CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
The preceding chapter, the literature review, outlined the findings of a number of previous studies done on anti-bias classroom environments and it provided the necessary framework of reference for this research study.
As stated in chapter 1, the research question driving this study is: What are Grade R teachers’ perceptions of unbiased classroom environments for Grade R learners in the Isipingo District, (KZN)?
In particular, this study aims to:
•review the existing body of literature regarding unbiased classroom environments;
•determine Grade R teachers’ perceptions of unbiased classroom environments;
•discuss the nature of training that Grade R teachers received for creating and managing unbiased classroom environments;
•identify the challenges that Grade R teachers are currently experiencing in creating and managing unbiased classroom environments;
•determine the strategies currently employed by Grade R teachers to deal with these challenges and recommend additional strategies for dealing with such challenges
In order to meet the last aim of this research, namely to recommend additional strategies for creating and managing unbiased classrooms for Grade R learners in the Isipingo District, (KZN), the researcher needed to investigate the perceptions and current challenges experienced by Grade R teachers as well as the current strategies used by Grade R teachers. This chapter presents a description of the research design that was deemed most appropriate for such an investigation. This chapter also discusses the procedure followed in gaining access to the research site, deciding who the participants in the research study should be, how the data should be collected and analysed and giving an explanation of the research instrument employed.
A literature study of both primary and secondary sources was done. Newman (1997:122) points out that the first step in determining a topic for a researchable question is to consult relevant literature. The literature review helps the researcher to gain insight into the topic and plays an essential role in determining both the feasibility and credibility of the research study. It places the research in a broad contextual framework of relevant knowledge and thus provides a foundation for further research (Bell 1993:33-34).
De Vos et al (2005:268) refer to the concept “design” as the choices a researcher makes in planning the research. The research design sets out guidelines to be followed in addressing the research problem. The design includes the aims and the methods of data collection and analysis and also describes how the trustworthiness of the participants is to be established. McMillan & Schumacher (2006:33) refer to the research design as a structured plan used to obtain evidence that can lead to valid, reliable answers to research questions. In brief, a research design is the overall plan that will be followed in conducting the research.
The researcher has selected a qualitative research approach to collect data, and the rationale for using the qualitative approach will be set out in the following section.
Qualitative research approach
A qualitative research approach involves the gathering of data on a naturally occurring phenomenon. Words rather than numbers are used to gather, analyse and interpret data. The researcher seeks the meaning of the phenomenon using a variety of methods, and the search for meaning must continue until a deep understanding is achieved (McMillan & Schumacher 2006:26). Denzin & Lincoln (2000:324) define qualitative research as a multimethod in its focus, involving an interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter.
A qualitative research approach was selected for the purpose of this study, because it enabled the researcher to obtain in-depth information from participants in their natural setting. In this study, the natural setting was the schools where the participants, the Grade R teachers in the Isipingo District, (KZN) are teaching. Their opinions, thoughts, mindsets, ideas, feelings, attitudes and perceptions of unbiased classroom environments for Grade R learners were explored. Data were collected by conducting one focus group interview and a follow-up focus group interview consisting of semi-structured and open-ended questions.
The role of the researcher
Because the researcher interacts directly with participants and he/she is the instrument for measuring field data, he/she has the responsibility to be attentive and sensitive to what happens in the field and to be disciplined about recording data (Bryman 2000:96).
The researcher is a teacher in School A and is eager to acquire skills and knowledge about unbiased classroom environments for Grade R learners. The researcher strived for objectivity and, as far as humanly possible, she put aside and thus minimised the effect her own personal opinions might have had on the research study.
The settings chosen for the research study are three public multicultural primary schools in the Isipingo District. These particular schools were selected because they were easily accessible to the researcher. The schools are referred to as School A, School B and School C. The Grade R teachers from these schools were used as participants. A focus group interview and a follow-up focus group interview with the same participants were conducted at school B. All three schools are well resourced and each school has three Grade R classes and thus three Grade R teachers. Below is background information regarding each of these schools.
School A is situated in Malukazi, Isipingo. It has a learner population of 1150 of which 86 are in the three Grade R classes. The head of the Foundation Phase, which includes grade R, is a 62 year old female teacher.
School BSchool B is situated in Orient Hills, Isipingo. It has a learner population of 1200 of which 107 are in the three Grade R classes. A 50 year old female is the head of the Foundation Phase.
School CSchool C is also situated in Orient Hills, Isipingo. It has a learner population of 950 of which 100 are in the three Grade R classes. A 47 year old female is the head of the Foundation Phase.
