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ࡱ> #` bjbj\.\. 1(>D>D{(###8#$d)6r~$p$(%%%%%%,,,,T:-8r185$7h:5%%%%%5%%5'''%j%%*'%,''r()%r$ #cl#[&d)) 50)6):&d:):) %%'%%%%%55#'^%%%)6%%%%##  WAYS OF RECOGNISING THE PRIOR LEARNING OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT WORKERS (Paper presented at the Biennial SAARDHE Conference, on the Reconstruction of Higher Education in South Africa and the role of SAQA and the NQF, Cape Town, 29 June - 1 July, 1999) Kathleen Luckett Quality Promotion Unit University of Natal, Pietermartizburg P/Bag X01, Scottsville 3209 KwaZulu-Natal South Africa e-mail: LuckettK@cued.unp.ac.za This paper has been edited for language usage by: Ms Denyse Webbstock, Manager Quality Promotion Unit University of Natal, Pietermartizburg P/Bag X01, Scottsville 3209 KwaZulu-Natal WAYS OF RECOGNISING THE PRIOR LEARNING OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT WORKERS Abstract In this paper I use a small scale recognition of prior experiential learning for access pilot study to highlight some of the complexities involved in recognizing prior learning in the South Africna context. Firstly I describe the cultural, cognitive and epistemic gap that lies between potentital RPL learners and a (historically white) university. Then I try to understand the theory and practice of RPL through four different epistemological frames: the technical, hermeneutic, critical and post-modern perspectives. I consider the different understanding of curriculum knowledge, learning, experience and assessment in each of these paradigms. I conclude by making suggestions for a contextually specific implementation of RPL. INTRODUCTION This paper is based on deliberations which arise from running a pilot RPL project funded by the Joint Education Trust, in which rural development workers were assessed for both relevant experience and basic levels of literacy and numeracy, for placement in the Rural Resource Management Certificate, run by the School of Rural Community Development, University of Natal (see Appendix for report on the pilot project). The paper consists of three sections. In Section I look at background, definitions and the purposes of RPL. I also highlight what is significant in our context of practice for the development of RPL practices at South African universities. In Section 2, I attempt to unpack the meaning of RPL from different paradigms of curriculum and I investigate some of the tricky issues involved, such as how to interpret experience and the problem of transfer of learning from one context to another. In Section 3, I make suggestions for how RPL might be implemented in a South African university. 1. THE CONTEXT OF PRACTICE 1.1 Background In South Africa, RPL was put on the Education and Training (E&T) agenda by the National Training Strategy Initiative (1992) which represented a social agreement, driven by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), on the need for a lifelong learning framework for human resource development. This was framed within the democratic, social welfarist discourse of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) and RPL was proposed as one solution to the proposed National Qualification Frameworks (NQF) underlying principles of access, redress and social equity. However, despite initial enthusiasm for the idea, the take up has been slow. This may be due to the expense and difficulties involved in designing appropriate assessment procedures and a lack of assessment expertise in the country; to the fact that the onus lies with the learners to provide evidence for prior learning; and perhaps to the fact that skills development and certification has not yet been adequately linked to career pathways and workplace restructuring, so that the incentives for learners to embark on RPL processes remain unclear. This failure of RPL to take off in S.A. has occurred in the context of a macro-economic policy change in which the RDP has been replaced with a neo-Liberal strategy termed (export-led) Growth, Employment and Reconstruction (GEAR). This has resulted in a discursive shift which emphasises the economic as opposed to the social good of education and training. E & T is now supposed to deliver a multi-skilled, flexible workforce who will be internationally competitive in a global economy. But according to Harris (1997), the original humanist goals of learner-centredness, self-improvement and self-actualisation have not disappeared. Instead, the new vocationalist discourse about competence, accreditation and efficiency has been able to recruit a weak version of humanism because it is based on an individualised notion of competence. In this way notions of individual human capital (and deficit) are internalised and self-regulation works as a mechanism of social control, especially in a context of high unemployment. In this way, the promise of access, mobility and personal development still holds - but only for a few. 1.2 Definitions One of the more comprehensive current definitions of RPL is quoted below: RPL is a way of recognising what individuals already know and can do. RPL is based on the premise that people learn both inside and outside formal learning structures (including learning from work and life experience) and this learning can be worthy of recognition and credit RPL is used extensively by those seeking: admission to a course; advanced standing for a course; or credits towards a qualification. It can also be used by those seeking entry to a particular field of employment; promotion; or self-development. (Harris et al July 1994:2) All definitions currently in use in the South African context (see HSRC 1995, SAQA March 1998, Norms and Standards for Educators 1998) emphasise that RPL involves the learner being able to use prior achievements from formal, non-formal and informal learning or experience to provide evidence for the demonstration that certain learning outcomes or performances required for a qualification have been attained. It is important to note then, that there are two types of RPL: The recognition of prior accredited learning, The recognition of prior experiential learning. The first type is relatively simple to implement, provided there is a means of assigning value to both qualifications in terms of a common currency. The establishment of a national qualifications framework under SAQA is designed to do precisely this; all qualifications across educational sectors will be registered on the NQF in terms of nationally agreed upon levels of complexity on the NQF and in terms of a uniform credit system. The recognition of prior experiential learning is far more difficult to implement as it involves designing instruments which will capture, measure and evaluate learning which has been acquired experientially and informally in a range of differing contexts. It is this second type of RPL with which this research project is particularly concerned. The recognition of both types of prior learning, accredited and experiential, usually involves the following processes: a learner with experience, advise from a competent advisor, reflection on prior learning and experience in the light of identified learning outcomes, the gathering of evidence, the matching of previous experience or learning with specific learning outcomes, the presentation of evidence for their attainment to an assessor, the assessment of the evidence provided; and the award of credit if a successful match is demonstrated. These definitions and procedures for RPL are based on a number of assumptions: that people do learn from experience throughout their lives and that they develop abilities which are equivalent to those achieved by learners in formal education systems that irrespective of context and the site of learning, non-accredited learning has the potential to be recognised and accredited value in relation to formal qualifications in an outcomes-based E&T system. Many definitions of RPL emphasise that it is learning (however it may have been achieved) and not experience which is to be assessed and that the assessment should be done by competent staff using a range of assessment methods which are quality assured (Gunn, 1992). Despite these assurances, we will, in this report, be questioning some of the assumptions made above. 1.3 Purposes As with all assessment, RPL can be used for a variety of purposes. It is important to be clear on what the purpose of the assessment is before attempting to design an instrument to carry it out; in other words, the purpose should define the tool, rather than allowing the tool to determine the purpose, as if often the case in unreflective assessment practice. In the research project on which the paper was based we used RPL for the first purpose, and plan to later develop procedures for the second: for diagnosis, prediction and access - i.e. to judge whether an applicants prior learning (usually non-formal) is adequate for him/ her to be admitted to a programme. for accreditation and exemption of some or all of the modules on a programme - i.e. if a candidate can demonstrate that he/ she has attained the learning outcomes prescribed for a particular module (through formal and non-formal learning), she can be awarded credit for it and exempted from having to take the module formally. 1.4 A Qualitative Profile of the Learners What follows is a caricature of the learners most likely to apply for RPL in our context from the perspective of the academy. It is based on the learner profile developed in the evaluation report of the pilot project on the basis of interviews with academic staff. The majority of learners on the pilot project were adults from low socio-economic status communities, who speak English as a second (or third) language and who have suffered a disadvantaged schooling. The effect of this kind of background means that, from the academys point of view, they typically display the following characteristics as learners: low levels of English language proficiency (as a result of subtractive, rather than additive bilingual policies in the education system, see Luckett, 1993) low levels of cognitive development - few have reached cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP, Cummins, 1996) in English, and some not even in their first language; resulting in limited competence in manipulating abstract, decontextualised, propositional knowledge discontinuity between their own languages, cultures and primary discourses (acquired during primary socialisation) and the dominant culture of the academy and the secondary academic discourse(s) which they are expected to master the above often leads to low self-esteem, a lack of confidence in themselves as learners, a sense of alienation from the mainstream and assent to the devaluing and dismissal of their experiences and cultural capital as being inappropriate for university study all this underpinned by a tacit view of knowledge (acquired from an authoritarian schooling system and often reinforced by the university) as fixed, given, reified and authoritative, (owned by them and needed by us) with little understanding of its socially and historically constructed, contested and interested nature this results in dependency on the teacher or textbook and desperate learning strategies such as rote learning, plagiarism and an inability to develop an authorial voice in written work. However, typical learners on the project also demonstrate the following strengths: multilingualism (usually only to the level of basic inter-communicative skills, (BICS, Cummins, 1996), but often with well developed oral and rhetorical skills highly developed inter-personal skills a rich but untheorised experience/ knowledge of the communities in which they will practice as rural development practitioners a strong sense of community and collective identity which lends itself to group and collaborative work a commitment to improving the lot of the rural poor. 1.5 A Qualitative Profile of the Providing Institution Although now under threat by instrumentalist, market-driven discourses, the dominant discourse of the academy remains liberal-humanism based on a view of individuals as self-actualising and self-liberating through the power of human reason. Although the academy espouses a theory of equal opportunity, in practice, the dominant ethos is individualistic and competitive, and in a First-Third World context such as South Africa, there are numerous economic, social, cultural, educational and psychological barriers to access by non-traditional students (see learner profile above). Teaching in the academy tends to be teacher- and discipline-centred (although the shift to a programmes-based definition of the curriculum is beginning to change this). Written and theoretical forms of knowledge are privileged over practical and oral forms of knowledge. The dominant (and usually implicit) theory of learning is based on traditional cognitive theory (see Section 2. 6 below). This is a rationalist and mentalist model in which learning is understood to happen inside the minds of individuals and most significant learning is assumed to take place within the formal education system. Learning is viewed as a process of accumulation and internalisation of knowledge (entities) which are deposited and stored, to be retrieved at a later date. Knowledge tends to be understood as free-standing, decontextualised, propositional and hierarchically pre-classified and structured by the academic disciplines. This theory of learning is based on a rationalist, modernist epistemology which believes that beneath the mess of reality, universal structures (truth) can be revealed by a process of rational, detached and impersonal interpretation (e.g. the scientific method). Universal, abstract, objective and theoretical knowledge is privileged over individual experience. This view has led to an assessment tradition based on a pyschometric model of intelligence in which intelligence is measured via the objective testing of theoretical and content knowledge mostly through the examination method. This view of teaching and learning means that there can be limited negotiation of learning needs, for learning is a given, long-term accumulation process. It also leads to a deficit view of non-traditional students who come to the university with inappropriate cultural capital, and lacking the knowledge background and basic competences required for academic study. As I argue in the remainder of the paper, as long as this view of knowledge and learning remains dominant in the academy, the recognition of prior experience that has occurred outside of the academy will be difficult to implement for epistemologically and discursively this experience remains largely unrecognisable by institutions of power-knowledge such as the academy .Furthermore, if we understand curriculum to be contextualised social practice (Cornbleth, 1990), then, in our context, recognising prior learning and experience will involve more than the quest for appropriate assessment measures of previous learning and work experience. The quest for access to (and accreditation within) the education and training system by disadvantaged learners in our context, will involve not only devising a means for their physical access, but also providing a means for cognitive and epistemological access to the curriculum itself. And this in turn inevitably means changing the curriculum. 2.UNPACKING THE MEANING OF RPL THROUGH DIFFERENT CURRICULUM PARADIGMS It is significant that there is no common understanding in the educational literature of the meaning of curriculum (and therefore of educational practice and of RPL). Following Kemmis (1995), who applies Habermas theory of knowledge-constitutive interests (see Jurgen Habermas (1972) Knowledge and Human Interests ) to education, three different educational paradigms are identified, based on different uses and understandings of knowledge. I will briefly summarise each of these and suggest (adapting Harris,1997), how RPL is likely to be differently understood and practiced from within each of the different paradigms and how it is the context in which the curriculum is practiced which determines which paradigm dominates. 