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The experience of a learner is a very crucial factor in evaluating the standard of advanced institutions of higher learning, which is not limited to the fore walls of the lecture rooms but to the student general live experience (Harvey et al., 1992). This exercise is put in place to enhance the experience of students so as to sustain the benefit and competitiveness of student intake in various institution of higher learning (Chris, 2008).
According to (Polit and Hungler, 1993) they claimed that qualitative research focus on the fact that learning from people's previous experiences needed proper attention by giving the people involved the chance to express their selves the way they choose. Therefore, the understanding scenery of qualitative research and the overall aim of this research topic tailored the data collection towards the use of a phenomenological approach, which acknowledges the investigation of human behaviour by a fellow human-being who recognizes the holistic perception about life and the significance of personality in connection with bias (Chinn, 1985).
This study involves an individual experience as a postgraduate student.
This study, which was carried out as part of NUR 816 module assignment was intended to
To explore a fellow student's experience while undertaking a postgraduate study.
To examine the kind of problem faced by a postgraduate student.
To establish whether postgraduate student enjoy their studies all through the semesters without any problem from home or work place for those working.
To enable me to know whether they were able to acquire some intellectual skills through their programme.
To explore a fellow student's experience while undertaking a postgraduate study, in terms of the challenges of such study.
To determine the impact of a postgraduate study on a student day-to-day life.
The methodology for the investigation was based on the aims and objective laid down. The research questions shall be tackled by employing the help of the phenomenology methodological approach. This method is chosen over the other two that is the ethnography and grounded theory, because the research topic is based on the predisposition and explanation of the world assumed by an individual through a true reflection on the veracity of their life history (Racher, 2003). This point was supported by (Shepard et al., 1993) when they accepted that the inflection surrounding this point of view is based on the exclusivity of each individual outlook towards a certain social circumstance. In this paradigm the researcher will make observation and endeavour to make correct interpretation of what she observes (Jones and Borbasi, 2003). Making use of the phenomenological approach made it possible for the individual student to describe a lived experience of achieving knowledge as a postgraduate student which is also linked to her day-to-day life. Moustakas (1994) also stated that to achieve an excellent justification of the research questions, it is very crucial to extort the necessary features of an individual experience and the actual meaning of the experience through a concrete narrative, which is very fundamental in developing and analysing the collected data. Grounded theory as declared by (Flick, 2002) is also a very important method of collecting qualitative data because it gave preference to the data against theoretical hypothesis which bring about new ideas and concept, but it cannot be used to justify a single piece of interview. This theory can only be realistic when working with larger sample size which could induce new theory discovery, but it is not possible in this type of research that involve only one subject.
The research was conducted with a fellow student from within the NUR 816 module class at the University of Ulster Jordanstown campus. An authorization for the study was sourced from the committee in charge of approving research studies that involve human subject at the University of Ulster, and the data was put together by using a qualitative method of data collection.
Data Collection Process
Design- Ethical and research governance
Ethics is tremendously a vital issue in this contemporary civilization and there is much attachment associated to supporting and protecting the vulnerable citizens. So it is of paramount important to maintain trust and present our intentions in a very sincere atmosphere.
In order to perform a research study it is highly recommended that the research proposal pass through a scrutiny panel that determine whether the study is ideal to be carried out or not on human subject, and also to demonstrate how the interviewee will be protected during the cause of the project. In order to enjoin excellent research custom, an informed consent sheet that highlight how the study will be done, the researchers background, the significance of the study and its probable risk to the people that will take part in it must be completed by each of the participant that will be included in the study. This was demonstrated by (Rubin and Rubin 2005, pp.104-106) as a welcomed idea to conduct research by adhering to research ethics. The researcher must stress that participating in the study is voluntary and that the participant is free to withdraw at any stage of the study if they are not comfortable. The researcher must ensure degree of confidentiality and autonomy and be willing to share the result with the people involved in the study. I have decided that this study will follow these ethical steps to ensure fulfilling the normal etiquette of research ethics and governance.
For the purpose of this study I have chosen the participant through the use of a purposive sampling technique. The criteria for selection of the sample was based on those students that are studying at postgraduate level at the Jordanstown campus of the University of Ulster by excluding the undergraduate student population since the institution is a mixture of both levels. Bearing in mind that there are four campuses of this University, the sample will be taken from those student undertaking a postgraduate study at the University at this particular time .Therefore the subject will be drawn out of a target population of NUR 816 module class of postgraduate student who are currently doing either M.sc health promotion or M.sc Nursing. A fellow student will be approached and her consent to participate will be established.
