Appraising enquiry and research techniques - Assignment Example

The purpose of this assignment is to produce a detailed Research Enquiry Plan and a rationale that will indicate a focused area of inquiry. The research paradigms and methodologies and data collection methods will be discussed and a clear justification of which ones will be used for this research project will be given. A brief overview of the participants will be included. A timescale for the proposed research enquiry and deadlines will be provided. This will enable the writer to focus the research and have precise deadlines to stick to. Consideration to the ethical and legal issues for the research project will be discussed. A personal action plan will also be provided to show what skills the writer needs to carry out the research enquiry and how she will gain these skills.

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Rationale for the selection of the focused area of enquiry and what is the question to be addressed?

Before the writer decided on the focused area that is going to researched several areas of interest were looked at. One area that was looked at was ‘do children transfer the skills taught to them in small groups such as the Early Literacy Support Programme into their work within the classroom?’ Another area was ‘does being active at playtime improve children’s behaviour?’ and the final area was ‘does using rewards, positive reinforcement reduce the incidents of challenging behaviour within the early years setting?

Do children transfer the skills taught to them in small groups such as the Early Literacy Support Programme into their work within the classroom and does being active at playtimes improve children’s behaviour were both considered and discarded for several reasons. One reason this particular research question was discarded was that the writer felt the timescale for the research would not be adequate enough to see significant results and as a result of this the validity of the research would be weak. This is suggested by Bell, J., (2005), who recommends that consideration is given to the amount of time there is to complete the research and that the collection of data is completed within the given time scale this would weaken the validity of the research.

The Early Literacy Support Programme runs over twelve weeks therefore this would not fit in with the writer’s timescale of eight weeks to complete the research. Another reason that the research was discarded was that the researcher had concerns with the ethical implications. The writer has worked with children on the Early Literacy Programme and feels that the information provided because of her knowledge of the programme and the children could be biased.

The research area finally chosen to study is challenging behaviour. The research question is ‘Does using rewards and positive reinforcement reduce the incidents of challenging behaviour within the early years setting?’ This was decided after a discussion with the writer’s Head teacher and careful consideration. It was decided that the area that the school would benefit from was from researching children’s challenging behaviour. This is the area to be researched. This was chosen because the school has several children in various classes who show signs of challenging behaviour.

The study will provide the writer and the school with information regarding if children have less incidents of challenging behaviour through the use of rewards and positive reinforcement. It is hoped that from carrying out the research the school, other practitioners and the writer will be able to implement the rewards and positive reinforcement across the whole school to reduce the amount incidents the children who have challenging behaviour and also other children within the school.

The aims of the planned research enquiry were devised to enable the research to be productive. The aims are to:

* Identify the rewards and positive reinforcement used to reduce children’s challenging behaviour.

* Analyse the advantages and disadvantages of using rewards and positive reinforcement.

* Critically assess the effect of using rewards and positive reinforcement to reduce the amount of incidents of challenging behaviour.

Research Methodologies and sources to be used, with clear justification for the selection of these methods and sources and a list of the data collection methods to be used.

To be able to carry out the research enquiry effectively various considerations need to be taken into account. These are:

* The research paradigms that will be used.

* The methodologies that will be used.

* The data collection method that will be used.

* Consideration to the ethics of the research enquiry.

* Validity and reliability of the research enquiry.

These will be discussed in more detail with reasons as to which paradigm, methodology and data collection method was chosen. The ethics, validity and reliability of the proposed study will also be discussed.

It is hoped that from analysing the data collected from the research, it will be shared with the head teacher of the school and put into practice for other practitioners to use and improve their practice.

Howard and Sharpe, (1983), p6, describe research as “seeking through methodological processes to add to one’s body of knowledge and, hopefully, to that of others, by the discovery of non-trivial facts and insights”. It is the writer’s intention to share the results of the proposed study to inform knowledge and put into practice.

Research is a “systematic investigation to establish facts or collect information on a subject” as defined in the Collins Concise Dictionary and Thesaurus, (2001). The writer is hoping to carry out a systematic investigation to establish facts. Opie, C., (2004), p3-4, suggests that research requires collection of data, results which can be generalised, a hypothesis, the undertaking of experiments, objectivity rather than subjectivity, the use of statistics, something that can be proved and specific expertise. The writer will take all of these areas into consideration and discuss them in more detail.

A paradigm as described in the Collins Concise Dictionary and Thesaurus, (2001), is “a model or example”. The term paradigm was originally developed by Kuhn into the language of educational research (Verma and Mallick, 1999).

Opie, C., (2004), suggests there are two main paradigms or models, the normative research paradigm, the interpretivist research paradigm. The normative research paradigm is also known as the positivist approach or quantitative research method. It is a scientific paradigm that is based on facts. Quantitative refers to any approach to data collection where the aim is to gather information that can be quantified; it can be measured (Verma and Mallick, 1999). The normative research paradigm is usually experiment-based therefore it is suggested that it is objective. Case studies, surveys and experiments can be used with the normative paradigm.

