The link between instructional leadership roles and school improvement

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RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND DESIGN

INTRODUCTION

This chapter focused on the research methodology and design that was used in this study. There are several research styles for conducting educational research. These include historical and documentary research, case studies, ex post facto research, naturalistic qualitative ethnographic research to mention but just a few.
Historical and documentary research is intended to provide access to, and facilitate insights into human social activities. The focus is usually on three areas of knowledge namely, the past, the processes of change and continuity over time and the last is the present, which explains current structures and relationships. The history of education itself is a broad, eclectic and a contested field of study (Reese and Rury, 2008).
Creswell (1994:12) defines a case study as a single instance of a bounded system, a community, etc. It provides a unique example of real people in real situations, enabling readers to understand ideas more clearly than simply presenting them with abstract theories or principles (Cohen, Manion and Mrrison 2011:289).
Ex post facto research refers to those studies which investigate possible cause and effect relationship by observing an existing condition or state of affairs and then search for plausible causal factors. Cooper and Schindler (2001:136) define ex post facto research as a method of teasing out possible antecedents of events that have happened and cannot therefore, be controlled, engineered or manipulated by the investigator.
Boas (1943), Lincoln and Guba (1985), LeCompte and Preissle (1993) give a plethora of characteristics of naturalist qualitative research. These include the following among others:

  • Humans actively construct their own meanings of situations;
  • Meaning arises out of social situations and is handled through interpretive processes;
  •  To understand a situation researchers need to understand the context because situations affect behaviour and perspectives and vice versa;
  •  Research must include thick descriptions not only of detailed observational data but data on meanings, participants’ interpretations of situations and unobservable factors;
  •  Reasearchers are the instruments of the research;
  •  Studies must be in their natural settings as context is heavily implicated in the social construction of meaning; and

Purposive sampling enables the full scope of issues to be explored.
The above dictated that decisions made in this chapter were to be tactical in the sense that they established the practicalities of the research and its feasibility. This resulted in a specific methodology being selected for the study and the overall structure for procedures to be followed during the study. A description of data collection methods and instruments that were used in the study was provided in some detail. Briggs and Coleman (2007) contend that methodology provides a rationale for the way in which the researcher carries out research activities. In this study the qualitative research design was employed.

CONCEPTUAL ISSUES IN QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND DESIGN:

A research design entails the determination of a research approach one intends to use in order to provide solutions to the research question. Mouton (2011) maintains that the research design reflects the type of study undertaken to provide acceptable answers to the research problem. Tredoux (1999) further states that the research designs are plans or protocols for a particular piece of research. According to Conrad and Serlin (2006) the research design concerns the assumptions underlying the manner in which the study is constructed to pursue a disciplined inquiry about the phenomenon to be investigated. It is the research design that guides the researcher to determine whether the research questions can be answered adequately by means of certain procedures and methods used to collect the data. Babbie (2007) observed that research design is about what the researcher is going to observe and analyse, why and how? He identified two major tasks in a research design as follows:-

  • Specify as clearly as possible what you want to find out; and
  • Determine the best way to do it.

