In an organization, stakeholders are the partners who work together to see the objectives and the accomplishments are achieved. This is not different from the college or higher education settings where the students are partners of the institution. Therefore, as partners, students need to be fully engaged and incorporated into the learning process. This methodology chapter presents a discussion on the various methods that the researcher incorporated in the research on the students’ engagement. The research questions were fundamental in helping the researcher to determine the appropriate ways that could get the aim of the study attained. Various learning intervention tools including tutorial meetings, faculty feedback, and Individual Learning Plan were raised in the research questions giving the researcher the direction of the study. Various philosophical understandings on the topic of student engagement were discussed in this chapter. The researcher applied different methods among them action research, appreciative inquiry, purposive sampling and other appropriate methods that could get the best results achieved. The researcher as well encountered challenges related to financing, time and limited area of coverage of the study. The methodology applied by the researcher was sound for evidence-based and accurate findings.
Keywords: Engagement, learning, sample, students, teachers, institution, plan etc.
The research aimed at studying how the students’ engagement could be improved under the umbrella of “Students as Partners” with the help of the use of different interventions. For accomplishing this aim of the study, the following research questions were investigated by the researcher:
What constituted an effective and realistic strategy of “Students as Partners” whose aim was to increase the level of the students’ engagement in a post- 16 vocational education institution context?
What were the elements of the identified strategy and their formation?
Specifically, this question addressed:
What were the roles played by the IPLs when it comes to improving the students’ engagement?
What were the roles played by the tutorial meetings in enhancing the students’ engagement?
What roles did the tutor feedback played in ensuring that students’ engagement was enhanced?
Lastly, for each case identified, what were the characteristics specified for the elements of the strategy that appeared to contribute to higher student engagement during their learning?
The philosophical underpinning of the research
In the learning environment, the learners are the receivers of the information delivered by the instructors and their tutors. Therefore, there is the need for the learners to be active receivers rather than passive ones to enhance the level of their understanding. Thus, the application of this strategy, “Students as Partners” is significant in learner engagement to enhance the activism of the students in the learning process (Wenstone, 2013). The strategy makes it possible that learners no longer continue to be passive receivers of information in the class and become the active partners within the learning environment. In my capacity as a researcher, my assumption of the research was that the teachers tend to spoon feed the students and often only asked them to reproduce it in their assessment requirements to achieve highly. Some ways can be adapted to make it easy for the students to be more involved in the process of learning. Such approaches to independent learning have been put forth by the researchers like McKay and Kember (1997) in their case study. They provided evidence which linked the independence of learning among the students to enhancing their engagement in the process of learning as active receivers. However, in cases where the learners are spoon- fed by the tutors, often this independence is swayed away, the learners no more demonstrate the innovativeness in learning and are neither inspired (Samah, Jusoff, & Silong, 2009). Therefore, the findings by the researchers on the related issues were the basis to indicate the epistemology of the research I carried out. That explained the knowledge the world has and that this knowledge is passed on through the researchers.
In independent learning, my context is that every individual learner should have personal learning plan. For compliance and funding issues, individual learning plan should be made a requirement during the audit for each student to enhance its usage among the students. By taking this approach in my paper, I aimed at attracting the instructors among them the tutors and the teachers to have an interest in my final report. With such interest, I was sure that the students stand a chance of benefiting most as the teachers had to adopt the system of working closely with every individual student through their own designed learning plan. The closeness of the teachers could then enhance their participation and help students in drawing a more strategic plan which could engage the students better in the learning process. Once the approach is fully incorporated in the educational system, the policy requirement would have been achieved, and the purpose of the learners in the education as well accomplished.
