which Durrheim (2002, p.29) defines as ‘a strategic framework for action that serves as a bridge between researchquestions and the execution or implementation of the research.’ He goes on to state thatwhen developing a research design, the researcher should consider: the researchparadigm, the purpose of the research, the techniques that will be used during theresearch, and the context of the research. As the paradigm and purpose have alreadybeen discussed, only the latter two issues will be considered in the section which follows.2.4 Research design for this studyThe research design is the strategic framework guiding the implementation of research.Bogdan and Bilken (1998, p. 50) write that qualitative research design is flexible, ratherthan rigid, because descriptive data are best collected and analysed inductively because Page 20
    • the intention is to understand human behaviour. They feel that a design that is tooinflexible will be counter-productive towards this intention as it is impossible to predict thecourse that data collection will take. This research design follows the advice of theseauthors and tends towards flexibility rather than rigidity.Given the overall aim and objectives of the research and the theoretical paradigm thatinforms this research, the research design selected is a programme evaluation. The datawill be analysed using grounded theory data analysis techniques. A decision was taken touse these techniques developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967) and refined by Strauss andCorbin (1998), because of the need for a strict, systematic coding method to assist me toanalyse the data from the programme evaluation. It was only by using techniques asrobust as these that a logic model for workplace RPL implementation could be formulated.Finally the data is validated by comparison to data extracted from a secondary dataanalysis of 18 workplace case studies and the more influential academic literature onworkplace learning and RPL.2.4.1 Introduction to programme evaluationPotter (2002, p. 209) states that programme evaluation is ‘about establishing whethersocial programmes are needed, effective and likely to be used.’ Further, it is aboutprogramme improvement and the gathering of useful information so as to enhanceprogramme delivery and accountability by the programme implementers.According to Patton (2002), pure programme evaluation was summative and quantitativelymeasured in the past, whereas what he terms ‘quality monitoring’ was more qualitative andformative (i.e. ongoing measurement conducted during the programme’s implementationcycle). This research is qualitative and therefore draws on quality assurancemethodologies such as in-depth interviews with participants and stakeholders (Patton,1997), and participant observation (Denzin, 1970). This methodology allows for thecollection of multiple outcomes and thoughts from a number of participants - also calledcategories by grounded theory proponents (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin,1998). These multiple outcomes provide more meaningful measures of complex humanexperiences than would a limited set of standardised outcome measures (as would becollected in a quantitative assessment of a programme). The collection of data from Page 21
    • multiple methods also contributes to methodological triangulation (to be discussed insection 2.6).The emphasis in this programme evaluation is on the process that the RPL implementationfollowed so that an improved RPL process, that is better suited to the needs of theinsurance workplace, can be suggested. Patton (2002, p. 159) states that ‘(q)ualitativeinquiry is highly appropriate for studying process because (1) depicting process requiresdetailed descriptions of how people engage with each other, (2) the experience of processtypically varies for different people so their experiences need to be captured in their ownwords, (3) the process is fluid and dynamic so it can’t be fairly summarised in a singlerating scale at one point in time, and (4) participant perceptions are a key processconsideration.’The rich, descriptive information collected during the programme evaluation will be used tocreate a logic model to guide future implementation of workplace RPL. A logic modelneeds to simply show a reasonable and sequential process, which is in contrast to a‘theory of change’ which Patton (2002, p. 162) defines as bearing ‘the burden of specifyingand explaining assumed, hypothesised, or tested causal links.’ He goes on to state that alogic model is more likely to be practical and practitioner developed, whereas a theory ofchange is more likely to be research-based. As I am first and foremost an RPLpractitioner, it is more fitting that I develop a logic model to guide RPL implementation.However, Patton (2002) does point out that the distinction between the two theories isoften blurred and unclear in reality.It is evident from the above discussion that I was personally involved in the programmeimplementation. Potter (2002) states that ‘without being personally involved and drawninto the world of others, it would be impossible to develop an understanding of social lifeand discover how people create meaning in natural settings; and without this type ofunderstanding, it would be impossible to evaluate a programme.’ My advantage as aresearcher in this instance is my prolonged engagement with both the company thatimplemented the RPL and the staff who lived through the programme.The programme evaluation literature indicates that there two widely applied qualitativeprogramme evaluation models. The first is Pattons (1986; 1997) utilisation-focused Page 22
    • evaluation model and the second is Guba and Lincolns (1989) fourth generationevaluation model. Schurink (2003) states that Guba and Lincoln’s model was thepreferred qualitative evaluation approach among South African evaluators before the dateof his review but that, in his opinion, both methods deserved serious consideration byprogramme evaluators. This research will, however, focus on a discussion of theapproach proposed by Patton as it fits best with the interpretivist paradigm espoused bythis research.Patton (2002, p. 173) states that ‘(u)tilisation-focused evaluation offers an evaluativeprocess, strategy, and framework for making decisions about the content, focus, andmethods of an evaluation.’ Key elements of the utilisation-focused evaluation approachare summarised by Patton (2002, p. 171) as: (i) It is informed by a focus on the ‘intended use by the intended users’ (ibid.). This focus impacts every design decision in the evaluation. As such, it is a highly situational approach to evaluation, with no two evaluations ever being the same; (ii) It begins with the ‘identification and organisation of specific, relevant decision makers and information users’ (ibid.). These are not vague categories of interested stakeholders – these are the people who will use the information gained through the evaluation; (iii) The values of the intended user-groups will direct the evaluation because ultimately these are the people who have an interest in the outcomes and who will use the evaluation data; (iv) The evaluator works with the identified stakeholders to focus the research questions. The research methodologies will flow from the questions and, according to Patton (2002), no methodology will be overlooked if it can add value to the research questions. It is the researcher’s role to advise the stakeholders on the merits and demerits of various research methodologies proposed while at all times focusing on the prospective usage of the information to be uncovered. As such, the approach is then also highly personal as the researcher’s skills and knowledge play a role in the selection of particular methodologies – although Patton (2002) cautions against this and states that researchers must be aware of their own socio-methodological biases and how these will affect the evaluations they conduct; Page 23
    • (v) There is a constant focus on how the data will be used throughout the evaluation – ‘What would you do if you had that information right now?’ is a common question posed by a researcher following this methodology.From the above summary, it is clear that Patton’s (2002) utilisation-focused evaluationapproach rests on two basic requirements. Firstly, the identification of the intended usersmust be clear and they must be real people (as opposed to agencies such as SAQA orINSETA). Secondly, the role of the evaluator is to work with the stakeholders - actively,reactively and adaptively - to design the full evaluation process, including: the focus,methods, analysis, interpretation, and final dissemination of the outcomes.Patton (1986) also points out that there are multiple and varied interests in any evaluation.Evaluators need to identify these sensitively and be respectful of the differences.However, reality and resources often dictate that it is impossible to investigate all possibleissues – and the narrower the issues are the more likely it is that the evaluation willproduce meaningful results. Patton (1986) recommends that stakeholders meet at thebeginning of an evaluation to agree on the most burning issues to be evaluated so as toobtain maximum benefit from the research. Patton also writes that evaluators using thisapproach have a responsibility to train stakeholders in the various processes utilised andin the use of the final reports. Patton (2002) calls this process use – helping people tolearn about evaluation by being part of an evaluation.Patton (1997) has outlined the major steps to be taken when embarking upon utilisation-focused evaluation and these will be used in Chapter 3 to guide the discussion on theprogramme evaluation.2.4.2 Secondary data analysisSecondary data analysis is an empirical research approach that aims to reanalyse existingdata in order to test an emerging hypothesis or to validate an emerging model (Mouton,2001, p. 164). The secondary data analysed in this research was originally produced byDyson and Keating (2005) on behalf of the International Labour Organisation. It is a reportsummarising workplace RPL cases in five countries. The case studies are presented innarrative form, along with a summary of the prevailing national qualifications system. Page 24
    • These case studies have been selected for an analysis because they represent the onlysummary of workplace RPL that was available at the time of conducting this research.2.5 Research methodologyThe research design discussed above provides an explicit plan of action and it informs thechoice of the techniques that are employed in order to conduct the research. According toDurrheim (2002, p. 44) research techniques can be divided into three broad categories:sampling, data collection and data analysis. A more detailed discussion of each of thesetechniques in relation to this current research follows, together with a discussion on datadisplays and explicit strategies employed to enhance the quality of the study. Thisinformation will assist the reader to judge the quality and trustworthiness of this researchand the logic model it proposes.2.5.1 SamplingAccording to Durrheim (2002, p. 44), sampling involves ‘decisions about which people,settings, events, behaviours and/or social processes to observe’. The main concern isrepresentativeness of the sample. In other words the sample that is selected mustrepresent the population about which the researcher hopes to reach conclusions.The sampling in this research took place on a number of different levels. Firstly, there wasthe question of which RPL programme to select. In the end, the choice was based onreadiness of access and the fact that the company concerned granted permission toconduct the programme evaluation and write up the research (this is known as purposefulsampling according to Durrheim). This company was also a ‘good’ example of an RPLproject because the percentage of people who completed the RPL process was largerthan normal. (The outsourced implementer-company records show that 95% of those whostarted the RPL process actually completed it, which is far better than the average of 67%completions achieved in other projects implemented by the same company.) The entiresample was 227 staff members and all of them were asked to visit the on-line chat roomand give feedback on their experiences during the RPL programme. All participants’reflective statements were also used in the research, although some were too short to beconsidered useful. Page 25
    • Secondly, there was the question of how to select RPL candidates to be interviewed. Thesampling strategy employed was purposeful sampling, which is non-random samplingwhere the sample is selected for some extreme or deviant characteristics (Durrheim,2002). All seven candidates ultimately selected to be interviewed were purposefullyselected for their possible contribution to the research and the logic model. Thecandidates selected were either very positive or very negative about the process in theirreflective statements or in the on-line chat room.Thirdly, purposeful sampling was again used to select stakeholders who would contributeto the broad positioning of this research. Stakeholders from SAQA, INSETA and thecompany were selected based on their knowledge of the process and their role as apossible user of the data. These are considered to be information rich cases which wouldbe valuable in the design of the final RPL logic model (Durrheim, 1999, p. 45). Onerepresentative was selected from SAQA, two from INSETA, and one from themanagement structures of the employer. Five information rich cases were purposefullyselected from the company managing the implementation.In the three sampling scenarios described above, all cases were purposefully selecteduntil no new information was being discovered. This is called sampling to redundancy,which involves not defining your sample size up-front – but rather continuing to interviewuntil the same categories and issues come up. At this point, the sample will haveachieved redundancy in the sense that no new information will be uncovered simply byincreasing the sample size.Although the decision to limit the research to a single employer (even though this employeris spread national wide and reflects South Africa’ multiculturalism) means that the resultswill not be statistically representative, it is likely that the experiences described will betransferable to other, similarly structured workplace contexts. This could mean that thelogic model for RPL implementation, designed as a result of this sample, could havegreater applicability beyond just this one employer - at least to the entire insurance sector(if not to other workplaces). However, this assumption will need to be validated byadditional research. Page 26
    • To summarise, the sample selection was as follows: One employer with 227 RPL candidates distributed as follows: o 38% Male vs. 62% Female; o Average age was 42 years old; o Average tenure was 9 years; o 45% had Afrikaans as their home language and 42% had English as their home language. The remainder cited other languages as home languages; One representative from SAQA; Two representatives from INSETA; One representative from the training and development department within the employer; Five representatives from the company implementing the research.2.5.2 Data collectionData is the ‘basic material with which researchers work’ (Durrheim, 2002, p.45). Inqualitative analysis it comes about through observation and is recorded as language. Forthe data to be of any value in research it must have validity, in other words ‘it must capturethe meaning of what the researcher is observing’ (Durrheim, p. 46) within the context ofthe investigation.In this research, data was collected in a variety of ways, i.e.: All RPL candidates in the selected employer were sent an email requesting that they log on to the on-line chat room and comment on the RPL programme; All candidates’ reflective statements were copied from their submitted portfolio of evidence. However, only 96 of these were finally used as the remainder were either too sparse, not authentic or incomplete; Extreme candidates (using the reflective statements as the determining factor) were purposefully selected to be interviewed; Extreme candidates from the various stakeholder groups were purposefully selected to be interviewed. Stakeholders included SAQA, INSETA, assessors, RPL advisers and in-company sponsors. Page 27
    • The data was physically collected using a variety of methods, as follows: • All interviews were recorded using a webcam connected directly to a PC, which provided an electronic record of each interview; • Each electronic recording was typed out in full using the precise words and phrases uttered by each interviewee. Pauses, laughter, hesitation and other non-verbal voice cues were captured. The use of visual footage allowed for the capture of body language responses to the questions and these were also captured in the typed version; • Descriptive field notes were taken during each interview. These notes recorded the interviewer’s observations during each interview rather than the actual content of what was discussed. Information was recorded about the apparent willingness (or not) of each interviewee, their openness or reticence, their use of terminology, and how comfortable they seemed to be about talking about their RPL experiences; • After each interview, time was spent writing a reflection on what had taken place. This refection was based on my field notes and my overall impressions of the interview. These reflections were analytical and conceptual (as opposed to descriptive) and were used to assist me in recording initial feelings about the concepts and categories that were emerging. They helped me to see the wood in the trees by providing a different perspective to the literal words that were recorded.Each interview followed what Neuman (2003) refers to as a ‘field interview approach’ inthat I asked questions (see appendix 5 for a full list of questions posed), listened to theanswers, expressed interest in what was being said and recorded the answers.Interviewees were permitted the freedom to use their own language and organise theirown responses. Interviews were all focused so that I could cover the same categories ineach interview as I did not have time to conduct completely unstructured interviews.As I moved through successive interviews, my approach become more structured as Istarted to actively look for confirmation of categories that were starting to form. This istypical of the grounded theory data analysis approach. Strauss and Corbin (1998, p. 205)state that: (o)nce data collection begins, the initial interview or observational guides give way to concepts that emerge from the data. To adhere rigidly to initial guidelines throughout a study, as is done in some forms of both qualitative and quantitative Page 28
    • research, hinders discovery because it limits the amount and type of data that can be gathered…(M)ore unstructured interviews with general guidelines only, such as ‘Tell me what you think about…?’,‘What happened then…?’, and ‘What was your experience with…?’ give respondents more room to answer in terms of what is important to them. Answers to these questions will be compared among respondents, and concepts that evolve will then be the basis for further data gathering, always leaving room for other answers and concepts to emerge.Each interview was terminated after about 60 minutes when the candidates seemed tohave no more to add. They were thanked for their input and asked if they would like toverify a copy of the typed version of the interview. All candidates were asked if I could re-contact them at some point in the future if I needed to check any details.2.5.3 Data storageAll notes were stored electronically, in MSWORD, on a personal laptop. This computer isbacked up daily to a central server, which is itself backed up onto a redundant off-siteserver each day. This storage and back-up system ensured that the data was safe duringthe research. To ensure candidate confidentiality I password protected my researchfolder. The transcribed notes were filed into a file and indexed. Candidates’ names didnot appear on the files - further protecting their confidences.2.5.4 Data analysisThe aim of data analysis is to ‘transform information into an answer to the original researchquestions’ (Durrheim, 2002, p. 47). As already mentioned the data in this research wasanalysed using the grounded theory techniques first developed by Glaser and Strauss(1967). This methodology can broadly be broken up into the following steps:Step 1: Open coding – this involves the identification of concepts in the data, along withtheir properties and dimensions. This is done by ‘opening up the texts and exposing thethoughts, ideas, and meanings contained therein’ (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 102). Thedata are examined and compared for similarities and differences. Elements of the datathat are found to be somehow conceptually similar are then grouped together as acategory, and the category is then defined in terms of its dimensions and properties. Page 29
    • Step 2: Axial coding – this is the process of relating categories to their subcategories atthe level of their properties and dimensions. Basically, it ‘looks at how categories cross cutand link. As stated previously a category stands for a phenomenon, that is, a problem, anissue, an event, or a happening that is being defined as being significant to respondents….A phenomenon has the ability to explain what is going on. A subcategory also is acategory, as the name implies. However, rather than standing for a phenomenon itself,subcategories answer questions about the phenomenon such as when, where, why, who,how and with what consequences, thus giving the concept greater explanatory power’(Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 125).Step 3: Selective coding – this is the final step in the grounded theory data analysisprocess. According to Strauss and Corbin (1998, p. 236), it involves ‘the integration ofconcepts around a core category and the filling in of categories in need of furtherdevelopment and refinement.’The techniques suggested by Strauss and Corbin (1998) were used to analyse theinterview data and the reflective statements and to extract the categories. The 18workplace RPL case studies and academic literature was then analysed according to thecategories that resulted from this grounded analysis. The purpose of this secondarycontent analysis was to validate the grounded theory analysis using independent data,such as the secondary case studies described by Dyson and Keating (2005).The data analysis approach can be illustrated as follows in Figure 2.1. Note that each ofthe three steps - open coding, axial coding and selective coding - is sequential). Page 30
    • 1. Open coding Raw data IndexIndex cards cards •Number each piece •Transferone concept Transfer one concept Categories 1 – 81. to a card. card; •Each index card is a •Highlight main •Crossreference each Cross reference each category. concepts. candidate to the •Sort categories until •Label each concept concepts. concepts; patterns emerge. •Categorise •Listproperties, List properties, •18 categories concepts. opposites and emerged. questions. questions; 3. Selective coding 2. Axial coding Interviews Organisational Selective coding •Interviews to schemes •Stating and confirm •Analyse categories confirming linkages. relationship for relationships. between the axial •5 axial categories categories. emerged. Secondary data analysis •Secondary data analysis of 18 workplace RPL case studies to validate the five axial categories that emerged during this research.Figure 2-1 The grounded theory data analysis process implemented in this researchThe data analysis process depicted above is discussed in more depth in Chapter 4. Theprocess followed to both collect and analyse the data was rigorous and time consumingbut the outcome of the process allowed for the conclusions and recommendationspresented in Chapter 7 and the logic model for workplace RPL implementation presentedin Chapter 6. Page 31
    • 2.5.5 Data displaysIt is important to use data displays (Miles & Huberman, 1994) in qualitative analysis tosummarise the research progress and gain analytical distance from the data. Basically, adata display is an ‘organised, compressed assembly of information that permits conclusiondrawing and action’ (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 11). Data displays allow researchers toreduce the data to such a point that patterns begin to emerge. There are various forms ofdiagrammatical data displays that can be used for this purpose, including flow charts,typologies, and matrices. DiagramsResearchers should start using diagrams during the initial analysis phase and continue touse them throughout the research (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). These diagrams are oftenrough and are rarely seen by anyone besides the researcher, but they serve the purposeof allowing the researcher to see connections between data. They record progress andideas about linkages, progress, thoughts, feelings and research direction (Strauss &Corbin, 1998, p. 219). Extensive use was made of diagrams during this research, whichwere initially generated by hand and ultimately retyped and manipulated on the computer.Earlier diagrams were simplistic and awkward, but progressively became more and morecomplex during the analysis of the data.I made sure I followed a basic protocol with the diagrams I created during this research.(These protocols are advised by Strauss & Corbin, 1998.) All diagrams were all dated,numbered sequentially and linked to my field notes or interview transcripts where possible.As far as possible, I included the language used by the actual participants and I alwayswrote these quotes in black or blue ink. My interpretations were always recorded in redink so that I could clearly distinguish my thoughts from the original data. During the latterstages of the research I was also conscious of my need to add headings to the diagramsso that they could be linked back to the evolving categories. Because I often added tothem (and crossed thoughts out) my diagrams become untidy over time, but I did not redothem because I was afraid of losing critical information if I over-sanitised them. Anexample of a diagram generated during this research can be found in Appendix 1. Page 32
    • NarrativesNarratives fulfil a similar role to diagrams in that they help the researcher to be conceptualrather than descriptive about the data (Henning, van Rensburg & Smit, 2004). Thenarrative helps the researcher to crystallise his or her thoughts and to see flaws in logicand coherence. As with the diagrams, most researchers develop their own style andapproach. I kept my narratives simple and took care to record direct quotes (again inblack or blue so that they could be distinguished from my own interpretations noted in red).Links back to the original source documents were included in the narratives so that I couldtrack my thoughts back if need be and the narratives were always numbered and given aheading. An example of a narrative drawn from this research can be found in Appendix 2.2.6 Strategies to enhance the quality of the studyMarshall and Rossman (1999) state that qualitative researchers need to defend the valueand the logic of their choice of methodology more that quantitative researchers need to.This is simply because there are no universally agreed criteria for evaluating theauthenticity and trustworthiness of qualitative studies and readers of such research aregenerally left to judge the credibility of the research using their own frames of reference(Taylor & Bogdan, 1998). However, some researchers and authors (Lincoln & Guba,1985; Patton, 2002; Marshall & Rossman, 1999) have proposed criteria and schemes toaid in the judgement of qualitative research. In order to make judgements about thequality of the research readers need to be provided with information by the researcher.This section provides the reader with this information.Patton (2002) has identified five sets of criteria for judging the quality of qualitativeresearch and each will be discussed in relation to this research. The five criteria are: 1. Traditional scientific research criteria; 2. Social construction and constructivist criteria; 3. Artistic and evocative criteria; 4. Critical change criteria; 5. Evaluation standards and principles. Page 33
    • 2.6.1 Traditional scientific research criteriaPatton (2002) echoes Marshall and Rossman’s (1999) view that one of the best ways toincrease the credibility of qualitative enquiry among those who value traditionalquantitative research is to emphasis the criteria that they value. Key traditional scientificquality criteria include objectivity, rigorous research protocols and data collection methods,repeated cross validation during the research, and using multiple coders and methods toensure validity and reliability (Terre Blanche & Durrheim, 2002). These have beenincluded in this research as follows:Objectivity (strategies to reduce researcher bias): As with most qualitative enquiries, Iam the main instrument of research. My bias as a practitioner in the field of RPL has beendocumented in the preceding chapter and it was essential that I took measures to preventmyself from unknowingly contaminating the data with my perspectives and beliefs at theexpense of my research participants’ perspectives and beliefs. One key method chosento record my ongoing thoughts was a reflective diary, which follows the suggestion of Kelly(2002b, p. 427) and Schurink (personal communication, February 10, 2006). This diaryserves as an audit trail and record of my subjective decisions so as to expose them forreview by my peers and the supervising faculty.Rigorous research protocols for data collection and analysis: The use of groundedtheory data analysis techniques in this research ensures that the data collected wasanalysed, coded, condensed and interpreted in a rigid and pre-defined manner (Strauss &Corbin, 1998). Less rigorous data collection and analysis techniques are available butwere rejected because they would not have contributed to the overall validity, reliabilityand generalisability of the outcomes. In addition, there was the real danger of me beingthe only coder of the raw data, which could result in the analysis being biased to my ownperspective. To guard against this the data was presented to the role players (assessors,moderators, RPL advisers and project manager) from the company that implemented theRPL. This group assisted in both the open and axial coding stages, providing additionalrigour.In addition, I elected to use stakeholder-review (Terre Blanche & Durrheim, 2002) as astrategy to increase the rigour of the data analysis. All research participants were given anopportunity to review the notes I had taken during our interviews and to provide additional Page 34
    • comments. Similarly, all research participants were given the opportunity to read anddiscuss the categories and linkages I had made using their data. Very few took up thisoffer, but those that did offered valuable confirmations and made significant suggestions.2.6.2 Social construction and constructivist criteriaPatton (2002) contends that research within the interpretivist paradigms have generated anew language to describe quality criteria and requirements. This language can be seen asparallel to the language used in traditional scientific enquiry. For example ‘credibility’ is aparallel term to ‘internal validity’; ‘transferability’ is parallel to ‘external validity’;‘dependability’ is parallel to reliability; and ‘conformability’ is parallel to ‘objectivity’.Together the new terms contribute to ‘trustworthiness’ which is a parallel term to ‘rigour’(Lincoln & Guba, 1986; Patton, 2002).Patton (2002) suggests that researchers build the following into their research in order tomeet these criteria:Acknowledge subjectivity: this is been done in Chapter 1 of this research – I am aworkplace RPL practitioner. The workplace context defines my bias and is distinct from anacademic context where traditional classroom methods are more important thatexperiential learning. Credibility (or internal validity) of this research was enhancedthrough my ongoing and chronological recordal of my thoughts, reflections and views inmy reflective diary. This will serve as a record of all my decisions so that the outcomescan be replicated.Deployment of self: The role of the researcher is an especially important consideration inqualitative research because the researcher becomes the key research instrument(Henning at al., 2004). As researcher in this study I was the primary analytical tool and itwas be up to me to make meaning from the descriptions collected from the stakeholdersand the literature. I conducted the interviews and coded the data to extract the categories.It was up to me to interpret what I learnt and then use it to build a new logic model that isgrounded in the data. My understanding, logic and deductive reasoning skills were themain instruments for the research. These instruments were further supplemented by myknowledge of RPL, my history in education, my language, my beliefs about the potential of Page 35
    • RPL, and so forth. Because of this, I had to guard against simply presenting a logic modelthat is my subjective opinion and not grounded in the data I collected (Strauss & Corbin,1998). To achieve this, I used the tools already described (triangulation and my reflectivediary) and the rigorous grounded theory data analysis techniques. To guard against myviews becoming tainted with the views of others, I commenced the research by recordingmy own perceptions of the RPL programme so that I had a black-and -white transcript ofmy own views before I started questioning any other participants (Marshall & Rossman,1999). This allowed me to understand my own subjectivities prior to commencing with theactual research. This own-view is contained in my reflective diary. In addition, i did notconduct the data analysis alone and used the group of interview candidates I selectedfrom the company that implemented the RPL to assist me during both the open and axialcoding stages of the data analysis.Trustworthiness and authenticity: Throughout this research care has been taken toensure that all perspectives are considered. Various stakeholders were interviewed;candidates were purposefully selected to provide both positive and negative data; and thedata was analysed bearing in mind that I was following an interpretivist paradigm so it wasmore likely that there were multiple truths and multiple realities that needed to be exploredand explained (Terre Blanche & Durrheim, 2002). Techniques specifically employed inthis research to ensure trustworthiness were to present opposing quotes from candidatesto allow the reader to make up his or her own mind; to present samples of raw data in theappendices, along with samples of the analysis as it evolved; the ongoing recordal of mythoughts in my reflective diary so that I could reflect upon any potential for bias anddiscuss these with my supervisors (Patton, 2002); and the use of methodologicaltriangulation (see next section) to force me to consider the data from differentperspectives.Triangulation: Methodological triangulation refers to the process of using multiplemethods to analyse data and data triangulation refers to the use of a variety of datasources (Kelly, 2002b, p. 431). Both forms of triangulation were used in this research.Grounded theory data analysis techniques provide multiple data analysis methods and allare described and used in this research. In addition, the data was collected from various Page 36
    • data sources, including interviews, candidate reflections, and chat room participation. Oneof the advantages of triangulation is that it allows the researcher to collect and reportmultiple perspectives from multiple participants in multiple ways (Patton, 2002). The term‘crystallisation’ has been coined to describe this process of observing multiple facets of anobject of study through the application of multiple techniques (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994). Itis believed that this combination of facets and ways of observing can result in multipleviews of the study topic. Arguably, this adds to the richness and generalisability of theresearch findings.Transferability or generalisability: This research took place in one insurance workplacethat has a national distribution of offices. The question of generalisability would deal withthe likelihood that the logic model I developed from analysing these RPL candidates couldbe generalised to other similar environments (Terre Blanche & Durrheim, 2002). Thequestion of generalisability is largely dictated by issues such as sampling – andresearchers in the quantitative tradition believe that the larger and more random thesample the more the outcomes (Patton, 2002). This research employed purposefulsampling because I purposefully selected candidates who could add to my expandingknowledge.Shadish (1995) has argued that generalisation can occur according to different principlesranging from circumstances where we can absolutely match variables according to minutedetails to circumstances where we can only state that they are similar. The level ofconfidence by which we claim generalisation varies but in most circumstances we couldclaim some level of generalisation. Thus, some authors in the qualitative paradigm havebegun to question the usefulness of the concept of generalisability (Guba, 1978; Stake,1974; Guba & Lincoln, 1981) because it implies that the research is context-free and this isnot possible in when studying human behaviour because the context is an important partof the puzzle. This view led Guba and Lincoln (1981) to propose the term transferability asopposed to generalisability. Transferability is directly related to the similarity between thetwo contexts. Thus, in this research it is very likely that the logic model I have developedcould be applied in any other white-collar, nationally represented, listed company in theinsurance sector. Whether it can be applied outside of the insurance sector would need tobe researched separately. Page 37
    • 2.6.3 Artistic and evocative criteriaPatton (2002, p. 548) contends that qualitative research is both a science and an art andbecause of this there is a need to evaluate ‘the artistic and evocative aspects of qualitativeenquiry.’ Here Patton suggests the need to evaluate whether the research opens theworld up in some way and whether it is creative and has interpretative vitality.Opening the world up: This research focuses on RPL in the workplace, and it crafts alogic model to guide RPL implementation in this context. No other research that does thiscould be located. All implementation models either claim to be generic (SAQA, 2002) orspecifically aimed at traditional education (Harris, 2002).Interpretative vitality: The use of grounded theory technique to analyse the dataenforced upon me the need to create memos and field notes to capture unspoken data.These were analysed, along with the spoken word to add to depth to what the participantswere saying. Grounded theory analysis also required me to write a storyline memo inwhich I had to narrate what I felt the data was telling me (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Thisadded creativity and vitality to the final research report by allowing the reader to see wheremy ideas and thoughts were coming from and how they were evolving. This research is awork of non-fiction, but qualitative enquiry has a feeling dimension that quantitative enquirydoes not.2.6.4 Critical change criteriaPatton (2002) states that researchers following qualitative enquiry as a form of criticalanalysis aimed at some form of social or political change are deliberately not trying to beobjective – they are, by definition, activists. Such researchers go beyond just studying andreporting on society: they want to study it so they can raise consciousness and change thebalance of power in favour of the less powerful.Activism: An element of activism is evident in this research. I am a workplacepractitioner. I believe workplace RPL candidates are disadvantaged by generic RPLmodels and techniques developed within traditional academia (e.g. challengeexaminations and portfolios of evidence). My research set out to research howparticipants experienced a generic RPL programme and from this I have suggested abetter way to implement RPL in the workplace. By raising awareness that the workplace Page 38
    • context is different from traditional classrooms I hope to effect a change in the balance ofpower between prospective RPL candidates and RPL practitioners who insist they beRPL-ed in a particular way.2.6.5 Evaluation standards and principlesThe final criterion discussed by Patton (2002) incorporates the standards adopted by the‘evaluation profession’. These include: utility; feasibility; integrity, honesty and ethicalbehaviour; and respect for people and the general population. These have beenincorporated into this research as follows:Utility: This research was practical and it results in a logic model for the practicalimplementation of RPL in the insurance workplace. The logic model places emphasis onutility and describes what implementers need to do during each step in order to ensureRPL works. In addition, ongoing utility was enhanced by consulting with the RPLimplementers and asking them how they could use the data that was presented to themand what form it should take. Regular report backs to these stakeholders furtherenhanced utility. It is simply not useful for research to collect data, analyse it and publishfindings (Patton, 2002, p. 549); the researcher needs to take some care to ensure that theintended users can access and use the results.Feasibility: This research was feasible for the following reasons: access had beengranted by the employer commissioning the RPL implementation (Bogdan & Bilken, 2003,state that permission to do research is normally granted by one of the gatekeepers); nofurther funding was required (all research was funded personally); the candidates werewilling to be part of the research and permission was acquired before researchcommenced; the stakeholders were all committed to the research and agreed toparticipate.Integrity, honesty and ethical behaviour: This researcher operated within the bounds ofresearch ethics in that no candidates or stakeholders were subjected to any harmfulenvironments or circumstances (Schurink, 2005). The programme that was evaluated forthis research occurred in an insurance workplace which meets the national requirementsfor health and safety. No candidates were threatened to ensure participation or give aversion of events that was more favourable. The data analysis only began after all Page 39
    • candidates had received their RPL results – this was to prevent any candidate fearinghis/her final result might be tampered with if they were less-than-complimentary about theRPL process. Permission for the research was obtained from the company in writing (acopy, without company logo so as to protect the anonymity of the company, is attached inappendix 7). The candidates gave permission during their preparatory workshop and eachcandidate signed the register confirming both their attendance and agreement to be part ofthe research (these registers have not been attached to protect their identities, but thesecan be made available on reasonable request). Although no separate, signed consentwas obtained from interview candidates, it was stressed to them at the beginning of eachinterview that they could withdraw at any stage without reprisals of any kind.There may be some ethical issues that arise during the research. These could result fromvested interest, political agenda, economic gain or qualification gain. Essentially, Ineeded to be honest about the purpose of the research and the impact that it could haveon both myself and the participants. Mason (1996, p. 29) states: ‘It is part of the politics ofresearch that you should engage with this wider context in which your research is beingdone. Your research may have explicitly moral or political purposes. You may wish toadvance the interest of a particular group through it, or to gain acceptance for someparticular form of social organisation, or to expose some form of immoral organisation oractivity, and so on. This does not necessarily make the ethics of your research morestraightforward however, not least because ‘the interests of a particular group’ may bediverse or contested. The notion of one moral route may therefore still be elusive.’Some of the anticipated ethical issues that may arise out of the current research include: • The need to respect the anonymity of the interviewees representing the various stakeholders (thus no signed consent forms are attached in the appendix); • The need for voluntary, as opposed to, coerced participation; • The need to respect confidentiality; • The need to be sensitive to the power relationships within the company implementing the RPL programme (candidates may feel vulnerable if their comments were published, fearing reprisals and career limitation). Page 40
    • Respect for people and the general population: All candidates were fully informedabout the RPL process and its evaluation in writing and their written permission wasobtained. As mentioned, the RPL candidates signed the register at this briefing to confirmthat they were comfortable to be participants in the research. Candidates consented tobeing interviewed and quoted in writing for research purposes only. It was agreed thattheir opinions would be held confidential and that their names would not be listed if theywere quoted (which is why I have not attached the registers and why I have blanked outthe name of the company in appendix 7) . I took a great deal of care to protect theidentities of all the stakeholders, both in the recording and storage of the data. Finally, Ihad a written agreement with the company that implemented the RPL programme and hadagreed to the programme evaluation (appendix 7). This agreement granted me access tothe candidates and allowed me to report the results as they emerged.2.7 Chapter summaryThis chapter describes the research methodology and design employed to execute thisresearch. After careful consideration, it was decided to utilise a design known asprogramme evaluation to evaluate the RPL programme originally implemented in theinsurance sector. It was felt that this original RPL implementation was not optimalbecause it ignored the unique environmental variables that existed within the workplaceand was largely based upon RPL implementation approaches employed by the highereducation sector. The selection of programme evaluation as the research methodologyguided the key decisions of sample selection and data collection techniques. The decisionto use grounded theory techniques to analyse the data was based on in-depth research ofthe available methodologies and it was selected because it appeared to be the mostcomprehensive and focused data analysis technique available. This chapter alsodescribes the use of secondary data analysis which was incorporated to add substance tothe emerging theory.The chapter concludes with a discussion of the methods employed throughout theresearch to enhance the value of the research. This section explores the need to create afinal research product that is defensible against peers who may question its overall value,credibility and methodological soundness. The conclusion drawn is that althoughqualitative research is different from quantitative scientific research it can be rigorous and Page 41
    • meaningful if care is taken to limit the subjectivity of the research and ensure structuredand logical data collection and analysis. The methods employed to ensure such care inthis research are described to allay any concerns the reader may have in this regard.The following chapter describes the RPL programme implementation and the programmeevaluation methodology employed to collect the data. Chapter 4 specifically deals with theanalysis of the data. Page 42
    • CHAPTER 3 : PROGRAMME IMPLEMENTATION AND EVALUATION ‘Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.’ - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe3.1 IntroductionThis chapter briefly describes the process followed during the implementation of the RPLprogramme in the selected workplace. This description is followed by a step-by-stepaccount of the planning and execution of the actual programme evaluation. Bothdiscussions are presented as narratives, or ‘natural histories’ (Becker, 1970) that track themain steps taken in order to explain the process followed and to provide insight for thereader. Throughout the writing of this and subsequent chapters I was mindful of the needfor credible research and I hope this description of the process followed will both enhancethe reader’s understanding and ensure the repeatability of the research steps if there isever a need to do so. Further, it was intended that the narrative-style of recording mypersonal experience, as both a part of the implementation team and as the evaluator,would reveal to the reader some of the underlying assumptions and motivations behindmany of the decisions that were taken – both by myself and others in the implementationteam.3.2 The implementation of the RPL programmeAs already stated in Chapter 1, the primary objective of this research was to develop alogic model to assist people in the insurance workplace to make their informal learningtangible so that they could be assessed and credited. This logic model was to begrounded in the outcomes of a programme evaluation of an RPL implementation which Iwas involved with between November 2004 and November 2005. I am employed by aSouth African-based organisation that manages the implementation of RPL forcorporations on an outsource basis and this project was one that I was involved in frombeginning to end. Page 43
