The introduction of theme days at st alban’s college

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Research design

According to Merriam (1997:27) a qualitative case study can be defined as “. . . an intensive, holistic description and analysis of a single instance, phenomenon, or social unit”. A case study could be a person such as a learner, an educator, a group such as a class, a school or a community (Merriam, 1997:27; Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000:181; Holloway & Wheeler, 2002:284).
Merriam (1998:41-43) mention a few examples of the strengths and the limitations of case studies. Because of its strengths, a case study is a particularly appealing design for applied fields of study such as education. According to the strengths of a case study as outlined by Merriam (1998:41), a case study design was selected for this dissertation because of the nature of the research problem and the research questions being asked.
Although strengths of case studies do exist, the limitations thereof should also be noted. Merriam (1998:42) quotes Guba and Lincolin (1981:377) as follows: « … case studies tend to masquerade as a whole when in fact they are a part – a slice of life. »
The researcher does not fully agree with the aforementioned statement of Guba and Lincolin. This study is a dissertation and of limited scope. If the scope of the study is broadened, the researcher will not meet the intended aim for this study, which is also reflected in the title of this dissertation. Limitations of this study do exist and are mentioned in section 1.12 of this chapter. Data collection methods for this dissertation will be described in the following section.

Observations

A key issue in case study research is, according to Cohen, Manion & Morrison (2000:181), the selection of information. Observations are an important data collection instrument. The case study researcher observes the characteristics of an individual unit such as a learner, a class or a school. The researcher of this study took on the role of non-participatory observer. A non-participatory observer is an observer who visits a site, sits at the back of a classroom and records notes without becoming actively involved in the activities of the participants (Creswell, 2002:200- 203; Holloway & Wheeler, 2002:101). Observations were made during five Theme Days from 31 May 2001 to 9 October 2002. The Earthly Aliens Theme Day of 31 May 2001 was used as the case for this study. Data obtained by attending and observing the subsequent four Theme Days, October 2001 to October 2002, are utilised to answer the research questions for this dissertation. Learners and educators as well as aspects such as the CLC, technology and pedagogy were considered at every Theme Day. The researcher observed:
? The learners by walking around in the StaTech computer centre during events and field notes were taken.
? The learners at five Theme Days. The observation was done over a period of 17 months.
? The key role players during each Theme Day.
? The use of technology and in particular the use computers and the functioning of co-operative groups.

Interview(s)

Data collection for case studies also includes a researcher conducting interviews to collect information. Interviews are the process where researchers ask one or more participants in a study general questions, open-ended questions and then record their answers. In qualitative research, open-ended questions are asked so that the participants can best voice their experiences unconstrained by any perspective of the researcher or past research finding. An advantage of interviews is that the interviewer also has better control over the types of information received since specific questions can be asked to elicit this information. A disadvantage of interviews is that researchers might only provide filtered information that is relevant to the study (Cohen, Manion & Morrison 2000:187-188; Creswell, 2002:202-204).
Interviews were conducted with Connected Learning Community (CLC) committee members to elaborate on their involvement in computer-integrated Theme Days. The interviews were mainly conducted in StaTech 1, StaTech 2 and at the work stations while the learners were working on their tasks. Key role players interviewed during Theme Days are the:
? learners,
? Director of Technology,
? educators,
? CLC committee members,
? secretary of the Director of Technology, and
? network manager.
E-mail is a form of interviewing and is useful in collecting qualitative data quickly (Creswell, 2002:207). E-mails proved to be a valuable tool to communicate and to obtain information. The researcher sent e-mails to Ron Beyers, Director of Technology at St Alban’s College, and de facto organiser of the event (Appendix 2). E-mails were utilised to obtain dates of Theme Days and which forms were to be utilised. Interviews and observations were utilised during the five Theme Days at St Alban’s College. The literature survey for this dissertation is described in detail in Chapter 2. A letter dated 8 July 2002 was sent to Mr Tom Hamilton, Headmaster of St Alban’s College, requesting his permission and consent to conduct the research for this dissertation (Appendix 1). Mr Hamilton replied in a letter dated 25 July 2002 in which the researcher was given permission to conduct a research at St Alban’s College (Appendix 1).

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Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 BACKGROUND TO THIS STUDY
1.3 RESEARCH PROBLEM
1.4 AIM OF THE RESEARCH
1.5 OBJECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH
1.6 RESEARCH QUESTION
1.7 PREVIOUS RESEARCH
1.8 VALUE OF RESEARCH
1.9 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
1.10 OUTLINE OF THE DISSERTATION
1.11 DEMARCATION, INCLUSIONS AND EXCLUSIONS FROM THIS STUDY
1.12 LIMITATIONS OF THIS STUDY
1.13 SUMMARY
Chapter 2: Literature survey
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 LEARNING COMMUNITY
2.3 PEDAGOGY
2.4 TECHNOLOGY
2.5 SUMMARY
Chapter 3: Research methodology
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 THE INTRODUCTION OF THEME DAYS AT ST ALBAN’S COLLEGE
3.3 RESEARCH METHOLOGY
3.4 SUMMARY
Chapter 4: Findings
4.1 INTRODUCTION
PART ONE: DISCUSSION 
4.2 THE ST ALBAN’S COLLEGE CONTEXT
4.3 INPUT
4.4 PROCESS
4.5 OUTCOME(S)
4.6 FEEDBACK
PART TWO: RESEARCH RESULTS 
4.7 ANSWERS TO THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS
4.8 SUMMARY OF THE THEME DAY RESULTS
Chapter 5: Conclusions and recommendations
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 SUMMARY
5.3 RECOMMENDATIONS
5.4 A FINAL WORD ON COMPUTER-INTEGRATED THEME DAYS
Bibliography 

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