Table of Contents
The professional challenge chosen for the study is professional development. Many schools lack the opportunities required to promote professional development among teachers. The main research questions for the study included:
- What are the teachers’ common professional development needs in my department or school?
- What is an appropriate structure for promoting effective collaboration among teachers?
- What necessary actions should be taken by the school leaders to support and sustain the professional learning community?
- How should the school leaders work on improving the teachers’ professional development to meet ADEC’s Standards?
For the research study, a qualitative approach was selected in which I made use of interviews and observations to determine the perception of teachers and school administrators concerning professional development. The data collected from teachers, coordinators, and school leaders were analyzed to help in the understanding of factors that prevent successful professional development in schools. The researcher also used surveys to eliminate bias from the data collected through interviews.
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Choice of Research Methods
For the qualitative interviews, I developed an interview guide that highlighted the main questions that I would use when interviewing the participants. An interview guide is a critical tool that helps a researcher to remain on the right track during the data collection process (Mertens, 2015). I carried out pilot studies using the interview guide as a way of determining its effectiveness in providing me with a reliable guide throughout the interviews. My core objective of piloting the interview guide was to ensure that all the participants understand the questions in a similar way and that they can openly answer them (Brace, 2008). Through the piloting process, II was able to identify questions that would make the participants uncomfortable. For this reason, I ensured that the selected participants for the pilot testing gave their views on the effectiveness of each question. During the pilot testing, I conducted interviews with a few of the respondents in similar conditions as those adopted in the real study. The pilot testing was successful because it helped me improve on the format and content of each question. I was able to make corrections on the interview guide with the purpose of ensuring that the tool would collect the required data sufficiently.
Similarly, I conducted a pilot test with the quantitative questionnaire. Notably, piloting a survey questionnaire helps the researcher to determine its effectiveness in collecting data. I identified a smaller sample for the pilot test and recreated the condition of the study. I administered the questionnaire to the selected sample for pilot testing before the real study. Through pilot testing, I was able to determine whether the questionnaire had clear instructions and whether each question had been framed effectively. The pilot test survey helped in reducing any errors from the questionnaire because I was able to correct areas that were not clear to the participants (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015). The experience helped me to recognize the specific benefits of pilot-testing data collection tools. Notably, the pilot tests help in ensuring that the data collection tools are straightforward, clear and effective. The pilot tests of the data collection tools also played a significant role in increasing the validity of data collected (Taylor, Sinha, & Ghoshal, 2006). For both the qualitative and quantitative approaches, pilot testing increases the trustworthiness of the data collected. In the case of a qualitative study, piloting the interview guide enhances the trustworthiness of the data collection approach. In the quantitative approach, pilot testing ensured that the questionnaire could yield valid, reliable, and generalizable data.
The use of interviews in the ethnographic approach was the most appropriate data collection tool because of the interpretivist paradigm used. Interviews allowed me to interact with the participants and to listen to their perspectives regarding professional development. The interpretivist approach helps researchers to understand the meaning of different phenomena in agreement with the views of the participants (Kasi, 2009). It was easy to take note of the views, ideas, thoughts, and general perceptions of the participants when using the interpretivist approach. On the other hand, the inclusion of the survey in the study played a critical role in eliminating the bias associated with qualitative studies. Survey questionnaires promote the use of positivism, a paradigm that governs quantitative studies. The combination of interpretivism and positivism helped me to address the research questions from different perspectives (Vogt, 2014). As a result, the combination of the paradigms increased the validity and reliability of the data collected. The survey questionnaire collected data from a diverse population increasing the generalizability of the findings. The use of both approaches in the ethnographic study served to yield more reliable findings for addressing each of the research questions.
Obtaining informed consent is of critical importance in any study. It ensures that participants voluntarily participate in the study with an explicit understanding of its purpose and potential impacts (Oliver, 2010). Before conducting the interviews, it was necessary to obtain informed consent from all the participants. When contacting the participants, I explained to them the purpose of the study and the main research activities involved. I then sent the participants the informed consent form that they were supposed to read and sign if they agreed with the research processes and voluntary participation. Similarly, the participants in the survey signed an informed consent form declaring the voluntary participation and acknowledging that they had the freedom to quit participation at a time of their convenience.
When conducting a study in education, beneficence is a critical ethical issue because it ensures that the research processes do not expose the participants to any harm (Brooks, Te, & Maguire, 2014). For the interviews, the consent form indicated that there were no potential risks associated with participation in the study. Similarly, participation in the survey did not present any risks to the participants. The participants were aware that participation in the study would not register any physiological, emotional, social, or economic risks.
Respect for Anonymity and Confidentiality
When conducting the study, it became clear that a researcher must respect the anonymity and confidentiality of the participants (Ary et al., 2009). For the interviews, I informed the participants that the study would promote high levels of anonymity and confidentiality. Through a careful management strategy of private information, I was able to promote anonymity and confidentiality by protecting private participant information. When transcribing the interviews, I used pseudonyms and distorted any details that could identify the participants. Similarly, when using the quantitative approach, I maintained high levels of anonymity and confidentiality by renaming the participants using codes.
Respect for Privacy
Before conducting the interviews, I informed the participants that I would not share personal beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions without their knowledge. The participants knew that the interviews would be tape-recorded for the transcription process. However, they had the assurance that the process would not compromise their privacy (Burton, 2009). For the quantitative study, the private information provided in the questionnaires would not be shared with any third party and the researcher established mechanisms of protecting the privacy of participants.
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In the study described, I adopted the ethnographic approach and used both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods. I believe that the combination of the two paradigms was of critical importance in promoting the validity of data collected. In the future, I would increase the ample for the interviews as a way of gaining a deeper appreciation of the perspectives of teachers and school leaders. I would still begin with the qualitative interviews and then design a quantitative survey based on the findings from the qualitative study. I would still carry out pilot testing of the data collection tools to ascertain their efficiency in data collection. Throughout the study, I would give attention to the major ethical considerations that affect research in education.
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- Brace, I. (2008). Questionnaire design: How to plan, structure and write survey material for effective market research. London: Kogan Page.
- Brooks, R., Te, R. K., & Maguire, M. (2014). Ethics and education research. Los Angeles : SAGE.
- Burton, D. M. (2009). Key Issues for Education Researchers. London: Sage Publications.
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- Mertens, D. M. (2015). Research and evaluation in education and psychology: Integrating diversity with quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods. Thousand Oaks, CA : SAGE Publications, Inc.
- Oliver, P. (2010). The Student’s Guide to Research Ethics. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill International (UK) Ltd.
- Roller, M. R., & Lavrakas, P. J. (2015). Applied qualitative research design: A total quality framework approach. New York : The Guilford Press.
- Taylor, B., Sinha, G., & Ghoshal, T. (2006). Research methodology: A guide for researchers in management and social science. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India.
- Vogt, W. P. (2014). Selecting the right analyses for your data: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods. New York : The Guilford Press.