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Methodology behind collecting data in Schools

This chapter will describe the sampling methods, data collection methods and methods of data analysis. It will include a description of some limitations of the various methods and a discussion of ethical issues that may arise in conducting the study and the steps taken to address them.

       The study will be conducted in one high school which has participated in the VVOB SEAL Project. The study was conducted using qualitative research methods. This method was employed as being most suitable to describe the events in the classrooms and the teachers' perceptions of the student-centered approaches implemented in their own classroom work.

3.1 Sampling

       Convenience sampling was the sampling method selected for this study because participants teach at Bee school where I am known, so they were readily available and accessible and volunteered to participate in the study. Furthermore in adopting this sampling approach the participants, who are all volunteers, may be motivated and interested in participating in the study. A limitation of this kind of sampling method is that because the very small population was composed of volunteers the result of study cannot be generalized to the entire teaching population (Gay, Mills, & Airasian, 2009).

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       Four science teachers in Bee school are receiving training on the student-centered approaches from VVOB; two of them were invited to participate in the study. Besides the two science teachers who are receiving training from VVOB, two of the teachers who are not receiving direct training from VVOB, but who had received training from their peers in Bee school were also invited to participate in the study.

       Random sampling was used to select the two science teachers who are not provided with direct training by VVOB. The researcher made four boxes of the four science subjects (biology, physics, chemistry and earth science) and wrote individual science teacher's name on a separated small pieces of paper and fold them. Then the researcher put all small pieces of paper in the boxes of each subject, shook the boxes and selected a name from each box.

3.2 Data collection

       Gay et al., (2009) stated that "Observation, interviews, questionnaires, phone calls, personal and official documents, photographs, recordings, drawings, journal, e-mail messages and responses, and informal conversations are all sources of qualitative data" (p. 366). Similarly, according to Creswell (2005) and Fraenkell and Wallen (2006), all instruments above are the main techniques and illustrate the varied nature of qualitative forms of data. Clearly, these sources are acceptable when the collection approach is ethical and feasible. Two techniques used to collect data for this study were classroom observations and individual interviews.

       Prior to commencing the research, the researcher asked approval from Bee school's principal, the participating teachers, and in the event any students in the observed classrooms were video-recorded the students who were in the classes observed, and the students' parents. In gaining consent, the purpose and significance of this research and the participation were informed to the participants (See Appendix A, B, C, D, E, and F). They were assured that all information gathered was confidential and for any written work individuals were de-identified.

3.2.1 Observation

       Observation is a data collection approach where the researcher watches the participants or focus objects of the study. It is one of the most appropriate and effective approaches because it helps a researcher to collect much more objective information and to avoid collecting biased information (Gay, Mills, & Airasian, 2009). What is obtained from observation is firsthand and open-ended information because participants are observed at the research site (Creswell, 2005). Information can be video-recorded for later analysis. Furthermore, observation provides an opportunity to the researcher to study actual behavior, and observe how things look (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2006). Observation is considered a well-accepted form of qualitative data collection.

       The limitations of observation include that the behavior of those who are being observed might be influenced by the researcher's purposes and presence. The participants may show atypical behavior when they know they are being observed, so the data from the observation would not be representative of how the participants normally behave (Patton, 1990; Fraenkel & Wallen, 2006). Fraenkel and Wallen (2006) stated that observations are also limited in focusing only on external behaviors, so the observer cannot see what is happening inside people. In addition, observations require good listening skills and careful attention to visual detail (Creswell, 2005). Moreover, the limitations of observation include that only volunteer teachers and students with approval from their parents will be able to be video-recorded during the classroom observations.

       In this study, the classroom observations of one lesson per teacher were conducted to investigate how the student-centered approaches were implemented by each of the volunteer teacher participants in their classrooms. The lessons were taught by the participating teachers and were video-recorded for later analysis. Minute observation science lesson lists from VVOB were used during the classroom observation (See Appendix G). Four Science subject classes of grade 8, two classes with VVOB trained teachers and two classes with untrained VVOB teachers, were observed for this small research project.

       To increase the reliability of this qualitative study and to ensure the accuracy of the inferences that are made from the classroom observation, the classroom observations were video-recorded with the permission from the participants. Each of classes were observed and recorded once. The recordings were viewed several times and analyzed in order to generate questions specific to each teacher for use during the individual interviews. The recordings were only viewed by the researcher and the supervisor and have been destroyed to protect the identities of the participating teachers.

3.2.2 Individual Interviews

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       The individual interviews are often used in qualitative research and they are the second most common method used by qualitative researchers to collect data. A researcher can obtain clear, rich, and useful information through conversation with another. Sometimes, a researcher cannot acquire important data solely from observations; interviews can help to provide a check on the researcher's observations and a valuable way to gather complementary data (Creswell, 2005; Fraenkel & Wallen, 2006; Gay, Mills, & Airasian, 2009). Furthermore, interviews can provide information about people's attitudes, their values, what they think and do, and how they feel about something (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2006).

       The interviews are also a limited source of data. Responses at an interview may be deceptive and provide the perspectives that the participants want the researcher to hear or what they think the researcher wants to hear (Creswell, 2005; Patton, 1990). According to Creswell (2005), the perspectives and perceptions of interviewees are subject to distortion due to personal bias, anger, anxiety, politics, and simple lack of awareness. Furthermore, a tape recorder needs to be prepared in advance of the interview to ensure there are no technical problems with making a clear recording.

       The individual interviews were conducted by the researcher with the four teachers after making and analyzing the filmed observations of their work with a class. The limitations of these individual interviews were that only four volunteer teachers participated. The topic of the interview focused on the individual teacher's perceptions and implementation of the student-centered approaches.  The interviews were transcribed, so a tape recorder was used after gaining the participants' permission. Their individual identity does not appear in any form when the interviews were quoted in the thesis.

       To explore the perspective of the teachers, the teachers were individually interviewed. In-depth interviews were important to investigate their perceptions about their use of and the effectiveness of the implementation of the student-centered approaches in their classrooms.

       Each interview consisted of three parts. In the first part, the four teachers were asked about their teaching experiences and their training when they were teacher trainees. In the second part, they answered questions about their teaching after the researcher had viewed the film of them at work in their classroom. In the third part and final part, they were asked questions about the implementation of the student-centered approaches in their own reaching and explored the teachers' perceptions of these approaches. Furthermore, they were asked to talk about their own understanding of the student-centered approaches based on their experiences. Transcripts from each interview are shown in Appendix H, I, J, and K. The interviews were audio-taped and ranged from 22 minutes to 45 minutes. The tapes were transcribed into English and then destroyed to ensure confidentiality for all participants. 

3.3 Data analysis

       Data collected through the interviews was analyzed using qualitative data analysis approaches of looking for themes and patterns of responses. Collected data and information was analyzed and interpreted in relation to the purpose of the study. The emerging themes and patterns of responses have been described in Chapter 4 of this report.  

       3.3.1 Limitation

       This study was limited to four teachers in one high school which has cooperated with the VVOB SEAL Project since 2008. The participants of the study were four teachers (one male teacher) from this high school with between 6 and 9 years classroom teaching experience. The findings are not generalizable for other high schools. The researcher was inexperienced in the conduct of individual interviews and this too is a limitation that is acknowledged.

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