CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
The previous chapter dealt with the literature review. In this chapter, the focus will be on the empirical research design and methodology. Mothata (2000:145) and White (2003: 42) both describe the research design as a plan for selecting subjects, sites for research and the data collection strategies in order to enable the researcher to answer the research question(s). This plan can be referred to as the structure of the investigation used to obtain evidence to find a solution to the research problem.
According to White (2003:42), “design” is a concept that describes the procedures for conducting the study, including when, from whom and under what conditions the data will be obtained. In other words, the design indicates how the research is set up: what happens to the subjects and what methods of data collection are used.
This research made use of qualitative research methodology. As part of the qualitative research methodology, the following data collection techniques were used, namely, participant observations, semi-structured interviews and document analysis. This chapter describes the observation of the meeting procedures of the school governing bodies, the interviews with selected participants on the general governance of schools, as well as the results of scrutinising their documents and record keeping procedures.
A qualitative approach is used in this study as a preferred research method. Hoberg (1999:25) clearly characterises qualitative research design as a procedure which is a part of the investigation used to obtain evidence to solve the research problem. This design should describe the methods for conducting the study, including when, from whom and under what conditions the data is gathered.
The research problem in this study pertains to the assessment of the performance of the school governing bodies of the selected farm schools in the Limpopo Province. The participants were therefore members of school governing bodies specifically from the selected farm schools in the Limpopo Province. There are only a few farm schools in the Limpopo Province and some are becoming non-functional as most of the farm labourers move to the informal settlements in the townships where they are offered low cost houses. As there is a lack of literature about the governing bodies of farm schools and the Waterberg District has a number of schools of this type; this district was therefore identified for this research.
Ethical accountability is an essential component of all research. Strydom (2000, in White 2003: 84) defines the concept “ethics” as:
Ethics is a set of moral principles which is suggested by an individual or group, is subsequently widely accepted, and which offers rules and behavioural expectations about the most correct conduct towards experimental subjects and respondents, employers, sponsors, other researchers, assistants and students.
Mestry (2006:30) points out that behavioural expectations include ethical standards such as confidentiality, participants’ anonymity, voluntary participation as well as honesty in reporting.
In this study, permission was obtained from all the participants as well as from the various stakeholders. All parties were informed of the aims of the research project, the research methods that were to be used and the possible publication of results. In addition, they were given a guarantee regarding the confidentiality of any information divulged by them and they were assured that their anonymity would be respected. The participants were also given an option to withdraw from participating in the research project whenever they felt uncomfortable during the process.
The participants in this research project were predominantly parents from disadvantaged communities that are relevant for this research. Because of their background, they had to be reassured regarding their safety and that the outcome of this research would not lead to their victimisation by the farm owners or managers. Every effort was made to clarify details about which there were any uncertainties.. Therefore, Wax (1971, in McMillan and Schumacher 1993:383) recommends that the researcher must establish rapport, trust and reciprocal relations with the individuals and groups to be observed.
The type of sampling design followed in this study is purposeful. Accordingly, the respondents that were selected for this project were the school governing body members who were currently serving on the structure. Members of the school governing body came from schools in the Nylstroom Circuit under the Waterberg District.
White (2003:58) distinguishes between single stage sampling design and multiple stage sampling design. The single-stage sampling design is applied when the researcher has access to names in the population and can sample the people directly. In multi-stage sampling design, the researcher first samples groups or organisations (or clusters), obtains names of individuals within each group or cluster and then samples within the cluster.
Ten of these selected farm schools are situated in the Waterberg District in the Nylstroom Circuit. The research techniques followed entailed the observation of certain aspects pertaining to the participants in their various settings such as meeting procedures, attendance of meetings and the nature and extent of their participation during meetings. Observations and document analysis were conducted in five randomly selected schools from the group of schools on which the focus fell. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with all the members of the school governing body irrespective of whether they were illiterate or semi- literate.
The Nylstroom Circuit has about twenty schools but the sample was limited to ten of those schools. The respondents in this study represented the respective groups of school governing members, educators and principals from the selected schools. Support staff component was not included since these farm schools did not have this component. The broader parents’ body in the various school governing bodies was included in the research. This ensured that the research is more representative as it covers a reasonable area in the circuit. The topic itself clearly indicates that the specific area covered is the farming area.
White (2003:58) describes a sample as a group of subjects or situations selected from a larger population. When writing the research proposal or dissertation, the researcher is supposed to specify the characteristics of the population and the sampling procedure.
