Generic learning outcomes in a technikon diploma programme : a critical analysis

Van Schalkwyk, Susan C. (2002-12)

Thesis (MPhil)--University of Stellenbosch, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In 1997, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) published its guidelines 'to provide for the development and implementation of a National Qualifications Framework (NQF)' (Government Gazette 1997:35). This framework was to pave the way for compelling transformation in the education sector. One of the key features of the framework would be a directive that a series of competencies, or generic skills, that SAQA termed its 'critical cross-field outcomes' would have to be incorporated into the design of all programmes of learning. The publication of the guidelines sparked considerable debate; a debate that, in the five years since 1997, does not appear to have been resolved. As higher education institutions prepare for the 2003 submission of programmes to SAQA for registration, the importance of swift and meaningful intervention is self-evident. This report gives an account of a study undertaken to allow for the critical analysis of generic learning outcomes, or specifically SAQA's critical outcomes, as they present themselves in a technikon diploma programme. While the initial impetus in terms of the skills debate may appear to have arisen as a result of national imperatives, the overview of the literature pointed to international precedents, particularly when the issue of generic skills was contextualised against the background of the changing higher education landscape. Thus empirical research was conducted at the Cape Technikon using the National Diploma in Human Resources Management, its academic staff and its second-year student group, as its focus. The qualitative data, generated via multiple techniques including document analysis, interviewing, and a survey, provided a wealth of information and in-depth insight into the perceptions and attitudes of the respondents. The researcher endeavoured to maintain a practical focus throughout the study and sought to interpret and critique existing practice against best practice as described in the literature. The findings highlighted numerous issues relating to the integration of generic learning outcomes into programmes of learning. Key among these were the apparent lack of clarity and guidance among students and staff about the meaning of, and envisaged role for, the generic learning or critical outcomes; the fact that many in the technikon sector are already employing those teaching and learning strategies that are deemed appropriate when following an outcomes-based approach; that the changing student profile has had a direct impact on what happens in the classroom; and that assessment systems and practices appear to be the main barriers to the effective development of generic skills. In response, this study recommends that a structured, holistic, process approach be implemented at those institutions that are serious about integrating SAQA's critical outcomes into their programmes of learning. While such an approach would require institutional support and guidance, as well as an overall commitment to staff development, it is the contention of the researcher that the technikon sector, by virtue of its career-oriented focus and the design of its programmes, is ideally positioned to embrace the SAQA challenge successfully.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Suid-Afrikaanse Kwalifikasieowerheid (SAKO) het in 1997 riglyne gepubliseer wat voorsiening maak vir die ontwikkeling en implementering van 'n Nasionale Kwalifikasieraamwerk (NKR). Hierdie raamwerk sou die weg baan vir ingrypende veranderinge in die onderwys. Een van die sleuteleienskappe van hierdie raamwerk was die opdrag dat 'n reeks bevoegdhede, of generiese vaardighede, wat deur SAKO as sy 'kritiese uitkomstes' beskryf is, in die opstel van alle leerprogramme ingesluit moes word. Die publikasie van die riglyne het 'n aansienlike debat ontketen; 'n debat wat in die vyf jaar sedert 1997 oënskynlik nog nie tot 'n einde gekom het nie. Aangesien hoëronderwysinstellings hul voorleggings vir 2003 aan SAKO vir registrasie nou reeds begin voorberei, is die noodsaaklikheid van 'n vinnige en betekenisvolle besluit hieroor voor die hand liggend. Hierdie verslag gee 'n uiteensetting van navorsing wat gedoen is om 'n kritiese analise van generiese leeruitkomstes, of spesifiek die kritiese uitkomstes van SAKO, soos toegepas in die diplomaprogram van 'n tegnikon, te beskryf. Alhoewel dit aanvanklik mag gelyk het asof die debat oor vaardighede sy ontstaan aan 'n nasionale opdrag te danke gehad het, het 'n oorsig van die literatuur daarop gedui dat internasionale presedente ook daartoe aanleiding gegee het, veral in gevalle waar vrae betreffende die generiese leeruitkomstes teen die agtergrond van 'n veranderende hoëronderwyslandskap beskou is. Empiriese navorsing is aan die Kaapse Tegnikon onderneem met die Nasionale Diploma in Menslike Hulpbronnebestuur, sy akademiese personeel en tweedejaarstudente, as fokuspunt. Kwalitatiewe data is deur die gebruik van verskeie tegnieke gegenereer wat dokumentêre analise, onderhoudvoering en 'n vraelysopname insluit. Hierdie data het 'n bron van inligting oor, en insae, tot, die persepsies en houdings van die respondente verskaf. Die navorser het deurgaans gepoog om 'n praktiese fokus tydens die studie te behou en om die huidige praktyk te interpreteer en te beoordeel teenoor dit wat as suksesvol in die literatuur bestempel is. Die bevindinge het verskeie aspekte ten opsigte van die insluiting van generiese leeruitkomstes binne leerprogramme na vore gebring. Van die belangrikste aspekte is die klaarblyklike gebrek aan duidelikheid en leiding, onder sowel studente as akademiese personeel, oor die betekenis van, en beoogde rol vir die kritiese of generiese leeruitkomstes; die feit dat vele akademici in die tegnikonsektor reeds gebruik maak van die onderrig- en leerstrategieë wat as toepaslik vir uitkomsgebaseerde onderrig beskou word; dat die veranderende studenteprofiel 'n direkte impak gehad het op dit wat in die klaskamer gebeur; en dat assesseringspraktyke en -metodes tans die grootste remskoen in die effektiewe ontwikkeling van generiese vaardighede blyk te wees. In antwoord hierop beveel hierdie studie die implementering van 'n gestruktureerde, holistiese, prosesbenadering by die instellings aan wat erns maak met die insluiting van SAKO se kritiese uitkomstes in hul leerprogramme. Alhoewel so 'n benadering ondersteuning en leiding van die instellings, asook 'n algemene verbintenis tot personeelontwikkeling, sal vereis, is dit die navorser se oortuiging dat die tegnikonsektor, as gevolg van sy loopbaangerigte fokus en die inhoud van sy programme, ideaal geposisioneer is om die SAKO-uitdaging suksesvol die hoof te bied.

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