The case of “Students as Partners” is completely different at higher levels of learning such as the bachelor’s degrees, advanced diplomas and at the diploma levels. Learners at these levels have academically and educationally matured and take the personal initiatives to take up their learning responsibilities where they work closely with the instructors in achieving their academic outcomes. However, “Students as Partners” is a topic that has specifically and objectively not been examined in my organization. Dunne and Zandstra (2011) discussed the idea of students as consumers in the detailed manner which they claimed that it is supported by the fact that the tutors tend to listen to their students. Therefore, according to Dunne and Zandstra (2011), students are viewed as the agents of change and they as well clearly and fully support this idea. Equipped with the hope and determination of transforming learning, students who are consumers often take up the roles as co-producers and active collaborators to make it happen (Dunne and Zandstra, 2011). Though, since students do not consume learning, it only sounds erroneous to refer to them as clients or consumers in this case as the title makes them appear passive receivers. Instead, as students, they need an opportunity so that they can implement the change they are meant to carry out, make suggestions on the various explanations as well as make any discovery they feel is significant within their areas basically to enhance their learning engagement.
Gärdebo & Wiggberg (2012) in their publication had this idea to put forth on the need to have the students given more space so that they could make choices to facilitate their experience in education. Active engagement and participation were found significant in helping the students identify and make the contribution towards their experience in education (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). During learning, students formulate the ideal aims of learning which sometimes tend to differ from the actual performance in learning creating a gap between the two aspects of learning. Thus as Lizzio and Wilson (2008) put it, this gap can be bridged through tutorial feedback which gets the student realize what the actual performance in learning look. For these students to make advancement in their study, then the applicable feedback on their performance will serve a great deal in what Lizzio and Wilson (2008) describe as trying to alter the existing gap and the effects it has on learning. Thus, again, the tutors do have a significant role to play regarding making sure that the gap existing between the actual performance in learning and the aims that are ideal to learning by the students is bridged to allow them to stay focused on the whole learning process.
The clear and precise framework for learning playing a vital role in the experience the students get through learning which ensures that students can excel in their academics. When planning for this framework, the learning plan for individual student needs to be given sharp focus. This should be enhanced by the application of the interventions so that the learners get the needed support that facilitates their academic achievement. Thus, the role played by the Individual Learning plan remained vital in this research and was at the center of my investigation. It was used as a tool to measure the performance as a way of monitoring the progress of the students in learning. The students together with their respective teachers found this tool impactful especially when it came to recognizing and reviewing of the developments in the educational aims of the students. In my context, I found the application of the Individual Learning plan as an imposition to the teachers primarily as a requirement in the auditing and the funding. However, I had a different version of my aim with the expectations that my paper could present this tool in a way that it impacts positively on the experience of the students in learning.
Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva (1987) were first to develop the idea of the appreciative inquiry. They were able to argue out their views that repetitive or the overuse of the “problem solving” often help back any improvement. Thus, there was the need to have the new methods of inquiry which could help in getting new models and ideas to assist in organizing. Therefore as a model, appreciative inquiry engages all the participants to embrace the change that they are determined to have. In applying this notion of appreciative inquiry in my research, I based this on what Wegner & Wheatley’s (1999) claim on the institution’s acquisition of knowledge. The article argues that any institution should be able to get the knowledge about itself from within itself. Due to its positivity, this method of appreciative inquiry on handles the transformation from the positive perspective. As Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva (1987) put it, it is not a matter of searching for the problem and looking for a way how to fix the problem or overusing problem-solving. In contrast, the approach of appreciative inquiry makes good use of the positivism in making the change. Thus, because of the aspects inscribed in appreciative inquiry, I utilized this approach in my study. Its application was practical when it came to examining the use of the Individual Learning plan in engaging the students and after that focused on building the recommendations that could see the process of student engagement improved. The positivism that attracted the use of the appreciative inquiry approach aimed to develop a document that could place the Individual Learning Plan at the heart of the learning process and the teaching practice within my organization.
In my decision to apply the method of appreciative inquiry, I was guided by the simultaneity principle that made me believe that in the process of my inquiry into the education system applied, I would impact some changes. When I asked the first question, various aspects of changes were implicit including the foundation of change, what the students make discoveries and learn, and what they talk or think about. Thus, any inquiry is never neutral at any point but serve a fateful purpose of having the system move towards the direction of the questions. Therefore, the appreciative inquiry was suitably suited for the research especially in getting to understand more on the application of the Individual Learning Plan. This method could then use the positivity to get the education system teachers used in the direction of my inquiry that aimed at having the engagement of the students in learning improved.
