School Closure Research -- Peggy essay

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Transportation

Students who are bussed to a larger school can use the time to be productive; reading, homework, etc.

1.5-2 hours per day of commuting is unacceptable for students and will eat into their family and work time.

Opportunities

A larger school will provide greater opportunity for social networks, sports, music, drama, and more extracurricular activities.

Loss of community will make the younger students uncomfortable as well.

Academics

A larger school will provide greater academic opportunities for the HS students in preparation for university; there are more resources available.

The student to teach ratio will change and the students will be part of just another large classroom.

Thus, the question really comes down to potential. Neither side can equivocally state that the future of the students will be better or worse; there are arguments for both as well as the possibility that the solution will be quite positive for some, not so positive for others. Clearly, there needs to be more research on the subject to balance out the fiscal, ethical, moral, and social needs.

Research Methods & Profiles -- As noted, Brian and Peggy have a different view of the subject of closure of a portion of a rural school. Brian is a mature student completing his Master's work in social science after taking a leave of absence from his job as a policy offer. After growing up in a small town, he moved to the city, where he spent most of his adult life. His research interest is in how rural communities deal with the decline of public services and has read widely in the area. He is also very well aware that his supervisor in his government job is likely to read his thesis and use it as a way to evaluate his suitability for promotion. However, he is determined not to let that influence his approach to the issue. Peggy was born into a farming family also in a wheat belt town 150 km from Beeganup. She attended local primary school, but went to the city for her High School education. She completed a degree in history and education and has had 15 years practical experience in teaching in both rural and urban schools. She has completed the coursework units for her Master's in Education and is looking for an appropriate topic for her thesis. Her research interests focus on the influence of local communities with the school community in influencing educational change.

Brian hears about the Kingston issue from a friend, visits the area, and begins to collect data on town demographics, history, sociology, and starts to form an overall hypothesis on the factors that may have led to the decision to close the High School. Based on the information gleaned thus far, Brian believes that the correct approach is to design and implement a quantitative study, learn SPSS and basic statistical analysis. His advisor, Margaret is on track with his proposal, but cautions him not to forget the ethical issues surrounding the situation.

Brian realizes that the attitudes of the residents will likely vary drastically depending on a number of factors: age of children, length of time in the community, educational level, etc. He identifies these factors and incorporates them into his questionnaire design. He also decides he will use a simple pre- and post-assessment for the study. Since there has been no official announcement, he hurries to administer the test to the 52 individuals who have agreed to participate in the study. Unfortunately for his data, there is a fair amount of media and political attention that now begins. In August the Minister of Education formally announces the closure of the High School after that year. Brian returns in early October to collect his post-test data, synthesizes the pre-assessment, data, and post-assessment data into his SPSS file and then begins his analysis.

Peggy, who is a friend of Brian, hears about his approach and the school closure, but believes that in this situation a qualitative approach is the most appropriate. She follows the passionate arguments in the editorial pages, and becomes convinced that there is a story to tell. Her advisor, Jean, agrees and works with Peggy to develop a means to understand the situation from a qualitative point-of-view -- either ethnographic or narrative research. Peggy visits the town in November and meets with a group of townspeople. She immediately notices that the mothers seem to have a far different view than the rest of the residents, and uses that to produce a grounded theory of the school closures. She is most interested in the kind of social impact the closures may have on mothers and children.

Peggy visits Kingston in December, interviews three mothers as well as some other community members. She visits again in February and formally interviews an additional 10 mothers; in March to reinterview and follow up. Her grounded theory is beginning to take shape. Peggy completes her final set of interviews in April, and then uses the following month to put her grounded theory into perspective.

The Scientific Method -- Both Brian and Peggy are far enough along in their carriers and intellectual maturity to understand the complex relationship between data collection, analysis and interpretation. Their individual supervisors remind them that while the two are taking a different approach to the situation, the scientific method still applies. They decide to meet to review methodologies and dialog about the differences between the quantitative and qualitative approach.

The term scientific method refers to a way of investigation or the acquisition of knowledge through the testing of a theory or hypothesis, then working through measurements (observation and empirical notes) to come up with a result, which should prove or disprove the original theory. Thus, the basic method consists of a) formulating a question or hypothesis, b) designing an experiment or means of collecting data, c) observation or experimentation, d) analyzing the results and considering the proof or disproof of the hypotheses, and e) suggestions for future research (Cary, 2003).

The basis for the methodology is a means that all sciences can adopt in order to have a means of accurate communication between disciplines. For instance, procedures and methods may be different between anthropology and chemistry, but the basic outline of research methods should be equal so that both sides can believe in the robust nature of the results. This also allows researchers within varying fields to remain objective when dealing with empirical and/or observable behavior, and attempt to keep opinion and bias out of the research (Hatton, 1996)

The Scientific Method did not spring up overnight, but was a lengthy process dating back to the Ancient civilizations. It evolved as a way of not only allowing communication between disciplines, but also as a way to propel the history of science forward. However, within the scientific method there are data purists -- only numbers tell the story; and data explainers -- the data tells part of a story.

Quantitative and Qualitative Data -- In its most basic outline, quantitative data is information that can be measured by numbers or numerical values. Quantitative inquiry is a method that is used in scientific methodology to gather a logical and provable manner of collecting and analyzing data. Qualitative research uses a less numerical and more open ended approach to data -- it investigates the why and how of decision making; whereas quantitative focuses more on the what, where, and when -- which are all numerically measurable. One method is not necessarily better than the other, it is entirely dependent upon the hypothesis that is being tested (Cresswell, 2003).

Indeed, qualitative research is often used to form the hypothesis and narrow the question prior to studying the data quantitatively. For example, a focus group might be formed with the purpose of looking at a specific behavioral pattern based on a cultural event. The group makes judgments, remarks, and gives opinion -- all which are qualitative. The researcher then takes the qualitative data and uses it to form additional hypotheses and to develop a more quantitative approach to the problem. Typically, quantitative research uses larger samples that can be statistically analyzed and verified; while qualitative research uses smaller samples that may be used to generalize research (Ibid.).

As noted in our discussion of scientific method, one of the basic reasons for setting up an agreed upon series of steps in science is to allow a level of sophistication and believability across the spectrum of scientific inquiry. The use of hypothesis or theory is a way for science, then, to communicate the types of knowledge and questions that are necessary to prove and move science forward. These theories -- an abstraction with a specific form, purpose and quality, form the mental construct of the larger question in place -- what is it we want to know, why do we want to know this, how can we find out?…[continue]

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