Role Of Regular Pre Primary Teachers Education Essay

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The main aim of the present research was to investigate the role of regular pre-primary teachers and how they include children with cerebral palsy in mainstream settings in Cyprus. For the current study, the qualitative method was chosen as the most appropriate. The main aim of the research is consistent with the qualitative method as the latter aims to examine how certain people experience and realise facts and situations (Flick, 2006). Moreover, in a qualitative type of research, people actively construct their personal feelings for the situation (Woods, 1993), making themselves the main instruments of the research (Lincoln & Cuba, 1985). However, Hunt (2010) has referred to the attitudes and beliefs of the researcher which may contribute positively to the qualitative research as well as to those which can limit it. Therefore, according to McCormick and James (1988), the qualitative researcher has to observe closely their own reactions towards the participants. Finally, the analysis of the data in qualitative researches has to do with the composition of the information the researcher has acquired which is mainly based on description (Papanastassiou & Papanastassiou, 2005). Nevertheless, a frequent criticism against qualitative research has to do with the relatively small sample of participants (Shkedi, 2004).

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More specifically, the Case study method was chosen as the most applicable to use in this research. The Case study enables the researcher to examine the case under a holistic, in-depth investigation (Feagin, Orum & Sjoberg, 1991), observation, reconstruction and analysis, (Zonabend, 1992). Also, with this kind of method three very important parts of this small-scale research were covered, namely the description, understanding and explanation (Tellis, 1997) and as this method tends to be selective, it helped this research to focus on one issue only (Tellis, 1997) as it was planned. However, the most important reason of choosing this method was because it appears to be the most appropriate one in helping the researcher develop critical thinking (Alvarez, et al., 1990).

Case studies are mainly categorized according to two different designs: the single one and the multiple one (Yin, 1994). For the current research the most appropriate to use was the single case design, which as Yin (1994) points out, is used to confirm or challenge a theory. At the same time, in the present research five out of six sources that Stake (1995) and Yin (1994) identified have been used. These include A) The policies that the MOEC has set for IE in Cyprus, which are supposed to be effectively used in schools by teachers (documents), B) previous researches conducted in Cyprus on the same subject (documents), C) interviews which have been taken after conversations with two pre-primary teachers, a special teacher and a paraprofessional, D) records of the interviews with a recording device (physical artefacts) which were later converted from audio to typed format (as archival records) and E) notes that have been taken during a whole day visit in each school ( A and B school) for helping the flow of the interviews and for comparing the interviewees' answers with what was observed.

Moreover, case studies exist in three different types (Tellis, 1997): A) the explanatory, B) the exploratory, and C) the descriptive. For this small-scale study the explanatory one was used because it allowed the researcher to match the different sources with the answers of the interviewees during the analysis of the data.

Thus, the following procedures were followed: a) a library search for educational books and journals, b) a computer search in electronic databases (ERIC,Routledge, Science Direct, PubMed, ASHA, Swetswise, Academic Journals, SAGE) accessible by the University of Birmingham, as well as by Google scholar. Electronic books, organisations' websites, European Union and International websites, documents related to the topic of the research, Cyprus governmental websites (MOEC, PI) for official legislations, including policies and curricula were also searched. Search terms included subject headings and text words based on cerebral palsy, early year's education, pre-primary education, pre-school education, management strategies, teaching strategies, policies and inclusive education, collaboration, and Cyprus educational system.

For the collection of the data two methods were used: interviews and non-participant observations. For the current small-scale research, semi-structured interviews were taken because this allowed a list of questions and, at the same time it offered flexibility on whether and how to use them. According to Collins (1970), a semi structured interview includes closed type questions which are complemented with open type questions which aim at defining and fully understanding the answers given to the closed type questions. Collins (1970) also comments on the sensitivity of the researcher to ask the right questions at the right moment in the right manner. The current research takes Richard'S (2005) statement that any qualitative research should begin with a good preparation into serious consideration. Furthermore, in choosing the specific method another view was taken into consideration, namely the fact that taking semi-structured interviews allows the interviewees to feel more comfortable to talk about the topic, while their answers have an open-ended format (Denscombe, 2007). A further advantage of using this type of interview was that it helped the interviewer to collect much and more in-depth and detailed information related to the topic, while the interviewees talked about the topic and expressed their own ideas, opinions and views (Denscombe, 2007) freely.

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The observations used were of a non-participating type while effort was given at first to keep notes on what was observed, related to the already prepared questions. A second effort was to keep notes for supporting and comparing the interviewees' answers. According to Borg and Gall (1989), in a qualitative research the non-participant observation is the most appropriate method to use in order to check how relevant what the participants said are with what they did. So, during this type of observation the researcher's attempt was to watch children with CP in their classrooms (regular and special unit) for a whole school day. Observation continued during their break times, when paraprofessionals took care of them.

Sample

Morrison (1993) notes, that the appropriateness of the strategic sampling enhances the quality of a research procedure. In cases of small scale researches, where generalisation of the results is not aimed at, the researcher chooses the non probability sample (Cohen et., Al., 2008). Despite it not being representative, this method of sampling is the most common one for small scale researches because the procedure is less complicate and less expensive (Cohen et., Al., 2008). This research also uses the "convenient" sampling which offers ease of access and choice of the participants (Calder, 1998). In such cases, the researcher places generalisation of the results on a secondary significance level (Calder, 1998). Therefore, the sample of this research consists of 4 people, two regular pre primary teachers, a paraprofessional and a special teacher from two pre primary schools in Cyprus.

