Proposal Phase I
The purpose of this sequential exploratory mixed method study is to determine if there is a difference in the student achievement of those 8th grade students who remained at home completing a distance curriculum and those 8th grade students who returned to the classroom and followed the same curriculum during the pandemic and to understand the essence and meaningfulness of the experience on the parents of both sets of 8th grade students.
Quantitative Research Question
Is there a difference between academic achievement as measured by standardized test scores between those students who remained at home and those students who returned to school and followed the same curriculum during the pandemic?
There is no difference in the academic achievement as measured by standardized test scores between those students who remained at home and those students who returned to school and followed the same curriculum during the pandemic.
There is a difference in the academic achievement as measured by standardized test scores between those students who remained at home and those students who returned to school and followed the same curriculum during the pandemic
Qualitative Research Question
How do parents perceive the essence and meaningfulness of the lived experience of determining whether their 8th grade child should remain home or return to the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Why did parents make the decision to either keep their child at home or return them to the classroom?
What were parents’ expectations in their decision?
What value did they ascribe to their child’s ability to work at home or at school?
How do parents interpret the essence and meaningfulness of the lived experience based on the choice they made?
Significance of the study
The results of this study can benefit schools, teachers, parents, and ultimately students. Knowing the experience of parents during the pandemic can give schools guidance towards curriculum for students that includes blended learning so that everyone can be prepared not just if another lockdown occurs, but for students who are absent from school for any length of time. In order to prepare for this, schools may want to budget for supplies for students and training for parents as well as teachers.
Teachers can benefit from professional development that helps them provide e-Learning that is addressed to both parent and student. Parents can benefit from training that allows them to see first-hand what is expected of their children.
Frameworks in Research
In designing a research study, there may be two types of frameworks: the theoretical framework, and the conceptual framework. Creswell (2018) refers to the philosophical and interpretive framework as the theoretical framework which informs research. It is the philosophy of the chosen framework that guides the researcher. The theoretical framework refers to presenting theories available in the literature reviewed and serves to facilitate the researcher in building a base for the proposed work.
Although stating the framework for this study is the final concept addressed, many researchers agree that the framework should come first so that it can inform the researcher as to the type of study to be performed. According to Grant and Osanloo (2014) “We assert that students must select and clarify a theoretical framework from the time the dissertation topic is initially conceptualized.” Dr. Pamela Moore of the University of South Alabama (personal communication, April 5, 2020) shared that without the theoretical framework in place, there is no beginning point for research. Grant &Osanloo (2014) agreed by comparing a dissertation to a house: a house without a blueprint will fail, as will a dissertation without a theoretical framework. Gavin (2016) pointed out that it is the theoretical framework that is often used to confirm a gap in knowledge and provide justification for conducting a study.
Imenda (2014) stated that theoretical and conceptual frameworks are different constructs. Gavin (2016) appeared to agree when she pointed out a strong study requires both a theoretical and conceptual framework. Merriam (2016) suggested the terms can be used interchangeably but offered a preference for theoretical framework as it can be broader and more inclusive. Crawford (2020) suggested the opposite in that the theoretical framework is part of the conceptual framework. While few seem to agree on a definitive use, it appears that the theoretical framework comes from proven theory, while the conceptual framework (as indicated by the name) is conceptual in nature and built by the researcher during the course of the study.
Little is known about how the parents of middle school students experienced helping their children with e-Learning during the pandemic although there is a long tradition of parents helping their children with homework. Many parents believe helping their children with school work is part of their job as a parent (Núñez et al., 2015; Puhrová, 2018). Parents affect the views of their children on education (Briley et al., 2014). Briley et al (2014) explained that sharing their values on education is how children form their own values. Or as Thomas and Strunk (2017) stated: parents matter.
During the pandemic, all work became home work. Why did parents feel it was their job to take on a larger role in helping their middle school children with e-Learning? Perhaps because it was what they felt was expected of them as parents? That is one of the questions that will be answered during subject interviews in this study. Expectancy plays a crucial role in the actions taken by parents during the pandemic.
Associated with expectations is the value ascribed to performance. Although the value-expectancy theory is most often used in business, it can also be applied to the job of being a parent. According to Leadership Central (n.d.), this theory answers both “can I do this?” and “do I want to do this?” Developed by Victor Vroom in 1964, Porter and Lawler extended the theory in 1968 (Your Coach, n.d.). Leadership Central (n.d.), stated that this theory stemmed from the earlier research of Kurt Lewin. Lewin, according to Cherry (2020), is currently recognized as the founder of what we now call social psychology.
Wigfield and Eccles (2000) took credit for the expectancy-value theory, but they viewed the theory not in terms of employment, but children’s and adolescents’ performance. Somewhere between Vroom’s theory of job expectancy and Wigfield and Eccles’ theory of student expectancy lies parental expectancy. Wigfield and Eccles (2000) discussed ability as a major component of expectancy. Did parents believe they had the ability to help their children with e-Learning? This question will also steer this research.
Vroom believed that behavior results from conscious choices, just as parents choose to help or not help their children with e-Learning during the pandemic (Leadership Central, n.d.). “Expectancy is the belief that increased effort will lead to increased performance” (Yourcoach, n.d., para. 3). It is a matter of motivation. What motivated parents to help their children with e-Learning during the pandemic? As stated earlier, traditionally the motivation comes from the parents’ own beliefs that helping their children is part of their job as a parent. Parents expect more though. Parents generally expect their children will pass their classes and that their children will be promoted to the next grade level in the following school year. According to Brenan (2020), 42% of parents worry that the pandemic will affect their children’s education. School systems across the country have offices or departments for the sole purpose of parent engagement, and the internet is filled with articles offering to help parents get engaged with their children’s learning.
The expectancy theory suggests that employees (in this case, parents) will be motivated when they believe that putting in more effort (helping their children with e-Learning) will lead to enhanced performance (by the child) (Yourcoach, n.d.). Vroom (Leadership Central, n.d.) explored the question of motivation, while Wigfield& Eccles (2000) explored the question of ability.
The pandemic provoked a new question of ability to both parents and middle-school children “can we transfer what we know and do now to a purely home environment?” Parents will be asked in what ways their abilities and knowledge prepared them to help their middle-school children with e-Learning. This directly addresses Vroom’s question “can I do this?” (Leadership Central, n.d.). Wigfield& Eccles (2000) researched the expectancies of children and adolescents within the scope of domains as subjects (math, science, etc.). This study will be viewing parental expectations within the literal domain of the home.
The expectancy-value theory drives this study from the start, steering towards specific questions such as what middle-school parents’ expectations were when home became school. It will be through a rick and thick description of the experience that parents’ expectations and motivations will be identified. Following will be how their expectations were met and whether or not they feel the experience of helping their children was worth the effort they expended.
Data set and sample size
The data set will include the final grades of the students comprising the cohort. Grades are available through the school’s learning management system (LMS) at the end of the grading period. Based on the school to be used, there will be 80 students in the study as this is the number currently making up the cohort.
Approximately half of the students remained at home, while half came to school. The decision was left up to the individual families. Because of the factors that influenced the decision, a survey was used to discover influencing factors on that decision. For example, what is the parents’ level of education, do they work outside the home, are there other children staying home.
Teachers were also surveyed, as their input can also influence student grades. For many of them, this was their first time teaching distance learning or using any kind of LMS. Teacher experience can also play a role, where some teachers are novice and some veteran. The level of experience with an LMS may be more telling than the level of experience as a classroom teacher.
Parents and teachers received surveys to complete. The surveys follow a basic Likert design with 5-point scales. Student grades will come directly from the school’s LMS, in this case Schoology. There will be nothing in the grades that will identify a student. Grades can be exported directly to Excel and students were assigned only the numbers generated from the creation of the spreadsheet. Parent surveys were not linked to individual student grades, only the group they were in: F2F or Distance.
SPSS v. 27 statistical analysis software was used to analyze the data. This is a causal comparative study. A t-test was used to compare the mean student grades.
|Affected||Affected by Covid||Scale|
Because the overarching question is seeking the essence and meaningfulness of the lived experience of middle school parents during the pandemic, this will be a phenomenological study. The sub-questions are designed to give parents a direction during the semi-structured interview process.
