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Bed (Hons) Foundations of Educational Research (NMQ715)

Assignment 2: Describing the Basic Research Plan


By J H Dubery (953302175) Tel: 0727502721 heindubery@gmail.com

May 2011

Statement of purpose (focus)


The purpose of my research is to explore whether there is a relationship between the household circumstances and the academic performance of Industrial Design students at TUT.

Approach
Interpretivism developed as a philosophical theory of meaning, understanding and also of literary interpretation which further developed different approaches such as phenomenology. Meaning can be interpreted if a common trend can be found in the case study. To understand whether there is a phenomenon between the household circumstances and the academic performance of students, a multimethod mode of inquiry (quan + QUAN) will be used based on a naturalistic approach focusing on students currently studying Industrial Design at TUT. Data gathering techniques like interviews and questionnaires will be dominant in the naturalist (interpretive) paradigm.

Methodology
A qualitative case study research method will be conducted from an interpretivist perspective. The study will enable me to gain a greater insight and understanding by making a systematic investigation to see whether there exist a phenomena of parent contribution, household environmental area and transport issues on the academic performance of Industrial Design students at TUT. To get a comprehensive understanding of how students household circumstances relate and interact with their academic performance, meaning will have to be drawn from the phenomenon under study. The data gathering will be largely qualitative in the form of interviews, but also quantitative in the form of questionnaires. Since the number of students currently following this course is quite small, an accurate insight and understanding can be interpreted of all the participants and their circumstances without having to make generalised conclusions from this case study.

Research Questions, Aims and Objectives


Primary Research Question (Aim) What is the relationship between the household circumstances and the academic performance of Industrial Design students at TUT? Secondary Research Questions (objectives): 1. How does the parent or guardian contribute to the students academic performance? 2. How does the household environmental area contribute to the students academic performance? 3. How does transport play a role in the students academic performance?

Aims and Objectives The secondary research questions will form the objective and therefore are more specific by giving an added focus to the primary research question. In order to answer the primary question, it is important to answer the basic questions like what the parents contribution is to them being at university and how they can help them. Once this question is answered the second question about the environmental area where he/she stays and study can be looked at. In the third question on transport (specifically public transport), which is currently a big problem in South Africa, the effect which transport has on students academic performance can be answered. The order of questioning therefore moves from basic information to more advanced information as suggested in the primary research question. By sticking to these questions will help me to maintain my focus and lead me to the correct collection of data so that worthwhile research can be discovered.

Theoretical Framework
The advantage of using theoretical framework will be to make logical sense of the relationships among several factors that have been identified as important to the problem. I will attempt to integrate key pieces of information especially variables in a logical manner so I can determine what things to measure and what statistical relationships to look for. The study will be based on the work concerning out-of school influences on students prospects for academic success which stems from James Colemans 1966 study of racial and ethnic segregation, student and family characteristics, and student achievement.

Cause

Effect

Independent Variable Household composition Socio-economic status Parents level of education Dependent Variable Students educational attainment

Figure 1: Relationships between variables Equality of Educational Opportunity (1966)

I will use the above mentioned theoretical framework to develop the conceptual framework which will give direction to my study after making modifications to suit the inquiry. It is also my intention to show the relationship between the students academic performance and the different constructs (parental influence, household environmental area and transport) in this study.

Conceptual framework to determine the relationship between household circumstances and academic performance Factors of influence Encouragement to achieve Financial support Parent qualifications Parent/guardian involvement Factors of influence Exposed to design Shops Stimulating environment Gangs Access to internet Library City /rural Study environment Safety neighbourhood Factors of influence Types of transport (car, train, bus, taxi, walk, bike) Cost of transport Reliability of transport

Parental Influence Independent Variable

Household environmental area Independent Variable

Transport Independent Variable

Household Circumstances

Academic Performance of Industrial Design Students at TUT Dependent Variable

Research Rationale
This study focus will be to investigate whether certain factors has an effect on the academic performance of Industrial Design students at TUT. I noticed from my teaching experience at various schools (Primary & Secondary) and now that I am lecturing at TUT that some students who come from backgrounds that would seem to doom them to school failure often find a way to beat the odds and achieve at high academic levels. And some students who come from seemingly ideal life situations never thrive academically. It is therefore that I developed an interest into this field and would like to explore whether there are any relationships between these variables (household circumstances and academic performance). Measuring of academic performance of students is challenging since student performance is a product of socio-economic, psychological and environmental factors. Thats why the scope of research will always be here to find out what factors most significantly affect the performance of the students. During the past several years a number of valuable studies across the world have been added to existing body of knowledge developing various models to assess the student

performance, however most of the studies relied on the advanced developed societies as their setting e.g. United States, UK etc..

