Influence of EFL Students’ Oral Proficiency on their Participation in Class


It is a well known fact among English as Foreign Language (EFL) acquisition specialists that there is a discrepancy between what classroom second/foreign language learners are taught, what they learn/acquire and what they can actually produce. This inconsistency has prompted second/foreign language researchers to investigate the role of explicit grammar instruction and whether, when and how focus on form benefits classroom second/foreign language learners. This inconsistency seems to support the assumptions underlying Krashen (1982)’s acquisition/learning hypothesis. Krashen argued that focusing on linguistic form was of limited value because it can only contribute to ‘learning’ and never to ‘acquisition’. So the Learners must also acquire the knowledge of how native speakers use the language in the context of social interactions.

With the rising value of communication in the modern era, people tend to focus on the ability to speak a foreign language fluently instead of just reading or writing it. Yet, fluency in a foreign language requires more than learning grammatical and semantic rules. This is especially difficult for EFL learners because of the minimal use of the target language and contact with native speakers. Consequently, EFL learners, generally, are relatively poor at spoken English, in particular regarding fluency and control of idiomatic expressions. However, in practice, it is too often assumed that learner’s communicative proficiency can be developed simply by assigning students topics to discuss and encouraging them to participate in various speaking tasks.

Mostly, studies in EFL learning have addressed the necessity of students’ classroom interaction or oral participation in class for the development of communicative competence. Rubin (1975), in ‘reporting on the attributes of the good language learner’, claims that the good language learner practices and usually takes “advantage of every opportunity to speak in class…” (Robin, 1975:47).  Recent studies have shown that formal instruction can be beneficial (VanPatten and Cadierno, 1993; Long, 1983; Pica, 1983), that exposure to input alone is not sufficient (Swain, 1985), and that classroom learning, regardless of the focus of instruction, results in “more acquisition” in learners than non-classroom environments (Pavesi, 1986).

However, getting students to participate in speaking tasks in conversation classes is a problem that most EFL teachers face.  Success in a conversation class may be defined as a setting in which students are able to communicate effectively in English. Therefore, enhancing students’ communicative competence is the ultimate aim of the second-year college conversation class, which is considered as a required course at Saudi colleges and universities for English majors. However, a problem that most EFL students face in conversation classes is practical use of the basic language rules they have learned. Even advanced students who have mastered form and vocabulary can often read and write better than they can speak in a foreign language.

Using the data collected from observations, students’ self-evaluation and course evaluation questionnaires, this paper explains the reasons why most college students may not be willing to participate in various speaking tasks in conversation classes. It also explores how college students perceive and assess their English conversation classes and to what and to whom do they attribute their difficulties in improving their English communicative proficiency.

This introductory chapter encompasses the statement of the problem, purposes of the study, topic selection, research questions, significance of the study, limitations of the study as well as assumptions of the study and organization of the study.

Statement of the Problem

Studies in language learning have addressed the necessity of classroom interaction to the development of students’ communicative competence; however, getting students to respond in an EFL conversation class is a problem that most teachers face. It is important to point out here that in Saudi Arabia, English is learned as a foreign language for at least six years in intermediate and secondary schools. So before their enrollment into colleges and universities, students have basic knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary. Although much effort has been made to improve teaching of English in Saudi Arabia, the traditional grammar-translation method is still widely used by many teachers. This led to the fact that most English majors often find it hard to participate in speaking tasks because oral skills were not focused in the classroom. Thus, conversation classes for English majors at many colleges and universities are tough assignments. As a result their Oral English proficiency is far from satisfactory on graduation and the students themselves often voice dissatisfaction or frustration at their own lack of progress in speaking.

The Purpose of the Study

As previous studies have shown the importance of classroom interaction, this study sought to reinforce these findings. The main objective of the study was to describe college level conversation class in light of the relationship between second-year English majors’ oral proficiency and their participation in class and other potential factors that may affect classroom oral interaction. Therefore, the initial hypothesis of this study was: students’ communicative proficiency level is the only factor that influences their participation in class. A second purpose was to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of my contribution to this course at girls faculty of Education during the first term of the year 1429-1430 AH and to explore the attitudes and preferences of my students towards the kinds of speaking activities that took place during this twelve weeks course.


Research Questions

This study addresses three main questions:

  1. What affects second-year English majors’ oral interaction in the conversation class? Is the oral proficiency level the only factor that influences students’ classroom participation?
  2. How do students perceive and assess their oral proficiency level before and after taking the conversation classes?
  3. Would students’ classroom participation be significantly related to their scores in the final oral test?


Significance of the Study

Communicative language ability, as one of the productive skills that language learners must develop, has been the focus of language learners and teachers. However, an important fact that needs to be given attention to is that most of the studies on ESL/EFL oral English teaching and learning are conducted in English speaking countries. So, results shown in these studies may not represent and solve some of the problems that are facing EFL students who are learning in non-native situations. The results of this study could well serve as a basis for the improvement of oral student participation in conversation classes where reticence and lack of opportunities to practice English with native speakers outside the class are limiting factors.   Therefore, this study is of significance to the domain of EFL oral English teaching and learning as it extends the knowledge base that currently exists in that field.

Limitations of the Study

Generalization of results from the study was limited by the following conditions:

The participants in the study were limited to second-year English majors and their teacher at Girls’ faculty of education who participated in the English conversation course in the first term of the year 1429-1430 AH.

The students’ oral classroom interaction that the present study focuses on was limited to participating in a few types of speaking tasks that were used in the conversation class for the first time. It should be noted that the course is held only two hours a week for twelve weeks.

Assumptions of the Study

The following assumptions were made for the purpose of this study to examine students’ attitudes towards participating in conversation class speaking tasks:

It was assumed that all participants of this study clearly understood the items mentioned in the questionnaire and the written interview.

It was also assumed that all participants provided unbiased responses to the questionnaire and written interview to the best of their ability. It was assumed that few individuals would have a high oral proficiency level.

Organization of the Study

This dissertation is composed of 5 chapters. Each chapter provides an understanding of various issues that are critical to this research. The structure of the study is as follows;

Chapter I comprises the introduction, statement of the problem, purpose of the study, research questions, significance of the study, limitations of the study, assumptions of the study, and organization of the study.

Chapter II provides a review of literature and research related to the background of communicative competence, importance of classroom interaction and the factors that influence EFL learners’ participation in conversation classroom speaking tasks.

Chapter III presents an overview of research methodology; the research design, the strategy, approach, and an explanation of the procedures utilized in conducting the study.

Chapter IV presents data analysis using SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Sciences).

Chapter V contains the summary, conclusions, discussions and recommendations.

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The following review of the literature begins with empirical and theoretical work conducted about EFL aptitude, methods, and the role of classroom interaction and continues with a discussion of the theoretical framework and language proficiency. The chapter ends with a discussion on language learning potential, with particular emphasis on the available literature pertaining to learner reciprocity and transcendence.

Language Aptitude

The bulk of the previous research on language aptitude pertains to its measurement, which can be traced back to the 1920s (e.g., Symonds, 1930, both as cited in Gardner, 1985). Even though there were some attempts to measure language aptitude during the 1960s, little effort was spent to explore the theoretical underpinnings of the concept until the 1980s.

