Sunday, 17 June 2012

Professional Enquiry Assignment (Part 4)

Methods of data collection and analysis
Questionnaires are used to stimulate responses to set items (Pollard). They require a certain level of writing skills because they are given to respondents. They can be used to collect factual information and personal opinions. The format of the questionnaire may consist of closed (yes/no answers) and open (general answers) questions. Appendix 4 is an example of close questions; appendix 5 is an example of open questions. Open forms of questionnaires enable respondents to express their points of view more efficiently but demand time and writing ability. They are useful in providing information for school records; finding out how students are feeling about certain aspects of school life or in evaluating lessons.

According to Cohen, Manion and Morrison, interviews are flexible tools for data collection. Many types of channels can be used such as; verbal, non-verbal, spoken and heard. There are certain aspects which can be controlled for example, the order of the interview questions. However, the responses are complex and uncontrollable. If the interviewer is amiable, the interview will be typically more successful, only if the subject is expansive and to interviewer bias, however. Furthermore, the respondents’ emotions may influence the result of the interview, if the timing is inconvenient of the meeting is inconvenient, for instance.  Additionally, keeping subject anonymity may prove difficult if the interviewer is uninformed of the ethics necessary.  

Focus group interviews
When interviews involve two or more people (either subjects or interviewers) they are referred to as ‘focus groups’ (Blaxter, Hughes & Tight).
There are numerous advantages of focus groups. The group members can define the interviewer’s agenda with their experience. The group members may be diverse, so that different views may be generated. The discussion between the members will allow for an analysis of process in negotiating the meanings and challenge the interviewer. Group members may feel safer having their friends around to discuss the important issues. As a result of discussion, the interviewer may come across with some surprising findings.  However, there are also disadvantages to focus groups. For example, it is difficult to document the data in order to find out who said what during the interview. What is more, depending on group dynamics, there may be silence or exaggeration of issues.  The interviewer should be careful about fair amount of participation in the group even for those who are shy or quiet. It is also important to consider confidentiality and ethics (Blaxter, Hughes & Tight).      

Observation is looking systematically at people, events, behaviours, settings, artefacts, routines etc. (Marshall & Rossman).
It enables the observer to directly gather data from its natural setting, like in ethnographic research. The observer can focus on a number of books or students in a class, number of visitors in a library, the behaviour of students in a class, the amount of teacher-student talk and so on. Observing allows the spectator to see more detailed accounts of the events. However, the clarity of evidence depends on the number of observers and the amount of time they observe as well as how they observe (Cohen, Manion and Morrison ).
There are also some issues to this data collection method. The observer requires choosing the time relevantly and deciding if s/he needs to devise an observational schedule or determine pre-coded categories. It would be wise to form a pilot group first to test these. If there is no need for a schedule, it would be wise to decide how to organize the data. Is it important to record absolutely everything or is it ok to record the events partly?  The observer needs to select his/her focus group well and try to make sure s/he blends with the observed group (Blaxter, Hughes & Tight)

Surveys are systematic observation or interviewing where the questions are dictated by the researcher. The biggest distinction in surveys is to standardize the research and get consistent answers for their questions. In order to standardize the questionnaire as a measuring instrument, the questions are always structured in the same way. 
The advantage of a survey is that with a suitable sample, it can aim at representation and provide generalized results. Surveys are relatively easier to administer and they don’t require fieldwork. They can be repeated in the future to compare the results. A good response rate will provide a lot of data rapidly. There are also disadvantages of surveys. The data may not address the more important issues and may get lost in pie charts, tables and statistics. The survey- provided data allows us to see snapshots of points in time rather than in-depth issues. The researcher cannot check the data himself/herself. The survey relies on extent rather than intensity. (Blaxter, Hughes & Tight)

Analysing data
My research will consist of observations, one-to-one interviews and focus group interviews. Therefore, I will be looking at different approaches to qualitative data analysis. My other sources will be field notes, documents and reports, memos, diaries and website data.  I will decide if I would like to have the interviews transcribed or not.  The results will be presented as narrative accounts. Cohen, Manion and Morrison  explain that the narrative account may be in the form of chronology, a logical analysis, a thematic analysis or a series of stories about the research findings. I aim to present my findings as a series of stories structured by chronology, causal relations, key participants, key themes, key behaviours, and actions, turning points in a life history, key decisions and with collective analysis of the unfolding events for the participants (Cohen, Manion and Morrison).       

