CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
In Chapter 2 attention was directed towards the theology and epistemology of community outreach and how it has been introduced into Sagewood School. Different authors were able to give us a better understanding of the three pillars namely, postmodernism, social construction and theology. In Chapter 3, I will be dealing with the research methodology that enabled me to hear the voices of those respondents who were included in this study.
This chapter explains more about the methods of research, the participants and the ways in which I went about collecting and using the data, through questionnaires, feedback from parents, information gathered from other schools, as well as class conversations with the learners.
As the opinions and suggestions of the learners were very important for the study I chose to do the research according to the qualitative research methodology.
QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The following definition of White (2005:81) regarding qualitative research suits my position within this study. He states that ‘qualitative research is more concerned with understanding social phenomena from the perspectives of the participants. This happens through the researcher’s participation in the daily life activities of those involved in the research or through historical empathy with participants in past social events.’
To construct a programme that would achieve the aim of getting as many learners as possible to participate, it would be important to have the perspectives of the participants before constructing such a programme. Foucault’s (1980:98) work on power and knowledge is relevant here in that I sought to research with the learners in order to reduce their resistance to the programmes. This process therefore became collaborative and relational in order to attempt to increase its effectiveness. In order to accomplish this I spent time with the learners in order to understand what their experiences were, in order to find sustainable solutions.
By spending time together and having conversations about community outreach experiences, we were able to share opinions and suggestions with each other and also reflect on past experiences by reading reports that they had written.
White (2005:81) states that for the qualitative researcher, the only reality is the one constructed by the individuals involved in the research situation. Multiple realities exist in any given situation, i.e. that of the researcher, those individuals being investigated and the reader or audience interpreting the study. The reality I am constructing and writing about emerges from education in relationship with other programmes that are running in South Africa. Because this programme and therefore this research cannot be seen in isolation from other programmes presented in other schools by different teachers, I included the opinions of these teachers using more quantitative data.
Although surveys do not normally form part of qualitative research, it was helpful for me to obtain information from other similar schools. The study therefore benefited from local information in a South African context.
POPULATION AND SAMPLING
Teachers, parents of learners and the learners themselves who have participated in outreach programmes at local schools form the population of this survey
The voices that have been included in this study, as the sample, are those of the independent schools in community outreach programmes in Gauteng that participated via questionnaires. Furthermore the voices of the parents of the learners in grade 8 to grade 11 at Sagewood School were also heard via questionnaires. Lastly the voices of learners from two grade 8 classes, two grade 9 and two grade 10 Life Orientation classes at Sagewood School were heard via class discussions and the completion of anonymous questionnaires. It is this group of learners that the majority of this qualitative research is about, using the other sampling as a background to the information.
DATA COLLECTING TECHNIQUES
Independent schools in Gauteng a pilot study
As Sagewood is an independent school, my aim was to involve other schools in similar situations in order to gain enough information to help this research process. I needed to know more about community outreach programmes that other schools are running, whether they were also compulsory, when their programmes started, who the participants were and what kind of activities they were involved in. I used a questionnaire that was very basic and direct to address my need (see attached Addendum). The questionnaires were sent to the schools via e-mail or fax and consist of the following questions:
Name of your school
Contact person regarding outreach programme
Do your learners participate in outreach programmes?
If your answer is no, have you considered it or is it something that you would not get involved in?
If your answer is yes, what initiated the drive for such a programme?
How many years have you been doing outreach at your school?
Is it a voluntary or compulsory programme?
Does the school identify the need or do the learners choose where they would like to do their outreach?
Do the learners do outreach during school hours?
Do the learners keep a record of the hours that they spend in outreach?
What do you find to be the advantages of such a programme?
What do you find to be problematic in the running of the program?
Would you please be so kind as to make comments on any other issues that you would consider being important regarding this topic?
As mentioned before, I made a pragmatic decision to include the parents making use of the consent form I sent the parents asking for permission to carry out this study. I did this on the understanding that the learners live within families and communities, from which they form meaning and relationship. Parents as primary care givers in this regard are influential in the decisions their children make. I had to ask the parents for permission for their children to be part of this study
The parents had the option of not allowing their children to participate and they also had the choice to give feedback or not. In receiving their feedback I was able to pick up the positive aspects that they saw in the programme but also any frustrations or concerns regarding possible or previous participation.
It did so happen that one of the parents did not want his/her child to be part of the research. I sat down with the learner and we discussed the different solutions. We agreed that it would be beneficial for her to be part of the lesson and could give her opinion but that I would not use it in my study. I did not want her to feel uncomfortable in front of her peers by not participating at all.
The focus in this study, as discussed earlier, was on collaborating with the learners and this was carried out within a social construction paradigm. The voluntary participation of participants was respected in all of the different research methods.
The learners had the option of anonymity during surveys and also whether to get involved in the class conversations or remain quiet.
