CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The study sought to explore factors influencing the choice of careers among high school students in Zimbabwe. The research methodology issues in this chapter includes research paradigm, research design, sampling, instrumentation, procedure, ethical issues and data analysis.
A paradigm is a framework that guides research and practice in a field, includes a set of assumptions, concepts, values and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality (Willis, 2007:8). It includes knowledge, a methodology and an epistemology that the researcher used to view the factors that influence the choice of career pathways among high school students (Tien, 2009:244). The ontological position of positivism is one of realism which has an existence independent of the knower (Scotland, 2012:9). Ontology is the assumption that we make about the nature of reality and epistemology is a general set of assumptions about the best ways of enquiring into the nature of the world (Esterby-Smith, Thorpe & Lowe, 2002:33).
A paradigm is used to represent people’s values, judgements, norms, standards, frames of reference, perspectives, ideologies, myths, theories and the approved procedures that govern their thinking and actions (Gummesson, 2008:18 cited by Tien, 2009:243). Thus, philosophical assumptions or a theoretical paradigm about the nature of reality are crucial to understanding the overall perspective from which the study is designed and carried out (Krauss, 2005:759). Hence, considering the research philosophy in the present study could answer the question “what is the truth?” about factors that influence the choice of career pathways among high school students.
The subject of paradigm is often discussed in terms of the opposition between two schools of philosophy, positivism and interpretivism (Tien, 2009:243). The current study used positivism. Positivism provides a framework to explain reality as a criteria-given entity which can be understood objectively (Kroeze, 2012:1; Scotland, 2012:9; Mack, 2010:6; Tien, 2009:244). Positivists believe in the possibility to observe and describe reality from an objective viewpoint. According to Mack (2010:6), the characteristics of a positivist paradigm includes an emphasis on the scientific methods, statistical analysis and generalisability of findings.
According to a positivist epistemology, science is seen as a way to get at the truth, to understand the world well enough so that it might be predicted and controlled (Krauss, 2005:760). The truth is determined through verification of predictions (Tien, 2009:245). The present study sought to establish factors that influence the choice of careers among high school students. This included a literature review regarding career factors.
The only way to verify that knowledge is true is if it was created using a scientific method (McGregor & Murnane, 2010:423). The positivists believe in empiricism, the idea that observation and measurement are at the core of a scientific endeavour (Krauss, 2005:760). The purpose of using science to prove facts is to observe and measure (Krauss, 2005:760). The present study was scientific in nature as it was objective, used statistics in the analysis of data and emphasised the generalisation of results. Hence, the appropriateness of a positivist paradigm.
Positivists researchers are independent, detached and maintain a distance from the object of the research (Tien, 2009:245). In the current study, the researcher maintained minimal interaction with participants when collecting data. Participants completed the questionnaire in their own time. Positivists go forth into the world impartially separating themselves from the world they study (Krauss, 2005:760) and discovering knowledge which is directed at explaining relationships (Creswell, 2009:7). The use of questionnaires in the current study allowed the researcher to deal with facts provided by the participants rather than feelings and emotions as used in other research paradigms. The researcher remained detached from the participants as they completed the questionnaires and sought to uncover the truth about factors that influence career choices among high school students objectively and impartially.
Positivism is a research strategy that argues that truth and reality are free and independent of the viewer and observer (Crossan, 2016:50; Aliyu, Bello, Kasim & Martin, 2014:81; MacKenzie & Knipe, 2006:194). As such, it was appropriate for the current study that sought to establish the factors that influence career choices among high school students without any interference from the researcher.
Research design will be discussed in the next section.
A research design can be viewed as a plan, structure and strategy of a research to find the tools to solve the problem and to minimise the variance (Kothari and Crag, 2014:29; Creswell, 2013:23). Its function therefore is to ensure that the evidence obtained ensures that the initial question is answered as unambiguously as possible.
According to Kothari and Crag (2014:30), research design facilitates the attainment of the various research operations thereby making research as efficient as possible and yielding maximum information with minimal expenditure of effort, time and money. For the above to be achieved, a suitable paradigm should embrace a scientific approach which is always advocated by the quantitative approach. A quantitative approach which was informed by the positivist paradigm was used in the current study to assess factors that influence high school students to choose careers. The next section discusses the quantitative approach.
