What is Qualitative Research?
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Merriam (2009) in her book “Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation” explains that qualitative research is a type of exploratory research than in that it tries to examine and explain particular aspects of a scenario through an in-depth method of examination (Merriam 2009, 3-21). While it is applicable to numerous disciplines, it is normally applied to instances which attempt to explain human behaviour and the varying factors that influence and govern such behaviours into forming what they are at present (Merriam 2009, 3-21). Thus, it can be stated that qualitative research focuses more on exploring various aspects of an issue, developing an understanding of phenomena within an appropriate context and answering questions inherent to the issue being examined. Some of the types of qualitative research are as follows:
- Focus Groups
- Case Study
- Narrative Analysis
When examining the article of Farber (2006) in conducting qualitative research, it can be seen that a qualitative research design attempts to answer the question “why” (Farber 2006, pp. 367-375). For example, instead of trying to determine the number of obese people within a given sample, a qualitative research design would attempt to answer what particular behavioural or social attributes cause people to become obese in the first place. As such, a qualitative research design attempts to be more exploratory in its approach rather than the more “black and white” nature that can be found in quantitative methods of examination.
What is being examined?
The attitude of multicultural English language teachers on teaching disengaged Arab students has raised a lot of attention from researchers due to its potential in affecting the education of future generations. As such, various researchers have taken a keen interest in how disengagement of students would affect teachers and how the affected teachers would respond to the disengaged students. In this examination, the primary focus would be on qualitative analysis done by previous scholars. This study seeks to identify the best qualitative methods for research on perspectives and attitudes of multicultural English language teachers on teaching English to disengaged Arab students.
The concept of intercultural communication is an important starting point when it comes to researching the perspective and attitudes of English language teachers on teaching English to disengaged Arab students. The reason behind this assumption lies in the fact that the inherent culture of a group that is being taught to determines how each individual student encodes a particular message, the specific medium that they utilize in order to transmit such a message and finally the means by which such a message is interpreted. By understanding how ESL (English as a Secondary Language) teachers perceive such a necessity within their teaching practices, a researcher will be able to determine whether current practices, attitudes and perspectives are in line with what is necessary to actually successfully teach a foreign student the English language. Without such an understanding in place, it is likely that any educational progress would be slow, and in the case of disengaged Arab students, the level of disengagement would increase even more.
It is based on this that this paper will be arranged via the types of a qualitative instrument utilized in various studies in order to show which qualitative method would be the most ideal in examining the identifying the best qualitative methods for research on perspectives and attitudes of multicultural English language teachers on teaching English to disengaged Arab students.
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Possible Methods of Analysis
A survey-based qualitative study works through a sampling technique wherein a small segment of the population is utilized in order for a statistical inference to be made on the population as a whole (Merriam 2009, 55-270). The Sercu (2005) study was chosen as an initial starting point due to its focus on intercultural communication. The main aim of the Sercu (2005) study on the intercultural investigation was to “enquire into how the current professional self-concepts of Flemish teachers of English, French and German relate to the envisaged profile of the intercultural foreign language teacher and into the extent to which their teaching practice can be characterized as directed towards the attainment of intercultural communicative competence instead of towards communicative competence” (Sercu 2005, 87 – 105).
Basically, this study attempted to determine the perspective of Flemish language teachers towards their current teaching styles and whether it was in line with the necessary competencies needed to impart proper intercultural communicative competence to their students. The inherent value of the results from this study lies in the fact that the inherent culture of a group that is being taught to determines how each individual student encodes a particular message, the specific medium that they utilize in order to transmit such a message and finally the means by which such a message is interpreted. By understanding how ESL (English as a Secondary Language) teachers perceive such a necessity within their teaching practices, a researcher will be able to determine whether current practices, attitudes and perspectives are in line with what is necessary to actually successfully teach a foreign student the English language.
The method of analysis the Sercu (2005) study utilized in this endeavour was primarily that of a survey wherein an electronic questionnaire was utilized with a series of 5 to 10 point scale items related to the knowledge, attitudes and skills of the teachers in relation to their present professional self-concepts and their present culture and language teaching practice. Merriam (2009) explains that using a survey enables a researcher to understand a particular population by making a statistical inference through sampling (Merriam 2009, 55-270). As it can be seen in the Sercu (2005) study, having surveys use 5 to 10 point scale items is an effective means of gathering data and opinions on specific points of interest in a manner that can be easily quantifiable.