The contribution of this research study to the literature will be worthwhile because it will demonstrate the impact of household circumstances specifically for students studying Industrial Design at TUT (Developing Society). The NPHE (National Plan for Higher Education) has set clear goals for tertiary institutions to alleviate the shortage of trained graduates in science, engineering and technology by increasing their through-put of graduates (Department of Education, 2001: 19,20,25,26; Department of Education, 2003: 11). By focusing, different factors that influence student performance would be identified which will help lecturers to improve students through managing their profile and in return will improve the through-put rate for this course (National Diploma 3D designing).

Data Collection Plan


The data collection plan is designed to collect in-depth longitudinal information on the parental influence, household environmental area and transport to-and-from the university. In addition, data will be collected on first, second and third year students academic progress in their main subject (Industrial Design). Several data collection methods will be used to collect data from students that are enrolled for Industrial Design at the start of the second academic semester of 2011. Whenever possible, items from existing data collection instruments will be used to maximize the extent to which data can be compared with other national databases. Interview questions will be developed on the basis of previous research conducted on similar topics (i.e. Equality of Educational Opportunity). It will have to be refined to suit this study in order to ensure that the data are both reliable and easily understandable for the respondents. It is essential that the questions are fully understood and answers properly noted. Multimethod data collection plan Planned sequence 1st 2nd 3rd Planned activity to be used Administer questionnaire Conduct one-on-one interviews Possible follow-up of one-on-one interviews

Ethical Considerations The study will be conducted in collaboration with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at TUTs main campus, where the research will be conducted. In order to ensure that the study satisfies all ethical criteria, approval for the methodology to be utilised in this study will be obtained from the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at TUT.

Primary data will be collected during formal classes at the beginning of the second semester 2011. Confidentiality will be maintained at all times and only students providing written consent for their formation to be used will be included in the study. First semester results of the students in the study will be obtained by the researcher (myself) from the Department Mechanical Engineering. The department will be kept fully informed about the outcome of this study. Data obtained during the data collection stages will be analysed using verifiable methods and procedures. All data analysis techniques used mastered by and conducted by the researcher (myself). The confidentiality of the results obtained will be maintained at all times.

Sampling
I will be seen as the research instrument in the data gathering process since I am the researcher and therefore will be subjective. My understanding of sampling is that it is a process where a portion of the population is selected to conduct a study. There are many ways of sampling but purposive sampling will best suit the recording process of my study. The purposive sampling decisions are not only restricted to the participants, but also involve the settings, incidents, events and activities for data collection. There are many different sampling strategies but I believe that the stratified purposive sampling strategy will help me to obtain the richest possible source of information to answer my research question. The preselected criteria relevant to my research question are as follows: First-, second- and third year students enrolled for Industrial Design at TUT at the beginning of the second semester of 2011 will be used as the sample for this study. Currently +/- 60 students are enrolled for the Industrial Design course which could change at any time should some of them decide to drop-out of the course, but this should not have a significant impact on the study. I will rather be focusing on collecting data to the point where no new data brings additional insights to my research question (theoretical saturation). To make sure that I reach the point of saturation, data I review and analyse has to be in conjunction with the collection of data. The collection of data will thus be in the form of a questionnaire and one-on-one interviews. My aim is therefore to find a deeper understanding of whether there is a phenomenon between the students academic performance and there household circumstances to the point of crystallisation.

Frequency of data collection and constraints


The sample for this investigation will include all first year, second year and third year students enrolled for Industrial Design at TUT. The collection of data (questionnaire and oneon-one interviews) will be taken during the first week at the start of the second semester in 2011 for those registered in Industrial Design I, II & III. As such the sample cannot merely be considered to be random and representative sample (Cohen et al, 2000: 92, 94) of Industrial Design students at all Higher Education institutions in SA. Hence the results obtained in this study cannot merely be generalised to other Higher Education institutions in South Africa.

Moreover, only those students who attend the class on the day the study is conducted and who provide written consent to participate in the study, form the final sample. Should a specific group either refuse to take part in the study, e.g. based on religious reasons, or be absent from class, e.g. based on large social or sport activities, the sample cannot be considered to be representative of students enrolled for Industrial Design at TUT during 2011. Hence, generalisation to Industrial Design students may not be valid. Given the above constraints, it is imperative that the results obtained in this research be verified through similar studies at the same as well as other Higher Educational Institutions in South Africa. Furthermore, the role of other factors that may play a role in achievement and that lend themselves to interventions should also be explored.