A phenomenological study was chosen because pandemic home-schooling is a phenomenon inside the larger phenomenon of the pandemic. Studying parents of middle schoolers during the pandemic might also be done as a Case Study but it would not result in the richness of results provided in a phenomenologic study. Phenomenology accounts for, focuses on, questions, and strives to understand the essence of peoples’ lived experience of a phenomenon (Bhattacharya, 2017). A phenomenological study may search for the essence of a lived experience, but it is possible that there may be more than one single essence. This may become evident when comparing participant responses to the same interview question and seeing that the answers differ depending not on the phenomenon but on the culture of the participant.
Phenomenology is a marriage between psychology, philosophy, and research. One of the scholars most closely associated with phenomenology was Martin Heidegger. It was his search for being that connects him to phenomenology (Quay, 2015). Heidegger, in turn, learned from Edmund Husserl. Husserl was interested not just in being, but in the consciousness of self and considered the father of phenomenology (Laverty, 2003; Moran, 2014). This allowed him to examine not only self, but other, and their relationships and reactions.
Benefits and Challenges of the Research Design
Having also lived this phenomenon, one of the first priorities is the epoche. It is during this process of epoche that the researcher examines his own experience of the phenomenon (Kidd, 2020). According to Merriam (2016), it is now common in most types of qualitative studies for the researcher to examine their own feelings and prejudices so that they can be bracketed or set aside as much as possible to avoid personal bias. Epoche is certainly difficult, time-consuming, and important, but necessary for any phenomenological study.
Challenges of performing a phenomenological study certainly include the constraints of time. However, all studies have some time boundaries for completing research. According to Regoli (2017) the major benefits of a phenomenological study are the unique perspective, understanding, and rich data gleaned. All these benefits come from direct subject interviews, written memoires, or surveys. Interviews can take a long time, and to perform them properly must be repeated several times. Choosing the subjects (sampling) to interview may be considered one of the advantages of phenomenology. According to Merriam (2016) phenomenology best takes advantage of nonprobability, or specifically, purposeful sampling. Randomization is not a goal in phenomenology. The goal in phenomenology is to investigate the occurrence and the reaction of the subjects to that occurrence (phenomenon) and the relationship between the two.
Regoli (2017) suggested that the challenges may seem to outweigh the benefits when researching the type of study one will use. For example, while listing only three benefits, she lists five disadvantages including subjectivity, pure bracketing, bias, presentation, and typical (Regoli, 2017). Bracketing (epoche) was discussed earlier. Since bracketing, subjectivity, and bias can be problematic with any research design, it is not a reason to avoid phenomenology.
There are two basic types of sampling: probability and nonprobability (Merriam, 2016). One does not use probabilistic sampling in qualitative research because statistical generalization is not a goal (Merriam, 2016). What remains is nonprobability sampling for a qualitative study. Nonprobability sampling is also referred to as purposive or purposeful. Merriam (2016) identifies several types of sampling including maximum variation sampling, convenience sampling, and snowball sampling (also known as chain or network sampling). In addition to the methods just listed, Moser and Korstjens (2017) also include criterion, theoretical, extreme and typical case, and confirming and disconfirming sampling.
Convenience sampling is exactly what it sounds like. A sample is selected based upon the accessibility to the subjects, due to location, funding, availability or any other reason that might make a given sample more convenient to the researcher (Merriam, 2016). This study will use convenience sampling as the primary sampling method due to the location of the school, familiarity and cooperation with its administration, and access to parents. If too few participants are available, the snowball method will be used as a secondary method. If there is more interest in participation than necessary, it will be included in the invitation to participate that not all volunteers may be selected for the study.
Snowball sampling, according to Merriam (2016), is a common form of purposeful sampling. This method of sampling allows one to grow a sample by adding new participants recommended or referred by existing participants. This will be the secondary method used to ensure an adequate sample size for the study.
Theoretical sampling is used in grounded theory, which according to Merriam (2016) seeks to build a theory about the phenomenon as opposed to phenomenology, which seeks to explore and understand the essence of the phenomenon. With theoretical sampling, data analysis is performed after each round of interviews in order to further follow the theory being built (Statistics Solutions, 2018). Theoretical sampling is not a good match for a qualitative study.
Maximum Variation Sampling
Another example of a method with an appropriate name is maximum variation sampling. Using this method requires that samples be taken from the widest possible source to include opposing ideas (Statistics How to, 2016). It is not purposeful in nature and can used when randomization is not possible, or one knows little about the population to be sampled.
According to Moser &Korstjens (2017), phenomenology uses criterion sampling. What this means is that specific criteria are established for participation in the study. In order to meet the criteria for this study, participants
Will be the parent or guardian of a general education (non-IEP) middle school student attending The Pathway 6-8.
Will not be an educator.
Feel that they attempted to help their child with e-Learning during the pandemic.
Merriam (2016) assured the novice data collector that there is no set number and that unlike quantitative research there is no formula by which to derive the number of participants in a sample. Instead, sample size is based on the point of saturation or redundancy; that point at which no new information is uncovered (Merriam, 2016). Because there is no way to tell when the point of saturation has been reached, it is important that data analysis be performed along with data collection. Moser &Korstjens (2017) recommended fewer than ten subjects for a phenomenological study. The important part will be that point of saturation, identified by data analysis.
The next section follows the process that must be followed to perform research for Keiser University (KU). The documents required for both KU and MCPSS require the purpose of the study, questions, and the benefits and risks to the subjects as well as the institution.
Institutional and IRB Approval
KU’s IRB provides all the necessary steps and documentation required to complete the approval process. The first two steps are to ensure the safety of the participants. Informed consent is required, and KU provides the form to use for that. This study will be using interview as the data collection method, and interviews will be recorded. Therefore, a specific consent form is required to record the interviews. Keiser even provides a checklist to make sure a student/researcher has fulfilled all requirements.
A third form is required from the school district (MCPSS). This form is required in order to submit a research request to the IRB. Both Keiser’s and MCPSS’s forms will be completed and include benefits and risks to the institution (MCPSS) and the subjects (parents).
Risks are limited to the emotional well-being of subjects as they bring up feelings from a time their world changed radically and instead of sending their children out the door each morning for teachers to teach, kept them home where they became responsible for making sure assignments were completed. The benefits of this study are many. They can be used for something as simple as sharing with teachers so that teachers can form a stronger bond with parents and seek to improve regular communication. The results can be used to guide professional development for teachers using e-Learning as well as parent training. In order to guide either PD or parent training, funding will be necessary. Therefore, the results of this study can help guide budgeting for a school or school system.
Collecting and Analyzing Data
Collecting and analyzing the data is the heart of a research project. The ultimate goal is to convert the data into terms that are easily understandable and make sense to the reader as well as the researcher. Data collection methods have been discussed in some depth previously and this study will be using interviews, surveys, and standardized test grades. Parents will be invited to meet at the school at a time convenient to them. An empty classroom or conference room will be used to record the interviews.
The interview transcriptions must be turned into usable data. While the process of coding data may at first seem overwhelming, it is mathematical and systematic with specific steps to follow (Saldana, 2012). The part that takes the most time and effort (following the transcription itself) is the process of horizontalization (Merriam, 2016). It is through this process that the research will classify and assign themes to the information collected through the interview process. Although current research (Merriam, 2016) suggests this classification be performed following each interview, it is also suggested that all interviews be performed prior to the start of horizontalization so that the research knows they have reached the point of saturation.
Validity and Reliability
Validity and reliability are important factors in research. Due to the nature of qualitative research and its lack of quantitative data, proving validity can be a challenge. This mixed methods study will use several strategies to assure validity and reliability. Triangulation, the first strategy suggested by Merriam (2016) will be used. Triangulation requires multiple data sources, methods of collection, or investigators. This study will involve quantitative data as well as surveys.
The study is designed to include multiple interviews. Maximum variation in interviewees will be used. Subjects will be drawn from all parents of general education middle school students at the Pathway 6-8 and not limited to a single grade or subject. The final interview will allow for respondent validation. It is at this time that the findings and interpretations will be shared with respondents to validate those interpretations. Along with respondent validation will be the use of rich and thick descriptions. If descriptions are either not rich enough or exaggerated, respondents will have the opportunity to weigh in. These actions will also provide credibility.
Researcher’s position or reflexivity is part of a hermeneutic study in general and would be deeply examined during the Epoche (Moustakas, 1994). This will be addressed further under researcher bias.
Moustakas (1994) offered two methods of data analysis: a modification of the Van Kaam method, and a modification of the Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen method. Both methods provide the steps to analyze interview transcripts. An Epoche or bracketing should be completed prior to beginning data collection in order to perceive each transcript freshly and free from bias. The modified Van Kaam method will be used for this study.
The Van Kaam method uses the complete transcription of each co-researcher’s (participant’s) interview. There are seven steps involved in data analysis. Interview transcripts are analyzed individually for expressions relevant to the experience, also known as horizontalization (Moustakas, 1994). It is during this step that the researcher reads the interview transcripts and determines meaning units.
The second step requires determining the invariant constituents, also known as reduction and elimination. The invariant constituents are defined by whether a moment of the experience is necessary and sufficient for understanding the experience, and whether it can be abstracted and labeled. They identify those qualities that make an experience unique.
Once the invariant constituents have been identified they are clustered under a thematic label. According to Moustakas these “are the core themes of the experience” (Moustakas, 1994, p. 121). The fourth step requires validation of the invariant constituents and themes. Creswell and Poth looked for the following criteria in order to assess validity.
Articulates a “phenomenon” to study in a concise way
Conveys an understanding of the philosophical tenets of phenomenology
Uses recommended procedures of dataanalysis inphenomenology
Communicates the overall essence of the experience of the participants including the context
Embeds Reflexivity throughout the study (Creswell & Poth, 2018, pp. 426–427)
Next comes the heart of the phenomenological study which is constructing an individual textural description which includes verbatim examples from the interviews transcribed by the researcher. Developing the textural and structural descriptions make up the final three steps of the Van Kaam method of analysis. The textural description should be rich and evocative, expressing the thoughts and feelings of the subject.
There are computer programs such as NVivo and Dedoose that can help with data analyzation. However, it is critical that the first step is always for the researcher to read each interview after transcription.
Data Collection Methods
Methodology refers to the way a researcher collects the information to be used in their study. The purpose of the methodology section is to explain how data was collected and analyzed. There are many methods of data collection, notably observation, interview, document review, and focus group.
Due to the nature of this hermeneutic study, interview will be the methodology used. Observation cannot be used in a phenomenological study because the phenomenon has passed: there is nothing to observe. There are no documents to review so that excludes document review as a methodology. Journals and diaries could be used for this method, but in the case of the COVID pandemic, that would require that only participants who kept a journal or diary at this time could be used. That becomes limiting and requires the extra step of surveying possible participants to identify those who kept a journal or diary during the pandemic. Using a focus group is the only other methodology that might be used, but the challenges far outweigh the benefits.
Bogdan and Biklen (2003) suggested that focus groups are best suited to exploring general topics and discover the range of views. Bogdan & Biklen (2003) also pointed out that participants may not share deeper feelings for personal reasons. Often, members of a focus group will follow the lead of the first speaker and not get into their own personal experience. Since the purpose of a hermeneutic study is to discover those deep feelings that are the essence of the lived experience, focus groups have been excluded from this study.
Types of Interviews
Bhattacharya (2017) defined qualitative interviews as conversations. She further identified multiple types of interview including formal semi-structured, in-depth open-ended, informal open-ended interviews, and natural conversation (Bhattacharya, 2017). Merriam (2016) categorized the types of interview by structure. The structure of the question can be dependent on the interviewee with some needing more direct or structured questions and others requiring a mere prompt to talk for hours. Each type has its own merit, so a combination will be used.
The structured interview uses a predetermined set of questions that allow little to no deviation from the script. A structured interview does not allow further probing once the interviewee has answered. It is not conversational in nature.
The unstructured interview encourages the interviewee to talk freely about the topic, allowing the interviewer to probe more deeply when the interviewee brings up a particularly vivid recollection (Bogdan & Biklen, 2003).
A semi-structured method can allow you to get comparable data from all interviewees (Bogdan & Biklen, 2003). Bogdan and Biklen (2003) suggested that this method could lead to losing the opportunity of discovering how the interviewees might have structured the topic.
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