The interpretivist research paradigm is also known as the non-positivist approach or the qualitative research method. This is a non-statistical method. Bell, J., (2005), suggests that qualitative perspectives are concerned to understand individuals and their perceptions, understanding and explanations of the world. She goes on to suggest that rather that seeking statistical perceptions of the world they seek insight. This paradigm is subjective and not analysed statistically rather than the normative paradigm which is objective and statistical. Case studies, surveys, ethnographic, grounded theory and narrative enquiry and stories can be used with the interpretivist paradigm.

Action research is also an important paradigm that is used to carry out research. Opie, C., (2005), states that action research offers a means of providing an understanding of a situation or a problem, whether this situation involves people or procedures is immaterial. This paradigm is about intervention, it focuses on understanding individuals and groups and changes in behaviour.

Action research seeks the answers or solutions to a specific problem or question. The goal is to improve practice, to change something (Hittleman and Simon, 1992). This is in agreement with Macleod-Brundenell, (2004), who states that it has often been used to review current practice and to introduce and implement new practices, a curriculum and professional development strategy. In the writer’s experience of working in a primary school this appears to be happening on a regular basis.

Action research can use both qualitative and quantitative research methods (Hittleman and Simon, 1992). Action research is a cyclical process. The process is described by Lewin, K., (1946) as planning, action and fact-finding about the result of the action. The cycle involves:

Macintyre, (1991), defines action research as “An investigation, where, as a result of rigorous self-appraisal of current practice, the researcher focuses on a ‘problem’, and on the basis of information plans, implements, then evaluates an action then draws conclusions on the basis of the findings, (cited in Macintyre, 2000). Case studies, surveys, ethnographic and grounded theory can be used with the action research paradigm.

After reviewing the paradigms the writer has chosen a paradigm that she will use as part of her research. The paradigm that is going to be used within the writer’s research is the action research paradigm. This paradigm has been chosen because it is about intervention and it is hoped that through carrying out the research the writer’s current practice will be changed and the new practice will be implemented. The writer’s research will also include some aspects of the interpretivist paradigm.

The writer is now going to review the methodologies that are concerned with the research process. The methodologies that are going to be discussed are case studies, surveys, experiments, ethnographic, grounded theory and narrative inquiry and stories. Methodology is defined in the Collins Concise Dictionary and Thesaurus, (2001), as “the system of methods and principles used in a particular discipline”. After reviewing the methodologies the writer will discuss the methodology chosen for the research and the reason it was chosen. The writer will also discuss the data collection methods briefly and justify why the data collection methods have been chosen.

Case studies are used with the normative, interpretivist and the action research paradigms. The case study approach to research looks at one aspect of a problem and studies them in depth. A range of data collection methods are used to collect data, these are surveys, interviews and observations. Case studies can involve individuals, groups or organisations. Opie, C., (2004), states that a case study is methodically prepared and the collection of evidence is systematically undertaken. He also suggests that the purpose of a case study is to provide a picture of a certain feature of social behaviour or an activity which is in a particular setting and the factors that influence this situation.

The survey is another approach to research. It is used with the normative, interpretivist and the action research paradigms. It is usually part of another research approach. They can be used as part of a case study or an ethnographic study. Surveys include questionnaires, interviews, scales, inventories, and checklists (cited in Hittleman and Simon, 1992). Every survey that is carried out is unique. Surveys ask the same question in the same circumstances. Bell, J., (2005), states that surveys aim to obtain information from a representative sample of the population that can be generalised to the whole population.

Experiments are used with the normative paradigm and are used when dealing with measurable phenomena. Researchers set out to answer questions about causation. Experiments are a scientific approach to research. Experimental research provides a systematic and logical method for answering the question. Best and Kahn, (1989), state that experimentation provides a method of hypothesis testing. By testing the hypothesis it confirms or disconfirms it in the light of the controlled variable relationship that has been observed.

The ethnographic approach to research is used with the interpretivist and action research paradigms. This research approach is conducted usually by participant observations. Although participant observations are used as the main method other methods are used. Lutz, (1986), (cited in Bell, J., 2005, p17), states that these are interviews, mapping and charting, interaction analysis, study of historical records and current public documents, the use of demographic data.

The researcher becomes involved in the culture and social setting as a way of life to collect data. This is also the view of Brewer, (2000). He states that “the study of people in naturally occurring settings or ‘fields’ by methods of data collection which captures their social meanings and ordinary activities, involving the researcher participating directly in the setting, if not the activities, in order to collect data in a systematic manner but without meaning being imposed on them externally” (cited in Bell, J., (2005), p16).

