Understanding

During my undergrad study, I often wrote many research papers, mostly pertaining to current issues facing education today. Other times, I conducted statistical research to present to my classmates in the form of a presentation. One thing I didn’t realize was how science and reasoning played a part in research and what they truly mean once the information gathered is present. Today, as a graduate student, I am embarking on a new journey learning not just how we conduct research, but WHY we conduct research. I am excited to share with you my findings for the three most popular methods of research in education and other related fields.

The three most common types of research methods are Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed- Methods. Qualitative research has part of the root word “quality” which I interpret as “value”. Quantitative research has part of the root word “quantity” which I relate to number and/or statistics. As you can guess for the last method, Mixed- Methods research uses a combination of both Qualitative & Quantitative research. There are many components that set these methods apart from one another and become the reasons why researchers use the method they choose to use and when to use them.

Qualitative research “encompasses a wide range of methods such as interviews, case studies, ethnographic research and discourse analysis, to name just a few examples” (Muijs, pg 13). Numbers are not involved with Qualitative research and cannot be analyzed using statistics. Researchers who use this method aren’t looking for numbers to crunch and charts to depict meaning from, but rather explain the question/issue by looking for deeper meaning from the given response. In Qualitative research, interviews are frequently used to collect stories and opinions. During these interviews, Qualitative researchers must keenly watch the interviewee’s reaction, what they’re saying, doing, in the way they speak and even gestures. Qualitative research requires the researcher to put aside the biased view the researcher might have and be openly objective. In the interview method, researchers must ask purposeful questions and safe for the interviewee. An example question may be, “What is love?” Although this may sound like a simple question, it may become more complex as it deals with science and the sensitivity of love overall. I interviewed my elderly neighbor to get an analysis of my Qualitative question. Her response to my question was, “Love is when you are able to look past the flaws and accept the other person. Flaws are not imperfections. Flaws are perfections of humans.” My elderly neighbor has been married for 56 years and going strong. I observed her facial expression as she was responding and it appeared she was sincere yet adamant about her thoughts on love. Love was the focus of my question and what I was seemingly looking for out of the question is sincerity. Qualitative researchers who conduct interviews to analyze from ask specific questions to narrow in on what they are looking for and to sharpen their perception.

Quantitative research is entirely different than Qualitative research. Quantitative research does not deal with interviews, case studies, ethnographic research, etc. Qualitative Research is all focused on explaining a phenomenon by collecting data with numbers. Our federal government uses Quantitative research to find out our nation’s population through what? A Census. Using statistical trends to gather data is also another approach to Quantitative research. Essentially this census collects the numbers and will allow the government to depict the trend of population development.  Quantitative research has “the truth is out there” mindset. The truth is out there and events and circumstances CAN be explained using numbers. Quantitative research also looks at “cause & effect”. The most commonly used method of Quantitative research are questionnaires, structured interviews and direct observations. In using questionnaires, Quantitative researchers must be sure the questionnaire is well designed, the questions are meaningful, and it answers the question the researcher wants it to answer. Since Quantitative research is geared towards numerical data, researchers typically use tools or equipment to assist with their study. These tools range from something simple as a ruler to high-tech instruments.

Many of us use Qualitative analysis and Quantitative analysis on a daily basis and it happens so quickly and naturally in our lives that we may not realize it. An example of both Qualitative and Quantitative analysis is over the weekend; my mission was to find an antique item that’ll be fitting for my living room so I set forth with this mission and visited an antique shop in Downtown Everett to discover a unique picture frame that I believe would fit right in. My quantitative analysis of the frame is that it measures to be 10”x15”, 1.5” thick and weighs 4 pounds. My Qualitative analysis of the frame is that it’s a gray finished frame with gold paint chipping off of the corners. The interesting use of paint on the frame gives the frame a coarsely texture. The overall appeal of the frame is austere and that is what I needed to complete my Victorian style living room.

