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Proceedings of the 1 UPI International Conference on Technical and Vocational Education and Training
Bandung, Indonesia, 10-11 November 2010

Enhancing Lecturer Competency of Malaysian Polytechnic


Technical Lecturers: A Discrepancy Analysis

Wan Nooraini Wan Kamaruddin, Mohammed Sani Ibrahim


Politeknik Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah
Seksyen U1, Persiaran Usahawan, 40150 Shah Alam, Malaysia
wnoorainiwk@psa.edu.my, inas_miharbi@hotmail.com

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to identify the competencies needed by Malaysian polytechnic
technical lecturers based on the level of importance of each competency. Using a discrepancy
analysis, this study also aimed to identify the competencies that needed to be enhanced. Lecturer
competency consists of professional competency and general competency (English language
proficiency). The exploration on both competency dimensions was based on the level of
importance, the level of knowledge and the level of performance of these competencies.
Malaysian polytechnics need technical lecturers who possess the necessary competencies
so that they are able to deliver quality education, as well as accommodate changes and innovation
in education. Much research has been carried out to identify the competencies needed by
technical instructors for successful teaching. Even though these competencies have been
identified, research on their level of knowledge and performance was still very limited. Hence,
there was a need to determine the competencies that could be enhanced by Malaysian polytechnic
technical lecturers.
Using a survey questionnaire, 401 technical lecturers from five Malaysian polytechnics
participated in the study. The data collected were analyzed using descriptive statistics. A
discrepancy analysis was also conducted to identify the competencies that could be enhanced
through relevant professional development programmes. The results of this study supported much
of the previous research in validating the competencies needed by technical lecturers. The results
also revealed that although polytechnic technical lecturers perceived all the competencies to be
important, the level of knowledge and the level of performance of these competencies were not on
a par with the level of importance. The discrepancy analysis indicated that there were 12
professional competencies and six general competencies that needed to be enhanced.
This study implies that lecturer competency of Malaysian polytechnic technical lecturers
could be enhanced by minimizing the competency discrepancy through relevant professional
development programmes. Future research should be carried out to plan and deliver such
programmes to facilitate continuous professional development among Malaysian polytechnic
technical lecturers.

1 Introduction

Changes and innovation in education call for competent teaching personnel who are able to deliver
quality education [Wan Nooraini and Mohammed Sani 2010]. Only recently, three Malaysian
polytechnics were selected as the nation’s premier polytechnics [Jabatan Pengajian Politeknik
(JPP) 2010]. The Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education has the objective that premier
polytechnics will foster the internalisation of knowledge, innovation and technology applications.
As such, to accommodate these changes, polytechnic technical lecturers need to foster a
willingness to participate in professional development programmes. The literature also suggests
that one of the most effective methods to enhance competencies of instructors is through

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professional development programmes [Glen 2008], [Mohamad Nor 2006], [Mohammed Sani and
Norzaini 2007]. Research also shows that excellent educators are well-prepared educators who
continue to participate in professional development during their careers [Desimone 2009], [Glen
2008], [Kennedy et al. 2008], [Rehm 2008].
Malaysian polytechnic technical lecturers are also facing greater challenges as they were
required to teach in English starting from the year 2008. Prior to that, school teachers in the
country were already required to teach mathematics and science in English [Pandian and Ramiah
2004], [Mas Nida et al. 2009], [Noraini et al. 2007]. Academicians throughout the country
considered this directive as one of the biggest challenges that is being faced by the Malaysian
education scenario [Pandian and Ramiah 2004], [Pillay and Thomas 2004]. Previous researchers
have questioned on the ability of these educators to teach in English, considering that they went
through their formal education instructed in the Malay language [Pillay and Thomas 2004],
[Pandian and Ramiah 2004], [Noraini et al. 2007]. On the same note, do Malaysian polytechnic
technical lecturers have the necessary proficiency to teach in English? As pointed out by Pandian
and Ramiah [2004], these lecturers who are not language specialists will also have to cope with
the double demand of transmitting content as well as language. While in Malaysian schools only
two subjects (mathematics and science) fall under this new directive, nevertheless Malaysian
polytechnic technical lecturers need to conduct all their lessons in the English language.
Researchers have often asked, “Are appropriately competent technical instructors educating
the workforce?” [Gauld and Miller 2004], [Rehm 2008]. Much research has been conducted to
identify the competencies needed by technical instructors [Coyner and McCaan 2004], Kagaari
2007], [Toglia 2004]. While these competencies have been identified, research on the level of
knowledge and the level of performance of these competencies is very limited [Simandjuntak,
1984]. An exploration on the three dimensions (level of importance, level of knowledge and level
of level of performance) of these competencies would help to determine relevant professional
development programmes to enhance lecturer competency of Malaysian polytechnic technical
lecturers. Thus, a study on the knowledge and performance discrepancy would address the
following question, “What are the competencies that needed to be enhanced through professional
development programmes?”

