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Interpreting Information To Answer Questions Education Essay

Introduction

Research is a process of collecting, analyzing and interpreting information to answer questions. But to qualify as research, the process must have certain characteristics: it must, as far as possible, be controlled, rigorous, systematic, valid and verifiable, empirical and critical. The Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English Oxford, (1952, p. 1069) lays down the meaning of research as “a careful investigation or inquiry especially through search for new facts in any branch of knowledge.”

Coming to methodology, it is sometimes reserved for the (theoretical) study of methods. It is concerned more than a method. In fact, method may be seen as the steps involved, whereas methodology would include the values and attitudes that the researcher brings to his work (Mc Niff, 1988). It can be also assume that methodology can be a skeleton, on which a project can be hung. As a follower of the methodology, we flesh it out, apply the techniques suggested by it, make our own decisions prompted by it and produce some of the deliverables dictated by it. 

This chapter comprises of two parts, firstly it shapes the definition of a Case Study and then describes the framework of the Case Study containing of information about the design of the study, the characteristics of the sample, the time frame and the tools used to collect data.

Definition of Case Study

The term “case study” is a definitional morass. It is define in various ways and a standard does not exist. Some of the definitions of scholars can be as follows: Mitchell (1983) defined a case study as a “detailed examination of an event (or series of related events) which the analyst believes exhibits (or exhibit) the operation of some identified general theoretical principles” (p. 192). Yin (1994) defined a case study as “an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident…[and] relies on multiple sources of evidence” (p. 13). Gomm, Hammersley, and Foster (2000), believes that a case study refers to research that investigates a few cases in considerable depth.

Case Study is also known as a triangulated research strategy. Snow and Anderson (Feagin, Orum, & Sjoberg, 1991) asserted that triangulation can occur with data, investigators, theories, and even methodologies. Stake (1995) stated that the protocols that are used to ensure accuracy and alternative explanations are called triangulation. The need for triangulation arises from the ethical need to confirm the validity of the processes. In case studies, this could be done by using multiple sources of data (Yin, 1984). The problem in case studies is to establish meaning rather than location.

Above all the given definitions, case study are the most flexible of all research designs, allowing the researcher to retain the holistic characteristics of real-life events while investigating empirical events.

Advantages of Case Study

There are a number of advantages in using case studies. Firstly it is comparatively flexible which emphasize exploration rather than prescription or prediction. It is inclusive therefore allows researchers to begin with broad questions and try different methods in order to narrow their focus as their experiment. Case study method helps to find out the useful data and enables to generalize the knowledge also. It lays emphasis on context that is it specializes in “deep data” or “thick description”. Last but not least it is vivid and concrete which carry a powerful intellectual and emotional impact on the reader.

Justification for choosing Case Study for my Research

The case study is in many ways the most suitable design and coordination for school-based research. In this research, case study method was adopted because it is flexible, specific, heuristic, builds on tacit knowledge, used to remedy or improve practice and relatively easy to use in the classroom, but most important, it is appropriate for my research title. Moreover, this research model provided me with the opportunity to analyse and focus on my reflection on my teaching strategies and styles in an attempt to motivate the students in their learning through incorporating “innovative visual display” in their classes as well as improving my own teaching practice. I felt also free to discover and address the issue.

Research Approach

A Qualitative Research paradigm has been adopted in this study. Qualitative research uses a naturalistic approach that seeks to understand phenomena in context-specific settings, such as "real world setting [where] the researcher does not attempt to manipulate the phenomenon of interest" (Patton, 2001, p. 39).

Research Design

Research design can be thought of as the logical or master plan of a research that throws light on how the study is to be conducted. It shows how all of the major parts of the research study (the samples or groups, measures, treatments or programs and so on) work together in an attempt to address the research questions. Yin (2003, p.19) says that “colloquially a research design is an action plan for getting from here to there, where ‘here’ may be defined as the initial set of questions to be answered and ‘there’ is some set of (conclusions) answers”.

The research will be carried out in a girl’s state secondary school of Zone 1, situated in the north of the island. The population of the school is around 975 and consists of mixed ability students mostly average achievers. The school serves a catchment area with a diverse socio-economic mix of communities. The performances of the school at SC and HSC level for the past few years were as follows:

Year

Sc

Hsc

2011

93.9 %

77.22 %

2010

92.9 %

72.2 %

2009

89.3 %

75.9 %

2008

95.8 %

84.8 %

Sampling

A sample design is a definite plan for obtaining a sample from a given population (Kothari, 1988). Sample constitutes a certain portion of the population or universe. Sampling design refers to the technique or the procedure the researcher adopts for selecting items for the sample from the population or universe. A sample design helps to decide the number of items to be included in the sample, i.e., the size of the sample. The sample design should be determined prior to data collection.

The sample of this study consists of l0 students of first year of Form V Art and Design class in a girl’s state secondary school of Zone 1, situated in the north of the island. The pupils are of mixed abilities. There is only 1 class of Form V (Art and Design) in this school which is a combined class and comprises of both first year students and repeaters. There are 6 repeaters and 10 students from first year. The decision of the sampling was made on the fact that repeaters do not come to school regularly thus the first timers were chosen. The students are in the first trimester of the school dates. At this stage, I consider that the students are mature enough for the study and also the research will not disturb their examination which is schedule for September and October 2012.

