Justifications For Research Design Education Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

This chapter attempts to provide rationale for and discussions of the chosen research methods for the present study. It begins with a brief description of the nature of the research and the rationale of the research questions, followed by the justifications for the chosen research design. The consideration of determining the most appropriate methods to answer the research questions will then be presented. At the final section, procedure of data collection and analysis will be reported, and the guiding principles and strategies of the procedures will be discussed. The issues of validity and reliability of the study are addressed.

3.2 The Nature of the Research

The present research aims at investigating a secondary school in Guangzhou with own uniqueness and characteristics in the provision of affective education at the levels of concept, perception, and practice of affective education. It is hoped that the present study will help find out how affective education is conceptualized in a Chinese context and illuminate its essence of practice through analyzing the school administrators, teachers and students' perspectives and exploring the case school's educational provision. The research design is a qualitative case study which is naturalistic in nature by applying the ethnographic approach for data collection. It allows the researcher to carry out fieldwork that enables him to immerse in the school context, and consequently manage to investigate the natural phenomenon from a holistic perspective.

3.3 Research Questions

Based on the objectives of this study derived from the research problems identified via a critical review of literature in Chapter Two, the following research questions have been developed:

1. How is affective education interpreted by school authority?

2. What are the perceptions of the school leaders (e.g. principal, Communist Party Secretary of the school, and Heads of functional committee) about the concept and practice of affective education?

3. What are the perceptions of the school teachers about the concept and practice of affective education?

What are the perceptions of the school students about the concept and practice of affective education?

How is affective education implemented at the individual, class and whole school levels?

What are the characteristics of affective education in the school (as concept and as practice)?

3.3.1 The rationale of the research questions

As mentioned in 2.5.3, affective education is not an independent subject found in the school time table or a stand-alone course in the curriculum. The study of its concept and practice involves in-depth inquiry to elicit relevant information from extensive sources of data. Question No.1 concerns the interpretation of affective education from the school's point of view. To study how affective education is conceptualized is one main objective of the present study. To investigate the school's official interpretation helps workout not only the conceptual framework but also the principles guiding the practice as operable system and the strategies facilitating the implementation. On the other hand, as discussed in, affective education permeates all school experiences. It is also essential to investigate how the school community members perceive it in order to gather multi-dimensional perspectives which conceptualize affective education and illuminate how it is implemented. Therefore, overall speaking, research question No. 2, 3 and 4 are designed to meet this purpose.

Specifically, research question No.2 is to examine the perceptions of the school administrators on affective education. These views can supplement the official interpretation or provide alternate understanding to the concept and its practice. The answers to question No.3 serve to provide both theoretical and pedagogical perspectives to illuminate what the conception of affective education entails and how it was realized. Question No.4 attempts to reveal how affective education was conceptualized and received as perceived by "end-users".

Research question No.5 is designed to find out how affective education was chanelled and realized in different levels in the case school. As discussed in, one of the major concerns of educational provision is how school caters for students' affective need via different means. It is necessary to investigate how the case schools address the students' affective development in different levels, namely, the individual, group, and institutional ones.

The final research question is set to investigate the characteristics of affective education in conceptual and practical dimensions in order to portray the uniqueness of it as educational provision.

It has to be noted that the research questions attempt to explore the understanding of affective education as a concept. However, concept of affective education as discussed in Chapter Two involves semantic complexity. To avoid confusion and ensure clarity in interpretation, the scope of understanding of the notion is confined to its functions and content. The former entails the expected learning outcome of affective education while the latter is the curricular elements in the form of learning experience which help promote the former.

3.4 Research Design

According to Merriam (1988), a research design, similar to an architectural blueprint, provides planning for assembly, organizing, and integrating information (data), and it results in a specific end product (research findings).

3.4.1 A Qualitative study

As mentioned, the research design of the present study is a qualitative case study. Creswell (1998) defines qualitative research as an inquiry process of understanding based on distinct methodological traditions of inquiry that explores a social or human problem in a natural setting. He remarks that the rationale of choosing a qualitative approach is related to the nature of the research questions and the topic. In a qualitative study, the research questions often start with a how and a what. It is in contrast to quantitative questions that ask why, which look for comparison among or relationship between variables, with the intent of establishing an association, relationship, or cause and effect. Secondly, a qualitative approach is adopted because the topic needs to be explored, which means that variables cannot be easily identified, theories are not available to explain behaviours of the population of the study, and theories need to be developed. Thirdly, the use of a qualitative study is due to the need to present a detailed view of the topic.

Qualitative research is described as naturalistic as the researcher does not attempt to manipulate the research setting (Patton, 1990). Instead, qualitative researchers usually carry out study in this natural setting in an attempt to make sense of or interpret phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994). Marshall and Rossman (1995) highlight four characteristics of qualitative research that may further elaborate this:

Entail immersion in the setting of everyday life;

Seek to discover participants' perspectives on their world;

View inquiry as an interactive process between the researcher and the participants;

Rely on people's words and observable behaviour as the primary data.

Being collected in a naturalistic way, qualitative data are allowed to unfold themselves naturally rather than collected after some intentional manipulation of the subject of research (Goetz & LeCompte, 1984). In other words, the significance of the qualitative data is the focus on natural occurring - the "ordinary events in natural settings", and the understanding of what "real life is like" (Miles & Hubermann, 1994, p.10).

It is worth noting that the present study is not ethnography but it employs the ethnographic approach to collect data via fieldwork. It will be discussed in details in 3.5.3.

3.4.2 Strengths of case study

Case study is among the five main qualitative traditions of inquiry which is an exploration of a bounded system or a case (or multiple cases) over time through detailed, in-depth data collection involving multiple sources of information rich in context (Creswell, 1998). Yin defines case study as a comprehensive research strategy that is used to investigate a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context. Merriam (1988) defines qualitative case study as "an intensive, holistic description and analysis of a single instance, phenomenon, or social unit" (p.21), which possess four essential properties:

1. Particularistic

2. Descriptive

3. Heuristic

4. Inductive

Case studies focus on particular situation, programme, event or phenomenon. That is why it is particularistic. It is descriptive because its end product is always a rich description of the phenomenon under study. Heuristic means that case studies can offer insights by bringing about the discovery of new interpretation, extending the readers' experience, or confirming what is known. Inductive means that discovery of new relationships, concepts, and understanding, rather than verification or predetermined hypothesis, characterizes qualitative case study.

With the above properties, qualitative case study possesses a variety of strengths as a research design of social science:

It offers a means of investigating complex social units

It results in a rich and holistic account of a phenomenon.

It provides insight and illuminates meanings that expand its readers' experiences which may help structure future research

It plays an important role in advancing a field's knowledge base.

3.4.3 Rationale of choosing case study as research design

Qualitative case study is adopted as the research design in the present study because of its above-mentioned strengths in investigating complex social units (such as the case school), which allows the researcher to observe, intuit, sense what is occurring in a natural setting (Bromley, 1986; Merriam, 1988). Yin (1994) argues that case study is the preferred strategy when "how" and "why" questions are being used. Since the focus of the present study is to explore "how" school community members perceive affective education and find out "how" it is implemented, case study is the appropriate approach to provide the answers for the questions.

3.4.4 Principles of choosing the case

According to Goetz & LeCompre (1984, p.78-83), prior to a study, a case can be selected basing on nine principles. They are;

Comprehensive selection

Quota selection

Network selection

Extreme-case selection

Typical-case selection

Unique-case selection

Reputational-case selection

Ideal-typical-bellwether-case selection

Comparable-case selection

Secondary schools (excluding the private schools) run by the state in Guangzhou have uniformity in school systems including administrative and curricular structure. However, there also witnesses a variety of education provision, which sometimes becomes the characteristics of individual schools (Guangzhou Education Bureau, 2010). Therefore, in order to investigate the essence of affective education, the principle of unique-case selection is adopted in this study. The case school that is known to be unique in the provision of affective education has been chosen to provide rich data for investigation. Also, since the case school has enjoyed prestigious status through attaining official recognition for its practice of affective education, the principle of reputational-case selection is also applied.

Cautions have also been made in deciding the number of case. According to Heimer (2006), there are usually three approaches to conduct fieldwork in China: one-field-site approach, all-of-China-field-site approach, and the one-case-multi-field-site approach. She argues that the one-field-site approach can study a phenomenon in depth. It can also be used as a great effect to challenge a well-established view in the field. An all-of-Chinese-field-site approach is useful when we already know a fair amount about a phenomenon and want to get a feeling for how widespread a phenomenon is, or to get an overview of the state of the field on a given issue. The one-case-multi-field site approach is appropriate for comparison of various dimensions of a phenomenon under study. In this research, one-field-site approach was adopted so as to conduct in-depth investigation in one single social unit, i.e., the case school, in order to provide significant findings to inform the field.

3.5 Method and Procedure

3.5.1 The case of Guangzhou

Guangzhou City

There are 456 regular secondary schools, or middle schools, in Guangzhou with student's population being 567,600 (Guangzhou Yearbook, 2007). In order to facilitate the implementation of the Tenth Five-Year Plan of the city, education is valued as an essential "strategy" which provides quality human resources to modernize Socialism and to construct a modernized city (Guangzhou City's People's Congress, 2000). Quality education is further promoted to foster the holistic development of students in the areas of morality, intellectuality, physique, aesthetics and labour, with the goals being the three "facing"- facing the modernization, facing the world, and facing the future. The Eleventh Five-Year Plan (People's Government of GuangDong Province, 2010) saw the continuation of the government's effort in strengthening the implementation of quality education. Education reforms were conducted and autonomy of school management was further promoted.

Guangzhou has been chosen for this study due to a number of factors. Firstly, Guangzhou possesses unique cultural complexion. It has long been labeled as the symbol of Lin Nan Culture (The southern China culture) (Li, 2003; Zhao, 2005). According to Edmond (1996), Lin Nan Culture was mainly formed by the physical environment of south China. There are mountains stretching from east to west along the northern Guangdong province for about 1000 km. The mountainous landscape not only blocked the entry of cold winter winds into the province but also inhibited the movement of people, encouraging the development of a unique culture. It is characterized by openness and inclusiveness (of different cultures), but preserving the heritage of traditional Chinese culture (Chen & Yu, 2005). Traditionally, Guangzhou has been the economic, political and cultural center of southern China. With a history of 2,200 years, Guangzhou was regarded as the earliest among the international trade port cities in the world - the starting point of the Silk Road on the sea which once linked China with the Arabian and western countries in trading. It was also the China's only foreign trade port at sea before the Qing dynasty (Hook, 1996). Geographically, it is located at the southern part of Chinese mainland, in about the middle coast of Guangdong province and on the northern edge of the Pearl River Delta, close to the lower reaches of the Pearl River Basin. As one of the first regions opened to the outside, and as an open coastal city, in the 1980s Guangzhou benefited from preferential policies and experienced advantages in economic growth (Zhou, 2005).

Secondly, it is the biggest city in southern China and the capital of Guangdong Province. The city is densely populated with total population of 7.6 million and an area of 7434.4 square km (Guangzhou Yearbook, 2007). The city has been closely related with Hong Kong socially and economically (Faure, 1996), and the names of the two cities have always been linked together - Sui Gang. Not only because the people in the two cities speak the same dialect (Cantonese), but also the interchange has been very frequent. It is believed that educational interchange between the two places started as early as in the Qing Dynasty (Li, 2003). Apparently, educational research is hence facilitated by such an inviting social and cultural background.

Thirdly, the geographical proximity of Guangzhou provides another favourable factor for study. Access to the case school is facilitated by a variety of speedy cross-boarder means of transport. Since the researcher is a full time teacher working in Hong Kong, to arrange sufficient time for fieldwork is of strategic importance to the study, and time saved from travelling would mean a longer time span can be spared for the fieldwork.

3.5.2 The case school

Based on the principles stated in 3.4.4, one secondary school was chosen as the case school which possesses uniqueness and attains recognition in the practice of affective education. Being recognized by the provincial government as top-level school in Guangdong Province and the exemplar school for quality education, the school has been enjoying the prestigious status as the first school which initiated the education model of Meiyu (See 2.4.3) or aesthetic education in its broadest sense so as to implement affective education. In 2010, the school was awarded by the government the honour of "Advanced Unit of Aesthetic Education at National level". The school has also been labelled as a school with innovative educational model and outstanding morals, academic and aesthetics performance (Yang Cheng Wan Bao, 3, 2003). It means that Meiyu as affective education is implemented through the integration of academic activities and aesthetic learning experience. In upholding the Chinese tradition as it stressed, the school has also kept the principle of opening the school for education exchange with foreign countries and regions, including annual exchange programmes with schools in Austria, Germany and the U.S., and engaging actively in artistic activities with overseas schools. It explains why the case school was honored by the Guangzhou municipal government as the "unit with windows opening for civilization", signifying the school's unique culture of being open and inviting. Such a culture also reflects the essence of Lin Nan Culture (See 3.5.1) which allows high degree of inclusiveness and openness with the up keeping of strong tradition.

Located on an island of the Pearl River running through Guangzhou city, the case school is a co-educational school composing of senior middle school and junior middle school which was built in 1969 with an area of 30,000 square metres. There are two classes each form at the junior level while four classes each form at the senior one, adding to a total number of 18 classes and making up student population of about 1000. Since visits have been paid to the school and educational interchange has been arranged before the study has formally started, liaison with the school has already been established.

3.5.3 Methods of data collection

The present research is a qualitative case study. While the research design is not an ethnography, the method of data collection is of ethnographic approach. It means that data were collected via what characterizes ethnography- fieldwork. Fieldwork refers to extensive work of gathering information in the field in which the researcher finds himself/herself immersed in the day-today lives of the culture group under investigation (Creswell, 1998). On discussing fieldwork and qualitative research conducted in China, Wei (2006) argues that the essence of the latter is that it can construct and interpret a part of reality based on what grows out of the fieldwork.

According to Hamel (1993), different means for data collection should be employed for case study. This enables the obtaining of qualitative data from the "empirical world" which provide "depth and detail" (Patton, 1980, p. 22). Yin (1994) recommends six common types of sources of information to be collected. They are documentation, archival records, interviews, direct observations, participant observations, and physical artifacts (p. 79). The use of multiple sources of evidence in case study is usually for the sake of triangulation (Denzin, 1970). Patton (1987) proposes four kinds of triangulation, namely, data triangulation, investigator triangulation, theory triangulation, and methodological triangulation. Yin (1994) suggests that case study's findings have to be based on the convergence of data from different sources. He points out three advantages of data triangulation. Firstly, it allows researcher to address a broader range of historical, attitudinal and behavioural issues. Secondly, it fosters the development of converging lines of inquiry, which makes the findings in a case study more convincing and accurate, following a corroboratory mode. Thirdly, it helps safeguard the construct validity since multiple sources of evidence essentially provide multiple measures of the same phenomenon. In view of these strengths, the data triangulation was adopted in the present study. It means that data collection relies on multiple sources of information as discussed: documentation, archival records, interviews, observations and physical artifacts. Interview

Interview is a common method of collecting qualitative data in fieldwork, which allows researcher to "enter into the other person's perspective" and find out from them the things that cannot be "directly observed" (Patton, 1980, p. 196). It is a major method of data collecting in the present study to give answers to research question No.2 to No.4 which focuses on the school community members' perceptions. For question 5 and 6, interview also plays important role because data about how the case schools cater for students' affective needs can be directly obtained via interviewing with different informants.

Interviews may take different forms and can be categorized differently. Fetterman (1989) outlines the general types of interview as structured, semi-structured, informal and retrospective interview. Patton (1990) describes three general types of interviews, namely, the formal conversational interview, the general interview guide approach, and the standardized open-ended interview. Yin (1994) makes similar classification, suggesting three different forms of interview, including open-ended interview, focused interview that follows a certain set of questions, and formal survey with structured questions. It seems that these different forms of interview vary in the amount of structure desired. On a continuum, highly structured interview in the form of survey would be at one pole while open-ended, conversational formats at the other.

Semi-structured interviews can be conducted individually or as a focus group. The major advantage of the latter is its "loosening effect" (Byers and Wilcox, 1988). In a relaxed group setting where participants sense their views are valued, they may express opinions and perceptions openly. Moreover, its format facilitates more candid and reflective responses by the participants (Hillebrandt, 1979). In addition, focus groups provide a less formal way of interview which "enables one to elicit a range of views and perspectives" (Lunt, 1998, p.44). This approach of interview is also defined as a carefully planned conversation designed to obtain perceptions on a defined area of interest in a permissive and non-threatening environment (Krueger, 1994). It is appropriate for the present study because most of the informants are not familiar with the researcher and being interviewed in a group can ease the discomfort.

In the present study, unique perspectives of informants are valued. Therefore, semi-structured interviews (individual and focus group), instead of schedule standardized one, were adopted in this study. A total of 35 semi-structured interviews were conducted from 2005 to 2007 (See Appendix I for interview schedule). Based on the rationale of research questions presented in 3.3.1, interview questions were developed to elicit information from informants. Question wordings were designed differently for different groups of informants but the aim is in common, i.e. to collect data on how the concept and practice of affective education were perceived (See Appendix _ for guiding questions). The interviews were conducted in Cantonese or Putonghua, lasting for an average of approximately 45 minutes. Informants were encouraged to speak at length on each question, and were prompted to elaborate their answers. Additional questions were added to gain clarification or expansion on particular issues. Interviews were taped with the consent of the informants and anonymity was assured. Taped recording of the interviews were transcribed by the researcher.

Informal interview was also included in the present study as a method of data collection. It is described as having a specific but implicit research agenda, which "offers the most natural situations or formats for data collection and analysis" (Fetterman, 1989, p. 48). Informal interviews are open-ended in nature without pre-determined set of questions, which is essentially "exploratory" (Merriam, 1988, p. 75). It was used in the present study particularly when the researcher was allowed to make contact with students and teachers in the case school campus during recess and lunch breaks. School leaders also were willing to provide information at venues outside campus such as restaurants. Since interview conducted in such situation were not taped, the researcher had to write up the main points of information provided by the informants immediately after the interview by referring to the notes jotted. Data collected from informal interviews were able to supplement information collected from formal interviews. Moreover, informal interviews sometimes enriched the guiding questions used in the formal interview by providing more solid understanding of the school background.


To collect relevant data via interviews depends not only on the setting and arrangement but also on the method of sampling. The sampling strategy employed in this study is basically purposeful sampling (Patton, 1990). The rationale is simply that we need to select a sample from which we can learn the most (Merriam, 1988). Informants of the present study included the Principal, Ex-Principal, Communist Party Secretary, teachers of Jiao Dao Chu (guidance committee), form teachers, subject teachers and students. A total of 41 informants were interviewed (See Appendix II for information about the informants). The inclusion of the Ex-Principal was necessary because he was the initiator of the ideal of Meiyu or Aesthetic Education at its broadest sense. He was the key informant who could detail how affective education as a concept was formulated. The present principal and Communist Party secretary were the key figures of school planning and policy making who were able to explain rationale and principles underpinning the practice of affective education. They also help clarifying ambiguous concepts appearing in school documents. Teachers of Jiao Dao Chu were middle managers and they are relevant informants about the practice of affective education. Teachers, on the other hand, provide perspectives of how affective education actually operates in classroom and individual levels. Views of students are also valuable because they are the end-users of the education process, and their perspectives help facilitating the process of triangulation and may supplement the other informants', and ultimately enrich the data collected. While some student informants were purposefully selected for interviews (e.g. participants of school programmes), many of them from various level (form) were chosen as informants while the researcher was stationing in the campus during lunch break and after school sessions. Observation

Being an essential data collection method in fieldwork, observation is the systematic noting and recording of events, behaviours, and artifacts in the social setting chosen for study (Marshall and Rossman, 1995). Observation helps understanding the context of the case school, making a holistic perspective possible. Besides, information observed help learn about things that informants may be unwilling to talk about in an interview. Thus observation was adopted as a method to find out answers to research question number 5 and 6 which are related to how affective education was delivered in school.

Besides direct observation, participant observation is also included in the present study. According to Yin (1994), participant observation possesses both strengths and weaknesses. One of the most valuable things is the ability to perceive reality from the viewpoint of "insider". However, the major problem related to participant observation is the potential bias. Caution has to be, therefore, made in the data collecting process to make sure an accurate portrayal of the case study phenomenon is produced. Since the researcher was allowed to attend the functions and activities of the case schools, participant observation is made possible. Twenty five sessions of observations (including participant and non-participant ones) were conducted on site during morning assemblies, school events, competitions, outings, activities in the local community, class teaching, recess and lunch breaks. The duration of the sessions was varied, which lasted from ten minutes (e.g. recess) to three hours (e.g. Art exhibition). A shadowing approach was employed to observe the school principal's work for a whole working day in order to enrich the data about how affective education is implemented (See Appendix III for observation schedule). The researcher jotted down notes (observer's comments and memos, as suggested by Bogdan & Biklen, 1982, p. 154) and took photos during observations. Documentation

According to Guba and Lincoln (1981), documentary data are particularly good sources for qualitative case studies because they provide "contextual richness and helps to ground an inquiry in the milieu of the writer" (p. 234). The gathering and analyzing of documents produced in the course of everyday events can supplement observation and interviews (Marshall & Rossman, 1995). In fact, in literate societies, written documents are one of the most valuable and timesaving forms of data collection (Fetterman, 1989). Hence, as argued by Yin (1994), documentary information is stable, unobtrusive, exact and of broad coverage. Technically, documentation provides two important things - specific details to corroborate information from other sources and the possibility of making inferences from the documents. Therefore, to provide answers to research question number 1, 5and 6 in the present study, it is used as one of the data collection methods since the researcher has chance to gain access to a wide range of documents in the fieldwork.

According to Thogersen (2006), written or printed sources are helpful to approach the field while conducting fieldwork in Mainland China. Documents provide us with the terminology and background knowledge we need for planning interviews, and offer clues about where to look for informants. Documents collected as data in the present study included textbooks (school-based and non-school-based), school publications (e.g school newspapers), official documents (e.g. reports) and students' work (e.g. copies of student assignment) (See Appendix IV for the categories and coding of documents). However, Merriam (1988) identifies three major problems with documents. Firstly, the materials in the documents may be incomplete from a research perspective. Secondly, since documents are not produced for research purposes, they may not correspond with the conceptual model of the study. Thirdly, it is the question of determining the authenticity and accuracy of the documentary materials. In view of the limitations, the present research avoids over reliance on documents. The principle of using multiple sources of evidence is upheld. Archival records

Being used in conjunction with other sources of information in producing a case study, archival records are usually in computerized form (Yin, 1994). In the present study, both quantitative and qualitative information, including all sorts of records, charts, powerpoint presentation handouts, photos and survey data which could be retrieved from the case schools' filing system or their websites, were relevant in helping answer the research question number 1, 5 and 6 (See Appendix V for the categories of archival records). Physical artifacts

As a source of evidence, physical artifacts can be an important component in a case study (Yin, 1994). In this study, some of the physical artifacts can be collected while most of them can only be observed as part of the fieldwork. While display boards were the typical examples that provided information about the concept and practice of affective education, the physical environment was another. The campus of the case school was intentionally designed so that the architecture and the gardening conveyed cultural message to students (See Appendix VI for categories of physical artifacts). Evidence was gathered mainly by taking photos which were particularly relevant when research question number 1, 5 and 6 were tackled.

3.6 Procedure

Initially, two schools were chosen to be the cases for study in order to provide more substantial data. However, to make the scope of study manageable for the researcher who is a full time teacher in Hong Kong, only one school was finally opted.