Finally, the last research method is Mixed-Mode research method. This method merges both Qualitative and Quantitative research. Mixed mode research uses concentration of data collected by all methods in a study to enhance the credibility of the research. It is best to apply mixed mode research when you want to gain fuller understanding of the research problem. Merging mixed-methods approach with stories and statistical trends can give a more complete research understanding of the researcher’s problem than simply using one method by itself.  When a researcher gains fuller understanding of the research problem, information becomes clearer and when the information is clear, clarity gives research results.

Mixed-methods research collects and analyzes Qualitative and Quantitative research while making sure that the results draw from a rigorous procedure to each method. Researchers will chose a frame work design that fits into the study. The first framework a researcher might choose would be to collect data quantitatively and qualitatively. The results are compared and the researcher derives to an interpretation from the findings. The second framework a researcher might choose would be to collect data quantitatively and qualitatively, but interpret results using qualitative findings. The last framework a researcher might choose would be to collect data qualitative and quantitatively, but interpret results using quantitative findings. Mixed-methods research digs deep into the question by combining qualitative and quantitative methods and can potentially lead to a theory or philosophy in research.

Works Cited

Muijs,D. (2004). Introduction to quantitative research. In Doing quantitative research in                        education with SPSS (pp. 1-12). London: SAGE.

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Implementation

Now that I’ve talked a little bit about each of the research methods, let’s put it into effect using Mixed-Methods research.

My 1st grade class is comprised of 22 students of color. Of these students, I have ELL, behavioral and low income students. Bear in mind, these are 1st grade students, most are low income students, some with behavioral problems and ELL. My study begins.

Quantitative Research: I posed the question, “What’s your favorite subject of the school day?” I gave each student a small slip in which they can write their answers on. Here’s what I found out.

Favorite Subject:

Specialists (Music, Physical. Ed., Computer Ed.) – 13 students

Language Arts – 5 students

Math – 3 students

Science – 1 student

This was an interesting discovery and raised a question as to, “Why?” but I didn’t ask that then and there. I’ll talk about that a little later. I collected my students’ slips, brought them home to look making sure I got my numbers right.

The next morning, I began my Qualitative Research on my 1st grade students, pulling one student at a time for about 5 minutes to discuss, or rather have a 1-on-1 talk with my student. I asked each student privately while taking notes, “What kind of help does Mom or Dad give you at home for homework? And depending on the student’s prior response to what their favorite school subject was, I asked “Why?” and “What about this subject that makes it your favorite?” I listened intently and picked up on gestures and facial expressions that I wouldn’t have gotten with my Quantitative data. During the 1-on-1 talk, my students displayed raw emotions of bitterness, sadness, and willingness.

-15 of my students reported that their parents don’t help with homework because they aren’t familiar with the English language and don’t know where to begin with the homework materials.

-4 of my students reported that their parents don’t help with homework because of unfamiliarity with the school curriculum. Although these parents are able to help with homework, they would rather leave it up to the teacher to teach the curriculum and don’t want to mess with teaching in their own way to their child, and potentially cause a mix-up in their child’s learning.

-3 of my students reported that their parents don’t help with homework because their parents are too busy with work, or are rarely seen at home. The guardians look after these kids, but don’t provide much help with their homework.

Earlier in this post, I said I was going to talk a little bit more about the, “Why” question. My “Why” question goes along with my mixed-methods research.

Let’s recap…

Quantitative research question: What’s your favorite subject of the school day?

Qualitative research question: “What kind of help does Mom or Dad give you at home for homework?” Depending on the student’s prior response to what their favorite school subject was, I asked “Why?” and “What about this subject that makes it your favorite?”

Mixed-methods research: finding the correlation between the two research and provide explicit reasoning, justification and conclusion.

-Almost 60% of my students said their favorite time of the day was going to Specialists.

-Only 23% of my students liked Language Arts.

-13% of my students liked Math.

-Only 4.5% or (1 student) liked science.

After conducting my Qualitative research with my students, these numbers were starting to make sense.

-Almost 70% of my students aren’t receiving the needed support at home for homework and other activities because their parents come from third world countries and aren’t yet proficient in the English language to be able to help their child succeed in school. Majority of my students in this category are the ones who chose “specialists” as their favorite subject of the day. Surprised? Not so much. These kids chose specialists as their favorite subject of the day because in specialists (Music, Physical Ed., Computer Ed.) they aren’t forced to learn a core concept like they are supposed to in my general ed classroom. In specialists, they can free their mind, play with musical instruments, play catch, freeze tag, and dodge ball with one another. These are the activities my ELL students are most comfortable with because there’s no “expectations” in their learning.

-18% of my students have parents that CAN teach, but would rather leave it up to the teacher to implement materials. These are my students who chose “math & science” as their favorite subject of the day.

-14% of my students have parents that are too busy with their lives to find time to teach and revisit the learning of their child. These are the students that chose “language arts” as their favorite subject of the day. Upon analyzing my students’ responses to my Qualitative question, it makes complete sense. Because their parents are rarely present in their lives and learning, these students love to read and write independently which is why they chose language arts as their favorite subject of the day. These kids only have their books and diaries to keep them company. Often times, these students write journal entries about their day, or simply just draw pictures to illustrate their day.

In Mixed-Methods research, I used the questions from the Quantitative & Qualitative research to bring reasoning for my mixed-methods research. I am now in the phase of interpreting the data after collecting data quantitatively and qualitatively.

The correlation between my students’ answers from mixed-methods research shows that although qualitative and quantitative studies are vastly different than one another, both studies produced similar results upon analyzing.  After careful analysis of the findings from my two studies, I came to realize that the number of students who weren’t receiving help from their parents due the unfamiliarity of the English language (15 students from quantitative study) were the 70% of my students from my qualitative study and this became evidence of correlating data. The correlating data continues with 18% of my students with parents who can teach but would rather leave it up to the teacher from my qualitative study were the same 4 students from my quantitative study.  Essentially, I attained similar results from applying mixed-methods research and really shows me how the data from the qualitative research and quantitative research correlate undeniably. Mixed methods research produced valuable classroom data and will become an avenue for future research topics.

Intention

Mixed-Methods research is the best method to gather data because it forces the researcher to use multiple forms of data to draw a conclusion and without several ways of looking at data; the research lacks conceptual database interpretations and is limited to only data from Qualitative or Quantitative research alone. Using triangulation in Mixed-methods research also INCREASED the validity of my findings by looking at the same phenomenon in altered ways. In any research study, I feel it is best to provide as much data as possible rather than being restricted to the types of data from Qualitative or Quantitative research.

In implementing the research, I chose Mixed-Methods research solely for the purpose that it draws on multiple forms of data and assists in increased validity of findings. Using mixed-methods research, I was able to explore the problem in depth and not just look at the problem through one research method, but involve raw stories from my students and capture their emotions. This method allowed me to get a broader depiction of the findings while also. The only way to get the best of both worlds, is to implement the best of both worlds, and with mixed-methods research, you get both.

As a part of mixed-methods research, my quantitative analysis allowed me to draw a conclusion for a large number of my students, controlled any biased opinions, and also demonstrated the cause and effect between home life and school subject interest.

My qualitative analysis allowed me to gather comprehensive viewpoints from a majority of my students and I was able to hear my students answer my question in detail while capturing their raw emotions.

Essentially, applying Mixed-methods research provided significant gains to my study, classroom research and students’ learning (this will be discussed in Analysis & Reflection).