    • This section is devoted to a qualitative description of this programme implementation. Theimplementation is described chronologically (although it did not always happen strictly inthis order) and follows the conceptual framework designed in Chapter 1 (see Figure 1.1)following Miles and Huberman (1994). This conceptual framework generated the empiricalquestions that I used to partially structure this chapter on the programme implementation(Questions 1 and 2) and Chapter 7 on the recommendations and conclusions. To assistthe reader, these seven empirical questions are repeated: 1. How was the decision to implement RPL made? 2. How was the RPL programme rolled out to participants? 3. What individual factors contributed to RPL success? 4. What contextual workplace and broader environmental factors contributed to RPL success? 5. What technical assistance was needed to complete the RPL process? 6. Was the RPL programme considered successful? 7. How should South African business manage RPL implementation?3.2.1 How was the decision to implement RPL made?The FAIS Act 37 of 2002 required all insurance advisers to be registered with the FinancialServices Board. In order to register advisers needed to prove that they were competentadvisers. The only way to prove this competence was through the attainment of academiccredits and/or qualifications. The attainment of credits was staggered, with 30 academiccredits needed by the end of September 2004, another 30 by the end of September 2007and so on, until a full and relevant 120 credit qualification was achieved by 2009.The company in question employs approximately 3 000 staff nation-wide, of which 2 000were directly affected by the Act. The training department was responsible for ensuringthat all affected staff achieved the correct number of credits by each deadline. Thetraining department manager had two options – training or recognition of prior learning.Training would mean that all staff would need time out of the workplace to attend classes,take study leave and write examinations on fixed dates. This would have had a hugeimpact on productivity as there was no flexibility from their training provider to staggerexamination dates and class times. Page 44
    • RPL was considered a viable alternative by the training manager. He had some knowledgeof it, being a trained workplace assessor, but the company did not have the resources orcapacity to implement RPL themselves. After some research, he sourced a provider. Keyfactors that persuaded him that this was a viable alternative to formal training were: The staff in the company mostly had long tenure in the insurance industry, which indicated they had a great deal of informal learning that needed to be formalised so that it could be credited; The timelines – RPL offered staff with sufficient workplace experience the opportunity to earn the full 120 credit qualification within 10 months, whereas the traditional training route would have taken over two years. This meant that they could earn all the credits necessary to achieve full compliance within the year and the issue of FAIS compliance would not need to be revisited before each FSB staggered deadline; The cost of the RPL process was one third of the cost of traditional training, which was significantly less than expected; Staff were spread nation-wide and the additional costs of travelling to and from training sessions was considered too great, given the alternative of RPL; Many staff had expressed a fear of writing examinations. This was mainly attributed to their age and length of time since attending formal schooling.Some factors about the RPL approach that were considered risky were: RPL was a new and relatively untested concept with white collar workers in a South African workplace context; The Insurance Sector Education and Training Quality Assurance body (INSETQA) had a draft RPL policy that was inadequate as a reference and it offered little practical guidance; The concept would need to be ‘sold’ to the staff because it was unknown.In the end, the training department offered staff the option between RPL and training. 227staff chose the RPL option and these made up the full sample for this research5.5 See page 26 for the demographic breakdown of the 227 participants. Page 45
    • To summarise the decision to embark upon RPL: It was not made entirely voluntarily – legislation forced the need for credits and RPL was simply the selected mechanism for these 227 staff; The decision to offer RPL was based upon economics – it was cost and time effective; Staff had little understanding of what to expect at the time of making the choice between RPL and training. All they knew was that they had to get the credits or be dismissed; The company was paying for the RPL – staff who failed to complete the programme would have to pay the cost back to their employer. In addition, those who were unsuccessful would be unemployed and unemployable in the insurance sector.3.2.2 How was the RPL programme rolled out to participants?Participants were required to sign a contract with their employer, acknowledging the factthat they were attending company-sponsored RPL and that if they left they would have torepay the fees. Candidates were asked to indicate in which area they were located andwhich language they would prefer to use for the RPL process. Using this information, theRPL participants were divided into groups of approximately 10 candidates.The RPL assessment tool was a generic assessment tool that had been moderated (inaccordance with INSETA ETQA guidelines, 2004) and used previously with other clients.The assessment tool was specifically designed for the National Certificate in Short TermInsurance NQF 4 and it consisted of knowledge questions, assignments and a section fornaturally occurring workplace evidence (samples of real workplace documents developedby the candidate). However, the assessment tool was customised for this client to includetheir templates and forms.The assessment guide (also known as a marking memo) detailed possible answers toeach question and provided the assessors with guidelines, in the form of rubrics, of whatconstituted a suitably competent answer. Assessors were also shown which unitstandards were covered by each question so that candidates could be awarded credits(this was the FAIS requirement). Page 46
    • Preparation of the candidates followed the process outlined in Figure 3.1. This processflow was drawn from the RPL in-house brochure (2004) issued to all RPL candidates atthe start of the programme and it follows the INSETA RPL policy (INSETA, 2004a). Ascan be seen in the flow diagram, the process started by defining who was eligible for RPLand required the completion of an enrolment form. The process then required anacknowledgement in writing, followed by a one-day workshop during which candidateswere prepared for the RPL process to follow The remainder of the flow diagram detailsthe deadline dates, assessment and certification process. Page 47
    • Figure 3-1 : The RPL process as implemented in the programme – sourced from the PriorLearning Centre in-house RPL brochure given to the candidatesThe above flow diagram was provided to all candidates during the lead-up to making thedecision to be RPL-ed and during the briefing workshop. I personally conducted seven ofthe introductory sessions (all in English as my Afrikaans is limited). The one-day sessioncommenced with a slide show developed by the training manager in which he described Page 48
    • the need for the process and set the scene for what was to follow. The training managerconducted this session himself at Head Office, while it fell upon the RPL adviserconducting the session to deliver his slideshow in outlying areas. His approach was directand focused on the rules and rewards for completing the process.The preparatory session covered the following aspects in the remaining six hours: Overview of the new academic environment (SAQA, INSETA, etc); FAIS requirements; Assessment under the new academic paradigm; The qualification being assessed – review of the unit standards; Discussion on how to present evidence as a portfolio; Where to go for help; Time-line and what needs to be done before the next coaching session; Some motivation to get started.Some candidates elected to hand in their portfolios of evidence in four equal tranches,while others elected to hand everything in at one time in one portfolio. Tight deadlineswere imposed for each submission because the employer needed to wrap up the processwithin the financial year. This provided approximately nine months for those who wereprepared in the first session and seven months for those prepared in the last session.Once the full RPL programme was completed and all candidates had received their resultsthe actual programme evaluation commenced. The programme evaluation did notcommence sooner as I did not want candidates to cooperate simply because they wereafraid they would not obtain a competent outcome. By delaying the start of theprogramme evaluation I was able to ensure that candidates were less fearful of beingvictimised and more prepared to share true insights.3.3 The implementation of the programme evaluationProgramme evaluation research is about establishing whether social programmes areneeded, effective and likely to be used (Potter, 2002, p. 209). Patton (2002, p. 147) startshis discussion on the topic by distinguishing between: summative programme evaluationthat looks at whether a programme’s processes work and whether it produces the desiredoutcomes; and formative programme evaluation, that considers individual processes and Page 49
    • ongoing programme quality improvement. He points out that the two have evolved to apoint where the distinctions between them have blurred because they both now share acommon concern for gathering useful information from any source in order to supportprogramme improvement. This blurring certainly happened in this research because thefinal anticipated outcome is both quality improvement and desired outcomes.This section is presented using the five key steps to programme evaluation developed byPatton (1997), who calls this approach utilisation-focused evaluation (described in chapter2). The steps are: 1. Identify the intended users of the programme evaluation; 2. The evaluator and intended users focus the evaluation; 3. Choose the most appropriate design; 4. Interpret the findings, make judgements and generate recommendations; 5. Disseminate the final programme evaluation report.3.3.1 Step 1: Identify the intended users of the evaluationThe first step involves listing all the possible stakeholders involved in the evaluation, alongwith their possible uses for the outcomes of the research project. The list compiled for thisresearch has been redrawn as Table 3.1. As can be seen, it displays the stakeholders inthe left hand column, the title of the individual consulted in the middle column, and thepossible uses they may have for the data in the last column. Page 50
    • Table 3-1: List of stakeholders and the intended uses they may have for the data Organisation Individual/s (by title Possible uses for the data not by name for confidentiality reasons) SAQA The Senior Researcher Input to SAQA documents and and author of the SAQA policies; Criteria and Guidelines for RPL in South Africa. INSETA The ETQA manager; Input into own RPL policies; External moderators Redesign of INSETA’s RPL approach; Employer Training Manager Better understanding of RPL for future roll out; RPL implementation Project Manager; Improved model for future roll company Operations Director; out of RPL in other clients; Assessors; Moderators; Understanding of success RPL coaches; factors to be improved and enhanced; Candidates Individual candidates Opportunity to comment on the process that had taken up nine months of their lives; Opportunity to understand RPL.From this list of all possible stakeholders, I tried to identify which groups would most likelybe the key users of the data. These would obviously be the key stakeholders/users withwhom I would work to share ideas on how to manage the evaluation. Page 51
    • After separate discussions with each of the stakeholders about their thoughts on possibleuses for the evaluation research I identified the following as key users: SAQA; INSETA; The company managing the RPL implementation.It proved impossible to coordinate a meeting with the SAQA representative and INSETArepresentatives at the same time, so I met with them separately to share their ideas for theresearch. A meeting was held internally at the RPL outsource company to table the ideasfrom SAQA and INSETA and to make initial decisions about the proposed research.At this stage I was aware that the actual RPL candidates were not represented as aprimary user, despite the fact that they were most likely to be the people we would bequestioning to glean an understanding of their experiences. The reason was simply thatthese candidates might never again attempt an RPL process, so to categorise them asprimary users would be counter-productive and would most likely have an impact on theoutcomes and categories uncovered. Their opinions would be sought, but the primaryvalues that would drive the research would be those of the three primary potential users ofthe data.3.3.2 Step 2: The evaluator and the intended users focus the evaluationThe SAQA representative (participant 1/P1) and the external moderator from INSETA(participant 2/P2) both hold post-graduate degrees. P1 has a Masters degree and P2 hasa Doctorate, so there was little need to discuss the overall goals of a programmeevaluation process. They both quickly understood what was required and wereimmediately able to generate ideas for the path ahead. The training manager at thecompany implementing the RPL was also interviewed (participant 8/P8).The representatives from within the implementation company were of mixed knowledgelevels. The general manager (participant 3/P3) is currently completing her own qualitativestudy at masters level through another university, but the assessment manager(participant 4/P4); assessor (participant 5/P5) and project manager (participant 7/P7) hadlittle prior knowledge or understanding of programme evaluation or techniques for Page 52
    • conducting an evaluation. I was participant 6/P6 – the operations director and the personchampioning the evaluation.I wanted to include my own experiences as a stakeholder in this study openly, which iswhy I included myself as a participant. Because I was aware that my own thoughts couldbecome clouded and confused as I spoke to others, I wrote down my thoughts on theresearch approach and methodology and presented these as my research proposal priorto starting with the programme evaluation. Thus, the methodological ideas presented tomy university supervisors encapsulated my own perspectives and stance on the possiblepath that the programme evaluation could take. However, I was open to having thischanged by the other stakeholders, as the premise in the utilisation-focused evaluationapproach is that the stakeholders must collectively decide on the methodologies to beused to obtain the results they want and can use.A meeting was held at the RPL implementation company in August 2006 to discuss theintended programme evaluation. The loosely structured agenda was as follows: • Brief introduction to programme evaluation. • A summary of the many types of research – using the three paradigms (positivism, interpretative and constructionist) as a starting point for discussion. • What benefits could you see arising out of a programme evaluation? • What are the key issues we should review? Success rates? Programme implementation approach (the logic model)? The theory of action6 of RPL? Etc. • What questions should we ask, and who should we ask?7 • What approach should we follow, and what should we avoid? • Are there any political or ethical considerations to bear in mind? • Is this research worth doing?6 My own personal opinion was to avoid theories of action as they ‘bear the burden ofspecifying, and explain assumed, hypothesized or causal links’ (Patton, 2002). Mypreference was for a simple logic model showing inputs, process and outputs.7 I had already formulated seven research questions, which appear in the first chapter andare repeated in the second chapter. I did not disclose these up front during thestakeholder brainstorming session. I did, however, table them, when appropriate, during alull in the thought processes. I had also already posed questions on an internet chat pageto collect experiences from participants. Similarly, I did not reveal these until it wasprudent to do so. Page 53
    • • How will the results be used practically and what report format will facilitate use?The meeting was recorded electronically onto a Personal Computer (PC) and immediatelytranscribed. When appropriate, I revealed the thoughts already collected from P1 and P2on various issues. I did this largely using an ‘active-reactive-adaptive’ style (Patton, 2002)which was well suited to my being both the primary evaluator and a stakeholder.The outcome of the session is broadly summarised in the next section.3.3.3 Step 3: Choosing an appropriate designThe primary stated use for the programme evaluation was to improve the RPLimplementation process. Stakeholders indicated a need to understand why somecandidates were successful immediately and why they grasped the concepts readily, whileothers did not. There was consensus that this understanding could be immediatelyincorporated into a refined logic (or action) model for RPL implementation.Neither P1 nor P2 could commit to actually incorporating the results of the evaluation intopolicy documentation, which was understandable given that their policies are stakeholderconsultative and generic documents. At this stage, the main user was identified as thecompany which implemented RPL solutions on an outsource basis. This sparked hugedebate about the cost (money and resources) of conducting research and the proprietarynature of the final outcome. This view is summarised by P3 below: P3: ‘The ultimate objective for us is to be better at what we do, to be able to implement RPL more cost effectively and to achieve better results. This will add to both our profitability and our reputation. But if this falls into the hands of a competitor it may expose too much of our IP8. That’s dangerous. How can we still do it and protect ourselves?’After almost a full day of debate and consideration of the opinions of both P1 and P2, thefinal design was a pragmatic mix of methodologies, which included: • The context was agreed to be the same company that I had already identified. The stakeholders agreed that this was a distinct programme that could be evaluated in8 IP = Intellectual Property Page 54
    • isolation from the others with little difficulty. The fact that this company had already agreed to my request was an advantage; • A quantitative analysis of candidate biographical information. This was felt to be useful in determining the typical profile of an RPL candidate and so that basic assumptions and generalisations could be made; • We agreed that the starting point would be an analysis of all the email queries received from the group during the implementation of the programme. This information would be analysed along with the answers to questions posed on the internet chatroom to identify broad concepts that would form the basis for further research; • In addition to the chatroom and email queries, it was also suggested that an analysis be done of a sample of learners’ reflective statements prior to conducting interviews with candidates. Each portfolio submitted by each learner had to include a reflective statement and these are written by the learners as they progressed through the RPL process. Participant 5 pointed out that these reflections showcased the ‘evolution of understanding of the RPL process’ for most candidates and as such they would provide useful insight into what the candidates were feeling and experiencing at each stage; • Once the broad concepts and categories were identified from the emails, chatroom and reflective statements, we agreed the next step was theoretical sampling of the RPL candidates based on their successes and failures. The selected candidates would be asked to participate further by undergoing semi-structured interviews9 designed to explore the broad categories already coming through from the internet chat room and email review; • A sample size of 10 was agreed to, but with the understanding that interviews would cease if no new information was being collected after five or six interviews. However, if each interview revealed something new, interviewing would continue beyond 10 until no new data was being uncovered; • There was agreement to use grounded theory analysis techniques (as described by Glaser & Strauss, 1967; and Strauss & Corbin, 1998) to process and analyse the data collected through the structured interviews and internet chat room. In9 I pointed out to the group that unstructured interviews are more the norm in qualitativestudies but they felt some structure was needed to ensure that all interviews covered thesame topics so that categories could be extracted for further analysis. Page 55
    • retrospect, this was largely through the guidance of P310 and me as the others were not really sure how the data could be analysed. P4 summarises this view as follows:P4: ‘It’s too confusing. Let’s just go with your suggestions and modify it as we go along, if we need to.’ • My possible subjectivity was raised as an issue that had to be guarded against and I agreed to continue to record my thoughts in my reflective diary and to share this with the stakeholder team during all subsequent meetings. It was also agreed that they would assist with the analysis and interpretation of data.3.3.4 Step 4: Interpreting the findings, making judgements and generatingrecommendationsAs mentioned above, grounded theory data analysis was used to process and analyse thedata collected from the various sources. This process is described in detail in Chapter 4and the recommendations are discussed in Chapter Step 5: Dissemination of the final programme evaluation reportThe last step, according to Patton’s (1997) utility-focused evaluation model, is feedback tothe various stakeholders in a format that they can use. I agreed with all stakeholders that Iwould summarise the data and present it to them in a workshop where we couldbrainstorm the best way to implement the findings. The emphasis was on the delivery ofinformation that would assist them to improve the RPL process for future implementations.10 P3 was contemplating using Grounded Theory for her own Masters Thesis, so she wasaware of the theory and its processes and wanted to experience it herself, as a participant,for her own clarification. Page 56
    • 3.4 Chapter summaryThis chapter chronologically outlines both the process followed during the programmeimplementation and the process followed to evaluate the programme. It explains how theinitial RPL programme was conceptualised and implemented and provides the reader witha flow diagram (Figure 3.1) to follow. The actual programme evaluation was implementedusing the utilisation-focused evaluation model proposed by Patton (1997), and theimplementation of this research’s evaluation in relation to each of the steps he proposed inhis writing is shown.The overall intention of this chapter is to provide the reader with some insight into theprocess followed to conduct the initial RPL programme and to evaluate it so that theupcoming discussion on the implementation of grounded theory analysis techniques wouldbe more contextualised in the readers’ mind. The following chapter expands on thediscussion around grounded theory data analysis and details the results of each stage ofthe analysis. Page 57
    • CHAPTER 4 : DATA PRESENTATION AND DATA ANALYSIS ‘There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.’ - Colin Powell4.1 IntroductionThis chapter represents the heart of this research. It describes the actual processesfollowed to collect and analyse the data so as to finally be able to propose a logic modelfor workplace RPL implementation. I elected to analyse the data using the rigoroustechniques described by grounded theory data analysts and this decision added hugely tomy workload. Simpler data analysis techniques are available (Henning at al., 2004), butthe selected approach incorporates a number of analytical techniques for data analysisthat aim to increase the researcher’s objectivity and assist the researcher through themethodological process. The methodological process is broken up into three steps, i.e.open coding, axial coding and selective coding – and the researcher uses the analyticaltechniques proposed by grounded theorists during each of these steps. These analyticaltechniques assist the researcher to approach the analysis and come up with concepts,patterns and eventual theories which are grounded in the raw data (Strauss & Corbin,1998).This chapter is the heart because it represents the core of the research. This workallowed me to reach the conclusions and recommendations in Chapter 7 and to craft thelogic model for workplace RPL implementation presented in Chapter 6. The data analysisprocess was labour-intensive and extremely frustrating but immensely rewarding in theend. The data analysis process is presented strictly chronologically, following the stepsproposed by grounded theory data analysis. Actual quotes from the raw data and thecandidates themselves have been included to justify the assumptions and conclusionsmade along the way.By way of an introduction to grounded theory data analysis and its methodologies, thischapter commences with an explanation of some of the more common analyticalprocedures utilised by analysts following this tradition. The chapter then moves throughthe grounded theory data analysis steps of open coding, axial coding and selective coding, Page 58
    • before providing an analysis of 18 workplace RPL case studies described in an ILO reportwritten by Dyson and Keating (2005). It is anticipated that the review of these practicalworkplace RPL case studies will contribute to the findings of this research by addingthickness (Geertz, 1973) to the categories that have emerged. Strauss and Corbin (1998,p. 47) make the point that ‘(l)iterature can be used as an analytical tool if we are careful tothink about it in theoretical terms. Used in this way, the literature can provide a rich sourceof events to stimulate thinking about properties and for asking conceptual questions.’4.2 Analytical procedures used by grounded theoristsAccording to Glaser and Strauss (1967) and Strauss and Corbin (1998) there are varioustechniques that analysts following this grounded theory data analysis tradition should use.These are: • Microanalysis. This is a detailed line-by-line analysis of the data and is usually conducted at the beginning of a study to generate initial categories and their properties and dimensions (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 57). It is a highly focused analysis of the data that allows the researcher to identify what the research participants are saying and how they are saying it. It also assists the researcher to highlight particular questions for further investigation and begin to identify categories and their properties and relationships between the categories. • Asking questions. This is a device used to open up a line of inquiry and direct theoretical sampling (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 73). Questions can lead to other questions – what grounded theorists call a ‘chaining’ of investigations. Questions come from relevant experience and an increased sensitivity to the data and they can take two forms. The first are substantive questions, such as ‘what factors cause someone to succeed at RPL where others do not?’ The second form of questioning is theoretical, as in ‘how can we implement RPL so as to ensure that more people succeed?’ The second type of question involves a more theoretically orientated inquiry - one that moves beyond a simple listing of factors to a close examination of implementation techniques and an analysis of what works for various types of candidates and why. Theoretical questions are essential in grounded theory as they help the researcher to see process, variation and the links between concepts. Page 59
    • • Making theoretical comparisons. This is a process to stimulate thinking about properties and dimensions of categories (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 73). Grounded theorists use theoretical comparisons to stimulate thought about concepts and their properties and dimensions so as to direct ongoing theoretical sampling. The properties of the comparative concept are not imposed upon the data; they are simply used to give the researcher a means for examining the data. • The flip-flop technique. This is the analytical process of looking for abstract similarities and differences. It involves turning ‘a concept ‘inside out’ or ‘upside down’ to obtain different perspectives on the event, object, or action/interaction. In other words, we look at opposites or extremes to bring out significant properties,’ (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 94). • Systematic comparison. This is a comparative technique that involves comparing an incident in the data to one recalled from experience or recorded in the literature. The purpose of this comparison is to sensitise the researcher to the properties and dimensions in the data that might have been overlooked because the researcher did not know what he or she was looking for (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 95). • Waving the red flag. This is a process for recognising when a researcher’s (or research participants’) own biases, assumptions or theories are beginning to cloud the analysis. This can occur when a researcher accepts, at face value, the terms or explanations offered by the research candidates without questioning them. Key warning words (according to Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 97) are ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘everyone’, ‘no one’ and ‘no other way’. This is because these terms are extremes on the dimensional scale and research is usually about other points on the scale (such as ‘sometimes’) and the conditions that led to this positionAs Strauss and Corbin (1998, p. 101) point out the coding process is dynamic and fluid - itdoes not happen in clearly separated steps. However, it is easier to present the steps asdistinct, even if this is technically artificial. The next section presents the application ofgrounded theory data analysis in this research. Page 60
    • 4.3 Open codingAs already mentioned, data was collected from a number of sources using a variety ofdata collection methods. This approach strengthens the grounding of theory through themethodological triangulation of evidence, which in turn enhances internal validity (Pandit,1996, p. 2). During the initial research stages, the principal units of data were emailedqueries, chatroom conversations, written candidate reflections and interview transcripts.As already discussed, the decision on whom to select to interview was made usingextreme case sampling in conjunction with theoretical sampling. Glaser and Strauss(1967, p. 45) describe this sampling technique as ‘(t)he process of data collection forgenerating theory whereby the analyst jointly collects, codes and analyses his data anddecides which data to collect next and where to find them, in order to develop his theory asit emerges.’As already briefly explained in Chapter 2, open coding is the process used to open uptexts and expose the thoughts, ideas and meanings that they contain. It involves breakingthe data up into discrete elements and analysing these to identify similarities anddifferences. Concepts that are found to be related in some way are then grouped togetherinto categories, which are more abstract that the initial concepts themselves. Thisgrouping together process relies on the common properties the concepts share so they fittogether as a class of events, objects or actions. In other words, the concepts are‘classified’. However, these events, objects or actions can be classified in multiple waysdepending on how the researcher defines and interprets their attributes. Strauss (1969, p.20) states ‘(a)ny particular object can be named and thus located in countless ways. Thenaming sets it within a context of quite differently related classes. The nature or essenceof an object does not reside mysteriously within the object itself but is dependent uponhow it is defined.’The term used to name a category (or subcategory) of concepts can either be taken fromthe respondents themselves (called in vivo codes in grounded theory) or coined by theresearcher because it represents some common event or imagery. As far as possible, the‘conceptual name or label should be suggested by the context in which an event islocated’, according to Strauss and Corbin (1998, p. 106). Page 61
    • In this research, the first step after collecting the data was to number each piece ofcandidate data (each case) from 1 to 81. These were then read and analysed and Ihighlighted what I felt were the main concepts on each page. I simultaneously attemptedto label each concept, taking care to use in vivo codes as far as possible. I capturedthese labels in coloured font in the electronic text and in coloured ink in the margins on thephotocopies. (A coded sample of text is presented in Appendix 3.) I then transferred allthe concepts onto index cards – one concept to a card. At the end of this process therewere 18 index cards that looked like the example in Figure 4.1 below. The figure isannotated for clarity and the words appearing in bold in the following paragraph are allindicated in Figure 4.1.The category number and category title was written on the front of each index card. Inthe top right hand corner I cross-referenced the category to the candidate data code (anydata source between 1 and 81). Beneath the category I wrote the properties (general orspecific attributes) and/or dimensions (location of a property along a continuum) as theyoccurred to me. The reverse of the card was divided in half. The left half was headedopposites and I recorded my ‘inside out’ or ‘upside down’ (flip-flop technique) impressionsof the concept here. On the right I noted questions about the category on that card thatoccurred to me. Page 62
    • Category number Data code indicating Category source title Properties Front of card Questions Flip-flop that technique occurred showing to me opposites Back of cardFigure 4-1: Copy of the front and back of one of the index cards produced during opencodingA full summary of each of the 18 cards, showing the same information as indicated on thecard in Figure 4.1, is presented in Appendix 4.The next step was to use the comparative and analytical tools described at the beginningof this chapter to group the concepts into categories using their properties and dimensions.The process of making theoretical comparisons engaged me in ‘raising questions anddiscovering properties and dimensions that might be in the data by increasing researchersensitivity’ (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 67). This enabled me to identify variations ‘in thepatterns to be found in the data…it is not just one form of a category or pattern in which weare interested but also how that pattern varies dimensionally, which is discerned through acomparison of properties and dimensions under different conditions’ (Strauss & Corbin,1998, p. 67). Page 63
    • These category groupings changed frequently, but having the concepts written ontoseparate index cards made it easy for me to pick them up and move them around. After afew days of grouping and ungrouping, arranging and rearranging and ongoing discussionswith the programme evaluation team at work, I finally condensed the data into the 18categories summarised in Table 4.1. The left hand column shows the category headingand the right hand column includes some of the raw data quotes from the candidatesthemselves.Table 4-1 Summary of the categories from the open coding analysis Category Example of some of the phrases used by the candidates 1. Catalyst/reason to do RPL • ‘New rules and regulations’ • ‘We had to complete RPL’ • ‘Ons moet die kliënt beskerm’ • ‘Regulation of government’ • ‘I must become FAIS compliant’ 2. Feelings towards the RPL • ‘I found it to be most valuable’ process (and FAIS in general) • ‘Great opportunity’ • ‘Did not want to do this project’ • ‘We have to do it’ • ‘Waste of time’ • ‘Enjoyed the whole process’ 3. Questioning the purpose and • ‘Many questions’ validity of the programme • ‘I recognise the purpose’ • ‘Many, many questions’ • ‘Why must we waste our time’ • ‘What do we get in the end?’ 4. Preparation for the process • ‘I thought it would be easier’ • ‘Mammoth task’ • ‘The more I read the more I doubted my ability to cope’ • ‘I knew what to do’ • ‘I did not know where to start’ Page 64
    • 5. Self confidence about their ability • ‘I can’t do it’to do their job and the RPL • ‘I am fine and I understand what to do’ • ‘I know my job and the RPL was straight forward’ • ‘I had help from my family’6. Personal values • ‘I approached this in a positive manner’ • ‘I took responsibility and was committed’ • ‘I have passion’ • ‘I saw myself qualified’ • ‘I wanted to do this’7. Perceived link between • ‘I want to achieve as much credits asqualification and job performance possible to be able to get positions in the company’ • ‘Jou ondervinding niks tel nie’ • ‘Why must we do it? I can do the work’ • ‘This has opened doors for me that were shut’8. Role of support systems in • ‘No assistance’controlling anxiety and stress and • ‘Blind leading the blind’getting through the process • ‘Debates and discussions with my fellow RPL-ers helped me’ • ‘Lot of support offered on-line’ • ‘Line managers could not help us’9. Ability to cope • ‘Only way to cope’ • ‘Overwhelmed’ • ‘How could I cope’ • ‘Positiewe denke die sukses van hierdie studies sal wees’10. Need for confirmation from • ‘Tell me if I am okay’ Page 65
    • others • ‘Tell me if my credits are enough’ • ‘Advise me before I continue further’ • ‘Do you think I will be able to finish this’11. ‘Me’ and ‘I’ vs ‘We’ and ‘Us’ • ‘We are stressing’ • ‘We are trying to contact you’ • ‘We are not sure as to how much in- depth info is required’ • ‘I am so proud’ • ‘I have succeeded’12. Understanding of academic • ‘Ek weet glad nie hoe om die vraë teapproach and assessment beantwoord nie’principles • ‘I learnt how to structure answers’ • ‘I did not know where to start’ • ‘I did not understand the difference between discuss and describe’13. Stress and time consuming • ‘Took time from my family’nature of the RPL programme • ‘Stressed to the eyeballs’ • ‘It took time’ • ‘I hated it. It was too long and too stressful’ • ‘It was stressful and took time but I loved every challenging minute of it’14. Personalisation of the RPL • ‘Wrecking peoples’ lives’process • ‘Read, Live and Progress’15. ‘The RPL’ as opposed to naming All candidates referred to the companythe company involved in the doing the implementation as ‘the’ RPL. Notimplementation a single one used the correct company name, despite it being on all the correspondence, presentation slides, the assessment tools, etc.16. Change in perception towards • ‘Ek het gedink ek gaan baie sukkel’ Page 66
    • the project • ‘My first reaction’ • ‘RPL did a lot for me’ • ‘By the end I find I am missing it all’ 17. Perception of feedback • ‘More thorough feedback needed’ • ‘You could have made the feedback clearer’ • ‘I was still confused’ 18. Results/outcome of the RPL • ‘It will increase my chances to enter programme doorways’ • ‘Baie leersame process’ • ‘Forced me to refresh my knowledge’It is important to note that I did not consult any literature on RPL or learning theory at thisstage, so the terminology used in this table and the discussion in the next section comeseither from the candidates themselves or from my interpretation of what they were saying.My interpretations are based both on my knowledge gained by being part of theprogramme implementation and my knowledge as an RPL practitioner in the workplace.While it is possible that my knowledge could have been influenced by theoretical readingthat I had been exposed to in the past, I did make a conscious effort to let the data speakfor itself as far as possible. The next section provides the reader with some insight intoeach of the categories, with actual quotes from the RPL candidates to substantiate mycategorisation.4.4 Discussion of the categories that emerged from open codingAs already mentioned in the preceding section, the sources of data at this stage were thecandidates’ emailed queries, the internet chatroom and a sample of reflections drawn fromcandidates’ portfolios of evidence. I have used quotes from these sources to illustrateeach category listed in Table 4.1. As far as possible, their quotes have been repeatedverbatim, although spelling and grammar corrections have been made to make the textmore readable in some cases. In each quote, the phrase or word used as the basis for thecategorisation is underlined to allow the reader to see what my categorisation is based on. Page 67
    • Theoretical memos were kept throughout the analytical process to track the processfollowed to reach a particular point, concept or category, and to record the variousparadigm features as they evolved. In addition, operational memos were kept whichcontained information on the evolving research design. Both tools helped me to keeptrack of the research as it unfolded and are important tools in grounded theory dataanalysis. These memos were recorded in MSWORD, hyperlinked to the electronicconcept or category that I was analysing. Where a memo related to a photocopiedreflection, I still typed the memo in MSWORD, but was unable to hyperlink it electronicallyand had to rely on manual linkages based on date and a code.I have quoted from these memos from time-to-time in the discussion of each emergingcategory below because they help to show how the research unfolded.4.4.1 Category 1: Catalyst or reason for doing RPLThere was overwhelming consensus that the reasons for embarking upon the RPLprogramme were all external. No one commented that they had volunteered to do theRPL programme because they wanted to better themselves. Instead the government wasblamed, the clients were blamed and the company was blamed. The following quotesillustrate this: Candidate 1 ‘At this stage of our lives we believed the fact that experience speaks for itself but due to the new rules and regulations we ‘HAD’ to complete RPL.’ Candidate 3 ‘Die rede hoekom ons dit doen is sodat ons goeie en korrekte inligting aan ons kliënte kan gee. Ons moet die kliënt beskerm en ook seker maak dat die advies wat ons verskaf voldoen aan die FAIS wetgewing.’ Candidate 6 ‘The Financial Services Board, by the regulation of the government, has requested that all staff who provide financial advice must be FAIS compliant. So I must become FAIS compliant.’ Candidate 22 ‘Is this just another way for our company to minimise staff by saying if you don’t do this we won’t have a job for you.’ Page 68
    • Most candidates reported that they enjoyed the process in the end but would rather havehad some choice in the decision about whether or not they wanted to study further at thatstage of their lives and careers. Their perceptions were probably compounded by the factthat they would have to repay the company for the cost of the RPL if they either left orwere found not-yet-competent at the end of the process.4.4.2 Category 2: Feelings towards the RPL process and FAIS in generalThere were strong opinions voiced about the RPL process, which indicated that thecandidates engaged with it, thought about it and spoke about it. The followingcontradictory quotes from the data will illustrate the extent and range of feelings towardsRPL: Candidate 28 ‘Being in the short term industry since 1982/1983, it was a great opportunity to be able to apply all that past experience and gather the evidence for my portfolio. I had to explore a wide range of topics. To me the entire process was a challenge. I found it to be most valuable and I believe I and my clients will only benefit from being more knowledgeable and compliant in my field.’ Candidate 4 ‘We as staff did not want to do this project at all and were forced to do it. I personally think this is a money making racket thought up by a bunch of people who thought up the idea of the project and took it to government who took it hook, line and sinker. Then they made it law and now we have to do it to get credits from you people.’The range of responses made me think back to the preparatory sessions I had conducted.Those sessions were designed to prepare candidates to manage the RPL process butthey did not deal with why candidates had to become qualified or whether they werementally prepared to do so. During the programme implementation we assumedcandidates knew why they had to be FAIS compliant. I realised that the preparation of thecandidate had to take place at different levels if the process was to be a success. I notedthis in my memo for further research. Page 69
    • 4.4.3 Category 3: Questioning the purpose and validity of the programmeThere were a number of candidates who questioned the RPL approach critically and whorequired clarity about certain aspects before they felt comfortable enough to move aheadand invest the time it would require to complete the process. To me, this indicated thatthey were engaging critically with the process. Through the process of asking questions,these candidates appeared to move from ‘reluctant’ to ‘highly participative’ candidates.The following quotes demonstrate this: Candidate 25 ‘Initially I found the setting-out of material confusing and I had many questions to you and your colleagues in this regard. However, I can clearly clarify that I now recognise the purpose for adopting this approach and technique that you have in the presented material. It forces the learner to use their initiative and common sense. This is long overdue.’ Candidate 14 ‘In the beginning I had many, many questions: why must I do this, who will assess me, what do they know, can’t I do this differently… then I got started and I was fine.’4.4.4 Category 4: Preparation for the processCandidates attended a one-day preparatory workshop during the roll out of the RPLimplementation, yet some candidates claimed not to know what to expect until they gotstarted. At this stage they could not withdraw because the company’s policy stated thatthey could only withdraw up until immediately after the preparatory session (Prior LearningCentre, 2004). Those who wanted to withdraw after this point were liable for the full fee.Comments about the preparation included: Candidate 36 ‘To be quite honest I thought that it would be a lot easier than studying for exams but once I started with the first cluster I realised I was obviously completely wrong. ‘ Candidate 22 ‘The more I listened to others and read the questions and assignments the more I worried. How on earth was I going to accomplish this mammoth task?’ Page 70
    • Candidate 15 had a different perspective: Candidate 15 ‘I expected to be able to do the assignments and I could. I read them all, planned, researched for a few weeks, then took study leave and wrote my portfolio.’It appeared to me that some candidates simply needed more preparation and that the typeof preparation should probably vary as well, with some candidates needing preparation onplanning and research skills, while others did not. Again, I noted this in my memo to followup on during later research.4.4.5 Category 5: Self-confidence about their ability to do their job and the RPLThe candidates varied considerably in terms of their self-confidence, and this appeared tohave an impact on their approach to the RPL process and their ongoing need forreassurance. The following quotes will illustrate the range in self-confidence levels. Candidate 82 ‘I spoke to some of the people that were on the workshop. Im having doubts about the whole thing now. I really dont know if Ill be able to cope. Two of them already withdrew (one of them being the underwriting manager). Im strongly considering to do the same. Please advise whether I may still do so.’ Candidate 22 ‘I have been with this company for the last 5 years. I know my job and the RPL was straightforward. I enjoyed it and learnt from it. It did take a lot of effort to complete but I grew a little more each day.’ Candidate 8 ‘I anticipated difficulties in completing the assignments but I was pleasantly surprised to find that once I had read what was required it was straightforward.’4.4.6 Category 6: Personal valuesCandidates expressed many opinions about which personal qualities helped them tosucceed. Qualities such as hard work, self-motivation, seeing themselves finishing theprogramme, and commitment were most frequently mentioned. To me, this showed that Page 71
    • they were critically evaluating themselves as candidates and attempting to work out whythey had succeeded while others had not. Candidate 5 ‘I approached this in a positive manner.’ Candidate 10 ‘I got through the RPL because I took responsibility and was committed….I also have passion for the insurance industry.’ Candidate 12 ‘Always remember to stay focused, be positive and focused in life. Think positive and know you can achieve. I saw myself qualified – that helped.’ Candidate 15 ‘I am self confident and self-disciplined… organised and I manage myself responsibly.’4.4.7 Category 7: Perceived link between qualification and job performanceAlmost all of the candidates appeared to see a causal relationship between holding aqualification and job performance, and this appeared to act as a motivator to continue withthe process. The following quote summarises the dominant point of view: Candidate 1 ‘Through the RPL I would like to achieve as much credits as possible to be able to get positions in the company that require certain qualifications, especially as I do not have a matric certificate.’ Candidate 3 ‘Dit was nogal a skok om te hoor dat jou ondervinding niks tel nie, dit maak nie saak of jy vyf of 10 jaar vir die maatskappy werk nie jy moes nog steeds jou RPL klaar maak.’In my memos I recorded the following observation: ‘They understand that they need aqualification and they understand that it can improve their job prospects, but they don’t likebeing told they MUST do it NOW. They want it to be their choice – which is whereuniversity RPL candidates are probably more fortunate because they decide when theywant to do it. The reasons for doing RPL are the same in both contexts, but the timing,choice and power issues are not the same. This is probably the big difference betweenthe two contexts that I must explore further.’ Page 72
    • 4.4.8 Category 8: Role of support systems in controlling anxiety and stress andgetting through the processA number of candidates talked freely about the stress they experienced during the RPLprocess and the role of their various support structures in helping them get through. Thekey support structures mentioned were spouse/family, organisational structures (likemanagers and peers) and their faith. Some people indicated that they had no support andit added to their stress. The following quotes illustrate their experiences:Candidate 1 ‘There was no assistance in any way, only guidance from colleagues, more of ‘the blind leading the blind’.Candidate 5 ‘The debates and discussions with my fellow RPL-ers helped me to get through this.’Candidate 3 ‘Die personeel het baie gekla dat dit baie van hulle tyd vat en dat hulle families afgeskeep word. In party families het dit redelike struwelings gemaak en man en vrou het baie geargumenteer. Die mans en vrouens voel dat hulle nie nodig het om tot elfuur of twaalfuur in die aand moet werk nie.’Candidate 9 ‘There was a lot of support offered online.’Candidate 35 ‘The RPL had a huge impact on my family life – I had to make sacrifices.’Candidate 39 ‘I felt very negative about the RPL process because I am a single parent and I was forced to work after hours. My boss gave me no support and I really needed it at times.’Candidate 25 ‘I would like to bring to your attention two words that either make or break the obtaining of this qualification. SUPPORT and COMMITMENT. I found that there was insufficient support from certain sectors in our company. H.O. was wonderful. But our line managers had no knowledge of the intensity of this type of commitment that the learner had to make. Many times we could not get access to our offices after hours to do computer research.’ Page 73
    • 4.4.9 Category 9: Ability to copeSome candidates stated that they simply felt overwhelmed by the RPL task, whereasothers stated that it was a lot to do but that they coped. I was curious about why somecoped and others did not and made a note in my memos to look into coping strategies thatpeople employed. I thought that coping and support structures were probably linked but,left them as separate categories at this stage until I investigated the literature moreclosely. I was aware that I wanted to record all my initial thoughts without turning to theliterature too soon because I was afraid I would lose sight of my own research participants. Candidate 72 ‘The only way to cope was to do a little bit each night. If I missed out on my night of work I felt overwhelmed and not able to cope.’ Candidate 19 ‘When I started I almost cried. How could I cope? I approached each assignment with trepidation and a certain amount of fear. But once I got into it I found it interesting and I became excited and looked forward to the next assignment.’ Candidate 10 ‘Ek het geleer dat positiewe denke die sukses van hierdie studies sal wees.’4.4.10 Category 10: Need for confirmation from othersMost candidates needed regular confirmation that they were on the right track. Theyappeared to be afraid of doing the wrong thing and they needed regular confirmation thatthey were approaching questions correctly. Candidate 37’s comments summarise thisneed:Candidate 37 ‘I have asked my colleagues and my husband and they don’t know. I have asked RPL and they say it is okay. Please can you just read my answers and tell me if I am okay?’I found this need for confirmation interesting and I made a note in my memos to follow it upduring the focused interviews. I wanted to know if this was part of the company’s cultureor whether the need for confirmation was only apparent around the RPL implementation. Page 74
    • 4.4.11 Category 11: ‘Me’ and ‘I’ vs ‘We’ and ‘Us’Many candidates wrote using the plural pronoun, which indicated to me that they weresharing the RPL experiences and getting support from others. After reviewing the data Icould see that candidates usually used the plural pronoun when asking for help but usedthe singular pronoun when talking about positive outcomes they experienced. Candidateswho discussed negative outcomes used the plural pronoun at all times. It appeared to methat negative experiences were shared and that candidates wanted to make the point thatthey were not alone in experiencing problems. In contrast, positive consequences werealmost always individualised, as if they were not afraid to claim positive outcomes on theirown. I made a note to investigate this further. The following quotes will illustrate this:Candidate 72 ‘In East London we are stressing about the Assignment and a few of us have been trying to contact you without success. We are not sure as to how much ‘in-depth’ info. is required in regards to 9014 as it apparently totals only 21 points…I must say I am enjoying the process very much.’Candidate 22 ‘We discussed this and we were very upset. What a waste of time we thought… We all agreed to give it a go...I am so proud I have finished.’4.4.12 Category 12: Understanding of academic approach and assessmentprinciplesIt become evident to me during the open coding process that very few of the candidateswere aware of academic rigours and processes that the implementers simply assumedthat candidates would know because they had been to school. I noted this in my memo. Page 75
    • The following quotes show the frustration experienced by many of the candidates in thisregard: Candidate 90 ‘Is daar nie iemand wat al die kurses klaar gedoen het wat ons kan help nie? Ek weet glad nie hoe om die vrae te beantwoord nie en waar om te begin nie. (Ons weet ook nie hoe om die internet te gebruik om die antwoorde te kry nie.)’ Candidate 12 ‘I learnt to keep focused, set goals for myself and plan my answers. I learnt how to structure answers.’Candidate 22 submitted a whole list of things he had learnt to do. He stated that it wouldhave been easier for him if he had known these things up front. He said: Candidate 22 ‘What has RPL done for me? I can now type. I, at my age, have become disciplined. I have learnt to make time for things in my life. I have obtained a wealth of knowledge. I have gained my self- confidence. I have learnt how to use the internet (wow!). I have learnt to learn.’Other candidates simply seemed to understand what to do and appeared to enjoy it:Candidate 9 ‘I found the research very interesting and was amazed to discover how much I actually enjoyed the research process. Finding the information and putting it together has been a lot of fun.’Candidate 19 ‘When I first read the assignments I had a mixed reaction. I was confident about what I knew and I looked forward to doing the research. But I was anxious about being able to communicate what I knew to the assessor.’ Page 76
    • 4.4.13 Category 13: Stress and time consuming nature of the RPL programmeSome candidates made mention of the time consuming nature of the RPL process, whileothers appeared to be invigorated by the challenge. The following two quotes show therange of opinions:Candidate 7 ‘RPL took away my time from my family. There were fights and arguments and pure frustration, you will not believe it. I am proud of what I have achieved now – but when I was doing it I was stressed to my eyeballs.’Candidate 27 ‘I loved this process and learnt so much. I loved the challenge and learning all the new things. It took time but it was invigorating. Thank you RPL.’The range from absolute stress to too little stress obviously had a lot to do with thecategories of perception, support structures and coping mechanisms. I made a note tosee if I could find any research that could add to my understanding.4.4.14 Category 14: Personalisation of the RPL processSome of the RPL candidates personalised RPL, which I found very exciting because Ibelieved it meant that they were talking about the RPL programme and sharing theirexperiences. Some of the personalisation’s were negative, while others were positive,and I made a note in my memos to see if I could find out at what point in the process theywere coined. I assumed from my research up to this point that the negative ones wouldhave been coined at the beginning of the programme when candidates were battling to getstarted, and that the positive ones would have been coined at the end of the programmeonce they had achieved and benefited from the process.The following candidates shared their personalisations with us: Candidate 4 ‘We here at XX have come up with what RPL stands for: ‘Wrecking Peoples’ Lives’ - and it has done that.’ Candidate 55 ‘RPL means ‘Read, Live and Progress’. It has certainly helped me to progress.’ Page 77
    • 4.4.15 Category 15: ‘The RPL’ as opposed to naming the company involved in theimplementationReferring to the implementation company as ‘The RPL’ could have been a genuine error,but I highlighted it as a possible category because I was excited to think that the companyI worked for could be seen as the definitive RPL provider. I searched through all the dataI had and found that not a single candidate had named the outsource company correctly –they all referred to us as the RPL. I felt this added to their stress to some extent becausethere was no perceived alternative RPL process they could follow if they did not like thisone. I made a note in my memos to ask candidates about this in the interviews. Candidate 10 ‘I want the people at RPL to find me competent so I can continue with my job.’ Candidate 22 ‘Thank you all at RPL for making this possible.’ Candidate 65 ‘Attached find my letter addressed to RPL concerning some subjects which have already been covered in detail with the IISA (Insurance Institute of South Africa) exams.’4.4.16 Category 16: Change in perception towards the projectA distinct category of evolution ran through the longer documents submitted by candidates- the sense that the RPL process seemed to go through distinct stages, from very easy inthe beginning, to a point at which it became very hard and the candidates consideredgiving up. Those who proceeded beyond this stage then generally evolved into excitedand committed participants. This evolutionary category made me realise that the variety ofperceptions and emotions described elsewhere in this chapter could link to different stagesof the RPL process. I was not collecting data deliberately from each stage because upuntil this analysis I did not know there could be different stages. I recorded this in mymemo for further investigation.The following extracts from various candidates will illustrate what I mean by evolutionary:Candidate 20 ‘Ek het gedink ek gaan baie sukkel. Namate ek gevorder het, naslaan werk gedoen het, het ek dit so interessant gevind dat ek my bes wil lewer.’ Page 78
    • Candidate 22 ‘My first reaction to the entire RPL was many questions: Why do I have to do this? Why didn’t I get enough qualifications in the past? Do my superiors think I do not have enough work? When I started there were so many questions and I started to worry….In the meantime I survived two restructurings and the last one was touch and go…I felt like leaving just to stop the RPL....But RPL did a lot for me…After all this I feel like I have been to university…I am so proud.’Candidate 23 ‘When I first heard about the RPL and thought about all the hard work one would have to put in I was very upset…I then realised by completing the RPL and being FAIS compliant I would benefit and so would my clients and employers…This RPL took up my free time and I had many sleepless nights, but at the end of the year it was for the best and in my own interest…I can honestly say I learnt a lot of new things… I would like to thank you for the opportunity you gave me to better myself.’Candidate 25 ‘Initially I found the setting out of the material confusing… I now recognise the need for this approach…it broadened my mind but I almost gave up…Thank you again to my company, RPL and the INSETA for this opportunity.’4.4.17 Category 17: Perception of feedbackThe RPL process is iterative, with the feedback loops between assessor and candidate animportant part of the process. Many candidates spoke about the role of the feedback intheir development. Some comments included:Candidate 22 ‘I tried my best. Only time will tell if the assessor thinks so. But I know I have learnt and achieved a lot – even if the assessor does not agree with me. Thanks to RPL for making all this possible. I am thankful and appreciative. This was a good one.’Candidate 23 ‘I would like to thank you for the time and opportunity to better myself. I honestly hope you will find my portfolio of evidence in order and that I will achieve my full credits.’ Page 79
    • Candidate 54 ‘I must emphasis that RPL is not an easy task. I must commend RPL for the commitment to empower us and I will certainly take this experience with me wherever I go. However, I have to mention to you that I felt I could have got more support from RPL when it came to repeating my cluster. I remained confused about what I had not done correctly and would sincerely have appreciated more thorough feedback and assistance.’4.4.18 Category 18: Results/outcome of the RPL programmeAlmost all candidates acknowledged that they enjoyed the RPL process once it was over.Some spoke about the pain they had been through, but highlighted the benefits that theyenjoyed as a result. The following comments show this:Candidate 1 ‘RPL will increase my chances to enter doorways that were closed before. It will also enhance my knowledge of the short term industry.’Candidate 3 ‘Ek glo dit was a baie goeie ding om die RPL te doen sodat almal op dieselfde standard is.’Candidate 11 ‘Dit was ‘n baie leersame proses.’Candidate 10 ‘RPL has taught me not to just live for today, it has prepared me to accept daily challenges and be able to live thereafter.’Candidate 6 ‘I am proud that I have completed it and if this is what is needed to ensure that I am able to do my job then so be it. Thank you for the opportunity.’Candidate 20 ‘Die enigste problem nou is dat ek weet ek het genoeg tyd om te leer. Ek het in die verlede gedink daar is vir niks anders tyd behalwe om te werk nie. Ek sal baie graag elke dag ‘n tyd wil inruim vir studies en daarby hou.’Candidate 36 ‘I can truly say that RPL has helped me in the following ways, managing my time, it forced me to read policy wordings again and it forced me to refresh my knowledge on financial statements. Not easy but well worth it.’ Page 80
    • To me the categorisation presented above represented the most logical way to group thedata. The quotes provided are the ones that typified each category, but many others couldhave been used.During open coding I reached a point in the data analysis for each category where thesame information and properties were displayed in each new case. This indicated that theresearch had reached ‘theoretical saturation’ (Glaser and Strauss 1967, p. 65) and it wastime to move into the second coding phase, that of axial coding. The next section providesa summary of how I went about implementing axial coding in this research.4.5 Axial codingAxial coding involves reassembling the data ‘through statements about the nature ofrelationships amongst the various categories and subcategories. These statements ofrelationships are commonly referred to as ‘hypotheses’. The theoretical structure thatensues enables us to form new explanations about the nature of phenomena’ (Strauss &Corbin, 1998, p. 103). This process is called axial coding because the coding occursaround the axis of a core category or category, linking the different subcategories at thelevel of their properties and dimensions. The purpose of this step in grounded theory dataanalysis is to reassemble the data that has been broken up during the open coding stage(Holloway & Wheeler, 2002). The researcher attempts to relate categories andsubcategories so that explanations for the phenomena can be revealed.According to Strauss and Corbin (1998, p. 127) researchers in the axial coding stage are‘looking for answers to questions such as why or how come, where, when, how, and withwhat results, and in so doing they uncover relationships among categories…by answeringthe questions…analysts are able to relate structure with process.’ They go on to say that itis important to link structure and process because structure (or conditions) creates thecircumstances for the problem or event, whereas process describes the actions of the roleplayers in response to the problem and issues. According to grounded theorists,researchers must study both structure and process in order to ‘capture the dynamic andevolving nature of events (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Page 81
    • Strauss and Corbin suggest (1998, p. 128) that researchers use organisational schemesor paradigms to assist them to organise the emerging connections between categories.According to Strauss and Corbin (1998) the basic components of a paradigm are theconditions that give rise to it, the actions and/or interactions that arise in response to thecondition, and the consequences of those actions and/or interactions. This is similar to alogic model within inputs, activities and outputs.This step was approached as follows: 1. Firstly, all memos, notes and index cards were reviewed and interrogated with questions like ‘what is going on here?’, ‘why is this happening?’, ‘who is it happening to and what is their reaction to it?’, ‘what is the consequence of their reaction?’ etc. This process of questioning helped to identify the conditions, actions and consequences described by Strauss and Corbin (1998, p. 130) in the data; 2. Secondly, categories were grouped together into broader axial categories using their dimensions and properties. Each axial category consisted of a number of open coding categories. I noted which categories appeared to impact on others and made notes to explore these in focused interviews with candidates; 3. Thirdly, I posed what Strauss and Corbin (1998, p. 135) call ‘relational statements’ or hypotheses which appeared to link the axial categories into a logical flow from prevailing conditions, to actions and finally to consequences; 4. Fourthly, I scanned the literature on learning theory and workplace learning to determine whether similar hypotheses had previously appeared in research literature; 5. Finally, I conducted seven focused interviews with a theoretical sample of candidates. In these interviews I focused specifically on the collection of information to confirm or disconfirm my emerging hypotheses. I have repeated some of the comments made by these candidates in my discussion of the categories below. I used extreme or deviant case sampling because I was deliberately selecting each interviewee (or case) for a specific purpose. I hoped that they would assist me to fill in theoretical gaps in the emerging theory and replicate previous cases so I could test the emerging theory or extend the theory by being a polar opposite of what had emerged to date (Yin, 1989, p. 53).The seven cases were carefully selected to represent different categories of candidate –some worked alone, others in a team and within each of these options I included some Page 82
    • who were successful and some who were not. I would have continued to requestinterviews with additional candidates if I had felt that I still needed clarity, but at the end ofthe interviews and the axial coding stage I was confident that I had, in fact, reachedtheoretical saturation.The following table provides a summary of the analysis at this stage. The first column liststhe open coding categories, the second column names the corresponding axial codingcategories and the last column states the relation of the axial coding theme to either thepreceding or following axial coding theme. The diagram that follows this table shows theactual process ‘flow’ from circumstances to action/reaction, to consequence (Figure 4.2).Table 4-2 Summary of the analysis at axial coding stage Open coding categories Axial coding categories Relational statement Category 1: Catalyst or reason for Catalyst or reason for Prevailing doing RPL; doing the RPL circumstances Category 2: Feelings towards the RPL process and FAIS in general; Category 7: Perceived link between qualifications and job performance; Category 13: Stress and time- consuming nature of the RPL; programme; Category 15: ‘The RPL’ as opposed to naming the company involved in the implementation; Category 5: Self-confidence about Personal mastery Actions/reactions their ability to do their job and the to the circumstances RPL; requiring candidates Category 6: Personal values; to do RPL Category 9: Ability to cope; Category 12: Understanding of academic approaches and Page 83
    • assessment principles; Category 8: Role of support systems Choice of team learning A consequence of in controlling anxiety and stress; and group support personal mastery Category 10: Need for confirmation from others; Category 11: ‘Me’ and ‘I’ vs ‘We’ and ‘Us’; Category 17: Perception of feedback; Category 14: Personalisation of the RPL process; Category 3: Questioning the purpose Change in perception A consequence of and validity of the programme; personal mastery Category 4: Preparation for the and team support process; Category 16: Change in perception towards the project; Category 18: Results/outcome of the Outcome of the RPL Reaction to the programme; process entire RPL processThe above table represents the outcome of an intense process of analysis. The analysiscould have taken a number of directions, but after thoroughly exploring each of these I wasconvinced that these axial categories represented the best-fit with the raw data.The diagrammatic relationships between categories are shown in Figure 4.2 below. Eachbold heading links the axial category to both its predecessor and antecedent using thegrounded theory language of circumstances – action/reaction – consequence alreadydiscussed above. The axial categories fit broadly with the basic components of aparadigm as proposed by Strauss and Corbin (1998). Page 84
    • Circumstances (They had to get the FAIS credits) Action / Reaction Consequence (Personal mastery (Team support skills) choice) Consequence (Change in perception and completion of the RPL process) Programme outcome (Reaction)Figure 4-2 Summary of circumstance – action/reaction – consequence – outcome processflow in the research dataThis hypothesised flow of the axial coding categories will is expanded upon in the nextsection, where each axial category is discussed under a separate heading. At this point Ialso incorporate some extracts from the interviews held with the seven extreme candidatespurposefully selected for their ability to add illumination to each axial category. Undereach section I have included a list of the interview questions asked to elicit the quotedresponses. A full list of the interview questions can be located in Appendix Circumstances leading to the RPL process and initial reactionsThe first axial category identified in the open coding process was the ‘catalyst or reason fordoing RPL’. In grounded theory terminology this would be the ‘circumstances’. Everycandidate mentioned the fact that they felt forced into doing RPL. This was not technicallytrue, as they could have attended training and written examinations, instead of being RPL-ed, but the overriding feeling appeared to be one of being forced to earn academic credits Page 85
    • for FAIS compliance. The candidates felt trapped and powerless as they risked losingtheir livelihood if they did not comply.Every candidate in this programme had to earn the academic FAIS credits. It is myconclusion from reviewing my memos and notes and conducting focus interviews, thatwhat made the difference between those who turned it into an opportunity and those whowere unhappy about it (categories 7 and 13, the ‘consequences’ according to groundedtheory analysis) were the candidates’ feelings about the need to be FAIS compliant andtheir perception about RPL in general (category 2 and a ‘reaction’, according to groundedtheory).I formulated a diagrammatical representation of the hypothesised relationship betweenreason for doing RPL (category 1) and feelings about FAIS and RPL (category 2). Straussand Corbin (1998, p. 141) state that ‘…diagrams are very important devices. Their useshould begin early in the analysis because they help the analyst to think through possiblerelationships.’ My initial diagram is shown as figure 4.3 below: Page 86
    • N eg ative Category 7: RPL seen as waste of No data – all candidates in time as no link perceived between this research were forced to qualification and job performance get credits Category 13: RPL seen as stressful and time consuming C ateg o ry 2 :F eelin g s ab o u t R P L an d F AIS Category 7: RPL seen as an opportunity to improve one’s No data – all candidates in this position – positive link between research were forced to get qualification and job performance credits Category 13: RPL seen as time well spent, an investment P o sitive Category 1: Not forced reason for doing RPL ForcedFigure 4-3: Relationship between categories 1, 2, 7 and 13In Figure 4.3 I am hypothesising that candidates who feel forced into doing RPL will eitherhave a positive or negative perception about the RPL, and that this perception can bedescribed by category 7 (perceived link between qualification and job performance) orcategory 13 (stress and time consuming nature of RPL). Both category 7 and 13 can bepositive or negative – in other words candidates can either see a positive link betweenhaving a qualification and improved job performance (category 7) or they do not see a linkat all. Similarly, candidates could perceive RPL to be stressful and time consuming or not(category 13). At this stage I am not suggesting what prevailing conditions will determinewhether the candidate will have a positive or negative reaction for category 7 and 13, I amsimply showing that category 1 (reason for doing RPL) and category 2 (feeling about RPLand FAIS) are linked and that the outcome of this linkage is either a positive or negative Page 87
    • reaction for category 7 and 13. Further, it can be theorised that category 15 (calling thecompany implementing RPL ‘the RPL’) is related to category 1 (the fact that thecandidates felt forced into doing RPL).I explored this hypothesis in all seven focused interviews. I specifically asked thecandidates:1. Whether they were negative about the RPL process at any point in the programme and whether this changed and why.2. How they initially felt about RPL and the need for FAIS compliance. Interview candidate C ‘I hated the idea of being told I had to become FAIS compliant. At first I fought against the idea and ignored it. I even thought of resigning but I could not afford to. I had to do something and I thought RPL would be easy. It wasn’t and that made me cross and it made me hate the RPL. But I could not afford to stop it by then. I worked with a few people in my office and we all did not enjoy the process one bit. Most of us gave up as soon as we had enough credits for now. I don’t think anyone actually finished. Just shows you how stupid the whole thing was. We predicted it would not work and took bets.’ Interview candidate A ‘My husband actually told me to stop spending time whining about the RPL and spend that time doing it. He made me realise that I had to like it if I was going to do well. It made me change my view… Once I did this I found it was actually very interesting. I finished sooner than most of my office colleagues and I think that this was because I had his help. But I also spent time talking to them in the office and we all ended up having fun with it.’ Page 88
    • 4.5.2 Personal mastery – actions and reactions to the circumstance that requiredthe candidates to do RPLThe term ‘personal mastery’ has been borrowed from Peter Senge (1990; 2006). Sengedeveloped the organisational learning model called the fifth discipline. According toSenge, there are five disciplines of organisational learning, with personal mastery beingthe starting point. He defines personal mastery as the ‘discipline of personal growth andlearning. People with high levels of personal mastery are continually expanding theirability to create results in the life they seek’ (Senge, 2006, p. 132).I linked four categories that evolved during open coding to this axial category. They are: Category 9: Ability to cope; Category 6: Personal values; Category 5: Self-confidence about their ability to do their job and the RPL; Category 12: Understanding of academic approaches and assessment principles;My rationale for this was that personal mastery is the starting point for organisationallearning according to Senge (1999; 2006). Individuals need to have self-discipline and ayearning to learn if they are going to achieve anything in the workplace. Senge (2006, p.132) states that personal mastery allows people to achieve a special level of proficiency inevery aspect of their life, both personal and professional. To achieve this, individuals needto know what is important to them (in the case of my research, being FAIS compliantwould be the absolute minimum, whereas earning a qualification and enjoying personaladvancement would be the most stimulating). Individuals need to be able to realisticallysee what they are capable of and how they are going to achieve it.This view of personal mastery anchors the four categories identified. I hypothesised thateach of the four categories could be thought of along a continuum that ranges from totalpresence of the characteristic to total absence of it. The following scales extracted frommy notes illustrate this diagrammatically (Figure 4.3): Page 89
    • Low Category 5: Self-confidence High Low Category 6: Personal values High Low Category 9: Ability to cope High Low Category 12: Understanding of academic High approach & assessment principlesFigure 4-4: Personal mastery continuumsMy reasoning for grouping these four categories together was that RPL candidates whoplaced themselves at the higher end of these four continuums appeared to have the senseof purpose, vision and discipline to pursue personal growth and succeed at the RPLprocess. In contrast, those who placed themselves at the lower end of each continuum didnot and were only able to achieve limited success on the RPL process (for example only afew credits as opposed to the full qualification). I felt that self-confidence was the correctterm (as opposed to self-efficacy) because self-confidence is a broader, moreencompassing belief in one’s personal worth and likelihood of success, whereas self-efficacy is more task and context specific (Neill, 2005). Self-confidence incorporates self-efficacy and I felt the more encompassing term better described the words of thecandidates in this research.This cluster of categories fascinated me because I felt it provided the answer to the fourthquestion posed during my conceptualisation of this entire research project (see Section 3.2 Page 90
    • for the full list of questions). The question is ‘What individual factors contributed to RPLsuccess?’ I felt certain that this cluster of categories around the axial of personal masteryheld the key to answering this question.I also assumed that this category would be the same in more traditional forms of RPLbecause candidates who personally make the choice to attempt an RPL process in orderto gain access to university or obtain advanced placement would have a higher sense ofpersonal mastery than those who simply do not bother or who do not want to study further.I tested my hypothesis by asking the following question in the focussed interviews. Notethat three of the seven candidates did not earn the full qualification while four weresuccessful:3. What personal characteristics do you think you have that contributed to your success?I then asked them to rate themselves on the four scales presented in Figure 4.4 above, atboth the beginning and at the end of the RPL process. All candidates rated themselveshigher on all the scales at the end of the process. Interview candidate B ‘I think I was successful because I could see what I needed to do. rated himself as high I have always been confident...It was difficult at first but I just on all the personal stuck with it... Some guys in the office spent more time moaning mastery scales. about the RPL than doing it – I worked with them when they were working, but left when they moaned. No point wasting time.’ Candidate F rated ‘My husband studied when we first got married and I looked after herself as low to our son. As soon as he qualified he upped and left us. I took a middle in self- knock...I work because I have to, but I would rather be at confidence, ability to home...Work is stressful and I never wanted to work. I wanted to cope, academic be a housewife. I did not get matric and I didn’t really understand knowledge, and what to do…I felt alone and did not talk to anyone about RPL middle to high on because I was scared they would laugh at me…I really still do not personal values. know why we had to do it.’ Page 91
    • 4.5.3 Choice of team learning and support, a consequence of personal masteryThe concept of ‘team learning’ is also borrowed from Peter Senge (1999; 2006). Sengestates that in teams individuals act as colleagues, working together openly to achieve anew level of knowledge and capability as a collective. This process involves the loweringof any barriers and motivates individuals to learn as a group. People must first learn towork together and this takes time but, according to Senge, practice creates better learning.I theorised that five of my categories revolved around this axial concept, namely: Category 11: ‘Me’ and ‘I’ vs ‘We’ and ‘Us’; Category 10: Need for confirmation from others; Category 17: Perception of feedback; Category 8: Role of support systems in controlling anxiety and stress; Category 14: Personalisation of the RPL process.Each of these categories highlights the role of the team in the individual’s RPL experience.Individual candidates either spoke about needing more support/more confirmation or theythanked their support network/confirmers. They generally spoke using the plural pronounand I hypothesised that this was because they saw the process as a group learningprocess. The personalisation of RPL added to this perception because it gave them acommon and shared language, one that non-RPL candidates did not share in.Personalising RPL gave the RPL candidates an identity.Finally, detailed and constructive feedback was important because it accelerated the rateof learning, which ties in with a comment by Senge (1999, p. 223), who said, ‘working inmultifunctional teams allows team members to integrate what’s coming from above andbelow to develop products and processes, compressively – think of a turbocharger –accelerating the creation of information.’I conceptualised this category as illustrated in Figure 4.5 below: Page 92
    • Plural personal pronoun – I and us Personalisat- Need for ion confirmation of the RPL from others process Team learning and support Role of Importance of support feedback systemsFigure 4-5: The link between team support and the categories from the open codinganalysisIn this diagram I am hypothesising that team learning and support (in the centre of thewheel) has a number of ‘spokes’ that anchor it and ensure it is effective. Each of thesespokes needs to be in place if team learning and support is to be meaningful for theindividual. The spokes also link to each other because I am hypothesising that there is aflow of support that takes various forms for different individuals. Some will be happy withthe feedback, for example (category 17), and this will allow them to feel they are gettingconfirmation from others (category 10) or it will be seen as a functional support system(category 8). Others may not be happy with the feedback (category 17) but obtain Page 93
    • confirmation from others elsewhere in the system (category 10) and so still have a senseof team learning and support.In the focus interviews I asked the following questions to try to confirm this axial codingcategory:5. Who or what supported you through this process and how did you ask for that support?6. What role did the team play in your success? Interview candidate B ‘At first I was going to give up, then XXX (a colleague) asked if we could work together…Soon all of us in the branch were meeting to talk about RPL and the questions – people I had never even spoken to before were coming up to me and asking how the RPL was going…That was amazing and I really felt close to my colleagues, like we were suffering together…When I was down I talked to them, when I was going to throw in the towel I talked to them. It was good’ Interview candidate E ‘I worked alone. I know how to study because I studied through UNISA and then you are alone as well…I prefer that.’For me, this category started to provide some insight to the fifth question that I posed insection 3.2: What contextual workplace and broader environmental factors contributed toRPL success? I hypothesise that team support may be a critical workplace factor insuccessful workplace RPL.4.5.4 Change in perception – a consequence of personal mastery and team supportAs already discussed in Chapter 3, all candidates attended a one-day preparatory session.The implementers’ objectives for this session were to introduce RPL and to help peopleunderstand the process so that they could get started. Most candidates reported that itseemed easy during this session, but once they got started they realised they neededadditional assistance. Page 94
    • I hypothesised that if they sought assistance from people, who were positive, thenpersonal mastery had a chance of developing, but if their team mates were negative, thenpersonal mastery would be stunted. Some individuals did not seek out group support,presumably preferring to work alone. I assumed that those with a moderate to high levelof personal mastery would be more comfortable working alone, while low to moderatepersonal mastery candidates would be more likely to seek out team support – which couldbe positive or negative and this would impact on their perception of the project and thedevelopment of their personal mastery.This led me to hypothesise that an increasing sense of personal mastery and state ofpositive team support came with a change in perception about the RPL process – thuslinking category 16 from the open coding (change in perception towards the project) toaxial categories 2 (personal mastery) and 3 (team support). This can be illustrated asfollows in Figure 4.6: Page 95
    • T Positive E Change in A perception M S U P N egative P O R Low High T PERSONAL MASTERYFigure 4-6: Hypothesised link between personal mastery, team support and change inperceptionIf the preparation (category 4) had been done differently, it is possible that the candidatescould have achieved personal mastery and team vision faster than they did. Because ofthis I have added ‘preparation for the RPL process’ (category 4) to this axial category.In addition, I felt that category 3 (questioning the purpose and validity of the RPLprogramme) could also be clustered with this axial category because I reasoned that thequestioning would reduce as perception towards the programme changed. Page 96
    • To seek clarity on this hypothesis I asked the focus interview candidates:7. Did your perception towards the RPL process change, and if so, when and why? Interview candidate D ‘It changed after my first feedback from RPL. They told me what I was doing right and what was wrong. It opened my eyes. I saw I could actually do this and do it right. I felt not so stupid…RPL just became a way of life that I miss a bit because now we are not sharing any more.’4.5.5 Outcome of the RPL process – reaction of the candidatesThe final axial category I identified was category 18 on its own. I hypothesised that as thecandidates finished the process so they finally appreciated what it had given them in termsof personal mastery, team learning or simply a qualification that would now open doors forthem. I felt that this category held personal meaning and somehow provided input backinto the circumstances or conditions surrounding RPL. I felt that if these candidates wereever assessed again using a portfolio of evidence that they would be more in control andmore prepared for it.I asked the following of the focus interview candidates:8. Do you feel you got out of the process value equal to that which you put in?9. Would you do RPL again if it were offered to you? Interview candidate E ‘I would be more prepared next time – if there is ever a next time. I will do it again. In fact it has made me realise what is important to me and I have enrolled at UNISA to finish my degree. Fifteen years too late, but better late than never.’ Interview candidate F ‘I will not do it again – but at least I know that. I can’t work like that...I need structure and lectures to keep me on track…I guess I need to be more disciplined.’ Interview candidate B ‘I would do it again if I had to. I can see the benefit of having this (qualification). It was tough. But I think I know what to do now.’ Page 97
    • During the process of axial coding I was looking for answers to some of the questions Ihad posed in order to uncover relationships between and among the axial categoriesidentified. By using the techniques of grounded theory data analysis and by conductingseven focused interviews with a deliberately selected group of candidates I was able tosystematically link and reduce my original eighteen categories to five more-focused andrelated categories. The picture that is emerging shows the importance of adequatepreparation for the RPL process in circumstances where candidates are not in anacademic mindset and have not made the decision to earn a qualification independently ofthe circumstances around them. These candidates had to become FAIS compliant.Those that were successful were able to draw upon team and other support structures andhad the personal attributes to make a success of such an academic process. Thus far thedata appears to indicate that preparation of the RPL candidate in workplace circumstancesis critical to success because we cannot assume that the necessary personal attributesand team support structures are either adequate or in place.The next step in the grounded theory data analysis process, according to Glaser andStrauss (1967) and Strauss and Corbin (1998), is selective coding. Selective coding is theprocess of integrating and refining categories to form a larger theoretical scheme so as toproduce theory. The application of selective coding to the data in this research is the topicof the next section.4.6 Selective codingAs with all stages of grounded theory data analysis, much of the evolution of the theoryrelies on my interaction with the data given that I am the key research tool. I have livedRPL in the workplace for eight years and have experienced much more than I am able toshare in this programme evaluation. My interaction with the data has been influenced bymy past experiences just as much as it has been influenced by my interviews and theanalysis of all the data. Strauss and Corbin state (1998, p. 144) ‘Although the cues to howconcepts are linked can be found in the data, it is not until the relationships are recognisedas such by the analyst that they emerge. Also, whenever there is recognition, there issome degree of interpretation and selectivity.’ Page 98
    • By the time I completed the axial coding stage I was beginning to feel I had influenced thecategories too much and had ignored the voices of my research participants. I would liketo quote from my reflective diary to illustrate what I was feeling at this stage: On the one hand I feel excited to have got this far, but on the other I feel I could somehow have done more. Maybe seven interviews were not enough. Maybe I only selected the quotes that backed up my thoughts. Maybe there is another explanation for the data.As a result of these thoughts I went back to the data and reread all my memos,observation notes, the transcripts and my coding notes. I tried to re categorise them andtried to assemble them into a different framework but my original ideas prevailed. I feltcomfortable enough to continue with selective coding.Strauss and Corbin (1998, p. 146) state that the first step in integration is to decide on acentral category that represents the main category of the research and pulls ‘the othercategories together to form an explanatory whole’. Strauss (1969, p. 36) provides a list ofcriteria that must be present in this central category, which I used to identify workplaceRPL for economic purposes as the core category of this research. Basically, Straussstates that the core category must be central and it must appear frequently in the data.According to him, the other data evolves around this core category freely and it can berefined analytically so that the theory can grow in depth, explaining both variation andconsistencies in the data.I selected ‘workplace RPL for economic purposes’ because it not only fits with my data; butalso provides a link to the research literature on RPL (which is summarised in the nextchapter). Miles and Huberman (1994) approve of researchers linking their emerging coreconcept to the larger body of professional research because it contributes to thedevelopment and refinement of existing concepts in the field. I felt this was a worthy coreconcept because Dyson and Keating (2005), Harris (1996; 2000), Michelson (1996b,1997), Osman (2001), Usher and Johnston (1997) and Van Rooyen (2000) all describeRPL as being contextual – with the usual contexts being higher education, furthereducation and the workplace. Page 99
    • Harris (2000) explains that the context of RPL is important because it defines howknowledge and learning are viewed within it. Questions such as what counts asknowledge, how knowledge is organised and what the role of experience is in knowledgeproduction are answered by understanding the context. Chapter 5 summarises some ofthe existing research literature about RPL and Chapter 7 describes how my research andfindings fit in with and extends the current body of knowledge. I use the research materialto refine my emerging theory, which is presented in Chapter 6 as the logic model for RPLimplementation. At this stage I simply present the initial integration and organisation of theconcepts identified.Strauss and Corbin (1998) recommend writing this integration up as a storyline memo thatdescribes what the researcher surmises is going on in the data. It describes the conceptsand their linkages. The next section summarises my storyline to show the point I reachedbefore turning to the literature for linkages and possible clarification.4.6.1 Storyline memoThe causal conditions (events leading to the development of the phenomenon) were thesame for everyone on the RPL programme. They all had to get the FAIS credits, theywere all in an environment where others were working on RPL, and they all chose RPLover traditional training because they somehow felt RPL was a better option for them.The RPL programme in the workplace for economic purposes is the phenomenon (thecentral idea or happening that I am researching). Impacting on this phenomenon arecontextual variables. Examples of these are the highly structured culture of the company,the contractual arrangements concerning participants paying back the costs if they areunsuccessful on the RPL programme, the financial rewards for succeeding and thepunishments for failing, and the employees’ lack of freedom of choice, the level of supportand the prevailing learning culture.However, not everyone was successful and not everyone enjoyed the RPL process.Some reported working in groups and others did not. Some had the skills and vision tofinish and others did not. These appear to be the intervening conditions in the groundedtheory data analysis paradigm (i.e. conditions which impact on and couch thephenomenon). Flowing from the context and intervening conditions are the Page 100
    • actions/interactions (responses that occurred as a result of the phenomenon) – basicallythe negative or positive perceptions of the RPL process that are a result of thecombination of causal conditions, context and intervening conditions.In the end, some participants finished the full RPL process and completed the fullqualification, while others simply earned enough credits to achieve short term FAIScompliance – thus delaying the need for credits by a year or so. In summary, there are thesame macro conditions for everyone, the same phenomenon and the same context butdifferent actions/reactions and different outcomes (consequences of the actions – bothintended and unintended).This can be can sketched as follows in Figure 4.7. The grounded theory data analysismodel steps (from Pandit, 1996, p.8) are in the top line, while the bottom steps are thecorresponding events from this research as it stands at this stage Casual Phenomenon Context Intervening Action Con- conditions conditions strategies sequences FAIS laws Workplace Company Personal Attitudes and Success RPL for culture mastery and perceptions Failure economic teams purposesFigure 4-7 Grounded theory data analysis model steps linked to the events in this researchIt appears as if personal characteristics determined the candidates’ initial reaction to themacro context. Where candidates were confident in their ability to accept the challenge,able to cope with the situation, able to see the link between having a qualification and self-fulfilment, etc., and where they understood what was expected of them academically (i.e.had personal mastery), they were more likely to become positive towards the RPL processsooner. The converse also appears to be true: those with less personal mastery Page 101
    • remained negative towards the process for longer and were less likely to develop anattitude that enabled them to succeed on the RPL process.Another reaction to the prevailing macro condition (and possibly the extent of personalmastery) was the candidates’ tendency to either seek out colleagues with a positive ornegative outlook towards RPL. Candidates with a high level of personal masteryappeared to react to the RPL process by seeking out more positive colleagues, whereasthose with a lower level of personal mastery seemed to react by seeking out others whowere negative - almost a sense of ‘misery loves company’.However, some candidates reported working alone, some of whom were ultimatelysuccessful and others not. Thus personal mastery appears more definitive than teamsupport because it leads to a positive approach, even if the person is working alone.Conversely, a person with low personal mastery will have a negative approach, even ifworking alone. As personal mastery develops, the individual working alone or in a morepositive team can become positive and succeed, but the converse is probably not true.By matching data to candidates and then grouping them according to apparent personalmastery levels and apparent team support dynamics, it is possible to identify four patternsor types of RPL candidates. These have provisionally been labelled: loner failures; lonersuccesses; participative failures; and participative successes. For each type of RPLcandidate the reaction to the prevailing macro conditions was different and this seemed tolead to a particular approach to RPL, a quicker acceptance and a more positiveexperience overall. This is illustrated diagrammatically in Figure 4.8 below: Page 102
    • P o s itiv e Participative failures Participative successfuls (Negative shared perceptions (Positive shared perception and and limited success) high success) T e a m S u p p o rt Loner failures Loner successfuls (Negative individual (Positive individual perception perception and limited and high success) success) N e g a tiv e Low Personal mastery HighFigure 4-8: Types of RPL candidatesIt appears that perception towards the RPL was a consequence of both moderate to highpersonal mastery and positive team support. The converse is probably also true, i.e. lowperception of the RPL process is probably a consequence of low to moderate personalmastery and negative team support.This data seems to imply that a high level of personal mastery and membership of apositive support group are essential if the RPL process is to succeed. I think this isdifferent to RPL in educational contexts where the candidate is more likely to be motivatedintrinsically in order to request RPL in the first place, probably has a moderate to high levelof personal mastery because they want to do RPL and researched it and had the vision toask for it. I assume that in academic contexts candidates are more likely to work on their Page 103
    • RPL in isolation (at home or on campus) whereas in the workplace they can’t escape thefact that others around them are also doing RPL and have negative or positive perceptionsabout it. Power relationships are also at play in the workplace.This suggests that preparation of the workplace RPL candidate must include information todevelop personal mastery for those who need it. Team support must be encouraged,supported and monitored externally to ensure it does not become a negative influence onthe individual. Regular feedback reinforces personal mastery growth and positive teamsupport, so it is more important in workplace RPL than in academic context RPL.The data analysis now turns away from the current research participants to an analysis of18 workplace RPL case studies presented by Dyson and Keating (2005). Their study wascommissioned by the ILO to showcase workplace RPL practice because ‘few studies haveexamined the practice of RPL in the workplace, despite its potential contribution as ameans of enhancing employability, labour mobility and career prospects’ (Stewart, 2005,quoted from the foreword of the research). The intention of this analysis is to identifyfactors that can inform the workplace RPL model evolving from this research. With thisintention in mind, the five axial categories emerging from the grounded theory dataanalysis process described above were the focus of each review. To summarise, the fiveaxial categories are: Circumstances leading to the RPL process and candidates’ initial reactions to it; Personal mastery skills displayed by candidates; Role of team support and/or group processes throughout the RPL; Evolving perception of the RPL process; Meaning of the outcome of the RPL process upon completion.In addition, the following categories were also summarised for each case as it was felt theycould inform the emerging logic model: The implementation process followed by the implementers; Barriers to the RPL implementation; Assessment methodologies employed. Page 104
    • 4.7 Secondary data analysis of RPL workplace case studiesDyson and Keating’s (2005) report is entitled Skills, Knowledge and Employability whichclearly locates it within the workplace context. They see RPL as a way of facilitatingrecognition for workplace skills, as opposed to a ‘means of facilitating participation in, orreturning to, formal education and training’. Their case studies are drawn from fivecountries, namely Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the United States ofAmerica. They explain that Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have nationaltraining systems and frameworks while Canada and the United States (USA) do not. Thishas led the USA and Canadian RPL practices to become more of a partnership betweenindustry and specific academic institutions, whereas the existence of a national frameworkin the remaining three countries has allowed the awarding of nationally-recognisedqualifications for recognised workplace learning. They make the point that South Africa’sintention for RPL is one of redress – ‘South Africa, possibly more than any other nation, islooking towards the recognition of workplace skills as a means of addressing pressingsocial and economic concerns’ (Dyson & Keating, 2005, p. 2).In the preamble to the research, Dyson and Keating (2005) make a number of interestingobservations that are worth noting because they further contextualise the research for thereader: It is difficult to collect accurate figures to gauge the number of RPL candidates in all five countries, but there is a general consensus that ‘the levels of participation have not been as great as the policy and system designers anticipated’ (ibid., p. 3); There are a number of barriers to workplace RPL and these are relatively common to all the countries surveyed. These include ‘institutional, conceptual, organisational, cultural and individual’ (ibid., p. 3); There are no ‘credible studies that estimate the impact of RPL on learners and their subsequent capabilities to gain employment and continue into further learning’ (ibid., p. 3); It is impossible to identify a single country or case study that can be considered ‘best practice’ – but there are lessons that can be drawn from each (ibid., p. 4); Page 105
    • RPL in both the workplace and academic contexts tends to be ‘provider-based’; as opposed to ‘system-wide’; which limits infrastructure available for wide scale RPL implementation. This has been a contributing factor in the lack of RPL implementation (ibid., p. 6); ‘In virtually all countries, the workplace is the main location for the formation of industrial skills, and in most cases this formation is through informal and semi- formal processes …(t)herefore, work-based recognition systems offer the only viable approach to giving recognition to workers for their work acquired skills, and for establishing platforms for further education and training’ (ibid., p. 7); The workplace is seen not only as a valid site for workplace learning, but also for its assessment. In fact ‘the workplace is frequently preferred to provider-based assessments’ (ibid., p. 10).These observations highlight some of the difficulties experienced with researching learningand RPL in the workplace, while at the same time highlighting the importance of continuingwith RPL, even though it is difficult to quantify and qualify. These observations are alsoechoed in other research and a complete discussion on inhibiters and enablers for RPL isprovided at the end of Chapter 5.The following case studies were discussed by Dyson and Keating (2005):Australia Forestry industry workers Sydney Opera House – arts and culture workers Bicycle mechanics Alcohol and drug workersSouth Africa Construction workers Tourism workers Health and Welfare workers Manufacturing workers Chemical workers Page 106
    • New Zealand Seafood workers Construction workers Retail workers Hospitality workers Road transport workersCanada Midwives Hydro workers Youth educational workersUnited States Charter Oak State CollegeEach case was read and analysed to identify: the presence, or absence, of the five axialcategories (see Table 4.2); information on any additional barriers to the RPLimplementation process being described; the actual assessment methods used; and anyinformation on the implementation process. The latter three dimensions were consideredimportant for the logic model for workplace RPL that will be the outcome of this research.This secondary data analysis resulted in the summary shown in Appendix 6. What followsis a detailed summary of the latter three dimensions (barriers, assessment methods andimplementation process). The discussion on the five axial categories and the implicationsof this for the emerging RPL model is held over until Chapter 6. This was consideredimperative due to the linkages that need to be made to the literature which is presented inChapter Barriers to the RPL implementation as described in the case studyAmong the barriers mentioned, lack of confidence in academic skills, low language ability,lack of access to a suitable workplace, different learning/assessment styles and diversityof backgrounds were the most frequently cited in the 18 cases. As with other RPL studies,barriers appear to exist at three levels: Broad educational system barriers: the need for registered assessors, moderators, verifiers and sometimes even RPL advisers (South Africa – construction workers); permission to only RPL partial qualifications because of academic institutional rules Page 107
    • (e.g. New Zealand seafood workers); available funding for RPL (all cases citedmentioned the funding agency). Selby-Smith and Ferrier (2002) also make thepoint that a key barrier to RPL is funding);Organisational barriers: different workplaces vary considerably in terms of theaccess to opportunities for assessment that they can offer, their ability to offersupport (RPL advisers, mentors and coaches and expert consultants), and the‘correctness’ of the workplace learning compared to competency requirements.Also, assessment providers vary from those who have dedicated assessors whocan enter the workplace and collect practical evidence (e.g. Australian bicyclemechanics) to those who have no resources and send candidates to a college orprofessional body for assessment (e.g. New Zealand construction workers).Other organisational structures that can inhibit RPL are the education and trainingproviders themselves, who tend to use the structures of qualification systems toresist innovations like RPL. Raffe (2003) refers to this tendency as ‘institutionallogic’ and defines it as the academic rules and procedures enshrined within theprovider systems that are based on traditional variables such as course attendanceand completion. RPL is frequently made to try and fit the institutional logic and thisleads to unnecessary barriers that RPL candidates need to overcome, such asenrolment for a fixed period before graduation, the requirement that at least part ofthe qualification must be earned through traditional classroom attendance (NewZealand seafood workers case study), over-rigorous assessment using traditionalexaminations (Canadian midwives case study), etc.Individual barriers: these include poor language ability in the language ofassessment, diverse and unconsidered learning/assessment styles, diversebackgrounds making a generic RPL process difficult to use, fear and anxiety atbeing assessed again as an adult, etc. Dyson and Keating (2005) state ‘(p)ossiblythe main barrier to RPL is the behaviour of the individual’ and although all countriesfrom which the case studies were drawn have invested on the supply side of RPLby creating infrastructure, incentives and modes of delivery, very little attention hasbeen given to the demand side. These countries have made attempts to encouragelifelong learning but they have not devoted time and resources to encouragingindividuals to take on RPL and enhance their own education. Dyson and Keating(2005) further observe that people who already have a high level of education are Page 108
    • more likely to invest in still more training, whereas those with limited educational backgrounds are reluctant to embark upon formal training and assessment. The best catalyst to spur RPL demand is industry need – as revealed in the midwives (Canada), seafood workers (New Zealand) and road transport workers (New Zealand) case studies.Peter Senge (1999; 2006) makes the point that people often fail to learn and grow, notbecause they are unable to do so, but because of barriers that they perceive exist. Hetheorises that people tend to think in terms of past decisions rather than possiblealternatives and, as such, the past shapes new decisions. Senge believes these ‘mentalmodels’ (preconceptions) need to be challenged in order to support change and the movetowards a learning organisation (Senge, 2006, p. 163–189).4.7.2 Assessment methodologies employedThe most popular assessment method cited in the 18 cases was the portfolio ofevidence11, followed by workplace observation, questioning and oral evidence, andchallenge examinations. All 18 cases placed an emphasis on holistic assessment that isfair and valid and not too onerous for the candidate.4.7.3 The implementation process followed by the implementersThe implementation processes described in all 18 cases appears to be broadly similar.Many cases mention the use of self-assessment, followed by time with an RPL adviserand/or assessor to collect evidence that can be verified and assessed. There appears tobe a balance between workplace observation and the compilation of a portfolio ofevidence, although there are a few examples of formal examination sessions (e.g.Canadian midwives case). The cases report that holistic, practical and relevant evidencewas sought and that this was collected in the practical work setting as far as was possible.11 Note that Challis (1994) distinguishes between two types of portfolios of evidence, so itwould be incorrect to assume that the same type of portfolio was utilised in all cases. Page 109
    • The specific implications of this secondary data analysis for the logic model emerging fromthis research are discussed in Chapter 6, so all that remains for this chapter is a summarybefore moving into Chapter 5 and a discussion on the more influential learning theories.4.8 Chapter summaryThis chapter provides a chronologic description of the grounded theory data analysismethodology used to collect and analyse data with the intention of generating a logicmodel for workplace RPL implementation that is grounded in the data. The processesfollowed to select participants, enter the field, collect the data, analyse the data andinterpret the data in isolation from the technical RPL literature are described in detail toallow the reader to follow the implementation chronologically. However, although thesesteps are described chronologically to make it easier for the reader to understand whatwas done, the steps are actually dynamic and inextricably intertwined.The first analysis of the data, called open coding, led to the identification of 18 separatecategories which were somehow linked to workplace RPL implementation. These 18categories are listed in this chapter and quotes from the raw data are presented to showhow each category was identified. During the second step in the data analysismethodology, following a process known as axial coding, these 18 categories werereduced to five axial categories that are related dimensionally. Again, these fivecategories are presented in this chapter along with quotes from the purposefully selectedinterview candidates to show the reader each category was derived. From these five axialcategories, a core category was extracted during the selective coding step (the last step ingrounded theory data analysis) and used to explain what I thought was going on in mydata. Again, following the techniques proposed by grounded theory data analysts, astoryline memo was written to show the reader my version of the integration between thefive axial categories and the one core category. This storyline memo was formulated as aprocess with a condition, followed by reactions and actions, followed by outcomes. Thecompilation of the storyline memo in effect describes my thoughts at this point in theresearch. Up to this point, I had not deliberately looked at the academic literature on RPLnor explored any of the categories that were emerging during the analysis. This was adeliberate decision as I did not want to cloud my perceptions of what the raw data wastelling me - I wanted the analysis to be wholly informed by the raw data, which was Page 110
    • effectively the ‘voice’ of the RPL candidates themselves. Throughout the data analysiscare was constantly taken to validate my interpretation of the data and my understandingof the quotes with the candidates. The seven purposefully selected interview candidatesall read the storyline memo and provided comments prior to its finalisation. This shouldensure greater trustworthiness of the outcomes of this research.This data collection and data analysis chapter ends with a brief discussion of thesecondary data analysis performed on 18 workplace case studies presented by Dyson andKeating (2005). The outcomes of this analysis are presented in Appendix 7. Theimplications of this secondary data analysis were not discussed in this chapter becausethe links remained unclear until the academic literature had been reviewed, and theoutcomes of this academic literature review are presented in the next chapter.The final word in this chapter goes to Eisenhardt (1989, p. 545) who states ‘tying theemergent theory to existing literature enhances the internal validity, generalizability andtheoretical level of the theory building from case study research…because the findingsoften rest on a very limited number of cases.’ Page 111
    • CHAPTER 5 : LITERATURE REVIEW ‘Get the facts first. You can distort them later.’ - Mark Twain5.1 IntroductionWhat follows is the result of more than four years of research into education and learningtheory and an attempt to map this vast field to workplace recognition of prior learning. Theintent is not so much to summarise various learning theories as it is to draw from some ofthem the lessons that can be applied to workplace RPL (in general) and this research’semerging logic model (in particular).The chapter commences with a review of the most influential paradigms in learning theorythat have evolved in an attempt to explain how people learn – both academically andpractically. This short review of the more traditional learning theory literature is followed bya review of the emerging field of workplace learning, which is arguably a more comfortabletheoretical home for workplace RPL than are the traditional learning theories (Harris,2000). The implications of learning theory for workplace RPL implementation are thenexplored, along with a review of the most influential RPL literature. To summarise, thischapter is structured as shown in Figure 5.1 below: Page 112
    • Summary of key ideas in the most influential learning theories Summary of key ideas in the most influential workplace learning theories Summary of the key ideas in the most influential RPL literatureFigure 5-1: Conceptual map of Chapter 5This discussion then leads to Chapter 6, which explores the implications for this research’semerging logic model of the theories discussed in this chapter and the practicessummarised in the secondary data analysis in Chapter 4.5.2 Review of the most influential learning theoriesHarris (2000, p.3) states that ‘(l)earning implies change. At their most general andsimplistic, theories of learning can be seen as explanations of this change – of how peoplelearn and come to know. In all learning theory, new learning is seen as germinating in oldlearning – the vexed question is how – how is the old turned into the new?’ It is thisquestion that has sparked the plethora of research into learning theory throughout theages. Mergel (1998) describes the basic theories of learning as Behaviourism,Cognitivism and Constructivism. Billett (1998, p. 24) agrees that these three aresignificant, referring to them as historical ‘waves’ of development within the field.However, Billett (1998) states that Situated Learning must also be included in anydiscussion on influential theories of learning. These four ‘waves’ were used to guide thisresearch heuristically so as to reduce the impact of the variable terminology used by the Page 113
    • different theorists in each wave. This made it easier to focus on the principles espousedby each theory. The broad principles of each wave can be summarised as follows:5.2.1 BehavourismAccording to Mergel (1998) and Billett (1998) behaviourism is concerned with observablechanges in the behaviour of an individual. The premise of this theory is that a newbehavioural pattern is repeated until it becomes automatic (a habit). The behaviour isrepeated because it is associated with a given stimuli. It could be argued thatbehaviourism can trace its roots back to Aristotle, who focused on associations beingmade between events such as lightning and thunder. More recent key players in thedevelopment of the behaviourist theory were Pavlov (1926/1927), Watson (1913),Thorndike (1911) and Skinner (1938). According to Billett (1998), this body of theoryconcentrates on the study of overt behaviours that can be observed and measured. Itviews the mind as a ‘black box’ in the sense that response to stimulus can be observedquantitatively, but falls short in totally ignoring the possibility of thought processesoccurring in the mind. Harris (2000), however, points out that behaviourism can also beused to explain cognitive and attitudinal learning and that it is a mistake to only associate itwith low level skills development. Rogers (1986) argues that behaviourism can even beused to understand behaviours such as an appreciation of art and music.Although behaviourism sees learners as ‘passive, reactive and non-agentive’ (Harris,2000, p. 4), it can be argued that it is an approach to learning which lends itself to system-wide and standardised systems such as we have in South Africa with the NQF. Systemsbased on national qualification frameworks contain standardised qualifications, made up ofpre-determined outcomes and performance assessment criteria. Assessment is ongoingand integral to the system and learners have a high chance of success because they canrepeat the behaviour until they do it correctly (SAQA, 2003). The advent of the NQF inSouth Africa brought with it the concept of RPL because RPL candidates need to beassessed against nationally agreed standards for the results to be widely acceptable.Thus, behaviourist systems like the NQF are the major catalysts for RPL, despite the factthat RPL is seen as a more humanistically-inspired practice (Michelson, 1996a) by mostRPL practitioners. Page 114
    • Another distinguishing feature of behaviourism is its view of knowledge. Atkins (1993)points out that theorists in the behaviourist tradition see knowledge as a commodity thatcan be bought and sold as personal property. According to this view, knowledge has avalue external to the holder and, as a consequence, education innovation using thebehaviourist paradigm is aimed at packaging and modularising existing programmes andturning them into portable, flexible, ever-increasing deliverable goods (Wagner & Childs,2000). This is fairly typical of workplace learning that aims to be ‘just-in-time12’ in responseto the changing needs of the market place for human capital.5.2.2 CognitivismWhile behaviourism saw learning as linked to predetermined learning criteria, cognitivismfocuses on the learning processes itself – in other words the ‘what’ that occurs betweenthe stimulus and the response given by the individual (Atkins, 1993, p. 257). Cognitivismis based on the thought process behind visible behaviour, and could probably be linked tothe start of the cognitive revolution in psychology (Harris, 2000). Changes in behaviourwere observed by researchers and used as indicators as to what is happening inside thelearner’s mind (Mergel, 1998). As early as the 1920s people began to find limitations inthe behaviourist approach to understanding learning due to the inability to explain certainsocial behaviours, for example, children who do not imitate all behaviour that had beenreinforced (Billet, 1998). Theorists started departing from the traditional operantconditioning explanation and started believing that an individual could model behaviour byobserving the behaviour of another person. The original proponent of cognitivepsychology was Jean Piaget, who used it to explain the evolution of knowledge in children(Harris, 2000). Other theorists in this wave include Gagne (1966), Bloom (1956), Tolman(1948) and Bandura (1986).12 Just-in-time is a manufacturing/delivery process where a minimum of goods are kept in stock.Items are planned to arrive precisely at the time they are required for use or despatch. It wasoriginally coined by Toyota in Japan in the 1950’s and the concept has spread to other fields, suchas education and training, where it refers to knowledge when you need it to do something, asopposed to knowledge for the sake of knowledge that is often forgotten by the time it is needed(Senge, 1999). Page 115
    • According to Mergel (1998), the design models developed in the behaviourist traditionwere not simply disregarded, instead the ‘task analysis’ and ‘learner analysis’ parts of themodels were embellished. The new models addressed processes of learning such asknowledge coding and representation, information storage and retrieval, as well as theincorporation and integration of new knowledge with previous information (Mergel, 1998).This theory thus started to incorporate the idea that learning is not merely based on factualintake, but is further augmented by the learner’s personal translation and perception offormal learning (Piaget, 1953). The emphasis in cognitivism (or symbol processing theory,as it is also sometimes broadly referred to) is on the individual who processes the data inisolation from the environment. The individual collects the data from the environment assensory information. He then processes and organises it and then uses it to act on theworld. As can be seen, the process is linear and learning relies on the existing knowledgeand symbol structures already possessed by the individual (Harris, 2000).Piaget (1952; 1953) argued in his theory of cognitive restructuring that new sensory inputneeded to do more than simply link with existing sensory structures in the brain – he saidthe individual needed to be faced with conflict between the new incoming data and thedata already there. According to him, this conflict leads to learning because without itknowledge remains static. Piaget (1953) felt that this conflict was best dealt with incollaborative groups of learner peers (peer dyads). According to Piaget (1953) learning isan interactive process and individuals are active role players. It can be argued that thisview is somewhat different from the broader wave of cognitive symbol processing theoriesthat see the individual as passive and isolated from others. However, symbol processingtheorists are not unanimous about all aspects of learning. As with behaviourism, it can beargued that cognitivism appears to have its roots in empiricism and positivism. Reality isan objective fact and knowledge is neutral and independent and scientific facts aresuperior to common sense knowledge (Harris, 2000). Also implied is the opinion thatpeople can advance only through the acquisition of pre-determined knowledge (Scott,1999, p. 10). Sfard (1998) states that once acquired, knowledge can be possessed as anabstract entity residing in the mind. Page 116
    • As can be deduced from the above discussion, one of the distinguishing features ofcognitivsm is its focus on standardised, general curricular that are learnt sequentially bylearners on the basis of their cognitive readiness. There are many taxonomies that havegrown out of cognitivsm e.g. Bloom (1984) Gagne (1987) and Piaget (1952; 1953) andthese can be seen to be useful for RPL proponents because they allow learners to be‘pegged’ at a particular level and assessed for the knowledge that they should have if theywere truly at that level.From the above discussion it can be seen that cognitivsm and behaviourism both viewindividuals as passive in their pursuit of objective, rational learning. The next two ‘waves’in learning theory (constructivism and situated learning) see individuals as activeparticipants in their learning and they argue that learning is subjectively determined by thesituation within which it is constructed (Mergel, 1998). As a consequence of this passive-active view of the individual and the objective–subjective view of knowledge, the shift ininstructional design from behaviourism to cognitivism was not as dramatic as the movefrom cognitivism into constructivism (Harris, 2000). However, while behaviourism andconstructivism are very different in perspective, it can be argued that cognitivism sharessome similarities with constructivism, and this can in turn be seen as starting toencompass the humanistic and socially–located principles of RPL. This discussion nowmoves into those learning theories that view the individual as more of an active participantin the learning process.5.2.3 ConstructivismThe third general learning theory discussed by Mergel (1998) is premised on the belief thatwe all construct our own perspective of the world through individual experiences.Constructivism focuses on preparing the learner to solve problems in ambiguous situations(Mergel, 1998). Bartlett (1932) first pioneered what became known as the constructivistapproach. Constructivists like Bartlett (1932) and Piaget (1928; 1952; 1953) argue thatlearners construct their own reality (or at least interpret it) as a result of perceptions ofexperiences, so individual knowledge is a function of prior experiences, mental structures,and beliefs that are used to interpret objects and events. According to Billett (1998) thereare many varieties of constructivism, but the way they view the world unites them.Broadly speaking, constructivism refers to theories that postulate the learner as an active Page 117
    • participant in the learning process (Billett, 1998). For learning to occur there must be aconnection between new information and existing mental structures, and individualsactively construct their own meaning by reflecting on their experiences. It can be arguedthat constructivist learning is active, socially located and interactive (this is primarily whyPiaget (1928; 1952; 1953), with his peer dyads, is seen as being partially in the symbolprocessing camp and partially in the constructivist camp). Cobb (1999) distinguishesbetween psychological constructivism and interactionist constructivism, with the formerseeing learning as self-organised and individualised with a weak relationship betweenlearning and context, and the latter seeing learning as an interactive, situated and socialphenomenon.Key theorists sharing this view of an active learner are: Ausubel (1968), with theassimilation theory (which postulates that although meaning is not essential for learning, itdoes enhance it); Kelly (2002a) with his personal construct theory that asserts thatindividuals create their own learning (by observing and reflecting on experience, whichleads to the formation of constructs which are in turn used to manipulate the world);Dewey (1966), who sees learning as transactional between the individual and theenvironment with an impact on both (Dewey also stressed the need to place learningwithin practice rather than outside it, with an emphasis on integrating practice andlearning), and Gardner (1999), who identified seven different types of intelligences andtheir accompanying diverse cognitive and stylistic profiles13. Also, for the averageconstructivist, knowledge is not finite – there are a collection of true beliefs and individualscan use these to reach their own conclusions. Candy (1991) states that knowledge andexplanation might have more to do with the knower and the explainer than what is actuallybeing known or explained. Diversity of knowledge interpretation is accepted andcelebrated – in agreement with the principles of humanistic psychology. It can be arguedthat the learner is seen as actively seeking meaning and development, intrinsicallymotivated and goal directed. All of these theorists pave the way for more flexible andcontextually-located RPL practices. Simply stated, if RPL is seen only as acompartmentalised, one-size-fits-all test with pre-determined, objective right-wronganswers, then it will fail dismally to accommodate the constructivist views of learning.13 Gardner’s (1999) seven intelligences are: language, logical-mathematical, spatialrepresentation, musical analysis, bodily kinaesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal Page 118
    • 5.2.4 Situated learningSituated learning theory represents a shift from the individualistic focus of learning towardsa view that learning can only occur in a context, where the context impacts explicitly on theform and direction of the learning (Cobb, 1999). Human knowledge is seen as inseparablefrom the social and cultural processes within which the learning took place – the two aremutually dependant (Billett, 1998). Basically, it is argued that learning is a social practice,not a pedagogical strategy as with previous learning theories, and while the symbolprocessing view of learning is drawn from humanistic psychology, situated learning has itsroots in social anthropology and sociology – particularly the work of Vygotsky’s (1978)social development theory. Vygotsky (1978) theorises that learning happens sociallythrough social interaction and is only internalised individually after the fact. This impliesthat social interaction leads to cognitive development (a view which is contrary to Piaget),in other words, learning is a social phenomenon and it is bound to the context thatgenerates it. Vygotsky (1978) advocates intersubjectivity to enhance learning and speaksabout the zone of proximal development (ZPD) which is the gap between what individualscan achieve alone and what they can achieve if guided by a facilitator. (Note that Piagetalso advocated peer dyads to enhance learning, but these were only concerned withcognition and not with the ‘social construction of meaning’ Harris (2000, p. 15.)Key theorists of this view, like Bredo (1994), Engeström (2004), and Lave and Wenger(1999), advocate the concept of participation on the periphery in a community of practice(e.g. an apprenticeship or learnership) as an ideal form of learning if it ultimately leads tomore central participation. Building upon this idea is the work of Rogoff (1995), whoidentifies three learning processes (participatory appropriation, guided participation andapprenticeship) that correlate to three planes of analysis (personal, interpersonal andcommunity). One of the key shifts with situated learning is the view that learning is not theproperty of an individual (Sfard, 1998), but an outcome of social participation and thatlearning is a social concept, not a psychological one. This is a functionalist view ofknowledge (Sfard, 1998). Thus it can be argued that knowledge is not seen as objectiveand independent from the society that interacts with it. Harris (2000, p. 16) summarisesthe social learning theorists’ view of meaning by stating ‘culture and the individual assignmeanings but meaning is seen as a social construct first and foremost and a form of Page 119
    • cultural exchange. Multiple meanings are possible depending on the context andoccasion’.This historical exploration of the various theories of learning reveals fundamentaldifferences as well as corresponding principles between the various philosophical stanceson the origins and development of knowledge and learning. Although a wider range ofarguments exist, two main positions are historically juxtaposed in the education debate:the idealist view that knowledge exists independently of concrete experience and thematerialist view of an inseparable link between material basis and knowledge. Essentiallythis debate follows the path that learning associated with acquiring academic or Mode 1knowledge (following Gibbons, Limoges, Nowotny, Schwartzman, Scott & Trow, 1994) isaccepted as a psychological, cognitive and individual process (Harris, 2000). Learnerstend to work in competition with one another rather than collaboratively, and learning iscommonly understood adaptively, especially at lower levels. Harris (2000) is of the opinionthat the acquisition of Mode 2 knowledge (which, following Gibbons et al., 1994, is moreexperiential and problem focused) however, requires a shift in thinking. For example, itcan be argued that investigative learning requires participation in communities and that it isan evolutionary practice. Reflexive learning involves critique and even transformation ofthe context. Both views continue to influence current debates of the relative value ofdifferent education processes in academia and industry. The concept of Mode 2knowledge is gaining ground in modern educational writings, particularly in the field ofworkplace learning, which leads to the next part of this chapter.5.3 Review of the most influential workplace learning theoriesIt can be argued that the 21st century is characterised by increasing globalisation ofnational economies, rapidly changing markets, increased international competition forgoods and labour, new technological innovations and the movement from mass productionto flexible specialisation in the productive process and knowledge processing. Given theurgency of adapting to these new economic conditions, workplace learning is seen as atool to increase organisational performance and national economic success (Fuller, Munro& Rainbird, 2004). Smith (2004) points out that new economic times are generating newwork and new work organisations that require new workers with new knowledge, skills and Page 120
    • dispositions to meet the challenges of the new economic order. Chappell, Solomon,Tennant and Yates, (2002) argue that the domination of economic discourses in theeducational policy formulation of governments can be labelled the new vocationalism.This new vocationalism emphasises the need for all educational institutions to contribute tonational economic imperatives and, for the most part, these discourses are embeddedwithin human capital theories of economic performance. They promote the idea thateconomic performance is intimately connected to the level of skill and ability of theworkforce and are a common feature of the educational discourses of many governments(Chappell et al., 2002). Further, Smith (2004) contends that the traditional notion ofobtaining one set of skills or qualification(s) that would suffice for a lifetime of permanentemployment, generally with the one employer, is no longer the dominant model. Theemployee of the 21st century must increasingly be a job-maker, not just a job-taker. Genis(2003) argues that contemporary employees require the capacity to work across a rangeof contexts and contents in a fully integrated and relevant way which acknowledges thatlife, content, ideas, and knowledge are not divided into separate, segregated clusters.Consequently, training providers, policy-makers and curriculum developers need toacknowledge that the present, past and even future real-life experiences of thoseundertaking training are an inseparable and essential ingredient of training. Recognisingthe prior learning of learners can therefore make a significant contribution to providing thesort of responsive, relevant and integrated learning frameworks necessary for the presentand ongoing maintenance of a quality workforce (Smith, 2004). It is against this backdropthat theorising about workplace learning, as distinct from traditional classroom learning, ispositioned.The debate between workplace learning and traditional classroom learning, or whatBeckett and Hager (2002) call the ‘standard paradigm of learning’ and the ‘emergingparadigm of learning’ and what Sfard (1998) calls ‘knowledge acquisition’ and ‘knowledgeparticipation’, is premised upon a number of key factors. These can be summarised asfollows: Traditional classroom learning values mental learning (Mode 1 learning), which is and individualistic and solitary process, whereas workplace learning is socially constructed by multiple individuals operating in groups that interact with the context to create situated learning (Mode 2 learning) (Gibbons, et al., 1994); Page 121
    • Traditional classroom learning sees knowledge as a set of true, universal beliefs that need to be acquired by the individual (Winch, 1998). Workplace learning accepts that knowledge is contextually-bound and situated and not owned by one individual. Rather it is used by the community that produced it (Billett, 2004); Traditional classroom learning is based on the idea that once we have learnt well we can readily bring that learning to mind as clear and distinct ideas (Beckett & Hager, 2002). Workplace learning is more tacit and context specific, requiring problem solving and expert knowledge (Engeström, 2004); Traditional classroom learning relies on standardised and individual examinations to assess the acquisition of ‘universal context free knowledge, with numbers and grading to quantify the amount of learning demonstrated’ (Hager, 2004, p. 246). Workplace learning proponents argue that effectual workplace assessment requires a paradigm shift from the traditional assessment towards assessment that accommodates groups, the context and practical problem solving (Wenger, 1998).Sfard argues that neither traditional classroom nor workplace learning theory is whollycorrect or incorrect and that each works best in particular contexts. Hodkinson andHodkinson (2004, p. 261) agree with this view. They state ‘workplace learning issufficiently diverse and complex that no one theory, at least no one yet fully developed,can adequately deal with all its aspects. Within this complexity, we argue that only sometypes of workplace learning, usually those most easily accounted for using an acquisitionmetaphor, are susceptible to the clear identification and measurement.’ Hodkinson andHodkinson (2001) propose a typology of learning from the types of learning that wereidentified during their research (Table 5.1). The table shows two intersecting dimensions.The first distinguishes learning that was intended and planned from that which wasunintended and unplanned. The latter situation could result either because the relevantactivity was itself unintended and unplanned, or when an activity was planned, but not withthe explicit intention of learning. The second dimension focuses on the source ofknowledge. They distinguish between the learning of something that someone elsealready knew (that is, there was an existing source of expertise to be drawn upon) and thatwhich was not known by anyone (either because it was completely new, like how to adaptto a situation never encountered before) or the learner acted as if it were completely new(maybe because he/she was unaware that someone else had done it before). Page 122
    • Table 5-1 Hodkinson and Hodkinson (2001) typology of learning Intentional/planned Unintentional/unplanned Learning that which is (1) Planned learning of (2) Socialisation into an already known to others that which others know existing community of practice Development of existing (4) Planned/intended (3) Unplanned improvement capability learning to refine existing of ongoing practice capability Learning that which is new (5) Planned/intended (6) Unplanned learning of in the workplace (or treated learning to do that which something not previously as such) has not been done before doneIn addition to the above ideas a number of categories have begun to emerge in the field ofworkplace education over the last few decades according to Billett (2001a) and Meyer(2004), i.e.: • Strategies are needed that address both propositional and practical knowledge but not necessarily in traditional ways. More tacit knowledge needs to be made explicit through discussion, guidance and time away from the workplace; theoretical knowledge needs to be applied within real-world environments in structured and meaningful sequences as applicable to work routines and the learner. • Learners’ capacity to develop practical knowledge will be highly contingent on access to strategies that are authentic and located within (or closely resemble) the workplace. • Pedagogical strategies are required that nurture and support participants’ capacity to take part in learning opportunities. Page 123
    • What is of particular interest is the implication that vocational learning is not incidental: it isdesigned with a component that is deliberate. This would suggest a range of strategiesthat are planned to nurture the capabilities for effective participation in the workforce. Itwould also suggest a range of strategies that are planned to allow for informal learning thathas already occurred to be captured and recognised (Meyer, 2004).Colley, Hodkinson and Malcolm (2002) highlight another key category in the workplacelearning debate – the distinction between formal, informal and non-formal learning (notethat Billett, 2004 is opposed to the terms formal and informal learning as it creates theimpression that workplace learning is informal and, therefore, less meaningful). Colley etal. (2002) conclude that there are very few learning situations that are completely formal orcompletely informal because the context of the learning site itself is what determines whatis acceptable as formal, as opposed to informal learning. They do, however, suggest a listof factors that could define each ideal learning situation (Table 5.2). Page 124
    • Table 5-2 Possible ideal-types of formal and informal learning (Colley, Hodkinson andMalcolm (2002) Formal Informal Teacher as authority No teacher involved Educational premises Non-educational premises Teacher control Learner control Planned and structured Organic and evolving Summative assessment/accreditation No assessment Externally determined objectives/ Internally determined objectives outcomes Interests of powerful and dominant groups Interests of oppressed groups Open to all groups, according to published Preserves inequality and sponsorship criteria Propositional knowledge Practical and process knowledge High status Low status Education Not education Measured outcomes Outcomes imprecise/immeasurable Learning predominantly individual Learning predominantly communal Learning to preserve status quo Learning for resistance and empowerment Pedagogy of transmission and control Learner-centred, negotiated pedagogy Learning mediated through agents of Learning mediated through learner authority democracy Fixed and limited time-frame Open-ended engagement Learning is the main explicit purpose Learning is either of secondary significance or is implicit Learning is applicable in a range of Learning is context-specific contextsIt can be seen from the Colley et al. (2002) table (Table 5.2) reproduced above that formallearning is most likely to take place in a classroom, whereas informal learning is morelikely to take place in the workplace. However, some formal education (such as readingtowards a doctorate) shares some of the elements of informality (learner controlled,organic and evolving, internally determined objectives, etc.). Likewise, some workplacelearning contains elements of formal learning (for example, planned and structured as in alearnership or apprenticeship, open to all groups, measured outcomes as in a learnership,etc.). Page 125
    • Sfard (1998) contrasts learning as acquisition vs learning as participation, where theformer refers to learning that takes place in a formal academic institution and the lattertakes place in the workplace. Along a similar vein, Lave and Wenger (1991) coined‘learning as participation’ as part of their situated learning model. The focus in ‘learningas acquisition’ is on learning codified knowledge from an expert and this lends itself toassessment via written examinations. On the other hand, assessment of knowledgegained through ‘learning as participation’ is more difficult to measure according to Sfard(1998) because of its diverse nature. This point of view is in line with Lave and Wenger(1991) who theorise that the community of practice (as opposed to the individual) shouldbe assessed to see if learning has taken place satisfactorily. These views stress thecollective and social nature of workplace learning and, by implication, workplaceassessment.Theorists such as Keep and Mayhew (1999), Bosworth, Davies and Wilson (2001) andEraut, Alderton, Cole and Senker (2000) all point out that workplace learning is impactedby many factors, including the strategic focus of the organisation; the power relationships;the type of employment relationship (full time or part time, permanent or temporary, etc.);the nature of the work and how it has been structured; and job design; etc. These factorsimpact on the quality and quantity of the workplace learning and remind us that learning issimply not the primary focus of the workplace. Learning is simply conducted in support ofthe organisation’s goal to produce goods and services (Rainbird, 2000a).One of the key features of most workplace learning is the situated nature (situated learningtheory). However, as Fuller, Munro and Rainbird (2004) point out this focus ignores thepossibility that it is not always possible to learn some types of knowledge on the job (e.g.theoretical ideas that are not context-specific). They argue that by not recognising this,and by not allowing workers access to this knowledge, decision makers can reinforceworkplace inequalities and prevent those without this knowledge from moving up thecorporate ladder. Another factor to consider in stressing the contextual nature ofworkplace learning is how this learning is then transferred to another workplace. Page 126
