Class Sizes and Student Performance Research Methodology

Research Methodology

Research Problem

Due to the economic downturn, the State of Georgia’s legislature passed a bill that eliminated size limits for the class, including both regular and special education students. In addition to the state’s change, Henry County has made a new policy that affects social studies and science classes in middle schools. The county no longer has co-taught or collaborative classes for these subjects regarding special education. The special education students are given paraprofessional support instead of fully certified special educators.

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The focus of the research will center on one of Henry County’s twelve middle schools, Ola Middle School (OMS), in McDonough, GA. McDonough is a suburban community located twenty-five miles southeast of Atlanta, Georgia. The middle school serves students in the age bracket of eleven to fourteen/fifteen in grade levels 6, 7, and 8 with approximately one thousand two hundred and seventy-eight students. With the increased class sizes and OMS having the highest percentage of students with disabilities in the county it will impact the overall learning of every student is not only the social studies classes but all classes (AOL, 2008). The research will also build on previous research that suggests the benefit of teaching in smaller classes for higher academic achievement.

Statement

Increased class sizes to include more special education students while only providing paraprofessional support of special education students within social studies classes will impact overall student performance.

Instruments

The mixed-method approach to research will be the most appropriate way to evaluate the situation. The qualitative research will be used to establish the educators’ viewpoint and assessment of the impact of these changes on the student’s performance. It will be done through a quantitative questionnaire based on a Likert scale. Likert scales are the most common instruments in research. Using this approach to evaluating the data, students are to be asked different questions that measure the extent of agreement and disagreement.

The scale under consideration always leaves the students the right to be neutral if there are an uneven number of choices like it has been proposed by the questionnaire. It should also be stressed that the research is primarily based on a Likert item, but not on a Likert scale that presupposes either positive or negative replies to statements. In our case, the research involves a five-level Likert item.

Strongly agree

  1. Agree.
  2. Neither agree nor disagree.
  3. Disagree.
  4. Strongly disagree (Ary et al., 2009, p. 209).

The benefit of using this instrument for evaluating the survey is much more beneficial than using scales. In particular, the Likert scale provides more distortion to results if there are no chances to abstain from taking a particular side, which contributes to the reliability and validity of the presented research. Hence, a 5-points scale will assist students in measuring the statements from strongly agree to strongly disagree answers. Such a scale will be used to respond to class size and special education statements. The general information questionnaire will be based on a multiple-choice approach where five different variants are given to choose from.

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Another instrument to be used in the research is individual interviews and observation allowing the research to be more objective. In such a case, the interviews should be based on psychological questions where it is purposeful to avoid direct questions. The observations should also be latent to keep the research pure and valid.

Data Analysis

The questionnaire will be implemented to establish if middle school teachers agree or disagree with what the change from special educators to paraprofessional support for students with disabilities in social studies classes while class sizes increased and if this change has impacted student performance. Teachers will be given an informed consent/acknowledgment form to fill out before any research will be conducted.

Participants will also be informed that their responses to the questionnaire will not be shared with others, but used for research data only as the surveys are anonymous. All of their information will be kept confidential throughout the entire research process.

Raw Data Analysis

While choosing a multiple-choice questionnaire, the instrument implementation is aimed at gathering qualitative data that will be further processed and turned into percentages and statistical data. When applying to a Likert item, the research seeks to collect gather quantitative data as well, but the results will be more general. About this perspective, the approximate results should reveal to define the percentage of paraprofessional specialists and special educations to prove that the former groups dominate in number. The quantitative data collected from a Likert item will allow identifying the extent to which the class size and special education issue influence students’ performance.

Procedure

There will be 16 social studies teachers, 16 special educators, and 12 paraprofessionals participating in the study. Each participant will all be given an equal opportunity to respond to the questionnaire via survey monkey. They will be given the same questionnaire, which includes 12 questions. The questions will be divided into three sections: general information, questions about class sizes, and questions about special education.

The general question will be presented to establish the area of expertise of the person completing the survey, such as education level, area/s of certification, current teaching position, and years of service. While quantitative research methods will shed light on the numerical aspects in which student’s performance is judged and to what extent actual class sizes have increased. This will be accomplished through researching data in the school’s demographic files and class size information.

Information to be collected includes changes in class sizes from each school year to the next, increases of special education students in said classrooms, and academic scores of classes (not student-specific). The third form of data to be collected will be in the form of interviews. Interviews of 6 individuals will be performed.

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A Likert scale survey will be created and collected through surveymonkey.com. The online survey machine site will allow a researcher to enter specific questions and answering methods. A hyperlink to the survey will be included in an email distributed to the participants at OMS. The responses will be tabulated and the results will be forwarded to my email account for analysis. The six individual interviews will be by two regular educators, two special educators, and two paraprofessionals each from different grade levels within the group.