Time Frame

Yule (1997) suggests that precise timing is needed to avoid biased results. The study which is on use of innovative visual display has been carried out partly in the second term and the rest in the third term as per my scheme of work. The Case Study was conducted within 6 consecutive weeks.

Students’ Perception on Visual Display

Before starting the Case Study, a short questionnaire of seven items (Appendix 1) was administered to the whole sample under study with the aim of determining their perception about visual display.

Activities

This research carries three steps namely:

Activity 1

In this first activity traditional way of displaying visuals to students were used. Exterior observation was chosen as topic and charcoal technique was adopted. I gave the instructions to the students followed by the exposure of the visual display on the particular topic in a traditional way that is showing the students visuals, from books and sheets downloaded and printed from internet before moving outside for observing, sketching and drawing. The objective of the first activity was to provide a baseline of the traditional way of teaching so that comparison with the other activities could be made and a decision could be taken.

Activity 2

In the second activity, interactive visual display was used to show the students different visuals. Man-made observational study was selected as topic and pen and ink technique was agreed. Here I explained the topic and gave the demonstration to the students and the students were free to go and consult the interactive visual display boards which were placed in the classroom containing visuals on the topic. The interactive visual display was left in the classroom for the whole two week and students were allowed to refer to it anytime they wish to, during the class.

The objectives of the second cycle were as follows:

To provide a paradigm shift from the traditional way of teaching in terms of teaching method from showing visual display from books and internet download to interactive visual display.

Make a more encouraging environment for student to learn.

Motivate students to learn as new teaching strategy is used.

Allow students more time to look at the visuals.

Activity 3

In the third activity, laptops and educational software was used as tools to teach observational study (natural) in the technique of aquarelle. I gave instructions to the students and the students were permitted to go and access the different laptops set in the classroom. Four laptops were placed in the class containing an educational software in each one which comprises of valuable information on the topic like explanation, technique, history, different artists, works of artists, the procedure, film on demonstration and visuals on the theme. As art subject cannot be done in a computer lab so the rector has made provision for three laptops from different departments and I have incorporating mine too to make it become four in all. Students grouped into pairs and buzz to view the software on the laptops. The software was done on PowerPoint. First all students went to view the software then while working students were able to access the software as per their difficulties. I was there to monitor them. This was done on a two week basis. The objectives of the third activity were as follows:

Allow students of different abilities to go through the slides at their own pace.

Enable students to go through different slides and asked questions for clarifications.

Allow students to improve their computer skills.

Make a more advantageous environment for student to learn.

Prevent students to talk unnecessarily among them.

Motivate students to learn as new technology is used.

Data Collection

The data collection is the body of a research work, as it helps to enliven the whole project by boosting information.

The collection of data here was divided into two parts:

Primary data

Secondary data

Primary data

Primary data are normally collected from primary sources. “primary sources provide data gathered at first hand that is to say they are original sets of data produced by the people who collect them using various scientific tools and technique are called the primary or field sources.” (R.S. Dwivedi, 1997, Research Methods in Behavioral sciences: 103).

Methods of collecting the primary data

Observation

Questionnaire

Interview

Observation

‘The observation method involves the researcher in watching, recording, analyzing events of interests.’ (Blaxter L. 1996, p158). Observation may be defined as a systematic viewing of a specific phenomenon in its proper setting or the specific purpose of gathering data for a particular study. Observation as a method includes both 'seeing' and 'hearing.' It is accompanied by perceiving as well. A teacher observing his own class will be a participant observer and this enables the teacher to record all group activities. For this case study research, I was the participant observer and the attitude and behaviour of the treatment group when exposed to activities related to the visual display were observed and rated.

The interrogations were made through observing the following aspects:

• What sort of behaviours students have when exposed to the first activity, that is the traditional way of visual displaying.

• What sort of behaviours students have while working with the interactive visual display.

• What sort of behaviours students have while interacting with the laptop and the educational software.

• Has these activities improved learning and motivation to make students become active participants in art classes?

These above aspects have helped me in designing an observation schedule. This checklist has enabled me to identify which of the activities (if any) has brought benefit to the students’ learning.

Questionnaire

Questionnaire is a kind of ‘stimulus’ Herbert (1989) which provokes the respondents to give definite information. It is a set of questions which is printed or typed in a definite order on a form. The form can be mailed or directly given to the respondents who are expected to read and understand the questions and reply to them in writing in the relevant spaces provided for the purposes on the said form. Preferably, the respondent has to answer the questions on his own. Here, his or her opinion is counted.

In this research five different types of questionnaire were prepared; firstly two sets of questionnaires were made to get the perception of the sample group and teachers which consisted of seven and eight items respectively on visual display. Then three other questionnaires were used to get feedback from the sample group after each activity done.

