TEACHING AND LEARNING OF PHYSICAL SCIENCE IN SOUTH AFRICA

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CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

INTRODUCTION

This study seeks to investigate through a mixed method study, the role of Physical Science subject advisors in improving the quality of the teaching of Physical Science in the further education and training (FET) phase (Grade 10-12). Annual learner performance in Physical Science has become a disturbing issue for South Africa when compared to other countries based on the TIMSSS results since 2002. Learner performance in Physical Science depends on many factors starting from curriculum implementation supported by subject advisors to school managers, school teachers and ultimately to the learners. In order to establish measures that can be taken to improve the quality of the Physical Science results, the writer considered the DoBE’s intervention strategy to strengthen the support for Physical Science teachers which may have an impact on the performance by learners.
Good quality performance by learners in Physical science throughout the FET phase (Grade 10-12) implies quality pedagogical content knowledge, sufficient content knowledge and quality assessment practices by teachers which stems from sufficient support and development by subject advisors. This traces back to support and development of subject advisors by the Deputy Chief Education Specialist for Physical Science in the provincial office and seldom other managers at the district offices like cluster leaders and the district directors. Proper support and development by subject advisors may also imply that the roles of subject advisors are clearly understood and correctly implemented by subject advisors as curriculum supporters specifically in the content of the subject and not by generic managers from district offices.
Poor performance by learners suggests limitations in teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge, poor quality assessment practices, lack of support and development by subject advisors, and misunderstood or undefined roles of subject advisors. Subject advisors are the direct link between teachers at schools, the provincial departments of education and the subject accounting officers at the DoBE. As a result this study focused on their roles, what they do, how they do it and the impact of their roles in the teaching and performance of Physical Science at schools.
The study seeks to answer the following primary question:
What is the role played by subject advisors in improving the quality of the teaching of Physical Science in the FET phase?
The study used quantitative and qualitative data to answer the following secondary questions

  • Do the Physical Science subject advisors perceive their role at schools as significant in improving the quality of Physical Science teaching?
  • Do the Physical Science subject advisors have sufficient Physical Science content and pedagogical content knowledge to assist teachers to improve the quality of the teaching of Physical Science in the FET phase (Grade 10-12)?
  • What curriculum and management skills do Physical Science subject advisors possess to enhancing the quality of the teaching of Physical Science in the FET phase (Grade 10-12)?
  • How can the support and development given by subject advisors to Physical Science teachers be improved or amended in order to increase the quality and quantity of Physical Science results?

This chapter presents the research design, research site, population, sampling, data collection procedures, ethical considerations and limitations to the study.

RESEARCH DESIGN

Yin (2003) defines a research design as a logical plan for getting from here to there, where here may be defined as the initial set of questions to be answered, and there is some set of conclusions (answers) about these questions. This study investigates roles of subject advisors in improving the quality of Physical Science teaching in school and requires rich data to address the research question fairly. Mixed method design (Creswell, 2005) was used as a procedure for collecting, analysing and mixing or integrating both quantitative and qualitative strategies for the purpose of gaining a better understanding of the research problem. Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004) define mixed methods research as the class of research where the researcher mixes or combines quantitative and qualitative research techniques, methods, approaches, concepts or language into a single study. They add that this type of research attempts to legitimate the use of multiple approaches in answering research questions, rather than restricting or constraining researchers’ choices (i.e., it rejects dogmatism).
A study in an education study is vast because of the richness of data that can be obtained from documents that regulates an education system, processes in place as well as experiential knowledge of those who are part of the system. O’Cathain, Murphy and Nichol, (2007) emphasize that a mixed methods study has the potential to produce knowledge that is unavailable independently, and that it can produce knowledge that is unavailable to other approaches through the creation of a wider picture, more confidence and a wider variety of views. The study on the roles of subject advisors has an effect on impact on the performance of learners which involves the participation of national and provincial education managers, teachers at school and the curriculum. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected from provincial, district and school stakeholders, the idea being that it can be more fruitful to consider how the strengths of each can be combined within a mixed approach (Lopez-Fernandez and Molina-Arozin, 2011).
Integrating quantitative and qualitative data can enhance the value of mixed methods research (Bryman 2006; Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). Data collected incorporated the methodology of leadership of Physical Science though available documents for education leadership, questionnaires and interviews. The path goal theory which incorporates the subject leadership (section 2.1.1) of subject advisors through guiding, supporting and helping teachers and the facilitative theory which focused on the issues pertaining to curriculum management and skills required to acquire the required knowledge of Physical Science (Sections 2.5) collected from available documents and participants. This enriched and improved an understanding of the matters under study and fostered fresh ideas about them in order to give answers to questions that are difficult to answer by a sole classical method (quantitative or qualitative). It provided a better understanding of research problems that neither of each method could provide on its own (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011).
Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004) consider a mixed method approach as an expansive, creative and non-limiting form of research, inclusive, pluralistic, and complementary, which suggests that researchers take an eclectic approach to method selection and the thinking about and conduct of research. Data collection instruments were used to collect similar information about Physical Science subject advisors from different participants to compare responses which assisted in data analysis and triangulation. Research variables in a mixed method do not necessarily have clear cut meanings; processes that can be revealed through numeric analysis as well as through narratives. Whereas there were cases where numeric analysis were considered as valuable data such as the perfomance of Physical Science results in the districts, these were reinforced with questionnaites for the interviews to observe a relationship between these variables and to use the combined data to draw conclussions.
Leech and Onwuegbuzie (2009) categorize mixed methods in three dimensional typologies: as a function of the level of mixing, time orientation, and emphasis of approaches. Level of mixing refers to whether the mixed research is fully mixed or partially mixed, this implies whether the utilization of qualitative method exceeds that of quantitative method or vice versa. Time orientation pertains to whether the quantitative and qualitative phases of the research study occur concurrently or sequentially. Emphasis of approach pertains to whether the quantitative and qualitative components of the study have approximately equal emphasis regarding addressing the research question or whether one component has relatively higher priority than does the other.
The list below summarizes four mixed method typologies as presented by Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004).