Utilizing this method, a researcher can then compare and contrast various aspects of the research results collected and come up with conclusions that are effectively backed up by quantified data Merriam 2009, 55-270. This is particularly advantageous in cases where numerous factors need to be examined and then correlated into succinct answers that can be easily understood Merriam 2009, 55-270. Going back to the Sercu (2005) study, it was seen that the questionnaire then had them rank phrases such as “teachers need an adequate socio-cultural knowledge of the target language community” or “my pupils are knowledgeable about the culture of the foreign language I teach”. Overall, when examining the qualitative method of research utilized in this paper, it proved to be an effective means of evaluating Flemish language teachers and their perspectives and attitudes towards teaching English.
The effectiveness of the 5 point scale system can also be seen in the case of the Iashnova (2004) study; in it, teachers were asked to answer two main questions: “What do you consider to be the most important in the teaching and upbringing process?” and “What do you see as the end goal of your pedagogical activity?” (Iashnova 2004, pp. 15-22). The relationship between the Iashnova (2004) and that of the identification of the best qualitative methods for research on the perspectives and attitudes of multicultural teachers is that the Iashnova (2004) focuses on the perspectives and attitudes of teachers regarding the proper way in which children should be taught in school and what they perceive to be the most appropriate outcome of such a teaching process (Iashnova 2004, pp. 15-22).
Such a style of research is quite similar to the study that the researcher will attempt to accomplish; however, with a distinct emphasis placed on teaching English to disengaged Arab students. Further examination of the study revealed that another survey was conducted. However, in this instance, what was examined was the general attitude that students were bringing towards the learning process and their reaction to their teachers. To accomplish this, 350 students within grades three and four were asked to complete the phrase “I am going to school in order to…..” as well as were asked what they thought about their teachers (Iashnova 2004, pp. 15-22). The end result showed a distinct connection between general social attitudes and the desire of children to conform to what was expected of them.
Comparison between Surveys and Interviews
When comparing the work done by Iashnova (2004) and that advocated for by Merriam (2009) the survey-based method utilized by Iashnova (2004) can be considered somewhat “sloppy” given that it would be hard to quantify results that are based on random responses, the end results were somewhat impressive given that they in effect showed the perspectives of students. Such a qualitative method could be potentially be utilized by the researcher wherein teachers could be asked to answer certain phrases and questions based on their own personal opinion rather than a predetermined sequence of listed answers created by the researcher beforehand. Such a method of examination is somewhat similar to that advocated by Merriam (2009) in her book’s section on ethnography wherein a researcher immerses himself/herself into the culture and environment that he/she is attempting to examine (Merriam 2009, 27 – 35).
What must be understood is that teachers themselves have their own internal culture when it comes to teaching and engaging students and this differs significantly depending on the country, region and type of school they are teaching at. This is especially true when it comes to instances where multicultural teachers are concerned since the internal culture they have is significantly different than that of other teachers within the same school. As such, it is at times necessary to conduct some method of examination wherein a researcher is able to more directly experience the attitudes and perspectives and teachers. The inherent problem though with utilizing a survey, as stated by Merriam (2009), is that the sheer potential randomness of the responses could result in a haphazard study that would need to find some way of categorizing random responses in a way that can be properly analyzed, a task which could take a considerable amount of time depending on the number of respondents utilized. It is based on this that interviews represent a possible alternative method of examination that can be pursued.
As explained by Kvale and Brinkmann (2008) interviews allow the researcher to draw on multiple sources of information in order to explain a particular subject or problem and, as such, allows for the creation of a far more succinct explanation of actions and events since it comes from multiple sources instead of single primary sources (Kvale and Brinkmann 2008, pp. 1-57). As such, from their perspective, interviews allow researchers to more directly analyze the subjects they are examining since an interview allows for a certain degree of “give and take” wherein while the interview is being conducted a certain degree of feedback is given by the research subject involving not only that topic being researched but other aspects that the researcher may have missed (Kvale and Brinkmann 2008, pp. 81-151). It is the reciprocal nature of interviews as well as the fact that the research is more able to directly observe the reactions of the respondents and react accordingly that make interviews a decidedly superior method when it comes to instances where a researcher is trying to develop a more in-depth perspective about a particular population that is being examined (Kvale and Brinkmann 2008, pp. 201-267).
The Poveda et al. (2007) study is unique in the sense that it combines both recruitment and semi-structured interviews in order to gather the research data necessary for the study (Poveda et al. 2007, pp. 423-441). This particular study focused on the afterschool activity of literature devoted children and how this subsequently impacted their language development skills. Data collection by Poveda et al. (2007) was done by having the research participants fill out a variety of small surveys, give photographs of their daily lives and was followed by a series of semi-structured interviews which included both the children and their parents (Poveda et al. 2007, pp. 423-441). What must be understood is that in a study that focuses primarily on recruitment and semi-structured interviews, it is usually the case that the recruitment process is largely informal (as seen within the study) while the data that is collected through the semi-structured interviews are rarely considered “academic”. It is based on this that a research process that focuses on a combination of recruitment and semi-structured interviews is usually best for the collection of the personal views of the respondents rather than information with strong academic merit (Poveda et al. 2007, pp. 423-441).
Another potential avenue of approach when it comes to utilizing an appropriate qualitative study in investigating the research topic is the use of a combination of open-ended survey questions and structured interviews. Such a tactic can be seen in the study of Zan & Goh (2011) which focused on investigating the difficulties that teachers encounter in teaching oral English in higher education in English as a foreign language (EFL) context (Zan & Goh 2011, pp. 333-345). The advantage of utilizing open-ended survey questions and semi-structured interviews in a research study is that it allows the research subjects to give a variety of opinions, arguments and generally accepted notions regarding a particular research subject without having the same restrictions found in structured and close-ended survey questions. As such, while this at times results in responses that are harder to categorize, it does enable a researcher to better understand issues from the perspective of those who constantly experience them and, as a result, enables the creation of far more accurate conclusions regarding the various problems that are occurring.
Such a case can be seen in the Zan & Goh (2011) study whose findings showed that teachers suffered from a series of problems not limited to little pedagogical knowledge, low self-efficacy, lack of sufficient teaching resources as overly large class sizes which restricts the ability of teachers to teach well (Zan & Goh 2011, pp. 333-345). These are all a direct result of the views garnered from the open-ended surveys and structured interviews and, as such, shows the effectiveness of this particular method in utilizing the personal opinions of research subjects into developing an effective method of examination. When it comes to any qualitative research study, it is usually immensely helpful if a similar study to the one that is currently being researched exists in order to examine the arguments, process and methodological procedures that were utilized so that any possible problems that were identified in that study could be avoided.
In the case of research on the perspectives and attitudes of multicultural English language teachers on teaching English to disengaged Arab students, the rather recent Sekharan et al. (2012) article “ICT and Teachers’ Attitude in English Language Teaching” is an ideal starting point to identify what research arguments, questions and procedures to utilize. Dealing primarily with ICT (internet and computer technology), the Sekharan et al. (2012) study utilized an interview-based method of examination to check on the attitudes of 60 teachers towards the adoption of ICT in their English classes (Sekharan et al. 2012, pp. 8-12). Overall, the study was able to show that teachers did indeed have a satisfactory attitude towards the adoption of ICT in their classes. The importance of this study is that it delves into a research methodology that is quite close to that of the topic of the researcher. As such, it acts as an ideal starting point for research along the same “vein” as the topic currently being examined. By first reading the Sekharan et al. (2012) study and examining the veracity of the research methods utilized, it would be possible to effectively design a study along the same lines in order to examine the perspectives and attitudes of multicultural teachers.
Surveys – Part 2
Another possible route that should be taken into consideration when conducting a survey type of study can be seen in the case of Sekharan et al. (2009). In this study, the researcher attempted to explore the impact of literature components in stimulating students’ interest in learning English (Sekharan et al. 2009, pp. 114-121). This was done through an investigation that assessed their perceptions and attitudes towards literature and whether its incorporation in the secondary school syllabus helped to improve the students’ grasp of the language (Sekharan et al. 2009, pp. 114-121). In order to accomplish this type of assessment instead of the questionnaires being given to the teachers, what was done was a slight shift in the type of research subject that was evaluated wherein the students themselves were the primary respondents of the questionnaire which evaluated their overall capability based on the literary components they were exposed to. Through the study, it was determined that perceived learning literature as an important component in their styles, yet the success of the internalization of the literature depended on the teaching style and approach of the teacher.