Since it had been planned that ten farm schools would be included in the study and at least five respondents from each school were expected to take part, this meant that the total number of participants would be a maximum of fifty people.
The participants in this research were the educators, parents of learners in the schools and the principals who acted as ex-officio members on the school governing bodies of the farm schools or the rural schools. The participants from the ten schools were selected in the following manner: one principal per school, a chairperson per school, a secretary or a treasurer per school and at least two volunteer parents from each school were selected.
Five farm schools were observed during their meeting sessions, in the natural settings of the school. It was important to observe these meetings since they could give a clear understanding and valid assessment of how meeting procedures and protocol were observed. A further area of concentration was the natural setting of the school and the other parties involved, namely, the learners and parents.
McMillan and Schumacher (1993: 419) point out that participant observations enable the researcher to determine people’s perceptions of reality as revealed by their actions and expressed as feelings, thoughts and beliefs. This method is generally regarded as one of the principal data collection techniques of qualitative research. White (2003:80) agrees with them by indicating that participant observers believe that human behaviour is influenced in many ways by the natural settings in which they occur.
Paragraph 2.3 of chapter 2 of this study explains the composition of the school governing body. A school governing body consists of the parents of learners in the school, the educators in the school, support staff where applicable, learners in grade eight or higher and the principal who is the ex-officio member. The size of the school governing body is determined by the enrolment of learners in the school, with parents forming the greater majority (Mabasa and Themane 2002: 113).
Under normal circumstances, the composition of a farm school’s governing body generally does not exceed six members in total. This is attributed to the low enrolment of learners typical of this category of schools. The Limpopo Provincial Gazette provides guidelines regarding the number of school governing body members per school in relation to the learner enrolment in that particular type of school. According to the Northern Province Department of Education Notice 141 of 2000 (2000:17), most farm schools fall within this described category:
There are only two middle schools in the circuit. The two tables above give a rational representation of the different components. In terms of the South African Schools Act No. 84 of 1996 (RSA 1996a:14), parents are supposed to take responsibility for their children’s learning to a large degree.
A number of responsibilities that are prescribed by this act and which parents must fulfil are highlighted in chapter 2 of this study. The parents’ participation within the school governing body ranks must be guided by these responsibilities (Ndlazi 1999:73).
The school governing body members were requested to participate in the research project in their different portfolios. De Wizem and Combrink (2004:56) support the fact that parental participation in educational matters is essential and for that reason, it needs to be improved by means of research.
White (2003:78) as well as Mouton (2001:105), describes various types of interviews, amongst which are a structured interview and an unstructured interview.
A structured interview means that the sequence and questions are determined by means of a schedule and the interviewer is left little freedom to make modifications. Therefore, it is characterised as a closed situation. It was expected that a maximum of 50 participants would be interviewed in this study as indicated above. The participants were drawn from selected farm schools’ governing bodies.
The unstructured or semi-structured as opposed to the structured interview, is an open situation because of the interviewer having greater flexibility and freedom. An interview schedule of 14 questions was compiled for this purpose. For this study, a semi-structured interview was the best option as it could accommodate the parents in the school governing body who were not literate (Matalasi 2000:9). A tape-recorder was used to record the proceedings, which were subsequently transcribed and translated accordingly for proper analysis.
Interviews with nominated principals
In this study, interviews were conducted with the ten selected farm school principals as is explained in the introduction in paragraph 3.1 of this chapter. As anticipated, this was a literate group that was able to participate spontaneously in the semi-structured interviews (Van Wyk 2004:50).The principals from the district; namely; the Waterberg, were interviewed in their original settings, namely at the farm schools where they taught.
Interviews with nominated chairpersons
The South African Schools Act No. 84 of 1996 (RSA 1996a: 18 and 20) states that the chairperson of a school governing body occupies the most central position in the governing body and must be a parent of a learner in the school irrespective of gender, race, or religion. This position gives the chairperson a certain status and power in the sense that he can be influential in the decision-making process of the school governing body.
Most of the chairpersons were not sufficiently literate to handle the questionnaires. The logical option was to select semi-structured interviews for this study. In this regard, the interview questions were adjusted to suit the level of literacy of this group of participants. The adjustment of questions included what has already been highlighted in chapter 1, and in certain cases, the questionnaires were translated into the participant’s home language. This made the research more comprehensive since the participants were able to participate fully in the study.