In doing field work in China, the largest challenge is the dominant presence of the party-state as argued by Hansen (2006). There are two essential issues- direct political-ideological control, and the intangible influence of the dominant party discourse. Nevertheless, it was found that research conducted in the case school was free from political influence. This was explicable because the case school has been open to "outsiders" for educational exchange and research. As mentioned previously, the researcher was able to access the case school even before the research formally began.

Contact with the case school was initiated in February 2005 via letters and phone calls (See Appendix VIIa for official contact record). As suggested by Hammersley and Atkinson (1995), gaining access to the research site has to be through the "gatekeeper". In this study, it was the school principal. After the case school's principal had granted formal permission, fieldwork immediately began. The researcher made use of school holidays of Hong Kong for staying in the case schools to conduct the study. From April 2005 to December 2007, a total of 19 days have been spent in the case school (See Appendix VIIb for the fieldwork schedule). At the first visit, the main purposes were to collect data, get familiarized with the school context and locate the key informants. From the second visit onward, the school allowed the researcher to explore around the school campus, and even join school activities, functions and staff meeting. Fieldwork could be conducted extensively. In order to create more opportunities for communication, the researcher had received the school principal, teachers and even their family members in Hong Kong during their visit in the territory.

3.7 Data Analysis

In the present study, qualitative data were drawn from in-depth interviews, observations, textbooks and school documents, archival records and physical artifacts. Marshall & Rossman (1995) define data analysis as "the process of bringing order, structure, and meaning to the mass of collected data." (p. 111). Merriam (1988) simply regards data analysis as the process of making sense of one's data. It shows that data analysis is a crucial stage in a research. However, Yin (1994) regards the analysis of case study evidence is "one of the least developed and most difficult aspects of doing case studies" and "the strategies and techniques have not been well-defined" (p.102). Also, the process of analysis is deemed to be complicated because there are no fixed formulas to guide the analysis as what is done in the area of statistic analysis.

Data analysis of case study is by no means an isolated process. It works hand in hand with data collection in a qualitative case study, as argued by Merriam (1988),

"…collection and analysis would be a simultaneous process in qualitative research…The process of data collection and analysis is recursive and dynamic." (p. 123)

Such collaboration happened in the present study. Collection and analysis of data were sometimes conducted simultaneously. There are principles underlying this procedure as suggested by Yin (1994, p.123-124). First, the analysis should show that it relies on all the relevant evidence. Second, the analysis should include all major alternate interpretations. Third, the analysis should address the most significant aspects of the case study. Fourth, researcher should bring own prior knowledge or expertise to the case study.


According to Creswell (1998), data analysis can be a procedure in the form of spiral instead of a fixed linear approach. It means that the researcher has to touch on different facets of analysis and circle around. In the first loop in the spiral is data management which is followed by reading and memoing, i.e., writing memos in the margins of fieldnotes or transcripts or documents collected, and then read through them. The next loop concerns with the processes of describing, classifying and interpreting in which research develops some themes through a classification system and provide interpretation. The final phase is the presenting the data in text, tabular or figure form.

This approach identifies the main dimensions of data analysis, but in a rather general description. To supplement Creswell's method in order to provide a more specific and case study related procedure, the approach suggested by Miles & Hubermann (1994) which involves various analytic techniques is adopted. Hence, the data analysis procedure of the present study involves a combination of different approaches.

As introduced previously, the uniqueness of the case school's conception and practice of affective education were examined in an in-depth manner. All the collected information and materials were read through first in order to gain a sense of the overall data. They were sorted preliminarily and indexed topically to form the database. The goal is to locate specific data during the intensive analysis (Merriam, 1988). The process of memoing suggested by Creswell (1998) was then conducted. For non-print data, they were categorized and filed in the database of computer. After the procedure of preliminary categorization of the data collected, the processes of analysis began. Based on the principle suggested by Miles & Hubermann (1994) who summarize data analysis as three stages - data reduction, data display, and conclusion drawing, .the data collected in the present study are processed accordingly. However, as mentioned, the whole process was not done in a fixed linear direction.

