CONCEPTUAL ISSUES IN QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

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CHAPTER FOUR RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND RESEARCH DESIGN

INTRODUCTION

According to Briggs and Coleman (2007: 19), methodology provides a rationale for the ways in which the researcher carries out research activities. This chapter focuses on the research methodology and research design used in the study. It begins with a discussion of conceptual issues of qualitative research, followed by a description of the research design and data collection methods, sampling strategies, and research instruments namely participant observation, qualitative interviewing and documentary analysis used in the study to collect data. In addition, ethical considerations are discussed. The last part of the chapter explains how the findings were validated and also spells out the manner in which data gathered was processed, analysed and interpreted.

CONCEPTUAL ISSUES IN QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Research methodology and design

O’Donaghue (2007: 12) views research methodology as the strategy, plan of action, the process or design behind the choice and the use of methods to reach the desired outcomes. Methodology refers to the ways of discovering knowledge, systems and rules for conducting research.
Research methods commonly denote a specific procedure, tool or technique used by the researcher to generate and analyse data (Schram, 2003:31). Cohen and Manion (1994: 38, cited in Mhlanga and Ncube 2003:15), define methods as the range of approaches used in research to gather the data that are used as a basis for inference and interpretation, for explanation and prediction.
The research methodology included a specific design to assist the collection of the data needed to answer the research questions raised in chapter one. Importantly, a research design is the overall plan for collecting and analysing data to find answers to research questions (Slavin, 2007: 9). Suter (2006: 411) defines a research design as a “blueprint.” According to Conrad and Serlin (2006: 377), the research design concerns the assumptions underlying the manner in which the study is constructed to pursue inquiry about the phenomenon. In addition, the design of a research study determines whether the research question(s) can be answered adequately by means of certain procedures and methods used to collect the data.
Leedy and Ormrod (2005: 85) state that a research design provides the overall structure for the procedures that are followed by the researcher, the data that are collected and the analysis of data that is carried out. The choice of a research design for this study was influenced by the purposes and circumstances of the researcher as well as the strengths and limitations of each approach. It must be pointed out that the methodology of this study was the qualitative approach drawing from ethnographic studies which impacts directly on the research design which is described in paragraph 4.5.

The qualitative research paradigm

Qualitative research is viewed by Suter (2006: 41) as research aimed at explaining complex phenomena through verbal descriptions rather than testing hypotheses with numerical values. Denzin and Lincoln (1994:21; cited in Mhlanga and Ncube, 2003:12), maintain that qualitative research is an interpretive and naturalistic approach. The researcher studied phenomena in their natural settings and attempted to make sense of or interpret phenomena in terms of meanings people bring to them. Mason (2006: 3) notes that qualitative research is characterised by holistic forms of analysis and explanations. The qualitative paradigm was designed to give real and stimulating meaning to the instructional leadership role of the high school head and to ensure the researcher was involved directly and/or indirectly in the process.
In order to generate and synthesise the multi-voiced and varied constructions, the qualitative researcher engaged at some level in the lives of the people in the settings. The study concentrated on the qualitative form since it aimed at elucidating what the participants themselves had to say with regards to the instructional leadership role of the high school head in creating a culture of teaching and learning. Importantly then, a methodological perspective was adopted so that the findings could be derived from the data itself rather than from preconceived, rigidly structured and highly quantitative strategies. The researcher’s own purposes determined the nature and scope of the settings and groups that yielded the most insights. Schram (2003:33) explains that a qualitative researcher operates from the belief that all constructs are equally important and valid when undertaking a qualitative study. Mertens (2005:229) regards qualitative research as a situational activity that locates the researcher in the real world. Rudestam and Newton (2001:3) identify three dimensions that seem important in qualitative research. They include the problems and concerns of the researcher, the nature and characteristics of the research participants and the relationships between the researcher and the subject matter. In this study, the researcher was flexible in investigating how high school heads and teachers think and act in their everyday lives as questions are posed on the process of creating a culture of learning and teaching through instructional leadership..

 Distinction between the qualitative and quantitative research paradigms

Qualitative and quantitative research represent two distinct approaches to understanding the world or the phenomenon under study. Table 4.1 below summarises the major distinctions between the two research paradigms.

CRITICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE QUALITATIVE RESEARCH PARADIGM
The naturalistic inquiry perspective

Qualitative research has actual settings as the direct source of data and the researcher as the key instrument (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007:4). This means that it occurs in the natural setting with the researcher as the primary instrument. Johnson and Christensen (2008:338) state that qualitative research is a naturalistic inquiry, which involves studying real world situations as they unfold naturally. The researcher entered and spent a considerable time of 9 months at the sites, learning about the prevailing COTL in this study. Wiersma and Jurs (2005: 203) contend that qualitative researchers do not manipulate or intervene in the situation, but operate in a non-manipulating and uncontrolling manner with openness to whatever emerges in the natural setting. This implies that the researcher adopted strategies that parallel the manner in which participants act in their course of daily life.