The Quantitative Approach
Quantitative researchers operate under the assumption of objectivity (Johnson & Christensen, 2012:36) and that there is reality to be observed and that rational observers who look at the same phenomenon will basically agree on its existence (Johnson & Christensen, 2012:36). In the present study, objective findings validated the results of the study because they were based on the actual findings from the field as the researcher remained distanced from the participants.
A quantitative approach is one in which the investigator primarily uses positivist claims for developing knowledge (Creswell, 2003:19). The positivist paradigm leads to a scientific and systematic approach to research. A quantitative approach was used in this study as it allowed the researcher to carry out an objective analysis and generate factual knowledge through measurement. Researchers who use quantitative tools and techniques that emphasise measuring and counting are positivists in nature (Mkansi & Acheampong, 2012:133, Mack, 2010:6; Krauss, 2005:760).The positivist approach depends on quantifiable observations that lead to statistical analysis of data.
Quantitative data is analysed using statistics (Punch, 2005:108). It is the numerical representation and manipulation of observations for the purpose of describing and explaining the phenomena (Tewksbury, 2009:38). Explaining phenomena using measurements and statistics (Hoy, 2010:1) was the key to the current study since it allowed the researcher to investigate and explain factors that influence the choice of careers among high school students. Quantitative research methods are characterised by the collection of information which can be analysed numerically and presented in tables for easier analysis and interpretation. The present study used tables and percentages to analyse factors that influence the choice of careers among high school students. Rasinger (2008:10) agrees that the main characteristic of quantitative data is that it consists of information that is quantifiable. This allowed the researcher to quantify the magnitude and scope of the factors that influence career choices among high school students.
Borrego, Douglas and Amelink (2009:54) stated that quantitative research is useful to quantify opinions, attitudes and behaviours and find out how the whole population feels about a certain issue. Since the current study sought to investigate the influence of families, schools, gender and peers on students’ choices of careers, a quantitative approach was best suited as it allowed the researcher to compare the results between students at different types of schools in different locations.
In a quantitative approach, a researcher will set aside his or her experiences, perceptions, and biases to ensure reliability in the conducting of the study and the conclusions that are drawn (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2006:433). The use of questionnaires in the current study upheld the principle of objectivity and removed bias. The strengths of a quantitative approach in this study was that data was presented numerically thereby allowing easier analysis of factors that influence the choice of careers among high school students. According to Muijs (2011:7), quantitative research provides information from a large number of units thereby allowing generalisability of results. It was therefore prudent to use a quantitative approach in the current study since the sample used was large. However, its main drawback is that gaps in information are difficult to recognise. This means that issues which are not included in the questionnaire are not included in the analysis.
Various topics in Social Sciences and Education have been examined through the quantitative approach, for instance, Gray (2014), Kothari and Carg (2014), Creswell (2007, 2009, 2013), Bless, Higson-Smith and Sithole (2013), Somekh and Lewin (2012), Clark (2011) and Tewksbury (2009). The current study used the quantitative approach in similar environments to investigate the factors that influence the choices of careers amongst high school students.
The next subsection of the quantitative approach discusses the survey design which was adopted in this study.
The survey design
Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011:377) explained that surveys gather data at a particular point in time with the intention of describing the nature of existing conditions, identifying standards against which existing conditions can be compared or determining the relationships that exist between specific events. The current study used survey design to assess factors that influence the choices of career pathways among high school students in Zimbabwe.
Several studies in educational psychology have successfully used surveys, for example, in America (Cheema, 2014:68; Magee, Rickards, Byres & Artino, 2013:5; Locklear, 2012:23; Glasow, 2005:10), in the United Kingdom (Mathers, Fox, & Hunn, 2007:6), in Australia (Nutty, 2008:312; Murphy & Schulz, 2006:14), in Asia (Darbyshire & Haarms, 2015:20; Lu, Chin, Yao, Hu & Xiao, 2010:118; Kim & Terada-Hagiwara, 2010:22; Kuroda, Yuki & Kang, 2010:14) and in Southern and Eastern Africa, (Bayaga & Lekena, 2010:140; Ross, 2005:2). Backed by the successes of surveys across the world, the current study used a survey to collect data since it is impartial and reduces bias (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007:331). Because a survey does not expose individuals to invasive techniques or withhold treatment, it is considered more ethical (Mathers et al, 2007:6). It was the aim of the present study to uphold ethics in order to protect participants from forms of unethical data collection.
