The Systematic Investigation Into A Study Of Materials Education Essay

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How is the male primary school teacher perceived by male and female students?

What are the factors influencing the perceptions of male students?

What are the factors influencing the perceptions of female students?

How do male primary teachers understand/respond to these perceptions?

Research can be broadly defined as 'a form of systematic enquiry that contributes to knowledge'. [1] The Oxford Concise Dictionary defines research as:

a. the systematic investigation into and study of materials, sources, etc., in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions. b. an endeavour to discover new or collate old facts etc by the scientific study of a subject or by a course of critical investigation. [2] 

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People are not aware that they are an eccentric outcome of their evolution. That evolution came from their ability to articulate their past knowledge in any form of facts, experiences, assumptions for physical phenomena, beliefs and their capability to update and improve their former knowledge and practices. These are the reasons that mankind developed communication skills like literacy, language, developed philosophy and invented technology. (Best and Kahn 2006: 3, 4).

Specifically, Best and Kahn (2006: 3, 4) maintain that educational research is the tool that teachers use to test and improve their personal practices in education and find which practice fits best for them. A definition of educational research is provided by Anthony G. Picciano: 'Educational research is a careful, systematic investigation into any aspect of education. From the French word 'recherche', which means to travel through or survey.' [3] Cohen and Manion (2001) state that educational research helps the teachers broaden their information knowledge and understand their working environment.

The researcher must also identify the most appropriate paradigm in the research literature in order to design and execute the inquiry effectively. The researcher should choose his paradigm carefully in defining the aims and purposes of his study.

Qualitative Research

The researcher had to choose between two main paradigms: either 'logical positivism' or 'phenomenological inquiry' (Best and Kahn 2006: 246). Best and Kahn (2006: 79) argue that the logical-positivism paradigm is used for 'experimental and quantitative research methods' in education. Moreover, Cohen et al. (2001: 8) assert that the logical positivism paradigm expresses 'the main belief' that the 'meaning of a statement is, or is given by the method of its verification'. The logical-positivism paradigm is a scientific method applicable for a study concerned with existing and measurable knowledge, where the researcher is an 'observer of the social reality'. The outcomes of an inquiry based on that paradigm can be compared with laws - like axioms (laws) that are constructed by natural scientific inquiries based on subjective generalizations and that use the same scientific methods as natural sciences to explain the world. The main characteristics of this particular paradigm are analysis, measurement and subjectivity (Cohen et al. 2001: 8). Therefore, the logical positivism paradigm is best applied in a quantitative analysis where the collected data is numerical.

In contrast the phenomenological paradigm makes use of 'interpretive research methodologies' (Best and Kahn 2006: 246). This paradigm is best applied to qualitative research methodologies. Erickson (1985, cited in Best and Kahn 2006: 246) alternatively uses the term 'interpretative', which is 'the whole family of approaches to participant observational research'. Bogdan and Biklen (2007: 25) clarify this by stating that in the 'phenomenological mode', researchers try to understand happenings in the everyday life of common people in special circumstances: they try to find out the people's point of view and 'gain an entry' into their specific environment. The weakness of positivism is its inability to investigate human behaviour successfully, as Cohen et al. (2001: 9) underline. Denscombe (2007) recommends the use of the phenomenological paradigm to deal with this weakness. Studies using the phenomenological paradigm by Bogdan and Biklen (2007: 25) 'begin with silence', as the researcher seeks to discover the personal understandings of the participants, allowing different knowledge and various perceptions to be given by different participants in the same particular situation. With this paradigm a qualitative approach to collecting and analysing data is most appropriate. Here qualitative data consists mainly of words rather than numbers. Patton (1990, cited in Best and Kahn 2006: 247) asserts that qualitative research uses three ways of collecting information: 'in-depth, open-ended interviews, direct observation and written documents'.

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On the basis of these considerations I found that the phenomenological interpretative paradigm the most convenient for the purposes of this small-scale empirical study focusing on students' personal perceptions of their male teachers. It will attempt to shed light on the ideas, opinions and beliefs students have regarding their male teachers in a Cypriot primary school. Important conclusions can be drawn from this study like the importance of the male teacher in primary school and his actual role as a leader by gender. Thus, the phenomenological interpretative paradigm was the one chosen for this inquiry.

Qualitative approach - Case study

My research focuses on students' perceptions of male teachers in an anonymous Greek-Cypriot primary school. The rational according to the literature points to the use of a phenomenological interpretative paradigm, and the study should be conducted in a qualitative research framework. I will use qualitative methodology as my study focuses on children's perceptions, ideas, thoughts and feelings rather than their performance in school.