Methodology refers to the ways of discovering knowledge, systems and rules for conducting a research study. O’Donaghue (2007) puts it aptly by noting that the research methodology is a strategy, plan of action, the process or design behind the choice and use of methods to reach the desired outcomes. The research method, therefore, is basically a specific procedure or techniques used to generate data. As alluded to earlier, the qualitative research methodology was regarded as the best choice methodology for this study because it enabled the research to understand how school principals derive meanings from their daily interactions with teachers as they provide leadership as far as instructional activities in the school are concerned.
According to McMillan and Schumacher (2010) a qualitative research study is a naturalistic inquiry involving the use of non interfering data collection strategies to discover the natural flow of events and processes and how participants interpret them. The flow of events in this study would be what the IL does in the school with teachers and learners to improve learner achievement and quality of education. Gonzales et al (2008) posits that a qualitative research methodology provides an in depth, intricate and detailed understanding of meanings, actions observable and non observable phenomena, attitudes, intentions and behaviours, and these are well served by a naturalistic enquiry. It is naturalistic in the sense that the researcher did not attempt to manipulate the phenomena of interest, but sought to understand it in a context specific setting. Denzin and Lincoln (2005) add that a qualitative research methodology is a situated activity that locates the observer in the world of his or her participants. The world is turned into a series of representations, including conversation, interviews, images, field notes and recordings. Gonzales (2008) cited in Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011) observed that qualitative research methodologies give “voice” to participants and probes issues that lie beneath the surface of presenting behaviours and actions. “Voices” connote that participants in the study will be afforded the opportunity to narrate personal stories shaped by the knowledge, values, experiences and feelings of the person who is telling the story. The researcher was interested in capturing participants’ voices and experiences in the instructional leadership roles of school principals.
Mamabolo (2002) is of the view that qualitative research methods are rooted in a phenomenological paradigm which holds that, reality is socially constructed through individual or collective definitions. The essential aspects of a qualitative research methodology according to Momabolo (2002: 236) are that:-

  • Qualitative research methods seek understanding and employ data collection methods such as in-depth interviewing and participant obersavations;
  • Qualitative methods are humanistic – this refers to the manner in which one investigates how people are studied and viewed in the research study. When people’s words and acts are reduced to statistical equations we lose the human side of social life. Qualitative research methods enable people to learn about concepts such as pain, beauty, suffering, frustrations and love whose essence is lost through other research approaches.
  • In qualitative research methodologies, the researcher has the natural setting as the direct source of data and the researcher is the key instrument. The researcher looks at the setting and people holistically. The people being studied are not reduced to variables but are viewed as a whole because they are participants with an agency who are active individuals in the construction of meaning or reality.
  • Qualitative research methods are descriptive and data collected in a qualitative research study are in verbal form rather than numerical. The written results of the research study include quotations from the data to illustrate and substantiate the findings (thick descriptions).
  • Meaning is of essential concern for the qualitative research methodology. Researchers who use this approach are interested in the way different people make sense of their lives and the social world around them; and
  • The task of the qualitative researcher is to describe the meanings shared with the participants which may in turn, make it possible to explain why people behave as they do.

The above mentioned aspects appeared to confirm the suitability of the qualitative research methodology in this research study especially considering the aims of the study which were stated earlier on. This was further enhanced by Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011) who contend that a qualitative research methodology is useful when focusing on teachers and principals and on classroom and school interaction. It was therefore imperative to use the qualitative research methodology as it enabled the researcher to understand how school principals and their teachers derive meanings from their daily interactions as they focus on improving instruction in the school.

THE QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

According to Dale (2006) the qualitative research methdology is rooted in social disciplines, and relies heavily on verbal descriptions of participants’ experiences to capture the human meaning of social life as it is lived, experienced, mediated and understood by the participants. These verbal descriptions will result in “thick description” (Greets, 1973) and for descriptions to be “thick” requires inclusion not only of detailed observational data but data on meanings, participants’ interpretations of situations and observed factors. Suter (2006:41) views a qualitative research methodology as aimed at explaining complex phenomena through verbal descriptions rather than testing hypothesis with numerical value. McRoy (2002) adds that qualitative research methods are concerned with non statistical methods of inquiry and analysis of social phenomena.
The above definitions made it imperative for this researcher to study educational phenomena, and participants, in their natural settings (the school environment and the classrooms) and then interpret such phenomena in terms of meanings people in the study gave them. It must be pointed out that this research study was treated as a case study.

Case study

A case study concentrates on experiential knowledge of the case and optimising understanding requires meticulous attention to activities that will be taking place in schools chosen as the case. Stake (1995) defines a case study as the study of the “particular” while Yin (2009:8) argues that a case study is an investigation of a case in a context and it is important to set the case within its context (i.e rich descriptions and details are often a feature of a case study.) Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011:289) maintain that a case study provides a unique example of real people in real situations, enabling readers to understand ideas more clearly than simply by presenting them with abstract theories of principles. Yin (2009:72) adds that case studies can penetrate situations in ways that are not always susceptible to numerical analysis. Hitchcock and Hughes (1995) identified the hallmarks of a case study as follows:

  • It is concerned with a rich and vivid description of events relevant to the case;
  • It blends a description of events with the analysis of them;
  • It focuses on the individual actor or groups of actors and seeks to understand their perception of events;
  • The research study is integrally involved in the case; and
  • An attempt is made to portray the richness of the case in writing up the report.

