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Dissertation is investigating four main research questions

The dissertation is investigating four main research questions which form the basis and purpose of this small-scale research project:

Research can be broadly defined as ‘a form of systematic enquiry that contributes to knowledge’. [1] The Oxford Concise Dictionary defines research as:

a. the systematic investigation into and study of materials, sources, etc., in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions. b. an endeavour to discover new or collate old facts etc by the scientific study of a subject or by a course of critical investigation. [2] 

People are not aware that they are an eccentric outcome of their evolution. That evolution came from their ability to articulate their past knowledge in any form of facts, experiences, assumptions for physical phenomena, beliefs and their capability to update and improve their former knowledge and practices. These are the reasons that mankind developed communication skills like literacy, language, developed philosophy and invented technology. (Best and Kahn 2006: 3, 4).

Specifically, Best and Kahn (2006: 3, 4) maintain that educational research is the tool that teachers use to test and improve their personal practices in education and find which practice fits best for them. A definition of educational research is given by Anthony G. Picciano: ‘Educational research is a careful, systematic investigation into any aspect of education. From the French word ‘recherche’, which means to travel through or survey.’ [3] Cohen and Manion (2001) state that educational research helps the teachers broaden their information knowledge and understand their working environment.

The researcher must also identify the most appropriate paradigm in the research literature in order to design and execute the inquiry effectively. The researcher should choose his paradigm carefully in defining the aims and purposes of his study.

Qualitative Research

The researcher had to choose between two main paradigms: either ‘logical-positivism’ or ‘phenomenological inquiry’ (Best and Kahn 2006: 246). Best and Kahn (2006: 79) argue that the logical-positivism paradigm is used for ‘experimental and quantitative research methods’ in education. Moreover, Cohen et al. (2001: 8) assert that the logical positivism paradigm expresses ‘the main belief’ that the ‘meaning of a statement is, or is given by the method of its verification’. The logical-positivism paradigm is a scientific method applicable for a study concerned with existing and measurable knowledge, where the researcher is an ‘observer of the social reality’. The outcomes of an inquiry based on that paradigm can be compared with laws – like axioms (laws) that are constructed by natural scientific inquiries based on subjective generalizations and that use the same scientific methods as natural sciences to explain the world. The main characteristics of this particular paradigm are analysis, measurement and subjectivity (Cohen et al. 2001: 8). Therefore, the logical positivism paradigm is best applied in a quantitative analysis where the collected data is numerical.

In contrast the phenomenological paradigm makes use of ‘interpretive research methodologies’ (Best and Kahn 2006: 246). This paradigm is best applied to qualitative research methodologies. Erickson (1985, cited in Best and Kahn 2006: 246) alternatively uses the term ‘interpretative’, which is ‘the whole family of approaches to participant observational research’. Bogdan and Biklen (2007: 25) clarify this by stating that in the ‘phenomenological mode’, researchers try to understand happenings in the everyday life of common people in special circumstances: they try to find out the people’s point of view and ‘gain an entry’ into their specific environment. The weakness of positivism is its inability to investigate human behaviour successfully, as Cohen et al. (2001: 9) underline. Denscombe (2007) recommends the use of the phenomenological paradigm to deal with this weakness. Studies using the phenomenological paradigm by Bogdan and Biklen (2007: 25) ‘begin with silence’, as the researcher seeks to discover the personal understandings of the participants, allowing different knowledge and various perceptions to be given by different participants in the same particular situation. With this paradigm a qualitative approach to collecting and analysing data is most appropriate. Here qualitative data consists mainly of words rather than numbers. Patton (1990, cited in Best and Khan 2006: 247) asserts that qualitative research uses three ways of collecting information: ‘in-depth, open-ended interviews, direct observation and written documents’.

On the basis of these considerations I found that the phenomenological interpretative paradigm the most convenient for the purposes of this small-scale empirical study focusing on students’ personal perceptions of their male teachers. It will attempt to shed light on the ideas, opinions and beliefs students have regarding their male teachers in a Cypriot primary school. Important conclusions can be drawn from this study like the importance of the male teacher in primary school and his actual role as a leader by gender. Thus, the phenomenological interpretative paradigm was the one chosen for this inquiry.

Qualitative approach – Case study

My research focuses on students’ perceptions of male teachers in an anonymous Greek-Cypriot primary school. The rational according to the literature points to the use of a phenomenological interpretative paradigm, and the study should be conducted in a qualitative research framework. I will use qualitative methodology as my study focuses on children’s perceptions, ideas, thoughts and feelings rather than their performance in school.