Reason and Bradbury (2001) define action research as the practice aimed at the development of the knowing and knowledge systematically. Thus, this definition of the action research indicates that it has the ability of practically achieving the outcomes and fostering the opinions that are innovative through the reflection of the action taken and the outcome examination. Typically, the method is well suited when implied within the setting of an educational institution since it gives the opportunity for the inquiry as well as the discussion. Ferrance (2000) agrees that action plan by nature allows the collaboration among those seeking to have the solutions to the real problems that educational institution experience on a daily basis. In the other way, the action research as Ferrance (2000) puts it aims at getting the solutions to have the instruction approaches in institutions improved by fully engaging the students so that the achievement of the students is enhanced. In essence, the method holds the teachers accountable for the decisions to make students excel, and the best strategy initiated in this method was the perception that students were partners. To introduce the learning intervention tools that were appropriate for my research, I fully utilized this action research method.
In my application of the action research process, various steps had been documented that I followed. The first step involved the selection of the focus and in this case was the engagement of the students in the learning process. Secondly, I clarified the theory of my research which aimed at utilizing the Individual Learning plan for the individual student. Thirdly, I used my main research questions in making the inquiry which helped me in collecting the data. Then I used the thematic analysis to have my data analyzed. This was important in facilitating my movement to the fifth step that involved taking the relevant action based on the data that I had analyzed. The last level of the action research I applied was the reflection on the whole process to get the right recommendations put in place on the best way to use the individual learning plan to have the student engagement improved in learning. In a bit to support this approach, Coghlan and Brannick (2014) stated that the issue under such investigation usually is already shared among may parties who often may have the high interest in having the matter discussed a solution action taken. The inquiry I undertook was very vital especially in finding the ways I could use to have the learning experience of the students improved where I aimed at having the attrition rate of students dropped.
I used thematic analysis to analyze the data that I had collected after carrying out various interviews to identify the patterns, used in data, the codes and the themes. The use of thematic analysis provided me with an opportunity to widely investigate the area of my research and give a better meaning to the data to make it easy for my target group to understand. However, the researchers who have applied the thematic analysis in the past have received a lot of criticism. The critics of this method claim that there are no clear and precise guidelines for the use of the thematic analysis. The critics say that the thematic method when used in the research for review, it leaves many loopholes that can cause the omissions in the way the researcher analyses the results of his study. These claims from the critics were an “eye opener” to the application of this methodology. I carefully incorporated the method in my research in a way that was concise, transparent and replicable to the readers of my document.
Braun and Clarke (2006) in their report have documented an effective procedure to the researchers who accurately want to apply the thematic analysis in the studies. Braun and Clarke (2006) have outlined the multiple phases the method undergoes while paying close focus on those steps that allows the researcher thematically produces his work. The procedure defines thematic analysis, its boundaries and the flexible nature of the method. The researchers applying this method pay their total allegiance to acknowledge their desires to have them understand the question of discussion from a better version. As a researcher, in this case, I had the urge to have an elaborate understanding of the application of the Individual Learning plan which enabled me to define the extent was used in students’ engagement. The usage of thematic analysis gives special consideration to the meanings expressed by the participants in the research. After that, the researcher examines this meaning in a whole relevant context so that to give the right meanings. Thus, this became very crucial in my application of the thematic method as I extracted the meanings from the participants I interviewed, examined their meanings from the context of right education which facilitated my recommendations for an education system that enhances the student engagement.
Braun and Clarke further when referring to the thematic method, they describe the idea of “contextualize” in which they refer to as that which appears in between what is believed to be essential and what the researcher personally construct. It was common to find the researchers applying other related methodologies like phenomenological that utilize the mid- grounded position. The scenario indicated the case of my research. However, the flexible nature of the thematic analysis underpinned it by the mid- position view of what is believed as justifiable and the researcher’s opinion. Willig (2008) concluded that even if the interpretation informs of the contextualism of the research, flexibility of the thematic analysis renders this different to whoever is going through the context. Thus, the thematic analysis was crucial to help lead to a holistic review of the engagement of students. This as well provided an opportunity for understanding the role the educational education played in student engagement.