3.7.1 Data reduction

Data reduction involves the process of selecting, focusing, simplifying and transforming the data recorded in field notes. This was done in the present study by first identifying the salient themes. The researcher started by developing the coding system first. Raw data were coded to identify units of information that can serve as basic for defining themes. Codes were usually put on the margins of the interview transcripts, observation notes, documents and photos printouts. Recurring regularities were looked for in the data after coding to develop themes for the formation of conceptual categories related to concept and practice of affective education. In short, at this stage, data collected were reduced and condensed after coding and categorizing. (See Appendix VIII for the coding system and the categories)

3.7.2 Data display

It is a process of how an organized assembly of data and information lead to conclusion drawing. After the process of data reduction and thematic analysis described in 3.5.1, the researcher assembled the data in categories forming matrix that are related to the objectives of the research. Then, the researcher checked and made sure that the categories were congruent with the research questions. Also, the researcher made sure that the categories were mutually exclusive. It means that no single unit of material was placed in more than one category (See Appendix IX for the samples of data display).

3.7.3 Conclusion drawing

The third stream of analysis activity is conclusion drawing and verification. Miles & Hubermann (1994) claim that researcher holds conclusion lightly, maintaining openness and skepticism. Moreover, conclusions have to be verified. "The meaning emerged from the data have to be tested for their plausibility, their sturdiness, their conformability - that is, their validity" (p. 11). In the process of data analysis of the present study, conclusions were inchoate and vague at first, then increasingly explicit and grounded. The researcher had to refer back to field notes from time to time to ensure the conclusion drawn was verified. At this stage, the analysis involved making inference and even developing theories or theorizing. According to Goetz & LeCompte (1984, p.167), theorizing refers to the "cognitive process of discovering or manipulating abstract categories and the relationships among those categories". To derive theories from data, salient features of the concepts and practice of affective education were teased out from the categories. The researcher has made interpretations and further interpretations to the features identified and analyzed them in the light of relevant concepts and theories.

3.8 Validity and Reliability of the study

According to Patton (2002), validity and reliability are two factors which any qualitative researcher should be concerned about while designing a study, analysing findings and evaluating the quality of the study. To safe guard the validity especially the construct validity and the internal validity of the present research, the tactic of using multiple sources of data has been adopted in the process of data collection as suggested by Yin (1994). (See discussions at 3.5.3) Such a tactic encourages convergent line of inquiry and helps eliminate the threat to validity. As mentioned previously, data sources of the present study varied including interviews transcript, observation notes, documents, archival records and physical artifacts. Another way of protecting the validity done by the researcher was "member check" proposed by Guba & Lincoln (1981). It is a tactic of taking back the data to the people from whom they were derived and check for plausibility. The researcher of the present study often checked with the informants of the case school for data collected especially on the interpretation of jargons used in the Mainland schools.

For reliability, which originally means the extent to which one's finding can be replicated (Merriam, 1988), it is interpreted as "dependability" or "consistence" of the results obtained from the data (Guba & Lincoln, 1985) in qualitative case studies. This is because human behaviour is not static but a case study's results have to be dependable and consistent. The tactics to protect the reliability of the present study were, first, to give clear explanation of the assumption and theory behind the study as well as other issues concerning data collection as suggested by Goetz & LeCompte (1984). Besides, triangulation as mentioned in 3.5.3 was adopted to ensure the results are dependable.

3.7 Summary

In this chapter, the inquiry nature and method of the research is introduced. It is a qualitative case study employing the ethnographic approach for data collection to investigate the concept and practice of affective education from a holistic perspective with an in-depth manner to elicit information from extensive sources of data. Means of inquiry in the form of fieldwork included interviews, observations, documentation, the analysis of archival records and physical artifacts so as to collect multiple sources of evidence. A secondary school in Guangzhou with uniqueness in the practice of affective education was chosen for study. Fieldworks were conducted in the case school from April 2005 to December 2007 during Hong Kong school holidays. With the adoption of the analytical procedure suggested by Creswell (1998) and Marshall & Rossman (1995), the qualitative data collected were coded, categorized, thematically analyzed, and triangulated. Analysed results were thematizised as salient topics presented in the next four chapters.