2 Review of Literature

2.1 Competencies of Technical Instructors

There is a considerable body of work, especially from the United States, concerned with the
competencies needed by technical instructors [Andreka 1969], [Olson 1994], [Coyner and McCann
2004], [Toglia 2004]. This concern arose due to the lack of appropriate programmes for preparing
potential technical education instructors. Coyner and McCann [1994] also noted that the
preparation of competent technical instructors and trainers will become a major challenge in the
21st century. One of the earliest studies was conducted by Andreyka [1969] in identifying
competencies needed by technical instructors in the state of Ohio. Based on the level of
importance and frequency of using the competencies listed, Andreka was able to identify the
competencies needed by technical instructors. Other researchers also adopted a similar approach
to identify the competencies required by technical instructors [Coyner & McCaan 2004], [Kaagari
2004], [Toglia 2004].
While much of the literature addresses bits and pieces of the needed competencies, the
International Board of Standards for Performance, Training and Instruction (IBSPTI) developed a
more complete list in 1998 [Olson 1994]. These competencies were reviewed and validated in
2000 [Spector et al. 2006], [Toglia 2004]. The researchers were in agreement that the
competencies needed by technical instructors are professional competencies related to the
knowledge and skills that they require to teach effectively [Toglia 2004]. These competencies refer
to the pedagogical and instructional techniques that technical instructors should possess [IBSPTI
2003], [Kaagari 2007]. Toglia [2004 pp. 43] stated that,

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“…there exists a large body of knowledge that verifies the need for profesional
competence related to pedagogical and instructional techniques…”

Norton et al. [1978] suggested that technical instructors also require general competencies which
refer to the knowledge and skills in other subjects such as science, mathematics and language.
These subjects are helpful for the development of competencies in the technical and professional
areas. For the purpose of this study, language, specifically the English language, will be termed as
general competency. In view that Malaysian polytechnics are moving towards becoming future
universities, it is vital that polytechnic technical lecturers have a good command of the English
language. Previous research indicated that school teachers felt they did not have the competence
to teach mathematics and science in English and were still not ready for the task [Habibah et al.
2005], [Pandian and Ramiah 2004], [Noraini et al. 2007]. Polytechnic technical lecturers face the
same predicament, as they too are now required to teach all the technical modules in English. A
diagnostic English test carried out by the polytechnic training division in 2006 revealed that more
than half of the lecturers who sat for the test did not meet the passing requirements [Jabatan
Politeknik dan Kolej Komuniti (JPPKK) 2007]. As such, do the technical lecturers have the
competence to teach in English? Will they be able to cover their subject area accurately and in an
effective manner?
While past research focused on the level of importance of these competencies,
Simandjuntak [1984] adopted a different approach by analyzing the competencies based on the
level of importance, the level of knowledge as well as the level of performance. Using a
discrepancy analysis, Simandjuntak identified the knowledge and performance discrepancies that
needed to be addressed to enhance technical educators’ instructional competence. This approach
is more comprehensive as it provides a means of minimizing the competency discrepancy with
regard to all the competencies listed. Mohammed Sani and Norzaini [2007] considered this as
evaluating “what they do not know” in order to “help them know”. By identifying these knowledge
and performance discrepancies, a more focused programme could be suggested to enhance the
competencies of Malaysian polytechnic technical lecturers.

2.2 The Present Study

There is very little research dealing with the competencies needed by Malaysian polytechnic
technical lecturers. By identifying these competencies and any “incompetent” aspects, the study
would be able to suggest relevant professional development programmes to enhance the
competencies of these technical lecturers. In this study, the term “lecturer competency” is used
and is presented by two sub-constructs namely professional competency and general competency
(English language proficiency). The study on professional competency was based on the Roberts
et al. [2007] model and other related literature [Andreyka 1969], [Coyner and McCann 2004],
[IBSPTI 2003], [Olson 1994], [Simandjuntak 1984], [Toglia 2004], [Kaagari 2007]. Professional
competency refers to the pedagogic aspects and instructional techniques that Malaysian
polytechnic technical lecturers should possess.
In line with the need to use English as a medium of instruction in Malaysian polytechnics, the
study also focused on the English language proficiency (general competency) of these technical
lecturers. The study on general competency was based on studies by Noraini et al. [2007], Norzita
[2004] and other related literature [Grauberg 1997], [Holmes 2008], [JPPKK 2007] which
incorporated grammar, listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. In sum, this study had two
main objectives. First, the study aimed to determine the competencies needed by polytechnic
technical lecturers. Next the study sought to identify the competencies that needed to be
enhanced through relevant professional development programmes.

