Standards for validation
Guba & Lincoln (1989) believe there are three different approaches to be considered when judging any form of what they refer to as constructivist inquiry such as my case study:
- The hermeneutic process as its own quality control
The first, trustworthiness, was addressed by the researched validity of the learning environment questionnaire (Fraser et al, 1996). The WIHIC is one of a number of questionnaires based on Moos' (1979) research on a variety of human environments in which he identifies the three dimensions of relationships, personal development and system maintenance and change. Aldridge & Fraser (1999) believe that all three of these dimensions are included in the seven scales of the WIHIC questionnaire:
- Student cohesiveness - the extent to which students know, help and are supportive of one another.
- Teacher support - the extent to which the teacher helps, befriends, trusts, and show interest in the students.
- Involvement - the extent to which students have attentive interest, participate in discussions, perform additional work, and enjoy class.
- Investigation - emphasis on the skills and processes of inquiry and their use in problem solving and investigation.
- Task orientation - the extent to which it is important to complete activities planned and to stay on the subject matter.
- Cooperation - the extent to which students cooperate rather than compete with one another on learning tasks.
- Equity - the extent to which the teacher treats students equally.
"Technology is not about magic, but teachers."
"Using ICT to package the learning."
The individual scale scores (from the eight statements in each scale) are an indication of how evident each factor is within that classroom. However, Waldrip & Fisher (2000), in their work on different cultural groups within a classroom, found that reliance on a scale score alone could hide the possibility of students having different cultural values within the one classroom, due to their varying emphases on different factors. They found that students could interpret items within the questionnaire in ways that were not originally intended. This variance needed to be kept in mind when describing the results, as the use of statistical measures alone runs the risk of producing interesting results but might not be interpreted in the way I or the students intended. There was a possibility that this may happen within my selected group of students who learn differently, because often their problems at school stem from their inability to process accurately what they read and hear. I was able to check any queries that arose due to possible misinterpretation of questions when I interviewed them at varying times during the research process.
This satisfied the second of Guba & Lincoln's standards - using the hermeneutic process of interpretation as its own quality control - the individual student's interpretation of any item or scale was verified through the use of personal interviews, as a continuing and constant analysis of the data. As their classroom teacher the previous year, I felt I had built up a trust with the students involved in my project and was able to extract information from each student that they may not necessarily have admitted to an outside researcher who they didn't know so well. I needed them to understand that I was no longer their teacher but a researcher who was interested in their opinions and how and what they thought about their learning. This immediate feedback reduced the chance of undetected errors in their answers or any bias or prejudice I might have had which could have shaped the results.
The third standard, authenticity, involves four different aspects I needed to consider to ensure the quality of my fourth generation research, according to Guba & Lincoln (1989).
- Ontological authenticity refers to the "improvement in the individual or group's conscious experiencing of the world" (p 248) or how they have improved, matured, expanded and become more informed about their own worlds. I hoped to enhance their own awareness of their unique learning styles, so that they could see that they learn differently and that they may need to monitor their own classroom environment to make learning an easier and more enjoyable experience for them. Evidence of ontological authenticity was gained from their testimonies of how they had come to appreciate and comprehend issues that they previously failed to understand. This was done through the use of on-line journals and my own documented diary as we progressed through the study.
- Educative authenticity was also validated through the use of this audit trail to record individual thoughts and events as testimony that the students understood the constructions of others different from themselves. They did not necessarily have to like or agree with how others relate to their classroom environment but just be aware that their peers (and others outside their group, such as their teachers and parents) may see things differently to themselves. This is an aspect of life that SLD people in general find hard to do.
- Catalytic authenticity refers to how action is stimulated and facilitated by the research study - the ability to put theory into action. This is more likely to be willingly carried out if the students are involved in negotiating any changes in their classroom environment that they require. A systematic follow-up to assess action and any change resulting from the study will be necessary within a given timeline to validate the catalytic authenticity of the project.
- Tactical authenticity provides the participants with the empowerment to act through being given the opportunity to contribute towards the research and help shape its focus and strategies throughout the course of the research study. If we (the students, teachers and me as the participant researcher) all feel that we have had a significant role in the process and that we are all more skilled in understanding and utilising power and negotiation techniques than before the study, then tactical authenticity will have been achieved.
I like to do my writing a bit on the computer and a bit on the paper so that I can write down a
bit on the paper and then type it up and then delete it - it's easier to delete on the computer.
I'd brainstorm on paper and planning and then do the draft on the computer - it's quicker.
But I keep muddling up where all the keys are.
Kirsty, aged 11
Students need to learn keyboard skills as soon as they start school, if not sooner, so that they learn the correct fingering, spacing and punctuation from the beginning - before they get into bad habits.