Students come into class with different meanings of the concept of ‘community outreach’. As these meanings were socially constructed, the students and I unpacked these meanings to enable us to work within a similar framework. By unpacking I am referring to what is termed deconstructive questioning. These questions are designed to explore the meanings attached to words and the social discourses that lurk behind them. Morgan (2000:49) suggests that deconstruction can lead to the challenging of ‘taken-for-granted’ ideas and open alternative stories. In this instance it helped to explore the many meanings attached to outreach and some of the less dominant meanings may provide for what Morgan (2000:49) describes as ‘unique outcomes’. These are ideas that might previously have been lost where a single idea dominates.
Derrida (Weedon 1987:15, 16) focuses my attention on the meaning of words by saying ‘What it means at any particular moment depends on the discursive relations within whom it is located, and it is open to constant rereading and reinterpretation’.
It was interesting during the class conversations to listen to the ‘taken-for-granted’ ideas that students have of community outreach. It was also important for me to hear how they defined community outreach and how care could become part of their life. We needed to journey together to discover if the post-modern picture of community outreach could still hold hands with the picture that originated in America.
During two lessons of forty-five minutes each with two grade eight, two grade nine and two grade ten classes I introduced a topic of conversation by asking a directive question. The questions differed from one group to the next. In two of the lessons I asked one of the learners to record the lesson with a video camera. In all the lessons I asked for volunteers to make notes on aspects discussed. I also requested one learner to depict a record of discussions on a transparency to keep on track and to make sure that we captured all the information.
The purpose of data analysis is to make sense of the accumulated information after data has been collected in the field. Research data, whether qualitative or quantitative, must be analyzed in order to answer research questions or test hypotheses. After analysis, the results are presented as findings, organized according to research questions and hypothesis and presented clearly so that they can be easily understood by others.
Qualitative data analysis is primarily an indicative process of organizing the data into categories and identifying patterns (relationships) within the categories. Qualitative analysis is a systematic process of selecting, categorizing, comparing, and interpreting to provide explanation of a single item of interest (White, 2003:110). The way in which I analysed the data collected from the learners was to work with them at distilling our main ideas and concerns, as well as experiences, beliefs and anxieties around the programme. These were recorded as a collective activity. I furthermore privileged my own interpretation using my theoretical framework as a guide to connect ideas and thoughts that were generated in the classrooms with the broader implications for formulating ideas for a relevant and sustainable outreach programme for the school.
Ethical measures are principles, which the researcher should bind himself to (Schulze, 2002:17). In my study, I adhered to the following research ethics:
Permission to conduct the research.
I wrote a letter to the management team of the school informing them about the aim of the study and asking for permission to do the research at the school. I also asked the parent’s permission to include the opinions and feedback of their children in my study.
Participants should be given adequate information pertaining to the study before data collection (Schulze, 2002:17). In my study, I gave all the learners ample information about the aims of the research, the procedures that would be followed, possible advantages and disadvantages for them, and how the results would be used. This was done to enable them to decide whether to participate or not.
Confidentiality and anonymity
A researcher has to be responsible at all times, vigilant, mindful and sensitive to human dignity (Gay, 1996:85). This is supported by McMillan and Schumacher (1997:195) who stress that information on participants should be regarded as confidential unless otherwise agreed on through informed consent. In my study, participant’s confidentiality was ensured as they
contributed anonymously. I am the only person who has access to the names and data.
Dissemination of the research findings
As a mark of my appreciation of their input, participants will be informed of the findings of the study. Unnecessary details will not be supplied and confidentiality will not be violated. I will also be sharing my findings with other independent schools.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER
A literature study was the first step in the research. Thereafter a survey of other independent schools in the Gauteng area and their approaches towards community outreach was conducted. Questionnaires were addressed to teachers who oversee outreach projects. The next step was asking parent’s permission for their children to participate in the study and to ask their opinions on community outreach programmes. The letter had a reply slip, which gave the parents the opportunity to let their voice be heard. Finally, information from the learners was gathered through class discussions and asking questions. The learners had the opportunity to voice their opinion in an anonymous questionnaire. A video, learner’s notes and transparencies were used to document information.
In Chapter 4 I will provide the reader with the information gathered by means of the steps taken in Chapter 3.
CHAPTER 4 HEARING THE VOICES AND EXPERIENCING THE RESPONSES
In Chapter 3 the aim was to explain the different ways, which I used to hear the voices of all the different respondents partaking in this study. I also described qualitative research as typical of this study and research design.
Chapter 4 focuses on the responses of individuals and groups who formed part of the study. Due to the limited scope of this research the voices were made clearer by means of the completion of simple questionnaires that helped to clarify some of the beliefs within the larger community. I did not seek to do a discourse or quantitative analysis on these voices, but allowed them to help me to understand some of the larger concerns in the community. The heart of the study however has been my engagement with the learners at the school, which has been recorded on video and in the learner’s own records of the class discussions.
RESPONSES FROM TEACHERS OF INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS IN GAUTENG
As discussed in the previous chapters, the larger discourses in society have a great influence on the ways in which we understand our world. Although limited, answers to the questionnaires help to point to larger community beliefs. These discourses both constrain as well as give opportunity for understanding this research. I requested participants from other independent schools similar to Sagewood to complete these questionnaires.
The study included 40 ISASA schools in the Gauteng area. Questionnaires were sent to all these schools. 12 responded to the survey. The following is a summary of the information gathered.
Evident from the above-mentioned responses was that although all the schools are involved in community outreach programmes and see the programmes as developing awareness and connection to other communities, the majority have difficulty in motivating learners to participate voluntarily in their programmes. Learners appear to find it unnecessary or not of sufficient importance to give of their own time. It appears to be easier for students to give money for, than spend time with community outreach programmes. It also appears that a discourse within wealthier suburbs creates a youth culture that finds it difficult to move outside their own age groups. I found very interesting the belief at schools that learners from privileged backgrounds would benefit from caring for others as a one-way process of caring ‘for’ rather than a reciprocal process of mutual benefit. Although beyond the scope of this research it would be interesting to engage more with parents to examine their social development skills and how they influence the different ways learners have been socially constructed.
Discourses pertaining to upbringing and the ways learners negotiate their environment are important, but another aspect of interest in this research has been to collaborate with learners on this topic in a dynamic process of co-ownership. I am mindful of this as I work with students teaching life-skills in a way that does not generate resistance from them. This is relevant as in any dominant discourse power relationships disappear into the assumptions that are held by society. In this instance learners resist being told to care. However, the more power can work with the learners, the more likely they are to take ownership and responsibility for caring. In this way one of my own aims has been to work with learners so that they can move to a place where together we are in resistance to indifference or lack of care. For this to become sustainable within a school environment the questions I ask become significant and strategic in the pursuit of this goal.
An examination of school websites suggests that their involvement in outreach programmes is something that they would like to advertise and considerable time is spent on updating the sites with photos and articles. Most schools appear to really go out of their way to provide and care and want the public to be aware of this. This suggests that they have started painting the picture of what community outreach must look like. Post apartheid-South Africa is one in which communities remain deeply divided between the “carers” and the “cared for”. This has influenced care within communities and the ways in which an outreach programmes have been constructed.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY WITH REGARD TO THE PROBLEM STATEMENT, RESEARCH QUESTION, OBJECTIVES AND RESEARCH DESIGN
1.2 BACKGROUND REGARDING THE COMMUNITY OUTREACH PROGRAMME AT SAGEWOOD SCHOOL IN MIDRAND
1.3 LITERATURE STUDY ON COMMUNITY OUTREACH
1.4 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.5 RESEARCH QUESTION
1.6 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
1.7 RESEARCH DESIGN
1.8 LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
1.9 DIVISION OF CHAPTERS
1.10 SUMMARY OF CHAPTER
CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW
2.2 SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION
2.4 POWER AND KNOWLEDGE
2.5 PASTORAL CARE AND THEOLOGY
2.6 SUMMARY OF CHAPTER
CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.2 QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.3 POPULATION AND SAMPLING
3.4 DATA COLLECTING TECHNIQUES
3.5 DATA ANALYSIS
3.6 ETHICAL MEASURES
3.7 SUMMARY OF CHAPTER
CHAPTER 4 HEARING THE VOICES AND EXPERIENCING THE RESPONSES
4.2 RESPONSES FROM TEACHERS OF INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS IN GAUTENG
4.3 RESPONSES FROM PARENTS
4.4 THE VOICES OF LEARNERS
4.5 SUMMARY OF CHAPTER
CHAPTER 5 FINAL THOUGHTS, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.3 MY OWN ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT PASTORAL CARE IN A SCHOOL OUTREACH PROGRAMME AND HOW THIS HAS AFFECTED THIS RESEARCH
5.4 SOME WAYS IN WHICH THE MULTIPLE VOICES HAVE CHALLENGED ME TO ENGAGE WITH AN OUTREACH PROGRAMME IN A DIFFERENT WAY
5.5 THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BEING IN RELATIONSHIP WITH CREATION, WHETHER PEOPLE, ANIMALS OR THE ENVIRONMENT THAT BRINGS BENEFIT TO THE LEARNERS
5.6 THE IMPORTANCE OF LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE IN RELATIONSHIPS AND IN RELATION TO SOME OF THE SIGNS OF OUR TIMES
5.7 SOME LIMITATIONS OF THIS STUDY
5.8 HOW HAVE THE RESEARCH QUESTION AND THE AIMS HELPED YOU IN YOUR PURSUIT OF WAYS OF PRACTICING IN A PASTORAL WAY?
5.9 DIFFERENT PEOPLE CARE IN DIFFERENT WAYS
5.10 PERSONAL CHOICE IN CARING AND SHARING OF EXPRIENCES
5.11 REFLECTION AND EVALUATION
5.12 SCHOOL- BASED CARE FOR GRADE 8 AND NEW LEARNERS
5.13 PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT
5.14 CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN EDUCATORS OF DIFFERENT SCHOOLS
5.15 SUMMARY OF CHAPTER
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