  1. Equal weight, simultaneous: QUAL+QUAN.
  2. Equal weight, sequential: QUAL→QUAN; QUAN→QUAL.
  3. Different weight, simultaneous: QUAL + quan; QUAN + qual.
  4. Different weight, sequential: qual→QUAN; QUAL→quan; quan→QUAL; QUAN→qual.

Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004) advise users of a mixed research method to decide prior to the data collection on whether one wants to operate largely within one dominant paradigm or not, and whether one wants to conduct the phases concurrently or sequentially. Fetter, Curry and Creswell, (2013) expanded the fourth typology and categorized them as exploratory sequential; explanatory sequential; and convergent designs. The explanatory sequential design (quan→QUAL) was chosen for the study and followed a procedure of first collecting quantitative data and then collecting qualitative data to help explain or elaborate on the quantitative results (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011).
To validate data collected, quantitative data and qualitative data were triangulated in order to draw conclusions. Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2007) describe triangulation as the use of two or more methods of data collection in the study of some aspect of human behaviour. Quantitative data and qualitative explained more fully, the richness and complexity of human behaviour involved in the management of Physical Science by subject advisors through responses of participants who are actively involved in the teaching or management of the subject as well. Methodological triangulation was used to combine data collected from questionnaires, individual interview and group interviews conducted at focus groups (PLC’s).
In addition where required, data collected from participants was compared with available data such as analyzed results and documented roles of subject advisors. All available data was then combined and compared to draw conclusions and final reports for the study, which assisted in making recommendations for improvements in the South African education system, particularly in improving the teaching and learning of Physical Science.

RESEARCH SITE

A research site is a place in which the research study occurs (Maree, 2007). The research site for this study was an education region in one South African province. The education region comprises of four districts that are situated in the same Municipality with almost the same physical resources and the same human resources for Physical Sciences (i.e., two subject advisors). They have a large number of schools in townships, a sizeable number of former model C schools and a small number of independent schools. The researcher also works in one of the districts, which facilitated data collection since the participants were easily accessible, that is, subject advisors, school principals and Physical Science teachers. The district offices and schools are all in the same metro and in the same education region, so data collected would easily be comparable.

 POPULATION

A population (McMillan & Schumacher, 2010) is a group of elements or cases, whether individuals, objects or events, that conform to specific criteria and to which the researcher intends to generalize the results of the research. The population used for this study was a Physical Science provincial DCES, eight (8) Physical Science subject advisors, two hundred and twelve (212) school principals and four hundred and twenty-two (422) Physical Science teachers.

SAMPLING

A sample is a small group of subjects or participants from whom data is collected (McMillan & Schumacher, 2010). Leech and Onwuegbuzie (2010) emphasize the importance of specifying a sample size for all qualitative and quantitative phases in a mixed research. The criterion of the sample for this study was established before entering the field (Charmaz, 2014). Onwuegbuzie and Collins (2007) formulated a sampling model for mixed method research which provides a typology in which mixed research sampling designs can be classified according to (a) the time orientation of the components (i.e., whether the qualitative and quantitative phases occur concurrently or sequentially) and (b) the relationship of the qualitative and quantitative samples (i.e., identical vs. parallel vs. nested vs. multilevel).
The sequential mixed research design prompted the choice of an identical relationship typology for this study where exactly the same participants were involved in both the qualitative and quantitative phases of the study, hence data collected through questionnaires and individual interviews were done with the same participants. Since the research followed a mixed method design, convenience sampling was used to collect quantitative data and purposive sampling was used to collect qualitative data. Maree (2007) describes convenience sampling as used to select individuals who are available and willing to participate in the study to collect data. The advice of Patton (2002) to researchers about purposive sampling is that they must first state the selection criteria for choosing the people or site for the study.
Patton (2015) adds that purposive sampling in qualitative data collection has the power and the logic to select information rich cases for in-depth study and that its use can assist the researcher to learn a great deal about the issue of central importance to the purpose of the inquiry. Data collection was predominantly done through interviews for all participants and focus groups. Van Manen (2014) adds that purposive sampling is used to select interviewees or participants on the basis of their knowledge and verbal eloquence to describe a group or sub-culture to which they belong. All sampled participants were chosen based on the active role in Physical Science teaching hence the anticipated richness and relevance of information in relation to the study’s research questions pertaining to the quality of Physical Science teaching (Yin, 2011).
The samples for this study were: the Physical Science provincial DCES, one Physical Science subject advisors each from the four districts, one principal each from the four districts, two Physical Science teachers from two bigger districts and one each from two smaller districts; and four PLC groups each from the four districts. All sampled participants work in the same geographic area which made it easy for data collection and replacement of participants who lost interest in the study. The same sample was used for all data collection procedures through all phases.
The choice of the provincial DCES was based on his/her role as the accounting officer for the performance of Physical Sciences in a province and his/ her responsibility to develop the Physical Sciences subject advisors as the first line manager between subject advisors and the curriculum managers at the education department. The principals were sampled because of their management roles at schools as accounting officers for the performance of Physical Sciences within a school. Physical Science teacher are responsible for effective teaching and assessment and interact with learners daily but require the support of Physical Science subject advisors to improve teaching practices. Their involvement in the study would provide the most accurate data on the support received. Focus group of Physical Science teachers (PLC) were added to enhance data required given that since the study was done in one district, it would be beneficial to get more data from a larger group in each district.

CHAPTER 1
1.1 INTRODUCTION AND RATIONALE
1.2 BACKGROUND
1.3 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
1.4 STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
1.6 RESEARCH DESIGN
1.7 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
1.8 CLARIFICATION OF CONCEPTS
1.9 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
1.10 CHAPTER OUTLINE
1.11 CONCLUSSION
CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.3 TEACHING AND LEARNING OF PHYSICAL SCIENCE IN SOUTH AFRICA
2.4 EXPECTED QUALITIES OF PHYSICAL SCIENCE SUBJECT ADVISORS
2.5 CURRICULUM MANAGEMENT BY SUBJECT ADVISORS
2.6 WHAT DO SUBJECR ADVISORS MONITOR?
2.7 THE NEED FOR CURRICULUM SUPPORT AND DEVELOPMENT
2.8 CHALLENGES IMPACTING SUBJECT ADVISORY
2.9 EFFECTIVE CURRICULUM SUPPORT
2.10 PERCEPTIONS OF TEACHERS ABOUT SUBJECT ADVISORY
2.11 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 RESARCH DESIGN
3.3 RESEARCH SITE
3.4 POPULATION
3.5 SAMPLING
3.6 DATA COLLECTION PROCEDURES
3.8 DATA ANALYSIS
3.9 DATA VALIDATION/LEGITIMATION
3.10 ETHICAL CONSIDERATION
3.11 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY*
3.12 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 4 DATA COLLECTION, ANALYSIS AND VALIDATION
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 DO PHYSICAL SCIENCE SUBJECT ADVISORS PERCEIVE THEIR ROLES AT SCHOOLS AS PLAYING A SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF PHYSICAL SCIENCE TEACHING?
4. 3 DO THE PHYSICAL SCIENCE SUBJECT ADVISORS HAVE SUFFICIENT PHYSICAL SCIENCE CONTENT AND PEDAGOGICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE TO ASSIST TEACHERS TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF THE TEACHING OF PHYSICAL SCIENCE IN THE FET PHASE (GRADE 10-12)
4.4 WHAT CURRICULUM DELIVERY MANAGEMENT AND SKILLS DO PHYSICAL SCIENCE SUBJECT ADVISORS POSSESS TO ENHANCE THE QUALITY OF THE TEACHING OF PHYSICAL SCIENCE IN THE FET PHASE (GRADE 10-12)?
4.5 HOW CAN THE SUPPORT AND DEVELOPMENT GIVEN BY SUBJECT ADVISORS TO PHYSICAL SCIENCE TEACHERS BE IMPROVED OR AMENDED IN ORDER TO INCREASE THE QUALITY AND QUANTITY OF PHYSICAL SCIENCES RESULTS?.
4.6 SUMMARIES OF THE FINDINGS
4.7 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 THE FINAL REPORT
5.3 RECOMMENDATIONS
5.4 IMPLICATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
5.5 CONCLUSION
REFERENCE LIST
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
THE ROLE OF PHYSICAL SCIENCE SUBJECT ADVISORS IN ENHANCING THE QUALITY OF THE TEACHING OF PHYSICAL SCIENCE IN THE FET PHASE (GRADE 10-12)

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