STRATEGIES TO ENHANCE TRAINING OF TEACHERS IN HANDLING GIFTED LEARNERS

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CHAPTER THREE RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY

INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this chapter is to offer an explication of the paradigm on which this study is based, and the research design and methodology used in collecting data on initiatives in teacher education in preparing pre-service primary school teachers to handle gifted learners. The other research aspects described are the chosen research approach, sampling of the participants and how the pertinent issue of trustworthiness in qualitative research was attended to. Ethical issues pertaining to the entire research project are also discussed before the chapter is concluded.

THE RESEARCH PARADIGM

A research study is based on assumptions about what constitutes knowledge and its reality, and the appropriate methods of building it. When summed up, these assumptions fall under the term ‘paradigm’ (Punch 2014:14). A paradigm can be defined as “a worldview-a way of thinking about and making sense of the complexities of the real world. As such, paradigms are deeply embedded in the 34 socialization of adherence and practitioners” (Patton, 2015, p.89). The implication is that researchers should be well versed with the needs and demands of the selected paradigms. According to Guba (1990, p.17), a paradigm is “a basic set of beliefs that guide action, whether of everyday… variety or action taken in connection with a disciplined enquiry”. It is one’s abstract framework, model of reality or worldview. Jonker &Penning (2010) in Wahyuni (2012,p. 69) define a paradigm as “ a set of fundamental assumptions and beliefs as to how the world is perceived which then serves as a thinking framework that guides the behaviour of the researcher.” A research paradigm would serve to define what should be studied, the type of questions to be asked and what rules to be followed in interpreting the answers obtained (Collins, Kinzig, Grimm, Fagan, Hope, & Borer, 2000,p. 19).
A particular paradigm determines the scope of the necessary philosophical grounding of any given study because it subsumes the ontological, epistemological and methodological dimensions of a particular research effort (Denzin &Lincoln 2003:33). These help in defining the researcher’s assumptions about the nature of reality and knowledge, as ontology is concerned with the search for the essence of reality or being and epistemology the sources, nature, possibility and limits of knowledge (Lemmer & Badenhorst, 1997, p. 99).While the ontological and the epistemological domains of research would be concerned with reality which is investigated and the status of the statements being made, the methodological dimension concerns the how, that is how the study should be planned, structured and executed in order to gain knowledge (Mouton &Marais, 1990, p.14-15).
Of the different ways of categorising research paradigms, in contemporary literature four broad paradigm categories are usually designated, namely the positivist, post-positivist, constructivist and the critical research (Dison, 1998,p. 169), elaborated upon by Hatch (2002) in the table below.
From the above paradigmatic options, the constructivist paradigm was deemed the most appropriate theoretical framework to guide this study since its main goal was to gain a full understanding of the social life-world of those involved in preparing Zimbabwean pre-service trainee teachers to handle gifted learners. According to Mason (1996, p. 4-6) social reality can only be fully understood when approached from the perspective of the people who actively construct it. This is what constructivism is all about. Further features of this paradigm and the reasons why the researcher found it to be much more preferable in providing the context for this study are discussed in the following section.

 The constructivist paradigm

The constructivist paradigm is also called the interpretive, symbolic or hermeneutic paradigm (Dison, 1998, p.170). Its proponents believe that knowledge is a human construction, a mental representation and that there are multiple constructions of any situation. Thus to Guba (1990, p.27), constructivism, “intends neither to neither predict nor control the ‘real’ world, nor to transform it but to reconstruct the ‘world’ at the only point at which it exists: in the mind of constructors. It emphasises the importance of the insiders’ viewpoints in understanding social reality.
“Constructivism is the view that all knowledge, and therefore all meaningful reality, is contingent on human practices being constructed in and out of interaction between human beings and their world, and developed and transmitted within an essentially social context (Golafshani,2003, p.603).The basic assumptions guiding the constructivist paradigm are that knowledge is socially constructed by people active in the research process, and that researchers should attempt to understand the world of lived experience from the point of view of those who live in it (Mertens (2007). In this study the researcher focused on the knowledge constructed by the trainee teachers as pertaining to handling gifted learners as a result of their training and teaching practice experience.
The constructivist paradigm has embedded in it ontological, epistemological and methodological characteristics, as illustrated below.
Informed by the above assertions, this study was approached from the point of view of the participants’ social context. Acknowledging the fact that reality is socially and mutually constructed, the required data were gathered in an understanding that it was possible to have a diversity of the interpretations of social reality. Thus, each participant’s perceptions were taken as important and valid. Most importantly each participant was regarded as a knower and whose knowledge was only to be shared by way of exploring his or her experiences, actions, viewpoints and meanings (Mahlo, 2011).
Constructivism stresses the need for the researcher’s sensitivity to the insiders’ viewpoints and the whole social context in which meanings are produced (Denzin, 1989, p. 5). Accordingly, in this study, an attempt to understand the dynamics of preparing pre-service primary school teachers to handle gifted learners in the Zimbabwean context, it was considered crucial to do so from the participants’ points of view. Actually, constructivists believe that reality, truth and knowledge are not only constructed from observable phenomena but by also the descriptions of people’s beliefs, values and reasons, intentions, self-understanding and meaning making ( Henning, Van Rensburg &Smit, 2004,p. 20). Essentially, the researcher wanted to find out how the participants in each research setting constructed reality about the handling of gifted learners. In other words, what their perceptions, truths, explanations, world views and beliefs were and the consequences of their constructions to those with whom they interacted.
Guba and Lincoln (1989, p. 44-45) give the following as the primary assumptions of constructivism for research:

  • “Truth is a matter of consensus among informed and sophisticated constructors, not of correspondence with objective reality
  • Facts have no meaning except within some value frameworks, hence they cannot be an objective assessment of any proposition
  • Causes and effects do not exist except by imputation
  • Phenomena can only be understood within the context in which they are studied, findings from one context cannot be generalised to another, neither problems nor solutions can be generalised from one setting to another
  • Data derived from constructivist inquiry have neither special status nor legitimation; they represent simply another construction to be taken into account in the move toward consensus.”
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The use of the above constructivist principles helped the researcher to investigate the constructions and meanings profiled by sampled college lecturers, mentors and trainee teachers about their views on the handling of gifted learners in Zimbabwe. In addition to that, the researcher visited selected schools so as to be immersed into the real social context and observe the actions of trainee teachers in order to explore their behaviour, perceptions and experiences.
Although the constructivist paradigm was helpful in shaping the scope and direction of this study it also has some shortcomings. Carr & Kemmis (1986, p. have criticised it for failing to account for the external conditions which may constrain the participants’ understandings of social reality. Again the selected participants may only have partial knowledge of the aspects of social reality being researched on and hence, false results can be arrived at. Surely there may be an objective perspective which may be different from that of the selected individual participants (Cohen& Manion 2014, p. 34-35).
In spite of the above cited limitations of constructivism, its underlying assumptions were found to be quite useful in grappling with the set research questions. Most importantly it greatly influenced the researcher on deciding which research approach to use. The next section discusses the research approach used in this study

RESEARCH APPROACH

For Creswell (2007, p. 3), “Research approaches are plans and the procedures for research that span the steps from broad assumptions to detailed methods of data collection, analysis, and interpretation.” The two main seemingly contesting approaches are quantitative and qualitative, not discrete entities which are antagonistic but rather representative of different ends on a research continuum. The researcher’s philosophical assumptions, personal experiences and the nature of the research problem determine the choice of a suitable approach for a research study

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ABSTRACT 
CHAPTER ONE
1.1 INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY
1.2 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
1.3 MOTIVATION FOR THE STUDY
1.4 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.5 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.6 AIMS OF THE STUDY
1.7 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
1.8 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
1.9 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
1.10 DELIMITATION OF THE STUDY
1.11 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
1.12 DEFINITION OF KEYS TERMS
1.13 OUTLINE OF THE STUDY `
1.14 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER TWO  THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND PREPARING TRAINEE  TEACHERS FOR THE HANDLING OF GIFTED LEARNERS
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 HOW ARE TRAINEE TEACHERS TRAINED IN HANDLING GIFTED LEARNERS IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS
2.3 STRATEGIES TO ENHANCE TRAINING OF TEACHERS IN HANDLING GIFTED LEARNERS
2.4 FINDINGS FROM OTHER RELATED STUDIES
2.5 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER THREE  REASEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY 
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 THE REASEARCH PARADIGMS
3.3 RESEARCH APPROACHES
3.5 POPULATION AND SAMPLING
3.6 DATA COLLECTION
3.7 DATA ANALYIS
3.8 TRUSTWORTHINESS
3.9 ETHICS IN RESEARCH
3.10 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER FOUR PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS 
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 DATA ANALYSIS METHOD
4.3 INFORMATION OF FOCUS GROUP MEMBERS
4.4 INFORMATION ON MENTORS
4.5 PRESENTATION OF THE FINDINGS
4.7 EMPOWERMENT OF TRAINEE TEACHERS IN HANDLING 123 GIFTED LEARNERS
4.8 ACCOMODATING LEARNING STYLES OF GIFTED LEARNERS
4.9 SUPPORT FOR LECTURERS IN PREPARING TRAINEE 131 TEACHERS FOR HANDLING GIFTED LEARNERS
4.10 Summary of findings
4.11 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER FIVE DISCUSSIONS, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.1 INTRODUCTORY REMARKS
5.2 SUMMARY OF THE FINDINGS
5.3 FINDINGS ON INITIATIVES UNDERTAKEN BY TEACHERS 140 COLLEGES TO PREPARE TRAINEE TEACHERS IN HANDLING GIFTED LEARNERS IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS IN ZIMBABWE
5.4 FINDINGS ON THE PROGRAMMES OF TRAINEE TEACHERS 143 IN RELATION TO GIFTED LEARNERS
5.5 FINDINGS ON STRATEGIES TO ENHANCE TRAINING OF 148 TEACHERS IN HANDLING GIFTED LEARNERS
5.6 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
5.7 GUIDELINES FOR PREPARING TRAINEE TEACHERS IN HANDLING GIFTED LEARNERS
5.8 RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION TO EXISTING KNOWLEDGE
5.9 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
5.10 CONCLUDING REMARKS
REFERENCES 
APPENDICES
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