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Critical evaluation of research methods in education

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Paul B.
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  1. Introduction.
  2. The research needed for social practice.
  3. The research method of teachers' biographies/autobiographies.
  4. Favoured research tool: Questionnaire.
    1. Collecting constrained data.
    2. Macionis and Plummer's view of an interview.
    3. Multiplicity of opinions and approaches.
  5. Dissimilar opinions among researchers on the role of the observer.
    1. Complex classification of the observer's roles according to Gold.
    2. Two different types of observation according to Spradley and Burns.
  6. Non-participant type of observations.
    1. The aim of the study.
    2. Data collection methods.
    3. A checklist as a form of a highly-structured participant observation.
  7. Conclusion.
  8. Bibliography.

On initial consideration, the question posed here seemed to bracket nicely few main points of the subject, but that impression appeared to be inequitable, especially when it came to making judgments concerning different methods and approaches to research projects. The word "method" is derived from the Greek words metá (with) and hódos (the way). Therefore, from etymological perspective, research method is a particular way of doing research, or the principle that informs its organisation. To start with a definition, a concise description of a research method is provided by Macionis & Plummer (1998: 42), who view it as a "systematic plan for conducting research". Another laconic definition of a research method is given by Myers (1997: 241): "A research method is a strategy of inquiry which moves from the underlying philosophical assumptions to research design and data collection."

[...] The participant observer as a human being: observations on the personal aspects of fieldwork. In: Burgess R. (ed). Field research: a sourcebook and field manual. London: George Allen & Unwin Guba, E. and Lincoln, Y. (1989). Fourth Generation Evaluation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Gold R (1969). Roles in sociological field observations. In: McCall G. and Simmons J. (Eds) Issues in Participant Observation. Reading, MA: Addison- Wesley. Hitchcock, G. and Hughes, D. (1989). Research and the Teacher: A Qualitative Introduction to School-based Research. [...]


[...] In contrast to this opinion Holliday (2002: 10) thinks that new insight is gained when the researcher actively engages in a ?learning culture? through making use of participant observation, structured interviews and literature studies.? This leads the study to further discussion of research methods in a form of interviews and observations, which are widely used in educational research for collecting qualitative data. Silverman (2000) thinks that the interview method clearly predominates as the single most preferred method in qualitative research, arguing that choice of the open-ended interview as the gold standard of qualitative research is pretty widely spread' (ibid: 291). [...]


[...] The study intends to employ some of the methods described above in a small- scale research on using self-assessment strategy for improving student behaviour in the classroom. The approach that has been chosen to complete this study is one of Action Research, as it entails teachers' active participation in all stages of the research and aims at translating the results of this research into practical strategies to be used within specific learning environment. Cochrane-Smith and Lytle (1999: 22) make clear that concept of teacher as researcher can interrupt traditional views about the relationships of knowledge and practice and the roles of teachers in educational change, blurring the boundaries between teachers and researchers, knowers and doers, and experts and novices.? The concept of action research seems to fit precisely into the nature of the research project, as the latter aims to be practitioner lead, to be focused on good professional values and responsive to the learners' needs, but most importantly, to be leading to the practical improvements to teaching practice. [...]

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