Interview

Interviews are particularly useful for getting the story behind a participant’s experiences. The interviewer can pursue in-depth information around the topic. Interviews may be useful as follow-up to certain respondents to questionnaires, e.g., to further investigate their responses. (McNamara,1999). Here interviews have been conducted with the sample group to know in depth the reactions of students after conducting the three activities. Here also, before piloting the interview I had explained my students about the purpose behind my interview. I have made use of semi-structured interview. Semi-structured interviewing, according to Bernard (1988), is best used when you won't get more than one chance to interview someone and when you will be sending several interviewers out into the field to collect data. Questions have been asked in the same order to everyone. I have used the above mentioned interview as it allow informants the freedom to express their views in their own terms and also it provide reliable, comparable qualitative data.

ii. Secondary data

According to Kothari (1985:11) secondary data is information that has been collected previously and that has been put through the statistical process. The secondary data for this research has been obtained by studying manuals, magazines, journals, web search and dissertations that address aspects of visual display.

Pre-test of Questionnaire

A pilot test is made with the questionnaire with 5 randomly chosen students before it is administered to the whole class to detect any weaknesses in it. This exercise is necessary as some questions have to be rephrased.

Validity and Reliability

Validity is assessed in terms of how well the research tools measure the phenomena under investigation (Punch 1998). A potential difficulty in achieving validity in qualitative research is researcher bias, arising out of selective collection and recording of data, or from interpretation based on personal perspectives (Johnson 1997).

In qualitative research, reliability can be thought of as the trustworthiness of the procedures and data generated (Stiles 1993). It is concerned with the extent to which the results of a study or a measure are repeatable in different circumstances (Bryman 2001). Thus, we need to confirm findings by revisiting data in different circumstances.

Validity and reliability of the research were ensured as followed:

The questionnaire has been kept short, simple and without ambiguity in order not to wrong responses that shows confusion, misunderstanding and so on.

All the necessary information was clearly mentioned in the questionnaire like, the research title, the purpose, the duration and so on.

The questions in the questionnaires covered the materials on which the research lies.

The objectives of the research were covered through the questionnaires.

Pretesting of the tentative questionnaires was done to eliminate, reframe and reward the questions which were found so before finalising the questionnaires.

Students were asked to complete the questionnaires just after the activity done.

Every respondent replied to the questionnaire by themselves without checking in one another.

Lessons and activities that make sure the students gain adequate understanding and practice to be able to perform the desired level were inserted.

Cross-marking of final works has taken place to ensure accuracy, consistency and eliminate possible experimental bias.

Marking scheme was done on a criterion based.

Data Analysis

All data collected need to be recorded, analysed and interpreted. “Data collection and analysis is a simultaneous activity.” (Merriam, 1998, P.151,).

From my checklists, questionnaires and interviews I have been able to know whether there has been improvement in the learning of visual art at SC level. The analysis of data will be done by comparing the responses of the various respondents. From the conducted interview, the responses have been transcribed and codified in order to develop the data analysis. The results have been represented in tabular forms (tabs), bar charts and pie-charts.

Ethics

Bogdan and Biklen (1992) define ethics in research as the “principles of right and wrong that a particular group accepts” (P.49). Ethics can also be the principle of moral values and right conduct. Ethics in case study emphasizes on the researchers moral relationships to the participants (students, educators and parents). The ethic of the researchers is that no student is affected by the action research but should indeed bring continuous improvement. In fact, the case study has been undertaken with firm standards concerning ethical principles.

The study has been carried out after sending letters to the rector and parents explaining the research and its purpose and also seeking their permission to let these students participate in this research and made them assure that this particular activity would not disturb our classes at all.

Moreover, the students involved in the research were informed about the objectives of the research prior to respond to the designed questionnaire. Adding to it that the confidentiality of students is extremely essential and any information given by students has not revealed their identity. Identifying marks has been used to ensure total anonymity. Nobody has been forced to participate in this particular activity; they were free to withdraw from it at any time. As said by Glesne & Peshkin, 1992; Punch, (1986) that Research codes of ethics address individual rights to dignity, privacy, and confidentiality, and avoidance of harm.

Limitations

The research could have been carried out with my form V repeater students instead of first timers but there are only 5 students repeating and for a better result the sample should be of a greater scale. Furthermore these students do not come to school on a regular basis. The investigation could have been carried out with 2 different form V classes and the results of the findings could have been compared but we have only 1 form V class which is a combined one. Still I could have divided my sample group into two and carry out the inquiry one after another but I cannot impart knowledge to one particular group and neglecting the other one, teaching is a very noble job and as a teacher it’s my duty to give equal attention to everyone. While implementing the three planned activities in my study, I could have chosen three different topics but due to the fact that all students have not chosen the same papers for the SC exams so this would have been bias thus I have chosen observational study, a paper that everybody do in my school. Lastly for the third activity I needed at least 4 to 5 computers and normally it seems impossible as I do not even have one computer in my art room so I had to make arrangements with the administration and borrow three laptops from different departments of my school and incorporated mine too.

Limitations as above has definitely played some role in restricting the research in its fullest extent but I personally feel that I have given my level best in this research and that part of the limitations have been overcome by other means in order to arrive at the conclusion.


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