My research aimed at collecting the data from the multiple stakeholders on how the Individual Learning plan is used by recording their viewpoints. The identified stakeholders in my study were the students and members of the faculty. I reserved to using the qualitative research method by carrying out the interviews and the surveys on the relevant aspects of my study. However, I was so keen on getting the vital information that could help me accomplish my research objectives. Therefore, I only used open-ended question in my interviews and surveys. By using open-ended questions, it was easier for me to have the required information on the how the participants view the behavior of students’ engagement. The literature review was an essential part of my knowledge on the topic of my study. Through reviewing the relevant documents about student engagement, it was easier for me to obtain the secondary data and what the prior researchers had to conclude. Thus, with the help of the findings of the surveys and the interviews as well as data from the literature review, I was able to propose the learning intervention tools. Some of these interventions tools I found suitable are the tutoring meetings, faculty feedback and sending the reminders text to the learners. The suggested intervention tools served as the priority in the earlier discussion on how best they enhance engagement of students. To find out the appropriateness of my proposed intervention tools, I had to monitor the involvement of the students throughout their learning process and made a reflection on the tools.
Earlier related studies have indicated that teachers are always at the center of the influence of the students in the learning process. Therefore, these were the most vital groups in my research where my interview involved both the teachers and the learners as suggested by prior researchers. The students interviewed were all drawn from my organization where I worked. Interviews were my primary mode of data collection though I did it manually. However, I made sure that after the interviews, the track of Individual Learning plan was kept for later review. Data collection is one of the most expensive parts of the research, and unless the researcher has enough resources, this process can hamper the accomplishment of the research objectives. That was the reason behind my decision to use the manual data collection methods through interviews. In this case, as well, manual data collection was convenient as most of the participants were within the locality of my area of study, the organization where I worked. The individual learning plans for each student were the essential items in my research, so a lot of care had to be taken into account when keeping them. I, therefore, found the Moodle as the best platform that could facilitate secure and reliable storage of the students’ learning plans.
Note taking has always been my system whenever I encounter the significant information. Thus, my interview was facilitated by the notes I took during this process. Note taking has been proved as a working strategy in the learning environment and I have always adopted this strategy especially in keeping relevant issues for future further analysis or reference. Since the nature of my study needed access to the very confidential information from the participant, I was only prudent that I anonymize the data. By this, all the participants’ anonymity was observed, and my outcome could not indicate any of the actual details of the participants. Interviewees’ anonymity is an ethical and legal requirement standard of any researcher. Often, in studies where the identity of the interviewee or the participant has to be revealed, then relevant consent should be sought from the participant. However, in interviews where the participants involved are incapacitated in one way or the other, talk of children and mental health patients, such permission can be sought from the parents, caretakers or the relevant authority taking charge of the individuals. For my study, I maintained the anonymity of the interviewees.
Part of the data I recorded included the recognizing information that required a unique technique to handle them for easy recognition during analysis. The numbering system was applied as the most convenient technique in my study. Bearing in mind the large volume of data I had to deal with within a short span of time, I found the method working for my research. Some of the previous steps I had outlined in the application of the action research as stated by Reason and Bradbury (2001) become essential at this point after data analysis. Some steps I found crucial were the evaluation and the reflection of the research. In the application of these steps, after the data analysis and the fully explored the intervention tools in a bit to improve the engagement of students, re-interviewing of the same participants was done. The primary purpose in using this technique of re-interviewing is to make a comparison of the data that had been collected and establish the effectiveness of the intervention tools.
Hussey and Hussey (1997 defines data as things or facts that are either known and forms the basis for reckoning or inference. The description of the data according to these authors is either qualitative or quantitative. Quantitative data is all collected in the forms of numerical while the qualitative is qualities and non- numerical characterize the contrast in that such data. The two then further noted that regardless of the paradigm followed in the research; at least the elements of the two forms of data must appear in the research. Though, in my study, quantitative data played a minimal role since all I was concerned of was the qualitative data based on the participants’ response. In any particular research, the two main sources of data are always identified. They comprise of the primary data and the secondary data. In my study, as mentions in the methods, both the forms of data sources, the primary and the secondary data were used.
