Chapter 3: Methodology
The original focus of research in foreign language teaching lay in the analysis of language, that is, a focus on the phonology, morphology, grammar and syntax of a language. The emergence of the field of TESOL was specifically associated with an interest in the acquisition of English as a foreign, second or additional language in children and adults (Edge and Richards, 1998:337). Research in TESOL was generally positioned within a rationalist paradigm in which the quest for ‘truth’ was deductive and based on reason and not emotion. Hesse-Biber and Leavy (2011: 32) describe rationalism as “encompassing the objective logic of inquiry, combined with objective and systematic empirical observation and verification and characterised by unbiased inquiry, accuracy and objectivity.” Edge et al. (1998: 337) maintain that as TESOL sought to establish itself as a recognised academic discipline, “the attraction of rationalism was strong in the context of the existing hierarchy of respect in the academic world at that time” as reflected in the division between quantitative or ‘hard’ and qualitative or ‘soft’ approaches to knowledge.
The past thirty years, however, have seen a growing recognition of the educational orientation of TESOL as contrasted to ‘pure’ Linguistics or even Applied Linguistics, and an increasing sensitivity to the importance of contextual factors and qualitatively-oriented research including mixed method research. Wright (2010: 259) states that a new agenda of theory and practice has emerged over the years as the field has incorporated the ideas and practices of reflection33, teacher cognition and professional teaching cultures. This movement has, to a certain extent, displaced the original roots of additional-language teaching in Linguistics, Applied Linguistics and Psychology and has led to a new knowledge base which has, in turn, contributed to the formulation of theory about language teachers’ personal and career progression as they learn to teach, the various practices of learning how to teach and an insider’s view of teachers’ lives (Wright, 2010: 259).
Edge et al. (1998) maintain that it would, however, be a mistake to assume that the emergence of new paradigms such as mixed method research have simply been accepted and that new researchers can merely ignore the broader debates and tensions between quantitative and qualitative approaches. The quantitative approach to research has been, to a large extent, privileged with the attempt to find results that are generalisable and less influenced by subjectivity, and thus generally viewed as more important than using more qualitatively-oriented approaches. This, according to Edge et al. (1998), has led to a form of induced inferiority in the human and social sciences regarding the status of qualitative research which has long been perceived as lying at the periphery of the more traditional paradigms of the natural sciences and has led to the trend towards quantitative research which makes use of mathematical, statistical and computational techniques.
Not all TESOL researchers are in favour of the shift from quantitative to qualitative approaches towards research in the field. There are TESOL researchers who express concern at the shift to more qualitative and contextualised research studies. Richards (2003: xx) states that the emergence of qualitative inquiry in the field of TESOL has led to a concern about the quality of the research produced. He states that, “There is a common misconception that QI [qualitative inquiry] is soft, that it can make do with a few interviews and perhaps a dash of transcribed talk.” Richards (2003) also believes that qualitative research is not an easy route for a researcher to take as true qualitative research is a craft and requires the development of appropriate skills which he believes have been badly neglected in the TESOL field.
Watson-Gegeo (1988: 575) criticises the superficial nature of many qualitative studies in TESOL which are characterised by impressionistic accounts in which a researcher ‘dive-bombs’ into a setting, makes a few observations and then takes off again to write up the results. Edge et al. (1998) agree believing that there is a danger that the absence of an accepted and established tradition of research in TESOL leaves the door open to poorly constructed qualitative research, and thus provides the ammunition necessary for rationalists to deny the value of such research. Edge et al. (1998) state that the rejection of rationalistic assumptions and overwhelmingly quantitative research studies imposes a responsibility on the researcher to position a research study within an increasingly complex conceptual and contextual environment. Edge et al. (1998: 347-48) thus describe TESOL researchers as part of a field which “sits sometimes awkwardly at the intersection of linguistics and education and are perhaps committed to doing ‘boundary work’ if they wish to avoid dogmatism.” In addition, researchers should be able to “accept and explore the unsettled realities of our in-between-ness” (Edge et al., 1998: 347-48).
In this research study, I34 argue that there is a place for both approaches: a controlled and structured, quantitative approach in phase one of the study which yielded numerical data that was quantifiable and generalisable, tempered with the participant-oriented, naturalistic, detailed and contextualised qualitative data in phase two. Therefore, the researcher hoped to obtain the best of both approaches so as to discover the answers to the research questions and obtain insight into the lives and minds of the research participants.