According to O'Brien there are five types of qualitative methodology to choose from: these are case study, grounded theory, phenomenology, ethnography and historical studies. [4] In contrast Flick (2006) presents four qualitative research methodologies: case study, longitudinal study, comparison study and finally retrospective study. However, this chapter does not intend to expand and explain the use of these strategies as it would be outside the scope of this study. Instead, I would prefer to briefly explain and justify my chosen methodology.

The chosen methodology for this study is 'case study'. As Merriam (1998), Yin (1989) and Stake (1994) (cited in Bogdan and Biklen 2007: 59) explain, it is 'a detailed examination of one setting, or a single subject, a single depository of documents, or one particular event' conducted in real action time, enabling an analysis of the reasons for and the after-effects of the incident (Cohen et al. 2001: 181). Supporting the approach of Bogdan and Biklen, Bell (2005: 10) and Cohen et al. (2001: 181) state that one of the strengths of the case study is that helps the researcher to shed light 'in depth' on a specific aspect of the problem and allows for generalization. It is a narrowed and focused research method with a single framework, such as a child or group of children, a class or a group of classes, an educational institution (Cohen et al. 2001: 181). In my case, the investigation will take place in a school. The purpose of my research is to investigate in depth the perceptions by a group of children of their male teachers in a school environment. I shall conduct the inquiry in real time as I am determined to visit the school during term time and gather data using data collecting tools, such as interviews. Cohen et al. (1984: 184) argue that case studies allow general rules to be made from the study of an 'instance in action'. In my opinion, a case study would be the most appropriate form for my study as it is 'strong in reality' (Cohen 2001) and will help me to investigate in depth the real perceptions of a group of students in the target school in Cyprus.

As a not very experienced researcher I feel a case study will be a very powerful tool appropriate either for new or experienced researchers (Bogdan and Biklen 2007). More specifically Best and Kahn (2006: 259) argue that a case study is a good method of gathering and presenting data in search of the actual truth, and of conducting an investigation which aims to present the actual 'view' of social reality, as I plan to do.

The literature about the case study method I have cited makes me realize that some of the definitions and explanations about its use fit the scope of my research in a precise manner. It is clear that 'case study' is ideal as a methodology to detect unique features, which may not be possible to monitor or retain in 'large-scale data' studies, such as those using surveys or questionnaires and a non-participant method in general.

The case study method also demands the participation of the researcher and the sample.

My study examines a fact within the framework of a school embodied in the Cypriot educational system. Thus, its characteristics fully accord with the characteristics of case study methodology. The case study methodology does have some weaknesses, however, that the researcher should be aware of. Because my investigation is mostly being conducted in real time there is not the option of contacting the sample again to cross-check results. Thus, the results of the research could be seen as 'subjective and biased', given that the study is qualitative (Bell 2005: 11; Cohen et al. 2001: 184). In addition, researchers can be influenced by their own beliefs and bias, so the results are influenced by subjectivity. Although not much can be done to enable cross-checking, the researcher can try to avoid distortion in the results. The researcher should try not to be influenced by his own perceptions and also not reveal his own opinion and ideas to avoid influencing those in the sample and to encourage them to say what they actually think.

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Another limitation that the researcher should consider concerns generalization. Whilst the case study method permits this, it may not be possible as most of the time the incident under investigation is unique and drawn from the life itself (Bell 2005: 1; Cohen et al. 2001: 184; Bassey 1999). Denscombe (1998: 36-7) argues that 'the extent to which findings from the case study can be generalized to other examples on the class depends on how far the case study example is similar to others of its type.' However, the phenomenon I am investigating is commonly found in the literature and amongst academic researchers. It would be possible to repeat an investigation of this sort in the same school or in a different school environment. This should not be a problem as Greek-Cypriot schools present uniformity in a number of factors: student origin and staff turnover and staff education. The subject is also quite typical and, in reality, not so unique. Generalization in this case is feasible, whilst the results of this research can act as a pilot if another researcher wishes to conduct a similar study.

There have been several similar investigations of teachers' and students' perceptions in Cypriot primary schools. Examples can be found in the Library of the University of Cyprus, ( references ) . Research in primary schools has almost been a fashion in the past 20 years

Despite the disadvantages, I believe that 'case study' is the most appropriate methodology for this situation as it is one of the main methodologies for a qualitative approach using the desired paradigm. There are certain methods to execute the research and collect the data, which will be presented in the following section.

Sample

I have chosen the sample according to the nature of my study. Due to the qualitative nature of this research, the sample of the student population should not be chosen completely randomly. In quantitative research the sample is selected randomly with the aim of gathering data from the surface of a big population. In a qualitative research framework 'sampling is a deliberate rather than haphazard method of selecting subjects' and is crucial if we want to conduct the research with samples that are more representative of the subject and circumstances (Cohen et al. 2008; Best & Kahn 2006: 25).