The representativeness of a survey is entirely dependent upon the accuracy of the sampling frame used (Mathers et al., 2007:6, Glasow, 2005:1). The current study’s sample was representative of the population under study since the probability sampling technique was used. All schools in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe were represented in the study.
Survey research involves the collection of information from a sample of individuals through their responses to questions. It is an efficient method for systematically collecting data from a broad spectrum of individuals and educational settings (Glasow, 2005:1). Schools in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe comprising boarding schools, mission schools, day schools, urban and rural secondary schools participated in the present study. Many variables such as the influence of schools, families, gender and peers on students’ choices of careers were measured without substantially increasing the time and the costs. As noted by Mathers et al. (2007:6-7), the strengths of using the survey outweigh the weaknesses. Survey research produces data based on real world observations. Kelley, Clark, Brown and Sitzia (2003:261) also reiterated that surveys can produce a large amount of data in a short time for a fairly low cost. The study took advantage of the above strengths to carry the present study to save both time and money.
Mathers et al. (2007:6) stated that a survey which is based on a random sampling technique produces a sample which is representative of the particular population under study and produces findings which may be generalised to the wider population thus enhancing external and internal validity which were essential in this study. External validity allows generalisability of results to a wider population and internal validity is the priority for research (Steckler & McLeroy, 2008:9). A survey can also cover geographically spread samples which made it suitable for the current study as schools in the Midlands province are spread far apart.
Scheuren (2004:9) stated that, in a bona fide survey, the sample is not selected haphazardly or only from persons who volunteer to participate, it is scientifically chosen so that each person in the population has a measurable chance of being selected. The current study subscribed to the above assertion as a stratified random sampling was used to select both the schools and the students who participated.
The following section discusses the population.
For the current study, the population included all high school students and career guidance teachers in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe. These included students in day schools, boarding schools, government schools and mission schools, including both boys and girls in Forms 4 to 6. The total population is approximately 12 000 students and 200 career guidance teachers.
The following section discusses the sample.
SAMPLE AND SAMPLING PROCEDURE
Ten percent of the population in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe for both students and career guidance teachers were selected. A total of 1200 students and 20 school career guidance teachers participated in the study. These were selected through a stratified random sampling technique. This is a sampling frame that is divided into subsections comprising groups that are relatively homogeneous with respect to one or more characteristics and a random sample from each stratum is selected (Colins, Onwuegbuzie & Jiao, 2007:272). Breakwell, Hammond, Fife-Schaw and Smith (2006:115) stated that stratified random sampling divides the sample up into separate subgroups and then selects random samples from within each group. Bhattacherjee (2012:67) stated that the sampling frame is divided into homogeneous and non-overlapping subgroups and a simple random sample is drawn within each subgroup. In other words, stratified random sampling is a method in which individuals are taken to represent each major stratum or layer within the population.
Twenty students per form (i.e. Forms 4, 5 and 6) were given questionnaires. Schools were put in different categories which were day schools, boarding schools, government schools, mission schools, rural and urban schools. All the names of the schools in the province from each category were put in a hat for random selection. A large sample of this magnitude was appropriate for this study since the study had participants from diverse backgrounds which would reduce sample errors and provide greater statistical power. Most of the career studies reviewed had restricted their samples to only one career and, at most, two schools thereby having a limited number of participants. This caused problems with the generalisation of results to a wider population. In selecting the schools, the same method (stratified random sampling) was used. Schools were categorised into groups, namely, boarding and day schools, and urban and rural schools. Table 3.1 below shows the participants in the present study.
Sampling school counsellors
School counsellors of the selected schools were automatically part of the sample.