2.1 The Technical Paradigm According to Habermas, the technical paradigm develops knowledge primarily to control nature. It generates instrumental knowledge usually in the form of causal explanation, e.g. the empirical-analytical sciences. In this paradigm the curriculum tends to be understood as a product, as teaching inputs and/or as learning outcomes. The curriculum is often understood as a plan or a document which serves to prescribe educational practice, usually understood as individual behaviour. The purpose of education tends to be viewed instrumentally as the equipping of learners with the knowledge and skills required for the workplace and the education system is judged in terms of its efficiency and effectiveness in doing so. In our current context, this paradigm of curriculum lends itself easily to the dominant human capital discourse about education in which learners are viewed instrumentally as economic resources and E & T is supposed to develop the competencies required by the labour market. Within this paradigm, curriculum knowledge tends to be viewed as a neutral body of fixed knowledge and procedures out there, to be reproduced in the classroom. Learning (including experiential learning) is viewed as an individually owned commodity, which can be exchanged on the labour market - provided it is matched against and packaged in the prescribed learning outcomes/ competency format. In this paradigm, the prior learning which is likely to be recognised is only that which matches the prescribed competencies. Experience is not valued for its own sake, but has to be transformed into the knowledge and skills required by the curriculum before it can be recognised. Assessment for these is likely to be summative, criterion-referenced assessment and possibly some performance-based testing. If practised from within the technical paradigm, RPL could facilitate individual access to the E & T system, but it would be unlikely to challenge the status quo and lead to social redress. This is because it would only challenge the site of knowledge production (i.e. the recognition of learning acquired at work and outside of the formal system), but in no way would it challenge the content of the curriculum, the nature of knowledge, what counts as knowledge and who produces it. In the current South African context, this form of RPL is most likely to be practised in the natural and applied sciences in higher education (HE) and in industrial training and workplace contexts - and it is likely to benefit only those already in formal employment or education systems. 2.2 The Hermeneutic Paradigm The practical or hermeneutic paradigm develops knowledge to understand human social action. Knowledge is used to build mutual understanding and wise action within a framework of values. Education in this paradigm is not vocationally directed, but rather considered to be intrinsically worthwhile for the individuals involved. The ideas of liberal-humanism fit well into this paradigm, which still tends to dominate university education, especially in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Here learners are understood to be self-actualising individuals who, via the powers of human reason, gain truth and wisdom as developed over the centuries through the academic disciplines (see the description of the university context above). It is important to note that within this paradigm, knowledge is understood to be discipline-based, propositional, hierarchically structured and learned over a long period. However, the curriculum is understood as practice, based on teacher-learner interaction - the teachers professional judgment and the learners understanding. This means that the processes of the curriculum are valued , i.e. what actions will provide opportunities for learning, (as well as disciplinary knowledge, its products). Educational practice in this paradigm is understood as individual, intentional action, but it is recognised that this action is shaped (but not determined) by the individuals values, discourses, culture and tradition. Within this paradigm, experience would be viewed as individualised and, according to Usher & Johnston (1996), seldom valued for its own sake, but rather used as a bridge to conventional disciplinary learning or as a means of providing helpful attitudes and motivations. Within the hermeneutic paradigm, particularly as practised in universities, experience tends to be valued only when, through critical distance, it is detached from its origins and context, and analysed from within the epistemologies of the disciplines. Learners are obliged to transform their experiences into knowledge which the academy can recognise from within its own frameworks, discourses and epistemologies. Following Harris (1997), RPL would be likely to be practiced in the hermeneutic paradigm in the following ways. It is often run as a separate course in which learners are taught to recontextualise their prior learning and experience in terms of academic norms - expressed either in terms of explicit learning outcomes or of more implicit entry criteria. The methods employed to do this are typically Kolbs learning cycle and the writing of reflective portfolios or narratives. But it is often the possession of academic literacy, a reflexive discourse and the appropriate cultural capital rather than prior experience itself which is recognised and valued by the academy. Within this paradigm, it is the ability to reflect, abstract and conceptualise which is typically privileged in the practices of RPL. As with the technical paradigm, RPL practiced within this paradigm is likely to grant access to a limited number of (probably middle class) individuals, but it is unlikely to impact on social redress because knowledge is still defined and produced by the academy and RPL is practised on its terms. Again it is only the site of learning which is challenged. 2.3 The Critical Paradigm The critical paradigm extends the hermeneutic paradigm to include critical reflection on the social and historical shaping of our ideas, actions and institutions (ideology critique) with a view to emancipating ourselves from past irrationality and injustice. In this paradigm, education is understood to transform not only the individual (as in the hermeneutic) but also to result in social action for the improvement or transformation of society. Learning is often a collective process and knowledge is viewed organically and valued in terms of its emancipatory potential. The curriculum is understood as praxis, an integration of critical reflection or deconstruction and social action; and curriculum knowledge is understood to be politically interested as well as socially constructed. Educational practice is viewed dialectically as socially and discursively constituted by both human agency and social structure. According to Harris (1997), RPL practised within this paradigm would deliberately seek to engage with and challenge mainstream assumptions about the nature of knowledge and the curriculum. Although viewed as socially and historically constructed, experience, especially that of oppressed classes and groups, would be viewed as authentic and as having empancipatory potential. RPL would be seen as a means of conscientization (in the Freirean sense) and of reclaiming subjugated knowledges in order to challenge the status quo. Within this paradigm, the practice of RPL would be understood as a strategy for social redress and greater equity, (but due the inequality of power relations, its attempts at transformation are seldom realised.) 2.4 The Post-modernist Critique Post-structuralist, post-modernist, radical feminist and anti-racist theorists have challenged the assumptions about the nature of experience, knowledge, reason and the knowing subject and their relation to context, made in all three paradigms described above. They critique well-used approaches to and methods of experiential learning in adult education (and RPL) such as Kolbs learning cycle, as being based on an Enlightenment epistemology. This epistemology is neatly summarised by Michelson, experience is transformed into knowledge through the right exercise of reason, and proper procedures exist that enable that transformation to occur. While knowledge is grounded in experience, its construction requires that knowledge gradually be abstracted from experience (1996: 187) Perception, or what Kolb calls prehension is a first order activity through which human beings access the world, while comprehension (Kolb) in which experience is transformed into knowledge, is a second-order, cognitive activity based on universal human reason. Michelson continues, Key to this formulation is the assumption that both experience and language are transparent, that is, that the senses provide unmediated access to reality and that the language that we use to describe that reality merely names what is there for all to see. (Ibid.) Instead, recent social theorists argue that experience is not transparent. There is no such thing as unmediated experience, for all experiences are already mediated by the discourses into which we are socialised which already tell us what the world is like and who we are within it. Again, following Michelson Experience enters our consciousness already organised by ideology, language, and material history. This means, in turn, that experience and knowledge are neither chronologically nor logically distinct They are more helpfully seen as mutually determined, () because experience cannot be known in the first place outside of socially available meanings and the knowledge through which we organise meanings cannot be separated from experience. (1996: 190) This argument leads to the recognition of a plurality of experiences and knowledges, which cannot necessarily be made mutually recognisable through the procedures of universal human reason. This point is summed up by Kosmidou and Usher, Experience needs to be seen in terms of subjects situated in a historicality which is a practical involvement in the world and the appropriation of an interpretative culture. Any genuine interest in empancipation, self-actualisation, personal and social transformation has to start with a recognition and then a problematisation of these aspects of situatedness. (1992:83) This leads us to the second aspect of the deconstruction of Enlightenment epistemology; namely the nature of knowledge and human reason. Feminist theorists in particular, (see Michelson 1996, Weedon, 1997 and Hill Collins, 1991) argue that the functioning of human reason is neither universal nor culturally or politically neutral. They argue that all knowledge is situated and that reason should not be the sole reliable faculty through which knowledge is constructed. They suggest that abstract masculinity with its supposedly rational and objective procedures for the construction of knowledge serves to devalorize others ways of knowing which do not depend solely on reason. Michelson is critical of RPL as practiced within the technical and hermeneutic paradigms above, because, It does not challenge academic claims either to privileged knowledge or epistemological authority; it posits academic knowledge as the norm around which judgments of inclusion and exclusion can be written, extends the academys traditional gate-keeping function of barring alternative cultures of knowledge, and calibrates the legitimacy of students knowledge according to samenesses and correspondences. (1996:193) Instead , she suggests that RPL could become a site in which outsider knowledge is articulated and allowed to dialogue with academic knowledge. Ultimately, this approach could destablise the cultural and epistemological foundations of the academy and invite a sharing of epistemological authority. The third argument made in the deconstruction of Enlightenment epistemology is that there is no universal interchangeable knower and therefore no objective, transcendental knowledge. Weedon (1997) claims that Enlightenment epistemology teaches us to see ourselves as rational, non-contradictory and in control of the meaning of our lives via an essential rational consciousness. She argues that both experience and subjectivity are constituted in discourse, meaning can have no external guarantee, subjectivity itself is an effect of discourse (1997:82). And, of course, we have differentiated access to discourses, especially the powerful discourses, depending on particular social and political relations. In sum, these theorists suggest that we need to understand meaning making and knowledge constructing as social practices which cannot be abstracted out of their specific contexts and situations. This suggests that we should not attempt, via RPL, to strip learners of their particular identities, class, gender, ethnicity, etc. and turn them into universal knowers who are capable of true self-knowledge. Instead, the meaning of learners prior learning and experience originates in the narrative and discursive contexts from which they come and it will be open to different interpretations depending on the interests, discourses and subjectivities through which it is represented. This suggests that prior experiential learning and the prized learning of the academy both have an ambiguous nature; role players within both of these divergent sites make and take meaning by appropriating and by being appropriated by the discourses and inter-subjectivities which are socially and historically available to them. The kinds of knowledges which they produce will be different and they may well invalidate each other; they may well be incommensurable. 