As this is a case study, it should be conducted in the school environmen I chose a primary school on the outskirts of the city. Details of the school were not previously known to me. The school was primarily chosen as a matter of convenience and practicality as it is the nearest primary school to the neighbourhood where my family lives. I was aware that some of my family members attended there ten years ago, but I knew nothing else beyond this. I did not have any personal information about the school also because I have been abroad for more than eleven years. Thus, I can claim not to be biased against the school.

The school is administered by the Ministry of Education, as are most of the schools in Cyprus. All the primary schools in Cyprus are established to educate people of every area to a high standard. That being said, the people and culture from place to place can be different. Thus, there is a range of schools from those with a homogeneous Greek-Cypriot identity to those with children whose immigrant backgrounds have little if anything in common with the country, establishing a new culture which is relatively unfamiliar to the native Cypriots. Teachers' education in Cyprus is considered to be high and, even though teachers may be from different countries and universities, their performance is strictly assessed. Only those who are qualified, effective in the classroom and undergo continuous assessment are allowed to practise as teachers. As a result the chosen school was on a level playing field with every other school in Cyprus.

The sample participants were chosen randomly according to age. Children that were 7 and 12 years old were chosen as an ideal sample. Four children from the second class (2 boys and 2 girls) and four children from the last class (2 boys and 2 girls) were chosen. Two boys and two girls were chosen from the second class in order to investigate the perceptions of the youngest children. The second class (year 7) was preferred to the first class (year 6) as it is not possible for children from the first class to have any perceptions about male teachers as they are newcomers to primary schooling. Four pupils from the 6th class, the final class of the primary education system (year 12), were chosen in order to find out the perceptions of the older school children. In order to achieve validity I sought the same proportion of boys and girls (4 + 4) (Bell 1999). Four teachers participated in the study: two male teachers and two female teachers. Their age or length of service was not so much an issue, although it was important they were not newcomers. The male teachers were chosen in order to find out how they thought they are perceived by their students. The female teachers were interviewed about how they think the students perceive their male teachers. Useful comparisons could be drawn later in the analysis.

I had to obtain authorization from the administration office of the area, the Director General of Education, Mrs Zena Pouli, and the approval of the Ministry of Education. The principal of the school had to be informed about the days and times of the research and let me conduct the research.

Despite the disadvantages, I believe that 'case study' is the most appropriate methodology for this situation as it is one of the main methodologies for a qualitative approach under the desired paradigm. There are certain methods to execute the research and collect the data, which will be presented in the following section.

Data Collection Tools

My data will be gathered using a qualitative approach and (analysed/assessed) according to the interpretative paradigm. The aim of the research is to gather the ideas, perceptions and views of the participants, both children and teachers, so the use of qualitative tools is essential. The principal research tools used in my study are interview and observation. The use of both interview and observation are the two of the three major methods for gathering data. These three methods are 'asking questions (and listening intently to the answers), observing events (and noting carefully what happens) and reading documents' (Bassey 1999: 81). Both methods were used together because they offered a means for cross-checking data: what people say they think or do may not be the same as what they actually do (Robson 2002: 310, cited in Cohen et al. 2007: 396). By observation the researcher can check if the ideas and perceptions of the sample are the same as what the sample reports in the interviews. Therefore, I argue that the use of both tools helped me gain a better idea of what is happening in practice and spot actions the sample may not be aware of cited in (Foster 1996).

Observation

Observation is one of the characteristic tools for gathering information in case studies. Case studies aim to 'observe' an individual unit, a group of people, an institution or a larger group of people. Research by observation in a qualitative framework is defined by Best and Kahn (2006: 264) and Basey (2005) as a compilation of 'detailed notation of behaviours, events, and the context surrounding the events and behaviors'.

According to Cohen et al (2007: 258), the purpose of observation is to 'probe deeply and to analyse intensively the multifarious phenomena that constitute the life cycle of the unit with a view to establish generalizations about the wider populations'. Cohen et al. (2007: 396) further argue that observation gives the researcher a chance to collect 'live data' from authentic social situations. Therefore, it is preferable for the researcher to use this powerfull too to examine events and collect the relevant information first-hand rather than from a secondary source. The researcher also needs to select the kind of the observation method to be used as they vary in terms of structure and the participatory role of the researcher. I opted for semi-structured, non-participant observation, as I did not intend to take part in events. The semi-structured method was employed for this research because some issues were still open, despite the focus of the research and investigating factors being clear. The researcher had an idea of a number of things that he wanted to observe, but he did not know what else to expect. Therefore, a semi-structured observation provided the researcher with the freedom to spot and record details that otherwise would have been overlooked or omitted cited in Denscombre (2007) .

New Chank

Any observation research that has a kind of structure it is also be scheduled cited in Bell (2006 : 188) and Descombre (2007 ) . Denscombre ( 2007 : 210 ) moreover argues that the researcher will find the 'certain things' , seek and worth of inclusion for in his agenda .

The same writer highlight the importance of the absence of subjectivity in the observation where it is gained by the systematic scheduled observation. Thus it is cited that the always limited time can be arranged by the schedule and help the researcher to stay focused on the issues that the observation is held for cited in Denscom ( 2007 : 214 ) .

The researcher also intends to use the non-participant model as he plans not to participate as an observer . His aim is to isolate the personal perceptions of the students to their male teachers so there is not any place of him as a participant which any attempt of being participate could influence the behavior of the students and so bias the data , The researcher as Denscombe (2007 : 214 ) suggests , intents to make his present as discreet as possible . This will add to the validity because the researcher will be more objectivite to the jadgement of any facts that they will occur as an third person rather as an participant. Whilst the researchers must have in mind that the longer he stays in the classroom and being visible , 'the more their presence is taken for granted and the less they have any significant effect on proceeding'. Therefore it is important that the observer should give some time to the classroom environment to get use of his 'discreet' present and after he is assure that he is accepted then he should start the observation .

In order to avoid any mistakes or omissions the researcher plans to pilot the observation and add to the schedule . To create more validity the researcher plans to ask the opinion of his supervisor and one of the teachers . Also he will show the data to one of the teachers and the supervisor in order to check them and say their opinion on them.

Interviews

Moving further the researcher had chosen the use of the Interviews as a tool . Aiming to gather qualitative data about percpeptions , emotions ideas and analyze them interview as a tool seemed good enough for the purposes of this study . The researcher must aware though that despite they do not look like something more than an conservation, they 'involve a set of assumptions and understandings about the situation which are not normally associated with a casual conversation' able to produce usefull information for any inquiry , Denscombre (1983) , Silverman (1985) ,(cited in Denscobre (2007 : 173 )) . Therefore despite interview is a kind of structure conservation there is also a protocol that must be followed . There is mutual consent between the interviewee and the interviewer in an official meeting and the recording is not secret in any way . Also the informations are only for the record and the schedulule . Thus the issues to be discussed are set by the researcher, Denscombe (2007:174).

Just appointing the use of the Interview as a method is not enough as there are different types of research Interview. According to Denscombe (2007: 175) there are the structures interviews the semistructured and Unstrructured interviews. Cohen (2007:355) also add the non-directive interview and the focused interview . In fact Cohen et al (2007:352) argues that in the literature are mentioned many different types of interview! .

The semistructured - interview, one-to one interview was selected as the aim of this study is to have an indeapth idea of the perceptions of the students but in a research framework . Despite that the researcher has a clear que of questions to be answered in the semistryctured interview will be ready to let the samples expand their ideas where is appropriate. The one-to one interview, the most common of the variaties of semi-structured interviews , was selected as it is easy to set, control and gather the data as each time is only one person to interviewee . Descambe (2007:177)

Unstructured interview was avoided as an option as it require time and the technique was looked unorthodox as it dictate the expand of an issue from the sample without any guidance at all!! Structured interview as a method also rejected as it doesn't compile the liberty to the sample to say any of his ideas . It is tide and the samples have to answer questions that the answers are limited. Descambe (2007: 175) . Therefore it is not appropriate at all as the research aims to gather authentic perceptions rather than let the participants to answer questions with preschelued limited options .

I will say what I did later what I did in the research .

New Chank 2

Data Analysis

'There is no single or correct way to analyze and present the data ; how one does it should abide by the issue of fitness to purpose' (Cohen et al 2007:461) . The qualitative data analysis may be 'detailed and rich' though the procedure is very heavy and painfull due to the multiple interpretations that the researcher should make to produce his analysis , making this procedure the researchers 'glory' and also 'headache' together, cited in Cohen et al (2007:461) . The researcher will categorize the informations from interview transcriptions and notes along with the issues that he is investigating . Then the researcher plans to interpet the data with the literature review findings .

Ethical Issues:

Ethical issues are compiled in this research study as and in all the inquiries. The study was applied from approval from the Ministry of Eduacation of the country and the General Director of the Education . Along the principal had to be informed about the research and take his approval too . The parents should also be informed about the research as the target of the research is to interview and observe children . The sample of the teachers should also agree to participate . One of the most important issues is to grant the privacy of the participants for reasons of ages or by their request. This issue it can be addressed by anonymity and confidentiality, cited in Cohen et al (2007: 64,65) . The identity of the participants is kept hidden as the address and the name of the school . Though the samples have not objection to give their real data to the department of Education to the University of Leicester as long that they will not published. Concerning that the researcher has to deal with children special way of approach should be study especially when they are interviewed.