Teacher Cognitions about Grammar Teaching

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CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY

Chapter Overview

As I embarked on designing my research, I asked myself: what is research, and how should I undertake my research? According to Mertens (2010), research is a systematic inquiry to describe, explain, predict and control an observed phenomenon. Research design is mainly concerned with the way an investigation can be processed. Creswell (2014) stated that researchers need to make explicit the philosophical ideas they hold in preparing a research plan. Bearing both Mertens and Creswell’s ideas in mind, I am going to present the methodology and methods adopted to conduct this study in this chapter. It starts with presenting a research paradigm which governs the current study and expounds the rationale for using mixed methods in this study. A detailed description of research design is followed. Finally, the specific research methodology is described in more detail, including the participants, the instruments, how the data was collected and analysed, and the ethical issues associated with the research process.

Research Paradigms

Paradigms, also known as worldviews, refer to the philosophical ideas that guide and frame studies (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Patton, 1986). The importance attached to paradigms stems from Kuhn’s (2012) influential book titled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In this book, he argued that paradigms existed within any given field, and competing paradigms might exist concurrently, especially within immature sciences. In the following paragraphs, I revisit the quantitative-qualitative debate which flourished in the 1970s and 1980s and introduce a new research paradigm which addresses the ‘paradigm wars’ between the quantitative and qualitative methods.

The positivist paradigm and the naturalist paradigm

In the social and behavioural sciences, there have been several debates or “wars” on the superiority of two major social science paradigms in the last three decades of the 20th century (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Rossi, 1994). Two paradigms, known as the positivist approach or the naturalist (or constructivist) approach, have been argued by many scholars from different theoretical perspectives and their personal experiences (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009). Positivism underlies quantitative methods, while the constructivist paradigm advocates qualitative methods (Creswell, 2014; Guba&Lincoln, 1994). Therefore, paradigm wars between them are also called the qualitative-quantitative debate (Creswell, 2014). The debate has been over several important conceptual issues: the nature of reality (ontology), the relationship of knower to the known (epistemology), the role of values in inquiry, the possibility of casual linkages and the possibility of generalization. A contrast between their argumentations is shown in Table 3.1(see next page).

The quantitative method and the qualitative method

The quantitative method supported by positivist paradigm is basically numeric in nature, comprising measurements, tabulations, ratings, and rankings (Nunan & Bailey, 2009). The ontological position of the quantitative method is that there is only one truth and an objective reality that exists independent of human perception. Epistemologically, the researcher and the unknown are independent entities. Hence, researchers are able to study a phenomenon without influencing it or being influenced by it. The goal of the quantitative method is usually to measure and analyse causal relationships between variables within a value-free framework (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000). In social sciences, quantitative research refers to a systematic empirical investigation of social phenomena via statistical, mathematical or numerical data or computational techniques (Given, 2008). The process of measurement is central to quantitative research because it provides the fundamental connection between empirical observation and mathematical expression of quantitative relationships. In simple words, quantitative research means that researchers collect a sample of numerical data from participants to answer specific and narrow questions.
Quantitative researchers use a variety of well-defined research designs, including correlational survey, experimental and quasi-experimental (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009). Validity and reliability of quantitative research rely upon careful experiments, observations and instrument constructions such as surveys, questionnaires and other appropriate and standardized research tools (Creswell & Clark, 2011; Patton, 2002). A benefit of quantitative research is that researchers can keep a distance from participants or the object of study so potential bias of researchers can be removed. Additionally, quantitative research findings, taking place in a time and value-free framework.