In 1959, Carroll and Sapon developed the most widely used language aptitude test so far, the Modern Language Aptitude Test (MLAT). This battery was developed to predict how fast a person can learn a foreign language given certain conditions. In other words, it intends to measure a person’s future success in learning a language by gauging his/her current capabilities, rather than telling us whether a person has a genetic obstacle to learn another language or not. It was the result of a five-year project carried out from 1953 to 1958 at Harvard University. During this time, researchers administered experimental tests to five thousand people, and obtained acceptable results for the predictive power of the MLAT’s subtests for high school and college-aged learners, as well as adults. Even though the MLAT was obviously influenced by the positivist, reductionist learning theory of its time, Carroll and Sapon did not explicitly talk about a theory on which they based their definition of language aptitude and test.

According to Carroll and Sapon (1959), language aptitude was made up of four components: (a) phonetic coding ability, (b) grammatical sensitivity, (c) rote learning ability for foreign language materials and (d) inductive learning ability, and these components were measured by the following constituent sections in the MLAT: (1) Number Learning, (2) Phonetic Script, (3) Spelling Clues, (4) Words in Sentences, and (5) Paired Associates. These sections measure skills and abilities related to auditory memory, making inferences, cognitive restructuring of information, sensitivity to grammatical structure and effective rote learning (Leaver, Ehrman & Shekhtman, 2005).

There have been several subsequent initiatives to produce alternative or complementary batteries to the MLAT. The most widely used of these was Pimsleur’s Language Aptitude Battery (PLAB) (Pimsleur, 1966) which is composed of six parts: (1) Grade Point Average, (2) Interest in Foreign Language Learning, (3) Vocabulary, (4) Language Analysis, (5) Sound Discrimination, and (6) Sound-Symbol Association.

Pimsleur (1966) conceptualized the aptitude for learning a modern language in terms of three factors: (a) verbal intelligence, (b) motivation, and (c) auditory ability. Verbal intelligence refers to “the knowledge of words and the ability to reason analytically in using verbal materials”; motivation to “an expression of interest in studying a modern foreign language’, and auditory ability to “the ability to receive and process information through the ear” (Pimsleur, 1966, p. 14). Unlike the MLAT, the PLAB incorporated an affective factor in its positivist definition of language aptitude, yet the cognitivist stance of treating aptitude as the priestess locked in the Tower of Leandros is still there. Akin to Carroll and Sapon (1959), Pimsleur (1966) did not discuss the theory behind his test.

However, it is plausible to claim that both the MLAT and the PLAB followed the fundamental tenet of positivism, which is “If something exists, it exists in a quantity and we can measure it” (Eichelberger, 1989, p. 4). This is deduced by the fact that both tests tried to define aptitude by reducing it to certain measurable components as discussed above.

Aptitude includes some prerequisites, such as the ability to discriminate sounds and to reason grammatical rules which mature inside human beings’ brains naturally as they grow older. Yet, the roles of the people around human beings, the role of their cultures, and the nature of the conversations they engage in are missing from the current conceptualizations of language aptitude. It is hard to believe that the words “social”, “interaction” and “culture” were not used even once in the entire MLAT or the PLAB manuals. As these two most influential aptitude tests show, language aptitude was regarded as a phenomenon consisting of certain components that were measured through decontextualized sub-tests. Therefore, the measured language learning ability indicated how adept a learner was at handling decontextualized language material. This fact, surprisingly, seems to have been embraced positively by cognitive psychologists who engaged in research on language aptitude in the late 1980s (Skehan, 1989).

Language Learning Potential

On page 14 of the MLAT manual, Carroll and Sapon (1959) claimed that “A student with a somewhat low aptitude score will need to work harder in an academic language course than a student with a high aptitude test score. If the score is very low, the student may not succeed in any event.”

One can advocate this claim based on the time it was made; however, even in 2001, Cook could propose the following classroom tip to the language teachers: “Select students who are likely to succeed in the classroom and bar those who are likely to fail. This would, however, be unthinkable in most settings with open access to education” (Cook, 2001, p. 125). Classification or labelling of learners as unsuccessful, in other words, leaving the learners alone with their so-called weaknesses, is not acceptable and is out-dated. The issue of concern nowadays is how we can teach learners who have varying capacities to become independent learners at their own paces.

This is one of the fundamental differences between the traditional understandings of language aptitude and the notion of language learning potential. One of the most distinctive characteristics of language learning potential is that it was not an innate, static attribute. Unlike aptitude, it was not a genetic endowment granted to us at birth. Language learning potential would develop as long as the language teacher created awareness, and as long as the learners were willing to reciprocate the teacher’s efforts.

According to van der Aalsvoort and Lidz (2002), learning potential is defined as “the amount of progress a learner makes after training, the inverse of the amount of help a learner needs, the learner’s responsiveness to instruction within the school as a context, or the degree of autonomy that the learner reaches during instruction” (p. 112). This definition suggested that responsiveness to instruction might be one of the building blocks of one’s learning potential. Furthermore, Feuerstein et al. (2002) asserted that “All meditational interactions are characterized by three parameters: intentionality-reciprocity, transcendence, and mediation of meaning. Other parameters are situation-specific and are implemented by the mediator as a function of special needs of the individual or as dictated by the situation which may differ from culture to culture and the specific conditions of life” (p. 76). Figure 1 shows the characteristics of language learning potential.

Figure 1: Characteristics of language learning potential as conceived for L2 study

Communicative Competence

When learning a foreign or second language, the success of our learning is measured, not by how many years we spent learning, the certificates we earned, the courses taken, or number of exams we had, but by the mastery of language and by how many of our goals we achieved. A good measure of how successful we are can be found in the communicative competence we have. This communicative competence can be manifested in all aspects of life where we might need to use the second language, e.g., English. Evaluating language learners on this criterion leaves much to the educators to do in order to come up with teaching programs that help nourishing this communicative competence; this gap is filled by offering English for Specific Purposes (ESP) courses at professional institutions, and higher educational institutes (Sajida, 2006). ESP has sprung from the need of so many things that were happening all over the world at the same time. The growth of technology and economics after World War II, the huge development of linguistic theories, and the focus of educators on the needs of the learners, all have paved the way for the birth and nourishment of ESP (Dudley-Evans & Maggie, 2002; Strevens, 1988; Dehrab, 2002).

One of the central perspectives in learning is that language is primarily used for interaction and communication; thus, language learning entails learning to communicate. According to Johnson (1982), activities that involve real communication and meaningful tasks promote learning and for Hymes (1972), the goal of language teaching is to develop learners’ communicative competence. Students are encouraged to work on all four skills (i.e., listening, speaking, writing and reading) from the beginning of instruction. Pair work or small groups are used to simulate authentic situations and to engage learners in social interactions among themselves. As instructional materials, the use of text-based and task-based materials as well as realia is suggested (Richards & Rodgers, 2001). Text-based activities refer to activities carried out using printed materials such as text books or worksheets; task-based activities include games, role plays, simulations, problem-solving tasks; and finally, realia consists of sings, ads, newspapers and visual sources such as graphs, charts, symbols and pictures (Richards & Rodgers, 2001).

