EER 500 Assignment 2 From Research Question to Research Design

This paper will outline how research questions can act as a focus for the design of a small-scale piece of research.  The research question which will be used for this task is:

The integration of ICT has changed the way we educate the students of today. So what is the Australian education system’s responsibility, especially with the retraining of teachers, to ensure that educational advancements are parallel to the ongoing changes in society, and how equitable is ICT access within the school environment? (Waldron-Lamotte, M. 2014, November 28).

This newly developed question is the result of the iterative process of refinement.  The reviewed statements can be found in Appendix 1.

This paper will describe an appropriate research design, including the discussion of methods, sampling techniques and data gathering instruments.  The ethical issues and limitations of the design will be outlined.  Finally, consideration will be given to where this research sits in relation to paradigms.

Research Design

A research design provides a framework for the collection and analysis of data (Bryman, 2008, p.31).  There are many research designs available, but not all of them are appropriate to explore the research questions above.  Firstly, designs that are not suitable will be discussed.

Experimental design would not be suitable to answer the questions involved in this small-scale piece of research.  Key characteristics of experimental design are the manipulation of variables and the random assignment of participants to control and experimental groups (Bryman, 2008, p.35).  Experimental design also usually begins with a hypothesis to be tested.  In this case, the research questions would be the focus, not a hypothesis.  Also, participants would not be assigned to groups and the researcher would not be attempting to manipulate the variables in any way.

Quasi-experimental and evaluation research are also not applicable, as the researcher would not be studying the effects of intervention on the participants (Bryman, 2008, p.41,42).  Causal-comparative research can also be ruled out, as there would be no attempt to link the reasons, or causes, of differences in the given situation which Gay, Mills and Airasian (2012, p.228) describe as key components of this design. The research would be limited to describing the current situation and perceptions of the 21st century classroom, without attempting to establish a causal connection between the two.  Bryman refers to this as cross-sectional design (2008, p.44), which has some elements, such as the inclusion of more than one case and the research taking place at a single point in time, which would be appropriate to this small-scale research.  However, two other important elements of cross-sectional design; systematic and standardised methods for gauging variation and examining relationships between variables would not be accomplished.  For this small-scale piece of research, longitudinal design (Bryman, 2008, p. 49) would not be appropriate, as the results of data collection would relate to one point in time only.

The most appropriate design for this small-scale piece of research would be a sequential mixed methods design (Creswell, 2009, p.14).  This would involve beginning with quantitative survey research, which is then elaborated on by a qualitative method, such as case study research, involving detailed exploration with a few cases or individuals.  The justification behind this decision is that the design of the study comes from the research questions, and that the research strategy drives the design.

Part of the research question is situated in a quantitative research strategy.  This relates to two parts of the question: what is the Australian education system’s responsibility, especially with the retraining of teachers and how equitable is ICT access within the school environment?  These questions are best answered via survey research, defined by Creswell as providing a quantitative description of trends, attitudes, or opinions of a population by studying a sample of the population (2009, p.12).  All teaching staff participating in this small-scale research would contribute data which would show their opinions and feelings about ICT support and how equitable ICT access is within their school.  The data would also reveal trends relating to the state of evidence-based practice throughout the profession.

Another part of the research question is situated in a qualitative research strategy, namely the aspect which relates to ensuring that educational advancements are parallel to the ongoing changes in society.  The best way to explore this would be to employ elements of case study research design.  Case studies are a strategy of inquiry in which the researcher explores in depth a program, event, activity or process with one or more individuals.  The small-scale limitation of this study means that cases would not be developed over a sustained period of time therefore would not be “true” case studies (Creswell, 2009, p.13).

Looking at these two approaches individually, and focussing on the research question, it is evident that the sequential mixed methods design would provide the best understanding of the problem. In this case, the proposed designs connect the research questions to the data needed to answer them, and they do not fit conveniently within one particular strategy.  As suggested by McMillan and Wergin, it is preferable to add a human element to a lifeless quantitative study by including some stories to survey data (2010, p.7).  Punch has discussed that quantitative research sometimes does not go further than descriptive statistics, when it is capable of much more (2009, p.20).

The rationale for using both approaches is that the research question requires more than a simple statistical answer.  Therefore, to successfully collect information for the research question in its entirety, a mixed method design is required.

The combination of these two research designs is discussed by Creswell (2009, p.20), who, when outlining a mixed-methods approach, states that the researcher begins with a broad survey and then focuses on detailed, open-ended interviews to collect more in depth views from participants.  These methods will be explored in the next section.