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Pragmatism and mixed-methods approach

As paradigm wars were still going on, some influential researchers found that the differences between the two paradigms were overdrawn, and began to challenge the incompatibility between the two (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009). They stated that quantitative and qualitative methods are actually compatible, rather than incompatible. Ercikan and Roth (2006) argued against polarizing quantitative and qualitative methods as it is neither meaningful nor fruitful. They believed the two are compatible. Onwuegbuzie and Leech (2005) argued that not all quantitative approaches are positivist and not all qualitative approaches are interpretative. They argued that methodological puritanism or polarization should give way to methodological pragmatism in addressing research questions. This leads to mixed methods research gaining its popularity as the demise of the polarities and the support of the compatibility of two dominating paradigms (R. Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004).
Mixed methods research has a range of definitions. Leech and Onwuegbuzie (2009), for example, stated that mixed methods research usually involves collecting, analysing and interpreting both quantitative and qualitative data in a single study that investigates a phenomenon. Mixed methods research is premised on pragmatism, that is, it is essentially practical (Denscombe, 2008). Pragmatism has different argumentations with positivism and interpretivism in terms of ontology, epistemology and methodology. Pragmatism argues that there may be both singular and multiple versions of the truth and reality, and they are shifting between subjective and objective, scientific and humanistic. Pragmatism is a practice-driven approach oriented to the solution of practical problems in the practical world. Epistemologically, pragmatism adopts a pluralist approach to research by drawing on both positivism and interpretive epistemologies and deems reality as both objective and socially constructed (R. Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). Methodologically, pragmatism suggests that how to answer research questions should be the most useful approach to investigation, so a combination of experiments, case studies, surveys or whatever enhances the quality of the research. Therefore, it is inevitable that mixed methods are used to effectively answer research questions. This does not mean that pragmatism is unprincipled, but it has its own rigid standards that mixed methods research must answer research questions and provide useful answers to questions (Denscombe, 2008).

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION
1.1 Chapter Overview
1.2 Background of the Study
1.3 Purpose of the Study and Research Questions
1.4 The Context of the Study
1.5 Overview of the Thesis
CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW AND THE THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.1 Chapter Overview
2.2 Teacher Cognition
2.3 Grammar Instruction
2.4 Chapter Summary
CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
3.1 Chapter Overview
3.2 Research Paradigms
3.3 Research Design
3.4 Methodology
3.5 Ethical consideration
3.6 Chapter Summary
CHAPTER 4 RESEARCH FINDINGS FROM THE QUESTIONNAIRE
4.1 Chapter Overview
4.2 Teacher Cognitions about Grammar Teaching
4.3 Sources of Teachers’ Cognitions about Grammar Teaching
4.4 Teachers’ Practices about Grammar Teaching
4.5 A Comparison between Teachers’ Cognitions and Their Practices Reflected on
the Questionnaire
4.6 Chapter Summary
CHAPTER 5 RESEARCH FINDINGS FROM AN IN-DEPTH STUDY
5.1 Chapter Overview
5.2 Teachers’ Cognitions about Grammar Teaching
5.3 Sources of Teachers’ Cognitions about Grammar Teaching
5.4 Teachers’ Practices about Grammar Teaching
5.5 The Relationship between Teachers’ Cognitions and their Practices about Grammar Teaching
5.6 Chapter Summary
CHAPTER 6 DISCUSSION OF THE RESEARCH FINDINGS
6.1 Chapter Overview
6.2 Chinese University English Teachers’ Cognitions and Practices about Grammar Teaching
6.3 Teachers’ Cognitions about Grammar Teaching Influenced by Their Demographic Information
6.4 Sources of Teachers’ Cognitions about Grammar Teaching
6.5 The Relationship between Teachers’ Cognitions and Their Practices
6.6 Factors Resulting in the Discrepancies of Teachers’ Cognitions and Practices
6.7 Chapter Summary
CHAPTER 7 CONCLUSIONS, IMPLICATIONS, LIMITATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
7.1 Chapter Overview
7.2 Conclusions
7.3 Implications
7.4 Limitations of the Research
7.5 Suggestions for Further Research
7.6 Final Remarks
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
AN EXPLORATORY STUDY OF CHINESE UNIVERSITY ENGLISH-AS- A-FOREIGNLANGUAGE (EFL) TEACHERS’ COGNITIONS AND PRACTICES ABOUT ENGLISH GRAMMAR TEACHING

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