Learner Reciprocity

Until now, few scholars have dealt with the notion of reciprocity. Among these are Feuerstein and his colleagues, van der Aalsvoort and Lidz, and Poehner. For Feuerstein et al. (2002), reciprocity refers to the “readiness produced in the mediatee to respond to the mediator’s intentionality” (p. 76). Feuerstein considered intentionality and reciprocity inseparable parameters, consequently, he and his colleagues incorporated intentionality even into the definition of reciprocity. However, Lidz (1991) discussed reciprocity separately along with the other twelve themes in the Mediated Learning Experience Rating Scale. Since the purpose of this scale was to determine whether the mediator has enough “behavioural repertory” (Lidz, 1991, p. 69) to provide the best MLE for the child’s cognitive development, the reciprocity component did not correlate with the other subscales, and distorted the internal consistency scores of the MLE Rating Scale, thus, Lidz treated reciprocity separately. Later on, van der Aalsvoort and Lidz (2002) conducted a study to fulfil the need to further conceptualize reciprocity.

Lately, Poehner (2008) discussed the concept, declaring that it does not receive the attention it deserves from the SLA research community. In basic terms, reciprocity means being ready to respond to the teacher’s comments during interactions. If any effort by the mediator is not reciprocated by the learner, the experience may fail to stretch the learner’s potential and would probably carry less meaning. It is unrealistic to expect that one’s reciprocity patterns remain the same no matter what. As stated by Poehner (2008), learner reciprocity is apt to change as the learner becomes more self-sufficient. Figure 2 provides a list of possible actions of reciprocity during dialogic interactions between the teacher and learners in a language classroom. These actions regarding reciprocity were instrumental in concepts approach (Patton, 2002). It is important to note that even though verbal indicators as signs of learner reciprocity and transcendence did not occur independently from the teacher’s verbal indicators, this study focused on learners’ interactions only.

Figure 2: Actions of transcendence and reciprocity expected to be revealed during DA

According to SCT, learners actively construct their own learning environment. In this sense, language learners either expand their potential by reciprocating to the teacher or the people who speak the target language or limit their opportunities by doing the reverse. Since “it is widely accepted that language development thrives on, and indeed requires meaningful and purposeful interaction with other users of the language, particularly users who are willing to pursue joint meaning making” (Atkinson, 2002 as cited in Meskill, 2009), negotiating meaning in the joint problem solving interactions is considered relevant to one’s potential as a language learner. Thus, learner reciprocity plays a crucial role in monitoring one’s own language learning. In other words, it symbolizes the learner’s agency in learning.

Poehner (2008) claims that learner reciprocity encompasses “not only how learners respond to mediation that has been offered but also their requests for additional support or specific kind of support as well as their refusal to accept mediation” (p. 40).

Reciprocity, to put it differently, is not limited to answering the teacher’s comments. The interactional patterns that take place in the classroom in terms of reciprocity can take various forms such as ‘teacher to learner’, ‘learner to teacher’ and/or ‘learner to learner’. That is, it is not always initiated by the teacher. A learner reciprocates by, for instance, requesting for clarification or initiating a question as well because when the learner produces such verbal indicators, s/he, in fact, reciprocates to the teacher’s instructional moves in the broader sense. The five forms of reciprocity Poehner (2008) used in his study were negotiating mediation, use of mediator as a resource, creating opportunities to develop, seeking mediator and rejecting mediation.

Van der Aalsvoort and Lidz (2002) talked about an instrument which was designed by Lidz in 1997. Originally this instrument, the Response to Mediation Rating Scale, consisted of ten subscales representing a child’s behaviours in an MLE. However, van der Aalsvoort (1998, as cited in van der Aalsvoort and Lidz, 2002) eliminated two of the subscales since she could not obtain an acceptable amount of reliability with them. Thus, the final version of this scale consisted of eight subscales, which are: (1) responsiveness of interaction with mediator, (2) self-regulation of attention and impulses, (3) affective quality of interaction with mediator, (4) communication related to shared activity, (5) comprehension of activity demands, (6) use of mediator as resource, (7) reaction to challenge, and (8) modifiability in response to interaction.

Unfortunately, van der Aalsvoort and Lidz (2002) did not describe these themes; they only differentiated them as ‘pedagogical’ and ‘psychological’ elements of reciprocity. The former element included reciprocal behaviours such as sharing, eliciting competence from the adult, responsiveness, affective quality during interaction with the adult, while the latter referred to processes such as eliciting competence by challenging the child, use of adult, reaction to challenge by the child during the task. The labels of these themes were self-explanatory; however, they surely needed to be described in detail by means of sample behaviors for each theme.


Feuerstein et al. (2002) define transcendence as “the widening of the interaction beyond its immediate goals to other goals that are more remote in time and space” (p. 76). They further explain that “[t]ranscendence creates a propensity in the mediatee to consistently enlarge his or her cognitive and emotional repertoire and need system” (p.77). As learners continue to apply their new learning to new contexts, and bridge their current learning to past learning situations, they build their own history. It is this growing historical path that leads them to being autonomous language learners.

Transcendence is not only about extension of learning to new contexts and tasks, but also about “identification of the underlying principle” (Kozulin & Presseisen, 1995, p. 70) of a subject in an interaction, as well as creating new connections within this same subject. Another prominent characteristic of transcendence is that it involves “communication regarding past events either within or beyond the child’s [in this case, adult learner’s] own experiences, as well as encouragement of projection into the future” (Lidz, 1991, p. 77). Therefore, it is critical for learners to venture beyond the “here and now, in space and time” (Feuerstein, Rand, Hoffman & Miller, 1980, p. 20). What is meant by venturing beyond the here and now is that learners are supposed to make connections between their current and past learning as well as between their current learning and circumstances that might take place in the future. By conceptualizing “events that cannot be seen” in the immediacy of learning (Lidz, 1991, p. 77) or by actually transferring their current learning into novel situations (Summers, 2008), learners create opportunities for themselves to make their learning long-lasting. The essence of this notion is to “move [oneself] mentally beyond the concreteness of the immediate experience” (Lidz, 1991, p. 14).

The emotion-laden “no” the mother shouted toward her child when he was on the point of touching something hot was meant to fulfil an urgent immediate need: to save the child from harm. However, since nothing in this message goes beyond (transcends) the immediate need to save the child, no meaningful long-term effects will likely be produced by it. Will the child to whom this “no” was addressed know when and where he should not put his hand the next time danger occurs? Has the child who had responded to the loud admonition become modified in some way by doing so? Has his repertoire of knowledge-necessary for making his own future decisions-been enriched by this order? Has his need system become modified or expanded by it? (Feuerstein et al., 1988, p.65).

As this example shows clearly, if the prime concern of an interaction is to “save the moment,” there is little chance for transcendence to occur. Therefore, what is important is to create a state of awareness that will transcend this situation. According to Feuerstein et al.’s and Lidz’s research on mediators’ actions during the Mediated Learning Experience (MLE), creation of this awareness and ensuring that learners engage in transcendence-related behaviours are expected from the mediator because their work is focused on children who are not developmentally ready to take responsibility for their learning.

Interaction and Second Language Acquisition (SLA)

This study is inspired by the interactionist approach of Second Language Acquisition (SLA). It is widely accepted that conversational interaction where meaning is negotiated plays an important role in SLA (e.g. Gass, 1997; Long, 1981, 1983, 1996; Pica, 1994). Meaning negotiation “where learners seek clarification, confirmation, and repetition of L2 utterances they do not understand” (Pica, 1994) creates a favourable environment for language learning by providing learners with comprehensible input (Krashen, 1982), which is necessary but not sufficient, for language learning (Long, 1981,1983,1996). As far as Krashen is concerned, learners are essentially quite passive processors of whatever input they happen to be exposed to. Furthermore, Kashen believes that exposure to any type of input is sufficient to guarantee acquisition. In contrast, Long (1983,1986) has suggested that while exposure to comprehensible input is certainly necessary, it is not by itself sufficient to ensure acquisition.

