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Being a consumer of research means being able to delve into research and understand what it means. Printy (2008) has conducted quantitative research into the effects that leadership has on teacher learning. Particular aspects, such as the design, method, and analytical methods are discussed. Tillman (2005) conducted qualitative research regarding teacher mentoring in an urban setting. The method, design, and analytical techniques are discussed, as well as concerns about the article. Lastly, Scribner, Sawyer, Watson, and Myers (2007) discuss distributed leadership within teacher teams. The results, implications, and recommendations are made. Social change implications are also explored.
Research Application Paper
Quantitative Research Techniques and Designs
Printy (2008) has conducted quantitative research into the effects of leadership on teacher learning within professional communities. She has included a detailed introduction, review of literature, and method. The method section includes a detailed description of the measure used, along with a description of the sample and the data collected. Each research question is discussed separately, followed by a general discussion of the findings. Printy (2008) closes with implications for future research.
Printy's (2008) research study was developed around three research questions. These questions are aligned to the general question of how principal leadership and departmental leadership affect the participation of teachers in a community of practice and how the teachers perceive their professional and instructional skills. Printy (2008) does not state a hypothesis, since this is descriptive-survey research and a hypothesis is not being tested. However, it is evident that she believes that leadership plays an influential role in teachers' participation and ability to provide quality, standards-based instruction in her review of literature. She has compiled numerous primary sources on the subjects of communities of practice, leadership, and pedagogical competence which all support the theory that leadership influences teachers' participation and competence.
In Printy's (2008) study there were three dependent variables that correlate with the three research questions previously identified. Printy (2008) includes an appendix with a detailed table of questions along with their Rasch scale scores. Three of these components were summed to compose the communities of practice dependent variable while teacher competence was composed of six items using a Rasch scale. The Rasch scale provides for equal spacing between the values, whereas Likert scales are not equal. Along with the discussion of the dependent variables is an explanation of the reliability method used, which was person separation reliability (Printy, 2008).
The independent variables were at the teacher level and the school level (Printy, 2008). Because this was descriptive-survey research, the independent variables represented individual actions that Printy hoped to show followed a pattern. There was no treatment, like would be expected in an experimental study (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010).
Printy (2008) used archival data from a descriptive-survey study, the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS: 88) Second Follow-up Teacher File. This study was a longitudinal survey that spanned four years; however, Printy (2008) used only the data from the 1992 survey because that survey contained questions pertaining to this study. The measure can be considered valid and reliable because it is a professionally designed instrument which has gone through particular tests for reliability and validity (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010). However, Printy (2008) does not provide any detailed information about the instrument's reliability. She does provide the questions that were used to concerning teacher and principal characteristics, which appear to be in alignment with what she was researching, showing validity (Printy, 2008). Again, there is no specific information given about the procedures for ensuring validity.
Printy (2008) did provide a narrative detailing the sample. The NELS: 88 was given to teachers in 1,500 schools across the United States. Of those, 420 schools were represented in the study, totaling 2,718 teachers (Printy, 2008). Because this is descriptive-survey research, a large sample was possible (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010). However, Printy (2008) describes her population as high school teachers. That is a broad population to refer back to when only 420 schools are included in the study. Also, Printy (2008) does not give any demographic information about the population that she is trying to generalize back to.
The study is a descriptive-survey (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010). Printy (2008) does not give specific details about the quantitative study, but does say that the NELS: 88 is a longitudinal study started in 1988. However, she also mentions that she used only the data from 1992 (Printy, 2008). For the purposes of her study then, this would be a one-shot survey. Furthermore, it can also be described as non-experimental since a hypothesis is not being tested (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010).
Two analytical techniques were used in the study: two-way ANOVA and hierarchal linear model (HLM) (Printy, 2008). Because Printy (2008) utilized the Rasch scale, she was able to take data collected from a descriptive-survey and make it easy to use with statistical tests. ANOVA is used to test for variance among variables (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010). Printy (2008) does go on to explain how HLM has been used in the past to analyze data that comes from organizations, such as schools. She also employs the use of tables to summarize the data she has collected, including information about the Pearson separation reliability and Cronbach's alpha (Printy, 2008).
Qualitative Research Techniques and Designs
Tillman (2005) conducted qualitative research into the topic of mentoring new teachers, specifically, those of ethnic diversity. Tillman (2005) has written a study that is easy to read with clear headings and organization. Tillman (2005) includes a thorough literature review that focuses on teacher mentoring and the principal acting as a mentor to new teachers. She discusses the framework, the setting, the participants, and the design. Her findings are organized around the themes she identified earlier in the paper. She closes with a discussion and the implications (Tillman, 2005).