The grounded theory approach to research is used with the interpretivist and action research paradigms. Grounded theory is concerned with ‘the discovery of theory from data’ (Glaser and Strauss, 1967, cited in Walliman, 2004). Grounded theory usually starts with a research question and not a hypothesis. It generates theory from the data and because of this the theory is grounded in data (Punch, 1998, cited in Bell, J. 2005). Research should not be done by trying to find a particular answer to a question. The answer develops as the data is reflected on and reviewed. Grounded theory can be complex and time consuming so its uses to this research study are less than they would be to a major research project.

The final approach to research is narrative inquiry and stories and is used with the interpretivist paradigm. Narrative inquiry and stories involves the collection and development of stories. Narrative inquiry can involve reflective autobiography, life story, or the inclusion of excerpts from participants’ stories to illustrate a theme developed by the researcher. These are useful to the researcher who wants to portray intensely personal accounts of human experience (Gray, 1998, cited in Bell, J. 2005). Gray goes on to suggest that narrative inquiry and stories provide the researcher with measurable, valid data but this can be time consuming and difficult for researchers new to this approach. It requires the researcher to allow the storyteller to structure the conversation, with the researcher asking follow-up questions.

Questionnaires, interviews, experiments and observations are data collection methods. These data collection methods are used to gather evidence for various methodologies. These will now be discussed briefly and state which methodology they link to. The first data collection method is Questionnaires. Questionnaires are a way of asking participants questions without actually talking to them. The questions are fixed, they do not change. The questions can be written for a specific purpose. Participants can complete questionnaires anonymously. Questionnaires can include closed questions or open questions. Walliman, (2004), states that questionnaires can be a relatively economic research method. This can be with the cost and time factor. Questionnaires can be disseminated to large groups of people. Questionnaires can be used with the case study and survey approaches to research.

Interviews are another data collection method. According to Gillham (2000), an interview is a conversation between two people in which one person; the interviewer is seeking particular responses from another person; the interviewee. Face to face interviews can be time consuming unlike the questionnaires. Interviews need to be transcribed therefore the time factor can be enormous. Interviews can be used with the case study, ethnographic and narrative inquiry and stories approaches to research.

Experiments are used with experimental approach to research. Researchers can carry out experiments to get the statistical results they require. The experiments usually allow conclusions to be made about cause and effect Bell, J., (2005). Large scale experiments are usually expensive and have ethical implications. Permission must be sought.

Observations are another way of data collection. Observational can be collected through tape recording, videoing, photographs and field notes (Opie, C., 2004). With tape recordings, videoing and photography there are ethic issues to take into consideration. In the writer’s own experience from working with children they are not allowed to be photographed without the parent’s permission. From taking this view into consideration field notes would be the best way to collect data using the observational data collection method. Field notes include recording conversations, discussions and interviews as well as the observed behaviour of the subject (Opie, C., 2004). In the writer’s experience observations methods are used to watch and record children’s behaviour.

After reviewing the different methodologies and the data collection methods the writer has decided on the approach that she feels will best help her carry out the research. The methodology is the case study approach. The data collection method to be used in the writer’s research enquiry is observations and questionnaires.

Reliability and Validity play an important part in the research process. Reliability is the accuracy and consistency of research. Validity is to arrive at an accurate and truthful outcome to the research (MacLeod-Brundenell, 2004). If there is any chance that a research study could be biased then the validity of that research becomes a critical factor. The writer has used a strategy known as triangulation to ensure her research is valid. Case studies involving observations and questionnaires and follow up interviews are known as data triangulation.

Bell, J., (2005) is in agreement with this as she states that researcher should use more than one method of data collecting, she continues that this multi-method approach is known as triangulation. As well as data triangulation there are also investigator triangulation, this relies on different researchers or evaluators. Theory triangulation uses multiple perspectives to interpret the single set of data. Finally the methodological triangulation, this refers to the use of multiple methods to study a single problem.

Sampling is described as “a small part of anything, taken as being representative of a whole” (Collins Concise Dictionary and Thesaurus, 2001). A sample is a small proportion of a population selected for observation and analysis (Best, J.W., and Kahn, J.V., (1989). The writer aims to include practitioners and children as the respondents for her research project. Eleven practitioners from the foundation stage and key stage one will be given questionnaires; these include a selection of teachers, nursery nurses and teaching assistants. Six children will also be observed from a variety of classrooms, these are the nursery classroom, the reception classroom and the year one and year two classrooms.

It is important to use literature that will support the finding of the research study. Psychological literature will be reviewed looking at the theories of Bandura, Pavlov, Skinner, Piaget, Freud and Erikson. Looking at these theories will help the writer understand why children behave like they do and help when evaluating the evidence gathered. Other key authors with knowledge of behaviour and reward systems will be consulted as will the World Wide Web (Websites). Below is a list of resources that may be used when analysing and writing up the research study.