Data Collection Instruments


Data pertaining to the achievement in Industrial Design I, II & III of students in the target population will be collected from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at TUT at the end of the first semester. The academic performance of the target population will be used in conjunction with qualitative and quantitative data collection instruments to investigate relationships between academic performance and their household circumstances. The two types of instruments which will be used for collecting data are described in detail below. To ensure that the research conducted is valid, experts in the field of research will have to approve the interview questions and questionnaire first. And secondly to ensure that the study is reliable the results has to be consistent with the data collected, Merriam (1998: 206). 1. One-on-one Interviews Interview questions will be developed on the basis of previous research conducted on similar topics (i.e. Equality of Educational Opportunity). It will have to be refined to suit this study in order to ensure that the data are both reliable and easily understandable for the respondents. This information will be collected through personal interviews with individuals (students).It is essential that the questions are fully understood and answers properly noted. The aim of the interview is to get a better understanding of how each individual currently experience his parents involvement in his life while busy studying to become an Industrial Desginer. Another aim for the interview is to determine whether his household environmental area, the place where he sleeps and study impacts on his academic performance. Lastly will be to determine whether transportation to-and-from TUT can be related to academic performance. The interviews will consist of structured questions that I will develop in advance to ensure consistency across my sample group (+/- 60 Industrial Design students). The interviews will take place during the first week of the second semester of 2011, at a pre-arranged time at TUTs main campus. Each interview will be limited to 20 minutes per student. The following are key factors for successful interviewing that I need to keep in mind: To choose only people that is enrolled for Industrial Design at TUT.

To explain the aim of the interview to each participant: To determine whether there is a relationship between student household circumstances and his or her academic performance. To collect rich and descriptive data on the phenomenon of study to the point where I will reach data saturation. Questioning strategy no misleading, yes or no questions but rather clear and neutral. Keeping the interview questions to the minimum, but to use probing and clarification questions for clear understanding of the participants perception and understanding. Type of questions which I plan to include: o Experience and behavior questions (e.g. tell me more about the place you currently live while studying this course?) o Opinion and value questions (e.g. what do you think can help you to improve your grades?) o Feeling questions (e.g. How do you feel when you are penalised for being late because of transport problems?) o Knowledge questions (e.g. how much extra money other than your tuition fees do you need to complete your projects successfully?) o Sensory or value based questions (e.g. what is your view on parent or guardian moral support in your academic progress?) To be a good listener and not to be judgmental or to criticise its the participants perception that counts. To be observant of the participants non-verbal communication and to keep eye contact with the participant.

Recording interview data Recording of the interviews will be done by using a tape recorder permission must be given by the participants before the start of the interview. Notes must also be taken during the interviews which will be reviewed at a later stage, which could then lead to a follow up interview. A transcript will have to be made which I will then use in my data analysis. 2. Questionnaire The questionnaire will be administered in a formal class setting at the beginning of the second semester during 2011 by means of a pen-and-paper method. Students will be requested to provide written consent to participate in the study and the aims of the study and the instructions for completion of the questionnaire will be explained to the students verbally as well as in writing. A group administration of questionnaires is a very helpful method for collecting data in this particular case because: All +/- 60 Industrial Design students can complete the questionnaire in a short space of time. The test administrator (myself) will be able to check to questionnaire for accuracy. This is a cheap and easy method to use. I will have an optimal response rate.

The interviewer (myself) will immediately be able to assist with issues in the questionnaire which may not be clear to the respondents.

The design of this questionnaire requires me to give attention the following: Instructions - simple clear and concise Appearance of questionnaire (e.g. clear printing, not too small a font) Completion time of questionnaire (e.g. less than 20 min, no more 100 items) Question sequence (e.g. have a short introduction to explain what the study is about, followed with easy to answer questions like biographical detail and then on to topics relevant to the study.). Types of questions Closed (structured) questions will be used because it will be easy to analyse the data.

The following 6 types are questions that will be in my questionnaire: o List questions 1. Gender (dichotomous question) Male Female o 1 2

Multi-choice question:

What type of accommodation do you have while studying? o Ranking questions (Respondents can rank certain issues in terms of their importance)

Which of the following environmental factors where you live have the biggest negative influence on your academic performance? Rank these factors from 1-5, where 1 represents your biggest negative influence and 5 your smallest influence. o Category questions (choose only one of a set of categories)

How do you get to class everyday? A) Bus B) train C) car D) train E) walk F) bicycle G) motorbike o Quantity questions (respondents provide a number which gives the number of some characteristics)

How much time does it take you to get from your house to class? o Scale questions

Likert scale provides an ordinal measure of a respondents attitude Having internet access at my house will improve my academic performance.

A) Strongly agree B) Agree C) Disagree D) Strongly disagree

Drawing findings and conclusions I believe that my supporting evidence coming from my data will be strong enough because of the purposive sampling process which I will use. Therefore a strong conclusion and interpretation can be made only on the Industrial Design participants experiences and perspectives which cannot be generalised to a broader audience. Therefore my conclusion will be bounded to my participants in their own context.

Resources MAREE, J.G. (Ed). 2010. First Steps in Research. Pretoria: Van Schaik Publishers. COHEN,L. MANION, L. MORISSON, K. (6TH Ed). 2008. Research Methods in Education. London and New York: Routledge Falmer.