The collection of the primary data involved carrying out interviews manually with the teachers. On the other hand, the questionnaires served a great deal in the surveying the students. This involved the administration of the questionnaires which contained open-ended questions to the particular sample of students who had been selected to aid in my research. The option to use the open-ended questions in my primary data collection was convenient in having the respondents’ perception on the Individual learning plan and its usage for students’ engagement. As it is the purpose of the primary data in any research, I aimed at getting the adequate and the information from the immediate people who I believed had the main instrument of data collection. For the oral interview to the teachers, I took down notes to capture all the information from them.
As mentioned in the methods section, I also relied on the secondary data to make submissions on the learning intervention tools. Secondary data was defined by Zikmund (1997) as the type of data that has already been gathered by someone else, recorded and stored such that the needs of the current researcher find this form of data already existing. Since the secondary data are always assembled, they are historical thus the current research in need of such information does not require any access to the respondents or even the subjects. The secondary data, therefore, were vital for my study where I did the review of the various literatures in the area of students’ engagement. The aim for the usage of the secondary data was to gather the perception earlier researchers had in the field I was researching. It was very crucial for me to widely understand the area and catch a glimpse of what other researchers said.
In preparation before I carried out the research, I had to seek for the ethical approval of my study from the organization’s management and the ethical board of the institution. It is also mandatory that the researcher looking forward to researching the department of education gets approval from the department. I, therefore, sought the approval from the education department as well as undergoing the background check of the enhanced criminal records to clear my work with the students. All the necessary approval was required by my organization and the learning institution before I could commence the research process.
All the interviews were conducted in the one room that was very quiet at the college for all the participants. For this research, I was the principal investigator in this case taking the position of the researcher and conducted the interview. The participants, students and teachers read and acknowledged the receipt of the information sheet that informed them the purpose of the research and their roles as participants. However, since the participants were uncertain of the details of the research, I had to explain to them that our mission was to talk about Individual Learning plan and how it affected the engagement of the students. Further to relieve any attention among the participants, I had to use the lighter and softer language that could get them into the session. I then urged them just to have the feeling that as a researcher, I had no idea of the topic and just wanted to get a glimpse of what they individually knew. I think this strategy was significant in my interview sessions since it made the participant have a feeling that they knew much than I could and was only interested in getting what they had. As well they realized that I could not base my determination on whether they were right or wrong and that all I wanted were their perceptions.
Instructions concerning the interview were communicated to all the participants verbally and any assent sought before the recording of any information and after that the commencement of the process. The participants signed a consent form that was explained in detailed about their role in research. The researcher designed questions that were crucial in keeping sessions alive. The initial stage to start the sessions was the discussions on the Individual learning plan and how they influence the students’ engagements. Students were asked if they know of the ILP and they have had an experience with it. They were as well to respond to the question as to whether they found the ILP effective to engage them in learning. Teachers were also asked if they find the Individual Learning suitable to work with the students and if they had applied it. They were also asked to give views as to how it can best be incorporated into the learning with the aim of enhancing the student engagement. Amidst the dwindled discussion on the individual learning plan, I introduced the learning intervention tools shifting the discussion again to the tutoring meetings and the faculty feedback. The students were asked how often they have tutorial meetings and get feedback from their faculty. They were as well asked how helpful or beneficial the intervention tools have been to their learning. Teachers were as well to respond to their use of these intervention tools and if they have found them with to enhance their students’ engagement. Thus, the whole discussion turned its focus on the three elements expected of any strategy aimed at increasing the students’ engagement. The three were the Individual learning plan (ILP), tutorial meetings and the faculty feedback. Relatively, the question was asked concerning the benefits that students’ engagement had and the consequences of failing to engage students.
All the questions that were adopted for the research were open-ended where the participants were asked as well to give suggestions on how best to engage students. This was to ensure that their perceptions are taken into account. Thus, we employed all the strategy to get the best out of them by encouraging the participants to make expansions on the responses they had given earlier. It became essential especially in following up the issues they had raised more previously. Individual interview sessions with students were taking us between 10 to 15 minutes to avoid boredom and exhaustion of the participants. However, with the teachers, the interview sessions went longer to 30 minutes. After every session of the interview process, a review of the recorded data was done mainly to make the process of data analysis stronger and that the most appropriate data had been collected. At the same time, I reflected on the procedures I had employed in dealing with the participants. Towards the end of the sessions, all the collected data were transcribed and the responses for all sessions combined to create two transcripts, for the teachers and the students.
