As mentioned above, a mixed-methods research approach is used to conduct the study. Qualitative data will be collected from research report that concern topics such as official policy documents, institutional policy documents, research reports, as well as by means of approaching individuals and representatives of institutions by means of questionnaires and/or interviews. Schools and tertiary institutions will for example be approached to determine their approach to mitigating the transition of students from secondary to tertiary level, as well as to determine the general opinion regarding the appropriateness of current policies and procedures in this regard.
Specifically, students and teachers from various secondary and tertiary institutions will be interviewed and/or receive questionnaire with open-ended questions to collect qualitative data. The responses will then be compared to identify any similarities or significant differences among the various respondents.
Quantitative data will be collected by means of official state statistics regarding a variety of secondary and tertiary institutions. Particular elements to be determined include pass rates at secondary and tertiary level, as well as fail and dropout rates for the institutions. Demographic statistics will be used in order to determine any possible correlation between demographics and fail or pass rates. Official representatives will be approached for any data that are not publically available.
Conclusions will be drawn by a method of comparison among the various elements of the qualitative and quantitative research. Comparisons will for example be made between questionnaire and interview responses from various age groups, demographics, and positions within the secondary and tertiary institutions. These responses will be scrutinized for similarities and differences, as well as possible remedies for the problems identified.
Statistics from the various institutions will be compared for similarities and differences, along with what these may indicate about concomitant strategies that are effective or less effective in determining the success of students at tertiary level. Specifically, demographic information will be collated with statistical pass and fail rates to determine any correlations and the possible need for the implementation of support programs.
Specifically, data collected will be organized in a number of tables to simplify the comparison process. Statistical data will for example be organized by means of a table that concerns pass and fail rates, as well as demographics in a single table. Separate tables will be used for data from secondary and tertiary institutions. These will then be compared with each other to determine the correlation between secondary and tertiary elements such as demographics.
Policy information on the state and institution level will be collated within a single table, while responses to questionnaires and interviews will be tabulated according to the questions asked and the demographic and position of the respondents.
Finally, both qualitative and quantitative data will be correlated to determine the level of necessary remedies for the shortcomings found within the critical assimilation indicators to assimilate students within tertiary education programs.
Data Collection Procedures
The data collection procedure will occur in four stages. Initially, theoretical data will be collected with the use of official policy documents on the state and institutional level to determine the current policies and programs in place specifically to support students who transition from secondary to tertiary education. Theoretical data will also be collected with regard to the general current opinion on the effectiveness of P-16 and K-20 programs in helping students to effectively transition and make a success of their tertiary careers.
Secondly, official institutional statistics will be used to determine pass and fail rates, along with demographics. Where these are not publicly available, the secondary and tertiary institutions will be approached with a request for statistical information.
Thirdly, interviews and the distribution of questionnaires will be arranged with official representatives from secondary and tertiary institutions, along with secondary and tertiary educational professionals. The final stage will be interviews with students from secondary and tertiary institutions.
The data collection method will incur certain ethical issues and limitations that must be taken into account when approaching the institutions in question.
The research methods include using specific statistics from specific institutions, as well as interview and questionnaire responses from individuals. Approaching these individuals could result in ethical ramifications that must be addressed before conducting the interviews.
When approaching official institutions, official insurance of anonymity will be provided in writing, along with an explanation of the specific use of the data for the purposes of a research project. Institutions will be designated generic titles such as Secondary Institution 1, 2, 3 etc., with the same being done for tertiary institutions. Individual officials will be assured of anonymity by simply being referred to as representatives of institutions.
Interviews will be conducted in groups with teachers and students respectively to mitigate the constraint of time. Before the beginning of the interview, the purpose of the study will be explained, while individuals will be assured of anonymity by referring to the interviews in terms of the responses rather than the individuals giving the responses. After explaining the purpose and goals of the study, individuals will have the opportunity to leave the interview if they have any objections to taking part. Those who remain will also have the option to leave at any time they feel the need to do so.
Questionnaires will be delivered to institutions manually and distributed by assigned officials. These documents will be completed anonymously and returned by the officials to ensure that data remains free from preconceptions by the researchers.
By ensuring anonymity in all cases, the researcher will mitigate any reserves the population taking part in the study may have regarding answering questions as honestly as possible.
The limitations of the study relate to the validity and reliability of the data collected, specifically by means of the interview and questionnaire methods.
The statistics collected are inherently both reliable and valid, as they are collected and checked by a variety of official institutions. Hence this is a sound basis upon which to build the rest of the study.
By nature, the qualitative data is not as reliable as statistics. Several limitations are imposed by both the questionnaires and interviews. Questionnaire questions are open-ended, and could have the inherent limitation of not being the entirely honest opinion of the respondent, but rather what he or she things is expected by the interviewer. Certain emotional or personal factors may also influence the responses in questionnaire questions. An advantage of questionnaires however is that the peer group is less likely to influence responses, as the questions are completed individually, without the help of others. A further advantage is that insight could be gained by means of suggestions for remedies in terms of the current policies to help students transition from the secondary to tertiary state, and also support systems that will help them complete the secondary stage.
The greatest limitations can be expected from interviews. Interviews are conducted groups of teachers and students respectively. Within a group setup, some may feel intimidated and not provide completely honest responses, or say as much as they would in an individual interview. Time constraints significantly limit the ability to conduct interviews with single persons.
Another limiting factor is that fact that persons being interviewed in a group may be influenced by peers to provide similar responses, limiting the diversity of suggestions and the authenticity of responses. This influences the validity of the data gathered. In order to mitigate these limitations, the researcher will make every effort to make individuals feel as comfortable as possible during the interview process.
In terms of methodology, the study will make use of a mixed-methods approach to collect data. This information will be collated to obtain answers to the research questions and to determine the viability of the hypotheses being tested. It is projected that, regardless of the specific outcome, valuable information will be obtained regarding suggestions and possibilities for policymaking and support system implementation to help secondary students transition to the tertiary level, and also to help tertiary students complete their studies successfully.
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