QUALITY MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS/MODELS (QMS)

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CHAPTER 3 Research design and methodology

INTRODUCTION

This chapter presents a discussion of the research design and methodology. The population, sample, data collection instrument, reliability, validity, data collection process, data analysis and ethical considerations are discussed. A quantitative, descriptive and exploratory design was used to establish whether the current quality management systems of the selected nursing education institutions in Gauteng are congruent to the SAQA criteria and guidelines for Education and Training providers.
The objectives of the study were to determine whether the current quality management systems used by the nursing education institutions are congruent to SAQA’s requirements and guidelines for education and training providers identify existing limitations in the quality management systems used by the selected nursing education institutions

RESEARCH DESIGN

Research design is referred to as the overall plan or blueprint of how a research study is going to be conducted with specifications for enhancing the study’s integrity (Polit & Beck 2008:30). A quantitative approach using a non experimental, descriptive and explorative design was used. The quantitative approach is more formalised and well controlled with a carefully defined scope. It is aimed at examining generally accepted phenomena, which is more structured and controlled in nature (Burns & Grove 2003:35). Quantitative research originates from the positivist philosophical paradigm. Positivists view reality as objective, existing independent from the human mind. They use a set of orderly and systematic processes to gather empirical evidence which is rooted in objective reality (Polit & Beck 2008:15).
A quantitative research approach enabled the researcher to explore objective data and describe respondents’ actual practices/activities (Mouton 2001:55). Information was obtained from stakeholders who were actively involved in quality activities and experiences, in this study they included the nurse educators, quality enablers, managers, and individuals assigned to manage quality tasks in the nursing education institutions.
Descriptive research presents a picture of specific detail of a situation, social setting, or relationship (Neuman 2006:35). It addresses how did it happen and who is involved exploring issues and explaining why something happens. Descriptive research gives a picture of social activities and begins with a well-defined phenomenon and research is conducted to describe it accurately (Struwig & Stead 2001:8). This research study is aimed at providing a clear picture of quality prevalence, approach, characteristics and scope in the nursing education institutions’ quality management systems e.g. the institution’s functional processes and procedures and techniques used to manage quality (Neuman 1997:19-20; Burns & Grove 1997:30). Description of the research results may be utilised to indicate institutions’ QMS practices compliance to required SAQA core criteria, and may reflect limitations in the current quality practices at the nursing education institutions.
Exploratory research investigates the what of a phenomenon in the manner in which it manifest and the factors to which it was related (Polit & Beck 2008:21). It is basically a deeper search for information about and topic that would bring out the relevant facts of the study in a scientific manner (Neuman 2003:29-30, Burns & Grove 1997:17). Exploration may be done to explore a new issue in order to learn about it, or a researcher may do an exploratory study to gain sufficient knowledge to be able to design and execute an extensive study. In this study items were included which invited comments from the respondents additional to yes, no and uncertain responses. The comments from the respondents could provide more clarity on quality assurance activities. Therefore the dimensions of the phenomenon were explored, to obtain the nature of the related factors, as well as the contributing factors that influences limitations of quality management system practices in the nursing education institutions.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

The research methodology comprises the method of sampling, the data collection and analysis strategies.

Population

The population refers to all persons or objects possessing common defining characteristics of interest to the researcher that meets the criteria the researcher is interested in studying (Polit
& Beck 2008:66). The target population for this study were the nurse educators and managers employed in the nursing education and training institutions currently registered as nursing education and training providers in Gauteng Province, South Africa.

Sampling

A sample is a subgroup of the population of interest selected to participate in a study and is representative of the total population that one desires to study (Polit & Beck 2008:731). In this study persons or stakeholders involved in the quality management activities in three selected nursing education institutions in Gauteng were selected as study participants.
Sampling refers to the method of selecting the sample who will be respondents for the study, it is about specifying how a sample will be selected and recruited (Polit & Beck 2008:344). Non-probability sampling was chosen, because this category is not based on a chance of being included in the study but selected by the judgment of the researcher. The researcher required respondents who were directly involved in quality matters, because the probability of selecting any particular member at the nursing education institutions under study depends on the researcher’s need for obtaining information from people directly involved to be able to gather the most relevant data, and this particular need determined selection of respondents for this study (Struwig & Stead 2001:111). Purposive sampling was therefore the most suitable sampling technique for the study.
Purposive sampling is a method based on experience and judgments of a researcher regarding the characteristics of a representative sample and is also regarded as site sampling (Neuman 2003:212-214; Polit & Hungler 1999:209). Staff involved in quality assurance and management for example quality committee members, those coordinating quality issues in the nursing education institutions, and the nurse educators who implement quality activities to maintain and sustain a quality culture within the institution, were included in the sample. Hence the researcher made a conscious choice in the selection of relevant participants for the study to be able to obtain valid and reliable data about actual practices (Neuman 2003:214). The intension was to include the persons considered as knowledgeable and experienced about quality, and involved in the quality management and practices from the operational and managerial levels (Neuman 2003:212-214; Polit & Hungler 1999:209).

