CONCLUDING PERSPECTIVES ON THE TOPIC OF ACTION RESEARCH

Published:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The value of this study lies in answering the research questions posed in 1994. The "driving force" in this research was "…real-life-problems, not theoretically driven or theoretically interesting research questions as such" (Eriksson & Kovalainen, 2008:195).

The quality of action research cannot be judged "…by means of the criteria of traditional research" (McNiff & Whitehead, 2010:171). Action research requires deliberate intervention and active participation in the study and I was involved in the participants' lives for a long period of time, therefore I acknowledge the subjectivity of this study. Furthermore, the power dynamics created by my participation and inherent in the construction of knowledge had an impact on both the process and the outcomes of this research.

The aim of research is to create new knowledge that can contribute to new theory. In action research, the knowledge is knowledge of practice. The theory is embedded in the practice, and the practice itself offers explanations for why it takes the form it does (McNiff & Whitehead, 2010:189).

Knowledge is always influenced by an inquirer's norms, values, and interests (Greenwood & Levin, 2005) and "… promotes understanding about how to transform current structures, relationships, and conditions, which constrain development and reform; and therefore is emancipatory and personally developmental" (Higgs, 2001: 49).

Based on these criteria, I claim that this study has contributed to solving a practical problem in a workplace setting and provided personal development opportunities, resulting in socio-economic transformation, for those involved. It has also contributed to building theory for future non-traditional management education programmes.

VALUE OF THE STUDY

This study set out to address the research problem: How to design and deliver a management education programme for four black supervisors who did not have the educational qualifications to enrol for formal management programmes at a tertiary institution.

Which translated into the following research questions:

Do people without the necessary educational standards have the potential and the ability to become effective managers?

What knowledge, skills and attitudes are necessary to be an effective manager and how are these knowledge, skills and attitudes best acquired in a workplace?

The assumption was that managerial potential, or how effectively a manager will perform, cannot be predicted purely by academic achievement and that stimulating an enquiring mind will lead to growth.

The answer to the first research question is yes they do have the potential and ability to become effective managers. This has been proven in this study by the fact that three of the four supervisors in the original project (1994-1998) advanced to management positions within the company, and one of them is now General Manager of the company. A further two supervisors were promoted to management positions when the study was replicated (2004-2008).

The answer to this question suggests that dormant and latent potential can and should be developed, however, this was a time consuming process. These women, from marginalised backgrounds, did not become effective managers overnight. Their successful transition was due to a sustained and structured, albeit experimental, learning process with all its innate trials and tribulations.

This study also showed that potential and ability are not sufficient on their own and that extraneous factors can inhibit the learning process and jeopardise successful implementation. This was evident in the coaching crisis in the original project and the failure of two of the subsequent attempts at replication.

It was found that in order to be successful the management education programme required a considerable amount of managerial energy devoted to it, as well as an environment that promoted learning. Providing psychological safety for the participants was vital.

To achieve this it was necessary at the outset to clarify the concept and the purpose of the programme, obtain buy-in and commitment from all participants, and determine roles and responsibilities, as well as negotiated time frames.

The answers to the second question were primarily concerned with the curriculum design of the programme which according to van den Berg is not only about content but also crucially about intention and process (1994:31). What knowledge, skills and attitudes were needed was addressed by developing programme content and how these attributes were acquired was addressed through gaining an understanding of how adults learn and the development of a delivery method that responded to the participants' needs and contexts.

The "what" portion of the second research question was derived from a literature review of management and leadership theories and by examining the roles of a manager. This resulted in me articulating my own philosophy of management and led to the development of my management and leadership model and management charter with a focus on both the 'hard' and 'soft' skills required by an effective manager.

From the model, the following broad management roles were used to structure the programme:

Manage people (self and others);

Manage production / operations (systems);

Manage resources; and

Manage information.

The answer to the "how" portion of the question was based on the theory of Cognitive Apprenticeship (Collins, Brown & Newman, 1990), derived from Situated Learning Theory (Lave, 1988), that focuses on learning through guided experience. It is related to Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977) in that it incorporates a "learning from experience" (Kolb, 1984) process. It, however, modifies this process by adding a significant cognitive component prior to practice.

Work based experience, coaching, and hands-on tactics were an essential element of the programme, however they were insufficient on their own and needed to be based on the theoretical aspects of management. For this reason a 'sandwich' approach was chosen to address the need to incorporate both theory and practice and provide a balance between content and process while linking the learning to workplace concerns. It proved necessary that this engagement with learning was relevant and meaningful to the participants' jobs.

Using this model for the design of management education in the workplace had limitations. In both the classroom and the workplace there were barriers to the learning process which were problematic and therefore the manner in which these activities were developed and delivered had to be modified and adapted to improve the situation.

Based on the above findings, the following recommendations are made:

Conduct a thorough situational and needs analysis;

Identify learning goals and set realistic objectives for the participants;

Design a curriculum accordingly;

Where possible, adopt training to suit individual learning styles and preferences;

Select a coach who understands the needs of the workplace as well as the needs of adult learners;

Balance the delivery mix of content and process learning within time and budget constraints to provide optimal scheduling;

Conduct an ongoing assessment of the content and delivery method's effectiveness to allow for adjustments and improvements to the process over time;

Evaluate the programme realistically to truly show impacts such as changes in behaviour and job performance; and

Build on success.

It is important to note that not every action plan will work and that experimenting to see what happens, making mistakes, and getting it almost right are all part of the process of eventually getting it right. Beginning from and then building and reflecting on experience and actions is a powerful source of learning and in keeping with McNiff and Whiteheads assertion that new scholarship (which includes action research) criteria and standards of judgement emphasise "… the quality of the researcher's learning as much as situational outcomes"(2010:206-207).

THE VALUE OF THE STUDY TO ME

As I approach the end of my journey as a doctoral student I reflect deeply and critically on the story of my study and the challenges, successes and what I have achieved. I also reflect on how I have improved my learning and my practice through the course of this study and what I have contributed to management education.

My reflection takes place by focussing on the numerous roles I adopted throughout the course of the study.

I was employed as a consultant to design and implement the management education programme. I believe that I successfully achieved what I set out to do and that in the long run the effort involved in developing the programme was worthwhile. Improving the quality of life of others was a rewarding outcome.

As a facilitator and later as a facilitator / coach I interacted with the participants and was both a teacher and a learner in the process. As a teacher I provided opportunities for the participants to gradually take responsibility for their own learning and in so doing develop their capacity as learners. In this role, I became aware of my own potential for influence which led me to question how my actions and practices impacted on the participants in their role as managers. I conclude that I educated these women and gave them hope, together with a belief in themselves and their own ability.

As a learner I developed my professional knowledge and improved my practice through cycles of trial and error. I learnt that my ethics and values were an essential ingredient in the process which stood me in good stead during the trying times. Most importantly I learnt about the culture, traditions and values of the participants which differed from my own and taught me valuable life lessons.

As a researcher I have shown how I developed my own theory about management and management education from my practice and I believe improved my practice as both a consultant and a facilitator. I further believe that I have made a contribution to knowledge and theory based on a process of experimentation, solutions to the practical problems that arose and the intended and unintended consequences that emerged from the study.

Writing up this doctoral thesis has allowed me to understand my own and other peoples' educational development and has increased my professional knowledge. Although I have learnt a vast amount from studying the theory of others, I believe that I have moved beyond being dependent on their theories and that I have contributed to a new form of non-traditional management education research and theory.

I have become highly aware of the value of standing back and reflecting deeply.

THE VALUE OF THE STUDY IN A SOUTH AFRICAN CONTEXT

Education is historically constructed and the process of management education and development (growing people) in this study had to be considered in relation to the historical background as well as the prevailing socio-political situation. Discriminatory issues of race, gender, culture, class and educational opportunity had to be confronted in the course of this research.

Since the inception of this study in 1994 there have been a number of positive changes in workplaces in South Africa, demanding new practices for accelerated human development. The implementation of affirmative action policies hampered by the shortage of management skills, I believe, calls for unconventional alternatives to traditional forms of management education. In my opinion the model of educational change introduced by Government through the National Qualifications Framework is flawed and therefore other appropriate practices are needed.

The current situation in South Africa is still far from satisfactory. The Constitution entrenches equal rights, but discriminatory practices, structural inequalities and prejudices still exist in the workplace. Black Economic Empowerment has made inroads to the advancement of previously disadvantaged people, but is sometimes met with sceptism and in many companies is poorly implemented. It has been criticised for being based on colour and not competence and worse has been viewed as "Black Elite Enrichment" due to notable names that got rich through the process of implementing this legislation.

The World Economic Forum's global survey report (September 2009) states that South Africa should address its "enduring weaknesses" which are mainly labour-related issues, for example an uneducated workforce: the university enrolment rate is at 15 percent, labour market efficiency: South Africa is ranked 90th, and poor labour-employer relations: ranked 121st.

This study, hopefully, will contribute to some improvement of these weaknesses. It does not seek to provide definitive solutions but rather to offer useful lessons which other management educators can examine and use when considering workplace learning interventions. It provides a platform for exploring new possibilities and change in traditional paradigms and will hopefully encourage management educators to 'think deeply' about the transformation of management education in South Africa.

CONCLUSION

A seed that was planted in 1994 resulted in the 'growth' of six black female managers, through commitment to social change that focussed on helping to empower individuals to meet the challenges of transformation.

Their voice can be heard again in letters from them that form the postscript.

POSTSCRIPT

LETTERS FROM RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS

The following letters are from participants in the study. These letters have been reprinted verbatim with their permission. The writers requested that their names be included.

2 May 2008

Dear Mam Dickinson

All I can say is THANK YOU!

You always made me feel like I could do anything and you always pushed me to try harder and show my true self. Although you were very firm you always managed to do it in a very loving caring way.

You are my role model. I do and always will look up to you. Thank you for believing in me.

Please come and visit us often.

My best regards

Ellen Matsotso

Ellen was trained to take over as manager from Sarah when she retired in 2007. This letter was included in a thank-you gift when I completed my assignment.

1 Desember 2010

Geagte Mevrou Dickinson

Dit is nou so lank gelede dat ons met jou opleiding begin het en ons het almal in tussentyd baie ver geloop. Maar steeds dank ek die Here elke dag dat hy ons 'n engel gestuur het om ons te help. Ek moet se dat terwyl ons op die kursus was het ek party mal gedink dat die duiwel jou gestuur het, veral toe ek moes sukkel om vreemde dinge to leer.

Ek is trots op my self and my familie is ook baie trots op my, veral as mense van die kerk hulle probleme na my toe bring want hulle dink ek is baie slim.

Ek geniet steeds nog my werk by die fabriek en probeer altyd om die beste divisie in die maatskappy te wees. Ek onthou wat jy vir my geleer het maar leer ook iets nuuts elke dag.

Baie dankie dat jy by ons kom kuier het. Ek wens jou 'n geseende kersfees en 'n voorspoedige 2011.

Groete

Magdalena Nhlapo

Magdalena is one of the managers from the original group.

3 December 2010

Dear Me Jean

Lucia came to visit me and said that you wanted to know what I was doing and how I was keeping now that I have retired.

I am very well thank you and I am still working hard in my butchery shop that is also doing very well. I was scared when I put my provident fund into a business but I knew that I would be okay because you taught me very well how to manage, how to budget, how to look after my assets and how to deal with people.

My husband has sadly passed away last year but at least I am financially secure and I was able to continue paying for Kabelo my last born to finish university this year. Now all my children have finished their education and I am proud of them because they will do well like I have.

Lucia told me that you are going to be a gogo next year. I am very glad and I hope you will get lots of joy from your grandchild like I get from all of mine.

May God bless you

Sarah Ratomo

Sarah was one of the original managers who retired in 2007.

20 June 2008

Dear Mrs Jeann

When I first came to your programme I really did not know where I would end up in life. In a way you saved my life. Now I feel that I have a very bright future!

Thank you for this opportunity you have given me and I will be forever grateful for your patience and your guidance and your unconditional understanding.

I will never forget you and how you always helped me to see things in me that I never did. I will not let you down.

I hope your guidance helps many more people.

With love and gratitude

Paulina Nai

Paulina took over as manager from Norah who retired in 2008.

1st December 2010

Dear Jeann

You asked me to write a letter reflecting on the last 16 years of my working life. This is a very difficult request and I am not sure that I know where to start except to say thank you over and over again.

When I think back to 1994 I looked forward to the opportunity of improving myself and getting a better job, but I never dreamed that one day I would be managing the entire factory. Your insight and belief in our ability was truly amazing.

At the beginning of your programme we all had a lot of self doubts and were concerned that we would not be able to live up to your expectations. At times we found it difficult to grasp new concepts but the thrill of learning and getting things right, together with your determination and inspiration kept us all pushing ahead.

There are so many emotions that come to mind when I think of the early days. There were happy times and sad times, days when I was frustrated because things were not working as I expected them to and days when I was elated because everything was going right. Now there are still happy and sad days at work but my greatest emotion is pride in myself.

Probably one of the most exciting days in my life was when I was told that I would be taking Nick's job as production manager. It was also the most terrifying day of my life and I do not think that I would have coped if you had not walked the extra mile with me and always been there for me as my friend and my teacher.

I still have all of your notes and as a repayment for what you taught me I am trying to do the same for the rest of my staff. It is not always easy and I often admire the patience you had to explain something over and over again. You never made us feel stupid and always treated us with respect and I try to follow your example.

My personal life has also changed over the last 16 years. Because of my job I have been able to buy a house in a good neighbourhood and send my children to good schools. They are more fortunate than my generation and will get a good matric and be able to move on to university.

I strive to be the best I can so that I am worthy of your trust in me and hope that one day others will look up to me in the same way that I look up to you.

Regards

Lucia Ndobo

Writing Services

Essay Writing
Service

Find out how the very best essay writing service can help you accomplish more and achieve higher marks today.

Assignment Writing Service

From complicated assignments to tricky tasks, our experts can tackle virtually any question thrown at them.

Dissertation Writing Service

A dissertation (also known as a thesis or research project) is probably the most important piece of work for any student! From full dissertations to individual chapters, we’re on hand to support you.

Coursework Writing Service

Our expert qualified writers can help you get your coursework right first time, every time.

Dissertation Proposal Service

The first step to completing a dissertation is to create a proposal that talks about what you wish to do. Our experts can design suitable methodologies - perfect to help you get started with a dissertation.

Report Writing
Service

Reports for any audience. Perfectly structured, professionally written, and tailored to suit your exact requirements.

Essay Skeleton Answer Service

If you’re just looking for some help to get started on an essay, our outline service provides you with a perfect essay plan.

Marking & Proofreading Service

Not sure if your work is hitting the mark? Struggling to get feedback from your lecturer? Our premium marking service was created just for you - get the feedback you deserve now.

Exam Revision
Service

Exams can be one of the most stressful experiences you’ll ever have! Revision is key, and we’re here to help. With custom created revision notes and exam answers, you’ll never feel underprepared again.