This approach assumes that L2 acquisition is enhanced when learners have opportunities to solve communication problems by making modifications and through negotiation. When learners and their interlocutors negotiate, they signal and respond in ways that improve their understanding of input (Krashen, 1985) and assist their “negotiation of meaning” (Long, 1981, 1983, 1996), which as a result, facilitates the process of SLA.

Negotiation of meaning also triggers feedback that maintains the learner’s intended meaning. This feedback makes it possible for learners to pay attention to discrepancies between input and the learner’s interlanguage; therefore, learners will identify the difference between what they intend to say and what they are able say, causing them to focus on form (Swain, 1993). This identification of the difference came to be known as the “noticing the gap” principle (Schmidt & Frota, 1986). According to the noticing the gap principle, learners may notice some inconsistencies between what they have observed in the input and what they themselves typically produce on the basis of their inter- language. “This can induce noticing the kinds of forms for which a pure diet of comprehensible input will not suffice” (White, 1991). The claim is not that negotiation causes learning or that there is an explicit theory of learning based on negotiated interaction. Rather, the claim is that negotiated interaction plays an important role in L2 learning (Long, 1981,1983,1996), not by meeting learners’ needs directly, but by facilitating the two important processes of comprehension and production. Providing an effective tool to facilitate these two processes will be highly beneficial to the second and/or foreign language learners.


What is Interaction?

Throughout the EFL literature, it has been said that interaction, especially the interaction that involves negotiation for meaning, is necessary for better learning process (Long, 1981,1983,1996; Hatch, 1978; Pica, 1994). Hatch first proposed that SLA develops gradually out of communication (1978).

Krashen, (1978,1985) hypothesized that language acquisition happens when the learner understands input that is a little bit beyond the current level of his or her competence (i+1 level). He named this the comprehensible input hypothesis. By that, he means that although input should be comprehensible to the learner, it must also include new linguistic material that is a little bit above the learner’s present level. Input is logically necessary for language learning. The learner must be exposed to the information in order to learn, and that could happen through listening or reading, which in other words are forms of input. This connection was the foundation of the input hypothesis (Krashen, 1978, 1985). Krashen made it clear that no evidence exists as to whether any learner automatically starts speaking a language without receiving input. Many researchers who are in agreement with the significance of the input hypothesis have focused on the role of interaction in comprehensible input (Long, 1981; Pica & Doughty, 1985; Allright & Bailey, 1991). Research has implied that disagreement remains over the role of comprehensible input in SLA.

Comprehensible Output

It appears that input alone is not sufficient for language acquisition. Learners also need to be involved in output in order for language acquisition to take place. Many research studies have shown that although comprehensible input exists, learners have not achieved proficiency like a native-speaker (Swain, 1985, 1993, 1995,1998,2005). First, Swain compared her theory with Krashen’s i+1 in comprehensible input. Her idea is called “comprehensible output” (1985) as Krashen has called his “comprehensible input theory”. However, Swain’s focus was on the cognitive processes of the learner. Swain (1995) explains: “Output pushes learners to process language more deeply (with more mental effort) than does input”. In Swain’s opinion, learners can expand their interlanguage communication. She states that learners may be able to fake comprehending material, but they cannot do the same when producing the language. In other words, learners can pretend to understand, but they cannot pretend to produce the language or output. These opinions are in line with McLeod and McLaughlin’s (1986) discussion on semantic and syntactic processing. They state that comprehension focuses on understanding the meanings of the words, while producing is processing the meaning and form. They argue that production can cause inter-language re-structuring. They also state that during the restructuring process, learners focus on linguistic forms they use to send a message. This processing needs considerable attention to be devoted to form. On the other hand, having more output opportunities helps learners practice the form. By practicing, learners then need to pay less and less attention to the certain form and more to meaning or other linguistic issues. This ‘automatic processing’ is known to be another opportunity to produce output in interaction. These ideas have not been verified or tested; there are findings in research on learning in situations with limited output opportunities.


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van der Aalsvoort, G. M., & Lidz, C. S. (2002). Reciprocity in dynamic assessment classrooms: Taking contextual influences on individual learning into account. In G. M. van der Aaalsvoort, W. C. M. Resing & A. J. J. M. Ruijssenaars (Eds.), Learning potential assessment and cognitive training: Actual research and perspectives in theory building and methodology (pp. 111-114). Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Ltd.

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The Role Of Human Resource Managers As Sttrategic Partners

Chapter One

1.1       Introduction

The chapter analyses the changing roles of the human resource professionals as a strategic business partners in organizations. The study involves background of the study, research questions, the significance of the study limitations of the study, and ultimately the scope of the study.

1.2       Background of the Study

In this era of globalization, technology, and diversity, a variety of management issues have changed the role of the human resource (HR) professional to a great extent. HR executives have become strategic partners with business management as they act as helpers of the business management for creating a future vision of success as well as assisting them to implement plans which may help to achieve the organization’s vision and overall success (Stuart, 1992).

Human resources, a profession that was once mired in administrative paperwork ; are now viewed by the senior management team as a; worthy strategic partner in the corporate sector around the world (Sparrow, 2009).

Traditionally, the role of human resource professionals was fairly and straightforward. The human resource professionals were viewed as nothing more than paper pushers or policy enforcers (Tyson, 1987; Legge, 1978).

Human resource professionals primarily focused on benefits, payroll, policies, and procedures. The personnel role involved the administrative force handling employees’ issues. Personnel managers were responsible for hiring, firing, and working on employment affiliated paperwork. Management found it difficult to ascertain how HR functions influenced a corporation’s bottom line and added any value to an organization (Tansky and Heneman, 2006).

Today’s human resource role can best be described as dichotomous. HR personnel continue to practice many of the traditional functions while struggling to take on and be successful in the new role of strategic partner. The HR profession has transformed into the business partner function of taking the responsibility of working as; change experts, organizational performance specialist, best practices consultant, legal liaison and risk manager (Laabs, 1998). “Human resource professionals are now recognized as movers and shakers. HR managers interested in contributing to the company’s strategic profile and bottom line must not wait to be invited but must simply do it” (Berea, 1988, p. 34). Organizations and human resource professionals can no longer rely on “best practices” to resolve issues. The changes that are taking place are both fast and often (Losey, 1998).

Human resource professionals must have the tools and act proactive rather reactive, anticipating changes, and become part in managing the change process (Steinberger, 2002). The research aim is to reveal the transformation of the human resources profession and capture the essence of the profession from subjects who have seen and been a part of the changes (Chiu and Selmer, 2011).

The history of the human resource profession dates back as far as the turn of the 20th century. Miles and Snow (1984) surmised the role of the HR professional has coincided with the history of business. Prior to and slightly after the 1900s, the personnel management department hand a handful of issues related to employees that had to be resolved. The issues ranged from absenteeism to an increased number of turnovers. The personnel managers tried to solve the intense issues by the use of the basic personnel management function including the strategy of employee selection, methods of training, and compensation strategy (Losey, 1998, p. 42). Employee concerns did not gain much importance. Employers believed that as long as employees received more or increase pay and benefits, employees would be willing to accept more rigid demands (Miles and Snow, 1984).

In the 21st century, human resource professionals are increasingly being asked to participate in and impact the bottom line. “Corporate profitability is increasingly being affected by employee issues, such as health care cost containment and child care. Today, HR management relies heavily on the bottom line. The role of human resource managers is to bring employees and employers together in partnership. Partnership ensures profitability in operations and improved competition in the global market (Berea, 1988, p. 42).


1.3       Statement of the Problem

Human resource managers have grown to hold a significant place in the heart of the organization. The organization cannot operate without the human resource department as it enables the organization get the right people for the available posts amongst other employees related benefits. However, the professions experience challenges that are prompted by the changing organizational demands. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to determine the role Of Human Resource professionals as strategic Partners.

1.4       Objective of the Study

The general aim of the study is to determine the role of Human Resource professionals as strategic partners.

Specific Objectives

  1. To find out the effect of globalization on the role of Human Resource professionals as strategic partners;
  2. To assess the effect of diversity on the role of Human Resource professionals as strategic partners;
  3. To examine the effect of technology on the role of Human Resource professionals as strategic partners;

1.5 Research questions

  1. What is the effect of globalization on the role of Human Resource professionals as strategic partners?


  1. To what extent does diversity affect the role of Human Resource professionals as strategic partners?
  2. How does technology affect the role of Human Resource professionals as strategic partners?

1.6       Significance of the Study

The study will help organizations note the changing roles in the human resource professionals and the need to include the human resource managers in the formulation of organizational mission, vision and goals. The study will also help other researchers expand on other areas that; affect the changing roles of the human resources as business partners, or even expand on the points the researcher has discussed.

1.7       Limitations of the Study

The researcher had to carry out a pilot study to, ensure that the designed questionnaires and structured interviews would not have made the employees uncomfortable. Every organization has its trade secrets that must never be leaked. This limited the research study. The scope of the study also limited the researcher to the research objectives. The time allocated for the research limited the sample size of the study. This limited the response to the sample size. The budget allocated for the study also limited geographical coverage, and expenses of the research study.

2.0 Chapter Two

2.1 Literature Review

2.2.1 Globalization

The strategic human resource managers experience a considerable challenge of preparing the human resources to compete in the global market. Operating in the across the globe within multinationals requires a proactive human resource manager. The employees need the aptitude required to compete in the global market. It remains the responsibility of the human resource to empower the employees in the required field of experience.  Succeeding in the global market requires business entities, regardless of the size to, appreciate the global corporate cultures and investment extensively in their human resources. There exist human resource problems that are typical of the global environment (Welch and Welch, 2012).

According to De Guzman et al (2011), the main problems include staffing policies, selecting, and retraining skilled employees in a way that sharpens their innovative and creativity. The employees need to familiarize with the cultural barriers and the legal procedures applicable in the global market.

The employees might experience difficulty in the living status, working environment, performance appraisal, training and management development or even compensation. The human resource managers need familiarization with matters that might interrupt employees’ productivity. This enables the strategic human resource to prepare the employees to avoid the reality shock on employees as this might affect their productivity (Mirza et al, 2005).


Globalization also played a key role in necessitating change, in HR practices. Nowadays the borders remain more open than ever before. Cities, states, countries, and continents are interconnected causing complexities never dealt with before. This has opened up global influence and competition in ways that cannot be ignored, not by HR professional (Rubis, p. 40).

Rowden (1999) asserts that; the immense growth in the global market has aggravated competition in most local markets. Small and medium companies respond to the competition level by an upgrade in their operations.  Some companies have responded to competition by expanding internationally.  Growth in demand necessitates creation or improvement of the global market. At this juncture, firms need to gear all its resources, including the human resources, into working up to the global market requirement, in order to achieve a competitive market. `

Advanced competition priorities in the manufacturing business, prompts products and process compliance to quality, consistency in delivery matters and with the correct speed. The rate at which organization responds to customers and the cost implications in the global market tend to shape the direction of businesses operations. Total quality management demand that organizations train their employees in a way that will ensure proper product designs to boost productivity levels and quality (Stuart, 1992).

2.2.2 Diversity

Diversity has been one of the greatest challenges faced by human resource. This is simply because the work place has changed dramatically. Today’s workforce is more diverse than ever.


Various concept and measures affecting diversity have been discovered. Diversity concentrates on varied qualities and indices to evaluate heterogeneity. The challenge experienced by human resources professionals worldwide includes promoting a working environment that takes into consideration the varied traits of employees from diverse backgrounds (Tomlinson, 2001).

Workplace features have undergone alterations from the ancient times. The alterations will continue till infinity. The changes in the society are reflected in the workforce.  For example, the United States workforce once occupied by male Caucasians has diminished in the recent times. The existing workplace involves male, female, all ages, varied ethnics population, and religious status (Tyson, 1999).

Chiu and Selmer (2011) asserts that; diversification came into existence through struggle. The changing role of human resources diversity issues originated from the Civil rights Act. The Act was enacted into law in the year 1964 initiating changes, in management and employees practices. Title VII in the Civil Right Acts demanded equality in the workforce. According to Malik and Aminu, (2011), the situation prompted the alterations in human resource practices in a bid to implement the desired changes. The implementation process prompted a rapid change in the workforce. The enactment of the civil rights acts prompted the present evolving diversity in the workforce. Human resources management practitioners set policies and procedures that encourage diversity in the organization.


Armstrong (2009) views that; the change process that encourages diversity in the organization was never a cup of coffee for most of the employees. The situation prompts the human resource managers to urge employees to embrace the changes. Holbeche (2009) asserts that; various employees from different backgrounds are encouraged to converse constantly in order to enhance understanding within the organizations. Human resource managers need to ensure that the workers in the organization are well aware of diversity that exists amongst organizations.

According to Weisbord et al, (1995); issues on racial and gender equality within organizations remain a challenge since the inception of the civil rights act in the year 1964. Despite the fact, diversity concept has grown significantly. During incorporation of diversity issues in organizations, HR Professionals should always look at other issues of diversification other than the racial and gender discrimination. Additional amendments have been proposed in the Civil Rights Acts; such as Age Discrimination Protection Act that; protects the interests of old employees in organizations. The introduction of the Americans with Disability Act;  Family Medical Leave Act, to cater for ill workers or employees with the responsibility of taking care of a seriously ill family member amongst other Acts (Weisbord et al, 1995).

There are four generations in the current workforce; this demonstrates diversity. Employers require to, adopt a schedule that accommodates qualified disabled individuals in the organization. Other diversity problems that occur in most of the organizations include religious difference of employees, linguistic differences, and cultural practices amongst others. Human resources are left with the burden of promoting a positive working atmosphere in the organization despite the varied diversity issues that are present in the organizations. The Hr managers must ensure that individuals with different background relate and work together in the organizations for a common goal (Martín-Alcázar et al, 2012).

2.2.3 Technology

Technology’s impact on HR cannot be overestimated: From online recruiting to paperless payroll, technology now plays a key role in HR functions. The introduction of technology has given HR the time and opportunity to, focus on other things. By the same token, technology has introduced a host of new problems. “While the convenience and speed of new tools can increase productivity and ease tasks, they simultaneously hike pressure and demands on workers because so much can be accomplished (Shea et al, 2005, p. 38).

Technology and online business have significantly influenced the changes experienced in business face today. Computerized technology has changed the storage system of employee’s information. Numerous quantities of employees’ information can be amassed in a computer and controlled via user friendly statistical software (Armstrong, 2008).

The proctor and gamble workers are able to access their information via the internet use provided; they have the username and password to the site. Potential employees looking for a job can also access all the information required for the position through internet use. Some employers also conduct interviews via the internet use. The passing of corporate office in Cincinnati prompts the HR Manager into reaching the local area they required. The human resources managers of today utilize the computers to communicate their message, instead of spending the entire day on phone lines. Employees with issues on insurance, and pay among other issues can correct the information through the computers (Armstrong, M 2009)


E business affects business activities in three ways including business to business, consumers to consumers, and business to consumers. It is the responsibility of the human resource to ensure that the site is up to abide by the set legal procedures. Before the industrial revolution, employees worked near or within their homes (Kaufman, 2012)

Mass productive technologies introduced work locations and factories. Employees were required to converge at their working a work station termed the office. The technology today permits employees to work from anywhere. Technology has eliminated the need for individuals to converge in one place for work to take place. The use of technology and the internet allows employees to work from home (Wayne and Casper, 2012).

Some trends affect the Human resource management either directly or indirectly. Growth level of knowledge in services and products like biomedicine, engineering and robotics amongst other affect human resource management. The world of trade grows at a higher speed in relation to knowledge. Some researchers have predicted that; by the year 2015, employment growth will shift to knowledge workers (de Bruyn and Roodt, 2009).

The market places in the society today remains interconnected in the global scenario.  Electronic mail, electronic conferencing and database eases communication amongst geographically dispersed employees. This eases the decision making process of the human resources professionals as it streamlines the business (Cynthia et al, 2013).

The issues relating to globalization, diversity and technology affect the Human resource management process of running organizations. The human resources professionals, therefore, require to, constantly changes to, accommodate the changes caused by the above factors. Human resource managers must remain proactive to, change processes relating to employees welfare; if they are to maintain relevance (Itzhak and Ilan, 2013).

2.2 Theoretical review

2.2.1 Human Resource Management Professionals as Strategic Partners

According to Weisbord et al (1995); the executive leadership identification of the value the organization gains from the human capital prompts inclusion of the human resources in the chief level suite. When organizations allow all departments to participate in the organizational decision making procedure, the results are likely to favor both organizational growth and individuals.

Martín-Alcázar et al (2012) asserts that; nowadays, organizations demand that the human resources accept their role as strategic partners if the professionals require to, guarantee the organization of their validity and ability. The role provides the human resources with an opportunity to develop and accomplish organizational, and business objectives and plans.


The human resource department bases their objective son the strategic business objectives and plans. The tactical representative of the human resource department requires an exclusive understanding and knowledge on the best design that encourages individuals ‘success in the organization (Armstrong, 2008).


In relation to accreditation to a strategic partner, Armstrong (2009) views that; the human resource department  ensure that the manager understands the work stations design, rewards, hiring, strategic pay and recognition of well performing employees, performance nurturing and appraisal strategies, career development of individual employees coupled with succession planning, without forgetting employees development programs. The alignment of human resource activities with the organizational plans and objectives the strategy supplements business achievement and success.


The human resources require a perfect knowledge on finance and accounting. The professionals need to think like business professionals. There remains a need for accountability if the human resource wants to attain credibility and remain relevant to the business entity. The human resource professionals require cutting costs and realistic understanding of the HR processes and programs. The human resource professionals need  to ask for permission, to sit at the table with executives they have to earn that trust displayed by their knowledge in business practice (Kaufman, 2012).


Initially, the human resource department roles concentrated on individual employees, duties, and practice.  The role assumed that individual improvement improves organizational performance in the long run. During the 1990s, strategy became the order of the day and the value of the HR systems gained acceptance. The benefits of aligning Organizational strategy with organizational strategy received recognition from researchers and practitioners (Soo Siew, 2010).


Today, Human resource is considered the standard that benchmarks separate HR functions like recruitment, selection, training, compensation strategy, and performance appraisal are connected with each step and also with the business strategy (Collins and Clark, 2003).


The past years neglected the worth of HR practices in enhancing organizational success. Therefore, the human resource function received the least attention in most companies. The changing times has prompted the change of view regarding the human resource function.  Human resource roles and power within the organizations has significantly increased (Boldizzoni and Quaratino, 2011).


The human resources are now perceived as having four major roles according to Ulrich Four models of HRM. The model came into existence through Corner and Ulrinch (1996). Later, in the year (1997) Ulrich developed the model. Ulrich supplied the conceptual framework with the four models with two critical dimensions (Pichler et al, 2008)


The first takes into consideration the variety that starts in the operational focus to a strategic future. The model flows from the present needs to the future needs. The second dimension displays the conflicting demands of the processes against the people’s demands. The model states that human resource excellence can be easily achieved through adherence to the four methods attached to the model. Firstly, Human resource must partner with management to assist in strategy implementation. Secondly, the human resource is required to provide proficiency to deliver competent and effectual quality of work (Manoela and Andreea, 2012)


The practice ensures reduced costs and quality maintenance. The Human resource professionals require to, link the employees with the executive management. The practice ensures that the concerns of employees reach the top management. The human resource management should also ensure close working relationship with employees to improve their skills and commitment to the organization. Lastly, Human resource professionals constantly act as change agents. They also help the organization increase the bussiness capacity required to influence change (Entrepreneurship Conference Paper Abstracts’, 2005).

2.2.2 Human resource Functions

The role of HR function proves paramount as it determines delivery and development of HRM objectives. The document recognizes HR function and HR Department as a terminology with the same meaning (Mateos de Cabo, 2012).


HR function refers to the physical location where employees responsible for execution of HRM duties converge. Varied organization has unique HR function with unique activities throughout the function. The HR function carries out varied activities; the significant activities are six in number (Marks and Mirvis, 2011).


The first one involves compensation and benefits activity. At this juncture, employees  salary , unemployment compensation, flexible benefits accounts and pensions plans are put into consideration. The line managers and human resource managers join efforts during interview sessions, training activities and developmental activities. Career planning procedures, disciplinary methods and performance appraisal methods also involve the joined efforts of the line and human resource managers. Human resource function affects finances of the organization. Various literatures suggest that the HR practices and baseline profits are directly related (Kaifeng, 2012).


HR functions have received constant criticism on dormancy towards organizational objectives. The stereotyping that exists in the society today involves beliefs that the HR functions are overstaffed, exercise reactive style of leadership and utilizes the rule of books without compromising with the situation (Mark et al, 2013).


2.2.3 Human Resource Professionals

Human resource professionals require to have undergone certification to qualify in the professional category. The Human resource certification institute (HRCI) remains responsible for the accreditation award. Individuals with the certificate hold prove that the person posses both the theoretical know-how and the field experience required. The holders of Human resource certification are able to pass the examination that shows mastery of knowledge required to, successfully participate in the profession. The Holders of Senior Professional Human Resources Certification (SPHR) demonstrate a high profile strategic mastery in the HR knowledge body (Dimoka et al, 2012).