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Sampling criteria

Sampling criteria refer to the characteristics essential to the membership of the target population (Burns & Grove 2003:366). Only respondents who were involved in quality activities were included in the sample using the following criteria as guidelines:
Qualified quality assurance practitioner who has sound experience in the teaching and training of nurses for different programmes.
Principal, deputy principal, head of a nursing department or subject heads, and quality team or quality committee members.
Nurse educators who implement procedures, and activities to manage quality.

Sample size

Sample size refers to how many (subset) respondents of the population to be sampled. There is no formula to calculate how large the sample should be, but it should be adequate to represent the target population for the study (Polit & Beck 2008:348). Three nursing education institutions (NEI) were conveniently selected, they were within reasonable distances from the area where the researcher lives. The researcher was given a contact person at each institution who happened to be a research contact person.
Each contact person was then handed 20 questionnaires to distribute to the respondents who complied with the sampling criteria in each NEI. It turned out that in NEI A seven (7), in NEI B thirteen (13), and in NEI C twelve (12) respondents completed questionnaires as it was voluntary, and this condition determined the actual sampling size for this study based on the availability and willingness of respondents to participate in the study. The total sample size was therefore 32 (N=32).

Research instrument: questionnaire

A questionnaire is a printed document that contains instructions, questions and statements that are compiled to obtain information from respondents and it is self-administered. This means respondents read the questions in a written form at and give written answers (Polit & Beck 2008:324).
A questionnaire was chosen as the most suitable data collection instrument for this study because respondents would have the opportunity to complete on their own in their own time reflecting on their practices without being intimidated by the researcher. It was anticipated that an anonymous questionnaire would elicit genuine and honest responses about the quality management practices in the nursing education institutions under study.
A self administered questionnaire was designed based on the SAQA criteria and guidelines and information from a literature review on quality assurance practices locally and internationally.
A research stands or falls on the quality of the facts in which it is based, hence the researcher should maintain consistency and control regarding selection of respondents and data collection to protect the integrity or validity of the study with consistent information (Burns & Grove 2003:301; Bless & Smith 2000:97). Therefore before data collection the researcher conducted a briefing session at each NEI to all the staff members and managers who were available as arranged by each NEI’s contact person. The briefing sessions were successful with the help of the institution’s contact person. The main purpose for the briefing sessions was for guidance on answering questions and clarity on information required as an attempt to obtain authentic, valid and reliable data and consistency of information from respondents’ at all three institutions.

Questionnaire content

SAQA’s eight core criteria and guidelines for quality management systems for education and training providers were used to derive relevant questions, and the literature reviewed assisted in determining what questions should be asked under each criterion (see 2.5.1 to 2.5.8). The following options were provided for answering the questionnaire:
Yes
No
Uncertain
Remarks
(A column for remarks was added to yield more specific information which could lead to a better understanding of conformance to SAQA’s quality management system criteria).
The sub-sections in the questionnaire which represent SAQA’s eight (8) core criteria are as follows (SAQA 2001a:21-30):
Criterion 1: General quality issues, accreditation and policy statement
Questionnaire items focused on registration and accreditation of the institution and its programmes with relevant bodies (NQF, SAQA, and SANC) and whether the institution’s vision, mission, aim and objectives were aligned to the NQF’s values and principles.
Criterion 2: Quality Management systems
This category reflects quality characteristics that sustain a quality culture such as the monitory and controlling of quality whether all staff are involved in the development, implementation and evaluation of quality. The items under this criterion are mainly to determine whether the nursing education institution have developed, and implemented its own quality management system.
Criterion 3: Review mechanisms
In this criterion the researcher enquires to obtain evidence regarding the Quality review mechanisms that sustain active continuous quality cycle for quality assurance and management of the institutional processes, implying that internal and external feedback have to be noted and acted upon to improve quality of service delivery.
Criterion 4: Programme delivery
Items under this criterion explores the actual delivery of a programme which include planning, implementation, and evaluation as well as the review of staff performance during programme delivery. The focus is on whether learner relevance is adhered to and whether the mode of programme delivery is learner centered.
Criterion 5: Staff policies
Items addressed staff policies and procedures for staff selection, appraisal and development, and staff competency to fulfill their roles.
Criterion 6: Learner policies
Items focused on learner’s policies which should include procedures for selection and admission criteria, RPL, support services and career guidance.
Criterion 7: Assessment policies
Items inquire whether assessment policies and procedures underpin quality practices within the institution, by focusing on ongoing supportive development and integrated assessment which are in line with NQF principles.
Criterion 8: Management systems and policies
Items under this criterion inquires about the general learner administration issues and the general management of the institution’s facilities and equipment, the maintenance, and upgrading thereof and governance.

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Pre-testing of the questionnaire

The researcher pre-tested the questionnaire at the South African Military Health Services Nursing Education Institution, an institution that was not included in the study. Three tutors from different subject specialties and experienced in quality issues were given the questionnaire to complete. They took 25 minutes to complete the questionnaire in the researcher’s presence. The questionnaire was tested to determine if the questions would obtain reliable and required information, and also if it could obtain consistent information. It was also tested to identify and correct ambiguities and to find out if the questions were well understood and yielded the required information. Only three questions required restructuring for clarity and two that were double barrel and required to be corrected. Few questions were corrected for spelling and preposition.

Reliability

Reliability and validity of an instrument are not independent from one another. If the instrument is unreliable it cannot be valid because it cannot validly measure an attribute or construct if it is inconsistent and inaccurate – consistency refers to reliability. However, an instrument can be reliable without being valid (Polit & Beck 2008:458).
Reliability refers to the consistency or dependability with which an instrument measures the attribute it is designed to measure (Burns & Grove 2003:749). When a particular instrument is applied repeatedly to the same object, and yields the same results each time it is regarded as reliable (Babbie & Mouton 2001:119). The designed instrument should be stable – when using the instrument to gather data it should be able to yield the same results after being used during different periods of time (Neuman 2003:179,180). The instrument designed by the researcher for this study revealed consistency in responses by the respondents from the different nursing education institutions under study.
Reliability was ensured through minimisation of data collector bias and keeping extraneous factors. The researcher conducted a briefing session at each institution with the assistance of an institution’s research contact person and respondents had an opportunity to ask questions. The briefing sessions covered the research topic, purpose and objectives of the study, significance of study, questionnaire questions, and aspects of written consent for participation. This was done to ensure consistency of responses by respondents to obtain valuable and reliable data. The researcher maintained a friendly, open and supportive attitude during each of the three briefing sessions.

Validity

Validity refers to the degree to which an instrument measures what it is supposed to measure (Polit & Beck 2008:457) In this study it implies that the questionnaire should contain items which test quality assurance practices and activities to ensure quality in an educational institution.
Face and content validity were ensured. Face validity refers to whether an instrument looks as though it measures the appropriate construct. Although not strong evidence of instrument validity, it is helpful in cases where other types of validity have also been established (Polit & Beck 2008:458). The researcher requested the assistance of a quality assurance committee member at a higher education institution who has already gone through the process of a higher education quality assurance committee audit, to look at the instrument and provide input to establish face validity. A few changes to the instrument were made as a result.
Content validity is concerned with the degree to which an instrument has an appropriate sample of items for the construct that is being measured and that the domain of the construct is adequately covered (Polit & Beck 2008:458). According to Neuman (2003:184) content validity is about measures that sample representative ideas or concepts. It is the extent to which the theoretical content of the construct is being measured. To ensure content validity, the questions in the questionnaire were formulated by the researcher after an in-depth study of SAQA documents on quality assurance and a thorough study of the literature (nationally and internationally) on quality assurance and quality management. Additionally, the questionnaire was sent to two experts on quality assurance and a statistician at the University of South Africa for validation. Their recommendations were incorporated before finalisation of the questionnaire.

Table of contents 
CHAPTER 1 Orientation to the study
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
1.3 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.4 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
1.5 OBJECTIVES
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
1.7 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
1.8 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
1.9 DEFINITION OF TERMS
1.10 OUTLINE OF THE STUDY
1.11 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 2 Literature review
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 QUALITY, QUALITY ASSURANCE AND QUALITY MANAGEMENT
2.3 QUALITY MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS/MODELS (QMS)
2.4 THE SOUTH AFRICAN APPROACH TO QUALITY MANAGEMENT
2.5 THE SOUTH AFRICAN QUALIFICATION AUTHORITY’S (SAQA’S) CORE CRITERIA FOR
EDUCATION AND TRAINING PROVIDERS VERSUS A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
2.6 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 3 Research design and methodology
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 RESEARCH DESIGN
3.3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.4 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
3.5 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 4 Data analysis and interpretation of data
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 DATA ANALYSIS
4.3 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 5 Findings, conclusions, limitations and recommendations
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 SUMMARY OF RESEARCH FINDINGS
5.3 CONCLUSIONS
5.4 RECOMMENDATIONS
5.5 LIMITATIONS OF THIS STUDY
5.6 CONCLUDING REMARKS
BIBLIOGRAPHY
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