Edge et al. (1998: 351) argue that the significant contribution of a doctoral thesis in TESOL can, therefore, be claimed in three ways. These are the further development of an appropriate paradigm for human studies, the extension of the qualitative research tradition in TESOL and the establishment of a knowledge base of TESOL contexts. In this research study, I hoped to extend the qualitative research tradition as there is very little research that has focused on the experience of burnout, available support networks and the coping strategies of TESOL teachers within the context of private language schools. This supports Tracy (2010: 841) who states that a worthy topic for doctoral research should be relevant, timely, significant and interesting and hopefully contain surprises that “shake readers from their common-sense assumptions and practices.” With TESOL becoming increasingly popular as a viable career choice, nationally and internationally, and South Africa becoming increasingly well-known as an affordable and desirable destination for English language learning, it is imperative that more research is done on the TESOL teaching experience. Furthermore, I hope that this research provides insight into the lives of the teachers who participated in this study. I also believe that this research study has contributed to the knowledge base of TESOL contexts as it is the first study of its kind in South Africa.
Aims of the research study
The aim of this study was, therefore, two-fold:
Firstly, to discover whether TESOL teachers working at private language schools in Johannesburg experienced burnout by using the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Educators Survey36 to determine burnout levels;
o This question was answered by the results of the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Educators Survey which constituted phase one of the study; and
Secondly, to explore the remaining research questions by means of in-depth, semi-structured interviews which constituted phase two of the study:
o What factors, both inside and outside the classroom, caused stress for TESOL teachers working at private language schools in Johannesburg?;
o What support structures were available at the various private language schools in Johannesburg for TESOL teachers who experienced stress and burnout?; and
o What coping strategies were used by TESOL teachers working at private language schools in Johannesburg to manage stress and burnout? Thus, the results of phase one led to phase two of the research study.
This chapter begins with looking at a mixed method research design, firstly by defining mixed methods research and then justifying the choice of a mixed methods research design. This is followed by a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of mixed methods which leads into an overview of the quan→QUAL structure of the research design and then a brief look at other research studies that have used the same or a similar design. This then leads into a discussion of phase one, the quantitative phase, which consists of the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Educators Survey. This discussion includes a look at the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative research and the advantages and disadvantages of surveys. This is followed by a discussion of phase two, the qualitative phase, which consists of semi-structured interviews, the strengths and weaknesses of qualitative research and the advantages and disadvantages of using semi-structured interviews.
I then focus on the methodology by looking at the data collection process and the research instruments in detail. Firstly, I discuss phase one, the MBI-ES, in terms of its construction, development, scoring and administration, the reliability and validity of the MBI and finally, the limitations of the MBI. Secondly, I discuss phase two, the semi-structured interviews including a brief look at the role of the researcher in qualitative interviews. This leads into a discussion of the reliability and validity of semi-structured interviews. Finally, I look at the limitations of interviews. I then discuss the data in detail starting with the subjects and the various limitations placed on the sample which is followed by a description of the pilot study. After that, I look at the analysis of the data starting with a description of the analytical techniques used and then the phase one, MBI-ES data analysis, and the phase two, semi-structured interviews data analysis. This is followed by a look at the limitations of the research study and the various ethical considerations involved in the research study.
Research design: Mixed methods research
This research study was designed as a mixed method research study. Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004: 14) state that mixed method research is the ‘third research paradigm’ in educational research.37 It is defined as “the class of research where the researcher…combines quantitative and qualitative research techniques, methods, approaches, concepts or language into a single study” (Johnson et al., 2004: 17). The researchers view mixed methods as the ‘third wave’ or ‘third research movement’ that offers a logical and practical alternative to ‘pure’ quantitative or qualitative research studies. Hesse-Biber et al. (2011: 279) add that “The combination of two different methods can create a synergistic research project in which one method enables the other to be more effective.” Furthermore, combining methods can assist the researcher in “tackling highly complex problems involving several layers of understanding that may require different analytical techniques.”