According to Maxwell (2005:102), sampling refers to the decision made as to whom to involve in the study. In this research study the researcher used purposive sampling. In qualitative research, purposeful sampling is a strategy of selecting small groups or individuals that are knowledgeable and informative about the phenomenon of interest (McMillan & Schumacher 2006:343). Creswell (1998:118) points out that “purposeful selection of participants represents a key decision point in a qualitative study”.
The intention behind the purposive selection of participants for this research study was the researcher’s aim of understanding only Grade R teachers’ perceptions of unbiased classroom environments in the Isipingo District. Because the selected teachers are teaching Grade R learners from diverse cultural backgrounds, it was assumed that these teachers could provide information-rich data that would shed abundant light on the research theme.
A summary of the details of the participants is presented in Table 1.
DATA COLLECTION STRATEGIES
The two main methods of data collection used in this study are (1) one focus group interview and one follow-up focus group interview with semi-structured and open-ended questions and (2) observation during interviews, using field notes.
Focus group interview
Focus group interviews are group interviews that are conducted in order to understand how people think or feel about an issue, service or product. Participants in a focus group have certain common characteristics that relate to the topic of the focus group (De Vos et al 2005:299). In this research study the researcher used a focus group interview to determine Grade R teachers’ perceptions of unbiased classroom environments. The researcher scheduled a follow-up focus group interview by going back to the same participants to collect additional, more enriched data.
The nature of a focus group interview
According to De Vos et al (2005:299), a focus group interview should be conducted in a tolerant environment that encourages participants to share wishes, concerns, perceptions, points of view and experiences. Kingry, Tiedje & Friendman (1990) cited in De Vos et al (2005:300) define a focus group interview as a carefully planned discussion designed to ascertain the participants’ perceptions of an area of interest, and it is therefore conducted in a comfortable environment. Focus group interviews are described by Morgan (1997) cited in De Vos et al (2005:300) as a research technique that collects information through group interaction on a topic which is decided on by the researcher.
Advantages of a focus group interview
Cohen, Manion & Morrison (2002:49) state that in the field of research, focus group interviewing provides the researcher with an opportunity to enter into the participants’ perspectives in order to understand and give meaning to a certain phenomenon, which is for the sake of this research study unbiased classroom environments.
Focus group interviews are especially useful for understanding the variety of others’ experiences (De Vos et al 2005:301). In a focus group interview a skilled interviewer can delve deeper through follow-up questions or probes, which results in the collection of highly detailed information (Goodwin 2002:399). The process of sharing and comparing among the participants is an important advantage because in this process much information is produced in a short time.
A further advantage of a focus group interview is that it allows the researcher access to past events and to situations during which the researcher was not self present (McKenzie, Powell & Usher, 1997:165).
Focus group interviews draw on three of the fundamental strengths that are shared by all qualitative methods:
Exploration and discovery: De Vos et al (2005:301) point out that focus groups can be used to investigate and expose the reality of complex behaviour and motivation.
Sharing and comparing: One of the purposes of focus group interviews, as Krueger&Casey (2000:7) state, is to promote self-disclosure among participants. Because there is continuous communication between the facilitator and the participants, focus group interviewing is a way of listening to other people and learning from them.
Content and depth: Hutchinson & Web, cited in De Vos et al (2005:296), draw one’s attention to the fact that it takes time and thought to generate useful questions with appropriate content and structure for a scheduled interview.
Interpretation: According to Krueger & Casey (2000:127), analysis and interpretation of the data obtained from a focus group interview begin by going back to the purpose of the study. These authors provide seven established criteria for interpreting coded data: words; context; internal consistency; frequency and extensiveness of comments; specificity of comments; intensity of comments and big ideas (De Vos et al 2005:312).
Conducting and recording a focus group interview
The researcher sought permission and clearance from the Department of Education before field work commenced (Appendix A). After receiving approval from the Department, the researcher also sought permission from the school principals (Appendix B, C and D). Thereafter the researcher approached each participant individually and explained the aims of the research. On their agreement to participate, the researcher followed up by confirming the venue, date, time and length of the focus group interview. The same information was given to the participants of the follow-up focus group interview. The focus group interview (Appendix F) and the follow-up focus group interview (Appendix G) were held in a Grade R classroom at School B. The questions were indicated in an interview schedule (Appendix E). Semi-structured questions as well as open-ended questions were asked. The focus group interview and the follow-up focus group interview were recorded on audiotape with the permission of all the participants. The focus group interview as well as the follow-up focus group interview involved asking questions, listening, expressing interest and recording the responses of the participants to ensure completeness of the verbal interaction. Observation of participants during the interviews was done and recorded by means of field notes.
Patton (2002:383) encourages researchers to take focused notes while conducting interviews. Taking notes helped this researcher to record nonverbal communication, which also facilitated data analysis. The focus group interview and the follow-up focus group interview were transcribed verbatim.
