Research Methodology School Leadership & Development
With one school of interest, a single embedded case study was adopted for this research to look at a number of potential respondents in different data collection categories from middle to senior management and subject classroom teachers. The choice of a single case study was to solely look at the school, incorporating a structured approach to data collection which has helped with the consistency of results rather than a grounded theory that uses an observation approach. Conducting semi structured interviews with teachers (Appendices 2: Teacher interview questions) using standardised questions goes some way to help answer the research question of teacher development and how it impacts on student development and learning. Established aim and research questions along with the methodology provide the framework for the collection, analysis and display of data.
The research methodology is centred on (Saunders et al., 2006; cited by Saunders et al., 2007) research “Onion” in terms of research philosophies, approaches, strategies, choices, time horizon and the way and how data was collected.
Data Collection Time Choices Research Research Philosophies
Methods Horizon Strategies Approaches
Figure: 2 Methodology Choice Diagram
(Source: Adapted from Saunders et al., (2007, p.132)
Initial investigation into previous research in leadership, learning & development in schools has shown studies with contrasting research methodology methods in educational settings were used to analyse and evaluate findings. Studies of human behaviour and people centred are prominent in educational philosophies using interpretive and objectivist view points. Kelliher (2005) study indicates that interpretive research is known for providing contextual depth, although research results often receive criticism in relation to being valid and reliable.
Walker (2009) conducted research focusing on priorities, strategies and challenges into effective leadership in multi ethnic school’s using qualitative research methods to conduct predominantly semi-structured interviews. In support of the research in depth analysis of school documentation and relevant statistical data relating to the ethnic composition of the school were used. Stake (1995) details that, Validity: In terms of validation, qualitative research depends on the presentation of solid descriptive data, so that the researcher leads the reader to an understanding of the meaning of the experience under study. Angen (2000) backs up this idea with a comparable study stating validation is an interpretive understanding of truth. The choice of using semi-structured interviews coupled with other relevant quality secondary data internal and external to the school was seen as a success factor to the research.
Formal structures and procedures in schools are vital to the success of the school as a whole, development of teachers and development of students in a holistic nature in curricular and in extra curricular learning. The school has plans in place to build upon the partial success of their extra curricular activities and procedures they have adopted in light of the changing nature of school education in Qatar. Rand-Qatar Policy Institute (2007) conducted a study on private schools and their key findings included: New organisational structures, independent schools based on the principals of autonomy, accountability and choice, better trained teachers in accordance with international benchmark standards all required to be followed be individual schools in Qatar. An investigation into the school’s teacher development, training and leadership are seen as vital for not only to provide evidence of the effectiveness of the school, but for the future progress and direction the school must follow to meet educational standards. Although it is not exactly known what mandatory changes the education department in Qatar will implement, keeping up to date with curriculum standards and changes while providing teachers with training opportunities could help towards an effective school.
An Inductive research approach for data gathering included interviewing middle and senior management and classroom teachers to help explain why use certain management strategies and the strategic model for the school. The inductive approach also helps to answers how learning is taking place and to what extent.
An embedded single case study strategy looks at the success factors of the school, management and for student learning & development. Barr et al., (1995) claims that to foster learning there should be a creation of environments to enhance experiences enabling students to discover and build knowledge on their own initiative, make decisions and solve problems themselves. In support of Barr et al., (1995) view Healey (2005, p.191) explains that “Active learning is more likely to encourage students to adopt a deep approach to learning than is the transmission model”. In effect using a mixed methods approach for collecting qualitative data strengthens the research and gives rise for the use of triangulation and the collection of data including interview question responses.
The research approach was based on qualitative primary and secondary data gathering to help reinforce the research findings and give a basis for stronger qualitative analysis. The aim of the research was to obtain a broad overview of the school in relation to learning & development and leadership, through an in depth study. Choosing to combine a case study and conducting interviews through a mixed methods research approach helps provide a platform of wide knowledge in the findings.
A snap shot of the leadership, learning & development of the school was formulated over a period of time from March 2009 to November 2009.
Data Collection Methods
Initial collection of secondary research data was added as with primary data up to the interim submission date 13th November 2009 to enable an up to date inclusion of literature which forms some of the latest reviews and contrasting thinking in the educational area of leadership, learning and development. Secondary data used in the research was exclusively English language from internal school documentation and other data sources external to school.
A total of 98 semi-structured interviews were extensively conducted at the school for each member of middle and senior management team (Appendicies 3: Head of secondary, Appendicies 4: Head of primary/kindergarden) and separately for each classroom teacher at the school. In effect all questions were prepared separately, although participants were given the opportunity to add their own thoughts at the end of the questions. The principal, head of primary and head of secondary were given hand delivered questions by the researcher to answer during the twenty minute individual interview. Questions set were similar, although specific questions asked to each of the managers at the school were specific to each manager’s functional area and role. Similarly, middle managers and classroom teachers were given hand delivered questions in advance with the same questions to answers during a 20 minute interview. Each interviewee emailed the researcher an interview slot that was available on a calendar with proposed timings. Ninety five teachers including middle management were asked to take part in an interview and all agreed. The principal and the other two senior managers at the school also agreed to be interviewed, which made a total of 98 individual 20 minute interviews were conducted over an 8 week period while the research was conducted on site at the school. All 98 individual interviews were recorded during the 20 minute interview slot to enable the researcher to revisit the answers to each question asked.
Interview sampling was directed at all teachers in management positions and positions of responsibility initially, such as the curriculum area leader for Business & ICT at the school firstly asking them if they would answer prepared questions face to face. As mentioned set questions were hand delivered before the actual interview to all participants that agreed to take part in the interview process. All questions asked were structured, the same for each middle manager, and classroom teacher interviewed to avoid any bias of data to be collected except for the three senior managers. Interviews lasting 20 minutes were conducted keeping the conversation fairly short in an attempt to gain a high participant response to take part in an interview.
All management and classroom teachers in the kindergarden, primary and secondary departments along with the principal at the school that agreed to be interviewed were given an assurance of data and confidentiality protection and were told that the details will not be passed beyond the research supervisor, second marker and the researcher should they wish and also names not to be used and information shared to another party.
A full investigation would be useful for a more complete analysis, although there were limitations in respect to child and data protection, limited time available, and no access to parents for their input and opinions. In addition not all student year groups were at the school during the primary research collection process and a proposed student questionnaire did not go ahead due to potential bias. Opinions from students with respect to their progress academically and socially were not possible and the impact on the schools core values was not researched from a student point of view. Few studies have been conducted in relation to leadership, learning and development in schools in Qatar which provided a limitation on available previous literature, although as the school follows the national curriculum for England and Wales, a number of British studies were used that were appropriate.
Written by: Education Tay