Johnson, Onwuegbuzie and Turner (2007: 129) state that “Mixed methods research is an intellectual and practical synthesis based on qualitative and quantitative methods. It recognises the importance of traditional quantitative and qualitative research but also offers a powerful third paradigm choice that often provides the most informative, complete, balanced and useful research results.” Thus mixed methods research partners with the philosophy of pragmatism. It combines principles imported from quantitative and qualitative research that are helpful in producing defensible and useable research findings, it relies on combined viewpoints in terms of data collection, analysis and inference techniques and includes local and broader socio-political realities, resources and needs (Johnson et al., 2007).
Definitions of mixed method research are as diverse as the ways in which to conduct such research. Johnson et al. (2007: 119-120) asked leaders in the field of mixed methods research to define the concept. Dr Huey Chen, a leading contributor to the development of mixed methods research, states that “Mixed methods research is a systematic integration of quantitative and qualitative methods in a single study for purposes of obtaining a fuller picture and deeper understanding of a phenomenon. Mixed methods can be integrated in such a way that quantitative and qualitative methods retain their original structures and procedures which constitute a pure form of mixed methods or the qualitative and qualitative aspects can be adapted, altered or synthesised to fit the research and cost situations of the study which constitutes a modified form of mixed methods.” Professor Jennifer Greene, a proponent of alternative forms of social programme evaluation with a particular interest in qualitative, democratic and mixed methods approaches, defines mixed methods research as an approach “that ideally involves more than one methodological tradition…along with more than one kind of technique for gathering, analysing, and representing human phenomena, all for the purpose of better understanding.” Professor Hallie Preskill, an expert on organisational learning and instructional technologies with a focus on mixed methods research, describes mixed methods research as, “the use of data collection methods that collect both quantitative and qualitative data…using a mixed methods approach increases the likelihood that the sum of the data collected will be richer, more meaningful, and ultimately more useful in answering the research questions.”
Johnson et al. (2007: 113) state that mixed methods research attempts to fully respect the wisdom of quantitative and qualitative approaches while seeking a workable middle solution. Thus mixed methods research is an approach to theory and practice that attempts to consider multiple viewpoints, perspectives and positions. Greene (2005: 207) agrees, describing mixed methods research as an ‘emancipator’, because it is an approach that welcomes all legitimate methodological traditions and attempts to facilitate methodological diversity. Furthermore, Guba and Lincoln (2005: 201) state that it is possible to blend elements of one paradigm into another, so that one actually engages in research that represents the best of both world views.
However, there is not yet broad agreement regarding how to define mixed methods research. Morse (1991), for example, states that mixed methods research must come from either a quantitative or a qualitative dominant paradigm, that is, both paradigms cannot be equal, whereas Johnson, Meeker, Loomis and Onwuegbuzie (2004) maintain that many researchers hold ambiguously nuanced positions that typically involve a blending of assumptions, beliefs and preferred analytical techniques. Furthermore, Rossman and Wilson (1994) complain about researchers using mixed methods research as a ‘cover’ for combining numbers and words in a shameless and eclectic manner while Buchanan (1992) mentions the uneasy alliance between quantitative and qualitative methods. Sutton (1997: 97) believes that despite support for mixed methods research, there is still a general preference for quantitative approaches, and researchers should “conceal or downplay” their use of qualitative techniques if they want to have research papers published. This supports Tracy (2010: 838) who believes that the social sciences have become more methodologically conservative over the past decade citing government and funding agencies’ preference for quantitative, experimental and statistically generalisable research.
Sandelowski (2000: 254) states that mixed methods research should not be used because of the misguided assumption that more is better, that it is the fashionable thing to do or that qualitative research is incomplete without a quantitative component. Hesse-Biber (2010: 457) maintains that qualitative data is often employed as “handmaiden” or is “second best” to quantitative data with the goal being to use qualitative data merely to illustrate quantitative results or to assist in building more robust quantitative measures such as survey research questions. She states that some researchers fear that using mixed methods in this way leads to a superficial ‘adding’ of qualitative methods that is little more than sprinkling in some ‘vignettes’ to provide narrative examples of the conclusions already reached by means of the quantitative methods.
Teddlie and Tashakkori (2009: 121) hold the view that quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods are merely the ‘outlooks’ of different communities of researchers who are posited as the three major groups doing research in the social and behavioural sciences. Thus other possible research practices should not be overlooked. Symonds and Gorard (2010: 122) state that, at present, methodological limitations are manifest when students are only taught these three basic research approaches or where mixed methods is favoured as the best method.
According to Symonds et al. (2010), this is becoming so common that funding bodies may start to show preference for mixed methods studies which could lead to single method studies being marginalised.
Gorard (2007: 3), however, advocates moving towards the universal underlying logic of all research, a place where “all methods have a role and a key place in the full research cycle, a place that leaves little or no space for favoured paradigms.” Furthermore, Gorard (2007: 1) states that mixing methods is wrong, not because methods should be kept separate but because they should not have been divided at the outset, that is, mixed methods can effectively reinforce the binary positioning of the quantitative and qualitative paradigms, “effectively marginalising the methodological diversity within them.” Despite such concerns about mixed method research, the approach continues to gain in popularity. Hesse-Biber et al. (2011: 287) state that in the past decade, there has been tremendous growth in the development of mixed methods-specific journals and publications which is a sign of its increasing validation.
Philosophically, mixed method research uses the pragmatic method and system of philosophy. Johnson et al. (2004: 17) maintain that pragmatism offers researchers a useful middle ground methodologically and philosophically. Pragmatism involves the use of induction or the discovery of patterns, deduction or testing of theories and hypotheses, and abduction or uncovering of facts and then relying on the best of a set of explanations for understanding one’s results. Pragmatism is, according to Johnson et al. (2004: 18), “expansive, creative, inclusive, pluralistic and complementary and allows the researcher to take an eclectic approach.”
The key characteristics of pragmatism include:
Knowledge is constructed and based on the reality of the world we live in and our experiences;
An emphasis on the reality and influence of the inner world of human experience;
An endorsement of fallibilism, that is, current beliefs and research conclusions are rarely, if ever, viewed as perfect, certain and absolute;
A focus on eclecticism and pluralism including the view that different and even conflicting theories and perspectives can be useful and that observation, experience and experiment are all useful ways to gain an understanding of people and the world;
Strong and practical empiricism and a belief that theory informs practice, that is, practical theory and a value-oriented approach to research;
The view that current truths, meaning and knowledge are tentative and change over time, thus what we discover from research should be viewed as provisional truth; and Organisms are constantly adapting to new situations and environments and our thinking follows “a dynamic, homeostatic process of belief, doubt, inquiry, modified belief, new doubt, and new inquiry…in an infinite loop.” This process leads the researcher to attempt to improve upon past understandings (Johnson et al., 2004: 18).
Thus both quantitative and qualitative research designs and approaches are important and useful and both can be enhanced by taking a pragmatic viewpoint. The goal of mixed methods research is not to replace either of these approaches but to draw from the strengths and minimise the weaknesses of both in a single research study. There are a number of similarities between quantitative and qualitative methodologies including the fact that both methodologies describe data, construct arguments and explanations from the data, and then speculate about why the outcomes observed happened as they did. Furthermore, both incorporate safeguards into their enquiries to minimise bias and other sources of invalidity and untrustworthiness.
Johnson et al. (2004: 21) state that mixed methods research has the following strengths:
Quantitative results can be used to develop and inform the purpose of a qualitative study by means of a two-stage sequential design. Words in the form of narratives are used to add meaning to numbers while numbers can be used to enhance narratives; Can answer a broader range of research questions and add insights and understanding that may be missed when the researcher is confined to a single method;
o This supports Johnson et al. (2007) who maintain that mixed methods research provides a fuller picture and deeper understanding of the data.
The convergence and corroboration of findings can provide evidence for a stronger conclusion. This supports Hesse-Biber (2010) who states that triangulation provides a more robust understanding of results and can sometimes lead to contradictory results which can be a goldmine of new findings and Symonds et al. (2010) who maintain that multiple findings can either confirm or confound the researchers original ideas thus reducing the chances of inappropriate generalisations;
o Tracy (2010: 843), however, warns that triangulation like notions of reliability and validity, does not always fit neatly with research from interpretive, critical or post-modern paradigms that view reality as multiple, fractured, contested or socially constructed. The argument being that just because all data comes to the same conclusion does not mean that this specified reality is correct. Thus findings collected by different methods will differ in form and specificity to a degree that can make their direct comparison problematic (Bloor, 2001: 385).
Can enhance the validity and reliability of research findings. Chapelle and Duff (2003) state that triangulating multiple perspectives, methods and sources of information adds texture, depth and multiple insights to a research study.
A mixed methods approach can, however, have a number of weaknesses. According to Johnson et al. (2004: 21), these include:
Researchers have to learn about multiple methods and approaches and understand how to mix them appropriately. This supports Hesse-Biber et al. (2011) who maintain that mixed methods studies require trained researchers who understand both quantitative and qualitative techniques;
Mixed method approaches tend to be more time-consuming than using only a quantitative or qualitative approach and can also be expensive; and Concerns have been raised about the credibility, trustworthiness and validity of mixed methods research. This supports Ihantola and Kihn (2011: 43) who express concerns about mixed methods research. Ihantola et al. (2011) maintain that the mixing of methods can lead to weaknesses in the internal and external validity and reliability of the quantitative component of a research study and the contextual validity, generalisability, transferability and procedural reliability of the qualitative component. Johnson et al. (2004: 17) state that research in general is becoming increasingly inter-disciplinary, complex and dynamic. Consequently, researchers need to complement one method with another and should understand multiple methods used by other researchers so as to facilitate communication and understanding, promote collaboration and produce solid research. A non-purist or mixed position, therefore, allows researchers to mix and match design components that offer the best chance of answering their specific research questions. Johnson et al. (2004: 17) maintain that “often mixed methods research provides a more workable solution and produces a superior product.” This supports Sandelowski (2000: 254) who states that “When done well, mixed-method studies dramatize the artfulness and versatility of research design.” Johnson et al. (2004: 18) believe that an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative and qualitative approaches enables a researcher to combine approaches, methods and strategies in such a way that the resulting mix of approaches is likely to result in complementary strengths and non-overlapping weaknesses. This is one of the main justifications for using mixed methods research, that is, that the product will be superior to mono-method studies.
quan→QUAL research design
Morgan (1998) provides strategies for designing a mixed methods study. He suggests four mixed methods research designs based on the sequencing (time ordering) and importance (priority) of each method. According to Hesse-Biber et al. (2011), a researcher should ask two questions:
What is the primary research method, and what is the secondary or complementary method? and;
Which method will come first and which will come second?
According to Morgan (1998) and Morse (1991), deciding on the primary research method is termed the paradigm emphasis. This involves deciding whether to give the quantitative or qualitative components of a mixed study equal status or to give one paradigm dominant or priority status. The time ordering of the qualitative and quantitative components of a mixed study is also important and can be done sequentially or concurrently.
Johnson et al. (2004) present nine mixed-method designs with notation based on Morse (1991). Morse’s (1991) notation system is regarded as extremely important by Leech and Onwuegbuzie (2009: 272) as such typologies provide more credibility to the fields of education and the behavioural and social sciences by providing examples of research designs that advance a “common language for the mixed methods field… and provide guidance and direction for researchers.” Therefore, when constructing a mixed methods design, the researcher must make two primary decisions: whether to operate largely within one dominant paradigm or not and whether to conduct the phases concurrently or sequentially. Table 3 shows the possible time-order decisions (Johnson et al., 2004:22).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of figures
List of tables
List of graphs
Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1 Background of the study: A global language
1.2 The TESOL industry
1.3 The students of English
1.4 Problem statement
1.5 Limitations of the study
1.6 Delimitations of the study
1.7 Definition of terms
1.9 Significance of the study
1.10 Structure of the thesis
Chapter 2 Literature review
2.2 The concept of burnout
2.3 Teacher stress and burnout
2.4 The status of the TESOL industry
2.5. TESOL teacher stress and burnout
2.6 Support structures
2.7 Coping strategies
Chapter 3 Methodology
3.2 Aims of the research study
3.3 Chapter overview
3.4 Research design: Mixed Methods Research
3.5 Phase One: The quantitative phase (The survey)
3.6 Phase Two: The qualitative phase (Semi-structured interviews)
3.10 Ethical considerations
3.11 Pilot study
Chapter 4 Research findings
4.2 Research findings for part one: Maslach Burnout Inventory-Educators Survey
4.3 Research findings for part two: Semi-structured interviews with TESOL teachers
Chapter 5 Conclusions and recommendations
5.2 Summary of findings
5.4 Contribution of the research study to the field of TESOL
5.5 Suggestions for further research
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