2.5 Conflicting Theories of Learning and the Problem of Transfer An additional and not unrelated, theoretical problem to consider when unpacking the meaning of RPL, is the problem of transfer of learning. By this we mean simply the application of generic cognitive skills learnt in one situation to a new situation. The literature suggests that generic cognitive skills do exist, but that they are always learnt and function in contextualised, domain specific ways, in that their application depends upon a domain-specific knowledge base. One of the assumptions typically made in RPL practice in all but the post-modern paradigm, is that the learning gained from prior experience is transferable from the life-contexts in which it was learned to the formal academic context (by turning it into abstract, generalisable knowledge). Thereafter, the learning gained in the academy is again transferable to work-place contexts, (because it is already generalisable, abstract and decontextualised). But the conclusion above suggests, that from a post-modernist perspective, the transfer of knowledge/ learning from one context to another is unlikely because of the situatedness of all knowledge. Yet we transfer learning all the time, for situations are never the same. However, if situations are sufficiently similar, they cue us and we can easily identify, access and apply old knowledge forms and procedures to the new situation; this is often understood simply as memory. But if the situation is unfamiliar, and it is not obvious which prior learning and knowledge is applicable, then we call it a problem-solving situation. I would suggest that the recognition of prior experiential learning involves such a situation; learning has taken place in a context far removed from that (the formal system) to which it is now to be applied. We cannot then assume that transfer from the one learning context to the other will be automatic, easy, or even that it will happen at all. Even in situations of near transfer, existing knowledge and skills are seldom adequate for a new situation; invariably, new learning is required to enable the learner to reconfigure old learning for the new context of application. We have seen within the different paradigms of curriculum, that different interpretations of RPL are premised on different theories of learning and we will now explore how these in turn imply different assumptions about transfer. The technical and hermeneutic paradigms described above are both premised on what has been called traditional cognitive theory (see 1.3 above). In these paradigms, the knowledge production process itself is not questioned (as it is by post-modernists and others,2.4 above). Knowledge is understood as given - decontextualised, reified stuff, pre-classified by the academic disciplines, taxonomies and library reference systems - and there to be passed on and learnt. It is the process of learning the stuff which is problematised, rather than what is to be learned. Traditional cognitive theory assumes that learning is an individual decontextualised, rational process in which the learner builds his/her own cognitive structure. Structures of reality are represented in the mind (and constrained by general properties of the mind) and the good learner establishes relationships between these representations. In this way, knowledge is deposited, organised and stored in the mind for later retrieval. Learning is understood as an individual accomplishment and it is assumed that all culturally significant learning takes place within the formal education system. Given this theory of learning, transfer is understood to depend on the kind of cognitive structure that the learner has developed in initial learning and on the extent of its applicability to the new situation. According to Perkins and Salomon (1989), the higher the degree of mindful abstraction that the learner develops, the greater their ability to decontextualise and then recontextualise the learning appropriately in new situations, i.e. the greater the degree of abstraction the greater the range of transfer. They suggest that it is the deliberate, usually metacognitively guided and effortful, decontextualisation of a principle, idea, strategy or procedure, which then becomes a candidate for transfer; or alternatively, it is the rarer case of the learning of such a principle, idea etc. in abstract form in the first place (1989:126) Good teaching in the academy within the technical and hermeneutic paradigms aims to encourage this sort of meta-cognitive structuring and mindful abstraction in its learners. An alternative theory of learning, which is compatible with the critical and post-modernist paradigms is situated learning theory. Situated theories of learning have been developed through researching the learning that takes place by common folk in everyday activities. Situated learning theorists  QUOTE "(Lave, 1988; Lave, 1998; Fox, 1998)"  ADDIN REFMAN \11\05\19\01\00\00\00#(Lave, 1988; Lave, 1998; Fox, 1998)\00#\00\1FC:\5CProgram Files\5CWinRM8\5Cgeneral\03\00\0279\04lave\00\04\00 (see Lave, 1988 and Lave & Wenger, 1991; Fox, 1998) QUOTE ""  ADDIN REFMAN \11\05\19\01\00\00\00\00\01\00\00\1FC:\5CProgram Files\5CWinRM8\5Cgeneral\03\00\0280\04lave\00\04\00  QUOTE ""  ADDIN REFMAN \11\05\19\01\00\00\00\00\01\00\00\1FC:\5CProgram Files\5CWinRM8\5Cgeneral\03\00\0277\03fox\00\03\00  propose a radical model of experiential learning. They assert that learning is a social rather than individual activity and is best carried out collectively in a community of practice. They suggest that the structure of cognition does not reside in the individual mind but is rather widely distributed throughout the social and physical environment. The individual does internalise experience, but this usually remains tacit. It is the authenticity of the activity that is paramount for learning. Engagement in a human activity is already learning, it is not necessary to transform this experience into knowledge, for it to be recognised as learning. Abstract conceptualisation as not a necessary part of the learning process, for learning need not necessarily be explicit and declarative. They therefore reject the traditional cognitive theory of learning - the development of cognitive structure via individualised reflection, abstraction and generalisation. They claim that representation is not cognitively prior to action, in fact their research suggests that activity and perception are prior to conceptualisation. Instead of abstract conceptualisation, they focus on the relationship between learning and the social situations in which it happens. They define learning as the learned access of learners to participating roles in expert performance. Learning is thus a way of acting in the world (as opposed to knowing about it); it is a type of social practice, an authentic cultural activity which is always carried out in specific cultural contexts. They describe learning in terms of cognitive apprenticeship, co-participation, enculturation and ideally, legitimate peripheral participation. By this they mean that learning happens through engagement in processes of human activity and that learners must have access to participatory roles in the performances of expert communities of practice. They claim that learning is not mediated by the pre-existing mental structure of the learner, but by the context-dependent perspectives of the co-participants in the community of practice in which the learner is participating. This gives the learner the opportunity to understand the activity from the (expert) practitioners view point. They insist that it is the situation in which learning happens (the physical, social and cultural context of its acquisition) which gives knowledge its structure, and not the rational and cognitive activities of the individual knower, or the structure of the disciplines. SLT also maintains that knowledge cannot be extracted (decontextualised) from these contexts of acquisition without being transformed. This suggests that transfer will not happen easily; the skills acquired through social participation are not easily detached from their original participatory contexts of use. SLT theorists suggest that the extent of transfer depends on the similarities of forms of social participation and on the learners ability to engage in new legitimate peripheral participatory activities. This suggests that transfer depends not on the learners ability to mindfully abstract, but rather on his/ her ability to develop social and cultural skills, context sensitivity and flexibility so that the learner can easily co-participate in new situations. SLT understands all knowledge to be situated, provisional and contingent upon its immediate context of use within a community of practice and so questions the privileging of professional knowledge over lay knowledge. This theory of learning suggests that any knowledge or competence gained from experiential learning is likely to be tacit, untheorised and non-discursive - i.e. learners can do the task, but they cannot talk about why and how they do it as they do. If this is the case, and if SLT more accurately describes the kind of prior experiential learning that learners will bring for RPL assessments. then it is going to be very difficult for the academy to recognise this prior learning from within its own traditional cognitive theory of learning and its Enlightenment epistemology. Furthermore, the likelihood of learners being able to transfer this type of learning from its contexts of practice to the highly discursive context of the academy seem very remote. But are these two conflicting theories of learning mutually exclusive (as the protagonists of SLT suggest)? Gees distinction between acquisition and learning in his theory of literacy as a social practice  QUOTE "(Gee, 1990)"  ADDIN REFMAN \11\05\19\01\00\00\00\0B(Gee, 1990)\00\0B\00\1FC:\5CProgram Files\5CWinRM8\5Cgeneral\03\00\03101\03gee\00\03\00 (Gee, 1990) (and well known in theories of second language acquisition), suggests not; but it does highlight the point that different methods of learning result in different kinds of knowledge and skill. Referring to literacy, Gee suggests that the attainment of competence is not just a matter of learning the techniques of reading and writing, but that it involves getting the whole social practice right, i.e. ways of saying and doing, holding particular values, beliefs and attitudes which are linked to particular roles and identities. This can only be done via acquisition, a process of apprenticeship in a community of practice in which the learner is exposed to models in natural, meaningful and functional settings (compare this with SLT). According to Gee, this process of acquisition is a largely subconscious process which occurs through exposure to models of practice and by participating in authentic, meaningful activities in natural settings. By contrast, learning (compare with TCT), is a conscious process which is gained through explicit teaching; it usually happens in decontextualised settings (e.g. schooling) and involves the analysis and explanation of the object of learning which in turn requires learning a meta-language to talk about (as opposed to perform) a certain practice. Gee suggests that in the appropriation of any discourse, acquisition should precede learning: learning can facilitate nothing unless the acquisition process has already begun (Gee, 1996:146) and further, that expert performance is dependent on acquisition and not on learning, but that both are required. Gees work suggests that both TCT and SLT can be used to promote development, but in different and complementary ways. This provides us with a helpful way forward (see Section 3 below). 3. A CONTEXTUALLY SPECIFIC IMPLEMENTATION OF RPL Given the discussion above, it appears to be an enormous challenge to develop a contextualised, theoretically rigorous and yet feasible instrument for the recognition of prior learning which will to some extent result in greater access to the academy. In this section I will, again following Harris (1997), suggest what sort of curriculum paradigm could be conducive to successful RPL practice in a South African university. Here I will include a brief discussion on what approach to assessment is likely to support this. The report on the pilot study conducted in November, 1998 which aimed to widen access to the Certificate in RRM via the recognition of prior experiential learning is contained in the Appendix. As it stands Section A, the structured narrative assessment, probably represents an attempt to practice RPL from within the hermeneutic paradigm. I suggest this because whilst we interpreted our rather vague learning outcomes very loosely, we hoped for some reflective ability to be demonstrated in the structured narratives which candidates wrote about their working lives. (We were disappointed, the narratives never moved beyond description because candidates had neither the required levels of literacy nor access to a reflective discourse in which to do this). However, Section B, the challenge or placement test in which candidates had to demonstrate a certain (low) level of academic literacy and numeracy skills, probably sits in the technical paradigm. This was a gate-keeping exercise to ensure that those selected would cope with the academys cognitive and discursive demands. The results of the pilot study showed that almost 40% of all those selected for the programme would not previously have gained access via the traditional formal qualifications route. But 16% who passed the experiential learning section of the test were excluded by the placement test. Numbers were too small to be significant (54 candidates wrote the test in all), but the results do suggest that there was a trade-off between recognising prior learning and meeting the minimum demands for entry into the academy. So, given the contextual constraints of working within a university, the post-modernist critique of the assumptions we made when working in the hermeneutic paradigm, what might a pragmatic way forward be? Firstly, I believe that a shift in the nature of the university curriculum will be required from a focus on academic development to practitioner and professional development (applied competence). This means that a dialectic relationship between theory and the practice and experience of the learners should be encouraged (praxis). As far as possible, learners should be allowed to negotiate and co-construct the curriculum on the basis of their needs and experiences, and in some cases, these could be captured via RPL practices. An institutional space will need to be created for learners to tell their stories as interested and feeling participants whose stories have physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions (as well as intellectual). This suggests that curriculum boundaries should be kept permeable and flexible. Obviously it also implies a view of knowledge and experience as socially constructed, situated and value-laden. With respect to the practice of RPL, the prior experience of learners should be valued for its own sake, as contextually specific attempts to make meaning; and used to inform curriculum development. In this sense, RPL practice should be an integral part of the curriculum and not tucked away as an add-on for redress. With respect to assessment, it is clear that assessment within the technical paradigm (as suggested by most OBE - and NQF-related documents) would not be appropriate. If learners have acquired (as opposed to learnt) their prior learning, then (as demonstrated in the pilot study) they will have neither the ability or inclination to abstract and theorise about their experience in such a way as to match the abstracted and generalised learning outcomes or assessment criteria of a technical (or hermeneutic) curriculum. The only way one may find this approach useful would be go and observe their actual performances in real world contexts, particularly if one was looking for practical competence. But even here, the way the context influences performance would have to be taken into account, and one would be unlikely to find any direct fits between learners practice and specific learning outcomes. Nor could one assume any sort of transfer from contexts of practice to new contexts. In any case this form of assessment would be very costly and labour-intensive. Rather, the learning outcomes of an outcomes-based curriculum should be interpreted loosely, with space given to learners to show what else they know and can do. We should aim to capture the diversity, specificity and thick descriptions of the learners experiences rather than force these into some false correspondence or fit with pre-specified learning outcomes. With respect to practicing RPL within the hermeneutic paradigm, in which learners are required to reflect on and make meaning from their experiences in ways which are recognisable by the academy, our experience from the pilot study suggests that we should not expect learners to come with a ready-made reflexive competence and discourse. Learners who have tacit knowledge acquired from very specific contexts of practice do not possess a reflexive meta-discourse which they can use to talk and write about their practice. Add to this, very limited literacy and English language skills, and it is clear that such practices would seriously disadvantage the typical disadvantaged South African learner hoping to access the academy. This is a key difference between successful RPL practices in the First World and those attempted here. Unlike the former contexts, in South Africa, we cannot assume that learners have in place the basic literacy and numeracy skills developed in schooling with which to express and demonstrate their prior learning achievements. In RPL for access, we should not expect more from learners than authentic descriptions in the narrative genre, written in either English or their home language. When interpreting these narratives we should aim to identify only the potential to develop the required competences and look for incipient and emergent competences rather than fully developed ones. We may need to confine ourselves to simply looking for evidence that candidates are genuine members of communities of practice. We should expect to learn more about candidates attitudes and dispositions and the authenticity of their experiences (and their unconscious and uncritical interpretative frames), than about their practical and reflexive