CHAPTER 4 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Creswell (2013) argued that before the researcher embarks on the research journey she must consider certain things such as the research paradigm, research methodology or design and the methods to be employed to answer the research questions. Gesne (2011: 5) defined a paradigm as a “framework or philosophy of science that makes assumptions about the nature of reality and truth, the kinds of questions to explore, and how to go about doing so”. Before a researcher chooses the research paradigm, one has to know her views about ontology (truth about reality) and epistemology (philosophy of knowledge). According to Krauss (2005: 758), “Epistemology is intimately related to ontology and methodology; as ontology involves the philosophy of reality, epistemology addresses how we come to know that reality while methodology identifies the particular practices used to attain knowledge of it”. Literature reveals that there are two dominant research paradigms, namely positivism and interpretivism.
To reiterate, the way the researcher views ontology and epistemology will determine the research paradigm. Positivists think that there is only one reality and to understand the world the researcher needs to conduct tests and experiments to describe reality (Sarantakos, 2012). Such researchers are called quantitative researchers. On the other hand, the interpretivists believe that there are multiple realities, and based on that they believe that to gain knowledge about the world, the researcher has to employ different methods such as interviews or observations to describe reality (Andrews, 2012). Those who take this path in research are called qualitative researchers.
The purpose of this chapter is therefore to describe the research paradigm that underpins this study, the research methodology (theory and methods) employed in this study. Burns & Grove (1998: 745) state that “Methodology and research design direct the researcher in planning and implementing the study in a way that is most likely to achieve the intended goal. It is a blue print for conducting the study”.
The study was conducted to find out the challenges experienced by the special school teachers when they teach and modify some of the lessons for the benefit of learners who experience barriers to learning due to their physical disability. To achieve the goals of my study, the qualitative research paradigm was used and the research approach for the study was multiple case studies conducted in four special schools. The instruments used to collect data were observation and semi-structured interviews. To analyse and interpret the interviews, the phenomenological approach was employed. These aspects are elaborated below.
This study has been designed as a phenomenological investigation. Phenomenology is a means of scientific investigation which was developed by Husserl in the 18th century who is regarded as the father of phenomenology. He developed his in order to protect humanity from being depersonalised by the natural scientists through scientism and experimental research. At first, all forms of human research were conducted through logic and reason. Then the development of the natural sciences emerged which preferred experimentation. The results of such experiments which were performed using objects and animals would then be applied to human beings. It was as a form of protest against this practice that phenomenology was introduced (Viljoen & Pienaar, 1971). Thus, it was a counter movement to the naturalists ‘experimentation’. For phenomenologists, the experimentation method dehumanised man whom they regarded as the only ontic and ontological entity (Viljoen & Pienaar, 1971).
Definition of Phenomenology
The word phenomenology is derived from the Greek word fainesthai which means “bring to light” (Van Rensburg, Landman & Bodenstein, 1988: 489). In this study, challenges that face the teachers in special schools when teaching EE are the phenomena under scrutiny. According to Lester (1999), phenomenology is the study of experience from the perspective of the individual, ‘bracketing’ taken-for-granted assumptions and usual ways of perceiving. According to Giorgi (1994: 212), bracketing is a process whereby “one simply refrains from positing altogether; one looks at the data with the attitude of relative openness”. Creswell (2013) stated that phenomenological research does not focus on theory building, but the tenets of phenomenology attempt to build essence of the experience from the point of view of the participant.
Creswell (2014: 14) defined phenomenological research as “a design of inquiry coming from philosophy and psychology in which the researcher describes the lived experiences of individual about a phenomenon as described by the participants”. Van Manen (1990) concurred that, in phenomenology, experience is the starting point. In this research approach, factual accuracy is not of significance as the focus is on the person’s lived experience of what it is like to teach EE in special schools. Given the emphasis, phenomenological studies do not attempt to generate wider explanations; rather, their focus is on providing research accounts for individuals in a specific setting.
Since the primary source of data in phenomenology is the life world of the individuals being studied, data were gathered in the form of in-depth semi-structured interviews, and participant observations. Stanley and Wise (1993) claimed that the studies that draw upon a phenomenological approach, generally gather data in the forms mentioned above.
Steps in Phenomenological Research
Phenomenologists are reluctant to give prescriptive or definite steps for conducting phenomenology research, claiming that such an act kills creativity on part of the researcher (Bums & Grove, 1998), but guidelines are provided by people such as Van Manen (1990), Giorgi (1975) and the others to help novice researchers to get going.
Phenomenological research can be quite confusing, especially for the novice researcher like me. The reason for the confusion is in part, that there are many phenomenologists who have common views but also have their differences. They differ in some aspects like ‘bracketing’. Husserl (1960) claimed that researchers are capable of being unbiased, neutral and impartial when they conduct research, but Heidegger refuted that claim, as he did not believe that people can put their philosophies and assumptions in abeyance or bracket their presuppositions about the phenomenon under study (Heidegger, as cited in Reiners, 2012).
When I started my study, I set out to use descriptive phenomenology advocated by Husserl and modified by Giorgi (1975), but the steps I initially thought of using to analyse data were those provided by Van Manen (1990) who is a follower of Heidegger, who it turns out does not believe in bracketing as Husserl does. According to Creswell (2013), Van Manen posited that bracketing may be a difficult thing to do for the researcher simply because interpretations of the data always incorporate the assumptions that the researcher brings to the topic. I almost fell into a trap of mixing ideologies, but finally I chose Husserl’s phenomenology which believes in suspension of all suppositions (bracketing), because I share the same sentiment as Finlay (2009: 8), who claimed that …phenomenological research is phenomenological when it involves both the description of the life-world or lived experience, and where the researcher has adopted a special, open phenomenological attitude which, at least initially refrains from importing external frameworks and sets aside judgements about the realness of the phenomenon.
The phenomenologists, as stated before, avoid to “ward off any tendency toward constructing a predetermined set of fixed procedures, techniques and concepts that would rule-govern the research project” (Van Manen, 1990: 29). Giorgi (1975) as cited in Brink, van der Walt and van Rensburg (2012), however, provided guidelines for descriptive phenomenological research, since there are no clear guidelines on this approach. His version of descriptive phenomenology involves some of the following steps:
- The first step is to choose participants or individuals who have all experienced the phenomenon in question. In my study, all the participants taught in special schools, teaching physically impaired learners, and they all taught Life Sciences (which has EE themes) at the FET Phase. In short, all the participants had the experience of teaching learners with impairments.
- Bracketing: In this research I investigated the problems experienced by teachers who are teaching Life Sciences to learners in special schools. I discussed my own experiences of teaching EE with learners who are physically impaired since I am also a teacher in a special school and teach the same subject as the participants. According to Creswell (2013), this transparency is significant, because the readers get to learn about the researcher’s experiences, and can judge for themselves whether the researcher focused solely on the participants’ experiences in the description without bringing himself or herself into the picture. This can help to validate the study.
- Data collection: A researcher must use data collection methods that involve individuals who have experienced the phenomenon, and must use methods such as interviews, participatory observations, and policy documents. The interview questions must be asked in such a way that they elicit responses that would best describe the experience. In short, the operative word in descriptive phenomenology is ‘describe, describe and describe!’ The participants must be allowed to tell their own stories. An example of a guiding interview question could be “please describe to me what went through your mind when you realised that you had to teach Environmental Education to learners who are physically impaired?”
- Analysing: The researcher reviews the data again and again until there is a common understanding. Analysing entails contrasting and comparing the final data to determine which patterns or themes emerge. If the knowledge is to be of relevance to other researchers, it must be understandable and clear and must detail the relationships that exist.
- Describing: The researcher must pay careful attention to description and provide a dense description of his/her findings, together with a clear audit trail, that is the particulars of how he/she collected, captured and analysed the data.
The philosophical assumption underpinning this study is derived from the interpretive paradigm. According to Haralambos and Holborn (2004), interpretivists seek to understand the meanings that constitute the actions. They claimed that people do not automatically react to external stimuli as positivists claim.
Motorists who see a red light will not automatically stop in response to this stimulus. They will attach a meaning to the stimulus before acting, having established the meaning of the stimulus to their own satisfaction, the motorists will then decide on how they wish to respond (ibid.: 871).
This idea could also apply to teachers. Teachers should not follow the curriculum like robots; rather they should study the curriculum documents and then choose whether to reject, modify or embrace the curriculum.
To sum up, an interpretivist is primarily interested in the way participants construct versions of reality in an attempt to understand their world. This reflects a tradition in social science that fundamentally depends on “observation undertaken in people’s natural settings, interacting with them in their own language and on their own terms” (Kirk & Miller, 1986: 9).
Merriam (2014) was of the view that research is always motivated by interests and values. The “practical knowledge interest” (a term devised by Habermas, 1984 as cited in Shaw, Briar-Lawson, Orme and Ruckdeschel, 2010: 138) in this study is to develop a deeper understanding of the challenges that teachers face in special schools when teaching EE and to suggest some possible modifications to their lessons to cater for the learners who experience barriers to learning. Cohen and Manion (2004) pointed out that practical knowledge interest informs an interpretive approach to research as it intends to seek greater clarity, understanding and interpretation of phenomena within contextual areas. It is anticipated that by using this interpretive perspective, relevant themes will emerge that both address the research questions and highlight alternatives or improved teaching methods of environmental education in special schools in South Africa.
CHAPTER 1: ORIENTATION TO THE STUDY
1.1 INTRODUCTION AND CONTEXTUAL BACKGROUND
1.2 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.3 AIMS OF THE RESEARCH
1.4 MOTIVATION FOR THE RESEARCH
1.5 CLARIFICATION OF CONCEPTS
1.6 Thesis overview
1.7 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW: INCLUSIVE EDUCATION
2.2 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK FOR ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION
2.3 THE RESPONSE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO APARTHEID EDUCATION
2.4 DEFINITION OF INCLUSIVE EDUCATION
2.5 IS THERE A PLACE FOR SPECIAL SCHOOLS IN INCLUSIVE EDUCATION? .
2.6 HOW TO DETERMINE THE LEVELS OF SUPPORT NEEDED BY THE LEARNER
2.7 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 3: LITERATURE REVIEW: THE CONCEPT OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION
3.2 WHAT IS ENVIRONMENT?
3.3 THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ENVIRONMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION
3.4 DEFINITION OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION
3.5 AIMS OF EE
3.5 THREE DIMENSIONS OF EnVIRONMENTal EDUCATION
3.6 HISTORY OF EE
3.7 DIFFERENT WAYS OF INCLUDING EE IN THE CURRICULUM
3.8 BARRIERS TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF EE
3.9 CHALLENGES EXPERIENCED BY TEACHERS IN IMPLEMENTING EE IN SPECIAL SCHOOLS INTERNATIONALLY
3.10 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 4: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
4.2 RESEARCH PHILOSOPHY
4.3 RESEARCH DESIGN
4.4 RESEARCH APPROACH – CASE STUDY
4.5 SELECTION OF PARTICIPANTS
4.6 DESCRIPTION OF CASE STUDY SCHOOLS
4.7 DATA COLLECTION METHODS
4.8 DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION
4.9 TRUSTWORTHINESS OF RESEARCH
4.10 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
4.11 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 5: PRESENTATION OF RESULTS
5.2 OBSERVATIONS REGARDING SCHOOLS AND STAFF
5.3 ANALYSIS OF INTERVIEWS
5.4 PHILOSOPHY UNDERPINNING THE CURRENT CURRICULUM
5.5 TEACHING AND LEARNING SUPPORT
5.6 STRATEGIES EMPLOYED IN TEACHING EE
5.7 LESSON OBSERVATIONS: SUMMER SCHOOL
5.8 LESSON OBSERVATION: Winter School
5.9 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 6: DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
6.2 SUMMARY OF EMPIRICAL FINDINGS
6.3 RESEARCH QUESTION 1: TEACHERS’ OPINIONS ABOUT THE INCLUSION OF EE IN THE CURRICULUM
6.4 RESEARCH QUESTION 2: CHALLENGES THAT TEACHERS IN SPECIAL SCHOOLS FACE WHEN TEACHING EE
6.5 RESEARCH QUESTION 3: UNDERSTANDING THE PHILOSOPHY OF EE
6.6 RESEARCH QUESTION 4: LEVELS OF SUPPORT
6.7 RESEARCH QUESTION 5: TEACHING AND LEARNING RESOURCES
6.8 RESEARCH QUESTION 6: TEACHING STRATEGIES
6.9 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 7: CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
7.2 THE RESEARCH PHILOSOPHY
7.5 CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE BODY OF KNOWLEDGE
7.7 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
AN INVESTIGATION INTO ISSUES AND CHALLENGES IN IMPLEMENTING ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION IN SPECIAL SCHOOLS IN SOUTH AFRICA