3 Methodology

Six hundred Malaysian polytechnic technical lecturers participated in the study. The lecturers
represented 24 polytechnics in the country and were chosen based on stratified random sampling
according to five specified zones. Surveys were completed and returned by 502 lecturers (83.6%

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response rate). Only 401 respondents were retained to accommodate data analysis. The female
population represented 59 % of the group while 41% were males. 51% of them had taught less
than 10 years while 49% were experienced technical lecturers. 58% of the respondents held a
Bachelors degree, 31% per cent were diploma holders and only 11% had a Masters degree.

3.1 Instruments

Lecturer Competency Questionnaire (LCQ). LCQ consisted of two dimensions; (a) professional
competency and (b) general competency. Pertaining to professional competency, a review of the
literature was conducted to assess previous and current knowledge in the field regarding the
competencies needed by technical instructors. Ultimately, two sources were used to develop the
final competency listing; Roberts et al. [2007] as well the International Board of Standards for
Performance, Training and Instruction [IBSPT 2003]. Adopting a similar approach by Olsen [1994],
lists from these two sources were merged and cross referenced with other related competency lists
[Andreyka 1969], [Coyner and McCann 2004], [Simandjuntak 1984], [Kaagari 2007], [Toglia 2004].
Professional competency is represented by seven sub-constructs which include professional
knowledge and skills, instructional planning, instructional execution, instructional evaluation,
interpersonal relations, student industrial training supervision and the ISO work procedures with
regard to instructional elements. The last two sub-constructs were included in view of the need for
polytechnic technical lecturers to supervise students during their industrial attachment. The ISO
sub-construct was also selected based on the basis that the Malaysian polytechnics were granted
the ISO certification since 2003 [Pereira 2007]. Kagaari [2007] also included student industrial
supervision in his competency listing while Coyner and McCaan [2004] included competencies
related to the ISO work procedures.
The general competency scale was used to measure the English language proficiency of
Malaysian polytechnic technical lecturers. This scale was adapted from previous related studies
[Noraini et al. 2007], [Norzita 2002] as well related review of the literature [Grauberg 1997],
[Holmes 2008], [JPPKK 2007]. General competency is presented by three sub-constructs which
include general proficiency (listening, speaking, reading and writing), subject content (terminology,
concept and formula) as well as grammar. The professional competency scale was represented by
63 items, while the general competency scale consisted of 38 items, both in a five-point Likert
scale format. Both scales were used to identify the level of importance, the level of knowledge and
the level of performance of each competency. Each scale has a relatively high reliability
coefficient. The alpha coefficients for each dimension were as follows; professional competency:
level of importance (.98), level of knowledge (.95), level of performance (.93); general competency:
level of importance (.97), level of knowledge (.94), level of performance (.91). An analysis on the
three dimensions was required in order to proceed with the discrepancy analysis.

4 Results

4.1 Level of Importance, Level of Knowledge and Level of Performance

Table 1 presents the mean scores for both professional competency and general competency with
respect to the level of of importance, the level of knowledge and the level of performance of each
competency. The results indicated that the mean scores for the level of importance for professional
competency (M = 4.34, SD = 0.41) and general competency (M = 4.05, SD = 0.65) were high. The
study revealed that both profesional competency and general competency were considered
important by Malaysian polytechnic technical lecturers. Thus all the 63 items representing the
professional competency scale should be possessed by these Malaysian polytechnic technical
lecturers in performing their instructional duties.

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Table 1 Lecturer Competency – Mean Score and Standard Deviation
(Level of Importance, Level of Knowledge and Level of Performance)
Lecturer Competency Mean S.D
Profesional Competency
Level of Importance 4.34 0.41
Level of Knowledge 3.96 0.51
Level of Performance 3.89 0.50

General Competency
Level of Importance 4.05 0.65
Level of Knowledge 3.46 0.73
Level of Performance 3.34 0.76

The results support much of the previous research in validating competencies required by technical
instructors [Andreyka 1969], [Simandjuntak 1984], [Olson 1994]. Other researchers reported
similar results and were in agreement that these competencies were necessary and should be
possessed by technical instructors [Coyner and McCann 2004], [Gauld and Miller 2004], [Toglia
2004], [Kaagari 2007]. Similarly, polytechnic technical lecturers also perceived all the 38 items
representing the general competency scale to be important. Findings by Noraini et al. [2007]
reported similar results. Thus the items representing the English language aspect were concluded
to be needed by these polytechnic technical lecturers. The results also revealed that the mean
score for professional competency was higher than general competency. Nevertheless, both
profesional competency and general competency indicated that the level of importance was the
highest, followed by the level of knowledge and the level of performance. The results indicated that
although the technical lecturers were in agreement that both types of competencies were
important, their level of knowledge and performance of these competencies were not on a par with
the level of importance. Thus further analysis was carried out to investigate the total discrepancy
among the three levels. A similar analysis was conducted by Simandjuntak [1984] in his studies on
competencies of vocational and technical teachers in Indonesia.