Interviews with nominated parents
A ‘parent’ in terms of the South African Schools Act No. 84 of 1996 (RSA 1996a:4) is defined as the person responsible for the education of the child. This is explained in chapter 1 of this study. The parents on farms cannot cope with the prescriptions regarding their required responsibilities as stipulated in the South African Schools Act.
It was advisable that at least three parents per school should be interviewed, while other school governing body components were excluded. This means that 30 parents were interviewed. As was the case with the chairpersons, the semi-structured interview was the appropriate choice, because they too were not literate and depended on the translated version of the interview schedule to be able understand the questions. This made the interviews more comprehensible and easy to understand for them.
It was necessary for the above-mentioned category of respondents to be involved in the study since they were key figures in the governance of the school. It must be realised that most of the parent were at work during the day. This situation meant that the researcher had to make appointments with parents in advance. As a result, the
appointments were made with them for those times when the parents were not at work, for instance, over the weekends.
The appointments with the principals fell during the day when the times did not clash with their school schedules. The principals as the professional heads of the schools, were able to adjust their schedules accordingly. It must be noted that it was important for the researcher not to disturb the teaching and learning activities of schools while conducting this research.
According to McMillan and Schumacher (1993:445), documents may be written or printed materials, which may be official or unofficial, public or private, published or unpublished, prepared intentionally to preserve a historical record or prepared to serve an immediate practical purpose. For the purposes of this study, documents included attendance registers, minutes of the meetings, financial records, invitations to meetings and the constitution of the school governing body. Permission was requested from the participating schools to peruse the documents. The documents that were analysed will be discussed next.
Obtaining permission to visit a few chosen sites to scrutinise the documents and determine the effectiveness of the record keeping procedures, was part of this study as explained in chapter 1 of this research. For this reason, the attendance registers of five selected schools were accessed in order to ascertain the attendance figures of the individual school governing body members of these schools.
CHAPTER 1: ORIENTATION AND GENERAL BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY PAGE
1.2 RESEARCH AIMS
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.4 DEMARCATION OF FIELD OF STUDY
1.5 DEFINITION AND EXPLANATION OF CONCEPTS
1.6 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
1.7 DELIMITATION OF THE STUDY
1.8 OUTLINE OF STUDY
CHAPTER 2: SCHOOL GOVERNING BODIES OF FARM SCHOOLS IN THE LIMPOPO PROVINCE: THEIR HISTORY AND FACTORS INFLUENCING THEIR PERFORMANCE PAGE
2.2 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LITERATURE STUDY
2.3 ROLE AND COMPOSITION OF SCHOOL GOVERNING BODIES
2.4 THE HISTORY OF SCHOOL GOVERNING BODIES IN SOUTH AFRICA
2.5 ESTABLISHMENT OF FARM SCHOOLS IN SOUTH AFRICA
2.6 INVOLVMENT OF STAKEHOLDERS IN FARMSCHOOLS IN THE LIMPOPO PROVINCE
2.7 SCHOOL GOVERNING BODIES IN THE LIMPOPO PROVINCE
2.8 POSSIBLE FACTORS INFLUENCING THE PERFORMANCE OF SCHOOL GOVERNING BODIES IN THE LIMPOPO PROVINCE
CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY PAGE
3.2 RESEARCH METHODS
3.3 TIME FRAME OF THE STUDY
3.4 DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS
3.5 VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY OF THE RESEARCH
3.6 VERIFYING AND VALIDATING DATA
3.7 DELIMITATION OF THE STUDY
3.8 LIMITATIONS OF THE RESEARCH
CHAPTER 4: RESEARCH RESULTS AND DISCUSSION OF THE RESULTS PAGE
4.2 PARTICIPANT OBSERVATIONS
4.3 SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
4.4 DOCUMENT ANALYSIS
4.5 DISCUSSION OF THE PERFORMANCE OF THE SCHOOL GOVERNING BODIES
CHAPTER 5: SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS AND LIMITATIONS PAGE
5.2 SUMMARY OF THE STUDY
5.3 CONCLUSIONS REACHED IN THIS STUDY
5.5 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
5.6 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
5.7 FINAL CONCLUDING REMARKS
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
ASSESSING THE PERFORMANCE OF SCHOOL GOVERNING BODIES OF SELECTED FARM SCHOOLS IN THE LIMPOPO PROVINCE