A sample is expressed as the smallest part of the whole population that is drawn from the larger population to be used in the study but usually should have all characteristics of the community. Marshall (1996) discusses some of the importance that sample does and makes a conclusion that dealing with the whole group in the research is not practically viable. The entire population as well does not assure the researcher of the efficiency and ethics of his study. The size of the sample according to Marshall (1996) depends on the suitable number that will facilitate the conclusion that is valid for the entire population. For an optimum size of the sample, the characteristics of the phenomena being studied play a role where consideration is given to the rarity of the event or any particular outcome expected. The type of the sample that the researcher opts for in the study depends on the aims of the investigation. Marshall (1996), presents one of the most commonly used sampling technique, purposive sampling. In the definition, purposive sampling strategy involves selecting the participants for the study based on the specificity and the distinctiveness on the issue in question. In this case, only the sample that seems productive to the researcher is selected for the research. To facilitate the selection process, the researcher often develops a framework with specific variables of what he wants from the sample. The researcher uses the knowledge he already has in the field of study, through literature review and as evidenced in the study itself to have his best sample.
I, therefore, found purposive sampling suitable for my research process since the question of the research I was carrying out was Individual Learning Plan which needed specificity and distinctiveness of the sample population. In this case, only students and teachers who had prior knowledge of the Individual Learning plan were resourceful for my study. Thus, I applied the purposeful technique to facilitate the recruitment process of these groups. Based on this strategy, I narrowed down to students with Diplomas and any other qualifications above. They formed the suitable sample that I believed had immediate knowledge of the Individual Learning Plan.
The sample size in the research is as important as the actual outcome of the study since it plays a significant role in the error definition of the sampling process. The validity of the inferences made about the entire population determines the optimum number of the participants to be selected for the research. Regarding the sampling error, if the sample size is large, then the sampling error is reduced, but the significance of this usually is very little. That then means that very little is gained by the researcher when he settles on the large sample size. The researcher can as well rely on the parameters of the phenomena where he factors in issues such as the rarity of the events happening. Either, the researcher can base on the expected differences in the results between the control groups and the intervention methods employed. Glaser and Strauss (1967) discussed the saturation notion in their work in which they state that in qualitative studies, the sample size needs to follow the saturation notion. The discussion by Glaser and Strauss (1967) again introduces the issues of relevance of the sample size. I think this is an essential discussion that any present or future researcher needs to have informed knowledge when doing sampling. The indication by Glaser and Strauss (1967) is practical in that it is erroneous for the researchers to continue collecting additional data when such data seems to add no extra value to the matter under study. Such data according to Glaser and Strauss (1967) is saturated and that the researcher needs not to continue collecting more data. This was very important in my study as I relied on the notion of saturation to have a sample size of between 10 to 15 participants. Guest, Bunce, and Johnson (2006) also supported that the number10 to 15 is a saturation number. In this research, my data sample consisted of 13 students and 2 teachers.
Therefore, the research consisted of a sample of 15 participants from my organization. Thirteen of the participants were the students whose qualifications were diplomas and above. Then two of the remaining participants were the teachers with the immediate knowledge about the Individual Learning Plan. Five male and five female participants took part in research all of them ranging between the ages of 18 years to 41 years. The average years the participants had taken at the institution varied from 4 years to 9 years either as students or as teachers.
The collected data during the study were fundamental in responding to the research questions the researcher had earlier raised. The analysis of this data was done thematically. The thematic analysis facilitated the researcher with the understanding of the meanings expressed by the participants and gets the rights meanings for the study. The themes can be developed, classified and that those methods of classification can be used in data examination. The analysis of data should regard any lack of precise themes and any justifications that are conflicting.
Since thematic analysis involves the researcher identifying, analyzing and reporting of various themes with the provided data, the method is therefore not anchored to any specified theory. Thus, at no point is the researcher restrained to any ideological commitment that is implicit. For this analysis as presented by Braun and Clarke (2006), first, the researcher need to familiarize with the provided data through transcription of the responses from the participants in the interview. The familiarization extracted data items which were then merged to form the data sets before the coding process began. At the data transcription stage which is the initial stage of data analysis, the researcher ensured that the accuracy of the transcription is attained by repeatedly going through the transcribed data. The coding phase was the second step after data transcription. Codes brought out the significant features portrayed by the collected data that the researcher found crucial in addressing the research questions. This process required the equality in the treatment of all data sets as we paid attention to the themes that had been repeated. The codes were organized into the various concepts that were descriptive to facilitate the generation of the analytical themes. At the third phase, the different identified codes were then combined regarding the similarity exposed in them as obtained from the data. The combination of these similar initial codes formed the themes that seemed relevant from the data. We, however, paid very close consideration to any data that that seemed diverging as well as its interpretation so that we could not give in to the understandings of the participants. Braun and Clarke (2006) further had suggested the use of visual arts such as the charts, maps, and graphs when developing the themes. The suggestion was quite significant in visualizing and consideration of the relationship that existed among the themes that we had identified.
As a researcher, I had a duty to ensure that only relevant themes were developed which influenced my decision to refine them. The whole purpose of the theme refinement was to help discarded any themes that appeared too diverse and those that did not have enough information to support them. The improvement ensured that only coded data that formed a pattern that was coherent were accepted. Then upon determination of the coherence of the codes, the themes were examined regarding the whole data presentation. Braun and Clarke (2006) also argue that the developed ideas should be well evidenced across the entire data set and that was the accuracy the researchers sought through theme refinement. Upon the completion of this process of fitting themes together, the next step involved defining of the identified themes and naming them as brief analysis was accorded to every pattern. Details within the identified topics were considered about the relevant story that had emanated from the data details. I considered names precisely and carefully in such a way that they indicated the essence of the identified themes.
I researched within my institution though I used a different campus to avoid the ethical issues that could have risen about the accessibility. Since my study was within the institution, accessibility matters needed to be put in place appropriately regarding seeking the research permission for any facility or the equipment of the institution I used. All these access permits were to be in the form of writing as was a requirement by the authority for any study of such nature. To access the information from the participants, I had first to contact the students and the teachers to seek their willingness to participate in my research process. Therefore, I regarded the informed consent of the participants as part of my research requirement. To make it more useful, I provided the participants information sheets which were in the form of agreement between the researcher and the participants that I had been given consent by the participants to use their information. That forced me to live by the access agreement we had made with the participant. Therefore, I could not at any point reveal the raw data of the participants to the management as the way to ensure that the anonymity right was guaranteed for all participants. As well we agreed that given the access to data by the participants, I was not at any time supposed to collect information that classified participants. The report included the personal telephone numbers, the individual addresses and the email addresses of the participants. All these measures were aligned with ensuring that all of my participants enjoyed the privacy of their information access.
The other access problem I encountered was the difficulties in determining the appropriate time to research since my research was not meant in any way to interfere with the regular running of the institution. First, I had to informally make some local arrangement with the participants having been given consent on the odd hours that could not interrupt their regular businesses. However, even with such mechanisms in place, inconveniences came in to make it hard at least to have all the participants at ago. I remember the first session we had planned failed due to the differences in the time of commitment. When all the students’ participants were gathered for the meeting, the teachers were committed to other duties. Thus, equally, the issues of access were a breakthrough in my study at the same time challenging for my research.
It is a requirement in any educational study that the researcher pays close attention to the ethical component (Isman, Aksal and Gazi, 2009). If the researcher fails to put ethical aspect into serious consideration, then, chances are high that the research process will run into privacy risks and other ethical issues. Some of the privacy risks likely to encounter include accidentally causes a breach to the private information. Also, the participants are likely to be heard or viewed by others when they meet the researcher and those taking part in the research process meddling or causing an invasion into the private information of those not part of the study team. To this extent, all the privacy information of those engaged in the study should be kept put and the researcher need to pay closeness to this. However, the privacy of those not taking part in the research is equally important and need to be taken care of by the research team.