4.2 Discrepancy Analysis

A discrepancy analysis was conducted for both professional competency and general competency.
Table 2 presents highlights of the discrepancy analysis conducted for professional competency
where only five items are shown. (A similar analysis was conducted for general competency). All
the items are presented according to the level of importance (I), level of knowledge (K) and level of
performance (P). Knowledge discrepancy is the difference between group means of importance
and group means of knowledge (I – K). Performance discrepancy is the difference between group
means of importance and group means of performance (I – P). Total discrepancy is the sum of
knowledge discrepancy and performance discrepancy of an item [(I – K) + (I – P)]. Table 2 shows
that the total discrepancy for item 1 is 1.41, while the total discrepancy for item 2 is 0.66. The
higher the total discrepancy of an item, the higher priority it is for inclusion as an item to be
enhanced through professional development programmes.
Nevertheless Simandjuntak [1984] also stated that the level of importance should also be
considered in making the final decision. In his competency listing, he selected only 20% of the
total items that were considered as the most important as well as having the greatest total
discrepancy. Adopting a similar approach for this study, the researcher decided to select only 30
items (out of 63) for professional competency. Referring to Table 2, for these 30 items to selected,
they should also fall within the rank order of 1 to 30 (The rank order column indicates the ranking of
items based on the total discrepancy value). For general competency, only 20 items were selected
since it has only 38 items in total.

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Table 2 Profesional Competency - Discrepancy Analysis
(Level of Importance, Level of Knowledge and Level of Performance)
Professional Level of Level of Level of I-K I-P Total Rank
Competency Importance Knowledge Performance Discrepancy Order
(I) (K) (P) (I – K) + (I – P)
1 Knowledge on
4.62 3.89 3.94 0.73 0.68 1.41 1
module taught
2 Determine
types of
evaluation 4.52 4. 23 4.15 0.29 0.37 0.66 54
(quiz, exam,
etc.)
3 Deliver
information on
4.51 4.21 4.12 0.30 0.39 0.69 47
scope of
learning
4 Update
knowledge on
4.51 3.95 3.95 0.56 0.56 1.12 4
instructional
theories
5 Solve 4.48 3.93 3.87 0.55 0.61 1.16 6
problems
professionally

Table 2 shows that item 1 was considered as the most important competency (M = 4.62) as well as
having the greatest discrepancy (1.41). Thus item 1 was ranked as the competency with the
greatest need to be enhanced (rank order of 1). However, although item 2 (M = 4.52) and item 3
(M = 4.51) were considered as the second and third most important competencies in the list, they
were not among the competencies that needed to be enhanced (rank order of 54 and 47
respectively). Items 4 and 5 were also considered as items that needed to be enhanced (rank
order of 4 and 6 respectively). The discrepancy analysis indicated that 12 professional
competencies and six general competencies were identified as competencies that needed to be
enhanced. Out of the 12 professional competencies, nine were from the sub-construct of
professional knowledge and skills, while the other three represented instructional planning,
instructional execution and instructional evaluation respectively. The findings on general
competency indicated that the technical lecturers were incompetent in areas of listening (three
items), speaking (one item) and writing (two items).

5 Conclusion

This study provides a more focused approach in identifying relevant professional development
programmes which could help to enhance lecturer competency of Malaysian polytechnic technical
lecturers. The literature also suggests that one of the most effective strategies to improve instructor
competency is by providing relevant professional development programmes. By conducting a
discrepancy analysis, issues concerning whether or not the professional development programmes
meet Malaysian polytechnic technical lecturers’ perceived learning needs were appropriately
addressed.
The study has identified that the areas that needed to be enhanced were related to
professional knowledge and skills, instructional planning, instructional execution and instructional
evaluation. These technical lecturers also needed to improve on their English language proficiency
with regard to listening, speaking and writing. Thus Malaysian polytechnic technical lecturers
should adopt a willingness to be continuous learners in order to be professionally effective. This
study implies that the competencies of Malaysian polytechnic technical lecturers could be
enhanced through relevant professional development programmes. Future research should be

288
carried out to plan and deliver such programmes to facilitate continuous professional development
among Malaysian polytechnic technical lecturers. It is vital that these programmes are closely
monitored to assess their effectiveness. The following question should then be asked, “By
participating in these programmes, are the Malaysian polytechnic technical lecturers able to
enhance their lecturer competency?”

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