 Emergent design flexibility

Qualitative research is emergent rather than prefigured (Creswell, 2003: 181). For this reason, the researcher started with a tentative design (or in some cases, none at all) and developed the design as the study progressed. Mason (2006: 24) states that decisions about design in qualitative research are grounded in the practice, process and context of the research itself. In a qualitative study, meanings and interpretations are negotiated with human data sources because it is the participants’ realities that the researcher tries to construct. Design flexibility stems from the open-ended nature of the naturalistic inquiry and also from the pragmatic considerations involved. Emergent design flexibility means openness to adapting inquiry as understanding deepens or as situations change (Johnson & Christensen, 2008: 398). During the study, the researcher adjusted the method and design to suit the circumstances. The researcher was for example particularly open to these possibilities during the interviews on issues related to incentives (refer to paragraph 5.4.5).

 Purposeful sampling

Krathwohl (2004: 229) considers purposive sampling as the most fashionable technique in qualitative research because it involves selecting participants who are information rich and provide special access. According to Patton (2002: 46), “information rich” cases are those cases from which the researcher can learn a great deal about issues that are important to the study. In this study, the researcher selected participants purposefully and sites that best assisted him to understand the problem and the research questions. In identifying the sample the researcher made use of the background information about the high schools provided by the local District Education Officer (DEO) and his own experience to select participants who were representative of the population under study.

Development of grounded theory

One of the major characteristics of qualitative research is its emphasis on “grounded theory.” As pointed out by Creswell (2003: 14), grounded theory means that the researcher tries to derive a general, abstract theory of a process, action or interaction grounded in the views of participants in a study. During this study, theory emerged as the researcher observed and interviewed participants in their real world. In this study, grounded theory began with a basic description of the setting under study and was followed by conceptual ordering, which involved organising data into discrete categories in accordance with their properties and dimensions. Importantly, the aim of the researcher was to generate alternative theory for the phenomenon under study (see paragraphs 5.4.4 & 5.4.5).

CHAPTER ONE ORIENTATION
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1. 2 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
1.3 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
1.4 AIMS OF THE STUDY
1.5 MOTIVATION OF THE STUDY
1.6 ASSUMPTIONS OF THE STUDY
1.7 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
1.8 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND DESIGN
1.9 CLARIFICATION OF CONCEPTS
1.10 THE STRUCTURE OF THE STUDY
1.11 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER TWO A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING A SCHOOL CULTURE OF TEACHING AND LEARNING
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 THE CHANGING FACE OF SCHOOLS REGARDING A CULTURE OF TEACHING AND LEARNING
2.3 ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE AND RELATED CONCEPTS
2.4 School culture and strategic change
2.5 TYPES OF SCHOOL CULTURES
2.6 FUNCTIONS AND IMPACT OF SCHOOL CULTURE
2.7 THE FOUR MIND-SET MODEL OF SCHOOL CULTURE
2.8 THE ROLE OF LEADERSHIP IN CREATING SCHOOL CULTURE
2.9 CREATING A CULTURE OF TEACHING AND LEARNING
2.10 CULTURE-BUILDING ACTIONS
2.11 CONDITIONS SUPPORTIVE OF A SCHOOL CULTURE CONDUCIVE TO TEACHING AND LEARNING
2.12 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER THREE A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK OF INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP FOR CREATING A CULTURE OF TEACHING AND LEARNING
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 NOTIONS OF LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT
3.3 THE LENS OF INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP
3.4 LONG-TERM EFFECTIVE INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP
3.5 SHORT-TERM EFFECTIVE INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP
3.6 CHALLENGES TO EFFECTIVE INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP
3.7 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER FOUR RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND RESEARCH DESIGN
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 CONCEPTUAL ISSUES IN QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
4.3 CRITICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE QUALITATIVE RESEARCH PARADIGM
4.4 THE RATIONALE FOR USING THE QUALITATIVE PARADIGM IN THE STUDY
4.5 STEPS IN CONDUCTING QUALITATIVE RESEARCH
4.6 GUIDING ASSUMPTIONS OF QUALITATIVE RESEARCH
4.7 THE ROLE OF THE RESEARCHER IN THE STUDY
4.8 QUALITATIVE DESIGN AND DATA COLLECTION
4.9 DATA COLLECTION AND FIELDWORK TECHNIQUES
4.10 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS IN DATA COLLECTION
4.11 DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION
4.12 ISSUES OF VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY
4.13 CONCLUSION
HAPTER FIVE PRESENTATION, ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION OF RESEARCH FINDINGS
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 HIGH SCHOOLS INCLUDED IN THE RESEARCH STUDY
5.3 CHARACTERISTICS OF PARTICIPANTS
5.4 DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS FROM THE QUALITATIVE STUDY
5.5 SYNTHESIS OF EMERGENT PATTERNS 284
5.6 CONCLUSION 285
CHAPTER SIX SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
6.1 INTRODUCTION 287
6.2 SUMMARY OF CHAPTERS 288
6.3 SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND MAIN RECOMMENDATIONS
6.4 ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS
6.5 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
6.6 FULFILMENT OF RESEARCH OBJECTIVES
6.7 ISSUES FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
6.8 CONCLUSION
BIBLIOGRAPHY 
APPENDICES
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THE INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP ROLE OF THE HIGH SCHOOL HEAD IN CREATING A CULTURE OF TEACHING AND LEARNING IN ZIMBABWE

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