Ethical considerations
Two significant issues for researchers are access and ethics. These are also the key issues throughout data collection. Access means to locate and identify suitable participants who would be willing to take part in the research (Blaxter, Hughes & Tight). The questions to consider during access are identifying key people for the subject that is to be researched and the general rules about recording informed consent which needs to be complied (Blaxter, Hughes & Tight).
There are many different rules and regulations for informed consent depending on the type of establishment. For example, the Informed consent in health and social care research of Royal College of Nursing is different than Bera (British Educational Research Association). To increase the chance of access, it is really important to ask advice for negotiation, to be modest in requests, making effective use of existing contacts, to base research within the establishments which one has access to, to offer something back such as a report or feedback, to know when to ask, to be as clear as possible and to explain the reasons for one’s research (Blaxter, Hughes & Tight).           

The main goal of all researchers should be to carry out an ethically approved research. Most ethical issues rise from the nature of relationships between the researcher and the subject. (Blaxter, Hughes & Tight). Common ethical issues are confidentiality, anonymity, legality, professionalism and participation (Blaxter, Hughes & Tight).  
In the matter of confidentiality, it may be tempting to share some unwanted information with others but this may be damaging for the participant. Linking to confidentiality, anonymity may not be protected due to giving away too much information about the institutions. The researcher should make sure that s/he is not involved in concealing any criminal activities. In addition, s/he needs to make sure to keep the professionalism at all times, even though it may be difficult if the research takes place among fellow professionals. It is quite important to understand the nature of the participants who may be the same people required the research, particularly in mental health and disability.
Some of the websites which include the ethical guidelines of different institutions may be found listed under “references”. 

Professional Enquiry Assignment (Part 3)

Case studies
Newby states that a case study is a thorough analysis of a typical or unusual event or occurrence which was either successful or encountered a problem.  Case studies analyse particular instances rather than search for the general truth. They usually have two goals: to find the patterns created by the processes at work and to uncover variations from the expected.
Case studies are methodologically eclectic. The numerous types of case studies involve ethnography, experiment, action research, surveys, illuminative, observational and documentary research that allow flexibility in using different ways of data collection such as quantitative and qualitative data collection, as well as flexible means of analysing the data which can be both short and long term.
Case studies possess different advantages (Adelman); the source of data is based from real situations, they allow generalizations about an instance, recognise the complexity and ‘embeddedness’ of social truths, hold the archive values for other researchers and users whose purposes are dissimilar to each other. Their results instigate action for staff or individual development, formative evaluation and educational policies. The research findings and data from case studies are more accessible than other types of research because they are easier to understand. They can also serve multiple purposes and audiences for they allow readers to judge the situation themselves before making decisions.    
There are also disadvantages of case studies (Nisbet and Watt). If there is not an application, for instance, the results may not be generalizable. Moreover, the results can be selective, biased, personal and subjective. If the researcher or observer is biased, the results may be problematic to use. Additionally, the complexity of the case may make the analysis harder. Even though everything may appear relevant, one might find that they are irrelevant when writing up the actual case. Finally, with case studies it can be difficult to know where ‘context’ begins and ends (Blaxter, Hughes & Tight)   

Action research
Lewin (1946) named this method of research, which originated from ‘action’ and ‘research’ (Pollard). It requires teachers, researchers and other practitioners to plan, act, observe and reflect in a cyclical process.   
Action research aims to directly improve practice through self-development (Pollard) and its characteristic methods are cyclical designs, based-on self monitoring using a range of data in a practitioner’s workplace. Action research is evaluative; it describes and analyses personal practice.   
Action research can be used in different areas such as: in teaching methods, learning strategies, evaluative procedures, attitudes and values, continuing professional development, management and control as well as administration (Cohen, Manion and Morrison). 
Action research is a device which includes identifying the problem, planning an intervention, implementing the intervention and evaluating the outcome.
The research in appendix 3 is a typical example of action research. It was planned by an elementary school teacher and the new head teacher of the school. The aims of the research are to find out if there was significant increase in learning using the inquiry-based strategies and also to see if the students were motivated more by learning science concepts using inquiry- based instruction versus traditional teaching practices.   
One of the biggest strengths of action research is that it is quite straightforward in tackling issues. The methodology and data gathering are not complicated therefore an action researcher does not need to learn analytical skills. There is no need to rely on researchers, experts or outside authorities. (Kember)  
However, there are also difficulties in undertaking action research. The first one is making sure that the experiment and control are genuinely comparable. Educational settings are quite difficult to control or design experiments for, because of their variables which interact with one another in unexpected ways. There are also ethical issues during the investigation; one side may feel disadvantaged.
Designing different teaching programmes, arranging for the separation of groups and holding extraneous variables constant becomes more difficult the longer the trial.  