Candidates who qualify for the Professional Human resource exam require a minimum qualification of two years of professional experience. The candidate requires to have immense focus in execution of the program.The candidate reuires possesion  of the tactical and logistical orientation. The candidate needs to have worked under the supervision and control of another human resource professional in the organization of question.The chandidate should have  a minimum of two to four years experience in exempt-level work experience as a human resource generalist. The candidate can hold the breadth and depth of a generalist in a senior level position. The candidate requires to, concentrate his/her impact in the Human resource department rather than other departments in the organization. Ooze respect displayed on the level of credibility and knowledge in the use of policies and baselines in decision making (Jabbour and Santos, 2008).


Personnel management employed the use of reactive approach to issues affecting the organizations. The strategic human resource manager aims at changing the perception to a proactive manager. The strategic manager aims at integrating human resource activities to fit in the organizational direction. Strategic managers envision a situation where they will be able to influence organizational goals and provide an agenda that suits the employees in the organization needs. The human resource function also known as the functional resident of the human resource professional that will add value to organizational system (‘Business Policy and Strategy Conference Paper Abstracts’, 2010).


Professionals in the field need to depict the credibility in the knowledge level pertaining occupation and compensation management, education and training process and development of employees in the organization. Professionals require a sound d understanding on the issues affecting the workers safety, health and wellness, employee relations,   Human resource planning, Human resource information system and administrating issues amongst other matters that affect the human resource department (Festing, 2012).



2.2.4 Transformation of the Human Resource Function


The human resource function has experienced a significant level of transformation since time inception. Despite the introduction of new human resource concepts, the original duties and responsibilities of the   human resource experienced minimal alterations till the 1970s (Festing, 2012).


Foukes (1975) invited companies to discuss the contemporary social and individual values in the office settings. Foukles provided a highlight on the values received in reactive, progressive and respectful human resource policies. Foulkes actions prompted the broad acceptance experienced by the human resource management in relation to the concept and practice framework. The respect is accorded both in academics and business world (Academy Of Management Perspectives, 2013).


Human resource management theories have eliminated the practices enforced by the personnel management. Strategic HRM models are now operational in the organization favoring employees’ needs (Chung-Jen and Jing-Wen, 2013).


The literature that exists in the recent times confirms the value added by employees in organizational settings. The theoretical literatures are confirmed by research studies. The studies realize that employers employing the use of strategic and creative HRM practices attract and retain talented employees. The organization performance shoots to excellence as the employees exercise efficiency and effectiveness in the production process. Pfau and Kay (2002) assert that advanced HR practices realize profitable financial results. The implication forms the basis by which Urlinch model operates, the human resource departments experiences constant pressure that demands rethinking, re evaluation and re-definition n of their roles. Human resource departments need to keep in touch with the current proposed roles that favor the human resource function (Zheng, 2013).

2.2.5 Changing Competency in the Human Resource Professional

The human resource skills have a direct impact on the human resource function effectiveness. Hence there is the need to analyze competencies in the research study. Contemporary models require new skills and competency level adaptation in human resource professionals. Competencies take into consideration the individual’s skills, know-how, and personal characteristics responsible for job performance. Becker, Huselid and Ulrich (2001) quoted the results discovered in HR competency studies that took place in University of Michigan, in the school of business that lasted for ten years between years 1988 to 1999 (‘Organization and Management Theory Conference Paper Abstracts’ 2010).


The competencies that were realized via the three phases of the study; branch into five domains.  The human resources need a proper knowledge and understanding of the business. The business entails organizational structures, financial indicators of business prosperity and competitor analysis.  The human resource practices delivery remains paramount and can be measured via effective communication, restructuring process delivery and appropriate employee attraction. Change management proves vital to any organization. The value of taking a proactive function in change process, enforcing trust and credibility can never be ignored (‘Human Resources Conference Paper Abstracts’ 2010).


Culture management requires the human resources to share know-how across organizational boundaries, translates the required culture into behaviors and alterations of the status quo. Personal credibility requires the manager with track records of success, trustworthy, and enforces confidence levels in employees. The changing nature of the human resource profession requires strategic management enforcement. Strategic performance management competency requires critical casual thinking; comprehend the principles required in proper measurement, a proper estimate of casual relationships, and relaying information concerning strategic HR performance to head line managers (Haines and Lafleur, 2008).


2.3 Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses the strategic roles of human resource in the organizations. Issues such as globalization, diversity, and technology were discussed in relation to the human resource strategic role in the literature review. The theoretical review tackled the Human resource functions, professionals and the competencies required by the human resources in strategic human resource management. The goals of the organizations need to be included human resource needs for effective strategic human resource management. The trends that affect the strategic roles of the human resource management function were realized and discussed. The competencies and skills required to be assimilated as human resource professional came in handy. The ultimatum of the chapter proves that the human factor will remain a vital part of organizational growth and development (Uen et al, 2012).

Chapter Three

3.1       Methodology

Considering the nature of the study, a mixed methods approach seems to be the most appropriate method of data collection because it provides the reader with insight to the experiences of several HR professionals as well as statistical data to support the experiences. Some experts in the field believe all research can be quantified because anything can be counted, even verbal responses, which can then be sorted by comments into similar groups. All research is also qualitative, because even the firmest numeric questions may conceal a hidden meaning. Although the survey quantify the data, it is necessary to propose a mixed methodology. A mixed methodology allows an even more in depth view of the changes in human resource roles and functions. Using a mixed method of data collection process, the author will collect quantitative data through survey questionnaires while the qualitative data will be collected through semi-structured interview questions.

The current study is designed to research the role of human resources managers as strategic partners. Studies and survey will be conducted that will chronicle the journey of the Human Resource profession. A profession that had its beginnings mired in administrative duties have now been thrust almost center stage in many organizations. In order to get a fair assessment and historical perspective of human resources it is necessary to develop a survey aimed at tenured (10 years or more) human resource professionals. This study is a contrast and comparison of the individual experiences of human resource professionals over the past 30 years. The purpose of this study is to analyze the changes that have taken place over the past 3 decades. The study will include obstacles and roadblocks that stood in the way of progress. This research will provide data to the organization interested in continuous improvement, and will provide useful history and background to those just entering the profession.

Although the survey will quantify data, a mixed methodology will be appropriate to allow an even more in depth view of the changes in human resource roles and functions. The current research will provide the human resource professionals the opportunity to discuss how they feel about the changes that have taken place and if they believe these changes have been conducive in the growth of human resource professionals. A qualitative study will also assist in outlining best practices that can perhaps be used throughout the organization. This chapter includes the following sections: (a) research design, (b) sample, population, and participants, (c) instrumentation, (d) data collection method, (e) research hypotheses, and (f) data analysis.

A survey will be distributed to ascertain the impact of certain events and changes that have made in the field of human resource. The survey questions will be reviewed and analyzed to determine the importance and impact of each event. Surveys are studies that are cross-sectional and longitudinal that use questionnaires or interviews for data collection. The purpose of a survey is to estimate the characteristics of a larger population by using a small sample from the population (Brewerton, 2001)

The specific population for this study will consist of approximately 30 human resource professionals from a variety of industries. The male and female participants having a minimum of 10 years experience with at least a bachelor’s degree will be invited to take part in this study. The participants will be located throughout the United Kingdom. Method of contact will be telephone, email, fax, and face-to-face contact.