The interview schedule
A questionnaire that lists predetermined questions to be explored in the course of an interview and that gives structure to the interview is called an interview schedule (De Vos et al 2005:308; Patton, 2002:343). The purpose of an interview schedule is to ensure that the same questions are asked of each person interviewed. For this study the researcher set questions which would provide her with the following information:
•Grade R teachers’ perceptions of unbiased classroom environments for Grade R learners;
•the nature of the training Grade R teachers received on the issue of creating and managing unbiased classroom environments;
•the challenges Grade R teachers are currently experiencing in creating and managing unbiased classroom environments;
•strategies currently employed by the participants for dealing with these challenges.
The interview schedule was given to each participant for perusal before the focus group interview commenced. The focus group interview and the follow-up focus group interview were closed by thanking the participants for their time and participation.
Observation by using field notes
Field notes are a written account of what the researcher hears, sees, experiences and observes during the course of the interview, and they contribute towards the richness of the data. Taking notes during fieldwork is essential because it provides the researcher with a record of significant observations, for example, anxiety, which are reflected nonverbally in facial expressions and gestures which cannot be captured on audiotape recordings (De Vos et al 2005:311). In this study the researcher also used field notes (Appendix H) to capture the following:
•the order in which the participants spoke in order to aid voice recognition and
•non-verbal information such as eye contact, posture, and gestures between group members that could not be recorded.
DATA PROCESSING AND ANALYSING
The analysis and interpretation of focus group data can be very complex and time consuming (De Vos et al 2005:311). Bogdan & Biklen (2003:148) state that data analysis is a process of systematically searching for and arranging the interview scripts, field notes and any other materials collected by the researcher. Patton (2002:114) points out that the type of research which is being done will determine how the data should be analysed and how the findings should be presented. As noted in section 3.4.1, data were collected by means of a semi-structured focus group interview and a follow-up focus group interview with purposively selected participants from selected schools. The data comprise the responses of the participants interviewed. The researcher was guided by Lincoln and Guba’s strategies, cited in De Vos et al (2005:346) to ensure reliability, validity and trustworthiness. These strategies are (1) assembling and organising data, (2) method of data analysis, and (3) reporting the findings.
Assembling and organising data
The focus group interview and the follow-up focus group interview were audio taped and transcribed verbatim. The data assembled in the field notes were organised into personal and analytical logs. A personal log is a descriptive report on the participants, their settings and field notes. An analytical log is a detailed investigation of the research question as the study progresses (Rubin & Babbie 1993:384; Taylor 1993:63). De Vos et al (2005:339) point out that organising data is a process of bringing order, structure and meaning to the mass of data collected.
Method of data analysis
According to McMillan & Schumacher (2001:138), methods of data analysis range from simple vote counting methods to sophisticated interactive qualitative methods such as ethnography, phenomenology, case study, grounded theory and critical studies. In qualitative research data collection and data analysis must be a synchronised process (Creswell1994:166). During the data analysis process keywords were consolidated into categories and categories were consolidated into emerging themes. These were cross-referenced with the research question to ensure that the research was focused.
Reporting the findings
The most common form of reporting findings for qualitative data is narrative text (Clandinin & Connelly 2000:20). Therefore, the results obtained from this study were presented as a narrative discussion rather than a scientific report.
McMillan & Schumacher (2001:407) state that the concepts of reliability and validity are indices of the trustworthiness of data. Validity and reliability are discussed in the following paragraphs.
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION AND ORIENTATION
1.2 RATIONALE FOR THE RESEARCH
1.3 PROBLEM FORMULATION
1.4 AIMS OF THE RESEARCH
1.5 DEFINITION OF KEY CONCEPTS
1.6 DEMARCATION OF THE RESEARCH
1.7 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
1.8 CHAPTER DIVISION
CHAPTER 2: THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND LITERATURE REVIEW
2.2 MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION
2.3 TRAINING OF TEACHERS REGARDING MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION
2.4 THE GRADE R LEARNER
2.5 CREATING AND MANAGING AN UNBIASED GRADE R CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT
CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
3.2 LITERATURE STUDY
3.3 THE RESEARCH DESIGN
3.4 DATA COLLECTION STRATEGIES
3.5 DATA PROCESSING AND ANALYSING
3. 7 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
CHAPTER 4: PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
4.2 RESEARCH DESIGN IN BRIEF
4.3 PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
CHAPTER 5: SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.2 SUMMARY OF THE RESEARCH
5.4 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
5.5 LIMITATIONS OF THE RESEARCH
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
GRADE R TEACHERS’ PERCEPTIONS OF AN UNBIASED CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT IN THE ISIPINGO DISTRICT (KWAZULU-NATAL)