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The methodology chapter aims at giving a comprehensive account on the ways that the research process was handled. It will provide a clear and elaborate discussion on the research framework by showing how the research was undertaken. It gives a clear clarification on how the research was undertaken taking into account the various variables and the tools used. Methodology chapter also provides the skeleton, on which the research will be founded. Therefore, an elaborate and effective methodology will produce good results and increase the validity of the findings (Philip 2006). The chapter gives a justification for the choice of the tools for data collection, sampling techniques and the methods of data analysis and presentation. This is in relation to the other alternatives that are available in particular to those methods applied by different researchers on the same topic of study. If for example, the researcher decided to apply open-ended questionnaires, it cites reasons as to why he/she opted for that unlike other researchers who have applied close-ended questions. The chapter will provide a survey into the research questions of the study in a more detailed manner. In addition, it will explain what the research intends to achieve and the knowledge gap that it will be able to fill.
The research will be placed within various epistemological and ontological issues that both have a direct influence on the approach to the research questions. The chapter will discuss the different methods of data collection and provide a justification on the appropriateness of the methods applied over others. The purpose of both the primary and secondary data in addressing the research questions will be discussed. Data collection and analysis methods will be tackled and how a reliable conclusion was arrived at. Criteria for selection of study participants will be discussed outlining on gender sensitivity. If the researcher decides to use a section of the whole sample, a justification will be provided. This chapter also outlines the ethical issues that were handled prior to the research, during the research undertaking and after carrying out the research. Finally, there are many challenges that a researcher faces during data collection in the field (Stake, 1978). These challenges will also be addressed by this chapter.
3.2 Study design
On choosing the best design, several factors were considered like the available resources in terms of finances and time. An evaluative case study approach was settled at in this research. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches to descriptive and non-experimental research were used to gain in-depth knowledge into the question: What leadership practices are essential in building a successful Professional Learning Community? In addition, teacher's perceptions of leadership practices as they relate to each of the five foundational dimensions of PLCs:
1. Shared and Supportive Leadership
2. Shared Values and Vision
3. Collective Learning
4. Supportive Conditions
5. Shared Personal Practice
Integrating both qualitative and quantitative methods in this study provides a comprehensive understanding of the organization's development as a Professional Learning Community. The goal is to provide meaningful findings that this school can use as it embarks on a road for improvement.
This study took place in an urban private Christian school. The school has been in existence since 1993. The school serves the community of Binghamton in Memphis, Tennessee. According to a 2002 study by the Binghamton Development Corporation, in the census tract north and adjacent to the school, 71% of the population is under the poverty level. Over 65% of the household heads are female with no male present. The area has one of the highest incidences of poverty among families with children and the highest incidence of single parent families (Philip 2006). Additionally, the Binghamton area has among the highest poverty and crime rates in Memphis. The school was established for children who had fallen between the cracks in public school because they were academically or socially struggling.
The distinction of the school is that it has a Christ-Centered Approach. Over the sixteen years that the school has been in existence, this is the first year that the school administrator possessed a background embedded in education. The school has had six previous administrators. There are 12 teachers and 140 students. The teachers have received very little exposure to professional development. The teachers in this setting do not have to be certified by the state. Teachers must be certified through the Association of Christian Schools International, which focuses on biblical training and development. Two of the twelve teachers have education attainment above a Bachelors Degree. Two teachers have taught at the school for over ten years, four over five years, and the rest of the teachers between one and three years. The major concern is that there has not been a balance between the academic focus and the Christ-centered focus. Therefore, the academic sphere has declined. The school does not provide a special education program. In addition, there is a high population of Sudanese students which fall under English as a Second Language Students (ESL). A reform effort of restructuring the school administration took place between April 2009 and July 2009. The school decided that in order to raise the knowledge and skill set of the students and teachers, an administrative team with a background in education needed to be hired. The school moved from having a President, whose primary responsibility of the school was fundraising to hiring a Head of School. The Head of School would be responsible for the Educational program of the school. In addition, a Professional Development Coach was hired to provide coaching and training to teachers.
The study method is used by researchers to learn about a complex situation based on the research question and the hypothesis of the study. A researcher has an understanding of that particular instance and intends to provide comprehensive analysis and description of that situation basing it on one particular area. This was due to seeking in depth description and understanding of the methods and also providing a chance for the evaluation and assessment of various methods of patient satisfaction and their benefits. To increase reliability and validity of the results and the conclusions derived, various information sources were used like observations and analysis of secondary data. In addition, collection of data was done simultaneously to increase reliability of the information gained.