3.2 Research Design

It is said that all research is quantitative, because anything can be counted, even verbal responses, which can be sorted by comments into similar groups. All research is also qualitative, because even the firmest numeric questions may conceal a hidden meaning. Although the survey quantified data, it is necessary to propose a mixed methodology. This study utilized both research methodologies. A mixed methodology will allow an even more in depth view of the changes in human resource roles and functions. The current research will provide the human resource professionals the opportunity to discuss how they feel about the changes that have taken place and if they believe these changes have been conducive in the growth of human resource professionals. A qualitative study will also assist in outlining best practices that can perhaps be used throughout the organization. Quantitative research will be conducted in the form of a survey, and the qualitative research will be conducted in interview form.

3.3 Sample, Population, and Participants

The focus of this study was on human resource professionals who have been in the field at least 10 years. The study focused on all areas of human resources in several organizations. This will include human resource directors, coordinators, compensation specialists, regional vice presidents, senior executive level vice presidents, and human resource assistants. The participants spoke to their experience within their current organizations and former places of work. Professional Human Resource Professionals (PHR) or Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certificates are invited to participate. The following human resource participants were surveyed:

  • Currently work in the human resource profession
  • Have at least 10 years in the profession
  • Work at all levels of the organization
  • Use only the answers to the survey
  • Provide all participants the opportunity to exam results of the data

The survey will be distributed to over 50 human resource employees. The goal was to receive at least a 50% response.

3.4 Instrumentation

Qualitative Instrument

A questionnaire was constructed to gather data respective to the research questions indicated. The composed questions were designed to elicit responses that speak to the enormous changes that have taken place over the past three decades in the field of human resources. The questionnaire consisted of 10 open-ended questions. Interviews allowed a great deal of flexibility.

It can be used at any stage of the research process: during initial phases to identify areas for more detailed exploration and/ or to generate hypotheses; as part of the piloting or validation of other instruments; as the main mechanism for data collection; and as a ‘sanity check’ by referring back to original members of a sample. Interviews can also be readily combined with other approaches in a multi-method design, which may incorporate, for example, questionnaire measures or observation. (Brewerton, 2001 p. 69)

The interview consisted of several questions that centered on specific changes in the world of human resources. All responses were hand written and reviewed by the participant prior to submission.

Quantitative Instrument

A survey was distributed to ascertain the impact certain events and changes that have made in the field of human resource. The survey questions will be reviewed and analyzed to determine the importance and impact of each event. Surveys are studies that are cross-sectional and longitudinal that use questionnaires or interviews for data collection. The purpose of a survey is to estimate the characteristics of a larger population by using a small sample from the population.

3.5 Reliability

“Reliability requires that the same results would be obtained if the study were replicated” (Morse & Richards, 2002, p. 168). A pilot test was conducted for reliability prior to use of the qualitative instrument with all subjects in this research.

3.6 Data Collection Method

Each human resource participant was required to have an email address and means to access to a computer to complete the survey. Fifty potential participants were asked to participate in the research by email. Once the researcher has received acknowledgement from at least 25 willing participants, the survey will be forwarded to participants via email. A 3-day suspense date will be given to the participants to complete and return the survey via email or fax. The interviews took place via telephone and face-to-face office meetings. A full explanation of the study will be given, including the participant’s right to refuse further participation in this research.

3.7 Data Analysis

Qualitative Analysis

The use of qualitative data inquiry “is one in which the inquirer often makes knowledge claims based primarily on constructivist perspectives. It also uses strategies of inquiry such as narratives, phenomenologies, ethnographies, grounded theory or case studies. “Creswell, 2003, p. 18). Qualitative data analysis consists of examine, categorize, tabulate or otherwise recombine the data collected evidence to address the initial purpose of the current study (Yin, 2003). The qualitative data from the interviews was analyzed using the content analysis technique. Content analysis i.e., textual analysis) is a standard methodology in the social sciences on the subject of communication content. Ole Holsti (1969) defined content analysis as “any technique for making inferences by objectively and systematically identifying specified characteristics of messages”(Wikepedia, 2006). To accomplish the current study’s goal, a coding process will be employed to assist in the data analysis. Brigette’s Technology Consulting and Research Firm used the HyperResearch 2.6 software, an electronic coding tool designed by Research Ware Inc, to employ the following:

  1. To analyze patterns in the qualitative data collected.
  2. To delineate the coding categories.
  3. Emerge codes to theme
  4. Generate reports to show the frequency of each code


Quantitative Analysis

The use of quantitative data will be analyzed to provide basic statistical description. Quantitative research “is an inquiry into an identified problem, based on testing a theory, measured with numbers, and analyzed using statistical techniques. The goal of quantitative methods is to determine whether the predictive generalizations of a theory hold true” Creswell, 2003, p. 18)

Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis

The sequential transformative strategy will be employed to “confirm, cross-validate, or corroborate findings” (Creswell, 2003, p. 217). During the interpretation phase, both forms of data will be compared to strengthen the knowledge claim that diversity, technology, and globalization have a major impact in the changing role of the human resource professional. In his book Research Methods Knowledge Base, William Trochim (2002) recommended using the following guidelines when deciding on a research approach:

  1. Choose a more quantitative method when most of the following conditions apply:
  2. The research is confirmatory rather than exploratory i.e. this is a frequently researched topic, and (numerical) data from earlier research is available.
  3. You are trying to measure a trend (almost impossible with qualitative research).
  4. There is no ambiguity about the concepts being measured, and only one way to measure each concept.
  5. The concept is being measured on a ratio or ordinal scale.
  6. And choose a qualitative method when most of these conditions apply:
  7. You have no existing research data on this topic.
  8. The most appropriate unit of measurement is not certain (Individuals? Households? Organizations?)
  9. The concept is assessed on a nominal scale, with no clear demarcation points.
  10. You are exploring the reasons why people do or believe something.

Traditionally qualitative and quantitative research strategies have been kept separate. It has long been a belief that both methods could not work simultaneously. Qualitative and quantitative researchers often operate with a different set of assumptions about the world and ways of learning about it. Because of this, researchers have shunned the idea that each method of research could be used for the same problem statement or question. These assumptions have been seen as mutually and inevitably irreconcilable. Often researchers are taught to master only one type of method and, so, become comfortable with their expertise in handling either quantitative or qualitative analysis, but not both. As a result, the two major approaches (qualitative and quantitative) are seldom combined and their respective strengths are ignored.

The strategies should not be viewed as incompatible, but viewed as complementary (Trochim, 2002). The use of both methods of research will be instrumental in gathering data, analyzing data, and understanding the results of that data. Instead of either ignoring or defending a particular research paradigm, it is possible and to view the similarities of qualitative and quantitative methods as part of a continuum of research techniques. Each research method can be appropriate depending on the research objective.

3.8 Summary

Chapter 3 presented significant data for this research project. The data was analyzed using appropriate tools of measurement. The results will be used to develop best practices as well as learning tools for newcomers to the human resource profession. Chapter 4 will present the findings of the survey and the interview taken by the participants. These findings will be instrumental in providing human resource professionals and managers with suggestions, recommendations and ideas to move forward. The findings will also determine if globalization, technology and diversity impacted the role of the human resource professionals.

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