This qualitative study was a case study (Tillman, 2005). Tillman (2005) studied a bounded system (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010) that included a first-year teacher, her teacher-mentor, and her principal (Tillman, 2005). Tillman (2005) does not go into any detail regarding how she chose her research participants. She gives thick descriptions of their backgrounds and beliefs, though. The case study began with a question about the significance of mentoring first year teachers in culturally and ethnically diverse areas in order to keep ethnically diverse teachers in the teaching field (Tillman, 2005). Tillman (2005) began with a review of literature, including literature she had written herself. She does not state that she begin with any observations. Most qualitative research begins with observations so that the researcher can hone a question worth studying (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010). It does appear, from the descriptions Tillman (2005) provides, that she developed her question before making any observations. She did not conduct hypothesis testing (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010) as she was conducting her research.
Tillman's (2005) data collection included one-on-one interviews, group interviews, and journaling. Though she provides a few quotes from the interviews and journals, Tillman (2005) does not provide a detailed description of the journaling questions or questions the interviewees were asked. Upon reading the study again, it became troubling that two of the themes Tillman (2005) coded for were pre-determined. Tillman (2005) does not indicate whether or not she transcribed the interviews, a necessary step for accuracy (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010). Tillman (2005) did use member checks which lead to credibility, however, she did not use peer debriefing or external audits to further confirm the credibility of the study (Long, 2009a). Furthermore, Tillman (2005) does not discuss the triangulation of her data. She used interviews and journaling, but did not discuss how that led to credibility (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010).
Tillman's (2008) section on data analysis was short and incomplete. This report is not grounded in empirical methods from the descriptions she has provided. Dependability is not shown with the information she has provided (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010). However, the thick descriptions she has provided concerning the teachers and principal involved, along with the description of the school make this study transferable to other similar situations (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010).
In her discussion, Tillman (2008) states that her study shows that recruiting African-American teachers for urban schools is important. That is a huge statement that is not supported by the literature review or the study. Tillman's (2005) biases are clearly shown with that one statement. It is hard to consider this study as a fair representation of the case at hand when biases are clear.
Reporting and Contextualizing Research for Social Change
Scribner, Sawyer, Watson, and Myers (2007) explore the issue of distributed leadership among teacher teams in schools. Scribner, et al. (2007) used a qualitative case study to investigate the interactions among two teacher teams. They used audiotape and videotape of meetings. They used discourse analysis, a way of analyzing conversation (Ratliff, n.d.), to discover patterns in the audiotape and videotape (Scribner, et al., 2007).
In order to synthesize the results, Scribner, et al. (2007) used constant comparative analysis. After that, they used axial coding to make connections between speech patterns during the team meetings. According to Scribner, et al. (2007) their use of the coding techniques allowed them to gain knowledge regarding the internal and external factors.
Scribner, et al. (2007) provide research on an important educational topic. The implications for practice are great. Probably every school in the nation has teacher teams. These teams may work together as a grade level or as a committee charged with what Scribner, et al. (2007) call problem-finding or problem-solving teams. Being able to foster positive, creative interactions can only be good for schools. Therefore, it would seem that every principal would want more information on how to foster those relationships within the school community. Outside of education there are many organizations that rely on the problem-solving and problem-finding teams (Scribner, et al., 2007) that were studied. Even though they may not be in an educational setting, it would be beneficial for other organizations to take note of the results of this study.
After reading this article, a couple of ideas came to mind about future research. Scribner, et al. (2007) state that changing the scope, autonomy, or directions of the team it can have a significant impact on the team's ability to work. A future study might be an explanatory mixed-methods study in which the first stage would be an experimental study. The independent variable would be to implement some of the changes that Scribner, et al. (2007) suggest in their article. The principal could create a team that is charged with problem-solving that has the autonomy they need to solve the problem. Then, the second stage would be a qualitative study, such as that done by Scribner, et al. (2007) to look deeper at the changes that may occur. Another study would be to identify the effects teacher teams and their interactions have on the use and quality of professional pedagogy and standards-based curriculum. This would be qualitative study.
The audience for this research study would most likely be principals and superintendents. They are people charged with forming organizational teams armed with a purpose (Scribner, et al., 2007). This study can provide valuable information not only about how to form a team, but also what each team will need given their purpose. Other journals, such as those in the business and management field, would be interested in this research.
This article can be used to facilitate institutional change (Long, 2009b). The research focuses on how teacher teams work together and ultimately, how to make them work better. Organizationally, this is significant. As stated by Long (2009b), this article could lead to organizational changes that could further facilitate social changes within the school. Overall, Scribner, et al. (2007) have shown that developing effective teacher teams can have a huge impact on the social climate of a school.