Introducing a quality system into an adult education college

Hooper, R.C. (1994) Introducing a quality system into an adult education college. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The Introduction reviews the context in which a quality assurance system developed for use in further education colleges is to be piloted in a college of adult education. A summarised description or tne system is provided with more detail provided at Annex (A). Research objectives are described and a number of issues are discussed around the theme of change. Finally, some assumptions implicit in the research process are identified particularly in respect of quality assurance.

The general approach to the selection of the research methodology is outlined. Optional methods are reviewed and reasons are supplied for their rejection or adoption. An outline of the research programme is provided and a detailed description is given at Annexes (B) and (C) . A review of the advantages and limitations of the chosen research method - the focused interview - is set out and the concerns of the researcher made clear.

The issue of whether the introduction of the quality assurance system represents innovation or change is discussed. A number of inhibitors and facilitators to change identified by previous education researchers are reviewed and the role of culture in change is explored. The importance of ownership and participation by teaching staff in educational innovation is emphasised. A wide range of change factors are identified and the significance of the role of the Headteacher or Principal and of the external consultantlfacilitator are highlighted. Finally a number of change models in education are described and assessed as potential frameworks for application in the research.

A profile of each respondent prefaces a separate analysis of findings arising from each taped, focused interview. An overview of key issues is provided with the assistance of a summarised analysis of respondents' perceptions of key inhibitors and facilitators to the change process which is described at Table One. Issues relating to management process and communications, resources, staff perceptions and the role of the external facilitator are identified as being particularly significant.

Research evidence and theory is applied to the research findings. A number of key issues arising from the research findings are considered: the change models; the influence of college management and the role of the Principal; the role of the external facilitator; organisational structures, planning and resources. Interim conclusions are established throughout this Section. They identify a centre-periphery model of educational change as being particularly relevant to the change process
at the college. The role of the Principal is confirmed as being significant in the successful adoption of innovation in the college as is his (her management style and the nature of the management structures and communication process which results from this. However, the researcher's conclusions do not support the view (at least in this case) that the college's culture need change to accommodate the innovation but that changes in management systems and organisation may be all that is required.
The role of the external facilitator and his/her relationship with the Principal and management team is identified as one of the most important facilitators of the change process concerned particularly in respect of his/her perceived objectivity and skills. However, there is an indication that a careful balance needs to be struck between the amount of support and involvement by the external facilitator on the one hand, and the need to involve and gain ownership and commitment from college staff on the other.
Finally, the analysis of findings explores the implications of the college's organisation structures, planning and resources for the successful adoption of the innovation and concludes that strategies to cope with the extra workload implied by innovation need to be developed, including the use of a formal college planning framework and the development of computerised management information systems. The parallel introduction of compatible changes is also seen as a facilitator of a
particular innovation. However, differences between the curriculum structures of further education colleges and the adult college emerge as having an implication for the manner by which the quality assurance system in question is applied.

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