Of all the 10 schools selected, 20 students (10 boys and 10 girls) from Forms 4 to 6 were randomly selected. Pieces of paper with numbers 1-10 were put in a hat with the rest of papers being blank. Boys picked papers in their own hat while girls picked from their own to avoid selecting students of the same sex. Those who picked the ones with numbers participated in the study.
Biographical data of participants
This section basically looks at the instruments used in this study. The study used questionnaires to collect the data. The reasons why the researcher preferred questionnaires over other instruments are highlighted below.
Cohen et al. (2011:377) purport that a questionnaire is a widely used and useful instrument for collecting survey information providing structured, often numerical data that is administered without the presence of the researcher and often comparatively straight forward to analyse. Since the researcher did not intent to engage research assistants, questionnaires were the best instruments since they could be administered without the presence of the researcher and were clear and precise. Siniscalco and Ariat (2005:3) stated that a questionnaire is a survey instrument used to collect data from individuals about themselves or about a social unit such as household or a school. It is regarded as a valid and reliable way of collecting correct information from the participants.
The questionnaire was used in this study to collect data from high school students and counsellors regarding factors that influence the choice of careers. This is in line with Acharya (2010:3) who argues that questionnaires intend to obtain answers either on the facts related to the respondents or the opinions of the respondents regarding the subjective or even the objective matters. Ross (2005:4) concurs with the above when he states that among the type of information that can be collected by means of a questionnaire are facts, opinions, activities, level knowledge, expectations, attitudes and perceptions. The current study sought to collect objective data and also facts, opinions, expectations and level of knowledge with regard to factors that influence the choice of careers among high school students in Zimbabwe. However, as pointed by Bird (2009:1131), to produce a valid and reliable questionnaire, the wording of the items should be precise and unambiguous. The wording of the questionnaire in the current study went through a rigorous test exercise through the use of senior academics and other researchers who verified their validity.
The current study chose the questionnaire since it was easy to analyse because every respondent was asked the same question in the same way. The researcher therefore was sure that everyone in the sample answered exactly the same questions which made it a reliable method. The researcher also chose a questionnaire over other instruments to enable collection of information in a standardised manner which, when gathered from a representative sample of a defined population, allows the inference of results to the wider population (Rottrary & Jones, 2007:239).
The main advantage of using a questionnaire is its effectiveness in collecting quality data that is easy to interpret (Cohen et al., 2011:377) so that quality findings will be achieved. It was imperative in the present study that participants provided quality data to enhance reliability. According to Mathers et al. (2007:19), all questionnaires should take into account whether the questionnaire will be self-completed. Questionnaires can be administered personally, by post or through email (Edwards, 2010:3; Graham, Papandonatos, Bock, Cobb, Baskin-Sommers, Niaura & Abrams, 2006:1; Jenkins & Dillman, 1995:3; Dillman, 1991:226). The current study used self-administered questionnaires which were personally delivered.
A questionnaire which is to be completed by the respondent needs to be very clearly laid out with no complex filtering and simple instructions (Fanning, 2005:2). In the current study, the researcher gave clear instructions to the respondents on how to complete the questionnaire as it was self-completed. The literacy level of the respondents should also be considered. Respondents with low literacy levels may have greater difficulty completing a self-completed questionnaire (Mathers et al., 2007:19; Bird, 2009:1311). The literacy level was considered in the current study as the participants were high school students and career guidance teachers who, it was assumed, would understand the questions. The questions were written in simple language and were brief. It has been established that the more motivated the respondent, the more likely the researcher is to get a questionnaire in a survey returned. If a high response rate is anticipated, then a self-completion survey is sufficient but, on the other hand, if a low response rate is expected, then a personal interview survey is likely to achieve higher acquiescence (Mathers, 2007:19; Bradbury, Sunman, & Wansink, 2004:283). The main motivating factors in this study were the way the questions were structured. Most of the questions required that the participants ticked the appropriate answer to the question. The questions were relevant to the participants as they were in the process of choosing careers.
