The implementation of the Competency And Placement test

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CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY

INTRODUCTION

The essence of demonstrating a scientific approach in determining the impact of the CAP test within the FET colleges during 2009 has been reported on by using an appropriate research design and methodology. These research components have taken cognisance of the particular dynamics relating to the characteristics of the research problem and its associated phenomena. FET colleges are tasked with training unemployed youth in priority scarce skills categories in order to generate socioeconomic advancement within the country (HRDS-SA, 2008:15). This research project has therefore generated plausible findings and recommendations that will inform skills development and the eradication of unemployment within the country. The purpose of CAP is to promote successful learning at FET Colleges especially within the NCV programme by harnessing a progressive and developmental approach.
Given the quasi experimental characteristics of this research, careful consideration has been given to the analysis of data pertaining to both participating as well as non-participating colleges within the country. The main source of data has been obtained from the DoE for learner performance, both prior and post CAP implementation. Pre CAP data refers to the learner performance data obtained from colleges before the implementation of CAP during 2007 and 2008, while post CAP data refers to the learner performance data obtained after the implementation of CAP during 2009. Interviews with 27 learner support officers at participating colleges have yielded textual data and information which have added to the qualitative dimension of the study. In addition to this, four semi structured interviews were conducted with two CAP officials and two curriculum experts within the WCED. The current impact study will form the basis for further research into establishing improvements in the manner in which tuition and training are supported within the FET College sector in South Africa.

RESEARCH PROBLEM

South Africa as a developing country has ascribed the reason for poor service delivery within its various government ministries, to the lack of resources (HRDS-SA, 2009:39). During 2005, the National Education Department commenced the Recapitalisation of FET Colleges Initiative (DoE, 2007:9; DoE, 2006:5; National Plan for FET Colleges, 2009:7) which involved a capital injection of R1.9 billion into the FET Colleges sector. The expansion of infrastructure and capacity was initiated primarily for colleges to effectively deliver the NCV programme. However, once implementation of the NCV programme took place in 2007 the results were appalling, and government suffered immense criticism from the media and prevailing political forums (Businessday, 2010). This research was therefore undertaken to investigate why poor performance in the NCV programme continued amid the installation of the “Career and Placement Test” (CAP) intervention. This question is further exacerbated by the notion of a R1.9 billion capital injection made by DHET specifically for the elaborate resourcing of colleges in preparation for the implementation of the NCV programme. Important to note was that the CAP intervention was initiated in response to research conducted by Umalusi who is the FET colleges’ quality assurer. The fundamental question of this research is: why have learners in the NCV programme performed so poorly amid a huge recapitalisation injection into the colleges, and the implementation of a dedicated NCV learner placement intervention, namely CAP?

AIM OF THE STUDY

The first phase of study was to obtain evidence of the apparent poor performance of learners within the NCV programme. The evidence provided the researcher with a broader understanding of the problem for further planning regarding the applicable research method. The official aim of the study was to ascertain whether the CAP intervention was implemented effectively. Inherent in this aim was the analyses of all the data in order to determine whether the culpability of poor performance was
appropriately apportioned to learners as was implied by the Umalusi report (2009:39) and the FET Institute (Papier, 2009:44).

RESEARCH DESIGN

Given the presumptuous circumstances regarding the implementation of CAP within the FET College sector, the deployment of an ex post facto, quasi-experimental research methodology was selected. This methodology was underpinned by a combined qualitative and quantitative data analysis. This retrospective inquiry into the phenomenon has involved moderated data collection of past and current learner performance, but has also involved qualitative data obtained from current sources which include 27 learner support managers; two education specialists; and two CAP managers. The aforementioned data have generated useful trends and qualitative insight into the respective subjects under scrutiny. According to Glesne (2006:36), multiple kinds of data increase confidence in a given study. Albeit that an experiment was ex post facto, Kovacs Burn (2005) argues that the strength of a quasi-experimental approach is that the external validity is increased due the naturalistic manner in which the intervention was implemented. This means that test sensitivity and reactivity are completely eliminated given the naturalistic implementation of the intervention (Welman, et al, 2006:107). The quasi-experimental approach simply means that randomisation was not possible due to the obvious constraints located within the evaluative study. The rationale of the quasi-experimental research that was conducted in this study is that the learner performance data of both groups were measured before the independent variable (CAP) was introduced. Furthermore, after the intervention had taken place, the groups were measured again in order to ascertain whether behavioural changes had occurred. This principle of experimentation is therefore evident which demonstrates the conformance to a quasi-experimental research methodology which also mimics true experimental research involving control and experimental groups.
The learner performance data has borne witness to the existence of the problem, and the qualitative data emanating from interviews has contributed to a holistic understanding of the phenomenon. The qualitative aspect of the study has ensured that a one sided view of the reality was avoided. Dyson and Brown (2006:10) refer to a “selective perspective” of the phenomenon where researchers amplify certain aspects of the reality that fits their preference. It is important to note that since this research was located within the education sector, the danger of clouding the investigation with issues associated with the curriculum, rather than that of performance of an intervention, existed. Meyer and Botha (2004:128) refer to the task of human resources specialists as that of performance interventionists. Hence the study sought to determine the performance of the CAP intervention.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Historical quantitative data contained within the DoE database was used to measure the learner performance levels of the final exams over a three year period. This pool of data included colleges who implemented CAP as well as those who did not. The data contained evidence pertaining to the lack of performance improvements that learners had attained during the period of CAP implementation (Dyson & Brown 2006:9). In addition to this, qualitative data were retrieved through semi-structured interviews with key individuals including 27 learner support personnel; two curriculum specialists and two CAP managers. The qualitative and quantitative data have been factored into the data analysis process described below. Given that the research was based on a country-wide analysis of the problem, the learner support personnel at colleges were interviewed via scheduled telephone conversations. On the other hand, the curriculum experts and CAP managers were interviewed using a face to face approach.
The telephonic interviews have focused on opinions about the CAP test since Sapsford and Jupp (2006:118) promote the notion of asking interviewees for their opinion on a subject relevant to their fields of expertise. To further comply with the views expressed by Sapford and Jupp (2006:122), these interviews have avoided issues of reactivity by conducting them in a naturalist manner (semi-structured) so as to maintain the normative requirements of conversation where turn-taking was afforded by both parties (Garfinkel 1967 as quoted by Sapsford and Jupp, 2006:113). Preparation for the interviews (Sapsford & Jupp, 2006:162) was summarised to include the following points of discussion:
Interviewees’ expert opinion on the CAP test
Whether the administration of CAP was in compliance with the agencies requirements
Expert opinion on whether CAP has improved the learning experience
As a result of CAP, have development opportunities been granted to academically needy learners
Expert opinion on whether CAP required any improvements
Interviewees’ expert opinion on reasons for the poor performance within the NCV programme
An analysis of the various forms of data has been executed where rural and urban trends were captured in order to establish a unique case orientation of the phenomenon. Matrixes and tables on the other hand have been utilised to display clinical data in a manner that promoted a holistic understanding of the phenomenon so that the conclusions and findings drawn from the research were both valid and reliable.

OUTCOMES EVALUATION RESEARCH

According to Mouton (2005:160), the outcomes evaluative model is an effective empirical approach in assessing the impact of an intervention through asking evaluative questions. This form of research could either be true experimental or a quasi-experimental design. Therefore the research included a systematic approach in assessing the merit of the CAP intervention during 2009 by initially analysing the learner performance results at the end of the academic year. Trochim (2006) explains that
evaluation research is a systematic assessment of the worth or merit of an intervention which involves the collection and sifting of data, thereafter making judgements about the validity of the information. He states further that evaluation research should influence decision making or policy formulation. This point was particularly interesting since FET colleges fell within the ambit of the national government which meant that colleges were subject to national policy. The NCV programme was the result of a policy decision in addressing the ravages in the country namely, skills shortages, unemployment and poverty. Garbers (1996:246) postulates that legislators are sensitive to the feasibility of initiatives and therefore influence could be bolstered by insight into cause and effect underlying certain phenomena. He makes mention of the fact that problems can be identified by members of the public or by organisations. Therefore the initiative of this research was backed by the identification of a problem within the skills development strategy of the public service and more so, the DoE, which informed the implementation of CAP.

THE RATIONALE OF AN EX POST FACTO APPROACH

Ex post facto refers to the retrospective nature of the research. The term also applies to the outcomes evaluation research method employed within this study. Therefore, given the peculiar circumstances attached to the phenomenon, a retrospective investigation was considered as the most appropriate approach that would accommodate the dynamics peculiar to the study. According to a home science website (Reference.com, 2010), Ex post facto research refers to studies that investigate cause and effect relationships of variables in order to determine validity of the causal factors. The method according to the author would involve statistics and alternative ways within its analysis of a past event.
Given the apparent lack of performance within the CAP intervention, the researcher undertook the task of investigating the impact of the intervention, albeit that it was implemented two years ago. It is for this reason that the given approach has been adopted in order to yield findings that were valid and that could be generalised throughout the country.

QUASI EXPERIMENTAL VERSUS NON EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH

Quasi-experimental research refers to a scientific investigation where a limited level of experimentation has been engaged by the researcher. This form of research is usually adopted where there are constraints linked to the phenomena under investigation. These constraints usually involve sensitive and ethical issues which force a less clinical approach to the investigation at hand (Welman & Kruger, 2002:87). It is therefore clear that given the limited level of experimentation involved in quasi experimental research, it is an authentic approach in determining cause and effect in a peculiar investigation.
Non-experimental research on the other hand refers to the absence of experimentation; therefore has less scientific integrity attached to it. Welman and Kruger (2002:83) state, that non-experimental research involves neither randomization nor a planned intervention. They also claim that in order to ensure the authenticity of this type of research, the researcher needs to be thoroughly familiar with the nature of the variables under investigation.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
GENERAL
Abstract
Declaration
Acknowledgement
CHAPTER 1: BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH OVERVIEW
1.Introduction
1.2 The FET Colleges dispensation
1.3 The structure of the NCV programme
Challenges experienced during implementation of NCV
1.4 Research conducted by the FET Institute
1.5 The implementation of the Competency And Placement test
1.6 Research design
1.7 Research methodology
1.8 The validity and reliability of data
1.9 Limitations of the study
1.10 Conclusion
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW: Learner placement at FET Colleges in SA
2.1 Introduction
2.2 CAP objectives
2.3 The rationale of the NCV
2.4 The FET Institute report findings
2.5 Umalusi report findings
2.6 NCV Assessment
2.7 Capacity of NCV lecturers
2.8 Theoretical framework
2.9 Conclusion
CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Research problem
3.3 Aim of the study
3.4 Research design
3.5 Research methodology
3.6 Theme relevance
3.7 Objectivity and trustworthiness
3.8 Limitations of the study
3.9 Conclusion
CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS AND INTERPRETATION
4.1 Introduction
4.2 College capacity
4.3 Effectiveness of the NCV curriculum
4.4 Effectiveness of CAP
4.5 Conclusion
CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Limitations of the study
5.3 Findings from the learner performance data
5.4 Findings from the qualitative data obtained through interviewing
5.5  Recommendations
5.6 Conclusion
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
AN IMPACT STUDY OF THE COMPETENCY AND PLACEMENT (CAP) TEST INTERVENTION AT FURTHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING (FET) COLLEGES

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