Following the inception of the White Paper 6 in 2001 (Department of Basic Education, 2001), selected schools in South Africa have been transformed into inclusive schools, with the aim of enrolling all learners despite their (dis)abilities. Teachers however still seem hesitant to take care of this responsibility due to a variety of reasons. Against this background, the Department of Higher Education and Training, in collaboration with the European Union has undertaken an initiative focusing on the promotion of inclusive education policy implementation and teacher training in South Africa. As part of this initiative, the University of Pretoria was tasked to develop a postgraduate qualification in visual impairment studies.
My study forms part of the broader funded project of the University of Pretoria. More specifically, my study focused on the process and value (or not) when utilising Participatory Reflection and Action (PRA) for the development of a qualification. Based on the assumptions that teachers and expert stakeholders in the visual impairment community would be able to co-conceptualise an advanced diploma for teachers, 17 schools were involved, situated in five South African provinces, with 255 teacher-participants. In addition, 50 expert stakeholders in the field of visual impairment participated in this study, which adopted a participatory research approach, implemented an instrumental case study design and utilised interpretivism as paradigm. For data generation and documentation, I relied on PRA-based activities, individual interviews, observation, field notes, a reflective journal and audio-visual techniques.
Following inductive thematic analysis of the data that apply to the focus of my study I identified four main themes, with the related subthemes. These themes relate to utilising PRA to access research partners’ knowledge and expertise, value for participants of being research partners in a PRA process, value for personal and professional development of the participants and recommendations for future application of the PRA process. Findings of my study indicate that it is possible and beneficial to implement PRA when conceptualising a qualification. More specifically, PRA is suitable for accessing research partners’ knowledge and expertise when developing a qualification. PRA empowers participants to instil positive change and further equip themselves.