Ethnographic research
The meaning of ‘ethnography’ is to describe peoples and cultures. Originally, it was used as a research method by anthropologists and aimed to provide an account of the cultures and lives of small, isolated tribes (Denscombe). For instance, a book called ‘The Navaho’ by Clyde Kluckhohn and Dorothea Leighton is written after an ethnographic research about the biggest American- Indian tribe in 1946.  The purpose of this research was to understand the traditions & culture in Navahos, to find out how they were coping with the American-Western way of living, if it is possible to protect their heritage despite the pressure of industrialization.    
According to Whyte ‘ethnographic’ research requires the researcher to spend a long time in the field amongst the people whose lives and culture are being investigated. The ethnographer needs to share the same life as all aspects of ‘everyday life’ are considered to be valuable data. Special attention should be paid to those whose lives are being studied. It generally prefers a holistic approach towards relationships, connections and interdependency. It is a construction which requires particular writing skills and is influenced by the ethnographer’s own experiences (Denscombe).    
The advantages of ethnography are: it is a direct form of observation and empirical which involves direct contact with relevant people and is also possible to link with theory. The data is relatively rich in detail and seeks holistic explanations which put things in context. Furthermore, it allows the comparing and contrasting of other culture. The ‘actors’ point view and perceptions are open and explicit. Finally, it is ecologically valid so that the researcher should have little impact on the setting (Denscombe).
According to Denscombe there are also disadvantages of ethnography such as: tension between wanting to stay as close to the truth as possible and the influence of the ethnographer’s personal experience and social awareness. Although it produces a large number of stories, they may be isolated from each other if the researcher isn’t guided by the theoretical framework. If the researcher makes storytelling their only purpose, there is a potential of losing analytical insight or theoretical position. Reliability can be another problem as it is often difficult to generalize culture and events. Ethics can be an obstacle because of the intrusion into private lives. Finally, two other disadvantages are: accessing the settings without disruption and insider knowledge which may result with a blind spot that obscures the obvious. (Denscombe)    
Newby describes ‘Phenomenology’ as how we give significance to our experiences of the world rather than how the world really is.  Phenomenologist examines the individual and collective experiences of the ‘life-world’. They use description, observation, reporting and reflection.
Cohen, Manion and Morrison say that;
‘Phenomenology’ is a theoretical point of view that advocates the study of direct experience taken at face value; and one which sees behaviour as determined by the phenomena of experience rather than by external, objective and physically described reality.     
According to Curtis there are three distinguishing philosophical viewpoints in Phenomenology: firstly there is an important belief and subjective consciousness; then there is an active understanding of this consciousness and lastly, there is a claim that there are certain essential structures to the consciousness of which we gain direct knowledge by a certain kind of reflection.         
Advantages of phenomenology are; it is suited to small- scale and low budgeted research where the main resource is the researcher his/herself. It allows the researcher to deal with the complexity of the social world through phenomena in depth. The approach is humanistic as there are efforts to base its enquiry on the lived experiences of people in the everyday world. (Denscombe)       
The disadvantages of phenomenology (Denscombe) are: it lacks a scientific basis; it can easily turn into the weakness of researcher by people who do not share the same opinion; may only provide description without analysis. Moreover, generalizing the research can be difficult as it involves only small numbers or instances. In addition, the issues a phenomenological researcher deals with may not be relevant to apply for big issues such as the spheres of social policy, international relations and economic progress. Therefore, it is possible to assume things in advance by the researcher which may cause feasibility of suspending common sense.     

Professional Enquiry Assignment (Part 2)

There are certain styles of thinking and methods to follow when doing research. They are called ‘Paradigms’. Here are various ways people explain them:
Newby describes paradigms as ways of thinking about a subject and proceeding with research which are accepted by the people who work in that area. Both purpose and process should be widely agreed within a discipline or a part of a discipline, and the research results should change or enlighten the professionals or researchers about their understanding of the world more effectively.
Cohen, Manion and Morrison define a paradigm as a method of investigating or examining a view or phenomena that is an established model or pattern (Kuhn). They claim that it takes the form a collective belief system or principles; it marks the identity of a research community, it is a way of pursuing knowledge or reaching a consensus.        
Therefore, ‘Paradigm’ is a way of thinking and exploring about phenomena.  There are distinct types of paradigms and they are ‘Positivist’ and ‘Anti-positivist’ paradigms.

