Term Paper: Scientific Study

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¶ … scientific study, but one which is much different that the statistical operations and calculations seen traditionally in quantitative research. It is primarily concerned with exploring and understanding the unique tendencies of human behavior, both in terms of individuals and of social groups. Due to the nature of the variables being so abstract, it is difficult to apply traditional quantitative methods for study. It is hard to understand how emotions drive human behavior through quantitative observations. Qualitative research allows researchers to dive deeper into more abstract phenomena. In this, qualitative research aims to explore the influences that drive human decisions and behaviors, primarily focusing on the questions of why and how phenomena occur, not simply noting its occurrence. Still, quantitative measures do use empirical methods to test a hypothesis; the nature of measuring the studies is just much more flexible in order to account for more abstract data.

There are a number of philosophical foundations that help drive qualitative research. One component of qualitative research questions the nature of reality in order to allow us as researchers and humans to better understand what can be considered real. Essentially, reality is seen to be subjective. This ultimately means that reality is different from person to person, or from experience to experience. Thus, qualitative research must work to explore the myriad of different realities experiences experienced by people in very different situations all over the globe. This perspective is different from more rigid quantitative perspectives, which see only room for one possible view of reality. Additionally, qualitative research aims to help us understand how we know what we know about these diverse and relative realities. The way human beings learn and come to know reality is almost as important as the actual reality in which they are living. Thus, research aims to explore how we learn and come to know various conclusions and how that knowledge changes our lives. Like reality, knowledge is also relative and changes from experience to experience, as well as changing through time. This again makes understanding how we learn a flexible process, with research methods that are fluid and able to adapt to changing environmental conditions. In regards to practice, it is important to really dig deep into methodologies in order to understand how they lead us to conclusions.

There are also other perspectives that impact qualitative research methods. Three main perspectives aim to understand the role and nature of the research itself and how it comes to generate commonly held conclusions. First, there is the perspective which explores the role of values in research. In qualitative research, the researcher's own personal values are crucial to how the research methodology is compiled. This is the same for the values of the subjects involved, as research designs must be sensitive to the participants involved. Thus, the values of the researchers and the participants should help frame the composition of the research itself. This differs greatly from quantitative research which fails to incorporate personal values into research methodologies. Next, there is the perspective which believes that language plays a huge role in directing qualitative research, Language can be used to best describe variables, provide rich descriptions, but also can serve as a type of data to be analyzed within the context of the research itself. Thus, surveys, questionnaires, and interviews can then be used as raw data the way numbers would in quantitative research. Qualitative researchers must place greater emphasis on the language and diction in order to truly empower their conclusions. Finally, there is the process of the research and how it can be conducted in the field. Data is much different in qualitative research than quantitative. It can include observations, interviews, artifacts, documents, speeches, notes, and multi-media materials. This type of research requires a lot of data which is then processed through a number of more qualitative methods, like grounded theory and content analysis.

Question 2

There are a number of different qualitative research traditions that can be used for the research topic of what are better professional development choices from secondary school teachers' perspectives. The primary vehicle being analyzed in this particular context is the individual teacher's experiences. As such, study paradigms that focus on examining the individual experience in collaboration with other individuals would be the most effective towards providing the most appropriate conclusions to the research questions provided by this topic. Thus, three major perspectives would prove most appropriate to compiling a strong research design for attacking this topic: a case study design, phenomenology and ethnography, although the last is slightly different and looks at the individual culture of secondary teachers as the primary vehicle rather than the individual teachers themselves. The case study would focus on an individual teacher and explore primary causation for the creation of that teacher's primary principles towards secondary education (Timperley et al., 2013). Case studies are widely used in educational research, as reported by Timperley et al. (2013). In this instance, the particular case would be the primary mode of analysis. Any commonalities found within analysis of the case study could then be used to make larger assumptions about secondary teachers in general. It would require unique research methods to truly expose the details of the case. First and foremost, there would need to be an interview of the specific teacher involved in the case study. Additional forms of data to be collected would be an observation of the teacher's classroom philosophies first hand as well as a survey of the teacher's students and parents. All of this data could then be compared to other case studies conducted with other teachers, as seen in the study conducted by Kiewra and Creswell (2000) who studied three educational professionals in order to find commonalities in their philosophies. These elements combined would help present the teacher's philosophy and then test that philosophy in order to see how successful it is in actual practice.

Secondly, such a study could use a phenomenology foundation for the research method. In this perspective, the actions and conscious thoughts occur because of some form of phenomenon. Thus, the approach is "the search for meaning in people's lives that could not be reduced to other phenomenon" (Brown et al., 2006, p 122). Thus, the study using phenomenological research methods would try to look at why secondary teachers make conscious decisions regarding the best teaching principles from their own internal thinking. It uses their conscious thinking as a primary method for driving conclusions about what perspectives are best in secondary schooling. Therefore, "in phenomenological research, the structure of consciousness of lived experiences is explored with the goal of giving the reader and accurate understanding of the essential, invariant structure (or essence) of an experience" (Brown et al., 2006, p 122). As such, the primary data to be collected is the experiences of secondary teachers as expressed by them. Phenomenological research allows for much more fluid and flexible data collection methods. This type of flexibility then helps provide "reasons for an opinion, action, hypothesis, or phenomenon […] to engage with new information in sufficient depth to change their practice" (Timperley et al., 2013, 336). Open ended interview methods could be used in order to provoke responses about unique experiences and how those experiences influenced individual teachers favoring certain teaching perspectives over others. Additionally, teachers could be asked in interviews about what experiences were most memorable during their own learning process of the teaching experience, including their experiences with mentors as well as memorable events they experienced as novice teachers just starting out.

Finally, there is the research perspective of ethnography which would be used in such a study. Ethnography looks more at cultures and groups rather than individuals. As such, it would focus on studying a larger group of secondary school teachers. This methodology would help explore the most popular professional development choices based on the collected experience of an entire group. According to the research, "this approach to qualitative involves a description and interpretation of a cultural or social group" (Sanger, 2000, p 32). Here, data could be collected though focus studies, where secondary school teachers are prompted to talk amongst each other with guided questions. This would help show the primary beliefs of the majority, which would then be used to make conclusions about the larger body of secondary school teachers.

Question 3

Case Study

The purpose of this case study will be to discover the better professional development choices secondary school teachers at a single classroom in a secondary school. At this stage in the research, the professional development choices will be generally defined as categories of behaviors and activities meant to increase development in the field.

Phenomenological

The purpose of this phenomenological study will be to understand the professional development choices for secondary school teachers at a single secondary school facility. At this stage in the research, professional development choices will be generally defined as a result of individual teacher experiences.

Ethnographic

The purpose of this ethnographic study will be to describe the professional… [END OF PREVIEW]

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