According to O'Brien there are five types of qualitative methodology to choose from: these are case study, grounded theory, phenomenology, ethnography and historical studies. In contrast Flick (2006) presents four qualitative research methodologies: case study, longitudinal study, comparison study and finally retrospective study. However, this chapter does not intend to expand and explain the use of these strategies as it would be outside the scope of this study. Instead, I would prefer to briefly explain and justify my chosen methodology.

The chosen methodology for this study is case study and as Merriam ( 1998 ), Yin ( 1989 ) and ( Stake ) 1994 cited in (Bogdan and Biklen 2007: 59) explain, It is ‘a detailed examination of one setting, or a single subject, a single depository of documents, or one particular event’ conducted in real action time, enabling an analysis of the reasons for and the after-effects of the incident (Cohen et al. 2001: 181). Supporting the approach of Bogdan and Bigden, Bell (2005: 10) and Cohen et al. (2001: 181) state that one of the strengths of the case study is that helps the researcher to shed light ‘in depth’ on a specific aspect of the problem and allows for generalization. It is a narrowed and focused research method with a single framework, such as a child or group of children, a class or a group of classes, an educational institution (Cohen et al. 2001: 181). In my case, the investigation will take place in a school. The purpose of my research is to investigate in depth the perceptions by a group of children of their male teachers in a school environment. I shall conduct the inquiry in real time as I am determined to visit the school during term time and gather data using data collecting tools, such as interviews. Cohen et al. (1984: 184) argue that case studies allow general rules to be made from the study of an ‘instance in action’. In my opinion, a case study would be the most appropriate form for my study as it is ‘strong in reality’ (Cohen 2001) and will help me to investigate in depth the real perceptions of a group of students in the target school in Cyprus.

As a not very experienced researcher I feel a case study will be a very powerful tool appropriate either for new or experienced researchers (Bogdan and Biklen 2007). More specifically Best and Kahn (2006: 259) argue that a case study is a good method of gathering and presenting data in search of the actual truth, and of conducting an investigation which aims to present the actual ‘view’ of social reality, as I plan to do.

The literature about the case study method I have cited makes me realize that some of the definitions and explanations about its use fit the scope of my research in a precise manner. It is clear that ‘case study’ is ideal as a methodology to detect unique features, which may not be possible to monitor or retain in ‘large-scale data’ studies, such as those using surveys or questionnaires and a non-participant method in general.

The case study method also demands the participation of the researcher and the sample.

My study examines a fact within the framework of a school embodied in the Cypriot educational system. Thus, its characteristics fully accord with the characteristics of case study methodology. The case study methodology does have some weaknesses, however, that the researcher should be aware of. Because my investigation is mostly being conducted in real time there is not the option of contacting the sample again to cross-check/verify? results. Thus, the results of the research could be seen as ‘subjective and biased’, given that the study is qualitative (Bell 2005: 11; Cohen et al. 2001: 184). In addition, the researcher can be influenced by his own beliefs and bias, so the results are influenced by subjectivity. Although not much can be done to enable cross-checking, the researcher can try to avoid distortion in the results. The researcher should try not to be influenced by his own perceptions and also not reveal his own opinion and ideas to avoid influencing those in the sample and to encourage them to say what they actually think.

Another limitation that the researcher should consider concerns generalization. Whilst the case study method permits this, it may not be possible as most of the time the incident under investigation is unique and drawn from the life itself (Bell 2005: 1; Cohen et al. 2001: 184; Bassey 1999). Descombe (1998: 36-7) argues that ‘the extent to which findings from the case study can be generalized to other examples on the class depends on how far the case study example is similar to others of its type.’ However, the phenomenon I am investigating is commonly found in the literature and amongst academic researchers. It would be possible to repeat an investigation of this sort in the same school or in a different school environment. This should not be a problem as Greek-Cypriot schools present uniformity in a number of factors: student origin and staff turnover and staff education. The subject is also quite typical and, in reality, not so unique. Generalization in this case is feasible, whilst the results of this research can act as a pilot if another researcher wishes to conduct another similar study.

As far as it is known, there are plenty of similar investigations of teachers’ and students’ perceptions in Cypriot primary schools. Copies of them can be found in the Library of the University of Cyprus. Researches in the primary schools was almost a fashion in the past 20 years .

Despite the disadvantages , I believe that ‘case study’ is the most appropriate methodology for this situation as it is one of the main methodologies for a qualitative approach under the desired paradigm. There are certain methods to execute the research and collect the data, which will be presented in the following section .

New Section

O'Brien, K. (n. d.) Research paradigms. Latrobe University <http://ironbark.bendigo.latrobe.edu.au/~obrien/parad/index.htm> [access date?] < necessary as this is a dead link

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