Research Methods

Sampling

The approach which would be used to obtain participants for this small-scale piece of research would be purposeful sampling (Best & Kahn, 2006, p.248).  This is slightly different from what other authors refer to as convenience sampling (Punch, 2009, p.250; Bryman, 2008, p.183), although some elements are similar.  Both sampling techniques are non-random and rely on the researcher having access to a group of participants with little effort.  The difference with purposeful sampling is that the researcher chooses participants with the research questions in mind and with knowledge that the sample will be able to successfully answer the questions, which Punch refers to as respondents’ knowledgeability (2009, p.314).

Participants for this small-scale research would be recruited by submitting an Expression of Interest in response to an advertisement that would be placed on the site ‘School Biz’.  The initial message would specify the criteria used to select the sample, such as teacher qualifications and years of practice.  As it is an open forum for the profession, it would be necessary for the researcher to follow the advice of Gaye et al. (2012, p.141) and explicitly state the sample they are seeking. Due to the small scale of this research, it would not be necessary to have a large number of respondents.  The exact number would depend entirely on the interest and motivation of the teachers on the site.  Once again, there would be issues with generalizability, which will be discussed further in the limitations section.

Due to the nature of the mixed-method design, a further sample would need to be selected to obtain data relating to the retraining of teachers and equitable ICT access within the school environment.  This sample would be drawn from the original sample and would consist of volunteers, those teachers who indicated that they would be willing to be interviewed regarding their thoughts and experiences.  Depending on the number of participants who volunteered, a purposive sampling strategy would then be used to select interviewees so that as many different scenarios and perceptions as possible would be represented in the sample (Bryman, 2008, p.620).  Once again, due to the small scale of the research, only a small number of respondents would be chosen to undergo the interview process.

Data Collection Instruments

As the researcher would be taking a mixed-method approach, two distinct methods would be used to collect data.  Referring back to the research questions, the first phase requires data on what ICT experience teachers have previously had and what ICT resources and support they have access to.  The most straightforward way to source this information is through a self-completion questionnaire (Best & Kahn, 2006, p.313; Bryman, 2008, p.217).  There are many advantages to using self-completion questionnaires.  They are cheap to administer, particularly if the researcher utilizes a free online survey tool, such as Survey Monkey.  Volunteers can be provided with a web link to the relevant questionnaire, thus ensuring their anonymity and saving on postage costs (Gay et al., 2012, p.194).  Other advantages of the use of a self-completion questionnaire are the absence of interviewer effects and convenience for respondents (Oxford University Press, 2012).

However, in order to answer the research questions effectively, another tool would need to be employed to carry out the case study research.  This type of research usually uses interviews, structured or unstructured, to obtain data from participants (Gay et al., 2012, p.404).  The advantage of using this technique is to move the research beyond the relatively limited presentation of statistics, thereby adding another dimension to the research questions.  The purpose of the interviews would be to obtain data regarding another part of the research question, which is concerned with how the education system ensures that the educational advancements in ICT are parallel to the ongoing changes in society.  Although some authors assert that perceptions can be examined via survey research (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2011, p.126), other authors believe that interviews explore issues much more deeply and using interviews in conjunction with questionnaires can be very effective (Bryman, 2008, p.611;   Fraenkel & Wallen, 2008, p.637).  If the selected interviewees worked a considerable distance away, and a face-to-face interview would not be feasible, the interview could be conducted by telephone or Skype.

The most important reason for using two different data collection methods is to meet the requirements of the research questions and to add meaning and applicability to the research.  It would not be very worthwhile to just present statistics on what sort of experience teachers have in the area of ICT, without attempting to put this in context of the support and reosucres available in order for the education system to ensure they are meeting the needs of the 21st century learners and are parallel to the ongoing changes in society. Another advantage of using two forms of data collection is to aid validity of results via triangulation.  Each source has different threats to validity; therefore it is possible to reduce the chances of reaching false conclusions by checking the conclusions reached on the basis of questionnaires against those from structured interviews (Hammersley, 2008, p.23).

Ethical Issues

Four main areas have been isolated by Bryman in relation to the ethical issues of research.  These are harm to participants; lack of informed consent; invasion of privacy and whether deception is involved (Bryman, 2008, p.118).  Each of these areas will be discussed in turn, outlining how they apply to the design and methods of this research.

The first ethical principle relates to whether the research involves harm to participants.  Although it is unlikely that harm of any nature would come to participants in this small-scale piece of research, it is possible that respondents may face issues relating to self-esteem, work performance and time stresses.  This risk is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the participants are volunteers.  The researcher would need to clearly state at the beginning of the sampling process that their participation is voluntary, they are free to refuse to answer any questions, they can withdraw from the study at any time and ask for their data not to be included (Bryman, 2008, p.123).  If participants felt that they were unable to cooperate, due to time stresses or feelings evoked about their work performance, they would be free to withdraw without needing to state their reasons.

The second principle refers to informed consent.  Although it is acknowledged that the researcher cannot disclose every conceivable aspect of the research, it is mandatory that potential participants are given as much information as possible so that they can decide whether to take part.  In the case of this research, potential participants would be approached professionally via the School Biz site, with the initial posting containing information about the purpose and context of the research, what would be made of the information, who is conducting the research and for what audience. The use of the internet to conduct research entails its own ethical considerations.  The researcher would need to be well versed in netiquette and the factors affecting the collection of research data using such means.

The privacy of participants in this study would be respected by ensuring confidentiality and anonymity. Anonymity would be sacrificed for respondents chosen for interviews, but their confidentiality could still be ensured. This would be achieved by removing names and places from transcripts of interviews and followed up in the reporting phase by using pseudonyms rather than identifying individuals in the report.  Respondents to the questionnaire would be informed prior to completion that they would be anonymous, even to the researcher.  The use of Survey Monkey would help achieve this, as web surveys have an advantage over email surveys when it comes to confidentiality and anonymity issues (Bryman, 2008, p.653).

The final ethical issue, relating to the presence of deception, has minor implications for this small-scale piece of research.  However, deception can occur in simple ways, for example, by deliberately underestimating the time it will take to complete the questionnaire or participate in the interview (Bryman, 2008, p.121).  This problem also relates to informed consent and can be overcome by being honest and open about the nature of the research and what this involves for participants (Best & Kahn, 2006, p.50).

Limitations of the Design

A major limitation of the design relates to the sampling strategy.  Survey design should ideally aid generalizability; however the sample-to-population inference (Punch, 2009, p.251) in this design is lacking.  As the researcher is using purposeful sampling, due to convenience and access issues, the results would not be able to be generalised to the profession of teaching as a whole.  This is due to the fact that respondents are likely to be biased regarding the issue of ICT experience, support and equitable access which may not represent the myriad of perceptions that may be present in the population.  To overcome this limitation, and achieve representativeness, probability sampling would need to be used, a form of random selection where each member of the population has an equal chance of being chosen (Punch, 2009, p.251).  The scale of this small piece of research would prohibit the use of this method, as considerable resources would need to be utilised in order to determine a valid sample.

Another limitation of this research design is the threat to validity in the data collection instruments.  Questionnaires and interviews can often contain leading questions, and respondents may say or write what they think the researcher wants to hear.  In order to promote internal validity and minimise limitations, the researcher would need to ensure that the questions are unambiguously phrased, with definitions for terms that could be misinterpreted (Best & Kahn, 2006, p.315).  Another way to improve content validity would be to pilot test the questionnaire with colleagues (Best & Kahn, 2006, p.320; McMillan & Wergin, 2010, p.10; Gay et al., 2012, p.189)

Paradigms

This paper has established that the best research design to answer the specific questions is a mixed method design.  It follows, therefore, that this research contains features from more than one paradigm.  The first part of the initial research question sits within a positivist paradigm.  The researcher is attempting to describe the situation objectively, as it is, untainted by subjectivity. The emphasis during this phase of the research is on empirical measurement, a feature of the positivist paradigm.  However, the remaining parts of the research questions, sit more comfortably in constructivism.  These questions imply that the researcher is more likely to see the situation as an emergent reality, in a continuous state of construction and reconstruction (Bryman, 2008, p.20).  In this case, the views of participants are constructing meaning in the situation of their school environment.

The pragmatic approach starts with a problem that needs a solution, rather than from what epistemology informs the research, which is the approach taken in the development of this small-scale research.  The growing applicability of this approach has been asserted by Punch (2009, p.20) and Creswell (2009, p. 10).  Hughes (2010) does not include pragmatism as a valid paradigm and authors such as Bergman have denounced the so-called pragmatism paradigm, contending that it is a vague way for researchers to say “anything goes” (2008, p.12).  However, both Punch (2009, p.20) and Creswell (2009, p.12) have explained that pragmatism is a worldview which attempts to give researchers the freedom to choose methods that best suit their needs and purposes.  Rather than trying to bridge the divide between positivism and constructivism, this small-scale research calls on elements of pragmatism, namely the fact that it draws methods from both quantitative and qualitative approaches because that is what is required for these research questions.  A view of pragmatism is that truth is what works at the time, sometimes using a mixture of data because they work to provide the best understanding of the research problem (Creswell, 2009, p.11).  In this case, a mix of data would be required, as quantitative data alone would be shallow and pointless and would not adequately reveal the perceptions of respondents.

This research design is consistent with the knowledge claim position of pragmatism for the following reasons; it is concerned with the consequence of participant actions, is problem-centred, pluralistic and real-world practice oriented (Creswell, p.2009, p.6)

Conclusion

This paper outlined a research design which attempts to adequately answer the research questions presented in the introduction.  The research aims to describe what is occurring in the educational system today and how it ensuring that the needs of the 21st century learner are being met through educational advancements that are parallel to society’s ongoing changes. This is a complex task, with many factors to be considered.  This small-scale piece of research, coming from a pragmatic position, has many limitations, but would be worthwhile in shedding light on an important aspect of teaching in the current climate of accountability and focus on student outcomes.

 

References

Bergman, M.M. (2008). The straw men of the qualitative-quantitative divide and their influence on mixed methods research.  In M.M. Bergman (Ed.), Advances in mixed methods research. (pp. 11-21).  London, UK: Sage.

Best, J.W. & Kahn, J.V. (2006). Research in education (10th ed.).  Boston, USA: Pearson.

Bryman, A. (2008). Social research methods (3rd ed.). Oxford, UK: OUP.

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2007). Research methods in education. (6th ed.). London: Routledge.

Creswell, J.W. (2009). Research design: qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.).  London, UK: Sage .

Fraenkel, J.R. & Wallen, N.E. (2008).  How to design and evaluate research in education (7th ed.).  Boston, USA: McGraw-Hill.

Gay, L.R., Mills, G.E. & Airasian, P. (2012). Educational research: competencies for analysis and applications (10th ed.). Boston, USA: Pearson.

Hammersley, M. (2008). Troubles with triangulation.  In M.M. Bergman (Ed.). Advances in mixed methods research. (pp. 22-36).  London, UK: Sage.

Hughes, P. (2010).  Paradigms, methods and knowledge.  In G. Mac Naughton, S.A. Rolfe & I. Siraj-Blatchford (Eds.),  Doing early childhood research: international perspectives on theory and practice (2nd ed.). (pp.35-61). Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.

McMillan, J.H. & Wergin, J.F. (2010).  Understanding and evaluating educational research (4th ed.). New Jersey, USA: Pearson Education.

MacKenzie, N., & Knipe, S. (2006). Research dilemmas: Paradigms, methods and methodology. Issues in Educational Research, 16(2), 193-205.

McMillan, J. H., & Wergin, J. F. (2010). Understanding and evaluating educational research (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill.

Punch, K. (2009).  Introduction to research methods in education.  London, UK: Sage.

Oxford University Press online resource centres. (2012). Bryman: Social Research Methods: 3e.  Retrieved from http://www.oup.com/uk/orc/bin/9780199202959/

Waldron-Lamotte, M. (2014, November 28). Melissa Waldron-Lamotte Masters of Education (Teacher Librarianship) 28/11/2014 [Online wiki post]. Retrieved from http://interact.csu.edu.au/portal/site/EER500_201490_D_D/page/32b13bf2-4960-471d-0088-f9d7ab27273c

APPENDICES

APPENDIX 1 – Wiki Post

Melissa Waldron-Lamotte Masters of Education (Teacher Librarianship) 28/11/2014

Research Topic or Problem

The focus of my research is Information and Communications Technology (ICT), which has originated from my recent experience and exposure to ICT within schools over the course of my teaching career. To be more specific, my inquisitive proposal is parallel to the implementation of ICT into the classroom and school environment and the implications that accompany it. For many years now, the in-school use of technology has been growing exponentially with many classes forgoing the use of chalkboards for interactive whiteboards and many more, if not most, making use of desktop computers for conducting in-class research, learning vital computer competencies for the twenty-first century, and to enhance student knowledge and understanding across a range of topics. Within this subject, I have also decided to touch base with the many implications that accompany its implementation; such factors include its possible applications, accessibility, the barriers of socioeconomic status, cultural considerations for indigenous students, the age-old conflict of teaching old teachers new tricks, and the advancement of ICT in the future and where it may be heading in an educational context. All of these factors can affect the impact of ICT on students for better or for worse and I aim to bring these considerations into perspective through my research.

Draft Research Question

I have three possible questions that I would like to research:

  1. The twenty-first century’s technological advancements are revolutionising the way that society negotiates everyday life; education included. How has the integration of ICT changed the way we educate the students of today, and what is the education system doing to ensure that the advancements are parallel to the ongoing changes in society?
  2. There are a number of current issues and concerns relating to the integration of ICT into classrooms that have a high percentage of Indigenous students, as well as in classrooms belonging to schools of low socio-economic areas. What are some of the most pressing issues and how will it affect the students involved?
  3. Education has forever been an evolving entity, always seeking improvement and existing parallel to the norms of society. As such, teachers should be expected to evolve with the education system within which they teach, and thus be included in government budgets and expenditure for the purpose of updated training. What is being done to support the retraining of teachers, and even if teachers are being retrained, how equitable is ICT access within the school environment for its effective integration within the classroom?

From Literature to Research Question and Practical Importance

Budde, P. (2011). Australia – Digital Economy – E-Education and E-Government. Bucketty: 1-13.

Based on the analysis and critical reflection on this paper, The National Broadband Network’s (NBN) aims and objectives are to provide extensive resources and avenues in the area of ICT in the education sector. As such, the technological advancements that are promoted due to this scheme are greatly enhanced and reiterate that ICT is an inevitable transformation that we as educators will be exposed to. This paper clearly outlines how ICT in the classroom will take shape as a learning tool. As a tool, ICT is inevitably enhancing teaching and learning as it is addressing the demand of evolution in the 21st century and to meet the needs of the students who are being educated in it.

Peeraer, J. & Van Petegem, P. (2011). “ICT in teacher education in an emerging developing country: Vietnam’s baseline situation at the start of ‘The Year of ICT’.” Computers and Education 56(4): 974-982.

The critical analysis of this paper has enabled the investigation of the emerging development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in education. With supporting evidence through thorough research, Peeraer and Van Petegem have identified steps being taken to effectively integrate ICT into everyday operations of today’s classrooms. This paper will be utilised to address two of my queries. It highlights the many barriers in which teachers are confronted with and need to overcome in order to successfully and effectively integrate ICT into the classroom. This analysis illuminates teacher educators’ access to ICT, their intensity of use, their related skills, and their confidence in using ICT, as well as their conceptions of learning. Peeraer and Van Petegem also question whether or not ICT improves classroom teaching and confronts the pedagogical issues that have evolved as a result of ICT. Finally this paper justly defines and addresses two of my key questions of concern and that is: What is being done to support the retraining of teachers? How has the integration of ICT changed the way we educate the students of today?

Wallace, R. (2008). Engaging Remote and Very Remote Indigenous Students with Education using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Darwin, Charles Darwin University: 1-22.

This paper addresses a number of issues that will impact the education system as well as teaching and learning. It particularly focuses on Indigenous education and how it will be affected by the growth of technology in the classroom. Wallace explicitly explores and investigates the current issues that exist around the use of ICT for students of low socio-economic living standards as well as remote areas. Through case studies and a series of action research projects the research team of Charles Darwin University has answered our questions and have further deepened my own understanding in relation to the concerns of integrating ICT into classrooms that have a high percentage of Indigenous students and low socio-economic areas. The team also identifies effective strategies and practices to use ICT and innovative online learning materials to engage remote and very remote Indigenous students with learning to support improved educational outcomes. This report is enriched with information and evidence that will enable my own research to be extensive and supported.

References

Budde, P. (2011). Australia – Digital Economy – E-Education and E-Government. Bucketty: 1-13.

Peeraer, J. & Van Petegem, P. (2011). “ICT in teacher education in an emerging developing country: Vietnam’s baseline situation at the start of ‘The Year of ICT’.” Computers and Education 56(4): 974-982.

Wallace, R. (2008). Engaging Remote and Very Remote Indigenous Students with Education using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Darwin, Charles Darwin University: 1-22. http://www.deewr.gov.au/Schooling/DigitalEducationRevolution/Documents/FinalICTReport.pdf

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *