Improving Our Understanding Of Academic Practice And Circumstances Education Essay

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This chapter puts forward the details about the methodology adopted and expands the chosen approach and strategy used and the reasons for their selection. Furthermore this chapter will describe how the sample population was chosen and how the primary data was collected and processed. This chapter further explains the data collection tool and highlights validity, authenticity and reliability of the data collected.

"Methodology refers to the theory and analysis of how research should proceed". ( Marsh.Ian.2000.134)

I believe the objective of research is to improve our understanding of academic practice and the circumstances in which it takes place.  Research is intended to provide a base for others to develop their own professional practice.  There are many different ways in which research can be carried out, which fall into two categories.  These are qualitative methods and quantitative methods. 

Qualitative Research is commonly not concerned with numbers and entails gathering a great deal of information about a small number of people. The information collected is normally not presentable in numerical form and it is used to understand human's behaviour and situation (Veal,1997). Besides, it generally avoids the workings of objective, scientific research (Cunningham,1999). In addition, it tends to be naturally explanatory, directional and is designed to bring out issues associated with the subject matter as well as trace you in to the best general direction to proceed (Kyle, 2003).

Quantitative Research basically involves statistical analysis and relies on numerical evidence to draw conclusions or to test hypothesis. To be reliable, it encompasses large numbers of people and to use computers to analyse the data. (Veal,1997). Furthermore, it is the sort of scientific research with a strict set of rules that govern the use of research (Cunningham,1999) Also, it is usually designed to be analytical and rigid with statistical accuracy (Kyle,2003). As a result, it is a research method that data are collected and subsequently analysed. The findings of quantitative research can be verified for accuracy through tests of statistical probability. In general, this research is employed when what is required is a simple count of numbers.

Although there are clear differences between qualitative and quantitative approaches, it is important to bring to attention that qualitative and quantitative methods can be used in conjunction with each other, this is termed as triangulation, where the use to two or more methods are combined together. (Cohen, and Manion, 2000 pg 233) Define triangulation as "the use of two or more methods of data collection in the study of some aspect of human behaviour." Combining the qualitative and quantitative techniques can bring some advantages of both and enrich the research process and its results. Saunders et al (2003, p99) argue that: 'there are two major advantages to applying multi-methods in the same study. First, different methods can be used for different purposes in a study. Secondly, it enables triangulation to take place'. As through triangulation using several different methods to collect the data, it is more complex to look at a topic from different perspectives and compare different outcomes and therefore the all in one an idea has more of a chance to produce similar results or implications, as triangulation allows for more accurate interpretation of a topic and a more rounded picture therefore it can be stated as having a higher validity.

After studying quantitative and qualitative approaches, it can be suggested that to a certain extent, that there are advantages and disadvantages within both approaches. Quantitative research often 'forces' responses or people into categories that might not "fit" in order to make meaning. On the other hand qualitative research sometimes focuses too closely on individual results and fails to make connections to larger situations or possible causes of the results.

Selecting the correct research approach is, according to Creswell (2003) a critically important decision. The research approach does not simply inform the research design but it gives the researcher the opportunity to critically consider how each of the various approaches may contribute to, or limit, his study, allow him/her to satisfy the articulated objectives and design an approach which best satisfies the research's requirements (Creswell, 2003). Cooper and Schindler (1998) maintain that the determination of the research methodology is one of the more important challenges which confront researchers.

When looking at the options available for conducting my research I looked at the aims that needed to be met when collecting information. As a result I decided on the case study approach. A case study is a detailed examination of one setting, or one single subject, or one single repository of documents, or one particular event (Bogdan and Biklen, 1982 pg 58)

This strategy ability to generate answers to the question 'why?' as well as the 'what?' and 'how?' questions (Saunders et al., 2007pg 146). In addition, a case study strategy can be very worthwhile way of exploring existing theory or to challenge an existing theory (Saunders et al., 2007).

The research that is carried out must be reliable and valid. The research must also be conducted in an objective manor with no bias. As a result, even though my assignment is a case study which favours the phenomenological approach there will be some aspects which appear to be positivist. As a result triangulation will occur in my research due to this mixed methods approach.

Both quantitative and qualitative data is to be collected. This will be done by three main approaches. The first approach which was used to gain opinions from staff, students and parents was the use of well designed questionnaires. The majority of the questionnaires consisted of multiple choice questions where they were five possible answers ranging from excellent to very poor (or similar responses) with a few questions which required written answers.

The one designed for staff (see appendix 1) consisted of two sections. Section A was to find out about the persons experience, faculty they taught in and some general opinions. Section B consisted of questions relating to classroom management as a whole as I se this as a major contributing factor to student misbehaviour. This is supported by Center,Deitz & Kaufman,(1982) who maintain "At times there is a direct link between our lessons and student misbehavior. Perhaps our lesson is too easy or difficult, ineffective,or nonstimulating, which can lead to student misbehaviour" (Center,Deitz & Kaufman, 1982 as cited in Barbetta et al., 2005).

The questionnaire designed for the pupils (see appendix 2) was aimed at obtaining the student's opinion on lessons, including behaviour. The final section required written answers and concentrated on the pupils own behaviour in lessons. The questionnaire designed for parents was again similar in format to that of the staff and student questionnaires (see appendix 3). The overall aim of the parent survey was to attain their outlook on the school, including behaviour for learning.

The questionnaire was developed using third party software called 'Survey Monkey'. The reason for using this software is that all people can access the questionnaire easily, it is totally anonymous and it will help with the analysis of the quantitative data.

The main reasons I decided to use questionnaires was because they give data that is easily quantified and can be put into numerical form, although some questions were qualitative which will be more difficult to analyse. I randomly chose 5 classes who were taking part in an ICT activity during a curriculum enhancement day to complete the questionnaires. A link to the questionnaire was emailed to all staff so they could complete it whenever they wished. A letter was sent home with the pupils from one the 'houses' which represents approximately a third of the pupil population with a web address for them to access and complete the parent questionnaire online. The number of students chosen, l believe will gave a fair representation of the school community but also give me a chance to analyse the results in detail. Obviously if it were a bigger number were used it would have given a better representation of the stakeholders opinions but it would take far too long to analyse that amount of information.

The second approach was to interview a selection of staff and students (see appendix for questions asked). The staff chosen for interview will be totally random and given the fact that teachers do not have much spare time it will probably be a case of choosing staff who do not mind spending a little time after school to participate in the interview. The students chosen for interview will be not so random. As long as the students identified agree to the interview I will try and choose students who demonstrate acceptable behaviour in some lesson but are quite disruptive in others. I will try and interview the pupils in pairs so that it won't be so 'daunting' for them

The interview with staff will be combination of a structured and unstructured interview to give a semi-structured. Some of the advantages of this approach include the fact that this method can give both qualitative quantitative data. Therefore it is very reliable and valid. There is also an opportunity for the interviewer to ask for more detail if the interviewee says something particularly interesting. Another advantage of this style of interview is the interviewer can explain and clarify the questions to the interviewee.

The information I receive from each interviewee will be discussed but I will keep the interviewees names confidential. By doing this and informing the participants before I interview them, I feel that they are more likely to answer my questions fully detailed.

Although I feel that interviewing people is a good method to use I also think that there are some disadvantages. One of which is that the qualitative data will be hard to analyse. I will be writing my own notes, which means the interview will be more time consuming and I may not write down everything that is relevant to my project. Also there is the disadvantage of the interview effect, this is where the response given isn't what the interviewee really thinks, and this can be caused by the characteristics of the interviewer.

To be able to speak to parents the Headteacher will be arranging a parents' forum on behaviour which I am invited to take part. This is my third approach to obtaining information. At this parents forum my aim is gain their ideas on behaviour for learning and what they think works well and not so well in at Granville. This approach is appropriate as I can speak to more than one parent at one fell swoop and hence it will not be too time consuming and I do not believe parents would turn up individually to take part in an interview. As there will be a group of parents together I believe they will feel more comfortable and as a result be more open in expressing their views on behaviour. I will start the discussion off by asking what they understand by the phrase of 'behaviour for learning' and then let the discussion progress from there. Obviously the consequences to this system is similar to that of interviews, particularly the recording of responses and the analysis of those responses.


There is always a sensitive issue when conducting research so I must be careful in the way I ask the questions and also be aware of this when I am constructing the questions

As Saunders et al (2003, p99) point that: 'there are two major advantages to applying multi-methods in the same study. First, different methods can be used for different purposes in a study. Secondly, it enables triangulation to take place'.