Data Collection Method
I contacted my fellow student that agreed to facilitate the research by calling her on phone. The follow-up participant information sheet, and consent form was given to her in class. A week was allowed to pass from the day of the telephone call until the time we agreed for the interview to take place. This gave the participant enough time to read and discuss the information with friends if she desired. A final consent was undertaken immediately prior to interview. The participant was offered the school area that is the mall or lecture theatre for the interview to take place. Prior to the interview, that later took place inside a small lecture room, the purpose of the study was discussed, which served to calm down the interviewee and the researcher. An unstructured interview guide was made use of (see Appendix), although questions were asked in different format so as to extract all likely views from the participant, and there was enough time allotted for some discussion after the interview.
The site of the interview was one of the small rooms where student receive lecture at the Jordanstown campus of the University of Ulster. The room is a non-smoking one which is about 5m by 4m in size. There were enough chairs to seat but we only require the use of two chairs that was arranged to face each other for easy interaction between the participant and the researcher. The temperature of the room was approximately 19 degree Celsius which made the room conducive for habitation. Some snacks like cakes and shortbread was provided and set at one corner of the room with tea, coffee and bottle of water to go with it. A small flower vase with a colourful flower was also placed at another corner of the room with the tape recorder to record the dialogue. The light of the room was switch on to ensure proper visibility and the window was remained closed which guaranteed a warm environment throughout the interview. This made the surrounding conducive for the fact that it took place during the winter. The flower was included to beautify the environment and make it homely, while tea and coffee with the cakes and shortbread was provided to increase the relationship of the interviewer and interviewee and also make the participant feel at home and comfortable throughout the course of the interview. The interview which started around 3.00 pm lasted for about 20 minutes and the style was in a relaxing mode.
The data was collected by using an audio-recorder to enhance the accuracy of the hand written note. The audio-taped discussion was later transcribed exactly the way it was recorded (Streubert and Carpenter, 1995). The body language of the interviewee was also noted in a jotter, which will enhance the accuracy, importance and understanding of the transcript.
A pilot study was facilitated by a friend from outside the school and I gathered from it that some questions needed to be added to the already written guide set aside for the main interview. I also got familiar with the way to interact with the participant and the way to pose questions to her, since it was an unstructured interview. I developed confidence from the exposure I got from the pilot study. This assisted me throughout the collection of the data in the main study.
The analysis of the data started at the moment the one on one interview began. The body language of the participant was noted throughout the conversation and the discussion was tape recorded. The collection of the information needed went on until the time that no new ideas were emerging. The interview was later transcribed and thorough assessment was made to draw out themes that reflect participant insight towards a postgraduate study. This idea was supported by (Rubin and Rubin, 2005 p.207) in which they declared that there is need to extract idea that are appropriate for the study in question. The motive of identification is important during the course of analysing the data collected in order to establish theory. The data was analysed using the outline that is made specifically for data gathered using the phenomenological method of data collection that is the (Colaizzi's, 1978) seven stage process for data analyses. The recorded interview was played and replayed for proper documentation of the transcript. A copy of the transcribed interview was set aside for security reasons to avoid any on foreseen circumstance. The initial data gathering was realised by underlining the participant important statements. This enabled data fascination and, it also assisted the researcher to see a general idea of the participant input to each of the cluster. After some careful scrutiny of the transcript the researcher was able to draw out important themes and concept that was meaningful and which most especially answered the research question, by deducing the insight and attitude of student toward the postgraduate study experience. Important messages were drawn out of the transcript, which was later assembled into groups of themes and sub-categories that I think best explained the exact meaning of the interview data. One that focused on aspiration in life includes putting in a lot of effort to reach the peak of her educational career, and being privilege to learn more skills as a graduate student. Also the next category that is challenges in life comprises of her funding dilemma in terms of tuition and accommodation fee, deadline for submission of assignment, fear of reproducing an author verbatim, and opportunity gotten from gaining admission into the higher institution of learning. Another category that involves time management was also discovered, which include the part-time job she indulge in, her personal reading time, course-work management, the demanding workload and her free time management. Moreover, the lecturers attitude also form a category on its own, while the category on library use involve using the computer word processor for typing of assignment, correction of assignment, access to the internet, and photocopying of materials source from the net. Finally the last category focused on the positive and negative feelings. These encompasses the study materials that are excellent, a blend of theory and practical in most of the courses that are of high standard, while the negative feeling that was experienced is that the graduate school was tedious, very expensive and time consuming. Reasonable meanings were gathered from the theme and were arranged into one grid to compare their association with the whole meaning. This categorization gave room for additional development by using the axial coding for such phrases and statements.
In order to maintain a cogent interpretation of this type of interview some sub-categories were developed. All these sub-categories emerged from the participant descriptions, regardless of the length of the interview. These are aspiration in life, challenges of being a postgraduate student, time management, positive and negative feelings, lecturers' attitudes, library use and the internet technology use. Each of these categories will be explored and implications for development will be discussed.
Aspiration in Life: The student emphasized that the postgraduate programme was an opportunity for her to rich greater height. "My goal in life is to aspire to reach the peak in my educational career"
Challenges of being a postgraduate student: Being admitted for the postgraduate programme was the first challenge the student faced, followed by funding the programme, cost of accommodation in school, meeting the course work deadline for submission, and the threat of not accrediting properly the paper sourced for assignment.
"The accommodation I got was quite expensive in school".
"Getting admitted gave me a challenge"
"I mean the funding of the P.G studies was not too easy".
"I was so conscious of the references quoted but am still afraid that I did not copy".
"Rush through the coursework assignment, so as to meet the deadline for submission".
Time management: The student use most of the time in the school area for attending lectures, doing course work, and personal reading while the free lecture days is used for part-time job.
"I realised that I need to do a lot of personal reading "
"My module time also gave me a good opportunity to engage in a part time work in a store".
Lecturers Attitudes: it was gathered from the student experience that the lecturers were open-minded and they help in solving student academic problems. " The lecturers have always been very helpful and approachable and open to suggestions and criticism".
Library use: School Library was reportedly used to achieve a lot of work through course work organisation and easy internet access, photocopying the assignment and printing relevant document. It was indeed a good resource.
"I did not have a resource to get a lap-top so I spend most of my time in the school library (LRC)".
Internet Technology Use: The participant stated that she made use of the computer resource a lot in school which was provided through some of the several library facilities. She claimed that the internet resource is very useful to her because it enables her to check the online materials provided by the lecturers of each module and to contact fellow student and friends through the e-mail resource provided for every student and from her personal e-mail account.
" Most of our courses had on-line resource which could only be accessed through the Webct from the school portal".
"All students were also communicated through the student e-mail addresses".
Positive and negative feeling: There was a financial influence on her family which was very hard to cope with, but she agreed that a lot of skills and experience were acquired from the postgraduate study from the lecturers and fellow student.
"The good academic staff and high standard of teaching and learning, appropriate course content and structure, good quality study materials, access to and availability of appropriate resources".
"It was time consuming and tedious as well as very expensive on my family pocket".
The data was managed by using the Microsoft word processor 2007 package. I was able to formulate two transcripts which involve the one that contained the entire transcribed interview and the other that included only the analysed transcript that has been categorised into themes. The categories were written in italics by the help of the computer word processor package and underlined.
It can be deduced from the collected data that the categorization process made it easier to achieve good understanding of the information gathered from the interview.
The assignment basically focused on the challenges, personal feelings and beliefs students have pertaining a postgraduate education experience. This study is aimed at deduces the challenges upon the study and the influence it had on the student daily life, putting into consideration the intrinsic and the extrinsic motivation developed along the line by the student. Some other contributory factors like some personalities that are psychological in terms of freewill and self discipline according to (Deci and Ryan, 1996) makes people belief that their achievement in life is basically meant for them. In postgraduate study experience one is expected to be as independent as possible because the student is provided with the course content from the beginning of the semester in which they are expected to study ahead of class. There were some difficulties encountered but on the whole the data collected shows that there was satisfaction achieved from the great experience of the subject. The data for the study was put together using an expert approach, where all the body language of the interviewee during the interview and the interview was recorded using a tape recorder while the environment where the interview took place was quite conducive for both the participant and researcher. My transcript was properly documented and analysed correctly and the unstructured interview method gave me the opportunity to further query some of the respondent answers to certain question. It was obvious that an interview bias might have occurred that could have affected the findings, because the person interviewed is one of my colleagues that we are into the postgraduate study together. The questions that were posed to the participant were adequate and appropriate. It was deduced in totality that aside from all the challenges faced by the subject the experience of being a postgraduate student was a tremendous one. My personal knowledge on the post graduate study experience might possibly have a great influence my result, and this could invalidate the findings. It was encouraged by Slevin and Sines (2000) that an experienced researcher need to cross-check the analyzed data done by one person so has to ensured the validity, but this resource was not available to me due to the nature of the assignment.
The research aimed at infer a positive or negative opinion from the postgraduate experience of the student sampled, but drawing conclusion from only one transcript will not give a true meaning to the generality of what individuals come across during taking this step in life.