competence. In the RPL for purposes of accreditation, it will be essential to combine tacit knowledge which has been acquired with new learning so that candidates have opportunities to recontextualise and develop their old learning for new situations so that possibilities for transfer (to the academy) are created. This means that some sort of learning to learn module will need to be designed to facilitate the recognition of prior learning process. We will have to create communities of practice in RPL classrooms so that learners have opportunities to acquire (situated learning theory) as well as to learn (traditional cognitive learning theory) academic literacy and academic discourses. They will need to learn to move from oral to literacy practices and to become self-aware learners with a meta-language for self-reflexivity. These processes should be linked to curriculum guidance, career development and group work, so that meaningful learning contexts are created for adult learners and learning is understood as a social practice. What approach to assessment is consistent with the curriculum practices described above? Firstly, the approach compatible with the technical paradigm will not be appropriate. Assessment cannot be understood as psychometric measurement which is carried out scientifically. We should not assume that our assessment instruments will measure competence accurately, objectively and reliably, or that our testing will be context-free. Instead, we will need to replace a concern for the generalisability and reliability of the results with a concern for validity. This means that we need to ask ourselves whether we are assessing the right things (the construct) and whether our assessments really assess the constructs they claim to assess. Is there fitness of purpose between our methods of assessment and the purpose which they serve? And we will need to ask whether the inferences which we make about students competence, on the basis of the performances we design, are reasonable and justified? This implies an approach to assessment which based on a judicial rather than a scientific model, based on human interaction and judgment rather than on any pretense to measurement. It also implies that we will need to understand competence as a social construct which has multiple and diverse interpretations and which is culturally and contextually dependent. So how will we be able to vouch for the dependability and soundness of our judgments, particularly with respect to judgments about prior experiential learning? I suggest that we insist that these judgments are made by professionals in the field, i.e. by successful practitioners and by academics who teach on the programme. These judgments should not be made in isolation, but through collaboration and peer review, they should be made through dialogue by a discourse community who fully appreciate the context in which they have been made. Im arguing for an approach to assessment which is locally-controlled, site-based and context-sensitive. This also means that learners should be brought into the discourse community which makes judgments about their work. They should be given opportunities to understand and discuss the learning outcomes and assessment criteria, to choose the means by which they will provide evidence and make their claims, and they should have the right to detailed feedback, counseling and guidance on the basis of their results. As far as possible students own goals and plans for their learning should be taken into account. CONCLUSION The arguments made in this paper suggest that it will be very unwise for South African Universities to begin to try recognising the experience and learning of others without first becoming aware of and interrogating our own experience and learning and the assumptions on which these are based. It is only once we are aware of the effects of our own situatedness, interpretive frames and discourses, that we will be able to appreciate the differences between ours and others experiences and learnings and be less confident about presuming to judge the latter. This might lead us to accept that our and others learning are incommensurable and that learning and adapting by both assessors and assessees will be necessary before we are able to recognise each other. Word Count: 10 866 References: Baker, D., Clay, J. and Fox, C. 1996. Challenging Ways of Knowing in English, Maths and Science, London: Falmer Press. Boud, D., Cohen, R. and Walker, D. 1993. Using Experience for Learning, Buckingham: SRHE & Open University Press. Bray, E. 1986. Fitness for Purpose. In: Lloyd-Jones R and Bray.E, (Eds.) Assessment: from principles to action , pp. 17-34. London: Macmillan Breier, M. 1996. Whose Learning? Whose Knowledge? Recognition of Prior Learning and the National Qualifications Framework. Wilgespruit: Kenton Conference. Candy, P.C. and Crebert, R.G. 1991. Ivory Tower to Concrete Jungle: the difficult transition from the academy to the workplace as learning environments. Journal of Higher Education 62, 2 Cornbleth, C. 1990. Curriculum in Context, Bristol: Falmer Press. Cummins, J. 1996) Negotiating Identities: education for empowerment in a diverse society, Ontario: CABE. Department of Education White Paper on Education and Training. (1995) Gazette No.357 Department of Education, 1998. Norms and Standards for Educators. Department of Education. Eisner, E.W. 1993. Reshaping assessment in education; some criteria in search of practice. Journal Curriculum Studies 25, 219-233. Fox, S. 1998. Situated Learning Theory Versus Traditional Cognitive Learning Theory. Systems Practice 10, 727-748. Gee, J. P. 1990. Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourses, Hampshire: The Falmer Press. Grundy, S. 1987. Curriculum: Product or Praxis, London: The Falmer Press. Gunn, C. 1992. Recognising Prior Learning: What is it? What does it involve? NZ Journal of Adult Learning 20, 51-64. Harris, J. and et al 1991. RPL International Models: NTB Working Group Report . Cape Town: Harris, J. 1997. The Recognition of Prior Learning in South Africa?: Drifts and Shifts in International Practices: Understanding the changing discursive terrain. University of Cape Town: Harris, J. 1997. Ways of Seeing the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL): What transformatory potential does it have? University of Cape Town: Hatch, T. and Gardner, H. 1990. If Binet had looked beyond the classroom: the assessment of multiple intelligences. International Journal of Educational Research 14(5), 415-429. HSRC 1995. Ways of Seeing the National Qualifications Framework Pretoria: HSRC Hyland, T. and Johnson, S. 1998. Of Cabbages and Key Skills: exploding the mythology of core transferable skills in post-school education. Journal of Further and Higher Education 22, Kemmis, S. 1985. Action Research and the Politics of Reflection. In: Boud, D., Keogh, R. and Walker, D., (Eds.) Reflection: Turing Experience into Learning, London: Kogan Page Kolb, D. 1984. Experiential Learning, New Jersey: Englewood Cliffs. Lave, J. 1988. Cognition in Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lave, J. and Wenger, E. 1991. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Luckett, K. 1993 National Additive Bilingualism: a language plan for South African schools. Southern African Journal of Applied Language Studies 2, 38-60. Mandell, A. and Michelson, E. 1990. Portfolio Development & Adult Learning: Purposes and Strategies, US: CAEL. Michelson, E. (1996) Beyond Galileo's Telescope: Situated Knowledge and the Assessment of Experiential Learning. Adult Education Quarterly 46, 185-196. National Training Board 1994. Discussion Document on a National Training Strategy Initiative. NTB. Open University (1990) Accrediting Prior Learning. Milton Keynes: HMSO, OUP. Perkins, D.N. and Salomon, G. 1989. Are Cognitive Skills Context-Bound? Educational Researcher 18, Pintrich, P., Brown, D. and Weinstein, C.(1994. Student Motivation, Cognition and Learning: Essays in Honor of Wilbert J. McKeachie, New Jersey: LEA Publishers. Salomon, G. and Perkins, D.N.(1989. Rocky Roads to Transfer: Rethinking Mechanisms of a Neglected Phenomenon. Educational Psychologist 24, 113-142. SAQA 1997. SAQA Bulletin. SAQA Bulletin 1 (1): Simosko, S. 1991. Accreditation of Proir Learning - A Practical Guide for Professionals, London: Kogan Page. Thompson, J. 1998. Accreditation of Prior Learning for Entry into Diploma in Education. Pietermaritzburg: Natal College of Education. Tromp, D. and Aitchison, J. 1999. Phase 1 of the SRCD Certificate Research & Development Project, Draft Executive Summary. Pietermaritzburg: Centre for Adult Education, University of Natal. Usher, R. and Johnston, R. 1996. Learning from Experience - Re-viewing Different Contexts of Practice. University of Cape Town & Peninsula Technikon. Weedon, C. 1997. Feminist Practice and Poststructuralist Theory, 2nd edn. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Weil, S. and McGill, I. 1989. Making Sense of Experiential Learning: diversity in theory and practice, Buckingham: SRHE & Open University. Wildemeersch, D. and Jansen, T. 1992. Adult education, experiential learning and social change, Dreibergen: VUGA, VTA Groep. APPENDIX REPORT ON THE PILOT STUDY USING RECOGNITION OF PRIOR LEARNING FOR ACCESS TO THE CERTIFICATE IN RURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT Aim The aim of the study was to design and implement an assessment instrument which would generate data on candidates prior experiential learning which could then be recognised for the purpose of access to the Certificate of Rural Resource Management. In the absence of clearly defined competences and a statement of learning outcomes for the Certificate programme (These are still being developed via the Audit and Curriculum Review processes. Once the findings from the Community Development Practitioner Profile Brainstorming Workshop and the questionnaires have been validated through research on good practice, we should be able to define over-arching roles and competences for CDPs and specific learning outcomes with range statements for the Certificate programme), the instrument could not be designed as sharply as it will need to be in the future. Under the circumstances we sought to generate evidence for and recognise rather vague and generalised competences. These were twofold: candidates should demonstrate authentic knowledge and experience of living and working in a rural community / organisation and should demonstrate a commitment to pursuing this work. candidates should demonstrate basic skills in English language proficiency and numeracy to enable them to make sense of the Certificates learning resources. (Level required is about ABET level 3 on the NQF) The aim of the pilot study was to widen access to the Certificate so that those who would not normally have been accepted on the basis of formal school leaving qualifications (Standard 10) would have an opportunity to be admitted on the basis of their prior life experiences. (The aim of Section A of the instrument was to generate evidence for this). However, whilst wishing to widen access, we also wanted to ensure that candidates would be admitted responsibly, i.e. that they would have a reasonable chance of succeeding on the programme (as it presently exists). (This was the aim of Section B of the assessment instrument). Method The assessment instrument was designed in the form of a workbook . Section A of the workbook asks candidates to describe their backgrounds, their work experiences and then asks them simple questions about their communities or organisations. Candidates could choose to write this section in either Zulu or English. In the workshops, candidates were given the opportunity to first practice their answers to these questions orally in groups and to receive feedback from each other before writing their answers. Section B comprised of a short comprehension exercise which included maths word problems. The last question was open-ended and sought to test candidates confidence, experience and reasoning skills. Section B had to be completed in English. The facilitators first read through the passage and questions and ensured that all candidates had understood them. The workbook was edited by 3 subject experts who teach on the programme and by one ABET specialist . All applicants who had satisfactorily completed the application form for the Certificate programme in 1999 were invited to attend selection workshops which were run at centres accessible to all candidates. The workshops, held in Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Eshowe and Kokstad, were facilitated by facilitators who were briefed to take candidates through the workbook, explain the instructions and answer any queries. Section A was marked impressionistically using bands, whilst Section B was marked against a memo. Both sections counted for 50 marks. Selection for the programme was carried out as follows: those who gained 30 and above (60%) for Section A and 20 and above (40%) for Section B were admitted. (Those who obtained 25 - 30 for Section A were placed in the maybe category and were eventually accepted). In other words, we prioritized experiential learning over maths and English proficiency in our selection process. Results 54 candidates wrote the test. In all 36 (66.6%) were accepted onto the programme (3 were accepted as maybes and 3 who were considered to be over-qualified for the programme and did not sit the test, were accepted on condition that they understood that the coordinator of the programme considered them to be over-qualified). 5 candidates (8.5%) who were invited to the workshops and who would have in the past been accepted on the basis of their formal school leaving qualifications, did not turn up and so were excluded. Of the 13 candidates (24%) who chose to write Section A in Zulu only 6 (11%) were admitted. Those who were excluded were done so on the basis of their weakness in English language proficiency. Of those who achieved over 60% for Section A (experiential learning) 7 (16%) were excluded because they achieved under 40% for Section B (the English language and numeracy test). If formal school leaving qualifications (Std. 10) plus alleged membership of a community organisation had been used as the criteria for selection (as was the practice in the past), then 32 candidates would have been selected. Of those 32, 20 (62.5%) were selected and 12 (37.5%) were excluded through the pilot study process. 5 failed to attend the workshops and 7 failed to achieve 60% on Section A of the test. This suggests that the test did to some extent serve a discriminating purpose in terms of excluding those who are typically school leavers who want to study anything that is available to them. This means that 13 candidates (39% of those selected) were selected onto the programme who would not have been had the old criteria been used. A profile of this group of candidates shows that the majority (85%) are male, the majority (77%) are over 30 years old and over half appear to be employed in formal organisations, whilst the rest work in CBOs. It is interesting to compare this profile with that of all those who wrote the selection test and with that of all those who were selected : M : F% Male30+ : -30% 30 yrs & overAll applicants30 : 2455.5%28 : 2652%Applicants selected23 : 1364%16 : 2044.5%Applicants selected via RPL11 : 285%10 : 377% The sample may well be too small to be significant, but this does suggest that whilst not improving the gender profile of those accepted onto the programme, the RPL pilot did select in favour of those who are thirty years and over, and could therefore bring a more mature and experienced cohort onto the programme. Discussion The results given above suggest that almost 40% of the candidates selected for the programme were given access through the pilot study process. (An almost equal number were excluded by the process!). However, if the programme were to be run on a much greater scale, then it is likely that access to the programme will in fact be widened. 