Analysis & Reflection

Researchers pick out the type of research method they want to use for a sole purpose. Each method serves its own uniqueness, purpose, and outcome. From the proper use of research, teachers and administrators are then able to reflect and use these reflections to best increase classroom practices. According to McMillan, “There are steps and ways in conducting educational research and it’s imperative that researchers go in stages. Researchers first begin with framing the initial question or problem. Researchers then determine what previous research says about the question or problem. Next, researchers frame a specific research question, problem, or hypothesis. After that, researchers will design and implement a plan for collecting or obtaining data which then allows researchers to analyze and interpret the results of gathered data. Finally, researchers generate conclusions from the study. By implementing research, teachers can then promote distinguished classroom practices that enhances students’ learning” (McMillan et. al., 2010, pg 3).

In the research that I implemented, I conducted Mixed-methods research on my students to gain a fuller understanding and comprehensive study through the use of both qualitative and quantitative analysis student as a whole. I feel I achieved this through the raw stories and numerical data I collected during the study with my students. My interpretation of the findings was that there’s a distinguished correlation between the results from the qualitative and quantitative studies and that the data line up systematically.

Through the proper use of mixed-methods research, I have learned that developing a concise and purposeful question as well as choosing from one of two frameworks of design enhances the overall interpretation of the data. I have learned that Mixed-methods research is beneficial when wanting to look at both numbers and stories and in my situation, it worked best for me because I wanted numerical data as well as stories to enhance my findings and interpretation. Through my findings, I am able to evaluate my own teacher effectiveness and promote distinguished classroom practices that will allow for student achievement gains. First, I would start with looking at my instructional strategies in the classroom and it varies from small group, whole group, and cooperative learning.

A plan that I could implement immediately is to get in contact with each student’s family and arrange a formal meeting to talk about the research and goals that I have for their child as well as the instructional strategies I plan on using. Through this formal meeting, I would then be able to get the parents thoughts and input to better meet the needs of the child. I believe that teamwork with parents/guardians is an essential piece to student success. Together with the family, we will create an at-home action plan for their child that’ll be examined every Monday morning.

Goal for my ELL students: Students will read grade level text with 90% fluency and accuracy by the end of the school year.

At-Home Action Plan: Students will read 4 days/week for 45 minutes each day. Teacher will need validation by having parent signature next to each logged reading time. Parents are encouraged to listen and read with the child, while providing support and mentorship for the child. Students are encouraged to circle the words in the book that they want to find more meaning about and discuss with the teacher before or after school hours.

For my students that are at standard but do not receive additional support at home because their parents rely on the formal education of teachers to teach, I have altered my instructional strategies with these students. These students need even higher expectations to reach and constantly stimulate their knowledge through new concepts and materials. I believe providing enrichment materials for these students will keep these actively engaged in their learning especially in math and science.

For my students that have parents who live busy lives and are rarely present in their child’s learning, I have altered my classroom practices with these students. These students are given enrichment materials as well as they are highly capable.

Goal for at standard students: Excelling in grade level standards in math and science and exposure to 2nd grade level standards in math, science and reading before the end of the school year.

At Home Action Plan: Provide families with fundamental resources for 2nd grade level expectations in math, science and reading to go over. Every Monday, families will receive new resources of ideas on books and educational math websites that target 2nd grade level expectations. The parent and child will work on a new math skill every week. The skill learned will be logged weekly and returned to the teacher. Given grade level science ideas, the students and their families will try fun at-home experiments and log experiments weekly. This log will be checked off by the teacher every Monday.

To provide additional support, I am going to set up a 30 minute intervention period before school and a 1 hour intervention period after school. Students are encouraged to attend as intervention period provides valuable 1-on-1 teaching and guidance.

As a teacher, student and learner, I am and will continually be on a learning path in Educational research. In future research studies, I plan on using the my questions that connect to current research to open up new territory of study. A goal that I have for myself is to regularly attend public research presentations to continually improve the quality of student learning. Another goal for myself is to USE mixed-methods research with my new set of students next year to better understand my students’ needs, target their needs and continually improve on instructional strategies to enhance the learning of my students.

Works Cited

McMillan, J. H., & Wergin, J. F. (2010). Introduction to reading educational research (pp. 1-              13). In Understanding and evaluating educational research (4th ed.). Boston, MA:                Pearson.