Although I conducted the research in my work organization, my role as Project Officer did not give me the power over teachers or students. I emailed all teachers (around 30 teachers), who teach at a Diploma level, an “Expression of Interest” to participate in this research. The research details were explained, and a copy of the PIS was attached to the email and my contact details were listed so that they can contact me if they have any questions. email and my contact details were listed so that they can contact me if they have any questions. Only 2 teachers were interested to participate in the study, I selected both. I met with the teachers individually and answered any questions they have. I gave them another copy of the PIS and asked them to contact me if they want to participate and sign the consent form.The students were from the Diploma group which I do not teach and have no power over their grades. The students were initially emailed and asked to meet me to be part of a research project and a copy of the PIS was attached to the invitation email. After the initial meeting, students were given another copy of the PIS and were asked to contact me if they want to participate and sign the consent form. All participants were given at least a week to consider whether they want to participate or not.. In fact, our encounter and meeting was very rare and that was the best phenomenon to ensure my research meets the ethical standards.
Ethically, my research started with the ethical approval from the relevant authorities as already indicated in the previous section of the procedure. Usually, the topic of discussion determines the reputational issues concerning the study. Therefore, to make sure that my question qualifies as a reputable discussion, it received the ethical reputation and was given a written note indicating that my study had been approved. This was important throughout my research process as I carried the approval letter on all my occasions. Probably, I was sure questions regarding the authenticity of my study had a rise and made it possible to challenge anyone that I was allowed to carry out the research.
I earlier prepared a secure and reliable cupboard to store all the physical files that were used in the study process. I then locked up the cabinet and made sure that I only accessed the store. I also obtained an external hard disk drive and secured with the password to store the electronic folders and could only access them purposely for the study. The external hard disk was as well kept in the cupboard and would stay there for five years since the cupboard is securely locked. For durability of the collected information from the study and to avoid any future accidental access to private information, I converted the physical files into electronic and stored them on the external hard disk. After that, I destroyed all the physical records by burning them. At no point did I use the classifying information like actual names and addresses of the participants. All these as I indicated in the previous sections of this chapter were kept anonymous. All measures in place, I ensured that none of my participants was exposed to either physical, psychological, ethical and legal risks during the whole process of my study.
Validity and Reliability
(Isman, Aksal, and Gazi, 2009) Described reliability to that extent when similar results can be reproduced using the same methodology and the accuracy of the results regarding the entire population representation achieved. The findings by other researchers can determine the reliability of the research. The consistency, similarity and the stability of such results indicate that the data and the methodology adopted were reliable, to ensure the reliability of the data, most of the questions I asked were drawn from the literature, the prior knowledge I had on the Individual Learning Plan and the indicators of the study. All participants were to respond to the similar questions. Also, the venue for the interview was within a serene setting that was quiet and out of disruption.
Validity, on the other hand, describes the study meeting its target regarding what it was meant to test or measure at the initial stage and the truthfulness of the results achieved in meeting this target. I reinforced the validity of the research outcome by having an informal discussion with my supervisor about the results I had obtained and their interpretation. The reason for the casual consultation was to find out how views that appeared different could integrate with each other.
Limitations are the challenges a researcher experience during the process of carrying out research. Most of the limitations of the study are recorded during the methodology stage of the study. Therefore, as a researcher, I experienced numerous shortcomings that in one way or the other inhibited the entire process of data collection. The first challenge I could relate was the financial constraints. The preparation process required funds right from obtaining the right documents, seeking approval and the data collection process. I have to use the internet- connected computer to have a review of other researchers work, get relevant questions and print them. Money was required to buy the storage devices and other materials for use during the study. Thus, the financial constraint was one major limitation I experienced. The different challenge was that my research was only limited to my institution and any further expansion to accommodate other institution could involve quite long protocol and procedural issues. The lengthy bureaucratic process of seeking the authenticity limited my study only to my organization. However, examining this research in a broader area where I could accommodate students from other institutions could have resulted in more informative outcomes. Finally, I can relate time shortage as one of the challenges I faced as well. I had a lot of work to do only within the limited time of three months the research took.
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