S. Rossouw

Tshwane University of Technology (SOUTH AFRICA)
Recognition of prior learning is relatively young, in terms of research and its applications. However, it is a growing field, especially in higher education. In the South African context, RPL was developed post-1990, to redress past inequalities, and recognise all forms of learning. In higher education, RPL is divided into two categories; namely, RPL for access; and, RPL for advanced standing. A case study was undertaken at a University of Technology (UoT), in the Department of Applied Languages, to determine whether the assessment methods used for the subject, “English Business Communication”, adhered to the principles of RPL, and whether it properly addressed the ethos of prior learning. The main focus was on the assessment methods employed, and linking these to RPL principles. RPL policies of institutions of higher education were perused, to obtain a sense of the position it holds in the South African academic environment. The current RPL practices and processes of this UoT were studied, as well as how RPL was implemented in this environment. An interpretivist approach was followed, incorporating chiefly qualitative research methods, with some quantitative support. Three main themes emerged, i.e., adherence to RPL principles; the dynamics of the RPL process; and, the appropriateness of, and preferences in RPL assessment methods. The main conclusions drawn suggest that the assessment methods used at this UoT do adhere to RPL principles. The duration of the RPL process, and lack of feedback during the process, were reported as problematic in the whole RPL process; and, the portfolio of evidence, as well as the oral interview, were preferred by the RPL applicants as assessment methods. Consequently, one of the main recommendations is that an RPL toolkit, specifically designed for “English Business Communication”, but applicable to other subject RPLs, should be developed to aid both RPL applicants and assessors.