Evaluating the program's progress and results will be an ongoing concern for this study; many of the tools necessary to do so are relatively simple to create and implement. The process for doing so includes both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The quantitative method will include hard numbers and percentages based on initial testing, ongoing evaluations and a comparative test at the end of the study that will be used to determine results and outcomes. The qualitative method will be based on the perceptions, thoughts, ideals and beliefs of the participants of the study and how they have changed in either negative or positive ways.
The instructional problem that this paper will address is "can instructing students in the area(s) of fitness and diet improve the student's capabilities and understanding in regards to how they influence the student's overweight or obesity issues?" Previous research has shown the need for this type of research and it is hoped that by documenting both qualitative and quantitative data, that improvements will be evidenced in lifestyle changes.
Participants -- Current Conditions
America's education system is faced with a growing burden of caring for and assimilating young individuals into the American society. It is while at school that many of these young citizens learn the customs of a new culture, including eating American food, which is oftentimes low on nutrition and high on carbohydrates. Many children may only get meals while at school. The food they may, or may not have available in the home, is likely not as nutritious as it could be as well.
Students who overindulge in food, or who only have foods available that are high in fat and calories, are students who are also likely facing an issue with obesity or a problem with being overweight. Since many of these students are captive audiences while at school, introducing a diet and fitness program in an educational surrounding makes sense.
The research design used for this study is going to be a mixed research approach. A mixed research approach employs both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. The quantitative aspects of this study will include the fact that a control group and a comparison group, both chosen randomly from the classroom, will be used throughout the study for comparative purposes. The participants in the study will be pre-tested and post-tested, and the all the tests will be the same for both groups.
The qualitative aspects will be implemented by asking the students will be qualitative questions during an individual interview, small group interviews and one discussion group will include the entire participant group. The questions used will seek to ascertain how the students felt both before and after the study, and what the student's perceptions were during the study. The questions will also seek to determine whether the students thought the skills learned/or not learned were (and would continue to be) helpful in directing attention towards their specific situation regarding how they exercise, how they eat, and the process of losing or gaining weight can be related to those processes.
To complete a quantitative study, I must first randomly split the class into two groups, teaching one group new skills regarding diet and exercise while not teaching the other group those same skills. Half of the class will spend the period in the library reading. The other half of the class will spend the class period learning fitness skills.
Quantifying the conclusions would be accomplished by comparing the results between the two groups from before being taught fitness skills to after being taught fitness skills. The quantification process can be determined by either a specific number of pounds being lost by one group as compared to a like number from the control group.
One of the overall benefits of quantitative research is that it provides a firm number for comparison. Very few experts will argue with the numerical results of the quantitative study, although they may argue regarding the discussions and conclusions of those results. The results can be generalized with mixed research.
Mixed research has been a strong factor in educational settings since the 1990's. By using a mixed research methodology, this study will be both deductive and inductive in design. It will combine the best qualities in both qualitative methodology and quantitative methodology, which is a distinct advantage for the researcher. The participants in the focus groups, and interview processes are capable of discussing such items as their perceptions, ideals, and thoughts, and at the same time the researcher can track, monitor and classify those responses in a quantitative manner. An additional advantage for the researcher is that by employing two methodologies, one can surmise that the combined data would be more pertinent than the two separate data. The benefits of conducting a qualitative study is that it provides a deeper understanding of the motivational aspects of the subjects while also examining the breadth and depth of the phenomena as well as a study of the student's behavior in an educational environment.
A qualitative researcher is armed with questions and thoughts in order to explore the differences in thoughts, perceptions and feeling during the study process. In this specific case a question that could be asked would be; do the students feel that they have learned anything valuable by learning about eating the correct diet and exercising to remain fit? The study will also help to determine whether what the students is perceived as being valuable in their culture. The researcher will also conduct in-depth interviews of the students; asking them to reply to various questions that seek to determine their thoughts, feelings observations and perceptions.
One recent study provides an excellent example of using qualitative study focus groups to determine future pathways. The study showed that the researchers "conducted a qualitative study of focus groups to better understand physician's perceptions of CDSS's and to transform the conceptual osteoporosis tool into a functional prototype" (Kastner, Li, Lottridge, Marquez, Newton, Straus, 2010, p. 40). Similar to the Kastner et al. study, this study also seeks to better understand student's perceptions of the issues as well as transforming the teaching tool into an on-going functional process that educates students regarding diet and exercise.
Some of the questions that the study seeks to answer include; 1) will providing information about diet and exercise programs to students help in lowering the average weight of a student population, 2) will students be interested enough in the program(s) to carry it over into their own lives, 3) will the students gain a higher fitness level with the introduced fitness program, and 4) how will students perceive the effort needed to lower their weight or solve their obesity problems?
More specifically, the study will seek to ascertain positive quantitative results by tracking the students loss (or gain) of weight throughout the study's period of viability. The study will answer these questions by using quantitative and qualitative data collection and measurement tools designed by the researcher specifically to answer the study questions.
Measurement and Data Gathering Tools
The study's data gathering techniques will be demonstrated with a variety of tools. The tools used will include; surveys, questionnaires, and researcher's notes. The environment in which the tools will be implemented will be in small group interviews (focus groups), one-on-one interviews, initial and post-intervention surveys, and questionnaires designed to elicit quantitative data.
The questionnaires will be accompanied by journals for the participant use; the participants will be asked to track what they eat on a daily basis as well as any exercises they perform. Participants will establish an initial weight as well as on-going weight loss (or gain) in the journal.
The qualitative aspects of the study will be addressed in the interviews and focus group. The researcher will supply a number of open-ended questions that can enhance the discussions during the data gathering process, but will essentially be an interested observer (for the most part); allowing the students to discuss progress (or lack thereof) as well as their thoughts and feelings concerning the program. Research has shown that "the real point of an observation-based process…is to allow for data-driven decision making" (Hua, 2010, p. 28); as is definitely true in this study as well.
Tools to gather data such as the ones proposed for this study have been used effectively in the educational environment throughout the years, and many of those tools have justifiably been influential in adjusting how, and what, students are taught.
One recent study found that the "use of data to influence teacher planning of future instructional activities for new groups of students (or for adjustment of policies) can in the long run lead to systematic improvement" (Zupanc, Urank, Bren, 2009, p. 40). If that is true, then using the same type of tools to gather data in the same type of environment as that being proposed in this study should lead to similar positive results. Additionally, the study will seek to use personal digital assistance (PDA's) to…