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ࡱ> #` bjbj\.\. 1(>D>D{(###8#$d)6r~$p$(%%%%%%,,,,T:-8r185$7h:5%%%%%5%%5'''%j%%*'%,''r()%r$ #cl#[&d)) 50)6):&d:):) %%'%%%%%55#'^%%%)6%%%%##  WAYS OF RECOGNISING THE PRIOR LEARNING OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT WORKERS (Paper presented at the Biennial SAARDHE Conference, on the Reconstruction of Higher Education in South Africa and the role of SAQA and the NQF, Cape Town, 29 June - 1 July, 1999) Kathleen Luckett Quality Promotion Unit University of Natal, Pietermartizburg P/Bag X01, Scottsville 3209 KwaZulu-Natal South Africa e-mail: LuckettK@cued.unp.ac.za This paper has been edited for language usage by: Ms Denyse Webbstock, Manager Quality Promotion Unit University of Natal, Pietermartizburg P/Bag X01, Scottsville 3209 KwaZulu-Natal WAYS OF RECOGNISING THE PRIOR LEARNING OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT WORKERS Abstract In this paper I use a small scale recognition of prior experiential learning for access pilot study to highlight some of the complexities involved in recognizing prior learning in the South Africna context. Firstly I describe the cultural, cognitive and epistemic gap that lies between potentital RPL learners and a (historically white) university. Then I try to understand the theory and practice of RPL through four different epistemological frames: the technical, hermeneutic, critical and post-modern perspectives. I consider the different understanding of curriculum knowledge, learning, experience and assessment in each of these paradigms. I conclude by making suggestions for a contextually specific implementation of RPL. INTRODUCTION This paper is based on deliberations which arise from running a pilot RPL project funded by the Joint Education Trust, in which rural development workers were assessed for both relevant experience and basic levels of literacy and numeracy, for placement in the Rural Resource Management Certificate, run by the School of Rural Community Development, University of Natal (see Appendix for report on the pilot project). The paper consists of three sections. In Section I look at background, definitions and the purposes of RPL. I also highlight what is significant in our context of practice for the development of RPL practices at South African universities. In Section 2, I attempt to unpack the meaning of RPL from different paradigms of curriculum and I investigate some of the tricky issues involved, such as how to interpret experience and the problem of transfer of learning from one context to another. In Section 3, I make suggestions for how RPL might be implemented in a South African university. 1. THE CONTEXT OF PRACTICE 1.1 Background In South Africa, RPL was put on the Education and Training (E&T) agenda by the National Training Strategy Initiative (1992) which represented a social agreement, driven by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), on the need for a lifelong learning framework for human resource development. This was framed within the democratic, social welfarist discourse of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) and RPL was proposed as one solution to the proposed National Qualification Frameworks (NQF) underlying principles of access, redress and social equity. However, despite initial enthusiasm for the idea, the take up has been slow. This may be due to the expense and difficulties involved in designing appropriate assessment procedures and a lack of assessment expertise in the country; to the fact that the onus lies with the learners to provide evidence for prior learning; and perhaps to the fact that skills development and certification has not yet been adequately linked to career pathways and workplace restructuring, so that the incentives for learners to embark on RPL processes remain unclear. This failure of RPL to take off in S.A. has occurred in the context of a macro-economic policy change in which the RDP has been replaced with a neo-Liberal strategy termed (export-led) Growth, Employment and Reconstruction (GEAR). This has resulted in a discursive shift which emphasises the economic as opposed to the social good of education and training. E & T is now supposed to deliver a multi-skilled, flexible workforce who will be internationally competitive in a global economy. But according to Harris (1997), the original humanist goals of learner-centredness, self-improvement and self-actualisation have not disappeared. Instead, the new vocationalist discourse about competence, accreditation and efficiency has been able to recruit a weak version of humanism because it is based on an individualised notion of competence. In this way notions of individual human capital (and deficit) are internalised and self-regulation works as a mechanism of social control, especially in a context of high unemployment. In this way, the promise of access, mobility and personal development still holds - but only for a few. 1.2 Definitions One of the more comprehensive current definitions of RPL is quoted below: RPL is a way of recognising what individuals already know and can do. RPL is based on the premise that people learn both inside and outside formal learning structures (including learning from work and life experience) and this learning can be worthy of recognition and credit RPL is used extensively by those seeking: admission to a course; advanced standing for a course; or credits towards a qualification. It can also be used by those seeking entry to a particular field of employment; promotion; or self-development. (Harris et al July 1994:2) All definitions currently in use in the South African context (see HSRC 1995, SAQA March 1998, Norms and Standards for Educators 1998) emphasise that RPL involves the learner being able to use prior achievements from formal, non-formal and informal learning or experience to provide evidence for the demonstration that certain learning outcomes or performances required for a qualification have been attained. It is important to note then, that there are two types of RPL: The recognition of prior accredited learning, The recognition of prior experiential learning. The first type is relatively simple to implement, provided there is a means of assigning value to both qualifications in terms of a common currency. The establishment of a national qualifications framework under SAQA is designed to do precisely this; all qualifications across educational sectors will be registered on the NQF in terms of nationally agreed upon levels of complexity on the NQF and in terms of a uniform credit system. The recognition of prior experiential learning is far more difficult to implement as it involves designing instruments which will capture, measure and evaluate learning which has been acquired experientially and informally in a range of differing contexts. It is this second type of RPL with which this research project is particularly concerned. The recognition of both types of prior learning, accredited and experiential, usually involves the following processes: a learner with experience, advise from a competent advisor, reflection on prior learning and experience in the light of identified learning outcomes, the gathering of evidence, the matching of previous experience or learning with specific learning outcomes, the presentation of evidence for their attainment to an assessor, the assessment of the evidence provided; and the award of credit if a successful match is demonstrated. These definitions and procedures for RPL are based on a number of assumptions: that people do learn from experience throughout their lives and that they develop abilities which are equivalent to those achieved by learners in formal education systems that irrespective of context and the site of learning, non-accredited learning has the potential to be recognised and accredited value in relation to formal qualifications in an outcomes-based E&T system. Many definitions of RPL emphasise that it is learning (however it may have been achieved) and not experience which is to be assessed and that the assessment should be done by competent staff using a range of assessment methods which are quality assured (Gunn, 1992). Despite these assurances, we will, in this report, be questioning some of the assumptions made above. 1.3 Purposes As with all assessment, RPL can be used for a variety of purposes. It is important to be clear on what the purpose of the assessment is before attempting to design an instrument to carry it out; in other words, the purpose should define the tool, rather than allowing the tool to determine the purpose, as if often the case in unreflective assessment practice. In the research project on which the paper was based we used RPL for the first purpose, and plan to later develop procedures for the second: for diagnosis, prediction and access - i.e. to judge whether an applicants prior learning (usually non-formal) is adequate for him/ her to be admitted to a programme. for accreditation and exemption of some or all of the modules on a programme - i.e. if a candidate can demonstrate that he/ she has attained the learning outcomes prescribed for a particular module (through formal and non-formal learning), she can be awarded credit for it and exempted from having to take the module formally. 1.4 A Qualitative Profile of the Learners What follows is a caricature of the learners most likely to apply for RPL in our context from the perspective of the academy. It is based on the learner profile developed in the evaluation report of the pilot project on the basis of interviews with academic staff. The majority of learners on the pilot project were adults from low socio-economic status communities, who speak English as a second (or third) language and who have suffered a disadvantaged schooling. The effect of this kind of background means that, from the academys point of view, they typically display the following characteristics as learners: low levels of English language proficiency (as a result of subtractive, rather than additive bilingual policies in the education system, see Luckett, 1993) low levels of cognitive development - few have reached cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP, Cummins, 1996) in English, and some not even in their first language; resulting in limited competence in manipulating abstract, decontextualised, propositional knowledge discontinuity between their own languages, cultures and primary discourses (acquired during primary socialisation) and the dominant culture of the academy and the secondary academic discourse(s) which they are expected to master the above often leads to low self-esteem, a lack of confidence in themselves as learners, a sense of alienation from the mainstream and assent to the devaluing and dismissal of their experiences and cultural capital as being inappropriate for university study all this underpinned by a tacit view of knowledge (acquired from an authoritarian schooling system and often reinforced by the university) as fixed, given, reified and authoritative, (owned by them and needed by us) with little understanding of its socially and historically constructed, contested and interested nature this results in dependency on the teacher or textbook and desperate learning strategies such as rote learning, plagiarism and an inability to develop an authorial voice in written work. However, typical learners on the project also demonstrate the following strengths: multilingualism (usually only to the level of basic inter-communicative skills, (BICS, Cummins, 1996), but often with well developed oral and rhetorical skills highly developed inter-personal skills a rich but untheorised experience/ knowledge of the communities in which they will practice as rural development practitioners a strong sense of community and collective identity which lends itself to group and collaborative work a commitment to improving the lot of the rural poor. 1.5 A Qualitative Profile of the Providing Institution Although now under threat by instrumentalist, market-driven discourses, the dominant discourse of the academy remains liberal-humanism based on a view of individuals as self-actualising and self-liberating through the power of human reason. Although the academy espouses a theory of equal opportunity, in practice, the dominant ethos is individualistic and competitive, and in a First-Third World context such as South Africa, there are numerous economic, social, cultural, educational and psychological barriers to access by non-traditional students (see learner profile above). Teaching in the academy tends to be teacher- and discipline-centred (although the shift to a programmes-based definition of the curriculum is beginning to change this). Written and theoretical forms of knowledge are privileged over practical and oral forms of knowledge. The dominant (and usually implicit) theory of learning is based on traditional cognitive theory (see Section 2. 6 below). This is a rationalist and mentalist model in which learning is understood to happen inside the minds of individuals and most significant learning is assumed to take place within the formal education system. Learning is viewed as a process of accumulation and internalisation of knowledge (entities) which are deposited and stored, to be retrieved at a later date. Knowledge tends to be understood as free-standing, decontextualised, propositional and hierarchically pre-classified and structured by the academic disciplines. This theory of learning is based on a rationalist, modernist epistemology which believes that beneath the mess of reality, universal structures (truth) can be revealed by a process of rational, detached and impersonal interpretation (e.g. the scientific method). Universal, abstract, objective and theoretical knowledge is privileged over individual experience. This view has led to an assessment tradition based on a pyschometric model of intelligence in which intelligence is measured via the objective testing of theoretical and content knowledge mostly through the examination method. This view of teaching and learning means that there can be limited negotiation of learning needs, for learning is a given, long-term accumulation process. It also leads to a deficit view of non-traditional students who come to the university with inappropriate cultural capital, and lacking the knowledge background and basic competences required for academic study. As I argue in the remainder of the paper, as long as this view of knowledge and learning remains dominant in the academy, the recognition of prior experience that has occurred outside of the academy will be difficult to implement for epistemologically and discursively this experience remains largely unrecognisable by institutions of power-knowledge such as the academy .Furthermore, if we understand curriculum to be contextualised social practice (Cornbleth, 1990), then, in our context, recognising prior learning and experience will involve more than the quest for appropriate assessment measures of previous learning and work experience. The quest for access to (and accreditation within) the education and training system by disadvantaged learners in our context, will involve not only devising a means for their physical access, but also providing a means for cognitive and epistemological access to the curriculum itself. And this in turn inevitably means changing the curriculum. 2.UNPACKING THE MEANING OF RPL THROUGH DIFFERENT CURRICULUM PARADIGMS It is significant that there is no common understanding in the educational literature of the meaning of curriculum (and therefore of educational practice and of RPL). Following Kemmis (1995), who applies Habermas theory of knowledge-constitutive interests (see Jurgen Habermas (1972) Knowledge and Human Interests ) to education, three different educational paradigms are identified, based on different uses and understandings of knowledge. I will briefly summarise each of these and suggest (adapting Harris,1997), how RPL is likely to be differently understood and practiced from within each of the different paradigms and how it is the context in which the curriculum is practiced which determines which paradigm dominates. 2.1 The Technical Paradigm According to Habermas, the technical paradigm develops knowledge primarily to control nature. It generates instrumental knowledge usually in the form of causal explanation, e.g. the empirical-analytical sciences. In this paradigm the curriculum tends to be understood as a product, as teaching inputs and/or as learning outcomes. The curriculum is often understood as a plan or a document which serves to prescribe educational practice, usually understood as individual behaviour. The purpose of education tends to be viewed instrumentally as the equipping of learners with the knowledge and skills required for the workplace and the education system is judged in terms of its efficiency and effectiveness in doing so. In our current context, this paradigm of curriculum lends itself easily to the dominant human capital discourse about education in which learners are viewed instrumentally as economic resources and E & T is supposed to develop the competencies required by the labour market. Within this paradigm, curriculum knowledge tends to be viewed as a neutral body of fixed knowledge and procedures out there, to be reproduced in the classroom. Learning (including experiential learning) is viewed as an individually owned commodity, which can be exchanged on the labour market - provided it is matched against and packaged in the prescribed learning outcomes/ competency format. In this paradigm, the prior learning which is likely to be recognised is only that which matches the prescribed competencies. Experience is not valued for its own sake, but has to be transformed into the knowledge and skills required by the curriculum before it can be recognised. Assessment for these is likely to be summative, criterion-referenced assessment and possibly some performance-based testing. If practised from within the technical paradigm, RPL could facilitate individual access to the E & T system, but it would be unlikely to challenge the status quo and lead to social redress. This is because it would only challenge the site of knowledge production (i.e. the recognition of learning acquired at work and outside of the formal system), but in no way would it challenge the content of the curriculum, the nature of knowledge, what counts as knowledge and who produces it. In the current South African context, this form of RPL is most likely to be practised in the natural and applied sciences in higher education (HE) and in industrial training and workplace contexts - and it is likely to benefit only those already in formal employment or education systems. 2.2 The Hermeneutic Paradigm The practical or hermeneutic paradigm develops knowledge to understand human social action. Knowledge is used to build mutual understanding and wise action within a framework of values. Education in this paradigm is not vocationally directed, but rather considered to be intrinsically worthwhile for the individuals involved. The ideas of liberal-humanism fit well into this paradigm, which still tends to dominate university education, especially in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Here learners are understood to be self-actualising individuals who, via the powers of human reason, gain truth and wisdom as developed over the centuries through the academic disciplines (see the description of the university context above). It is important to note that within this paradigm, knowledge is understood to be discipline-based, propositional, hierarchically structured and learned over a long period. However, the curriculum is understood as practice, based on teacher-learner interaction - the teachers professional judgment and the learners understanding. This means that the processes of the curriculum are valued , i.e. what actions will provide opportunities for learning, (as well as disciplinary knowledge, its products). Educational practice in this paradigm is understood as individual, intentional action, but it is recognised that this action is shaped (but not determined) by the individuals values, discourses, culture and tradition. Within this paradigm, experience would be viewed as individualised and, according to Usher & Johnston (1996), seldom valued for its own sake, but rather used as a bridge to conventional disciplinary learning or as a means of providing helpful attitudes and motivations. Within the hermeneutic paradigm, particularly as practised in universities, experience tends to be valued only when, through critical distance, it is detached from its origins and context, and analysed from within the epistemologies of the disciplines. Learners are obliged to transform their experiences into knowledge which the academy can recognise from within its own frameworks, discourses and epistemologies. Following Harris (1997), RPL would be likely to be practiced in the hermeneutic paradigm in the following ways. It is often run as a separate course in which learners are taught to recontextualise their prior learning and experience in terms of academic norms - expressed either in terms of explicit learning outcomes or of more implicit entry criteria. The methods employed to do this are typically Kolbs learning cycle and the writing of reflective portfolios or narratives. But it is often the possession of academic literacy, a reflexive discourse and the appropriate cultural capital rather than prior experience itself which is recognised and valued by the academy. Within this paradigm, it is the ability to reflect, abstract and conceptualise which is typically privileged in the practices of RPL. As with the technical paradigm, RPL practiced within this paradigm is likely to grant access to a limited number of (probably middle class) individuals, but it is unlikely to impact on social redress because knowledge is still defined and produced by the academy and RPL is practised on its terms. Again it is only the site of learning which is challenged. 2.3 The Critical Paradigm The critical paradigm extends the hermeneutic paradigm to include critical reflection on the social and historical shaping of our ideas, actions and institutions (ideology critique) with a view to emancipating ourselves from past irrationality and injustice. In this paradigm, education is understood to transform not only the individual (as in the hermeneutic) but also to result in social action for the improvement or transformation of society. Learning is often a collective process and knowledge is viewed organically and valued in terms of its emancipatory potential. The curriculum is understood as praxis, an integration of critical reflection or deconstruction and social action; and curriculum knowledge is understood to be politically interested as well as socially constructed. Educational practice is viewed dialectically as socially and discursively constituted by both human agency and social structure. According to Harris (1997), RPL practised within this paradigm would deliberately seek to engage with and challenge mainstream assumptions about the nature of knowledge and the curriculum. Although viewed as socially and historically constructed, experience, especially that of oppressed classes and groups, would be viewed as authentic and as having empancipatory potential. RPL would be seen as a means of conscientization (in the Freirean sense) and of reclaiming subjugated knowledges in order to challenge the status quo. Within this paradigm, the practice of RPL would be understood as a strategy for social redress and greater equity, (but due the inequality of power relations, its attempts at transformation are seldom realised.) 2.4 The Post-modernist Critique Post-structuralist, post-modernist, radical feminist and anti-racist theorists have challenged the assumptions about the nature of experience, knowledge, reason and the knowing subject and their relation to context, made in all three paradigms described above. They critique well-used approaches to and methods of experiential learning in adult education (and RPL) such as Kolbs learning cycle, as being based on an Enlightenment epistemology. This epistemology is neatly summarised by Michelson, experience is transformed into knowledge through the right exercise of reason, and proper procedures exist that enable that transformation to occur. While knowledge is grounded in experience, its construction requires that knowledge gradually be abstracted from experience (1996: 187) Perception, or what Kolb calls prehension is a first order activity through which human beings access the world, while comprehension (Kolb) in which experience is transformed into knowledge, is a second-order, cognitive activity based on universal human reason. Michelson continues, Key to this formulation is the assumption that both experience and language are transparent, that is, that the senses provide unmediated access to reality and that the language that we use to describe that reality merely names what is there for all to see. (Ibid.) Instead, recent social theorists argue that experience is not transparent. There is no such thing as unmediated experience, for all experiences are already mediated by the discourses into which we are socialised which already tell us what the world is like and who we are within it. Again, following Michelson Experience enters our consciousness already organised by ideology, language, and material history. This means, in turn, that experience and knowledge are neither chronologically nor logically distinct They are more helpfully seen as mutually determined, () because experience cannot be known in the first place outside of socially available meanings and the knowledge through which we organise meanings cannot be separated from experience. (1996: 190) This argument leads to the recognition of a plurality of experiences and knowledges, which cannot necessarily be made mutually recognisable through the procedures of universal human reason. This point is summed up by Kosmidou and Usher, Experience needs to be seen in terms of subjects situated in a historicality which is a practical involvement in the world and the appropriation of an interpretative culture. Any genuine interest in empancipation, self-actualisation, personal and social transformation has to start with a recognition and then a problematisation of these aspects of situatedness. (1992:83) This leads us to the second aspect of the deconstruction of Enlightenment epistemology; namely the nature of knowledge and human reason. Feminist theorists in particular, (see Michelson 1996, Weedon, 1997 and Hill Collins, 1991) argue that the functioning of human reason is neither universal nor culturally or politically neutral. They argue that all knowledge is situated and that reason should not be the sole reliable faculty through which knowledge is constructed. They suggest that abstract masculinity with its supposedly rational and objective procedures for the construction of knowledge serves to devalorize others ways of knowing which do not depend solely on reason. Michelson is critical of RPL as practiced within the technical and hermeneutic paradigms above, because, It does not challenge academic claims either to privileged knowledge or epistemological authority; it posits academic knowledge as the norm around which judgments of inclusion and exclusion can be written, extends the academys traditional gate-keeping function of barring alternative cultures of knowledge, and calibrates the legitimacy of students knowledge according to samenesses and correspondences. (1996:193) Instead , she suggests that RPL could become a site in which outsider knowledge is articulated and allowed to dialogue with academic knowledge. Ultimately, this approach could destablise the cultural and epistemological foundations of the academy and invite a sharing of epistemological authority. The third argument made in the deconstruction of Enlightenment epistemology is that there is no universal interchangeable knower and therefore no objective, transcendental knowledge. Weedon (1997) claims that Enlightenment epistemology teaches us to see ourselves as rational, non-contradictory and in control of the meaning of our lives via an essential rational consciousness. She argues that both experience and subjectivity are constituted in discourse, meaning can have no external guarantee, subjectivity itself is an effect of discourse (1997:82). And, of course, we have differentiated access to discourses, especially the powerful discourses, depending on particular social and political relations. In sum, these theorists suggest that we need to understand meaning making and knowledge constructing as social practices which cannot be abstracted out of their specific contexts and situations. This suggests that we should not attempt, via RPL, to strip learners of their particular identities, class, gender, ethnicity, etc. and turn them into universal knowers who are capable of true self-knowledge. Instead, the meaning of learners prior learning and experience originates in the narrative and discursive contexts from which they come and it will be open to different interpretations depending on the interests, discourses and subjectivities through which it is represented. This suggests that prior experiential learning and the prized learning of the academy both have an ambiguous nature; role players within both of these divergent sites make and take meaning by appropriating and by being appropriated by the discourses and inter-subjectivities which are socially and historically available to them. The kinds of knowledges which they produce will be different and they may well invalidate each other; they may well be incommensurable. 2.5 Conflicting Theories of Learning and the Problem of Transfer An additional and not unrelated, theoretical problem to consider when unpacking the meaning of RPL, is the problem of transfer of learning. By this we mean simply the application of generic cognitive skills learnt in one situation to a new situation. The literature suggests that generic cognitive skills do exist, but that they are always learnt and function in contextualised, domain specific ways, in that their application depends upon a domain-specific knowledge base. One of the assumptions typically made in RPL practice in all but the post-modern paradigm, is that the learning gained from prior experience is transferable from the life-contexts in which it was learned to the formal academic context (by turning it into abstract, generalisable knowledge). Thereafter, the learning gained in the academy is again transferable to work-place contexts, (because it is already generalisable, abstract and decontextualised). But the conclusion above suggests, that from a post-modernist perspective, the transfer of knowledge/ learning from one context to another is unlikely because of the situatedness of all knowledge. Yet we transfer learning all the time, for situations are never the same. However, if situations are sufficiently similar, they cue us and we can easily identify, access and apply old knowledge forms and procedures to the new situation; this is often understood simply as memory. But if the situation is unfamiliar, and it is not obvious which prior learning and knowledge is applicable, then we call it a problem-solving situation. I would suggest that the recognition of prior experiential learning involves such a situation; learning has taken place in a context far removed from that (the formal system) to which it is now to be applied. We cannot then assume that transfer from the one learning context to the other will be automatic, easy, or even that it will happen at all. Even in situations of near transfer, existing knowledge and skills are seldom adequate for a new situation; invariably, new learning is required to enable the learner to reconfigure old learning for the new context of application. We have seen within the different paradigms of curriculum, that different interpretations of RPL are premised on different theories of learning and we will now explore how these in turn imply different assumptions about transfer. The technical and hermeneutic