Positivist Paradigm
The philosophical doctrine of positivism became known in the 19th century with the progress of science and technology. Being a social movement, it intended to employ technological and scientific achievements in order to elevate the welfare of mankind (Schön)
The French philosopher Auguste Comte was the first thinker to use the word for a philosophical position (Beck). He gave rise to sociology as a distinct discipline. Observation and reason as means of understanding behaviour form Comte’s positivism. He explained behaviour through scientific description. Comte believed that social phenomena can be researched with the ways of physical phenomena. This research can generate rules, theories and laws. His belief led to a general doctrine of positivism. He also believed that all genuine knowledge is based on sense experience, which can only be advanced by means of observation and experiment. The philosophers use positivism as a residual meaning of always present and it results from an acceptance of natural science. 
In positivist paradigm, research approach is quantitative, over a period of time, variable related, based on scientific experiments, almost identical and applied retrospectively. For example; the research of Smith, Mahdavi, Carvalho, Fisher, Russell and Tippett from Goldsmith University of London which is called ‘Cyberbullying: its nature and impact in secondary school pupils’ employed the quantitative approach in positivist paradigm by using surveys, previous data, experiments and hypothesis testing.
The biggest criticism to positivist approach is that it undermines life and mind (Cohen, Manion, Morrison).    
‘The precise target of the anti-positivists’ attack has been science’s mechanistic and reductionist view of nature which, by definition, defines life in measurable terms rather than inner experience, and excludes notions of choice, freedom, individuality and moral responsibility, regarding the universe as a living organism rather than as a machine (e.g. Nesfield-Cookson,) 
In the research, we can see some examples of this criticism as they did not interview the students face to face and they did not consider the emotions of these students who may have been going through a really difficult phase because of the different kinds of bullying. They targeted too many students at once. The conclusion was open-ended and there was not a lot of clarity about what to do next.

Interpretive Paradigm
 Pollard declares that ‘Interpretive research’ is research which aims to inform judgement as a basis for improvement. Its characteristic methods are flexible designs, involving detailed, holistic case studies and emphatic gathering of qualitative data.
The forms of knowledge for interpretive research are subjectivist, describing cases and developing understanding. Interpretive researches presume that the prime responsibility of the teachers is to describe and analyse social processes. Their involvement in the change of these processes is considered to be of little significance.
One example of interpretive research is demonstrated by Troyna & Hatcher. Its name is Racism in Children's Lives. (A study of mainly white primary schools). On page 19, they explain that in their investigation they used a quantitative research based method, known as sociometry, to try to establish how far ethnicity informs the formation and structure of school based friendship groupings (Pollard).       

Professional Enquiry Assignment (Part 1)

What do we mean by research?

There are not many clear cut definitions of research but most people give features of research and these are some of them.  According to Cohen, Manion and Morrison the term research has many meanings.
One of them is the activities and undertakings aimed at developing a science of behaviour, the word science itself implying both normative and interpretive perspectives.  They state that social research is the systematic and scholarly application of the principles of a science of behaviour to the problems of people within their social contexts. However, educational research is the application of same principles to the problems of teaching and learning within education along with the clarification issues having direct or indirect bearing on these concepts.   
Kerlinger defines ‘Research’ as truth we set out to discover.   
Yates explains that;
Good research’ must mean ‘scientifically-based research. Good research in education must contribute to learning and speak to, and be usable by, practitioners.’  
In conclusion, ‘Research’ is an investigation to uncover the truth using science and social behaviour in practice. Therefore research is quite significant for people working in this field.     

Why do we do research?

Cohen, Manion and Morrison state that people have been trying to understand their environment for a long time. They can achieve this through experience, reasoning and research. They say that in our daily lives we encounter many problems that we need to overcome. Although, we are very dependent on experience and authority, these are not enough to solve the problems on their own. Scientific research will help us in testing the theories carefully and systematically.
Newby says that goals of educational research are;
‘to explore issues, to shape policy and to improve practice. Identifying and specifying a problem or issue that should be the subject of further research. We collect information and use it to make a judgement that informs policy goals and indicates how we attain them. We also carry out research to find out whether we are going in the right direction once a policy has been implemented.’      
People state that the main reason of a research is the will of being able to understand the nature of own environment or to solve a problem which stops progress. For example; DfE (Department for Education) investigates regularly to find out about the issues in education and existing policies. One of these researches is ‘Achievement for All National Evaluation: Final Report’
 The main aim of this evaluation research was to examine the impact of AfA (Achievement for All) on a variety of outcomes for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) also to find out what processes and practices in schools were most effective in improving these outcomes.