Procedure

Yin (1994) highlighted the importance of using a Case study protocol as a guide to the whole procedure of the research, from the designing time to the data collecting time. This research followed Yin's suggestion and as first step several sources related to the topic were found. After that, some research questions were prepared for the better transaction of the research. Furthermore, an outline was drawn, with several questions that needed to be answered during the interview.

The procedure that was followed after deciding on the kind, the place and the sample of the research had many steps. Firstly, a confirmation letter from the Supervisor was obtained and sent to the MOEC of my country, who later gave a written permission so as to have access to the schools for collecting the data. After that, a confirmation letter from a lawyer was received with the declaration on behalf of the researchers ensuring the anonymity of the participants and the schools from which the data were collected. Furthermore, permission for interviewing and observing teachers was acquired from the head-teachers of the schools that the MOEC suggested. While four to six regular pre-primary teachers were expected to participate in the research, only two schools were available for this small-scale study so, only two pre-primary teachers participated. However, due to a number of unexpected factors during the collection process this number could not allow the proper analysis of the data collected. So, a paraprofessional from school A also participated as well as a special teacher from school B.

Each interview lasted approximately 30 minutes, and took place during the participants' break times. During the time of collecting the data, the researcher's position was a neutral one, as Baxter and Jack (2008) suggested. A face to face contact with the participants was maintained and that led to a more relaxing conversation. This contact also offered the participants the chance to tell their stories (Crabtree & Miller, 1999) and describe their views of their everyday reality in schools. This also gave the researcher the opportunity to understand the participant's actions more clearly (Lather, 1992; Robottom & Hart, 1993; Baxter & Jack, 2008).

Finally, before starting analysing the data, it was made sure that no part of the data was lost. So, double records were kept, the copies were backed up on different devices and photocopies of the interviews and the rest of the notes were kept (Denscombe, 2007). Then, all material was organised (Denscombe, 2007) for saving time and all the data were renamed for the anonymity of the participants. Also, all interviews were transcripted and translated from Greek to English and finally the most important parts of the data were coded with the use of labels. Numbers and colours were used for grouping the data (Denscombe, 2007).

Validity and Reliability

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According to Bell (2005), validity refers to the control of whether a research measures what it was set out to measure. Validity can take many forms (Cohen, et., al., 2008) and actually has to do with a degree level rather that an absolute condition (Gronlund, 1981). Anyhow, validity is a prerequisite for reliability (Cohen, et., al., 2008). According to Bogdan and Biklen (1992), in qualitative researches, like the present one, validity is mostly relied on the match of what the researcher considers as given and what really happens in the under research environment. In the current research, attention has been given to the wording of the questions as well as to their proper understanding on behalf of the interviewee. Effort has been placed on maintaining an impartial view of the interviewees' answers as well as on the interviewer's ability to verify the answers taken (Morse, Mayan, Olson, & Spiers, 2002). Another important matter for the researcher has to do with the limitations that may arise in the process of the interview.

Difficulties revealed during the data collection process

The first and most important difficulty faced with the researchers was the fact that there was a confusion concerning the number of the regular teachers who had children with cerebral palsy in their classroom. More specifically one of the schools visited, the head-teacher argued that there was not any child with cerebral palsy in her school and that, they were waiting for one with such difficulties to come in the next academic year. In another school (the school A which finally participated in the research) there was only one child with CP in pre-primary education instead of three as the officials from the DC told the researchers.

Another difficulty raised was that in one of the proposed schools the child with CP missed school for two weeks because of health reasons. Moreover, the teacher forgot the appointment with the researcher and stated that she was too busy to take part in an interview. A conscious consent on behalf of any participant is considered necessary and the researcher has to inform the participants of their right to leave the interview at any time (Richardson & Godfrey, 2003). So, as already mentioned only two schools took part in the research. The end of the academic year also made it difficult to find and visit more schools.

Another important limitation, during the data collection was the pressure of time. Each observation took place for one whole school day and while there were many questions which arose during these observations many of them were left unanswered because the interviews took place in the middle of the school day (break time) and only for 30 minutes for each participant.

Moreover, the teachers of the schools chosen for the research said they were too busy to take part in the research as it was a rehearsal period for the final school celebration and all teachers tried to organise the ceremony and were out of program. This led to the next limitation.

Despite the fact that the regular teachers to take part in the research were only two, they did not follow the everyday schedule because of the preparations for the final school ceremony so, the researcher could not observe how children with cerebral palsy were included in the classroom during the everyday lessons.

Due to the reasons mentioned above and the barriers presented during the data collection phase, after the observations and interviews were conducted, it was necessary at first to change the title of this research as well as the research questions. Therefore, the research did not focus only on how regular teachers include children with CP in their classroom but also on how these children are included in their pre-primary mainstream schools in general. Also, while coding the data for the analysis of the research it became apparent that there were two schools with identical situations, nonetheless with totally different ways of management and teaching (see table 1) so, the analysis of the data will be based on how these two specific schools in Larnaca, included George and Caterina and on a comparison between the two on the management strategies they use, the teaching strategies and the collaboration between leaders - teaching staff - parents - paraprofessionals - children and LEAs. Table 1

A SCHOOL

B SCHOOL

Village of Larnaca

Village of Larnaca

1 child with CP

1 child with CP

2 paraprofessionals for five children with SEN

1 paraprofessional for 2 children with SEN

1 full time and 1 part time special teachers

1 part time special teacher

1 special unit

1 special unit

Village with good socioeconomic status

Village with good socioeconomic status

Period of rehearsals for final academic year celebration

Period of rehearsals for final academic year celebration

1 regular pre-primary classroom

1 regular pre-primary classroom