Stake cited in Denzin and Lincoln (2005) maintains that a qualitative case study is characterised by the researcher’s extended time on site, personally in contact with activities and operation of the case (schools), reflecting and revising descriptions and meaning of what is going on. It was the researchers’ conviction that, in this regard, rich information and data was generated and gathered.
Babbie (2007:298) points out that “the chief purpose of case studies may be descriptive or the in depth study of a particular case to yield explanatory insights”. As a case study researcher, the idea is to seek an idiographic understanding of the schools’ (case) under study and form the basis for the development of a more general theory. Pressle (2006) cited in Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011) points out that a qualitative research study is characterised by a loosely defined group of designs that elicit verbal, aural, observational, fictile, and gustatory and of factory information from a range of sources. It draws strongly on direct experience and meanings and these may vary according to the style of qualitative research study undertaken. In this research study the style that was used was the ethnographic.

CHAPTER ONE: BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 BACKGROUND AND CONTEXTUALISATION
1.3 AWARENESS OF THE PROBLEM
1.4 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.5 AIMS OF THE STUDY
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
1.7 DELINEATION AND DERMACATION
1.8 RESEARCH METHOD
1.9 DEFINITION OF TERMS
1.10 ARRANGEMENT OF CHAPTERS
CHAPTER TWO: CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK AND LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK AND RELATED LITERATURE
2.3. BASICS FOR SUCCESSFUL LEADERSHIP
2.4 THE INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP TASKS
2.5 CREATION OF LINKS BETWEEN SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY
2.6 PRINCIPAL VISIBILITY
2.7 THE LINK BETWEEN INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP ROLES AND SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT
2.8 SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT
2.9 CHALLENGES TO EFFECTIVE INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP
2.10 INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP IN ZIMBABWE
2.11 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER THREE: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND DESIGN
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 CONCEPTUAL ISSUES IN QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.3 THE QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.4 CHARACTERISTICS OF QUALITATIVE RESEARCH PARADIGM
3.5 PURPOSEFUL SAMPLING
3.6 DATA COLLECTION AND FIELDWORK STATEGIES
3.7 ANALYSIS STRATEGIES
3.8 THE RATIONALE FOR USING THE QUALITATIVE METHODOLOGY
3.9 THE RESEARCHERS’ROLE
3.10 SITE SELECTION AND SAMPLING
3.11 DATA COLLECTION
3.12. DOCUMENT ANALYSIS
3.13 ETHICAL CONSIDERATION IN DATA COLLECTION
3.14 VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY
3.15 DATA ANALYSIS
3.16 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER FOUR: DATA PRESENTATION, ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN THE STUDY
4.3 PARTICIPANTS IN THE STUDY
4.4 SECONDARY SCHOOL RESULTS
4.5 CAPACITY OF HEADS TO EFFECTIVELY PLAY INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP ROLE
4.6 ASPECTS OF JOB DESCRIPTION EMPHASISED BY HEAD
4.7 METHODS EMPLOYED BY HEADS TO IMPROVE STUDENT LEARNIN
4.8 CHALLENGES ENCOUNTERED BY HEADS IN CURRICULUM IMPLEMENTATION
4.9 DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS FROM THE QUALITATIVE RESEARCH
4.10 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER FIVE: SUMMARY CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.3 SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
5.4 FURTHER RECOMMENDATIONS
5.5 LIMITATIONS OF STUDY
5.6 FURTHER RESEARCH
5.7 CONCLUSION
BIBLIOGRAPHY
APPENDICES

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THE INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP ROLES OF THE SECONDARY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL TOWARDS QUALITY SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT IN ZIMBABWEAN SCHOOLS

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