paradigms described above are both premised on what has been called traditional cognitive theory (see 1.3 above). In these paradigms, the knowledge production process itself is not questioned (as it is by post-modernists and others,2.4 above). Knowledge is understood as given - decontextualised, reified stuff, pre-classified by the academic disciplines, taxonomies and library reference systems - and there to be passed on and learnt. It is the process of learning the stuff which is problematised, rather than what is to be learned. Traditional cognitive theory assumes that learning is an individual decontextualised, rational process in which the learner builds his/her own cognitive structure. Structures of reality are represented in the mind (and constrained by general properties of the mind) and the good learner establishes relationships between these representations. In this way, knowledge is deposited, organised and stored in the mind for later retrieval. Learning is understood as an individual accomplishment and it is assumed that all culturally significant learning takes place within the formal education system. Given this theory of learning, transfer is understood to depend on the kind of cognitive structure that the learner has developed in initial learning and on the extent of its applicability to the new situation. According to Perkins and Salomon (1989), the higher the degree of mindful abstraction that the learner develops, the greater their ability to decontextualise and then recontextualise the learning appropriately in new situations, i.e. the greater the degree of abstraction the greater the range of transfer. They suggest that it is the deliberate, usually metacognitively guided and effortful, decontextualisation of a principle, idea, strategy or procedure, which then becomes a candidate for transfer; or alternatively, it is the rarer case of the learning of such a principle, idea etc. in abstract form in the first place (1989:126) Good teaching in the academy within the technical and hermeneutic paradigms aims to encourage this sort of meta-cognitive structuring and mindful abstraction in its learners. An alternative theory of learning, which is compatible with the critical and post-modernist paradigms is situated learning theory. Situated theories of learning have been developed through researching the learning that takes place by common folk in everyday activities. Situated learning theorists  QUOTE "(Lave, 1988; Lave, 1998; Fox, 1998)"  ADDIN REFMAN \11\05\19\01\00\00\00#(Lave, 1988; Lave, 1998; Fox, 1998)\00#\00\1FC:\5CProgram Files\5CWinRM8\5Cgeneral\03\00\0279\04lave\00\04\00 (see Lave, 1988 and Lave & Wenger, 1991; Fox, 1998) QUOTE ""  ADDIN REFMAN \11\05\19\01\00\00\00\00\01\00\00\1FC:\5CProgram Files\5CWinRM8\5Cgeneral\03\00\0280\04lave\00\04\00  QUOTE ""  ADDIN REFMAN \11\05\19\01\00\00\00\00\01\00\00\1FC:\5CProgram Files\5CWinRM8\5Cgeneral\03\00\0277\03fox\00\03\00  propose a radical model of experiential learning. They assert that learning is a social rather than individual activity and is best carried out collectively in a community of practice. They suggest that the structure of cognition does not reside in the individual mind but is rather widely distributed throughout the social and physical environment. The individual does internalise experience, but this usually remains tacit. It is the authenticity of the activity that is paramount for learning. Engagement in a human activity is already learning, it is not necessary to transform this experience into knowledge, for it to be recognised as learning. Abstract conceptualisation as not a necessary part of the learning process, for learning need not necessarily be explicit and declarative. They therefore reject the traditional cognitive theory of learning - the development of cognitive structure via individualised reflection, abstraction and generalisation. They claim that representation is not cognitively prior to action, in fact their research suggests that activity and perception are prior to conceptualisation. Instead of abstract conceptualisation, they focus on the relationship between learning and the social situations in which it happens. They define learning as the learned access of learners to participating roles in expert performance. Learning is thus a way of acting in the world (as opposed to knowing about it); it is a type of social practice, an authentic cultural activity which is always carried out in specific cultural contexts. They describe learning in terms of cognitive apprenticeship, co-participation, enculturation and ideally, legitimate peripheral participation. By this they mean that learning happens through engagement in processes of human activity and that learners must have access to participatory roles in the performances of expert communities of practice. They claim that learning is not mediated by the pre-existing mental structure of the learner, but by the context-dependent perspectives of the co-participants in the community of practice in which the learner is participating. This gives the learner the opportunity to understand the activity from the (expert) practitioners view point. They insist that it is the situation in which learning happens (the physical, social and cultural context of its acquisition) which gives knowledge its structure, and not the rational and cognitive activities of the individual knower, or the structure of the disciplines. SLT also maintains that knowledge cannot be extracted (decontextualised) from these contexts of acquisition without being transformed. This suggests that transfer will not happen easily; the skills acquired through social participation are not easily detached from their original participatory contexts of use. SLT theorists suggest that the extent of transfer depends on the similarities of forms of social participation and on the learners ability to engage in new legitimate peripheral participatory activities. This suggests that transfer depends not on the learners ability to mindfully abstract, but rather on his/ her ability to develop social and cultural skills, context sensitivity and flexibility so that the learner can easily co-participate in new situations. SLT understands all knowledge to be situated, provisional and contingent upon its immediate context of use within a community of practice and so questions the privileging of professional knowledge over lay knowledge. This theory of learning suggests that any knowledge or competence gained from experiential learning is likely to be tacit, untheorised and non-discursive - i.e. learners can do the task, but they cannot talk about why and how they do it as they do. If this is the case, and if SLT more accurately describes the kind of prior experiential learning that learners will bring for RPL assessments. then it is going to be very difficult for the academy to recognise this prior learning from within its own traditional cognitive theory of learning and its Enlightenment epistemology. Furthermore, the likelihood of learners being able to transfer this type of learning from its contexts of practice to the highly discursive context of the academy seem very remote. But are these two conflicting theories of learning mutually exclusive (as the protagonists of SLT suggest)? Gees distinction between acquisition and learning in his theory of literacy as a social practice  QUOTE "(Gee, 1990)"  ADDIN REFMAN \11\05\19\01\00\00\00\0B(Gee, 1990)\00\0B\00\1FC:\5CProgram Files\5CWinRM8\5Cgeneral\03\00\03101\03gee\00\03\00 (Gee, 1990) (and well known in theories of second language acquisition), suggests not; but it does highlight the point that different methods of learning result in different kinds of knowledge and skill. Referring to literacy, Gee suggests that the attainment of competence is not just a matter of learning the techniques of reading and writing, but that it involves getting the whole social practice right, i.e. ways of saying and doing, holding particular values, beliefs and attitudes which are linked to particular roles and identities. This can only be done via acquisition, a process of apprenticeship in a community of practice in which the learner is exposed to models in natural, meaningful and functional settings (compare this with SLT). According to Gee, this process of acquisition is a largely subconscious process which occurs through exposure to models of practice and by participating in authentic, meaningful activities in natural settings. By contrast, learning (compare with TCT), is a conscious process which is gained through explicit teaching; it usually happens in decontextualised settings (e.g. schooling) and involves the analysis and explanation of the object of learning which in turn requires learning a meta-language to talk about (as opposed to perform) a certain practice. Gee suggests that in the appropriation of any discourse, acquisition should precede learning: learning can facilitate nothing unless the acquisition process has already begun (Gee, 1996:146) and further, that expert performance is dependent on acquisition and not on learning, but that both are required. Gees work suggests that both TCT and SLT can be used to promote development, but in different and complementary ways. This provides us with a helpful way forward (see Section 3 below). 3. A CONTEXTUALLY SPECIFIC IMPLEMENTATION OF RPL Given the discussion above, it appears to be an enormous challenge to develop a contextualised, theoretically rigorous and yet feasible instrument for the recognition of prior learning which will to some extent result in greater access to the academy. In this section I will, again following Harris (1997), suggest what sort of curriculum paradigm could be conducive to successful RPL practice in a South African university. Here I will include a brief discussion on what approach to assessment is likely to support this. The report on the pilot study conducted in November, 1998 which aimed to widen access to the Certificate in RRM via the recognition of prior experiential learning is contained in the Appendix. As it stands Section A, the structured narrative assessment, probably represents an attempt to practice RPL from within the hermeneutic paradigm. I suggest this because whilst we interpreted our rather vague learning outcomes very loosely, we hoped for some reflective ability to be demonstrated in the structured narratives which candidates wrote about their working lives. (We were disappointed, the narratives never moved beyond description because candidates had neither the required levels of literacy nor access to a reflective discourse in which to do this). However, Section B, the challenge or placement test in which candidates had to demonstrate a certain (low) level of academic literacy and numeracy skills, probably sits in the technical paradigm. This was a gate-keeping exercise to ensure that those selected would cope with the academys cognitive and discursive demands. The results of the pilot study showed that almost 40% of all those selected for the programme would not previously have gained access via the traditional formal qualifications route. But 16% who passed the experiential learning section of the test were excluded by the placement test. Numbers were too small to be significant (54 candidates wrote the test in all), but the results do suggest that there was a trade-off between recognising prior learning and meeting the minimum demands for entry into the academy. So, given the contextual constraints of working within a university, the post-modernist critique of the assumptions we made when working in the hermeneutic paradigm, what might a pragmatic way forward be? Firstly, I believe that a shift in the nature of the university curriculum will be required from a focus on academic development to practitioner and professional development (applied competence). This means that a dialectic relationship between theory and the practice and experience of the learners should be encouraged (praxis). As far as possible, learners should be allowed to negotiate and co-construct the curriculum on the basis of their needs and experiences, and in some cases, these could be captured via RPL practices. An institutional space will need to be created for learners to tell their stories as interested and feeling participants whose stories have physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions (as well as intellectual). This suggests that curriculum boundaries should be kept permeable and flexible. Obviously it also implies a view of knowledge and experience as socially constructed, situated and value-laden. With respect to the practice of RPL, the prior experience of learners should be valued for its own sake, as contextually specific attempts to make meaning; and used to inform curriculum development. In this sense, RPL practice should be an integral part of the curriculum and not tucked away as an add-on for redress. With respect to assessment, it is clear that assessment within the technical paradigm (as suggested by most OBE - and NQF-related documents) would not be appropriate. If learners have acquired (as opposed to learnt) their prior learning, then (as demonstrated in the pilot study) they will have neither the ability or inclination to abstract and theorise about their experience in such a way as to match the abstracted and generalised learning outcomes or assessment criteria of a technical (or hermeneutic) curriculum. The only way one may find this approach useful would be go and observe their actual performances in real world contexts, particularly if one was looking for practical competence. But even here, the way the context influences performance would have to be taken into account, and one would be unlikely to find any direct fits between learners practice and specific learning outcomes. Nor could one assume any sort of transfer from contexts of practice to new contexts. In any case this form of assessment would be very costly and labour-intensive. Rather, the learning outcomes of an outcomes-based curriculum should be interpreted loosely, with space given to learners to show what else they know and can do. We should aim to capture the diversity, specificity and thick descriptions of the learners experiences rather than force these into some false correspondence or fit with pre-specified learning outcomes. With respect to practicing RPL within the hermeneutic paradigm, in which learners are required to reflect on and make meaning from their experiences in ways which are recognisable by the academy, our experience from the pilot study suggests that we should not expect learners to come with a ready-made reflexive competence and discourse. Learners who have tacit knowledge acquired from very specific contexts of practice do not possess a reflexive meta-discourse which they can use to talk and write about their practice. Add to this, very limited literacy and English language skills, and it is clear that such practices would seriously disadvantage the typical disadvantaged South African learner hoping to access the academy. This is a key difference between successful RPL practices in the First World and those attempted here. Unlike the former contexts, in South Africa, we cannot assume that learners have in place the basic literacy and numeracy skills developed in schooling with which to express and demonstrate their prior learning achievements. In RPL for access, we should not expect more from learners than authentic descriptions in the narrative genre, written in either English or their home language. When interpreting these narratives we should aim to identify only the potential to develop the required competences and look for incipient and emergent competences rather than fully developed ones. We may need to confine ourselves to simply looking for evidence that candidates are genuine members of communities of practice. We should expect to learn more about candidates attitudes and dispositions and the authenticity of their experiences (and their unconscious and uncritical interpretative frames), than about their practical and reflexive competence. In the RPL for purposes of accreditation, it will be essential to combine tacit knowledge which has been acquired with new learning so that candidates have opportunities to recontextualise and develop their old learning for new situations so that possibilities for transfer (to the academy) are created. This means that some sort of learning to learn module will need to be designed to facilitate the recognition of prior learning process. We will have to create communities of practice in RPL classrooms so that learners have opportunities to acquire (situated learning theory) as well as to learn (traditional cognitive learning theory) academic literacy and academic discourses. They will need to learn to move from oral to literacy practices and to become self-aware learners with a meta-language for self-reflexivity. These processes should be linked to curriculum guidance, career development and group work, so that meaningful learning contexts are created for adult learners and learning is understood as a social practice. What approach to assessment is consistent with the curriculum practices described above? Firstly, the approach compatible with the technical paradigm will not be appropriate. Assessment cannot be understood as psychometric measurement which is carried out scientifically. We should not assume that our assessment instruments will measure competence accurately, objectively and reliably, or that our testing will be context-free. Instead, we will need to replace a concern for the generalisability and reliability of the results with a concern for validity. This means that we need to ask ourselves whether we are assessing the right things (the construct) and whether our assessments really assess the constructs they claim to assess. Is there fitness of purpose between our methods of assessment and the purpose which they serve? And we will need to ask whether the inferences which we make about students competence, on the basis of the performances we design, are reasonable and justified? This implies an approach to assessment which based on a judicial rather than a scientific model, based on human interaction and judgment rather than on any pretense to measurement. It also implies that we will need to understand competence as a social construct which has multiple and diverse interpretations and which is culturally and contextually dependent. So how will we be able to vouch for the dependability and soundness of our judgments, particularly with respect to judgments about prior experiential learning? I suggest that we insist that these judgments are made by professionals in the field, i.e. by successful practitioners and by academics who teach on the programme. These judgments should not be made in isolation, but through collaboration and peer review, they should be made through dialogue by a discourse community who fully appreciate the context in which they have been made. Im arguing for an approach to assessment which is locally-controlled, site-based and context-sensitive. This also means that learners should be brought into the discourse community which makes judgments about their work. They should be given opportunities to understand and discuss the learning outcomes and assessment criteria, to choose the means by which they will provide evidence and make their claims, and they should have the right to detailed feedback, counseling and guidance on the basis of their results. As far as possible students own goals and plans for their learning should be taken into account. CONCLUSION The arguments made in this paper suggest that it will be very unwise for South African Universities to begin to try recognising the experience and learning of others without first becoming aware of and interrogating our own experience and learning and the assumptions on which these are based. It is only once we are aware of the effects of our own situatedness, interpretive frames and discourses, that we will be able to appreciate the differences between ours and others experiences and learnings and be less confident about presuming to judge the latter. This might lead us to accept that our and others learning are incommensurable and that learning and adapting by both assessors and assessees will be necessary before we are able to recognise each other. Word Count: 10 866 References: Baker, D., Clay, J. and Fox, C. 1996. Challenging Ways of Knowing in English, Maths and Science, London: Falmer Press. Boud, D., Cohen, R. and Walker, D. 1993. Using Experience for Learning, Buckingham: SRHE & Open University Press. Bray, E. 1986. Fitness for Purpose. In: Lloyd-Jones R and Bray.E, (Eds.) Assessment: from principles to action , pp. 17-34. London: Macmillan Breier, M. 1996. Whose Learning? Whose Knowledge? Recognition of Prior Learning and the National Qualifications Framework. Wilgespruit: Kenton Conference. Candy, P.C. and Crebert, R.G. 1991. Ivory Tower to Concrete Jungle: the difficult transition from the academy to the workplace as learning environments. Journal of Higher Education 62, 2 Cornbleth, C. 1990. Curriculum in Context, Bristol: Falmer Press. Cummins, J. 1996) Negotiating Identities: education for empowerment in a diverse society, Ontario: CABE. Department of Education White Paper on Education and Training. (1995) Gazette No.357 Department of Education, 1998. Norms and Standards for Educators. Department of Education. Eisner, E.W. 1993. Reshaping assessment in education; some criteria in search of practice. Journal Curriculum Studies 25, 219-233. Fox, S. 1998. Situated Learning Theory Versus Traditional Cognitive Learning Theory. Systems Practice 10, 727-748. Gee, J. P. 1990. Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourses, Hampshire: The Falmer Press. Grundy, S. 1987. Curriculum: Product or Praxis, London: The Falmer Press. Gunn, C. 1992. Recognising Prior Learning: What is it? What does it involve? NZ Journal of Adult Learning 20, 51-64. Harris, J. and et al 1991. RPL International Models: NTB Working Group Report . Cape Town: Harris, J. 1997. The Recognition of Prior Learning in South Africa?: Drifts and Shifts in International Practices: Understanding the changing discursive terrain. University of Cape Town: Harris, J. 1997. Ways of Seeing the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL): What transformatory potential does it have? University of Cape Town: Hatch, T. and Gardner, H. 1990. If Binet had looked beyond the classroom: the assessment of multiple intelligences. International Journal of Educational Research 14(5), 415-429. HSRC 1995. Ways of Seeing the National Qualifications Framework Pretoria: HSRC Hyland, T. and Johnson, S. 1998. Of Cabbages and Key Skills: exploding the mythology of core transferable skills in post-school education. Journal of Further and Higher Education 22, Kemmis, S. 1985. Action Research and the Politics of Reflection. In: Boud, D., Keogh, R. and Walker, D., (Eds.) Reflection: Turing Experience into Learning, London: Kogan Page Kolb, D. 1984. Experiential Learning, New Jersey: Englewood Cliffs. Lave, J. 1988. Cognition in Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lave, J. and Wenger, E. 1991. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Luckett, K. 1993 National Additive Bilingualism: a language plan for South African schools. Southern African Journal of Applied Language Studies 2, 38-60. Mandell, A. and Michelson, E. 1990. Portfolio Development & Adult Learning: Purposes and Strategies, US: CAEL. Michelson, E. (1996) Beyond Galileo's Telescope: Situated Knowledge and the Assessment of Experiential Learning. Adult Education Quarterly 46, 185-196. National Training Board 1994. Discussion Document on a National Training Strategy Initiative. NTB. Open University (1990) Accrediting Prior Learning. Milton Keynes: HMSO, OUP. Perkins, D.N. and Salomon, G. 1989. Are Cognitive Skills Context-Bound? Educational Researcher 18, Pintrich, P., Brown, D. and Weinstein, C.(1994. Student Motivation, Cognition and Learning: Essays in Honor of Wilbert J. McKeachie, New Jersey: LEA Publishers. Salomon, G. and Perkins, D.N.(1989. Rocky Roads to Transfer: Rethinking Mechanisms of a Neglected Phenomenon. Educational Psychologist 24, 113-142. SAQA 1997. SAQA Bulletin. SAQA Bulletin 1 (1): Simosko, S. 1991. Accreditation of Proir Learning - A Practical Guide for Professionals, London: Kogan Page. Thompson, J. 1998. Accreditation of Prior Learning for Entry into Diploma in Education. Pietermaritzburg: Natal College of Education. Tromp, D. and Aitchison, J. 1999. Phase 1 of the SRCD Certificate Research & Development Project, Draft Executive Summary. Pietermaritzburg: Centre for Adult Education, University of Natal. Usher, R. and Johnston, R. 1996. Learning from Experience - Re-viewing Different Contexts of Practice. University of Cape Town & Peninsula Technikon. Weedon, C. 1997. Feminist Practice and Poststructuralist Theory, 2nd edn. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Weil, S. and McGill, I. 1989. Making Sense of Experiential Learning: diversity in theory and practice, Buckingham: SRHE & Open University. Wildemeersch, D. and Jansen, T. 1992. Adult education, experiential learning and social change, Dreibergen: VUGA, VTA Groep. APPENDIX REPORT ON THE PILOT STUDY USING RECOGNITION OF PRIOR LEARNING FOR ACCESS TO THE CERTIFICATE IN RURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT Aim The aim of the study was to design and implement an assessment instrument which would generate data on candidates prior experiential learning which could then be recognised for the purpose of access to the Certificate of Rural Resource Management. In the absence of clearly defined competences and a statement of learning outcomes for the Certificate programme (These are still being developed via the Audit and Curriculum Review processes. Once the findings from the Community Development Practitioner Profile Brainstorming Workshop and the questionnaires have been validated through research on good practice, we should be able to define over-arching roles and competences for CDPs and specific learning outcomes with range statements for the Certificate programme), the instrument could not be designed as sharply as it will need to be in the future. Under the circumstances we sought to generate evidence for and recognise rather vague and generalised competences. These were twofold: candidates should demonstrate authentic knowledge and experience of living and working in a rural community / organisation and should demonstrate a commitment to pursuing this work. candidates should demonstrate basic skills in English language proficiency and numeracy to enable them to make sense of the Certificates learning resources. (Level required is about ABET level 3 on the NQF) The aim of the pilot study was to widen access to the Certificate so that those who would not normally have been accepted on the basis of formal school leaving qualifications (Standard 10) would have an opportunity to be admitted on the basis of their prior life experiences. (The aim of Section A of the instrument was to generate evidence for this). However, whilst wishing to widen access, we also wanted to ensure that candidates would be admitted responsibly, i.e. that they would have a reasonable chance of succeeding on the programme (as it presently exists). (This was the aim of Section B of the assessment instrument). Method The assessment instrument was designed in the form of a workbook . Section A of the workbook asks candidates to describe their backgrounds, their work experiences and then asks them simple questions about their communities or organisations. Candidates could choose to write this section in either Zulu or English. In the workshops, candidates were given the opportunity to first practice their answers to these questions orally in groups and to receive feedback from each other before writing their answers. Section B comprised of a short comprehension exercise which included maths word problems. The last question was open-ended and sought to test candidates confidence, experience and reasoning skills. Section B had to be completed in English. The facilitators first read through the passage and questions and ensured that all candidates had understood them. The workbook was edited by 3 subject experts who teach on the programme and by one ABET specialist . All applicants who had satisfactorily completed the application form for the Certificate programme in 1999 were invited to attend selection workshops which were run at centres accessible to all candidates. The workshops, held in Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Eshowe and Kokstad, were facilitated by facilitators who were briefed to take candidates through the workbook, explain the instructions and answer any queries. Section A was marked impressionistically using bands, whilst Section B was marked against a memo. Both sections counted for 50 marks. Selection for the programme was carried out as follows: those who gained 30 and above (60%) for Section A and 20 and above (40%) for Section B were admitted. (Those who obtained 25 - 30 for Section A were placed in the maybe category and were eventually accepted). In other words, we prioritized experiential learning over maths and English proficiency in our selection process. Results 54 candidates wrote the test. In all 36 (66.6%) were accepted onto the programme (3 were accepted as maybes and 3 who were considered to be over-qualified for the programme and did not sit the test, were accepted on condition that they understood that the coordinator of the programme considered them to be over-qualified). 5 candidates (8.5%) who were invited to the workshops and who would have in the past been accepted on the basis of their formal school leaving qualifications, did not turn up and so were excluded. Of the 13 candidates (24%) who chose to write Section A in Zulu only 6 (11%) were admitted. Those who were excluded were done so on the basis of their weakness in English language proficiency. Of those who achieved over 60% for Section A (experiential learning) 7 (16%) were excluded because they achieved under 40% for Section B (the English language and numeracy test). If formal school leaving qualifications (Std. 10) plus alleged membership of a community organisation had been used as the criteria for selection (as was the practice in the past), then 32 candidates would have been selected. Of those 32, 20 (62.5%) were selected and 12 (37.5%) were excluded through the pilot study process. 5 failed to attend the workshops and 7 failed to achieve 60% on Section A of the test. This suggests that the test did to some extent serve a discriminating purpose in terms of excluding those who are typically school leavers who want to study anything that is available to them. This means that 13 candidates (39% of those selected) were selected onto the programme who would not have been had the old criteria been used. A profile of this group of candidates shows that the majority (85%) are male, the majority (77%) are over 30 years old and over half appear to be employed in formal organisations, whilst the rest work in CBOs. It is interesting to compare this profile with that of all those who wrote the selection test and with that of all those who were selected : M : F% Male30+ : -30% 30 yrs & overAll applicants30 : 2455.5%28 : 2652%Applicants selected23 : 1364%16 : 2044.5%Applicants selected via RPL11 : 285%10 : 377% The sample may well be too small to be significant, but this does suggest that whilst not improving the gender profile of those accepted onto the programme, the RPL pilot did select in favour of those who are thirty years and over, and could therefore bring a more mature and experienced cohort onto the programme. Discussion The results given above suggest that almost 40% of the candidates selected for the programme were given access through the pilot study process. (An almost equal number were excluded by the process!). However, if the programme were to be run on a much greater scale, then it is likely that access to the programme will in fact be widened. 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