3.3 Sample size and sampling strategies
Purposive sampling strategy was employed in determining the sample population to be used in the research process. In the final analysis and sampling of the data collected, the sample population was divided into subgroups for ease of the sampling process. Only random sampling strategy was used. This method is simple, most effective, efficient and mostly the best method of drawing a sample from the population (Trend, 1978). Quota sampling strategy was also used in situations where the use of random sampling strategy was impossible. In very rare cases, stratified method of sampling was used to ensure that large enough samples was used and subdivided on important variables. The major advantage to why the researcher chose purposive sampling is that it ensures inclusion in the sample, of sub-groups which otherwise could be omitted entirely by other sampling methods because of their small numbers in the population. Hence, the researcher was able to increase the representativeness of a sample of a given size or got an equivalent of information from a smaller population, therefore getting better estimates of the whole.
According to Trend (1978, p.30) random sampling is most effective, simple and best in gaining a homogenous sample for your study. In choosing the health institution to conduct the study, purposive sampling was applied. This method is specific on what the researcher wants and therefore avoids wastage of resources like time and money. To ensure that each variable of the study was well tackled, stratified method of sampling was used. This gave a well informed strata of respondents on a certain issue and hence the reliability of the given information.
The research sample for the interview constituted the research population of teachers in the Christian school. There are 12 teachers currently teaching in the urban private Christian school who also comprise the participants of the study. Having all the teachers in the school as research participants ensures representation of perspectives and supports generalizations for the entire body of teachers in the school.
Of the twelve participants three are male and nine are female. The range of the teaching experience is from two years to fifteen years. Permission to use these participants was obtained from The Board of Trustees. After permission was secured a written invitation was extended to the individuals outlining the purpose of the study. Participants were asked to sign a letter of consent (Merriam 1998).
The research sample for the online survey comprised of a sample of teachers selected from the 17 Christian schools in the South East Central region including Alabama (3), Kentucky (3), Mississippi (3), and Tennessee (8). The selection of respondents from the region is based on the assumption that the contiguousness of these states supports significant similarities in demographics and school set-up to support the consideration of teachers from Christian schools in the region as the research population. A list of teachers from the Christian schools in the region was obtained from a school listing open to the public. A sample of 100 respondents was randomly obtained using draw lots.
3.5 Data collection methods
The research heavily relied on the following methods;
Ø Semi-structured interviews- this provided a chance for direct interaction between the respondent and the researcher. As a result the answers provided were assessed to determine the truth and also clarifications were sought in case the response was not clear enough. This type of interview enable the researcher to be flexible in asking questions as the researcher could tackle the issues as they arise. Semi -structured interviews are able to go further to find the meaning of answers provided by the participants. This creates a sociable importance to the process of data collection.
Ø Questionnaires- the respondent's names were not asked and so they were able to give independent thoughts and observations about the methods used at the professional learning communities to enhance leaning. They often provide a chance for collection of quantitative data due to their nature of asking close ended questions that often provide numerical data. Questionnaires also provide an avenue for testing and proving the hypothesis for the research.
Ø Secondary data- this included journals and newsletters which provide contextual details about the methods used at the schools for learning. They also provided a chance for analysis of previous research undertakings and gave a backing to the result of the research.
Ø Observation- this method provided the researcher with direct information on patient care which could easily be observed during the normal working at the school.
3.6 Data collection tools
Questionnaires were the main tools of data collection. They were comprehensive and covered on all the research questions of the study. Questionnaires as a tool for data collection are important as they provide the interviewer with the questions to be asked therefore ensuring no important details are left out. For self administered questionnaires, they give a guide to the interviewee as to what is expected of him/her depending on the questions (Trend 1978). In addition, the interviewee has the chance to provide independent answers on personal opinions that may not be able to be sourced during other methods like interviews. Secondary data also provided an instrument of data collection. Entries made in the schools journal and their weekly newsletter gave a progressive analysis of the methods used by the hospital. The detailed analysis done on the secondary sources of data available such as journals, information on various websites, information in the national archives and the various books written on the methods of improving patient satisfaction gave a lot of vital information to the researcher (Merriam 1998). The information also played a crucial role in identifying the various roles played by various stakeholders of the education in addressing all the issues related to professional learning community.
3.7 Data analysis procedures
The study approach has the capability of employing multiple methods in the collection and analysis in order to have an improved validity of the results. In this study, triangulation of the data was employed where both the quantitative and qualitative data was corroborated to give valid results (Jick 1979). The qualitative data on the open ended questions were structured into a usable format that was easy for analysis. This data was further compared with information sourced from the secondary data to give credible conclusion (Merriam, 1998). The open ended questions data were analyzed using interpretational analysis described by Gall, Gall & Borg cited in Jick (1979, p.50). Quantitative data was analyzed by use of the likert scale which had five points. This was through assigning numerical values to the responses received from the questionnaire. The responses to each question were coded and a numerical value assigned on each of the sections. After analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data into a usable format, they were corroborated and frequencies and percentages were calculated and presented in the findings. The analyzed data was also compared with the secondary data and information in the literature review and conclusions drawn.