The statistical data will be charted on a graph to compare the changes in class sizes over time. Both regular education and special education student numbers will be recorded and evaluated. The instruments used for the statistical data collection will be basic: pencil and paper. The information obtained from the school’s records that are relevant to the topic will be recorded and analyzed. The chart of the data will then be created using a computer.

The procedure will also involve interviews and observations. Hence, there will be a set of questions that a student should answer, and the researcher’s role is to deduce the necessary information from these questions. The observations will be conducted weekly in order not to attract much attention from the students.

Cluster sampling from one of the twelve middle schools within the given district will work well with methodology because it provides a more manageable and realistically workable group. The cluster will include general education teacher and paraprofessionals working within social studies classrooms with a student with disabilities and all remaining special educators who have worked in co-taught social studies classrooms, excluding me, within the past five years at OMS for 6th, 7th and 8th grades (School Matters, 2008). The target audience for the project will not only include the participating educators but also administrators, department chairs, entire OMS faculty.

My role as the researcher will be to identify the problem area and establish the initial question. Then background information was collected and analyzed through an extensive literature review before a hypothesis could be fully stated in regards to how the change in classroom settings has impacted students. Data will need to be collected in the forms of teacher/paraprofessional surveys, grade performance, and class size changes for three years. Once the data has all been collected, it will have to be analyzed and interpreted.

The bias that is foreseen relates to the fact that I am a special educator first and a social studies content teacher second. As a special educator, I feel students with learning disabilities need full co-taught or collaborative settings for all academic subjects; not just math and language arts. Reading comprehension or processing deficiencies are not limited to two subjects but span all areas and aspects of the student’s education. I will have to be especially mindful of not looking for data to support my theory in this matter and focus on the facts the data is providing.

The information that will be collected through the three data sources will describe the teacher’s perspective regarding changes in services and delivery methods and how these changes have impacted the students and their academic performance. The data will be collected and then this researcher will use a spreadsheet to compile the answers to the questionnaire. Once the data is completed, the researcher will compile it using spreadsheets. Results from the questionnaires will be tallied and calculated into percentages. Responses will be displayed using various tables and graphs. Information will be both lexis and numerical for a more complete picture of the state of the learning environment.

Survey Questions

General Information

  • What is your current education level?
    • Doctoral;
    • Specialist;
    • Master’s;
    • Bachelor’s;
    • Some college.
  • What is your current position at OMS?
    • Gen Ed Teacher;
    • Special Ed Teacher;
    • Sp Education Paraprofessional.
  • How many years have you been in the education profession?
    • 16+;
    • 15-12;
    • 11-8;
    • 7-4;
    • 3-0.
  • For the remaining sections, the following scale will be used:
    • Strongly agree-SA;
    • Agree-A;
    • Neither agree nor disagree-N;
    • Disagree-D;
    • Strongly Disagree-SD.

Class size information

  • Larger class sizes contribute to a decrease in student achievement.
    • SA;
    • A;
    • N;
    • D;
    • SD.
  • Smaller class sizes allow more time for teachers to spend individually with students, which can increase student achievement.
    • SA;
    • A;
    • N;
    • D;
    • SD.
  • Student achievement is not affected by class size.
    • SA;
    • A;
    • N;
    • D;
    • SD.

Special education information

  • The change from co-taught social studies classes to paraprofessional support classes for students with learning disabilities has not changed the overall student’s academic performance.
    • SA;
    • A;
    • N;
    • D;
    • SD.
  • I believe students with learning disabilities are best served in Social student’s classes with paraprofessional support instead of certified special educators.
    • SA;
    • A;
    • N;
    • D;
    • SD.
  • Increased numbers of special education students within social studies classes affect student achievement.
    • SA;
    • A;
    • N;
    • D;
    • SD.
  • The increased responsibility of the general educator, without a special educator in the classroom, has impacted the performance of special education students.
    • SA;
    • A;
    • N;
    • D;
    • SD.
  • The increased responsibility of the general educator, without a special educator in the classroom, has impacted the performance of regular education students.
    • SA;
    • A;
    • N;
    • D;
    • SD.
  • The increased ratio of special education students to general education students has negatively impacted student performance.
    • SA;
    • A;
    • N;
    • D;
    • SD.

Reference List

AOL, (2008). AOL Real estate. Web.

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Ary, D., Cheser, L., Razavieh, A. and Sorensen, C. (2009). Introduction to Research in Education. US: Cengage Learning.

School Matters, (2008). School matters: Standards and poor’s. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, January 18). Class Sizes and Student Performance Research Methodology. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/class-sizes-and-student-performance-research-methodology/

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"Class Sizes and Student Performance Research Methodology." StudyCorgi, 18 Jan. 2021, studycorgi.com/class-sizes-and-student-performance-research-methodology/.

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