The questionnaire consisted of items that sought to, firstly, assess the influence of family on their children’s career pathways. Secondly, the questionnaire included items that assessed the impact of schools on students’ career choices and, thirdly, the items in the questionnaire assessed the impact of gender on high school students’ career choices. Lastly, there were items on the influence of peers on career choices. A Likert scale was used in most of the closed questions. A five point Likert scale was used in this study to rate each item on a response scale. The primary reason for using a Likert scale is that the data is easy to code (Colosi, 2006:3). To ensure that questions were not ambiguous, a pilot study was carried out in an environment with similar characteristics as the one under study.
The use of questionnaires as a method of data collection in educational research globally has increased recently with competitive results as evidenced by the studies that used questionnaires successfully (Rottrary & Jones, 2007; Chireshe, 2012b; Edwards & Quinter, 2011; Mapfumo et al., 2002). The current study sought to take advantage of this proven and tested instrument to obtain valid and reliable data.
A closed ended question is one where the possible answers are defined in advance and so the respondent is limited to one of the pre-coded responses given (Mathers et al., 2007:20). Highly structured closed ended questions are useful because they can generate frequencies of responses amenable to statistical treatment and analysis and are quicker to code and analyse than word based data (Cohen, et al., 2011:282). They also enable comparisons to be made across groups in the sample (Cohen et al., 2011:382). The advantages of using closed ended questions in the current study were that carefully chosen response options allowed for the same frame of reference for all participants when choosing an answer. The answers to closed ended questions are pre-determined and, as a result, they are both more specific than open ended questions and more likely to promote consistency among respondents in terms of understanding both the question and the response required (Colosi, 2006:2). Hence closed ended questions were preferred in the current study as they allowed the researcher to generate frequencies on factors that influence the choice of careers that were easy to analyse.
Open ended questions
Colosi (2006:1) stated that open ended questions do not place restrictions on the answers respondents can provide. In other words, open ended questions allow the respondents to express themselves without limitations as compared to closed questions which prescribe a range of responses from which the respondent may choose. The answers provided may be rich in detail but it may be difficult to compare the responses over a large number of participants because the question is not direct (Leiva, Rios & Martinez, 2006:520; Mathers et al., 2007:20). Open ended questions yield more varied responses than closed ended questions and may highlight responses that evaluators could not have anticipated. However, the problem with open ended questions is that if there are many respondents, many different answers may be received which can be time consuming to code (Mathers et al., 2007:20) therefore the researcher of this study reduced the number of open ended questions to a minimum. They were included to take advantage of the above noted advantages of which one of them is the richness of the data. In the open ended questions, the respondent will interpret the question in his/her own way (Mathers et al., 2007:20; Meadows, 2003:265) which elicits unique information. This is in line with Driscoll, Appiah-Yeboah, Salib and Rupert (2007:24) who argue that open ended questions can augment and explain complex or contradictory survey questions.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF FIGURES
LIST OF TABLES
CHAPTER 1: THE PROBLEM AND ITS CONTEXT
1.2 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
1.3 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
1.6 RATIONALE FOR THE STUDY
1.7 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
1.8 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
1.12 DEFINITION OF TERMS
1.13 CHAPTER OUTLINES
CHAPTER 2: REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
2.2 FAMILY INFLUENCE ON CAREER CHOICES
2.3 SCHOOL INFLUENCE AND CAREER CHOICE
2.4 GENDER INFLUENCE AND CAREER CHOICE
2.5 PEER INFLUENCE AND CAREER CHOICE
CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.2 RESEARCH PARADIGM
3.3 RESEARCH DESIGN
3.5 SAMPLE AND SAMPLING PROCEDURE
3.7 DATA COLLECTION PROCEDURE
3.8 ANALYSIS OF DATA
3.9 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
CHAPTER 4: DATA PRESENTATION, ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION
4.2 FAMILY INFLUENCE ON CAREER CHOICES
4.3 SCHOOL INFLUENCE ON CAREER CHOICE
4.4 GENDER INFLUENCE ON CAREER CHOICES
4.5 PEER INFLUENCE ON CAREER CHOICE
4.6 DISCUSSION OF RESULTS
CHAPTER 5: SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.2 A REVIEW OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
5.3 LITERATURE REVIEW
5.4 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
5.5 SUMMARY OF THE FINDINGS
5.7 CONTRIBUTION OF THE STUDY
5. 10 FINAL COMMENTS
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT