Resilience supporting school environment

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CHAPTER 3 Phase 1: The quantitative research, the resilience survey

INTRODUCTION

Chapter One outlined the two-phased research design adopted for the study. This chapter will detail the quantitative phase process of the study and serves as the basis for Phase 2 of the research. The main research question, ‘How does the school influence the resilience of middle-adolescent learners in a black-only township school’, required first the reliable identification of resilient and less-resilient middle-adolescent learners in township schools. This chapter reports the effort to construct a reliable and valid instrument to help identify resilient and less-resilient middle-adolescent learners who would then participate to answer the main research question in Phase 2 of the study, to be reported in Chapter 4.
The underlying principle of this chapter is to ground the construct resilience as manifested by middle-adolescents in a township school through the construction of a questionnaire, developing and validating the questionnaire to ensure it can be used for future research. I will firstly recapture the research paradigms and the research designs which were outlined in Chapter One followed by the explanation of the process followed in the construction of the R-MATS questionnaire. Finally, the statistical analysis and the results of the R-MATS will be discussed.

RESEARCH PARADIGMS

The research followed a mixed method design using two phases sequentially, with each adhering to its own paradigm, to better understand and explore the concept resilience within the particular context of a township school (Creswell 1994:177; 2003:17). The initial phase, a questionnaire development and a small-scale survey, was quantitative in nature and aimed to identify resilient and less resilient participants and contribute towards developing a South African measure of resilience. The second phase of the research was qualitative in nature, using the IQA method and aimed to investigate the relationship between the resilience of middle-adolescent resilient and less-resilient learners, and the school environment.
In this study, the concept paradigm will refer to theory and method, referring to quantitative, qualitative and IQA (Creswell 1994:1). A quantitative study encompasses a quantitative paradigm and assumptions and a qualitative study encompasses and relies on the assumptions of a qualitative paradigm (Creswell 1994:1-2). Sale, Lohfeld and Brazil (2002:48) indicate that one of the differences between quantitative and qualitative research methods refers to objectivity (existence of the external referent to gauge the truth) and subjectivity (personal interpretations and meanings attached to the phenomenon under study, which indicate the ‘truth’, the reality as constructed and interpreted by participants) of the study.
The combination of methods in this research was used to neutralize biases and overcome deficiencies inherent in a single research method, to enhance the validity, strength and reliability of the study, and to enhance the interpretative potential of the study. Creswell’s (1994:175) conception of combining methods agrees with the assumption of this study in that the triangulation of methods served to converge results. The findings from the survey questionnaire will ultimately be compared with the findings from the focus group discussions and interviews. The survey was essential in identifying the resilient and less-resilient middle-adolescent learners who would participate in the focus groups and interviews. Focus groups and interviews were essential in addressing the research question regarding the relationship between the school and the resilience of middle-adolescent learners participating in the study. The methods complement each other ensuring the emergence of the construct resilience as perceived by middle-adolescent learners in a township school and the role the school plays in their resilience. The triangulation of methods in this research therefore required a sequential application of methods, to ensure a developmental approach where one method informed the other (Creswell 1994:175), which leaves room for expansion of the study in the future and the creation of the scope for the study to develop further, and to encourage new perspectives.
Creswell (1994:175) questions the mixed method approach regarding what should be mixed paradigm and/or method because specific paradigms have specific methods. Sale et al. (2002:48-50) disagree with the notion of mixed methods when they indicate that methods cannot be ‘mixed’ as they study different ‘phenomena’ even within the same study. They (Sale et al. 2002:48) indicate that a successful approach to a ‘mixed method paradigm’ lies in the distinction of the phenomenon under study by differentiating between the ‘measurement of the construct’ and ‘lived experiences’ and reconciling the phenomena to the method used. Their view (Sale et al. 2002:48) indicates that the research question is addressed differently or the phenomenon is looked at differently when using a mixed method approach, which is true because the research question and the sub-questions inform the type of method the researcher applies. The approach this study applied to justify the use of mixed methods, was to identify the constructs under study, to identify resilient and less-resilient middle-adolescent learners developing a survey questionnaire, to ‘measure’ the resilience of possible participants and then to explore the interactions of the selected participants with the school, the ‘lived experiences’ as perceived by them, using focus groups and semi-structured interviews. In this regard, the survey questionnaire gave a general view of who the resilient and less-resilient middle-adolescent learners were. The focus groups and semi-structured interviews gave insight into what and how resilience was constructed and interpreted in a school context by more and less resilient middle-adolescent learners, what Reichardt and Cook (in Foss & Ellefsen 2002:245) term ‘the dimensions of discovery vs. verification’.
Furthermore, the study assumed the mixed method approach to better understand the construct resilience using a two-phase design in which the phases were conducted separately (Creswell 1994:177). The disadvantage of the adopted two-phase approach, indicated by Creswell (1994:177), includes the difficulty the researcher and reader may experience in discerning the connection between the two methods used. To avoid confusing the reader in this study, the methods and results of each phase of the study will be reported separately and the findings of the study will in a final exercise be converged or triangulated in accordance with the design of the study.
Regarding the strength of selecting a mixed-method approach, Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004:15-16) assume a move from paradigm contradictions and war normally encountered in most methodological literature between quantitative and qualitative paradigms, as they relate the similarities and agreements between the two traditions. Their (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie 2004:15-16) approach supports the combination or triangulation of methods in research and highlights the often-ignored similarities of the two paradigms. The similarities encompass the common approach to research, which includes the use of empirical observations to address the research question (describe data, construct explanatory arguments from data, speculate about outcomes), safeguarding the inquiry to minimize confirmation biases and the ‘attempt to provide warranted assertions’ about subjects of study (people, environment).
The mixed method approach served to further inform the researcher by providing new insight into the complex phenomenon of the study, resilience, and gave rigor to the research. The two methods when mixed tend to complement each other. The quantitative method allowed the researcher to infer about what was examined, ‘you see only what you are looking at’, while the qualitative methods helped to ‘expand the gaze to elements that were never examined or fully elucidated’ (Borkan 2004:4). The IQA method embraces both constructivist and interpretivist approaches to research. IQA assumes that the researcher and the participants are interdependent implying limited separation between the researcher and the subject of the research (participants) to avert the positivistic approach of leaving the interpretation of data solely to the researcher (Northcutt & McCoy 2004:16).
Constructivism indicates that participants are actively participating in constructing new knowledge as they interact with each other and leave the process with new information added to their pre-existing knowledge (Strommen & Lincoln 1992:468). This certainly happens in the IQA method. The constructivist approach to research includes acknowledging the knowledge of the participants in the research process and not viewing them as helpless subjects influenced by their context and circumstances. Strong (2005:90-93) indicates that constructivists’ view of experiences is not objective as people use language and culture to translate their experiences and to subjectively interpret them, thus the experiences are subjectively constructed and interpreted and not objectively discovered. This view sets limits to people’s knowledge because Confrey (1990:108) indicates that knowledge is a cognitive act and understanding of knowledge is constructed through experiences, while the character of experience is influenced by the cognitive lenses a person uses to access knowledge, thus constructivists’ views relate to people’s construction of experiences with each other (Strong 2005:90).
Babbie and Mouton (2002:30) refer to Garfinkel’s (1960’s) interpretation of human behaviour as a depiction of certain expressions of underlying common sense behaviours that help to bring order and smoothness to their everyday lives. As the participants continually interpret and present their knowledge, understanding and meaning of their interactions in their social worlds, they construct new experiences with each other, thus alluding to the constructivist nature of research.
The research techniques used for Phase Two of the research, which allowed participants to reflect, and construct new knowledge, included focus group discussions (using the IQA method) and interviews. The constructivist approach was adopted as a method aligned to both the qualitative paradigm and IQA paradigm with the assumption that through the research techniques employed, participants construct new knowledge as they interact with each other or as they interrogate the phenomenon of the research. In this study, the participants (middle-adolescent learners), through the process of IQA method generated and interpreted data on resilience and the school context and constructed meanings of the phenomenon resilience in relation to the school context and how it influences their ability to rebound from adversities.
The qualitative paradigm is also aligned to the interpretivist approach, which enabled the middle-adolescent learners in the interviews to interpret their own lived experiences as they perceived them, giving a subjective interpretation of the phenomenon as they experienced it. Through Interpretivism, a study intends to understand the lived experiences of participants in their deliberations, descriptions and interpretations of interactions in their social context (Henning et al. 2004:19-20; Ritchie & Lewis 2004:7). The interpretive approach represents the argument that human beings are in the process of constantly ‘making sense of their world’ as they ‘continuously interpret, create and give meaning to define, justify and rationalize actions, people also are in the habit of continually constructing, changing and developing their interpretations of their world (Babbie & Mouton 2002:28-29).
The interpretative nature of a study alludes to research participants as ‘investigators and interpreters of their actions’ when they interpret their behaviours within the social contexts as stated by Ritchie and Lewis (2004:6), that ‘perception relates not only to the senses but to human interpretations of what our senses tell us’. Ritchie and Lewis (2004:7) further state that ‘qualitative research places much emphasis and value on human interpretative aspects of knowing about the social world and the significance of the investigator’s own interpretations and understanding of the phenomenon studied’. The interpretivist approach includes the notion that people generate and give their own descriptions and meanings to their interactions in their social worlds. The researcher also assumes the position of an interpretivist to interpret data (interpretations of participants) collected from the participants. However, the researcher’s interpretations are not permitted to contradict or disregard the participants’ meanings, which could lead to data misinterpretation, but he/she is required to give objective and clear descriptions and understandings of the participants’ interpretations of their interactions in their social world. In this process, literature knowledge and research of the phenomenon under study is also used.
In the focus group discussions and interviews, I used the interpretive framework to infer the participants’ (middle-adolescents’) perceptions of their experiences of resilience and how the school context influences their ability to rebound from adversities.

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RESEARCH DESIGN

The research followed a mixed method design or triangulation of methods with the purpose to increase the validity, reliability, strength and interpretation of data, to decrease researcher biases, and to provide multiple perspectives on the research. It was also essential to highlight the issues that required exploration during data collection (Thurmond 2001:253; Frechtling & Sharp 1997:1-8). The initial phase of the research, Phase One, included working on the questionnaire through the process of questionnaire development, piloting, administration and statistical analysis of the main study data (see Figure 3.1 for questionnaire development). After statistical analysis and validation of the final questionnaire items, the selection of the research participants for Phase Two was made.

Chapter 1 Introduction to the study
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 RATIONALE OF THE STUDY
1.3 THE PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.5 DEFINITION OF KEY CONCEPTS
1.6 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
1.7 PLAN OF ENQUIRY
1.8 RIGOUR OF RESEARCH
1.9 CONTRIBUTIONS AND STRENGTHS OF THE STUDY
1.10 PERCEIVED THREATS TO THE STUDY
1.11 OUTLINE OF CHAPTERS
CHAPTER 2 A theoretical background towards understanding a resilience supporting school environment
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 WHAT IS RESILIENCE?
2.3 THE DEVELOPMENT OF RESEARCH ON RESILIENCE
2.4 WAVES OF RESEARCH ON RESILIENCE DEVELOPMENT
2.5 THE THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS: THE RESILIENCY WHEEL AND THE BIOECOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK
2.6 THE CONTEXT OF DEVELOPMENT: THE TOWNSHIP ENVIRONMENT AND THE TOWNSHIP SCHOOL
2.7 ADOLESCENT STAGE
2.8 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 3 Phase 1: The quantitative research, the resilience survey
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 RESEARCH PARADIGMS
3.3 RESEARCH DESIGN
3.4 THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS OF THE RESILIENCE QUESTIONNAIRE FOR MIDDLE-ADOLESCENTS IN A TOWNSHIP SCHOOL (R-MATS)
3.5 THE MAIN STUDY
3.6 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 4 Phase 2: The interactive qualitative analysis
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 INTERACTIVE QUALITATIVE ANALYSIS
4.3 DESCRIPTION OF THE METHOD 10
4.4 RESEARCH DESIGN
4.5 AFFINITY ANALYSIS RESILIENT GROUP SCHOOL 1
4.6 AFFINITY ANALYSIS: RG2
4.7 REFLECTION ON THE RG1 AND RG2 SIDS
4.8 AFFINITY ANALYSIS: LRG1
4.9 AFFINITY ANALYSIS: LRG2
4.10 REFLECTION ON THE LRG1 AND LRG2 SIDS
4.11 REFLECTION ON THE SIDS PER SCHOOL
4.12 IQA INDIVIDUAL INTERVIEWS
4.13 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 5 Summary, discussion, limitations, recommendations and conclusion
5.1 SUMMARY
5.2 DISCUSSION OF PHASE 1 AND 2 RESULTS USING THE BIOECOLOGICAL MODEL
5.3 DISCUSSION OF PHASE 1 AND 2 RESULTS USING THE RESILIENCY WHEEL
5.4 FINALLY ANSWERING MY RESEARCH QUESTIONS
5.5 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
5.6 RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE STUDY
5.7 A FINAL REMARK
REFERENCES 
APPENDICES
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