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Towards the design of a workplace RPL implementation model             for the South African insurance sector             ...
STATEMENTI hereby certify that the dissertation submitted by me in partial fulfilment of the degreeDoctorate in Philosophi...
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSAs is usual with an endeavour such as this, many people have contributed, although thework presented is al...
TABLE OF CONTENTS  STATEMENT ................................................................................................
2.6.3         Artistic and evocative criteria ...............................................................................
4.7.1            Barriers to the RPL implementation as described in the case study ................... 107  4.7.2         ...
CHAPTER 7 : CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ..................................................... 184   7.1               ...
LIST OF TABLESTable 3-1 List of stakeholders and the intended uses they may have for the data ........................ 51T...
LIST OF FIGURESFigure 1-1 Conceptual framework for this research ............................................................
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONSAPL      Assessment of Prior LearningAPEL     Assessment of Prior Experiential LearningCAEL     Counc...
ABSTRACTRecognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is an internationally accepted process of assessingnon-formal learning with th...
OPSOMMINGErkenning van Vorige Leer (EVL) is n internasionaal aanvaarde proses om nie-formeleleerervarings te assesseer en ...
CHAPTER 1 : CONTEXTUALISING THE STUDY             ‘Probable impossibilities are to be preferred to improbable possibilitie...
This introductory chapter introduces and contextualises this research. It provides anoverview of the rationale for the res...
itself. Also, each classroom and workplace context will be different and not even twoworkplaces within the same industry w...
technikons who responded’ to the survey they conducted. The lack of progress inimplementing RPL was also reported by the c...
The proliferation of bodies responsible for the generation of standards and       qualifications and quality has led to an...
‘Recognition of prior learning means the comparison of the previous learning and       experience of a learner howsoever o...
Logic models are different from both typologies and theories. Broadly speaking a typologyis the systematic classification ...
This project involved 1 000 domestic workers and there was a dearth of practicalguidelines for RPL delivery in the workpla...
of the view that RPL is context-specific and that models developed in one context (forexample formal higher education) can...
•   Low levels of literacy and numeracy skills in South Africa and the existence of         eleven official languages make...
assist individuals to take advantage of the many opportunities available for qualified staff.This could arguably have far ...
From these conceptual questions the following broad research objectives can be derived:      Objective 1: To employ a qual...
Factors                             Workplace                                                                             ...
Working from the left to the right, Figure 1.1 starts with the conceptualisation of the broadmacro factors impacting the R...
•      the technology available (RPL requires resources such as the internet so if               these are not available i...
Bogdan and Bilken (2003, p. 2) have the following to say about qualitative research: ‘(w)euse qualitative research as an u...
Chapter 4 focuses on the presentation of data and the analysis of this data using thetechniques described. Samples of raw ...
CHAPTER 2 : RESEARCH METHODOLOGY                                                 ‘A goal properly set is halfway reached.’...
stakeholders’ experiences by interacting with them and collecting their first-hand reports(epistemology) and relies on qua...
Process and sequence: Qualitative researchers are not really concerned with the       outcomes of the event they are study...
the intention is to understand human behaviour. They feel that a design that is tooinflexible will be counter-productive t...
multiple methods also contributes to methodological triangulation (to be discussed insection 2.6).The emphasis in this pro...
evaluation model and the second is Guba and Lincolns (1989) fourth generationevaluation model. Schurink (2003) states that...
(v)    There is a constant focus on how the data will be used throughout the evaluation          – ‘What would you do if y...
These case studies have been selected for an analysis because they represent the onlysummary of workplace RPL that was ava...
Secondly, there was the question of how to select RPL candidates to be interviewed. Thesampling strategy employed was purp...
To summarise, the sample selection was as follows:       One employer with 227 RPL candidates distributed as follows:     ...
Dr. Karen Deller RPL Thesis
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Dr. Karen Deller RPL Thesis
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Transcript of "Dr. Karen Deller RPL Thesis"

  1. 1. 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
  2. 2. 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
  3. 3. 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
  4. 4. 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 2.5.5.1 Diagrams .............................................................................................................. 32 2.5.5.2 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
  5. 5. 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
  6. 6. 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
  7. 7. 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
  8. 8. 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
  9. 9. 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
  10. 10. 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
  11. 11. 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
  12. 12. 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
  13. 13. 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
  14. 14. 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
  15. 15. 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
  16. 16. 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
  17. 17. 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
  18. 18. ‘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
  19. 19. 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
  20. 20. 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
  21. 21. 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
  22. 22. • 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
  23. 23. 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
  24. 24. 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
  25. 25. 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
  26. 26. 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
  27. 27. • 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
  28. 28. 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
  29. 29. 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
  30. 30. 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
  31. 31. 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
  32. 32. 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
  33. 33. 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
  34. 34. 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
  35. 35. 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
  36. 36. (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
  37. 37. 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
  38. 38. 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
  39. 39. 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

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