    • Other workplace learning theorists highlight the role of the individual within the workplacelearning context. The view of such authors is that while the workplace learningenvironment is contextual and while there are many factors within it that impact thelearning experience and quality of the learning, individuals still have the freedom to choosewhether or not they will participate. Examples of these perspectives include: Billett (2002; 2004) argues that the nature of workplace learning depends on two factors – the extent to which the employees have a chance to participate in workplace activities and the extent to which they choose to do so. Billett (2002) states that the source of knowledge is mostly social and that learning it requires interaction with other participants who possess the knowledge or with artefacts (like tools or texts) that contain the knowledge to be learnt. The individual can, however, choose to participate or not and, according to Billett (2004), the factors that influence this individual agency (choice) are: ease by which they can seek guidance; existence of close or distant mentors; workplace cliques; employment standing; gender; age; race; personal history or ontogenies (Cole, 1998). These factors all shape the individual subjectivities and lead to different ways of engaging with the social world (and much like learning styles they probably influence the learning approach and outcome). Evans, Kersh and Sakamoto (2004) discuss the significance of tacit forms of personal competencies for adults who are learning. These tacit skills are useful in certain forms of learning (e.g. group work) and if these skills are recognised by others in the group then the individuals who possess them will be encouraged and motivated to continue. They state that ‘development of self confidence may be as important as formal learning outcomes such as results or certificates’ (p. 14) in encouraging workplace learning.’ Senge (1999; 2006) proposes a theory or blueprint to assist managers and business owners to create a ‘learning organisation’. The first step in its creation is for managers to invest in their staff and empower them to learn. These employees will then respond when they are ready (hence the element of freedom of choice) with a reciprocal commitment to learn, grow and contribute. They will start to share in the overriding vision and purpose, which is essential if the organisation is to harness the energies of everyone to achieve competitiveness. Page 127
    • Another category in workplace learning deals with the social nature of workplace learning.Workers learn because the environment provides them with an opportunity to co-participate in activities. This situated view of learning contrasts with the more behaviouristand cognitive theories of learning which emphasise the individual learning alone (learningwhich is more likely to take place in a formal academic context). Because of the situatedview of this learning it makes sense that in order to understand how learning is takingplace the researcher must first understand the structures, activities and relationships thatoccur within each workplace. Examples of theorists who have attempted to provide insightinto the workplace environment include: Rainbird, Munro and Holly (2004) – they advance the view that the way in which the employment relationship is regulated is central to understanding workplace learning. They identify three levels of employment relationship: firstly, the role of the state in shaping the education and training system and the framework of labour law; secondly, the relationship between the organisation and the workers and the manner in which workplace learning is conceptualised and formalised; and finally, the power and social relationships that manifest in the workplace, which control factors such as who has access to learning and for what purpose. Each individual is subject to these three levels of employment relationship and each individual will perceive and experience them differently, which will lead to different learning behaviours. Lave and Wenger (1991) propose that an analysis of workplace learning should commence with an analysis of the community of practice, because it is this community that produces the knowledgeable practitioners and which is the source of knowledge and skills within the context. This concept (which is part of their situated theory) ignores any analysis of the power relationship in the workplace and instead focuses on the consensual and participative aspects of the workplace. Fuller and Unwin (2004) focus on variables within the organisation that make it a more accommodating or restrictive learning environment. They conclude that workplaces that allow diverse forms of interaction will have better workplace learning than those that do not permit much interaction. Engeström (2004, p. 11) discusses the way that workplaces constantly change and the impact this has on the development and distribution of expertise. He suggests that workplaces need to facilitate transitional communities that encourage Page 128
    • knotworking amongst employees to foster collaborative expertise. He challenges the traditional notion that expertise is based on individual knowledge and capacity and postulates that the concept of an expert is being replaced by ‘the capacity of working communities to cross boundaries, negotiate and improvise knots of collaboration’. Engeström, Engeström and Karkkainen (1995) postulated that individual cognitive processes are the result of the individual constructing and re-elaborating their relationship with the context within which they operate. In order to do this the individual must draw upon his/her values and ways of being that have come about as a result of social context, gender, economic and social realities, class, linguistic and generational differences, etc. This implies that different individuals will have different cognitive approaches, even though they are in the same social and economic context.According to Billett (2001b; 2004), the workplace has to be reconceptualised as alegitimate site of learning and the only way to do this is to transform the current discourseon workplace learning because even the ‘well meaning theorists’ (Billett, 2004) continue torefer to workplace learning as informal, non-formal or unstructured. These terms implyimprecise learning and do little to position the workplace as a meaningful site of knowledgeproduction. According to Billett (2004), these terms came about simply becauseworkplace learning practices are different from those espoused in traditional education (forexample workplace learning often does not have a curriculum, formal all-knowledgeableand dedicated teachers and structured contact time). However, he points out thatworkplace learning is not incidental – it is often central to the continuity of the organisation(especially in situations such as the need for FAIS compliance) and it is often highlystructured to coincide with workplace strategy, goals, practices and job tasks, andalthough there may not be a structured syllabus, the pathways of knowledge that exist inorganisations are often inherently pedagogical and sequenced. Finally, Billett (2004)argues that to simply see sites of learning as either formal or informal is to over-emphasisethe situation without any consideration for the role of human agency – thus making theinformal/formal argument an example of social determinism. Page 129
    • Finally, Wagner and Childs (2000) consider critical social pedagogy as the framework forwork-based learning - a conceptual framework within the social sciences derived from theGerman concept of Sozialpaedagogik. This is concerned with the interplay of individuals,organisations, communities and societies. It applies an inter-disciplinary action-focus toeducation, research and development with the aim of balancing power inequities andeconomic, social and political disadvantage. In particular, it is concerned with the inherentconnectivity between learning, social actions and a socially-just future and it is therefore, ofsome relevance to the principles of RPL, given that social actions may be located within aworkplace, a community or a society. Adult learning proponents have long been concernedwith social and political aspects of learning, rather than merely its technical usefulness.Within this framework, work-based learning practice takes on a particular appearance andmoves learners in particular directions.As can be deduced from the brief discussion above, a vast body of knowledge has beenproduced over the past decade to track the change in belief about what constitutesknowledge. The theorising has largely led to the view that what society values asknowledge has evolved in line with the shift in dominant economic activity. The shift hasbeen, firstly, from an academic to an industrial view of knowledge, followed by a post-industrial view which gave way to the informational view of knowledge that characterisesthe popularly-called knowledge economy. This has been characterised (according toGibbons, et al., 1994) as a shift from Mode 1 knowledge production (disciplinaryknowledge) to Mode 2 knowledge production (problem-solving knowledge). Mode 1 ischaracterised by ‘disciplinarity’; it is formal and coded according to rigid rules, historicallyassociated with universities and internally referenced through peer review. Mode 2knowledge, on the other hand, develops through disciplined interaction. It is ‘problem-orientated’, production sites are heterogonous, and the knowledge itself is seen as sociallyuseful and accountable. Knowledge can be both produced and consumed within sites likeworkplaces, and the production of knowledge is no longer seen solely as the preserve ofeducational institutions such as universities.As can be inferred from the above discussion, the new modes of knowledge remain achallenge to educational institutions involved in learning for work. The topics of ‘learning inthe workplace’, ‘learning organisations’ , ‘work-based learning’ and ‘informal learning’ can Page 130
    • be argued to have a central place within contemporary literatures concerning thedevelopment of knowledge and skills in post-industrial societies. As discussed above,viewpoints abound regarding vocational learning outside of educational institutions servingas crucial sites for learning. These are justified by drawing on a number of learningtheories that posit experience as central to learning. Many authors use the work of Dewey(1997) to suggest that the workplace is an excellent site for learning, where learning takesplace through an ongoing dialectical process of action and reflection. Commentatorshighlight the authenticity of the workplace as a learning setting, arguing that authenticitynot only privileges the workplace as a rich site for learning but also provides a purposefulsocial and cultural context for learning (Chappell, 1999).Industry and workplace practices have always been aimed at a more immediateimplementation of applicable principles, rather than just an extensive reflection on theories.As a result, industry perspectives on RPL have not focused on RPL theories and apossible industry-specific mode for application. Research on the topic indicates theabsence of a single model specific to this environment (Dyson & Keating, 2005). The nextsection reviews the most influential RPL literature against this backdrop of traditional vsworkplace learning theories.5.4 Review of the most influential RPL literatureVarious theorists and RPL practitioners have proposed conceptual frameworks to guideRPL conceptualisation. These frameworks are defined by their broad epistemology andpedagogical views on concepts such as learning, knowledge creation and assessment.Although terminology varies, these theorists (e.g. Harris, 1999a; Luckett, 1999a;Butterworth, 1992; and Osman, 2001) generally propose the following three broadframeworks:5.4.1 The technical or market frameworkThis is based on educational theories such as that of Weil and McGill’s Village Oneexperiential learning theory (1989), and Boud, Cohen and Walker’s Training and Efficiencytradition of experiential learning theory (1993). Harris’ Procrustean RPL (1999a), Luckett’s Page 131
    • Technical Paradigm (1999a), and Butterworth’s Credit exchange model (1992) are alsoseen under this category.The technical perspective is associated with the human capital view of education,prioritising knowledge, skills and values for the benefit of the economy. Under thisperspective, education is modular and credit bearing and RPL is thus possible where priorlearning can be matched to specific and defined outcomes, like those in NQF unitstandards (SAQA, 2003). This perspective fits well with the behaviourist paradigmdescribed above and typical assessment practices include examinations and challengetests.5.4.2 Liberal humanist frameworkEducational theories with this perspective include Weil and McGill’s Village Two andVillage Four experiential learning theory (1989), Boud, Cohen and Walker’s SelfDevelopment and Andragogy theory and the Learner Centered and Humanistic schools ofexperiential learning theory (1993). Kolb’s learning cycle theory of experientialdevelopment (1984) is also related to this perspective. Other models labelled according tothis perspective include Harris’ Learning and Development RPL (1999a), Luckett’sHermeneutic Paradigm (1999a), and Butterworth’s Development model (1992). Thisapproach has its theoretical home in the constructivism wave of learning theory (describedabove) and is partially influenced by the situated and/or cultural context of the learningenvironment (Hanson, 1996, p. 107), i.e. situated learning theory.The liberal humanist perspective postulates that prior experience must be transformed intolearning in order to meet the demands of hierarchically structured academic knowledge.The learner undergoes a process of self-reflection to extract the general learning requiredfor this transformation. This leads to general credits at a particular level or in a discipline,and assessment often involves a reflective portfolio of evidence. Assessment practicesassociated with the development of a self-orientated portfolio tended to be founded onsome notion of experiential learning cycles, wherein adults were supported in describingtheir experiences, reflecting on them, analysing and organising them, identifying thelearning from them, documenting that learning, and (optionally) seeking some form ofexternal recognition or accreditation. Page 132
    • 5.4.3 Critical or radical frameworkThis encompasses mainly the educational theories of Weil and McGill (Village Threeexperiential learning theory, 1989), and Boud, Cohen and Walker (Critical Pedagogy).Harris’ Radical RPL (1999a) and Luckett’s Critical Paradigm (1999a) are also applicable tothis perspective. These theories are associated with radical perspectives such as tradeunionism and feminism, which view learning as a collective process and not an individualone. According to this perspective RPL is a tool for the social reformation of marginalisedgroups, and once the marginalised groups gain access to places of learning they canchallenge the content of academic curricula and the way disciplines are assessed.Of the three paradigms described above, formal academia tends to locate its RPLpractices within the philosophical tradition of the liberal humanistically inspired approachesto adult education (Strydom, 2002; Osman, 2001). In fact, Kolb’s (1984) experientiallearning cycle has become central to RPL methodologies undertaken at most highereducational institutions and learners are required to embark upon a cycle of iterativereflection that starts with their experiences and ends with their application to newsituations. Harris (2000, p. 23) summarises this by saying ‘experience leads to learningand learning to understanding. From understanding comes the ability to generalise andfrom that comes insight.’As indicated in the discussion above, proponents from each framework generally usesimilar assessment strategies. Harris and Saddington (1995) grouped the RPLassessment practices for recognising ‘un-certificated learning’ into four categories: • Challenge processes (primarily fitting with the technical or market perspective); • Nationally standardised examinations (primarily fitting with the technical or market perspective); • Portfolio development (primarily fitting with the liberal humanistic or radical perspective); • Practices which draw on some of the other approaches perhaps focusing on an assessment interview, observation, etc.Although the portfolio development process itself has evolved in recent years, from a moreself-orientated one to a more process-oriented one (Challis, 1994) in some environments,the portfolio approach (especially the self-orientated one) fits most comfortably within the Page 133
    • constructivist wave of learning theories (although the emphasis on transfer of learning andmeta-cognition may suggest some lessons have been taken from the symbol processingview of the mind as well). This approach has much in common with the principles ofhumanistic psychology, where the learner is seen as actively seeking for meaning anddevelopment and is intrinsically motivated and goal directed. Learning is seen asinternally determined rather than imposed by a syllabus that is compartmentalised andcognisance is taken of the learners’ cognitive and affective circumstances.All of the RPL assessment methods categorised by Harris and Saddington (1995) areexclusively individualistic and none link completely to situated learning theory (arguablythe most modern of the learning theories discussed). As Harris points out (2000, p.25),’theorising has moved on and RPL has stood still. This is particularly ironical given thesituated nature of most prior learning!’ RPL practices do not take into account the socialand cultural contexts of learning and there is ‘no attempt to conceptualise andcontextualise learning within broader questions of power relations’ (Harris, 2000, p. 25).Michelson (1997) and Harris (1999b) have started to advance some alternative views ofRPL, linking it to feminism and anti-racist theories and highlighting the need to considerthe context of the learning. But these writings have not yet translated into changes in theRPL practices commonly found in higher education institutions or in the workplace.RPL is most applicable (if not exclusively applicable) to mature candidates who arereturning to education, lack the formal qualifications required for entry to study, or needrecognition within the work environment (e.g. seeking the award of professionalqualifications for which they need to provide evidence of specific training and practicalwork experience). The applicability of RPL to mature candidates also lies in thesecandidates being more likely to have experience worthy of recognition. In reality RPLcandidates might also be illiterate or at least lacking in educational skills and as thisresearch shows, the procedures included in RPL will, therefore, have to keep such issuesin mind. This underlines the need for a more discipline-specific approach to RPL (Wilcox &Brown, 2002). In line with this view, theorists such as Harris (2000; 2001a) and Dysonand Keating (2005) have begun to advance the views that different RPL applications andprocedures are required to suit different situations. Broadly stated, the RPL applicationsthey identify can be categorised under the following system headings (although they do Page 134
    • not all use the same terminology these headings can be inferred from their descriptions ofeach system):System 1: RPL for accreditation (equivalence)Focused on the award of general credit, this will probably not be matched to learning forspecific programme or course outcomes. General credit may be defined as informallearning that is evidenced from experience, usually in order to assist student entry atadvanced levels. It entails individually negotiated contracts for candidates describing whichpart(s) of an award can be claimed using general credit.System 2: RPL for assessmentThis should move the learner towards the pre-determined programme outcomes andtherefore credit-exchange. The aim is to offer learners the opportunity to gain formal(specific) recognition by demonstrating experiential or certificated learning. This approachhas already been seen to be popular. It is necessary, however, to state that it is notfocused specifically on learners and their learning; rather it lends itself to the model of whata learner should know or be able to do in order to be deemed competent. Nonetheless,learners who have appropriate evidence that may be matched to specific learningoutcomes may make use of this system in an attempt to gain formal accreditation. Thisresearch suggests that the process of rigidly matching workplace learning to specificoutcomes is trivial, frustrating and time consuming, and does little to develop the learner.Profiling, however, encourages learners to foster creative interaction through reflectivecommentaries. Such approaches are said to increase learner autonomy and interaction.System 3: RPL for accessThe purpose of this will RPL application is to widen participation across educationprogrammes. The intention is to enable students to demonstrate their learning abilities andtheir capacity to undertake a course of study based on informally acquired learning. AnRPL programme is essential in order to provide a means whereby learning can beidentified and codified. Assessment focuses on the process of learning from experienceand underpinning knowledge identifies specific areas of competence. Page 135
    • System 4: RPL for awardsThis system could be defined more appropriately as work-based learning, which can beidentified as past, current or planned experiential learning - as distinct from priorexperience and subsequent reflections. The award itself may be an existing award, thoughnot gained wholly through a taught syllabus, or the award may be devised specifically tomeet the changing needs and circumstances of candidates. Such a development needsthe participation and support of employers.System 5: RPL for diagnosisThis offers learners the opportunity to use RPL as a means of diagnosing their learningachievements by auditing their life, work and prior study experiences. Whilst it focuses onthe process of learning, emphasis is on the content of the evidenced learning, both interms of the standard of achievement and the direction in which it points. Credit is given oncompletion of the programme and the evidence of learning from experience. Additionally,where the learning equates to specific outcomes, further credit may be achieved within ortowards an award (RPL for assessment) through further portfolio development.System 6: RPL for progress (social vision)This system focuses on the programme of reflective learning. It could be used to assistdisadvantaged or marginalised groups, perhaps in order to progress into further or higherstudies. This system will be less linked to academic standards than some of the othersystems cited above.As can be deduced from the above discussion, RPL is essentially about assessment ofcompetency or knowledge, but there are different reasons why an individual may embarkupon RPL or why an institution would offer RPL. However, regardless of the reasonsbehind the RPL system, a person must demonstrate a good match between their priorlearning and experience and the specified learning objectives and competences requiredby the system for their prior learning experience to be deemed of value. Further, RPL isdeemed valuable in the system if it recognises the value of the individual’saccomplishments, shortens the time required to complete a formal qualification, and savessignificant sums of money by giving exemption from course elements or providing creditpoints and awards towards a qualification (Wilcox & Brown, 2002). This indicates that foreach candidate and context (system) the RPL results (outcomes, outputs and impact Page 136
    • according to logic modelling terminology14) have to be specified in order to determinewhether it has been successful or not.Bateman and Knight (2003) propose a staged approach15 as an example of good practicein RPL processes. In line with this, six stages are incorporated, i.e.: information; initialadvice and support; application; assessment; post-assessment guidance; and recordkeeping and monitoring. They also identify seven stages in their assessment model forrecognising competencies, i.e.: induction; life skills check; key competency check; self-assessment of vocational competencies; formal assessment; job and career planning; andtraining and development planning. The step involving the assessment of evidenceincludes the stages of reviewing the portfolio for completeness and assessing andverifying the evidence. In turn, accreditation involves the final verification or endorsementby an establishment or national awarding body responsible for recognising the positiveoutcomes of the assessment.Common sense might suggest that RPL can become a far more successful process simplyby addressing the factors identified as impacting negatively on its implementation. Inreality, however, the solution is far less clear-cut. For instance, adherence to nationalpolicies might be seen as a deterrent for implementation, but without legal and proceduralprescriptions recognition will be based on far less stable principles and could serve, at thevery least, to lessen the accepted connection between academic standards andexperiential knowledge. Nevertheless, this does not detract from the need to learn fromexternal experiences and to adjust RPL application appropriately and where advisable. Tomaximise this learning and to ensure that as many lessons as possible are incorporatedinto the model proposed by this research, the literature was scanned to identify whichfactors both promote and limit effective RPL strategies and implementation. These can besummarised as follows:14 Logic modelling is defined and discussed in Chapter 6.15 Note that Bateman and Knight do not specifically talk about a logic model but theirproposed flow does fit with the logic modelling approach and methodology discussed inChapter 6. Page 137
    • RPL enablers:There is a dearth of evidence-based information regarding the strategies, processes andpractices that are likely to promote effective RPL. The assumption appears to be that RPLas a concept is, in itself, the basis for effective implementation and that if the outcomes areless than anticipated or desired, the trouble lies with imposed barriers rather than with anydeficiencies in the implementation model. Wheelahan, Miller and Newton (2002) andDyson and Keating (2005) note that the promoted benefits of RPL are often assumed to beactual benefits, but very little research has been conducted to determine whether theseclaims have been realised. In particular, little critical analysis of enabling factors has beencovered across the literature. In some instances, much of the information pertaining toenabling factors is gleaned from effective practice models and from strategies to redressthe perceived barriers to RPL. Much of the information does not go beyond the RPLprocess and very little critical analysis of more macro influences is explored (Bateman &Knight, 2003). As is discernable from the different research sources, enabling factors forRPL cover a number of issues which are discussed below: (Note that the various sourcesmay refer to the same enabler using different terminology but with the same implicitargument.)1. Support of candidates through the RPL process: RPL seems to be ‘a relationship thing’. It works best when there is open communication between the candidate and the assessors, RPL advisers and a broader community of practice, with the candidate genuinely believing the process is designed to significantly benefit him or her. The assessor should also be seen to be in a position to fulfil the learners’ expectations, not just through providing the RPL judgment, but also through giving practical advice or assistance prior to the RPL procedure (Bateman & Knight, 2003).2. Streamlining the RPL process, rendering it user-friendly and efficient: This aspect should include a strategy (logic model) that makes processes candidate-focused, provides adequate support for applicants, and pays attention to language, literacy and social issues. The process should be able to assist candidates throughout (Bateman & Knight, 2003). Page 138
    • 3. Maintaining course standards to include RPL processes: It seems important to ensure that evidence of prior learning is consistent with assessments within training programmes in different disciplines. Effective RPL thus requires experienced professional assessors able to make informed professional judgments (Bateman & Knight, 2003; Smith, 2004).4. Establishing formal networks: There are significant advantages of RPL that lie in the potential use by candidates, trainers and employers of the information gained through the process itself and the contacts afforded through application; and not just in the advanced standing that it may provide towards a qualification or programme of study (Bateman & Knight, 2003; Jacobsz, 2003).5. Ensuring consistency across all training organisations: National standards endeavour to ensure consistency, but organisations have to adhere to prescriptions in order to make this a reality. The training of assessors, coaches, implementers and other stakeholders is also important in this regard (Bateman & Knight, 2003; Deller, 2003).6. Flexibility: This might seem to contrast directly with the previous point of consistent application. However, it is often very difficult to be fair when granting RPL on the basis of reported experience because of the different tasks required of people doing the same job in different organisations, and the different levels at which people are expected to perform those tasks by different employers. Consequently, it is often necessary to probe the applicant’s experience. However, this is best done by setting an assignment that requires application rather than by detailed testing because, ultimately, the ability to perform the task at the required standard is important. For this reason, in different skills areas, students are often simply asked to perform the task for the assessor (Smith, 2004; Bateman & Knight, 2003).7. Targeted marketing: One of the really positive outcomes of RPL is the link it can have in promoting confidence among candidates to undertake further training. It may be useful to report success stories that will appeal to specific target groups rather than just to report on how much RPL occurs. The issue of driving quality in RPL could be linked to notions of reasonable success rates for applications. To ensure quality and a positive image, the provider who gives RPL credits to Page 139
    • everybody should be investigated, as should the provider who gives hardly any RPL credits to anybody (Bateman & Knight, 2003; Deller, 2004).8. Non-graded assessments to be used with RPL: The inclusion of outcomes expressed as ‘competent’, or ‘not yet competent’ is considered as one way of providing non-graded assessments. However, this becomes problematic when RPL is done for the purpose of allowing entrance to tertiary institutions (Bateman & Knight, 2003).9. Using self-assessment in the process: The process should benefit candidates in helping them collate and present evidence of knowledge and skills that can, in turn, help in other areas of their work, such as with the preparation of job applications. Candidates should also be able to judge their own capabilities through preparation for RPL (Bateman & Knight, 2003).10. Using a multi-dimensional model for RPL: With the focus on assessment, it is necessary to define the interaction between mode of decision-making and focus of assessment in terms of the co-existence, rather than the separation, of permutations within the holistic framework for RPL. Presenting the decision-making and assessment focus identifies four broad aspects that in turn describe four combinations of decision-making mode and assessment focus, i.e.: assessment of elements using prescribed performance criteria; assessment of elements using professional judgment; holistic assessment of tasks, functions or activities using prescribed performance criteria; and holistic assessment of tasks, functions or activities using professional judgment. It is asserted, however, that the critical question for educators and trainers is not which of the four aspects should be the focus for RPL assessment, but rather what would be the most appropriate balance of these for each RPL candidate. The purpose for seeking RPL lies in the factor that defines the nature of that balance (Smith, 2004; Deller, 2004).11. Emphasis on a business-linked approach to RPL: RPL can be a significant advantage to businesses by providing managers and supervisors with detailed information about the knowledge, skills and experiences of their staff (in excess of their pre-existing knowledge) and which could be constructively and profitably used by the business. For this reason RPL can easily be promoted within the private Page 140
    • sector, but needs to be aligned to business and commercial incentives. Furthermore, it might be a significant medium for organisational development by helping to clarify staff functions at different levels, and job roles across the organisation. It can be a strong motivator for encouraging self-improvement by helping to make people feel valued for what they already know and can do, and can thus be a significant tool for change management (OECD, 2001; Wheelahan, Miller & Newton, 2002).As can be deduced form the above discussion, the general sentiment is that the uptake ofRPL can be enhanced if the process can be streamlined and simplified for allstakeholders. This is true of RPL worldwide, but is especially relevant in South Africawhere the process appears to be over-complicated by the many (and often contradictory)statutory bodies involved in skills development in general and RPL in particular(Departments of Labour and Education, 2002)Factors inhibiting effective RPL:The take-up of RPL has been relatively slow (Dyson & Keating, 2005) and it is of particularconcern that RPL has not acted in a major way as a mechanism for social inclusion ofdisadvantaged groups (Wheelahan, Miller & Newton, 2002). While targeting the failures ofRPL provision, however, there does not seem to have been much research on what thefactors might be that, individually or collectively, prevent success and why. However, thefollowing inhibiters can be deducted from the literature (again the terminology may varyamongst sources):1. RPL conceptualised by practitioners and policy makers as a one-dimensional model: The most popular conceptualisations of RPL seem to be based around the actual location where the RPL assessment takes place. Under such a one- dimensional conceptualisation, the administrative and educational factors relating to RPL often become confused. Consequently, it is difficult for practitioners and policy makers alike to give overt emphasis to the processes and procedures necessary for effective RPL (Smith, 2004). This has been accommodated, to some extent, in the model proposed by this research because it includes data taken from the candidates themselves. However, it is a criticism of logic modelling that it too focuses on the goals of the programme implementer and not the recipients of that Page 141
    • programme, and care must be taken to avoid this by considering the needs of all stakeholders in the creation of assumptions and desired results.2. Insufficient attention paid to the process of how prior learning can be included: While the intention of incorporating RPL as part of a broader process is to incorporate it holistically into learning and assessment (SAQA, 2002), the result has been inconsistent. Some researchers (Harris, 2002; Deller, 2003; Smith, 2007) argue that the overwhelming focus of RPL on assessment may well limit the extent to which it is used because people may be unaware of what they know and the extent to which they know it, or they may not have the language capabilities to describe their knowledge. Alternatively, candidates might not be able to move from the discourse of their everyday practice to the discourse required to substantiate their claims of expertise (Luckett, 1999b). It is assumed that these issues are more likely to disadvantage students from non-traditional educational backgrounds. The importance of positioning RPL within changing socioeconomic and cultural conditions and to see it as a social practice rather than a set of seemingly innocent and benevolent procedures is emphasised (Wheelahan et al., 2002).3. Translation of practical experience into academic standards: It can be argued that one of the major problems is that RPL (especially as practiced in the vocational education sector) primarily requires students to translate their industry-based practices into an academic discourse that requires students to understand and articulate notions such as competency standards, elements of competency, performance criteria, evidence and range of variables - which are clearly problematic issues for candidates with limited theoretical knowledge, who are often further bound by illiteracy and lack of self-confidence (Deller, 2007). Arguably, there is a real problem that the paper-based recording requirements of RPL promote an academic dialogue for assessment, which often discriminates against highly performing employees who lack the academic skills to impress during assessment. RPL challenges the status quo about accepted concepts of teaching and learning, but often precipitates those same traditional ideas in its own implementation (Wheelahan et al., 2002; Harris, 1996). Page 142
    • 4. Policy and procedural ambiguity and complexity: It can be argued that the general debate about whether recognising the prior learning of students is appropriate for all areas of training often leads to it not being offered at all. When RPL is finally accessible at a particular institution, the prescriptions relevant to receiving recognition is often prohibitively bureaucratic (Breier & Burness, 2003). The significant level of staff experience and expertise needed to effectively conduct RPL, which may be beyond the available resources of the provider, is seen as a particularly detracting element, especially where the quality of delivery is linked to legislated standards for the industry (Bateman & Knight, 2003; Cameron, 2004).6. Excessive administration requirements: Much of the criticism within the RPL literature relates to the administrative processes, particularly with respect to paperwork (specifically paperwork for audit requirements) and onerous bureaucratic procedures to be followed which, it is often claimed, is in excess of the bureaucratic guidelines for conducting regular training programmes (Deller, 2007; Smith, 2007). This rigorous process is deemed necessary to ensure credibility of the process with students and industry clients, but deserves attention in order to address concerns in this regard. Specifically, it seems the level of documentation required to be kept and the focus of audits on the components, rather than the task, is a disincentive to providers to engage in RPL, particularly as many applications are best assessed by professional judgements which cannot be easily, or adequately, described in the written form. The time consuming nature of RPL, not only in assessing, but also in providing advice and guidance, is another disincentive (Deller, 2007). If RPL is to work, there must be much less emphasis on paper-based recording and much greater emphasis on holistic assessment processes and the attendant requirement for professional judgement by professional assessors (Bateman & Knight, 2003; Cameron, 2004; Wheelahan et al., 2002).7. Concerns about validity, reliability, equivalence and quality assurance in general: As mentioned under the item above, the authorities’ concerns about validity, reliability, equivalence and quality assurance in general are often seen to result in an environment of excessive rigour, which in turn escalates cost and time and acts as a disincentive to prospective RPL applicants. On the other hand, staff and industry are resistant to the concept of RPL as it is not seen as valid or reliable due to the non-traditional approach, which in turn is not considered rigorous enough. Page 143
    • Concerns are expressed regarding quality assurance, equivalence of assessment, validity and reliability, and appropriate subject areas for which RPL should be granted (vocational vs academic). Some professional bodies have formulated stipulations as to the maximum level of RPL that can be granted (Bateman & Knight, 2003; Wheelahan, et al., 2002; Cameron, 2004)8. The issue of cost to individuals and organisations: When implementing and establishing an RPL system, the associated costs are a contentious point across the literature with mixed opinions and findings (Smith, 2007; Deller, 2003). The excessive time required to conduct RPL and to assist applicants during the process, using current approaches, adds to costs for individuals and organisations. The major costs, however, are alleged to be not in RPL itself, but in administrative requirements. It is allegedly easier and more time-effective and cost-effective (both from the perspective of the student and the institution) for students to enrol in formal programmes and proceed through courses as normal. Excessive cost is associated with providing one-on-one staff assessment as required by many current approaches. Variations in funding levels and policies across countries can, in some cases, actually result in a significant financial loss to institutions that offer RPL (Bateman & Knight, 2003).9. Obtaining and accessing relevant information for the purpose of RPL: People who have been working for a long time often have difficulty validating much of their experience in writing (Deller, 2007; Smith, 2007). Furthermore, it is often difficult or inappropriate to access private information from businesses for RPL claims (Bateman & Knight, 2003). Thus candidates may be unable to prove their claims of prior experience satisfactorily.10. Focus on under-represented and disadvantaged groups: The general consensus in the literature is that RPL has failed to fulfil its promised potential of encouraging traditionally under-represented and disadvantaged groups to access formal education and training. According to Bateman and Knight (2003) a recent NCVER16 report found that those with higher formal qualifications were more likely to use the16 National Centre for Vocational Education Research Ltd Page 144
    • RPL process, with equity groups having relatively low rates of RPL uptake. A significant problem for students seeking to access RPL is literacy levels and language capability. Much of the marketing material, particularly from government agencies (including many technical and further education colleges), is so steeped in educational jargon that it presents a barrier to prospective candidates. If RPL is to be a learning tool, not just an administrative process, then assessors and auditors of the process need a good understanding of the nature of learning and the background of candidates most likely to be eligible for RPL. Bateman and Knight (2003) argue that RPL does, in fact, appear to be building barriers against those whom it claims to help. These authors also suggest that the failure to distinguish between RPL as a process and RPL as an outcome may result in less take-up than would otherwise be the case, particularly by students from disadvantaged backgrounds (Wheelahan et al., 2002; Bateman & Knight, 2003).11. Customisation of RPL outcomes: There is much emphasis on the one right way for recognising the prior learning of candidates. Auditors often look for the evidence, rather than allowing the flexibility of practice and demonstration of quality that occurs in real workplaces. It is held that local environments and local issues require contextualised, not generic solutions (Kühne, 2007). This underlines the difficulty of assessing RPL as it requires experience and expertise (Wheelahan et al., 2002).12. RPL shelf-life: There is a significant issue with the time period for which RPL should remain valid on the basis of reported experience and past studies, particularly in industries experiencing rapid change such as information technology. In this respect, there is sometimes a distinct advantage in students undertaking formal training courses because these will teach the latest technology and remain current longer (Wheelahan et al., 2002).It is proposed by researchers such as Wheelahan et al. (2002) that, in the long term, RPLshould become embedded within a wider framework which might be encompassed by theterm ‘assessment’ and be viewed simply as one of the mechanisms by which candidatescan demonstrate competence. For this RPL will therefore be incorporated into the broaderframework of assessment related policies and procedures. However, one of theconclusions of this research is that RPL should rather be separated from the broad Page 145
    • category of assessment practices. This will serve to assist in the further development ofthe principles of RPL and will add to efforts in developing an RPL sector as auxiliary to thetraining sector as a whole.The above discussion highlights enablers and inhibiters to RPL from around the world.However, certain issues are worth considering in relation to RPL as practiced in SouthAfrica. Firstly, most reports and case studies are from first world countries that are notfaced with the same issues relating to levels of illiteracy, participation in formal education,or unemployment that occur in South Africa and other developing countries. Secondly,RPL in the first world context often takes place in a situation where one of the concernsrelating to groups (such as immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees) is assimilation intothe culture, language and economy of the receiving country. Issues relating to thetransformation of society to reflect the developmental needs of the majority are generallynot part of discourses or practices of RPL in the first world contexts examined. Thirdly,although much of the literature examined indicates that financial resources for RPL in mostcountries are insufficient, the resources available for RPL implementation in first worldcountries are quite considerable when compared to the resources available in developingcountries. Even South Africa, with its current focus on skills development and its allocationof financial resources to this effect, has a problem with financing educational needs on alllevels. Fourthly, the issue of language is less of an issue in developed countries than inSouth Africa where the majority of people do not speak English. Finally, with regard tosocial redress and equity, it can be argued that the usefulness of RPL could beundermined unless it is carefully designed. It is evident that all stakeholders involved inRPL implementation and quality assurance will need to ensure that their processes areinclusive, participatory and stakeholder-driven.5.5 Chapter summaryThe intention was for this chapter to bring together alternative views of learning and, byimplication, assessment and RPL, so as to show how these views could contribute to thelogic model of workplace RPL evolving out of this research. The chapter explores theevolution of learning theory, from early behaviourist theory through to more recent viewson workplace learning theory, and in doing so it presents a synthesis of both theory and Page 146
    • empirical research. The key theme running through the chapter is that workplace learningis different from classroom learning. Workplace learning is more contextual, more relianton group processes, more at the mercy of power relationships and less structured. Simplyput, learning is not the focus of the workplace – it is incidental. The point was made,however, that neither workplace nor classroom training can claim to be superior to theother – they are simply different contexts, with different types of learners who sharedifferent objectives and needs for being there. In reality, the boundaries between the twoblur, and in nearly all situations both workplace and classroom based elements areprobably present. These inter-relationships have the potential to offer further insight forboth workplace theorists and classroom learning theorists.From the discussion on learning theory, the chapter moves into a discussion on the RPLliterature. A number of advantages related to RPL are discussed. One of the mostattractive uses of RPL is undoubtedly that it enables candidates within formal educationalstudies to complete qualifications earlier and at reduced cost. A further considerableadvantage (related to social upliftment) is that it can serve to recognise skills gatheredthrough hobbies, private time activities and other non-professional experiences. Forcorporate organisations these reasons are understandably only important to the extent thatthey can be linked to productivity in the workplace and how they can positively impact onorganisational success. The chapter then moves into a discussion of enablers andinhibiters described throughout the literature and these are summarised to show that theimplementation of RPL is not as straightforward as may be inferred from the conceptualand statutory documents distributed by SAQA (SAQA, 2002; 2003) and other providers.The following chapter commences with a synthesis of the lessons that can be extractedfrom the prevailing literature linked to each of the five axial categories that emerged duringthe analysis of the data in this research. From there, the chapter moves into the design ofa logic model to implement RPL within the insurance workplace. Page 147
    • CHAPTER 6 : DESIGN OF A LOGIC MODEL FOR WORKPLACE RPL IMPLEMENTATION ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, how you gonna’ know when you get there?’ – Yogi Berra6.1 IntroductionWhereas the data analysis discussed in Chapter 4 is conceptualised as the heart of thisstudy, Chapter 6 could be thought of as the gut because it is here that all the precedinginformation is synthesised and a start is made on formulating a logic model to guide theimplementation of workplace RPL in the insurance sector. Some of this chapter relies onmy ‘gut’ feel for the preceding information and it is certainly in this chapter that processingof the ‘food’ from the preceding chapter occurs - so the analogy certainly has more thanone meaning!This chapter also marks the beginning of the discussion on the outcomes of the research.In many ways, Chapters 6 and 7 stand apart from the preceding chapters because theypresent the findings of this study to the reader. As such, these two chapters could almostbe one, except that there is a logic in presenting the implications and logic model (Chapter6) separate from the conclusions and recommendations (Chapter 7). To simply concludewith a long single chapter would reduce the impact of the research, and the presentation ofthe recommendations on the way ahead for RPL implementation in the workplace iscritically important.Chapter 6 commences with a discussion linking the learning theories and RPL practice (asgleaned from the secondary data analysis described in Chapter 4) to the five axial codingcategories that emerged during this research (also described in Chapter 4). This sectionis structured using the five categories as sub-headings to clearly show how the learningand practice supports each category. From this documentation and discussion of theresults of the field work, the chapter moves into a discussion on logic models and theirapplicability. The chapter concludes with a discussion around suitable logic models forRPL workplace implementation using the data and conclusions drawn throughout this Page 148
    • study so far. Logic models are presented and discussed to show the reader thepracticalities of implementation.6.2 Implication of the theories and practice for this research’semerging logic model of workplace RPL practiceThis preliminary section of Chapter 6 links the prevailing chapters on theory and practicalworkplace RPL implementation to the data emerging from this research. The intention isto demonstrate theoretical and practical support for the proposed axial categories and theirproposed interconnecting relationships (see Figure 4.2). This section leads into the onethat follows, which presents a logic model for workplace RPL implementation in theinsurance sector. To make the discussion more meaningful, this section is structuredaccording to the five axial categories that emerged during this research (as discussed inChapter 4). For purpose of summary, these five axial categories are: Circumstances leading to the RPL process and candidates’ initial reactions to it; Personal mastery; Choice of team support; Evolving perception of the RPL process; Meaning of the outcome of the RPL process upon completion.6.2.1 Circumstances leading to the RPL process and candidates’ initial reactions toitThe secondary data analysis reveals that Dyson and Keating (2005) cite the reasons foreach RPL implementation that they present. In each case the circumstances leading upto the RPL implementation appear to be clearly articulated and communicated to thestakeholders. The three circumstances cited in the case studies are: Legal compliance or improved professionalism in an industry (e.g. New Zealand road workers, Australian drug and alcohol workers and Canadian midwives); Job succession planning (Canadian hydro workers); The launch of a new qualification giving workers an opportunity to earn a qualification for the first time (Australian bicycle mechanics). Page 149
    • The first two circumstances appear to fall within the technical or market RPL paradigm(see Section 5.4), whereas the last circumstance could fit into the liberal humanisticparadigm of RPL.These circumstances are an echo of Van Rooyen (2000, p. 20) who lists four differentapplications of RPL: Appropriate placement in an accredited course or recognised training programme (liberal humanistic paradigm); Acquiring the right to practice a regulated occupation with certification of competency in this regard (technical or market paradigm); Employment-related purposes (technical or market paradigm); Granting of qualifications or part qualifications (liberal humanistic paradigm)..Van Rooyen (2000) argues that the need for inclusion of RPL into corporate environmentsis linked strongly to her second and third points. This is supported by the case studiesdescribed by Dyson and Keating (2005). Van Rooyen continues by stating the view thatthe most successful RPL implementation will be possible only through alignment tostrategic management processes. Indeed, Nyatanga, Forman and Fox (1998, p.42) writethat RPL acceptance and inclusion into company strategies is a vital approach to ‘beingboth responsive and proactive to changing environments and markets within a competitiveworld’ and that such inclusion could have the effect of indicating an organisation as beingdriven by: Equal opportunity; Consumerism; Economics; Quality assurance; Life-long learning.To demonstrate other possible bottom-line influences through RPL, Van Rooyen (2000,p.17) quotes positive outcomes resulting from the use of RPL-like practices in the United Page 150
    • Kingdom, where an increasing number of organisations are reporting desirable outcomesas a result of this practice, such as increased customer satisfaction and repeat sales,increased productivity and reduced waste, enhanced and more consistent quality, and apreference amongst employers for new workers who had been part of a workplaceassessment process. Thus, there appears to be some evidence that RPL can enableindividuals and their respective organisations to improve productivity and this couldultimately have an impact on corporate competitiveness. From this starting point therecould be an opportunity for RPL to be used as a mechanism to improve South Africa’scollective competitive position internationally.As can be seen from the above, the circumstances surrounding workplace RPLimplementation are frequently linked to corporate competitiveness, which placesworkplace RPL within a technical-market RPL paradigm. In this paradigm, experience isonly valued to the extent that it matches skills and knowledge which have been prescribedaccording to national economic needs (Fuller, Munro & Rainbird, 2004). Supported byhuman capital theory, education (and assessment) in this tradition becomes increasinglyinstrumental, utilitarian and pragmatic and valued in terms of its usefulness to the labourmarket and the economy as return on investment in human capital. This is no surprise, asit is the orientation which has traditionally underpinned most established forms ofvocational education and training internationally. The result is that education (andassessment) is now treated as a commodity that enhances individuals’ chances in acompetitive labour market and that can be bought and sold as personal property (Wagner& Childs, 2000). This view links with a behaviourist view of knowledge as a commodity(Atkins, 1993) and it reminds us that learning and assessment are simply conducted insupport of the organisation’s goal to produce goods and services (Rainbird, 2000b).As the portfolio of evidence is mentioned as the most common assessment method(except in the case of the hydro workers), it is likely (because of the prevailing technical-market RPL paradigm) that it was the outcomes-based portfolio that was utilised asopposed to the self-discovery portfolio (which is more common with a liberalist-humanisticapproach to RPL). With the outcomes-orientated portfolio we see a shift in focus in termsof the final product. RPL practices within this frame have become somewhat dislocatedfrom the traditional place within the experiential learning movement (Michelson, 1999b; Page 151
    • Harris, 1996; 2002). In terms of this view, experience is less likely to be viewed as asource of knowledge for and of itself. ‘Rather, knowledge or competence becomesexternal to the learner; captured as standards or outcomes or competencies. Individuallearning from experience can still be recognised but in the restricted sense of the extent towhich it relates to pre-specified criteria’ (Harris, 2000). Learners are required to match theirexperiential learning to external criteria with only the goal of assessment in mind. Theoverall aim is to insert the learner into the education and training system at the appropriatepoint or level with maximum credit (Shalem & Steinberg, 2002). As Harris (2000) pointsout, this approach to assessment is largely behaviourist and there is less emphasis on theactual process of learning. In this tradition, recognition means ‘external assessment’ and‘accreditation’, whereas in the liberal humanist paradigm recognition means ‘self-recognition’ (Harris, 2000, p.24)Interestingly, as a system that awards socially useful knowledge with a qualification, RPLeffectively recognises workers as capable of creating knowledge (Michelson, 1997, p.143)and as such RPL can serve to shift the balance of power to some extent. Althoughcorporate organisations might see this as a possible negative aspect, the value ofempowering previously ignored categories of workers has to be assessed against theaccepted positive influence that a feeling of ownership and increased confidence on theside of workers can have on the end-result of business production (Harris, 1996, p.15).Taken from this perspective, RPL in the workplace can be seen to be moving into thecritical or radical paradigm.However, in addition to the strong behaviourist slant that can be seen in the economicview of knowledge and its acquisition, pure workplace learning (as opposed to classroomlearning for vocational purposes) is primarily situated learning (conforming to situatedlearning principles). Here there is an emphasis on contextual application, situatedperformance and authentic, context-relevant assessment. In addition, there is anemphasis on the learners as active participants who chart their own course through thelearning process using their developing problem solving ability. Here the emphasis islargely constructivist. This view is supported by the descriptions in Dyson and Keating’s(2005) cases of on-the-job assessment by workplace experts (e.g. Australian Sydney Page 152
    • Opera House workers, Australian bicycle mechanics, South Africa construction workers,etc.).Workplace learning theorists such as Keep and Mayhew (1999); Hoskin and Anderson-Gough (2004); Bosworth et al. (2001), Eraut at al. (2000) and Rainbird et al. (2004) pointout that workplace learning is impacted by many workplace factors. These factors rarelyplay a role in traditional classroom learning but their importance cannot be discounted ifworkplace learning (and by implication workplace RPL) is to be a success. Reading thesetheorists together, the following list of factors impacting on workplace learning (and, byimplication, workplace assessment) can be drawn: Power relationships (Keep and Mayhew, 1999; Rainbird et al., 2004; Hoskin & Anderson-Gough, 2004); Social relationships (Rainbird et al., 2004); Distribution of, and access to, expertise (Lave & Wenger, 1991); Design and structure of the work tasks (Keep & Mayhew, 1999; Bosworth et al., 2001); Design and structure of the workplace (Keep and Mayhew, 1999; Bosworth at al., 2001); Team processing (Evans et al., 2004); Economic and legal requirements on the employer (Ashton, 2004); The structure of the employment relationship (Bosworth et al., 2001); The link between the qualification and practical job requirements – which determines how easy it is for candidates to transfer learning from the workplace context to the qualification requirements (Eraut at al., 1998).While these factors are critical for workplace RPL, they are not dealt with in any genericRPL model (Osman, 2001; Harris, 2002). This is probably due to the philosophicallocation of RPL within the humanistic paradigm – where adults are seen as autonomousand self-directed learners reflecting on their prior experience to make sense of it as theylearn from it (Saddington, 1992). In fact, the entire field of workplace learning, in whichindividuals learn because the workplace provides them with opportunities to cooperate in Page 153
    • activities, contrasts sharply with behaviourist and cognitive learning theories which focuson individual learning (usually in a formal educational institution). Workplace learning seeslearning as a socially constructed process (Fuller et al., 2004).In this study, the candidates were all required to become FAIS compliant for economic andlegal corporate reasons. Thus the circumstances surrounding the RPL were clear: ‘thecompany needs you to match your prior learning to the requirements of the qualification sothat you can be awarded the qualification so that we can remain in business and remaincompetitive’. The candidates felt pressure (Bosworth at al., 2001), there was not anequitable balance of power (Keep & Mayhew, 1999; Rainbird et al., 2004; Hoskin &Anderson-Gough, 2004) and there were no clear links between the qualification andpractical job requirements, which determines how easy it is for candidates to transferlearning from the workplace context to the qualification requirements (Eraut at al., 1998)because the candidates are involved largely in highly structured workplace tasks that aredeliberately fragmented to prevent fraud (i.e. context bound and situational).Seen against this backdrop, along with the prevailing belief inherent in the structure of theirRPL implementation that they were self-directed adult learners (constructivist thought) whocould make their own choices (but they could not because the company held more powerin determining what to RPL and when to do it), it is not surprising that the candidatesreported feeling pressurised and forced into the RPL situation. In Chapter 4, theconclusion reached (after reviewing the evidence) was that what made the differencebetween those candidates who turned the RPL into an opportunity and those who wereunhappy about it was the candidates’ perception about the need to be FAIS compliant andtheir perception about RPL in general. This conclusion is supported by various workplacelearning theorists as follows:Management and workers do not have the same goals:It can be agued that human capital theory erroneously assumes that employees andemployers have mutual interests in relation to workplace training and development. Thisis, according to Fox (1966), a unitarist view of the employment relationship in that itassumes management and staff have the same needs. Fox further identified the pluralistview of the employment relationship, where the two parties hold completely differentinterests, so conflict is inevitable. Hyman (1978) later added the radical view of the Page 154
    • employment relationship that identified the unequal nature of the employment relationship,which is largely based upon power. Rainbird et al. (2004) argue that managementdetermines the training strategy according to their own needs because they have thepower to do so. Individuals choose whether or not they participate in the training (andassessment) because they have the power to do so. In effect, Rainbird et al. aresubscribing to the Braverman (1974) argument proposed by the trade union movement,which basically states that the wage paid to a worker only buys his capacity to work andnot a specific level of effort because the level of effort given depends on what the workersare prepared to deliver and this is in turn dependent upon their perceptions about fairness,the employment relationship, etc.In the current research it could be argued that if the employees perceived value in the RPLprocess as a means to achieving a FAIS-compliant qualification, and if they wanted to beFAIS compliant because they agreed with management that this was an ideal situation,then they were more likely to expend the effort regardless of the circumstances. Similarly,the converse would be implied - if they did not see the RPL solution as the correct solutionand if they saw no value in the FAIS compliance they would resist management’s attemptto force them (through the exercise of their power) to expend the effort to reach theoutcome.This point is made more forcibly by Hoddinott (2004, p. 89) who argues ‘(i)n the workplace,the unequal nature of the employment relationship and the requirements for programmesof education and training to have a measurable impact on profitability tend to conflict withthe need for the dispassionate and unthreatening assessment required in programmes offundamental education.’ She also investigates the unequal power relationship betweenlabour and employer and shows how each party has different perceptions of the value ofworkplace training and assessment. She shows how this can result in worker suspicionand resistance to workplace training and assessment simply because the workers do notperceive the same need for it as do the employers. In fact, she argues that workersrecognise the potential for workplace assessment to be used as a legitimate basis fordiscrimination in the workplace, both in the hiring process and in day-to-day staffingdecisions such as promotion, transfers and salary increases. She states ‘whereverworkers are subjected to assessment in the context of employment, that assessment ispotentially of ‘make or break’ significance for the individual assessed.’ Page 155
    • She concludes by saying that if workers are to participate in workplace learning andassessment they must perceive that it is fair and objective and not linked to any other,unstated, employer agenda.Workers choose whether they will participate in workplace learning or not:Stephen Billett (2004) proposes that workplace learning is participatory and founded uponthe concepts of duality and reciprocity. Basically, according to Billett (2004), the duality isbased on the extent to which the workplace offers learning opportunities on the one handand the extent to which individuals elect to take up these offers on the other hand. Thereciprocity is found in ‘the independence between the key elements of participatorypractices, the affordances of workplaces and individuals’ agency’ (Billet, 2004, p. 109).Billett and Boud (2001) wrote that individual’s elect how they will engage with workplacelearning and that this choice is largely determined by how the workplace presents theopportunity to the individual. They refer to this as the ‘invitational qualities of a workplace’and examples include factors such as the norms and practices associated with itscontinuity. Billett (2004, p.117) calls the individual’s choice to participate ‘individualagency’ and it is this that shapes each individual’s engagement with workplace practicesand what is learnt through that engagement. Essentially, Billett is contesting thatindividuals are passive recipients of workplace learning and prefers to believe that theiragency determines ‘how what workplaces afford is construed and judged worthy ofparticipation.’ Billett (2004, p. 116) further makes the point that different groups of workersmay perceive workplace affordances differently, depending largely upon their affiliation,gender, language skills, employment status and standing in the workplace, etc.The key insight for this study is that individuals choose to participate in workplace learningregardless of the power relationships at play because they perceive it as either being ofvalue to themselves or not. If their perception is favourable then they engage and if it isnot they remain on the periphery. Linking this back to the current research Billett’s viewsalso seem to add support to the discussion in Chapter 4, where the conclusion is drawnthat what made the difference between those who turned the RPL into an opportunity andthose who were unhappy about it was their perception about the value of the workplace(and themselves) becoming FAIS compliant and the affordance of RPL as a solution. Page 156
    • Extent to which workplace creates opportunities or barriers to learning:Fuller and Unwin (2004) propose a conceptual tool for evaluating the quality of learningenvironments. This is based upon various workplace features which they have classifiedas either restrictive or expansive. Restrictive environments are more likely to createbarriers to workplace learning, while expansive environments are more likely to increasethe quantity and range of opportunities for employee participation in workplace learning.They cite Wenger (1998), Fuller and Unwin (2003) and Billett (2004) in support of theirmodel and its implications for workplace learning. The Fuller and Unwin (2004)continuum is then applied to workplace learning culture and the results of this aresummarised in the figure below:Figure 6-1: Learning culture continuum presented by Fuller and Unwin (2003; 2004)The restrictive – expansive continuum is useful in seeing how certain factors within theworkplace can support or hinder workplace learning. Fuller and Unwin (2003) suggest thatthis continuum can be applied to ‘analyse the learning opportunities available to oldermore experienced workers and to different organisational contexts.’ This study involvedexperienced workers and it is interesting to note that the workplace learning culture at the Page 157
    • commencement was largely more restrictive than expansive following the continuum inFigure 5.4 above. This placement on the restrictive side of the continuum is largely afactor of the wider legal and social environment within which insurance companies operatein South Africa, in that skills are polarised, highly specialised and key specialisations arekeenly valued because they are scarce (e.g. reinsurance, marine or agricultural insuranceprofessionals). Managers exercise a high level of control because the industry is soregulated and job mobility and job design is limited. As a result, it is likely that theprevailing restrictive learning culture also contributed to the perceptions towards FAIScompliance and RPL in particular. Workers were simply not used to being given learningopportunities and they did not want them or know how to exploit them.By way of concluding this category, it would appear that there is sufficient theoreticalsupport for the assumption made in Chapter 4 that despite the fact that all candidates inthe research were forced to comply, the extent to which they perceived the need for FAIScompliance as positive or negative influenced their attitude towards the RPL project andtheir likelihood of successful completion. Implications for the RPL model emerging fromthis research include: Need to assess prevailing learning environment prior to implementation; Need to identify and align goals of workers and management prior to implementation; Need to communicate to workers until they are able to make an informed choice about their participation; Need to manage power relationships in the workplace to create a safe assessment environment.6.2.2 Personal mastery skills displayed by candidatesAs a term, personal mastery is not used explicitly in any of the Dyson and Keating (2004)cases, but reference is made to ‘lack of confidence’ regarding academic skills, ‘motivationlevels’, ‘anxiety’, ‘fear’, ‘commitment’, ‘academic language skills’, ‘willingness to try’, ‘needfor incentives’, and so forth. All of these terms fit within Senge’s view of personal masteryas described in his ‘five disciplines blueprint’ for the development of a learningorganisation (Senge, 1999; 2006). Page 158
    • As mentioned previously (Chapter 4) the term personal mastery is drawn from the work ofPeter Senge17 (1999; 2006) who explains that ‘(p)ersonal mastery is the phrase we use forthe discipline of personal growth and learning. People with high levels of personal masteryare continually expanding their ability to create the results in life that they truly seek. Fromtheir quest for continual learning comes the spirit of the learning organization’ (Senge,2006, p. 131). Senge is, however, not the only workplace learning theorist to haveresearched elements of personal mastery or individual agency (see Billett, 2004). Thesection below cross references some of the predominant ideas from the research literatureon each of the dimensions that emerged during this research in what I have chosen to callthe ‘personal mastery’ category.Dimension 1 Ability to cope: Senge (1999, 2006) believes that people with a high level ofpersonal mastery are able to cope because they have a vision and goals that they arestriving towards – this gives them a sense of purpose and a true ability to cope witheveryday crises (Senge, 1999, p. 137). In addition to this view, Evans et al.,(2004) see thepractical methodological skills of time management, handling routine, prioritising,planning/organising and juggling different tasks and activities as being critical to copingwith learning as an adult.Dimension 2 Personal values: Senge (1999, 2006) explains that people with a high level ofpersonal mastery have a sense of purpose and emotional maturity and they embracechange (such as the circumstances requiring them to be FAIS compliant). According toSenge, such individuals are able to see the opportunities that change presents (Senge,1999, p. 132). Billett’s (2004) work on ‘individual agency’ describes an individual’s choiceto engage with learning that he is presented with or to reject it. This individual agencyallows individuals to judge what is worthy of their effort and what is not. Their individualagency is shaped by their personal history, ontogenies, personal subjectivities and values.Therefore, what individuals learn will always have a unique element to it.17 Peter Senge (1996; 2006) wrote ‘The Fifth Discipline’ which was based upon numerousinterviews with senior managers in multinational organisations. He proposed fivedisciplines of a learning organisation: personal mastery, mental models, shared vision,team learning and systems thinking. Page 159
    • Evans et al. (2004) recognise the competence related to attitudes and values as a tacitskill which, if developed and recognised, would improve self confidence and desire tocontinue with the learning. Engeström, Engeström and Karkkainen (1995) theorise thatpersonal values (along with ways of being and reasoning that arise from economic andsocial realities) shape individual cognitive processes that individuals use to reconstruct therelationship they have with the context they find themselves in. This could explain whysome individuals immediately embraced the RPL in this research and why others rejectedit. As their values changed, so did their cognitive processes and the way they perceivedtheir relationship with the RPL opportunity they were presented with. Meghnagi (2004, p.57) has taken this thought and proposes that we can not expect learning to be acquireduntil we have considered the cognitive patterns affecting the behaviour, knowledge andvalues of each individual.Dimension 3 Self-confidence about their ability to do their job and the RPL: Senge (1999,2006) explains that mastery implies a special level of proficiency in everyday life – bothprofessional and private (p. 132). Senge also believes that people with a high level ofpersonal maturity are more committed and take more job responsibility (p. 134). Billett(2004, p. 120) points out that learning embarked upon because the individual ‘appropriatesit’ (voluntarily) is better than learning that is forced upon the individual. Learners whochoose to appropriate learning opportunities are more like to have the confidence that theycan succeed and do not see the learning as threatening to themselves or their workplacestanding.The research of Evans et al. (2004) showed that learners who have their tacit18 skillsrecognised by others (peers, facilitators, mentors) were more encouraged to continue withtheir learning and gained greater self-confidence in the learning process and their ability tosucceed. Fuller et al. (2004, p. 14) state ‘the development of self confidence may be as18 Evans, Kersh and Sakamoto (2004) categorise the tacit skills as competencies relatedto attitudes and values; learning competence; social co-operative competence; contentrelated and practical competence; methodological competence and strategic competence(p. 227). Page 160
    • important as formal learning outcomes such as results or certificates.’ Self confidenceencourages learners to return to learning and continue developing their skills.Engeström (2004, p. 147) states that ‘massive amounts of experience in no wayguarantees an improved ability to deal with uncertainty and probabilistic reasoning tasks’,but that experts often have high levels of overconfidence and this leads to poor decisions.Initially some candidates in the current RPL may have felt overconfident in their ability toprovide sufficient evidence because they were seen as ‘experts’ and not used toquestioning their decisions and reasoning (as they were required to do during the RPL).This could explain some of the changes in perception that occurred during the RPLprocess in this current research.Dimension 4 Understanding of academic approaches and assessment principles: Senge(1999, 2006) does not specifically mention academic skills, but he does point out thatpeople with a high level of personal mastery have a special level of proficiency in allaspects of their lives (both personal and professional).Billett (2004) points out that the identities and subjectivities of workplace learners aredifferent from those participating in higher education institutions. Those in highereducation institutions have as their main purpose the acquisition of knowledge, while thosein workplaces do not have this as their key purpose. Billett argues that something needsto change in their personal experiences before workplace learners embrace an identityassociated with workplace learning. Evans et al. (2004) recognise learning competence(which would incorporate academic skills) as a tacit skill which if developed andrecognised, would improve self-confidence and desire to continue with the learning.6.2.3 Role of team support and/or group processes throughout the RPLThe third axial category emerging from this research is the role of team support or someother support process in assisting the individual to conclude their RPL successfully or not.As can be seen from the summary of the Dyson and Keating (2005) cases, supportappears to be a big component of the workplace RPL case studies - ranging from formalcoaches and RPL advisers to peer networks and in-house champions. Page 161
    • As already stated elsewhere, situated learning theory represents a shift from the moreindividualistic focus of learning (in behaviourism and cognitivism) towards a view thatlearning can only occur in a context, where the context impacts explicitly on the form anddirection of the learning (Cobb, 1999). Human knowledge is seen as inseparable from thesocial and cultural processes within which the learning took place – the two are mutuallydependant. Basically, learning is seen as a social practice, not solely a pedagogicalstrategy, as with previous learning theories,Lave and Wenger (1991) coined ‘learning as participation’ as part of their situated learningmodel. According to them, the focus in ‘learning as acquisition’ is on learning codifiedknowledge from an expert and this lends itself to assessment via written examinations. Onthe other hand, assessment of knowledge gained through ‘learning as participation’ ismore difficult to measure because of its diverse nature. This led Lave and Wenger (1991)to coin the term community of practice (as opposed to the individual) within which learningoccurs and within which assessment should occur. These views stress the collective andsocial nature of workplace learning and, by implication, workplace assessment.Lave and Wenger (1991) propose that an analysis of workplace learning shouldcommence with an analysis of the ‘community of practice’, because it is this communitythat produces the knowledgeable practitioners and which is the source of knowledge andskills within the context. They argue that the foundational mechanism for becomingcompetent in a workplace is participation in a community of practice – not the passivereception of school-like training. This concept (which is part of their situated theory)ignores any analysis of the power relationship in the workplace and instead focuses on theconsensual and participative aspects of the workplace.Engeström (2004, p. 149) points out that while Lave and Wegner (1991) do recognise therole of diverse communities of practice in the formulation of learning, they do not addressthe possibility that learning may be located and distributed in even broader, multiple andcross-disciplinary communities of practice. He contends that as work is becoming morecomplex it is more likely that solutions to problems are no longer located within a singledisciple and to learn them will require participation in multiple sites and communities of Page 162
    • practice. His term ‘knotworking’ defines this new collaborative and transformativedevelopment of knowledge.One of the five disciplines of workplace learning proposed by Senge (1999, 2006) is ‘teamlearning’. He postulates that teams are made up of individuals who are working togetheropenly to achieve a new level of knowledge and capability. Where individuals haveachieved self mastery there is greater commonality of purpose and shared vision, soeveryone moves towards the learning with a common purpose and ‘alignment’. Thisrequires individuals to lower their personal barriers and motivate others to learn andachieve. According to Senge (1999), it is not simply a given that a group of talentedindividuals will take on workplace learning opportunities and succeed, because teamlearning is a skill that must be learnt before they can be fully successful workplacelearners.Fuller and Unwin (in Rainbird et al., 2004) focus on variables within the organisation thatmake it a more accommodating or restrictive learning environment (see Figure 6.1). Theyconclude that workplaces that allow diverse forms of interaction, support andcommunication will have better workplace learning that those who do not permit such teaminteraction.In the current research it is concluded that team support was critical to the success ofworkplace RPL and the prevailing literature appears to support this contention. Similarly,Brown, Rhodes and Carter (2004, p. 179) conclude their own research by stating ‘(t)here islittle doubt that a reduced level of learning support would result in far fewer employeesbeing committed learners.’6.2.4 Evolving perception of the RPL processLittle discussion in the case studies deal with any evolution in perception towards RPL.However, assumptions can be made using completion rates and re-enrolment rates asguidelines. It seems reasonable to expect that if the perception of the RPL process wasfavourable more candidates would strive to complete it and more would enrol. Evidenceon this dimension was mixed – with some projects increasing in numbers (e.g. the Page 163
    • Canadian Manitoba hydro project) while other projects had large non-completion rates(e.g. Australian alcohol and drug workers and South African construction workersprojects).Rainbird et al. (2004) advance the view that the way in which the employment relationshipis regulated is central to understanding workplace learning. They identify three levels ofemployment relationship: firstly, the role of the state in shaping the education and trainingsystem and the framework of labour law; secondly, the relationship between theorganisation and the workers, and the manner in which workplace learning isconceptualised and formalised; finally there are the power and social relationships thatmanifest in the workplace, which control factors such as who has access to learning andfor what purpose. Each individual is subject to these three levels of employmentrelationship and each individual will perceive and experience them differently, which willlead to different learning behaviours. This could explain the differences observed in thecandidates in the current research.Evans et al. (2004, p. 231) note that adult learners in a restrictive learning environment(see Figure 6.1) frequently perceive tasks as ‘boring, non-challenging, repetitive ormonotonous’. This frequently leads learners to seek alternative work if they can. On thecontrary, they note that an expansive environment is usually associated with tasks that areperceived as ‘challenging, interesting, stimulating or motivational’. They go on to statethat learners may go further than simply experiencing their workplaces as restrictive orexpansive because their research suggests that individuals can influence their workplaceto become more expansive if they have the confidence and the interest to do so (whatBillett, 2004 might refer to as exercising the individual’s agency to create a workplaceaffordance).It could be that during the research the impetus of the RPL started to challenge some ofthe traditional learning culture elements and replace them with ones that were moreexpansive. The interview with participant 8 (workplace training manager) definitelyappeared to indicate this. Alternatively, it may simply be a matter of perception - asinitially the learners perceived their jobs as boring and monotonous because they were so Page 164
    • fragmented but the need to research and submit evidence that was broader and moreencompassing made them view their jobs in a different and more challenging light.An interesting insight that can be drawn from Senge’s (1999, 2006) work is the idea of‘emotional tension’ (Senge, 2006, p. 140), which is the gap between vision and reality.Simplistically, if the person is unable to articulate their vision clearly or see themselvesreally succeeding at it, then (according to Senge) there is a gap between vision and realityand this can lead to emotional tension, which can manifest as heightened anxiety,frustration and a sense of discouragement. People with low personal masteryexperiencing these feelings are more likely to close the gap between their vision andreality by downgrading their vision to make it more achievable, whereas those with highpersonal mastery are more likely to spend time improving their reality through positiveactions (such as acquiring more training). This takes time, but it ultimately results in evenmore confidence and a higher sense of personal mastery.This idea of Senge’s could be used to explain the changes in perception towards the RPLprocess and the need for FAIS compliance. It could be argued that at the commencementof the RPL project candidates thought they knew what was expected, knew what to do andwhy they were doing it (vision), but as they started working on their evidence collectionthey realised that the reality was more difficult. This led to emotional tension, stress andanxiety. Some wanted to give up but could not afford to because they would have to payback the fees. Once they realised they could not change the vision because they had todo it, they moved their focus from trying to change the vision to trying to change theirreality by increasing their skills to complete the evidence collection. As they were moresuccessful and the gap between vision and reality started to close, so their emotionaltension lessened and they were even more successful. This changed their perceptiontowards the entire project to a point where, at the end, some were even consideringembarking on more training and more RPL. According to Senge (2006), those with ahigher level of personal mastery would spend less time (if any) trying to change the visionbecause they would have bought into it completely. They would have immediately focusedmore of their energy on trying to change their reality in order to achieve the vision – inother words they would have developed the skills to master the RPL process far soonerand been more successful more quickly than those with a low level of personal mastery. Page 165
    • The fifth discipline in Senge’s (1999; 2006) workplace learning model is ‘systems thinking’;which focuses on the interrelatedness of the remaining four disciplines. Individuals andteams are part of a dynamic process and they thrive on an iterative cycle of interaction andfeedback. This would mean that Senge’s theory leads support to the idea proposed inChapter 4 of a possible correlation between personal mastery and team support/learning,with a change in perception towards workplace learning and RPL resulting from changesin both personal mastery and levels of team support.6.2.5 Meaning of the outcome of the RPL process upon completionThe case studies (Dyson & Keating, 2004) suggest a number of intentional outcomes (aslisted in Section 5.8.1) of the RPL - including formal certification, legal compliance andprofessionalism. The cases make no mention of less tangible outcomes, such as thoseidentified during this current research, where there is a strong sense that candidatesacquired some personal value out of completing the RPL process other than simply theexpected FAIS compliance.Both Hodkinson and Hodkinson (2004) and Beckett and Hager (2002) discuss thedifficulties in identifying and measuring (assessing) learning in the workplace and thesedifficulties also apply to RPL assessment. Key difficulties include knowing what to assess,having someone who can do the assessment who is sufficiently knowledgeablethemselves, deciding upon suitable methods of assessing workplace application, what toassess, etc.However, the achievements of some of the less tangible and more personal outcomesfrom workplace learning (and assessment) are discussed in the formal workplace learningliterature. Evans et al. (2004, p. 239) conclude their research by stating that ‘unlocking thehidden abilities of people and making them visible to their holders allows them to breakthrough glass ceilings.’Hager (2004) sees the overall outcome of learning not just as a change in the properties ofthe learner, but also as changes in the environment and interrelation of stakeholdersbecause learners are part of the environment. This is confirmed by the manager of the Page 166
    • researched company (participant 8) who stated simply that ‘the outcomes were far greaterand wider than anticipated – individuals grew, learnt how to use email and do researchand as a company we learnt about RPL, outcomes-based education, unit standards andhow to work in teams to discuss learning and our jobs.’Evans at al. (2004) highlight the tacit skills of time management, prioritising, planning andorganising, self-motivation, self-reflection and perseverance as flowing from a successfullearning encounter. As mentioned above, the learning encounter is more likely to beperceived as successful where there is good tutoring and team support.The preceding section summarises the linkages between the theory and the five axialcategories that emerged during this study. By presenting each axial category andsupporting theory from the most influential learning theorists (both traditional andworkplace) and the secondary data analysis it is shown that the data from this study isconsistent with data from other sources. This discussion is the foundation for theemerging logic model for workplace RPL implementation in the South African insurancesector.6.3 Introduction to logic modellingThe focus of the remainder of this chapter is on the design of a logic model for workplaceRPL implementation in the insurance sector. A logic model is basically a ‘systematic andvisual way to present and share your understanding of the relationships among theresources you have to operate your program, the activities you plan, and the results youhope to achieve’ (W.K. Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Development Guide, 2004).Logic models have been in use since the 1980s, but they have recently become verypopular as a tool to help programme funders evaluate the success of programmes thatthey fund (Rogers, Hacsi, Petrosino & Huebner, 2000). Essentially, logic models are moredescriptive than explanatory and predictive, the latter being more characteristic of theoriesof action or theories of change according to Patton (2002, p. 163) although he does statethat the terms are often used interchangeably, which is confusing. Other definitions oflogic models include: Page 167
    • ‘A plausible and sensible model of how a program is supposed to work’ (Bickman, 1987, p. 5); ‘A set of assumptions about the relationship between the strategy and tactics the program has adopted and the social benefits it is expected to produce’ (Rossi, Freeman & Lipsey, 1999, p. 98) ‘The full chain of objectives that links inputs to activities to… outputs to … outcomes, and … outcomes to ultimate goals constitute a program’s theory’ (Patton, 1997, p. 40) ‘A chain of casual assumptions linking program resources, activities, intermediate outcomes and ultimate goals’ (Wholey, 1987, p. 78).According to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (2004), logic models can take many forms andshapes. The basic logic model looks like the one shown in Figure 6.2 below:Figure 6-2 Basic logic model proposed by W.K. Kellogg Foundation (2004, p. 1)The component steps of the logic model are as follows:Your planned work: Resources or inputs: this refers to the human, financial, organisation and community resources that are required to make the programme a success; Activities: these are everything that the programme implementers do with the resources. It includes all processes, tools, events and actions.Your intended results: Outputs: these are the direct products of the programme activities, which may incorporate types, levels and targets of services to be delivered by the programme; Page 168
    • Outcomes: are specific changes to the behaviour, knowledge, skills, level of function, etc. of the programme participants. Short term and long term outcomes should be specified (short term outcomes are achievable in less than three years, but this does depend on the nature of the programme.) Impact: these are the basic intended or unintended changes that will result from the programme in the long term.Basically, logic models are ‘read’ from left to right, following the chain of reasoning or ‘if…then …’ statements connecting the parts of the programme. The WR Kellogg Foundation(2004, p.18) identifies three different types of logic models: theory approach models;outcomes approach models and activities approach models (although, in reality, thedistinction between these models is less clear than the following discussion implies): Theory-approach models: these ‘emphasise the theory-of-change’ (WK Kellogg, 2004, p. 18) that led to the need for the programme and they are a useful way to initially conceptualise and explore the need for a programme and the problems it will address; Outcomes-approach models: these are developed with a theory of change in mind, but their focus is generally on the early stages of programme planning. They focus on the intended results of the programme and the approach and expectations behind them; Activities-approach models: these focus on the step-by-step specifics of the implementation process and are most useful for programme implementers.The remainder of this chapter is devoted to the design of the logic model for this researchusing the processes described above. The logic model presented is an amalgamation ofthe three types of logic models described above.6.4 Developing a logic model for this research6.4.1 The required resultsMost theorists and institutions using logic models (e.g. Patton, 1997; WK KelloggFoundation, 2004) recommend starting with the anticipated results first. This allowsprogramme planners to anticipate the implementation milestones and the ways to collect Page 169
    • implementation data (especially about resources that are required) before the design is tooadvanced. Following this advice, and in the preceding chapters (especially the literaturereview and research results), the following list of results (Figure 6.3) for a workplace RPLlogic model have been identified. (Note that these would usually be specific, measurableand time-bound - e.g. 100 brochures will be printed and given to 100 RPL candidateswithin two weeks - but this is impossible given the nature of this research for thesispurposes.) These have been presented as an outcomes-approach logic model, showingthe actual links between the outputs, outcomes and impacts: Page 170
    • Required outputs Required outcomes Required impactFor RPL candidates Greater information on RPL and itspotential, processes and requirementsprior to committing to an RPL Short term:programme; •Greater acceptability of RPL Greater understanding of where their outcomes by all stakeholderslearning fits into the broader academic (INSETA, higher and furthersystem; education offering insurance relevant Increased awareness of indigenous and education and training and insurance Establishment of dedicatedwomen’s knowledge for RPL purposes; sector employers) to ensure more RPL centres nationwide to Greater flexibility in selection of holistic, portability; facilitate RPLvalid, reliable and less tedious •Independent support mechanisms to implementation in theassessment methodologies (including deal with barriers faced by insurance insurance sector – withaccess to workplace observation); sector RPL candidates; standardised preparation Improved access to RPL information, •Move towards RPL for equivalence methodologies, assessmentfunding opportunities for unemployed to deal with the problems associated methodologies, tools andand points of enrolment and delivery that with transfer of learning between post-RPL supportare not necessarily controlled by their classroom and workplace learningemployer; infrastructure. (as opposed to the need to match More practicable RPL solutions outcome to outcome);(including cost-effectiveness); •Planned post-RPL process to enable Increased awareness of barriers facing life-long learning within the insuranceworkplace RPL candidates and differentRPL solutions to accommodate these sector;(barriers might include learning styles,accessibility, language, disability, powerrelationships, lack of confidence,personal values, need for team support,lack of academic skills); More peer and workplace coaching andsupport pre-, during- and post RPL. Page 171
    • Required outputs Required outcomes Required impact For workplaces: Short term: •Increased awareness of RPL potential Availability of clear, nationally accepted and reasons for implementation; benchmarks for insurance RPL •Greater access to incentives to assist implementation endorsed by INSETA. Full FAIS compliance in the implementation of wide scale RPL; •Identification of RPL champions to drive sector. Long term: RPL; Improved levels of FAIS compliance in •Access to independent RPL centres to the insurance sector. reduce burden on smaller workplaces in the sector. Short term: For assessors and advisers: •Recognition of assessors and advisers Ongoing sustainability for More practical RPL training – with the as a worthwhile (and scarce) job within assessors and continuing insurance competencies highlighted; the insurance sector. professional development. Access to support networks for continuing development and support. Short term: •Acceptance of legitimacy of More flexible and enabling RPL having a separate model for processes – without loss of rigour. insurance workplace RPL For policy makers and accrediting implementation; bodies: Long term: •Acceptance of the •Increased understanding of workplace •High level of commitment from all legitimacy of insurance RPL as distinct from classroom RPL; INSETA and SAQA policy makers workplace knowledge; •Increased awareness of the situated towards RPL implementation in the •More extensive uptake in nature of workplace learning and its insurance sector using more flexible RPL in the insurance impact on assessment of that learning. models than currently available; workplace; •Increased insurance sector RPL •Self-regulation by RPL enrolments – not just limited to FAIS insurance ‘community of compliance but more generic practice’ to improve levels competencies like management and and quality of delivery of human resources as well. workplace RPL.Figure 6-3 List of results (outputs, outcomes and impact) required from the current research towards the design of alogic model for insurance-sector workplace RPL implementation Page 172
    • Reading Figure 6.3 from left to right, the implementer starts with the first column which liststhe required outputs of the programme. These have been divided into sectionsrepresenting the key stakeholders (the RPL candidates, the workplaces, the assessorsand advisers and the policy makers). These outputs have been synthesised from myinterviews with the various stakeholders. Each stakeholder’s output flows into theirrequired outcomes (centre column). These outcomes are further divided into short termand long term outcomes. The column on the right summarises the required impact, againstated per stakeholder grouping. These impacts are far broader and all encompassingthan the required outputs but there are links running across the logic model, bothhorizontally (between the outputs, outcomes and impacts), and vertically (amongst thestakeholder outputs, outcomes and impacts). Although the Figure reads from logicallyfrom left to right, it is often easier for a practitioner to ask stakeholders to identify the shortand long term outcomes first (middle column). Specifying these outcomes allowsprogramme implementers to clearly identify the project milestones so that progress can betracked, measured and evaluated periodically. The next section moves the logic modelprocess into determining what activities are required to generate the required outputs,outcomes and impact shown in Figure The required actionsThe next step in designing a logic model (according to the WK Kellogg Foundation, 2004)is to determine the inputs (resources) and activities required to achieve the stated results(as summarised in Figure 6.3 above). In logic model development there is generally astrong connection between the best practice literature and theories and the activitiesstated in a logic model because the literature provides an endorsement for the proposedactivities. This logic model complies with this prevailing wisdom and the links between theliterature review of theory and practice (described at the beginning of this chapter) and therequired actions (stated here) are self-evident.The inputs and activities are summarised in Figure 6.4 below: Page 173
    • Inputs Activities Human: RPL candidates: Assessment specialists (assessors, Develop pre-registration orientation session; moderators and verifiers) and assessment tool Develop RPL pre-assessment to identify readiness for RPL, barriers facing designers; candidate, personal mastery indicators, team and home support indicators that Learning programme designers and facilitators; may impact on RPL, etc.; Organisational learning specialists; Offer RPL to individuals outside of their employer that is cost-effective (seek Project managers; funding); RPL advisers. Offer RPL candidates ongoing RPL support via independent coaches, scheduled coaching sessions, telephone, etc.; to offer support throughout the Financial: RPL process; INSETA or industry funding to establish RPL Modify assessment tools to incorporate more observation and practical ’community of practice with all stakeholders; evidence to make the process more accessible and less intimidating without Funding stream for unemployed and losing rigour and validity. candidates who elect not to do RPL via their RPL process: employer and SMME employers; Develop learning organisation checklist to implement in-company prior to RPL implementation; Organisation: Design programme to build level of team and managerial learning support in National footprint to be established – branches workplace prior to RPL implementation; and points of contact for candidate support; Design pre-RPL workshop to focus on building personal mastery skills; Support contact centre to be established; Re-design RPL preparatory workshop to accommodate all barriers to RPL; Marketing and delivery plan; Design process and infrastructure to offer RPL to individuals from various companies in the sector who do not want to offer an in-house solution. Insurance sector (community): INSETA: INSETA and employer buy-in to process Seek meeting with INSETA and offer results of research in an attempt to outlined in logic model; change perceptions towards RPL procedures in the sector; RPL candidate buy-in. Offer to pilot new model to allow for testing of ideas and processes and allow for further independent research; Garner support for an insurance RPL ‘community of practice’ to review ongoing RPL implementation and make improvements. Employers: Market concept of pre-RPL and learning –organisation diagnostic as pre- cursor to RPL implementation; Market RPL more broadly as a tool for FAIS compliance; Develop strategy and tool-kit to assist insurance sector employers to support RPL and learning using results of learning-organisation diagnostic.Figure 6-4 List of required actions (inputs and activities) required from the current research towards the design of a logic model forinsurance-sector workplace RPL implementation Page 174
    • The activity side of this logic model (right hand column) guides the implementer on whattasks need to be completed prior to implementation. It is effectively a checklist of activitiesleading up to the actual implementation. The left hand column indicates the inputs orresources (human, financial and other) that are required to achieve the outputs sought inFigure 6.3. Thus the two logic models inform each other, moving from stated impact(Figure 6.3) to the resources and activities required to ultimately achieve them (Figure6.4).Seen together, Figure 6.3 and 6.4 illustrate exactly how the RPL programme should beimplemented to achieve maximum impact for the various stakeholders. For example, oneof the short term outcomes for the RPL candidates is stated to be greater acceptability ofthe RPL outcomes by all other stakeholders (centre column Figure 6.3). To achieve this,the required outputs (first column Figure 6.3) are listed as greater informationdissemination on RPL; increased flexibility of the assessment process; and an increasedunderstanding of the barriers facing RPL candidates. The activities (right column Figure6.4) that can lead the achievement of these outputs are the development of a pre-registration information session, to disseminate more information; the introduction ofongoing coaching sessions to allow for more flexible assessment and more opportunitiesto discuss the RPL process; and the modification of existing assessment tools to makethem more accessible. To ensure that these activities are scheduled and completed, theleft hand column of Figure 6.4 lists the resources that will be required. Thus the logicmodel provides the implementer with a full blueprint for programme planning andmeasurement.The next step in the logic modelling process starts to focus on the more practical aspect ofimplementation (whereas these two preceding ones are more involved with the planning ofthe implementation). This step is discussed in the next section.6.4.3 The theory-of-change logic modelAs already explained in Section 6.3, there are three ‘types’ of logic model, which tend tomerge in practice. The first is the theory of change logic model, which focuses on thechange strategy that the programme supports (WK Kellogg, 2004, p. 27). In creating thisflow the researcher is defining the problem that needs to be solved, considering the factorsthat may have an impact upon the programme, stating assumptions and benchmarking the Page 175
    • logic model back to academic and practical literature. This is referred to as the‘programme theory’ and it supports the integrity of the logic model itself.Using the headings provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (2004, p. 28) the followingtheory of change logic model was crafted from the data in this research. This is depictedin Figure 6.5: Strategies/Best practices from research: Assumptions: Take barriers to RPL into account and RPL will continue to be seen by the offer support to overcome; insurance sector as a viable alternative to Consider workplace learning as different training because staff have vast practical from classroom learning and develop experience; different assessment strategies; INSETA will support initiatives to increase Build learning culture to support RPL in- FAIS compliance; house; FAIS Act will remain in force; Offer additional support for increased More candidates will be willing to embark success; upon RPL if their barriers to success are Enable non-employee sponsored RPL lessened. programmes to deal with destructive power relationships in workplace. Problem or issue: There is no contextual workplace RPL implementation model for the Influential factors insurance sector, yet there is Favourable: •Need for FAIS compliance; a huge need due to FAIS. This model will provide Desired •Enabling educational environment due to NQF; implementers with a model to results: follow. •Employer willingness to fund RP. See figure 6.3 Non-favourable: Sector needs: (outputs, •Lack of understanding about barriers facing RPL candidates; This research shows that outcomes, candidates need to have •Assumption that all RPL can be barriers considered to make impacts) conducted using same model, which is the RPL process fairer and classroom-oriented and does not consider more practicable. alternative approaches; Employers need a sustainable •Lack of central ‘community of practice’; solution. •Shortage of assessment staff.Figure 6-5: Theory of change logic model designed from the data collected in this researchand presented towards the design of a logic model for insurance sector workplace RPLimplementationThis logic model ‘forces’ the implementer to consider prior research (top block on the left,labelled ‘Strategies/Best practices from research’) that may have an impact on thepractical implementation. It also requires implementers to list the assumptions they aremaking that may have an impact on the programme implementation (top block on the right,labelled ‘assumptions’). Flowing from the ‘Strategies/Best practices form research’ are the Page 176
    • ‘Influential Factors’ (both favourable and non-favourable). Again this deductive processforces the implementer to consider factors prior to implementation which may influence thefinal impact the programme may have. From the ‘Influential Factors’ the logic modelmoves into the ‘Problem or issue’ that the programme hopes to address and the ‘Sectorneeds’. Both of these require the implementer to understand the purpose for theimplementation. These flow logically to the ‘Desired results’, which takes the implementerback to the very first logic model (see Section 6.4.1) which is shown for this study in Figure6.2. The next section deals specifically with the activities approach logic model, which canbe used by implementers to directly manage the implementation of their RPL programme.6.5 The activities-approach modelThe activities-approach logic model (see Section 6.3) is the final logic model typedescribed by the WK Kellogg Foundation (2004). This logic model is of more value toimplementers because it focuses on the activities to be performed. Using this researchand the literature, an activities-approach logic model for RPL implementation within theinsurance sector would look as follows (Figure 6.6): Page 177
    • Identify need – FAIS compliance Not adequate Counsel – offer alternatives Assess current skills, knowledge, Adequate application (skills audit/self- assessment) Counsel – train Not adequate until adequate Assess degree of personal mastery Adequate Offer RPL at non- Not adequate workplace independent centre Assess degree of workplace support for learning and RPL Learning culture workplace intervention until adequate Adequate Decide on authentic assessment methods and plan for RPL induction in community of practice, allocate RPL advisers for community of practice, structure for evidence, equivalence, observations, practical authentic ongoing support. demonstrations and simulations, written and oral evidence, discussions and authentic team assessment vs authentic individual assessment activities Assessment of authentic written evidence, observation and discussions with individual and Not yet competent Re-mediate and community of practice by RPL reassess assessors. Competent Quality review: moderation and verification. Certification where Not yet competent: possible. counsel and consider appeal Post-RPL: feedback, support, ongoing lifelong trainingFigure 6-6 Activities-approach logic model designed from the data collected in thisresearch and presented towards the design of a logic model for insurance-sectorworkplace RPL implementation Page 178
    • Starting at the top left hand corner of the logic model presented in Figure 6.6 above, theRPL implementer would start off by identifying the need for RPL within the sector orcompany or individual. In this study, the overall need is FAIS compliance. Theimplementer then assists the candidates to perform an initial self-assessment on theirexisting level of relevant skills, knowledge and ability to apply these at work. Moving to theright, the implementer judges whether the individual has achieved sufficiently in the self-assessment in order to continue with RPL. If the individual is unable to prove theexistence of sufficient skills he/she will be counselled accordingly and offered alternativeswhich will most likely involve training to achieve the skills.Candidates who are able to prove an adequate level of skill to embark upon RPL undergoan assessment to gauge their level of personal mastery. Those who do not have therequired level of personal mastery skill will be trained and reassessed until they are judgedready to continue with the RPL process. It is critical that RPL candidates have therequired level of personal mastery because, as this study has shown, those who do have afar greater chance of succeeding while those without it have little or no chance ofsucceeding at the RPL process.After assessing the individual learners for personal mastery, the RPL implementerassesses the sponsoring workplace to ascertain its readiness for RPL (termed ‘degree ofworkplace support’ on the logic model in the fourth block down on the left hand side).Organisations must be able to support RPL candidates in the workplace with motivation,information, resources, feedback, and so forth and, as shown by this study, organisationsthat are unable to provide this support will have lower success rates with their RPLimplementation. Where the organisation is assessed as not having sufficient workplacesupport, the RPL implementer either refers the candidates to an independent RPLassessment centre outside of the workplace or works with the organisation so that theycan develop the infrastructure to support RPL implementation.Once the candidate and the workplace (or independent assessment centre) is ready forRPL, the implementer commences with RPL induction of the candidate. This takes placewithin a community of practice and the candidates are allocated trained advisers to assistthem to collect, process and present sufficient evidence of prior learning. Within this Page 179
    • community of practice (moving to the right on the logic model) the implementer helps thecandidate select the most suitable assessment activities and an assessment plan iscreated to guide the assessment process, with milestones and deadlines to assist thecandidate with time management.Returning to the left hand side of the logic model, once the candidate submits evidence ofprior learning this is assessed by the assessors. The evidence includes individualevidence as well as discussions with the community of practice within which the candidateworks. The assessor decides whether the candidate has submitted sufficient evidence fora competent decision or whether evidence is lacking. This feedback is given to thecandidate, who is given an opportunity to submit remedial evidence as agreed. If thecandidate is unable to submit remedial evidence they are counselled on alternatives to theRPL, which may include traditional training.The entire process undergoes regular quality review, i.e. moderation and verification (thepenultimate block on the left hand side). Certificates are issued where credits have beenachieved. Successful candidates are counselled as to the opportunities they then have foradditional study or additional RPL. This feedback also includes feedback on thecandidates’ progress during the RPL, along with lessons for any future such activities. Thecandidates are asked for their input into the RPL process so that it can be improvediteratively as it moves into a more sustainable logic model for implementation.As can be deduced from the above discussion, logic models have a great deal ofapplicability and value for implementers of programmes. However, as the followingreveals, they are not without limitations. Programme implementers need to be aware ofthese limitations so that they do not accept their designs blindly and without question.6.6 Advantages and limitations of logic modelsLogic models provide structure and purpose to programme implementation. They allow formore effective programme evaluation because the evaluator can readily see what theintended activities, outputs, outcomes and impact were. They also allow different Page 180
    • stakeholders to ‘see’ the whole picture, the flow and the anticipated activities and results.The power of logic modeling is that each step can be evaluated in a manner that isappropriate to that step.As you move to the right along the causal chain (see Figure 6.2 for the basic logic modelchain), it becomes more difficult to provide clear answers. For example, if FAIScompliance is increased in the sector, was it because of the RPL implementation or forother reasons? But the principle is that you specify what you hope will happen, in theform of a chain, and then test each link in the chain to work out what really did happen.The value of logic modeling in practice lies in that step-by-step testing. If the programmedidnt work as intended, you can detect the weak links in the logic chain and correct themto avoid similar problems the next time.The presence of a logic model for the programme initially researched and evaluated aspart of this research made the research process simpler and easier to construct becausethe milestones were pre-agreed and data collection methods and milestones wereanticipated and pre-ordained. However, logic models do have some limitations. These aresummarised by List (2006) as follows: 1. No account is taken of unintended consequences and side-effects; 2. Programme logic focuses on single issues - as intended by the programme implementers; 3. It combines goal hierarchy and time sequence, and thus lacks a way of showing the effects of feedback; 4. It does not address issues of power, control, and participation. Its model is that experts ‘intervene’ to do something to a passive and unintelligent ‘target group’; 5. Programme logic does not cope with conflict because it addresses only the programme implementers needs; 6. There can be doubtful generalisability, or the ‘black box problem’ - an unclear connection between outputs, outcomes, and impacts; 7. There is an assumption of omnipotence that ‘because we have a plan, we must succeed in implementing it’.‘Despite these limitations, program logic modeling is a very powerful method for evaluatingthe success of any complex activity. Most of the limitations can be overcome by involving Page 181
    • a wide range of stakeholders in building the models, and by having multiple models withbranching’ (List, 2006, p. 5).6.7 Chapter summaryThis chapter is introduced as the ‘guts’ of this study because it presents both theimplications of the literature and the secondary data analysis in relation to the five axialcategories and because it presents the reader with three logic models to follow whenimplementing RPL in the insurance sector workplace. The first logic model is anoutcomes-based logic model (Figure 6.3) that shows workplace RPL implementers theintended results of a workplace RPL implementation in the insurance sector. Theseresults were identified during this research in the interviews with stakeholders.The second logic model presented is a theory-of-change logic model (Figure 6.4) whichshows the assumptions, key lessons drawn from the literature and influencing factors (bothpositive and negative). The value of this logic model is in the conceptualisation of the RPLimplementation and it allows the implementer to consider the unique context of the RPLimplementation. Most of the information for this logic model is drawn from the researchliterature (including the case study analysis) and the interviews with stakeholders.Finally, an action-approach logic model is presented that shows the logical flow of step-by-step activities that an implementer of RPL in the insurance sector should follow to ensureabove average success. Most of this information is drawn from the categories thatemerged during the grounded analysis of the data collected during this research.The combination of the three logic models shows the following logical process flow (Figure6.7) for an RPL implementer within the workplace (specifically in the insurance sector): Page 182
    • Identify the desired results for the context in question and plan to achieve these Identify the barriers that exist in the context and plan to overcome these Identify the assumptions and influencing factors that exist in the context and build awareness of these into the implementation Plan the step-by-step activities for the RPL implementation in the context taking steps 1-3 into account Implement and review frequentlyFigure 6-7: High level process flow to guide workplace RPL implementation in theinsurance sectorThe next and final chapter presents the conclusions and recommendations arising fromthis research. Page 183
    • CHAPTER 7 : CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ‘If you want to gather honey, dont kick over the beehive.’ - Dale Carnegie7.1 IntroductionThis final chapter is arguably the most important chapter in the entire study because it ishere that I am able to summarise and present my final thoughts on the entire study, whichhas spanned four years of research and data analysis. Following on from the bodyanalogy, in which I equated Chapter 4 to the heart and Chapter 6 to the guts of the study, Ibelieve this final chapter represents the head of the research simply because it is here thatthe more significant contributions of the study are presented, along with the implications,both for future research and for RPL implementation in general. The head contains thebrain which represents higher order thought and cognitive reasoning and I see it as afitting analogy for this chapter, which is effectively the end-product of the entire research.This chapter commences with an overall, chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the salient pointsbefore moving into the contributions and implications of the research. The chapterconcludes with an assessment of the more technical aspects of the research and areflection on my experiences during the research process itself.7.2 Broad summary of the researchIn Chapter 1 this study is contextualised by explaining that although RPL is a legitimatepractice, it is not widely accepted in either the workplace or the traditional academicsector. The argument is presented that RPL has a role to play in the South Africaninsurance sector because they need to assist large numbers of experienced and matureemployees to earn academic credits towards a qualification quickly in order to save jobsand livelihoods. The chapter makes the point that an implementation model is needed thattakes into account the context and circumstances of the insurance workplace and thecandidates without compromising the validity of the assessment process and thereputation of RPL.The methodology and research design is described in Chapter 2. An explanation isprovided as to why a qualitative research design is the most applicable paradigm and Page 184
    • programme evaluation is presented as the selected research design. The incorporation ofa secondary data analysis of 18 workplace RPL case studies into the research design isexplained. Insight into the research methodology, including the selection of the sample,the various data sources, the process of actual data collection and storage, and the dataanalysis process utilising grounded theory data analysis techniques is also provided. Thischapter also dealt with the strategies employed to enhance the quality of the research.The ethical aspects of the research were also summarised and it was explained thatalthough consent was obtained from the candidates it has not been included in theappendix so as to protect both the identity of the company and their employees.In Chapter 3 the actual execution of both the original RPL implementation and the RPLprogramme evaluation is described using a narrative style. The execution is describedchronologically to make it easier for the reader to assimilate the details. I chose to followthe utilisation-focused evaluation approach to programme evaluation and the chapterdetails each step followed during the actual programme evaluation. Chapter 4 deals withthe data analysis using the grounded theory data analysis methodology developed byGlaser and Strauss (1967) and refined by others such as Strauss and Corbin (1998). Thedata analysis phase was lengthy and absorbing but the results appear to fit with theresearch literature and workplace RPL practices which are summarised in Chapter 5.Throughout the data analysis discussion care was taken to give the participants a voice byquoting from their reflections and interviews. This was to add to the validity of the researchby presenting the reader with some of the data used as the basis for the conclusionsreached as well as to ensure that the candidates themselves were ‘heard’ - a tactic usedby qualitative researchers. Samples of raw data are attached in the appendices to allowreaders to view the raw data and draw their own conclusions as to the analysis processand the results.The data analysis resulted in the 18 categories described in Chapter 4. These werereduced to five axial categories after an intense process of axial coding analysis using theproperties and dimensions of the categories as a basis for the reduction. Chapter 4 endswith a secondary data analysis of 18 workplace RPL case studies documented by Dysonand Keating (2005). These cases are also linked to the categories that emerged from thegrounded theory analysis to add ‘thickness’ to the logic model for RPL implementation inthe insurance sector that was evolving. Page 185
    • Chapter 5 summarises the more influential traditional and workplace learning theorists, aswell as RPL theory, in order to show that the emerging logic model for workplace RPLimplementation is indeed grounded in both the prevailing literature as well as in the datacollected during this study.Chapter 6 commences by linking the five axial coding categories that emerged during thisresearch to the most influential literature covering traditional learning, workplace learningand RPL. The five axial coding categories that emerged are justified by referring to theliterature and this is used as the foundation for the design of a context-specific logic modelfor RPL implementation. This logic model is proposed and discussed in the chapter.This final chapter now moves into an evaluation of the research itself prior to moving intothe conclusions, recommendations and final reflection.7.3 Overall assessment of this researchThroughout this study care has been taken to ensure that compliance with the qualitycriteria required by qualitative research. This is important to ensure that the final results ofany study are ’good’. A number of quality enhancing techniques to be implemented in thisstudy, so as to ensure the overall trustworthiness of this research, are described inChapter 2. These techniques included: Keeping a reflective diary in which I recorded my thoughts and rational for my actions as the research unfolded so as to enhance internal validity. This diary worked well and allowed me to go back and review reasons for earlier decisions. This was especially important as the research spanned four years, during which time I was working full time, so I was not always able to recall why I had done something in a particular way. Using methodological triangulation because data from different sources, analysed in different ways, may contribute a different perspective and provide a greater generalisability. The total sample size was 227 participants, but in reality only 80 completed ‘useable’ reflections and only seven were eventually interviewed. This potentially limits the generalisability of the findings beyond this workplace to others in the sector and even to the entire workplace. However, this sample size was Page 186
    • acceptable given its homogeneous nature and the limited variables under consideration (Neuman, 2003). Recording my own view prior to interacting with other participants so as to prevent my views from tainting the data and the final logic model. This allows for data and outcomes that are more reliable and valid. Reliability and validity issues are discussed throughout the research and care has been taken to ensure that the results are both reliable and valid. Care was taken not to project my own bias onto the data and a reflective diary also assisted me in recording and sharing my thoughts as the analysis unfolded. As mentioned above, methodological triangulation was introduced by using various data sources and analysis techniques. Lincoln and Guba (1985) propose four criteria to assess the trustworthiness of a study and I applied these as well to ensure validity and reliability: Truth value – all participants were fully informed about the study and given the option of participating or not. Interview participants were allowed to review their interview transcripts and quotes used in the research. The final conclusions were discussed with those who wanted it so that they could validate it. Applicability – this research was limited to a large, listed, short term insurance company and I am confident that the results would be applicable for other RPL projects in this context. The insurance sector is fairly uniform in approach and disciplines and, given the sample size and depth of exploration, I am confident that the logic model could be applied to other RPL projects within the same sector. Broader application would not be supported without additional research. Consistency – qualitative research is, by its very nature, unpredictable but I feel the methodological triangulation and application of a strict step-by-step data analysis methodology will allow other researchers to reproduce these results consistently. Neutrality – my role as a workplace RPL practitioner was discussed openly and the voices of the participants were used to show where the categories emerged from the data. These quotes offer the reader a chance to assess my interpretations and make up their own mind about the validity of the outcomes.Kelly (1999b) presents a ‘checklist of criteria’ that can be used when evaluating aninterpretative study. His checklist appears in Table 7.1. The left hand column below, while Page 187
    • the right hand column details my reflections from this study that justify why I am confidentin the outcomes of this research.Table 7-1 Comparing the quality criteria proposed by Kelly (1999b) to this research Quality criteria proposed by Reflective evidence from this study to justify Kelly compliance A thorough account of how This study presents both samples of raw material findings were reached and a full data analysis chapter, which describes each step in the coding and analysis process. Thus making it easier for another researcher to replicate the research. Coherent and logically consistent The research is presented logically and coherently Weaves together the totality of the following recommended research reporting phenomenon in question techniques. Parts relate to the whole The presentation of the data and the literature as separate chapters that are then related to each other (in Chapter 6) ensures that the various component parts relate to the final logic model (the whole). Able to incorporate new or parallel New textual material could be in the form of textual material additional interviews or research literature. Interviews were conducted to a point of saturation and a full literature review in the field was conducted. Generalisable This criterion has been discussed at length in the above section. Consistency, scope, fruitfulness, The study is presented as simply as possible, with simplicity, accuracy definitions and accurate descriptions at each logical step. The study will prove fruitful for those affected by the FAIS legislation and the scope is accurately described. External evidence This is presented in the literature review. A search for disconfirming Interview participants were selected purposefully and evidence included both candidates who were successful in the RPL and those who were not. Consensus amongst researchers There was only one researcher, but the data analysis Page 188
    • (open and axial coding stages) were performed y the researcher and the group of assessors, moderators, RPL advisers and project manager selected from the company that implemented the RPL. This was to avoid one person’s view dominating the analysis. In addition, the research participants were given an opportunity to review their evidence and comment upon its validity retroactively. Prediction of future events This study is not of a predictive nature. Fits with other interpretations The study proposes a logic model for workplace RPL implementation in the insurance sector. Other interpretations were considered throughout the research and included in the discussions where relevant. The reflective diary also tracked other interpretations for discussion with a review panel. Gives rise to problem solving The logic model proposed provided implementers actions with a problem solving approach to RPL implementation. Opens up further areas of Greater understanding about the complexities of understanding workplace implementation of RPL have been created as was evidenced at a SAQA workshop held in Cape Town in March 2007, where I presented some preliminary findings from this research. Covers a broad range of My experience as an RPL practitioner and adult experience educationalist are incorporated in this study.As a final word on this section, two limitations that are often cited when discussing theapplication of grounded theory data analysis techniques are (i) the difficulty of dealing withhuge amounts of data and (ii) the generalisability of the findings (Collis & Hussey, 2003).Generalisability of findings is discussed above. What remains to be discussed in thissection is the difficulty experienced in dealing with large amounts of data.The processes described by grounded theory data analysis techniques are hugely timeconsuming and can be frustrating at times. As a single researcher working alone on a Page 189
    • programme evaluation, with 227 participants in a large listed insurance company, therewere huge restraints in terms of what could be processed and what could not. The datasources were selected to provide some data that was naturally produced (the reflections)to save time in actual data collection. The balance of the data was collected viainterviews, which were kept to a minimum. However, a larger research team could haveanalysed more data from more sources and this could possibly have added to both thevalidity and the generalisability of the outcomes. However, despite this one possiblelimitation, I am confident that the research has validity and a contribution to make toworkplace RPL practice. Given this view, the contributions that this study has to make towider RPL practice are now presented.7.4 Contributions of this researchAccording to Marshall and Rossman (1999), research contributions can be described in anumber of domains, including: What is the significance of the research for practical implementation? What is the significance of the research for systemic policy development? What is the significance of the research for theory? What is the significance of the research for social issues and action?Marshall and Rossman (1999) point out, however, that it is unlikely that a single study willcontribute equally to all four domains because the overall purpose and research questionshould emphasis one or two of the domains. This is not to say that the contributions in theremaining domains are neglected completely, it simply means that one or two domains areemphasised throughout the study and (by definition) in the evaluation of the finalcontributions of the research. The overall purpose of this research was to design a logicmodel to guide the implementation of workplace RPL in the insurance sector, so thatemployees affected by the FAIS legislation could access RPL in order to become FAIScompliant. As a result of the way this research purpose is framed, its major potential forcontributions falls within the practical and systemic policy domains, with far less potentialfor contribution within the theoretical and social issues/actions domains. The contributionsof this research are discussed in the order of significance of contribution, starting with itspractical contribution. Page 190
    • 7.4.1 Significance for practiceThe data analysis revealed that many RPL candidates were ill-equipped with personalmastery skills to tackle the RPL process and that they needed support and feedback thatwas not always forthcoming in the workplace. The secondary literature analysis reinforcedthese conclusions drawn from the data analysis. The literature review of workplacelearning theory and RPL theory revealed that learner-readiness and learning in asupportive community of practice was critical for successful workplace learning. Thesignificance of this revelation for practical workplace RPL implementation is a majorcontribution of this study because RPL implementation models are traditionally designedfor individuals who approach academic institutions requesting RPL in isolation from theirworkplace. Thus, the issue of workplace readiness is not considered in any RPL model Ihave seen. Also, because RPL candidates traditionally seek out RPL on their own, theyappear to have a level of self-motivation and a desire to succeed that is not always evidentin candidates who are ‘forced’ into doing RPL for some external reason (for example, tobecome FAIS compliant). By incorporating both a personal mastery assessment and aworkplace support assessment prior to the implementation of RPL it is anticipated that theRPL process will yield better success rates and more satisfied RPL candidates at the end.Another significant practical contribution of this study is the step-by-step logic model thatcan be followed to guide workplace implementation within the insurance sector. Thismodel incorporates the research findings from this research and the academic literature onworkplace learning theory. Practically, this adds to the current body of literature becausethe perspective and orientation is different to what is usually described by RPL theoristswho are drawn from a more academic perspective where particular factors (like workplacepower relationships) are not considered significant.7.4.2 Significance for policySAQA has clearly articulated its strategic intention regarding RPL. Commencing with theSAQA Act itself, and evident throughout various other policy documents, RPL is seen as atool for social transformation (SAQA, 1995; 2002; 2003). RPL is intended to beimplemented across all academic levels and within all sites of learning (SAQA, 2002;2003). Yet RPL practitioners frequently cite the lack of a clear, national RPLimplementation policy and procedure (that differentiates amongst the various contexts) asone of the most significant constraints to RPL implementation in South Africa (Smith, 2007; Page 191
    • Blom, 2007; Sutherland, 2007). This lack of a clear national policy, coupled with the lackof clear leadership and practical implementation case studies (in the field of workplaceRPL in particular) has led to RPL being downplayed in the workplace (Deller, 2007). Oneof the major contributions of this research is that it showcases a national, sustainableworkplace RPL programme that was successful in many ways. Large numbers ofcandidates successfully completed the full qualification within the prescribed time andthese results were all externally verified by the workplace ETQA (INSETQA). Thisresearch can be used by policy makers to understand the factors that workplace RPLcandidates are confronted with, thereby allowing these policy makers to conceptualiseRPL in the workplace as distinct from non-workplace RPL. This will contribute to thedevelopment of a fit-for-purpose workplace RPL policy, approaches and assessmentmethodologies.At a more practical policy level, INSETA can use this research to establish a sector-wideRPL community of practice that can advise on future RPL and assessment policy changes.The current INSETA RPL policy is highly problematic because it draws heavily on RPLpolicies developed in other contexts. This limits the practice of RPL within the insurancesector.7.4.3 Significance for theoryRPL theory has evolved from within formal, mainstream education (Harris, 2002), and assuch it is underpinned by the epistemological standpoint of formal education. Thisincludes a particular view of what constitutes knowledge, what constitutes learning andwhat constitutes fair and valid assessment of that learning. Within this epistemologicalstandpoint, learning has currency once it is assessed and matched to the requirements ofa qualification that already exists. Prior learning that does not conform to that found withinthe formal education system is not valued, and theoretical and written forms of knowledgeare privileged over practical and oral forms of knowledge (Smith, 2007). The theoreticalcontribution of this research is that it presents an alternative epistemological perspective,one that values practical knowledge being assessed using methods other that solelywritten portfolios.Another significant theoretical contribution of this research is that it presents a logic modelfor RPL implementation within the South African insurance sector. This model is grounded Page 192
    • in both the outcomes of the data analysis conducted during this study and in the literaturethat deals with workplace learning. This logic model can be implemented and evaluated inother workplace contexts to evaluate its generalisability beyond the insurance sector.This research also indicates the need to reconceptualise and re-theorise RPL for differentcontexts, especially the workplace context. This review process of workplace RPL willensure that workplace RPL candidates are not discriminated against by being forced toembark upon an RPL process that does not serve their needs as well as it serves theneeds of RPL candidates who are already equipped with the skills necessary to do well attraditional forms of written, individualistic assessment. Hopefully this reconceptualisationand re-theorisation of workplace RPL will permit collectivist and team assessments to playa role in prior learning assessment and allow other narrative forms to be used to determinewhat learners know. In doing so it will broaden the epistemological framework of RPL.7.4.4 Significance for social issues and actionRPL in South Africa has been highlighted as a tool for social transformation (SAQA, 1995,2002; 2003). COSATU (2000) locates RPL in the ‘movement for social and economicjustice’ because it purports to value people by acknowledging what they know and whatthey can do. People can be ‘fast-tracked’ using RPL and new opportunities can beopened up to them that will help them realise their potential and improve their situationwith better pay and working conditions (COSATU, 2000). However, RPL has not lived upto the claims for social redress (Harris, 2002; Luckett, 1999a) for a number of reasons.One reason (as cited above) is the lack of a clear national RPL policy that makesallowances for the different contexts within which RPL can occur. Other reasons includelack of knowledge about RPL (Deller, 2007), lack of resources (Blom, 2007) and conflictingpedagogies and epistemologies (Smith, 2007). The social significance of this research isthat it showcases an RPL implementation that involved nearly 300 candidates who facedretrenchment if they did not earn the required credits and become FAIS compliant (FAISAct, 2002). Showcasing this implementation provides an example of what can beachieved, despite the stated barriers. By utilising the logic model proposed in this study,implementers have a process grounded in theory and practice that can assist them toaddress a social need within their own sector. By providing a practical logic model forworkplace RPL implementation this study provides an opportunity for South Africa torealise its dream of using RPL on a wider scale than presently practiced. There is also thepotential for RPL to become the envisaged tool for social transformation. Page 193
    • 7.5 Personal reflectionsThis study has absorbed me for over five years. At the beginning, I was naive about thepotential for RPL and could not understand why it was not more wide spread. I saw thepotential for employees at the lower levels within companies and saw what they couldachieve by way of promotion if they earned a qualification. I spoke to employers whovoiced the view that a lack of skills was hampering growth. I felt strongly that South Africadid not have a skills shortage; all we had was a lack of certification. People had the skills– they just did not know it!Since becoming immersed in the theory and debate surrounding RPL, I have had mynaivety stripped away and have realised that the wide variety of definitions, assumptionsand epistemological standpoints all have something to contribute to the practice of RPL. Ihave also realised that not all employees want to earn a qualification, not all of them wantto change their lives and not all of them can. I have also learnt that not all employersreally mean what they say about skills development and that, for some, the only skills thatcount are those showcased in a formal degree. However, I still believe in the inherentpower of RPL. I believe it has the potential to transform South African society. I believethat if we can find a logic model that opens up access to RPL outside the formal educationsector for those people who want their current learning recognised for its own sake (asopposed to giving them access to university). I can see the power of RPL to enableworkers to earn all or part of a qualification and for that full or partial certification to earnthem a promotion that will improve their lives and prospects, while at the same timecreating a job gap for an entry level job candidate from school or university.One point that is worth mentioning deals with my treatment of the data. While I took manysteps (see section 2.6) to ensure the quality of the study, it is possible that if the researchdata was re-analysed a different outcome could be obtained. I may be guilty of guidingcandidates because I was so immersed in the research. If I were to rework this research Iwould opt to use interviewers that are not connected with the data analysis process in anyway because it is possible that the very act of analysing the data ‘helps’ one to see thatdata in all situations. Page 194
    • The next section summarises my recommendations, before the final conclusions from thisstudy are presented.7.6 RecommendationsThis section offers recommendations for workplace RPL practitioners and for RPL policydevelopers.7.6.1 Recommendations for implementationObtain buy-in from all stakeholders: The logic model proposed by this research impliesthe importance of obtaining buy-in from all relevant parties to ensure the successfulimplementation of RPL. This is an important step in planning the programmeimplementation and ensuring consistent implementation. It is important to understand: The purpose of recognition – for candidates and employers; The role of the ETQA and any reporting that is needed; The role of the trade union and employer bodies; The role of industry professional bodies or legal bodies.Understand the context – it is important to understand the environment and the prevailinglearning culture. Companies should undergo a learning culture profile to assess theirreadiness to be able to support RPL candidates through to success. If the learning cultureis not fully ready to support the RPL then an intervention should take place before the RPLcommences. Team support structures may have to be implemented to support RPLcandidates.Offer an alternative to on-site RPL – if RPL cannot take place at the worksite, either due toa lack of supportive learning culture or confidentiality, etc., then candidates should be ableto complete their RPL off-site through an independent RPL centre set up specifically tooffer RPL to an industry segment.Profile RPL candidates for RPL-readiness – prospective RPL candidates should beassessed prior to RPL commencement to ensure they have the required level of priorlearning and the required level of personal mastery to manage the RPL process. Page 195
    • Develop a logic model and activity plan that is context-specific - as with all otherorganisational strategic changes or adoptions, it is expedient to develop a strategy for theimplementation of RPL within an organisation. This will obviously entail some form ofresearch before implementation. Although RPL is clearly recommended for widespreadconsideration, it is conceivable that, in some circumstances, RPL might simply not workand initial research will give an indication of these and other issues. Luckett (1999b, p.69)emphasises the issue of determining the purpose of RPL before designing a system toachieve it. This would include decisions on assessment goals as well as on whether theneed is for diagnosis/access, or accreditation/exemption. Also stressed by Luckett (1999a,p.15) is the importance of an assessment approach that is locally-controlled, site-basedand context sensitive and includes learners in the process of judging their work.Use this research as a blueprint for workplace implementation - the logic model forworkplace RPL implementation proposed by this research can be tested forgeneralisability in other employment sectors. These tests should be written up as casestudies and shared within a community of RPL practice to ensure that lessons are learntand communicated so that the practical implementation of RPL can be furthered.Use tools other than the portfolio of evidence and consider ‘communities of practice’ -within a corporate environment it is probably true that the most valid form of assessment isobservation by the assessor while the candidate performs her/his duties in the workplace(Van Rooyen, 2000, p. 22). This needs to be tempered with the need for practicability andcost management, but care needs to be taken to use assessment methods that are not tooindividualistic.Plan candidate feedback – deliver feedback that adds value to the learning process underway and that supports the candidate through their predicted changes in perceptiontowards the RPL process. Build in ongoing support, counseling and motivation to ensuresuccessful outcomes.7.6.2 Recommendations for workplace RPL policy makersSAQA (2002, p. 4) sees the key challenge for the implementation of RPL in SA as thesustainability of the system. More than just serving a redress function, which would givean RPL system a rather limited lifespan, such a system should be used to increasingly Page 196
    • incorporate the principles of life-long learning. This underscores the SAQA intention ofmaking RPL part of a holistic approach (SAQA, 2002, p. 6), which should assist inpreventing RPL assessment from becoming merely a technically applicable practice.Form context-specific or industry specific RPL assessment centres – given this research,which echoes others like Osman (2001) and Harris (2002), one of the more sustainableand cost effective approaches for wide scale RPL implementation would be theestablishment of industry specific RPL centres that only do RPL and assessment (nottraining). This allows for the establishment of a community of practice for assessment staff(including implementers), cost saving and increased acceptance of the outcomes by theindustry. It allows stakeholders to collaborate and cooperate to achieve the RPL vision forthe sector.Build communities of RPL practice – if industry specific RPL centres are established, allowthem to cooperate across sectors to share practices and research in order to develop a fullcommunity of workplace RPL practice.Assess all knowledge and skill for equivalence not matching outcome to outcome - inanswer to the question of whether RPL can help to overcome a history of educationaldiscrimination and disadvantage, Michelson (1996a) offers the opinion that the kinds ofknowledge that are by-products of political struggle should be assessable through RPL, forinstance leadership and public speaking. Strong capabilities would probably have beendeveloped in this regard and it makes for a valid suggestion to translate these into skills foruse in the business environment. She also adds that the syllabi of assessment coursesshould have some component of social analysis (this research calls it personal mastery)included, so that concepts such as self-assessment and confidence-building can begrounded in a concrete examination of educational and political history. It is alsosuggested that such inclusions in RPL practice can further add value to corporateorganisations, as the very characteristics and capabilities that are necessary inmanagement in general. This type of RPL could further be included in improving BBBEE /EE19 compliance in organisations.19 BBBEE = Broad based black economic empowerment and EE = Employment Equity.Both of these are South African strategies to redress inequalities brought about bygovernment policies prior to 1994. Page 197
    • 7.6.3 Future researchEncourage and support workplace learning research – more research is needed toinvestigate learning in the South African workplace. SETAs and ETQAs should sponsorthis research so that a defendable practice of workplace learning can be established thatpositions the workplace as a valid site of learning in the knowledge economy. This willposition RPL more favourably amongst traditional academics.Test this logic model in other workplace contexts - the generalisability of the logic modelproposed by this study has not been proven conclusively beyond the insurance sector.Research is required in other workplace sectors to establish generalisability.The next section deals with conclusions that can be drawn from the above.7.7 ConclusionsThe underpinning assumption in this research is that recognition of prior learning isintrinsic to lifelong learning policies in mass post-compulsory education and trainingsystems, and mechanisms to increase its implementation need to be streamlined,particularly in the workplace where uptake has been slow. This would allow RPL tobecome the tool for social transformation envisaged by SAQA, because it will have widepotential to enable skills development and the ongoing acquisition of qualifications in theworkplace. The conclusions in this section are presented in two parts: those dealing withimplementation, which are linked back to the original empirical research questions posedby this study, and those dealing with policy and theory.7.7.1 ImplementationThe empirical research questions posed at the beginning of this study20 were as follows: 1. How was the decision to implement RPL made? 2. How was the RPL programme rolled out to participants? 3. What individual factors contributed to RPL success? 4. What contextual workplace and broader environmental factors contributed to RPL success?20 See Section 1.7 Page 198
    • 5. What technical assistance was needed to complete the RPL process? 6. Was the RPL programme considered successful? 7. How should South African business manage RPL implementation?The first two questions are answered in Chapter 2, which discusses the need for FAIScompliance as the catalyst for the RPL programme and which describes the step-by-stepprogramme roll out. Chapter 4 gives some insight into the individual factors thatcontributed to RPL success and it is in this chapter that the axial category of ‘personalmastery’ to describe the personal characteristics that contributed to RPL success isproposed. Chapter 4 also presents the axial category of ‘team support’ that offered apartial answer to question 4. The conclusion drawn in Chapter 4 highlights the fact that ifindividuals had access to a supportive team or other support structure, they were morelikely to be successful RPL candidates. The second part of empirical research question 4is highlighted in Chapter 5, where environmental factors that aided workplace learning andRPL are discussed using the theoretical literature as a reference point.The remaining empirical research questions (5, 6 and 7) are not answered as explicitly asthe preceding ones. Question 5 asked about technical assistance required and this ishighlighted in the proposed logic model as being the implementers’ responsibility to ensurethat the candidate is ready for RPL, that the environment is supportive and that thecandidate is placed within a community of practice with fellow RPL candidates and acoach who can facilitate the RPL process for them. The question as to whether theprogramme was successful (question 6) is subjective because the answer truly dependson the individual’s epistemological paradigm. For the candidates who are now FAIScompliant, it was no doubt successful (and their reflections bear this out) - according to thetraining manager I interviewed, the employer considered the RPL programme successfulbecause the organisation achieved a high proportion of FAIS compliant employees at aperceived low cost. I perceived it as successful because we were able to conduct acontrolled programme implementation and improve our implementation model. Whetherhigher educationalists would perceive the RPL implementation as successful is debatablebecause only five candidates went on to enrol at a higher education institution. Thishighlights the difficulty of judging the success of an RPL intervention because the variousstakeholders have different measures of success. Page 199
    • Finally, question 7 was futuristic: ‘How should South African business manage RPLimplementation? This question is answered in the form of a logic model that can beimplemented in the South African insurance sector and which can be researched forapplicability in other sectors.In addition to posing seven research questions, I also stated five objectives21 that I hopedto achieve during the course of this research. These objectives were: Objective 1: To employ a qualitative methodology to establish and describe the experiences of RPL candidates during an RPL implementation process; Objective 2: To link the experiences of the RPL candidates to the literature that describes workplace learning and assessment practices so as to understand their experiences, both as part of this learning paradigm and as part of the RPL implementation process; Objective 3: To link these experiences to other workplace RPL case studies so as to identify trends and categories that add value and clarity to the experiences of the RPL candidates; Objective 4: To build a logic model for workplace RPL implementation that is based upon both an analysis of the experiences of the RPL candidates and an analysis of workplace learning theory and RPL theory; Objective 5: To apply the insights gained from both the RPL candidates and the scholarly articles on RPL and workplace learning in order to redefine and reconceptualise current RPL implementation approaches contemplated for the insurance sector (and possibly even in other similar workplace sectors, such as banking where FAIS compliance is also a factor for employability).Objective 1 was achieved through the use of grounded theory data analysis techniqueswhich permitted the RPL candidates to describe their experiences so that others could‘see’ them and understand them. This approach is discussed in detail in Chapter 2 andthe data itself is presented in Chapter 4. Objectives 2 and 3 were achieved in Chapters 4and 5, and the literature was generally found to support the experiences of the RPLcandidates in this research. Objective 5 was to design a logic model for RPLimplementation that built upon the experiences of the candidates in this research and on21 See Section 1.7 Page 200
    • the lessons gleaned from the literature. This objective was achieved in Chapter 6, where aseries of interconnected logic models were presented to drive RPL planning andimplementation. The final objective (objective 5) is more difficult to achieve within theconfines of a research report because it deals with the reconceptualisation of workplaceRPL implementation in the insurance sector as a result of this research. At present it isprobably too early to say with any certainty if this objective has been achieved, but boththe FSB and INSETA have started to engage in discussions around a more streamlinedRPL process that is both more flexible and accessible (Sunday Times, 14 May 2007).7.7.2 Policy and theoryOne of the key conclusions of this research is that RPL practices will need to bedeveloped, at least in the first instance, on a contextually-specific basis, rather thanlooking for generalisability from the outset. It should be remembered that learning canoccur by re-contextualising, re-prioritising or refining the parts. For example, many‘misconceptions’ are correct elements of knowledge which have been over-generalised.By specifying a narrower range of situations, the concepts become ‘correct’. Theories ofprior knowledge tend to have an individualistic and psychological bias, partially reflected inthe selection of ‘concepts’ as a focus of study. On every occasion of concept use,however, a learner is in a social and physical situation; and these situations inevitablyaffect learning (Roschelle, 2003). Therefore, it will be necessary to find an RPL model thatclosely matches situational contexts and circumstances. This study presents such amodel for the insurance sector and challenges RPL implementers from other sectors toimplement it and formally research and report on its applicability in their own sector.Keeping in mind the many requirements for assessment and lessons learnt for an RPLmodel to be relevant (discussed above), it is the ultimate conclusion of this research thatthe concept of RPL is, in actual fact, too broad to allow a definitive theoretical model thatwill be of practical use within all contexts, especially for application outside the academicworld. It appears to be more sensible to apply the logic modelling approach to plan eachRPL implementation within the various contexts and within the confines of the differentworkplaces. It is suggested, therefore, that referring to and designing an ‘RPL strategy’ or‘RPL logic model’ will be more appropriate than simply designing a universal RPL meta-model. This will ensure that consideration is taken of the assumptions, results, activitiesand resources necessary to achieve agreed success within each context. A contextual Page 201
    • logic model will maximise the value of each RPL implementation, and ensure a widerapplication of RPL within South Africa. This will lead us closer to true socialtransformation. ‘What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.’ T.S Eliot Page 202
    • Appendix 1: Example of a diagram created during this researchEvolution of RPL or ‘survival of the fittest’ or ‘journey towards becoming a personal master’ Forced to do RPL by macro environment No freedom of choice Process How do they feel? What impact does it have on them? Are there stages of personal Is feedback important? mastery? Iterative? Increasing and decreasing? Any pre-existing barriers? How does it evolve? Why do some have it and others not? Snow ball effect? What is success – can we all see it Does the group differently? support go through stages (norming, Actions/ reactions? forming, storming, Consequences? performing?) Prior team experiences? Successful RPL, Maximum personal mastery And team support Page 203
    • Appendix 2: Example of a narrative memo created during this researchNarrative 6: Internal meeting of role players17 May 2006Recording CD 6Transcript P:/phd/CD6/internal meetingPresent: me, project manager, assessor x 2, coach x 2, assessment tool designerThis meeting should have taken place sooner, maybe even before the other interviews.The need here is greater – this is where the results will really be used. They are excitedabout the possibility of improving the flow and success rates. (LdJ: ‘If we can get this rightwe will stand above other providers, and it will be a good test case.’ AS:’ Well, at leastthen we can help them to do better. There is no way of knowing who will be a success upfront now – this will help us guide them.’)There is a consensus that the project was difficult to manage – I don’t really rememberthat. They say there were difficulties with one HO based contact person with allcommunication going through that one person. This is their culture – totally controlling anddictatorial. (I wonder if this had anything to contribute to the success rate – maybe peoplewere simply too scared to fail?). We discussed a few examples of reflections (cross ref: 6,10, 13, 14) and can see how they move from negative to positive. We debated why.Ideas ranged from more experience to fear of failure to they simply had to so they did.Maybe they are all right – I need to identify the common words. Some jump out at me like‘confidence’; ‘difficult’, ‘support’, ‘stress’ – I need to go back and make a list.We discuss the coaching – it is critical everyone agrees. (AA: ‘you can see when theyhave not been coached properly when you are trying to assess. They don’t understandhow to present evidence and cross reference it.’) I query other examples and get many.It appears there is a link between achievement and success, being positive and success,asking the right question and success, being able to write and cross reference andsuccess. What strikes me is that although many of them seem to be negative in thebeginning only a few are not successful at the end. What happened during the process isobviously important. Page 204
    • It seems that there is an early sense that it is easy (the coaches both tell me this – peopleask if they can leave at lunchtime because they understand what to do!) It’s like they havean overestimated sense of what they are capable of initially. The questions come. Wereview some of the queries that have been sent in (54, 64, 73) and see that they claim notto know what to do? What changed in between. Were they pretending to know what to doinitially simply because of the peer group? Then they experiment with the RPL –sendingin questions and answers for review. Confidence grows and success follows (is it thateasy?)A pattern is emerging as I listen to this group of practitioners: Before RPL After RPLNot PC literate PC literate – typed PoE, usedNot self-confident internet, emailNo qualification = no ambition Able to speak their mindNot able to ask for help Able to reflectAfraid of failure – especially managers in the Able to critique with more knowledgesame group as juniors Not afraid to say they don’t knowScared to say the wrong thing Confident of positionScared of losing job Knowledgeable about FAISScared of FAIS Knowledgeable about SAQA andScared of boss finding out NQF and other study prospectsBlaming coaches Trusted their group Realised they had time to spend on studying and trainingI took the pen and began drawing as the group was speaking: Page 205
    • Inputs Process – Outputs – (briefing up coaching, RPL afterwards front, client support, complete assess objectives, POE, time impact on candidate constraints, submit – Candidates, get feedback on a bit objectives, or, us, model – resubmit – Tools, feedback – resubmit – qualitative integration, another bit – and skills feedback – so quantitative. necessary for feedback is ongoing RPL + team and not an event, and their role work with the team not just the individual – to build confidence in teamI note that the assessors appear to know the candidates best – they seem to see theactual growth, more than the coach because the coach is not actually evaluating thecandidate – only motivating and interacting with them. Maybe the coach and assessorneed to fit into the team for support – the feedback needs to be more useful as well… Page 206
    • Appendix 3: Sample of coded text from the research(Note that these are original samples of coded text. I have used tippex in places simplybecause my original handwriting was not legible, so I have rewritten sections wherenecessary. Page 207
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    • Appendix 4: Table summarising the outcomes from the open coding analysisCategory Properties and dimensions Flip-flop comparisons Questions I asked myself1. Catalyst / reason to do Properties: self imposed or externally Assume they had no choice Why did they not just leave and doRPL imposed or environmentally imposed about doing RPL. something else? reason to do RPL? Environment dictated Assume there was no RPL – Would they have done it if they – but it is the same for all. Sparks, what then? knew the outcome? chemical catalyst – its causal. No reason to do it = no RPL, no Was there a power relationship at Dimensions: had to vs did not have to – credits or future. play? Did they have pressure I where is each candidate on continuum? No desire, no ambition, no could not see? Cause an effect or does not cause an impetus. effect. No pressure = free choice. Is that what HET RPL feels like?2. Feelings towards the RPL Properties: perceptions, experience of No feeling – ambivalent How did their feelings evolve –process (and FAIS in some sensation, an opinion, must engage No passion = no feeling was it gradual, phased, shared orgeneral) it to have a feeling; emotional, strength of Over feeling – it consumes you, immediate? What changes to feeling – hate, love. you can’t let it go, you focus on make feelings change? Dimensions: continuum of feelings about it, talk about it all the time. the RPL process – is it impacted by Share good and bad, make anything else (like success? group others listen and feel like you. thinking, personal characteristics?) Page 212
    • Category Properties and dimensions Flip-flop comparisons Questions I asked myself3. Questioning the purpose Properties: asking for the reason why it No questions asked means no At what stage were more of theand validity of the programme was done, engaging with the process thought was given to it, no questions posed? Who was enough to question it, some doubt that analysis, no discussion; asked what questions? Were the needs clarity before moving forward; To accept blindly would be to questions as a result of something ask who and what? ask no questions – almost else in the context (e.g. power Dimensions: range of questioning that resigned to just doing as you are relationships?) took place at different stages of the told. programme; who asked whom?4. Preparation for the process Properties: Impact of prior knowledge No preparation – would they What could have been done to of RPL; have had any feelings or prepare you better? First impressions during preparatory different feelings? Who prepared you – was there a workshop; link between the coach that How each individual approached the prepared you and your attitude RPL. and attitude of others? Dimensions: continuum of preparatory experiences – shared or isolated, did team preparation have an impact? – How? Page 213
    • Category Properties and dimensions Flip-flop comparisons Questions I asked myself5. Self-confidence about their Properties: belief in own abilities, self No confidence in self, lack of What determined who had goodability to do their job and the respect; link to self-esteem, prior ability; self confidence and who did not?RPL successes may cause this, or frequent Who has no confidence – Where did their lack of self- feedback? failures – self-fulfilling prophecy, confidence come from? Dimensions: continuum of self- what else at work needs confidence from low to high; what success – being a manager? impacts it – team or company culture, Can you do your job with no self- knowledge? Personal characteristics? confidence?6. Personal values Properties: what is valuable, personal Stating values means they are What personal values have an qualities that were brought to bear on engaging with the process, no impact on the success of certain the process, subjective or objective value statement means no candidates over others? perception, e.g. work ethic, I don’t feel engagement, values are variable How are these values developed – worthy, passing the buck, I can see the and generational and cultural – over time? Can they be learnt? value of doing this, I am excited about whose counts? the opportunity – it can change me. Can you have personal values Dimensions: range of personal values; on your own – or is it shared what else impacts it? If I am perception? Who labels and unemployed do I have them? judges? Page 214
    • Category Properties and dimensions Flip-flop comparisons Questions I asked myself7. Perceived link between Properties: cause and effect, hard work Work experience is all that Does the organisation supportqualification and job has its rewards, education is never counts; learning?performance wasted; linkages in a system, two sides Qualifications are all that count; Where do the perceived links of a coin – both are important There is no link between work come from? Dimensions: Perception of relationship and having a qualification; Does the history of no qualification between qualification and job These people can’t make the in the insurance industry impact performance – any factor impacting it, link – they need to be taught – this perception? like vision, past education or working but how do we learn? experience.8. Role of support systems in Properties: to share the load, No support – alone – isolation – Is no support better or worse thancontrolling anxiety and stress encourage, give courage, teams have feelings of anxiety; bad support?and getting through the supporters, teams play a game/work, Over support to point of Is team work support better thanprocess etc. what causes some people to look someone else doing your work; personal support? for support and others not to? Some people copy from others, Dimensions: range of support or someone else does it for structures including external (family, my them; faith), internal colleagues, management Does support lessen stress and and leader support, company support anxiety – why? through access to resources; Supporter must be respected? Page 215
    • Category Properties and dimensions Flip-flop comparisons Questions I asked myself9. Ability to cope Properties: able to deal with problems, Nothing to cope with, no stress, Why did some people feel experienced in dealing with problems, RPL is easy – anyone can do it. overwhelmed while others simply self-confident can deal with it – alone or Tries to cope so much are managed to fit it in to their daily with someone else. How is support locked in place – an analysis lives? manifested – is it important paralysis of sorts. Does everyone who can cope (encouragement, shoulder to cry on) If I can’t cope do I give up? If I succeed or do some fail? Dimensions: range of feelings from can cope do I give up? ‘inability to cope’ to ‘able to cope’ – what impacts this?10. Need for confirmation Properties: no man is an island, need No one to get confirmation from, Why do some people ask forfrom others verification/approval, reassurance, No one cares; confirmation, while others don’t belonging, a ritual for joining a church. You ask but no one gives you ask? Dimensions: continuum of level of reassurance – what then? Does everyone who gets external confirmation required – Can you get so much confirmation succeed or do some anything impacts this (like respecting confirmation you don’t know fail? person giving you confirmation?) what to do? Can confirmation be Is the company culture supportive contradictory? or not? Page 216
    • Category Properties and dimensions Flip-flop comparisons Questions I asked myself11. ‘Me’ and ‘I’ vs ‘We’ and Properties: sharing of the experience, No use of collective pronoun Why do some candidates talk for a‘Us’ indicates support and communication, means no sharing of group and others only for possibly even need for reassurance and experiences from personal themselves? justification, is it a team thing? Is it perspective – would be ‘I know Is this a mistake – do they always certain personalities? Is it a royal we – someone who …she ...’; talk in the plural pronoun? meaningless? Too much of a group process = Dimensions: range of personal group think and no activity (too pronoun use from exclusively singular many meetings get nothing to exclusively plural – does anything done) – so there must be an impact it – like must I see them as optimal level – is it personal or support to make them part of me? does it depend on self-esteem or something else?12. Understanding of Properties: rigour, specific approach, No academic rigour, no structure What is the impact of prioracademic approach and rules to follow, a methodology that is to follow, open ended, no rules; academic study on completion?assessment principles structured and universal, logical If there were no academic rules If there is a high correlation, is process – understanding, would the RPL have any RPL failing those who need it? Dimensions: continuum from ‘thinks meaning to the candidates? Is RPL too academic for understands’ to ‘thinks does not Would they see it as worthwhile? workplace implementation? understand’ – why do some understand and others not – what else impacts it? Page 217
    • Category Properties and dimensions Flip-flop comparisons Questions I asked myself13. Stress and time Properties: what is stress to one Unlimited time; What caused the stress?consuming nature of the RPL person is not necessarily stress to No stress because there is Why did it take some people soprogramme someone else, stressor must be nothing to do; long? perceived as stressful, therefore they Doing nothing can be stressful Must you have a certain level of care – if they don’t care they aren’t as well – so if they were stress to be able to complete the stressed – do they care about the RPL unemployed that would also be RPL process? or the FAIS? stressful; Dimensions: relationship between time Too much stress is destructive spent on RPL process and stress (and (psychologically, physically and self-confidence and prior experience?) behaviourally) – how does it not get that far – what personal criteria control stress?14. Personalisation of the Properties: symbolism, to share a No personification means no At what stage was the RPLRPL process common understanding, aids feeling, no talking about it, no personified? conversation, identity giving, sharing; What role does personification sustainable. Too much personification and it play for different individuals? Dimensions: range of personifications becomes controlling and from positive through to negative – is compulsive – like sex or drugs this impacted by personal values? for an addict. Page 218
    • Category Properties and dimensions Flip-flop comparisons Questions I asked myself15. ‘The RPL’ as opposed to Properties: indicates there is only one, No recall of the process or Why did some candidates not seenaming the company involved one definitive and all encompassing company name – nothing made the RPL process as separate fromin the implementation company or person or process, not an impression, no discussion or the company? seeing the RPL process separate from reflection on what they were What role does this play – positive the company, is this because they are exposed to; or negative? new to academia? Too much the RPL – can’t see Dimensions: range of naming of wood for trees – need balance implementation company from correct to stay focused – an optimal name to ‘the RPL’ – what impacts this? level16. Change in perception Properties: evolution of perception, No perception of programme, What led to the change intowards the project change requires a catalyst – what was could not remember it because perception? it? At what stage did the change occur? did not engage with it; Was the change in perception Why did some have a change and So much perception - are always the same direction and others not – change is learnt behaviour overwhelmed. follow the same steps (i.e. positive – what caused it? Started positive and ended – negative – positive or just Dimensions: continuum showing rate negative – never became negative – positive)? of change in perception throughout positive – can they succeed or programme – influenced by? must you be positive at the end to succeed? Page 219
    • Category Properties and dimensions Flip-flop comparisons Questions I asked myself17. Perception of feedback Properties: iterative process, loop of To be getting feedback means How could the feedback be communication on outcomes, transfer of they engaged with the process improved to make it a more information, developmental implication, and cared about the outcome positive experience for all who gives it and is this important? enough to have a reaction of candidates? Dimensions: continuum of opinion some sort. No perception of Is feedback important to success about feedback ranging from negative feedback means they did not – do those who get no feedback perception to positive perception – does care; have a chance to succeed or can its format have an impact? Too much feedback – they only fail? overwhelming, too little – under- What feedback counts – quality, inspiring, not worth the effort put quantity, duration, format? in? Page 220
    • Category Properties and dimensions Flip-flop comparisons Questions I asked myself18. Results / outcome of the Properties: results follow on as an No results means they did not Do they feel they got out whatRPL programme effect, it implies a consequential do the programme, which they put in? Was it an expected outcome, they should have been able to signifies no engagement with it; result? anticipate the results from their input. Must result be favourable – is a Where there any discrepancies? Dimensions: range of outcomes from bad result seen as an outcome positive to negative, also breadth of that is acceptable to them? outcomes from just the credits to more than the credits. Page 221
    • Appendix 5: List of the questions posed to interview candidates during axial coding 1. Were you negative about the RPL process at any point in the programme? 2. Did this perception change during the RPL? 3. Why do you think it changed? 4. How did you feel about RPL and the need for FAIS compliance initially? 5. What personal characteristics do you think you have that contributed to your success (or lack of success)? 6. Look at the following scales (we would discuss them first). Where would you rate yourself on each of these four scales at both the beginning and at the end of the RPL process? 7. Who or what supported you through this process? 8. How did you ask for that support? 9. What role did the team play in your success? 10. Did your perception towards the RPL process change, and if so, when and why? 11. Do you feel you got out of the process value equal to that which you put in? 12. Would you do RPL again if it were offered to you?In addition, the following questions were posed to the experts from SAQA and INSETA on RPL 1. What is the intention for RPL? 2. How do you see it being implemented? 3. Is it successful and why? 4. What do you think the barriers to implementation are? 5. How can these barriers be overcome? Page 222
    • Appendix 6: Summary of the analysis of the 18 case studies presented by Dyson and Keating (2005) Circumstances Personal Role of team Evolving Meaning of the The Barriers to the Assessment leading to the mastery support perception of outcome of implementation RPL methodologies RPL process skills and/or group the RPL the RPL process implementation employed and candidate displayed by processes process process upon followed by the reactions to it candidates throughout completion implementers the RPLAustralia Employee Highly Wide spread 67% found new No formal Many had not Observation andForestry assistance motivated to discontent employment + application engaged in oral questioning.industry following have skills followed news 8% have process - training since Assessors work inworkers downsizing – recognised’ of entered other workers talk to school. Low pairs in the aim was to Assessors redundancies training assessors who levels of literacy workplace. retrain so that understood programmes + form a profile for workers could context and 11% retired each person. be relocated could allay Profile is ‘anxieties’ that matched to the RPL competency candidates standards. had. Highly supportive and individual process. Benchmarking ‘Lack Helpers may Confidence Qualification Highly Many had not In-house assessorsSydney Opera drive. confidence in be allocated. levels built, award. supportive. engaged in sometimes workingHouse – arts Introduction of their ability to Assessors are reflective skills Initial briefing training since in pairs. Holisticand culture qualification meet workplace developed. session to school. assessment toworkers made educational based. explain process. Type of work avoid duplication of certification requirements’. Assessment is Clear guidelines. makes it difficult unit by unit possible for the discussion- Clear info on to locate assessment. real first time. based. then standards appropriate life examples Voluntary and evidence evidence to through ‘stories of participation. collection show assessor. practice’. Reflection processes. and questioning. Immediate feedback. Page 223
    • Circumstances Personal Role of team Evolving Meaning of the The Barriers to the Assessment leading to the mastery support perception of outcome of the implementation RPL methodologies RPL process skills and/or group the RPL RPL process process implementation employed and candidate displayed by processes process upon followed by the reactions to it candidates throughout completion implementers the RPL Chance to earn Experienced Participants are Qualification for Assessors Workplace Assessors notBicycle a qualification candidates – scattered individual and briefed assessment from workplacemechanics for the first time. ‘well throughout the greater candidates and removed – but Employers can advanced’ state in small competitiveness assessed them potential assessment 22 use concept of towards businesses. for SMME using variety of disruption to took place in skilled staff in competencies employer. evidence. business workplace. marketing – of the operations. ‘Range of competitive qualification. evidence’. advantage. Practical demonstrations.Alcohol and Chance to earn High level of Employer 623 started – Candidates were 15% did not Trainingdrug workers a qualification worker support high. 341 withdrew assisted to complete provider for the first time. commitment. over the year complete an secondary conducted the Legal framework Desire for a and 283 Individual school assessments. driving need to career path. completed it. assessment plan POE used. attract and which they used Workplace retain qualified to guide their assessment and staff. Drive to assessment and recognition and ‘professionalize’ collect sufficient matching of the industry. evidence. existing qualifications. Job descriptions and workplace audit information used.22 SMME = Small, Medium and Micro Enterprise Page 224
    • Circumstances Personal Role of team Evolving Meaning of the The Barriers to the Assessment leading to the mastery support perception of outcome of the implementation RPL methodologies RPL process skills and/or group the RPL RPL process process implementation employed and candidate displayed by processes process upon followed by the reactions to it candidates throughout completion implementers the RPLSouth Africa Chance to gain Workers Adviser is 28 centres were Advising – POE – assisted Set up 28 RPLConstruction qualification as reluctant to appointed. established assessing by adviser. centres to doworkers stepping stone enter process Strong union (none remain). evidence – ‘Quality the RPL and to lifelong – low support. 1266 certified verification of assurance is the simulate learning. attendance vs target of outcomes. foundation of workplace Reduction of rates. Low 6000. RPL’. environment – training costs, confidence. learners went to improved these centres. confidence. Access to jobs requiring qualification. Access to Provider must Entry into ‘Holistic and Informal learning By accreditedTourism further learning, have learner further training developmental backgrounds, providers atworkers redress through support – not an end approach’ – barriers must be workplace. certification. procedures in point on its preparing in the considered. place. own. social context not just unit standard context. Pre- assessment, info on types of evidence that they can submit, assessment plan agreed. Page 225
    • Circumstances Personal Role of team Evolving Meaning of the The Barriers to the Assessment leading to the mastery support perception of outcome of the implementation RPL methodologies RPL process skills and/or group the RPL RPL process process implementation employed and candidate displayed by processes process upon followed by the reactions to it candidates throughout completion implementers the RPL Diagnosis and Inability to Adviser and Credits or Preparation and Diverse By accreditedHealth and placement onto deal with evidence advanced support with backgrounds of providers –Welfare correct technical facilitators placing in POE candidates. employer notworkers programme and concepts and support and qualification. development. Wide variety of necessarily credit award. language. In guide and Interview and communities. involved. Social purpose need of educate practical POE – direct, of redress. support. candidates. assessment (not indirect or in workplace). historical Feedback and evidence. appeal. Practical assessment and knowledge test and interview. Credit award. Need Mentors, Screening, Language, POEManufacturing convincing to trainers and candidate gender andworkers build a POE. assessors submits cultural issues. Need support evidence. Self- Many adults incentives. candidates. assessment. have never been Communication POE. tested before. is critical. assessment Management buy-in critical.Chemical Social, POEworkers educational and Oral industry assessment, purposes – exams, projects, redress + case studies, learner mobility. demonstrations. Page 226
    • Circumstances Personal Role of team Evolving Meaning of the The Barriers to the Assessment leading to the mastery support perception of outcome of implementation RPL methodologies RPL process skills and/or group the RPL the RPL process implementation employed and candidate displayed by processes process process upon followed by the reactions to it candidates throughout completion implementers the RPLNew Zealand Employers Good grasp Peer RPL is part of Qualification WorkplaceSeafood looking for of assessment lifelong learning award not assessmentsworkers guarantees of competencies and review. – not just an immediate – and peer competence of gained on the Champions end in itself. many had assessments new entrants. job. ‘Eager identified to training to assisted by New to have skills promote and complete it. registered qualification recognised’. support RPL assessors. introduced. Desire to process. Protection of protect industry indigenous standards and knowledge. customary fishing practices. Legal Self-paced Guidance from 50 – 90% need Theory test and Possible conflict Provider basedConstruction requirement to process. assessors. to supplement detailed work withworkers drive quality. RPL with top up history – apprenticeships training. reviewed by system – RPL assessor. must not be Reviewed by seen as short expert witness. circuit to a qualification. Literacy. Acute safety issues. Page 227
    • Circumstances Personal Role of team Evolving Meaning of the The Barriers to the Assessment leading to the mastery support perception of outcome of implementation RPL methodologies RPL process skills and/or group the RPL the RPL process implementation employed and candidate displayed by processes process process upon followed by the reactions to it candidates throughout completion implementers the RPL Formal Assessor Individuals Largely face-to-Retail workers recognition for support. assisted to ‘see face. Some workplace skills. themselves’ in documentary to raise industry the process evidence in skills. through POE. communication. ‘Deeming’ of skills for experience. 23 New Formal course RCC and Learning does POE, APLHospitality qualifications work to build formal course not questionnaireworkers allows formal work to build accommodate developed by individuals to educational formal the styles of institute, gain a skills. educational learning of all – practical qualification and skills. Pre- especially observations professionalise assessment, kinaesthetic. and the industry. assessor does Lots of questionnaires. training needs foreigners Holistic analysis. require assessment. interpreters. Prior evidence can also be used.23 RCC = Recognition of Current Competence (as opposed to RPL ) the emphasis is on the currency of the competencies beingassessed. Page 228
    • Circumstances Personal Role of team Evolving Meaning of the The Barriers to the Assessment leading to the mastery support perception of outcome of implementation RPL methodologies RPL process skills and/or group the RPL the RPL process implementation employed and candidate displayed by processes process process upon followed by the reactions to it candidates throughout completion implementers the RPL Highly regulated Many Certification. Emphasis on Safety issues PracticalRoad transport industry – staff employees currency of are of concern. assessment on-workers require licenses. have ‘old competence. – ‘evidence traps’ the-job and Health and style assessor must – i.e. evidence formal ‘rigorous’ safety issues. licenses’ – so testify learners that cannot be assessment. there is a was competent validated or Assessor attests ‘culture of at time of authenticated. that learner can assessment ‘ assessment. repeat in the performance in industry. similar circumstances.Canada Newly regulated Limited local Small numbers Open and Can register as Long process – 8 Considers local ‘Rigorous andMidwives profession training so – work alone. fair. a midwife. months – after aboriginal skills defensible’ requiring legal individuals Assessor does assessment as entry to RPL assessment registration. travel report so some candidate as well. procedures. self Critical skills overseas, interview must attends assessment gap. study and then be required. orientation against core return to do programme and competencies. the RPL to be is registered. Then 4 days of recognised exams. File locally – review and indicates very report by motivated assessor. individuals. Page 229
    • Circumstances Personal Role of team Evolving Meaning of the The Barriers to the Assessment leading to the mastery skills support perception outcome of implementation RPL methodologies RPL process displayed by and/or group of the RPL the RPL process implementation employed and candidate candidates processes process process upon followed by the reactions to it throughout completion implementers the RPL Succession Initial Evidence guide 12 Credits were Assessment plan Took 50 – 100 Self-Hydro workers planning at large communication developed to candidates earned and developed for hours to collect assessment, plant – many strategy make evidence initially learning gaps each worker. evidence. gathered senior managers disseminated clear and easy registered – identified and Evidence was evidence using were retiring. information to present. this went up training collected and evidence guide and Temporary to 36 so it scheduled. after it was to organise and questioning adviser appears the Successful assessed a present was allowed. allocated to perception candidates learning plan evidence clearly. candidates improved could apply for was developed No portfolio – while they and management for each candidates had were collecting motivated positions and candidate to fill to summarise evidence. others to be promoted. gaps. evidence in a Clear join. few pages. communication Panel before, during discussions. and after.Youth Education Future Linked RPL to Developed Range of Mentorship, selfeducational assistants had needs life-long standard backgrounds directedworkers no formal anticipated - learning – self individual growth amongst research. training – this for future directed plans candidates – was an growth. learning options incorporating the some had prior opportunity to exist for those key training and correct this via a who indicate competencies others had none. new they do not required. Pay rates were qualification. know enough to low and be assessed. candidates could not take time off to study. Page 230
    • Circumstances Personal Role of team Evolving Meaning of the The Barriers to the Assessment leading to the mastery support perception of outcome of implementation RPL methodologies RPL process skills and/or group the RPL the RPL process implementation employed and candidate displayed by processes process process upon followed by the reactions to it candidates throughout completion implementers the RPLUnited States of AmericaCharter Oak Allows students Average age is Workshops are Learners College level Students Language – PLA portfolio isState College to apply for 42 years old – offered to want a degree or challenge college portfolio relies on the most popular credit against ‘experienced guide qualification credits. subjects by narratives so form of college degrees. mid-career candidates to so they are submitting limited language assessment – adults.’ create a motivated to personal ability would limit shows a balance Fear of meaningful do the work. narratives and chances of of theory and narrative portfolio of evidence success. They practice. Relies portfolio puts evidence. showing their must complete on narrative many off Video and knowledge and college level statements. applying. handbook and how it is equal to English Two faculty They have not RPL adviser what is being composition members review studied for a mentors as taught. course. the portfolio and long time. ‘For well. assessment those that are committee willing to try makes final there are award. individual advisory services available …’ Page 231
    • Appendix 7: letter of consent from employer(Note: this has been reproduced without company name to protect the anonymity of thecompany at their request. Similarly, the signed registers (where employees gave consentafter being briefed about the process) have not been reproduced and inserted into thisdocument. These are available upon reasonable request.)From:Sent: 10 May 2006 09:48 AMHi KarenProgramme evaluationI have your formal request to conduct a programme evaluation of the RPL process that was conducted atXXXXX. You may go ahead with this research. I will send the following out to the employees: You are shortly going to be invited to participate in an evaluation of the entire RPL process you haveundergone. This will entail completing a electronic survey form and replying by email.In addition, you may be invited to participate in more detailed focus groups lasting about 2-3 hours. Detailsand logistics of these will be communicated directly from Prior Learning Centre. You may be offered a gift asappreciation for participating. Please ensure that you follow the company policy as it relates to gifts shouldyou participate.All participation is entirely voluntary. This is not a XXXXXXX process and is not run by XXXXXX, but by PriorLearning Centre. Your confidentiality will be protected at all times and no one will be forced to take part. Noinformation passed on by you to Prior Learning Centre will be divulged to XXXXX.Anything else I should add?Regards,YYYYYAuthorised Financial Service Provider Page 232
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