This, in particular, is relevant to the investigation on the perspectives and attitudes of multicultural teachers since it shows the necessity of utilizing questionnaires in examining the impact of the teaching styles of the teachers on the overall level of engagement of the students. Other examples of effective survey use can be seen in the case of Mak & Chik (2011) wherein the authors examined 324 mixed-ability Grade 7 Hong Kong ESL students and 37 ESL secondary school teachers with the different background. The main focal point of this particular study was to examine the differences in perceived approaches to learning and teaching English and, as such, a comparison between the results given by the students and that of the teachers was conducted in order to determine the impact of various perceptions and attitudes towards the practice of teaching (Mak & Chik 2011, pp. 195-218). The result of the study revealed that teachers with different qualifications and number of years of teaching experience had significantly different performance levels on the ITA (Information Transmission Approach) and on collaborative approaches to teaching English (Mak & Chik 2011, pp. 195-218). Such an aspect can actually be utilized when it comes to examining multicultural teachers, however, in such a case what will be examined will not be the years of experience, rather, one possible route would be the cultural affiliation of such teachers and how this impacts their method of teaching English and its acceptance by disengaged Arab students.
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Based on an examination of the types of qualitative studies by Merriam (2009), another possible alternative approach that could be pursued is the use of narrative analysis in presenting information to readers. Merriam (2009) states that narrative analysis is actually one of the oldest methods of analysis that makes use of experiences and methods of communication with others in order to better understand the various facets of particular situations and external events (Merriam 2009, 32-50). As explained by Merriam (2009) this method of qualitative analysis utilizes a variety of methods of examination, not limited to biological, psychological or linguistic approaches and, as such, can utilize several different perspectives in order to explain a particular issue (Merriam 2009, pp. 33-50).
Such an approach can be seen in the case of the article “Beyond Content: How Teachers Manage Classrooms to Facilitate Intellectual Engagement for Disengaged Students” wherein Schussler (2009) interspaces her views with that of the student’s utilized in the study in order to identify specific problems in intellectual engagement and what could possibly be done to resolve them (Schussler 2009, pp. 114-121). This particular approach is somewhat similar to the case of Iashnova (2004). However, the main difference lies in the method in which the data is presented. Within the Iashnova (2004) study, student responses are at least quantified to the extent that the author utilizes specific percentile-based information in order to place student responses under specific categories. This is not the approach utilized by Schussler (2009). Instead, she combines direct quotes, views and perspectives from students and blends them with various types of academic sources in order to create a written output that is best described as an academic narrative since it seemingly seems to be an elaboration on the experiences of students when it comes to academic engagement and through such narratives helps to indicate what the specific problems and failings are in the processes teachers use when it comes to managing intellectual engagement within their classrooms (Schussler 2009, pp. 114-121).
Based on the approach of Schussler (2009) when it comes to qualitative research, it can be stated that the means she utilized in her research lacks the level of academic veracity shown in research studies that utilize quantitative-based approaches in explaining data. However, her approach shows a degree of insight that is lacking in quantitative studies since it shows information directly from the perspective of students and, as a result, feels far more intriguing as compared to mere rote data. Due to the approach necessary in researching the perspectives and attitudes of multicultural English teachers, the Schussler (2009) study may seem to be the best approach to utilize so far in terms of the way in which it is able to present the views of the respondents in a more direct fashion. One of the more unusual types of narrative-based qualitative methods of research can be seen in research papers which focus on delivering recommendations on how to proceed on particular issues or problems based on the researcher’s personal perspective on the subject.
From a certain standpoint, the topic “Identifying the Best Qualitative Methods for Research on Perspectives and Attitudes of Multicultural English Language Teachers on Teaching English to Disengaged Arab Students” can actually be considered a type of narrative-based qualitative study since the researcher in effect recommends various strategies and qualitative methods to utilize when it comes to researching a particular topic. One example of a narrative based paper can be seen in the Chen (2011) study which focuses on recommended strategies by the author to improve the listening comprehension of non-native English students (Huaru 2011, pp. 68-71). While the article itself is rather short and uses very few literary references, it does show the general format that will be utilized when it comes to the creation of the study on identifying the best qualitative methods for research on multicultural English language teachers (Huaru 2011, pp. 68-71).
One of the oldest forms of qualitative narrative studies comes in the form of a critique which focuses on highlighting the views and opinions of the author against either another expert within the same field or against an idea/theory within their field of specialization. When it comes to a critique, it is normally the case that a particular method or way of doing things is dissected, its individual parts scrutinized and its end result evaluated in order to show either its strength or weakness. This particular type of qualitative study is more common in the social sciences; however, it does happen to encompass various aspects of education as well as Merriam 2009, 32-50. Such a case can be seen in the article “Let’s Talk About Talk for Learning: Oracy and the New Nation Curriculum” wherein the author focuses on the debate over teaching Standard English exclusively versus appropriating non-standard dialects to encourage student engagement.
The author, in this case, criticizes the teaching of Standard English without taking into consideration non-standard dialects and how teachers should take into consideration the local culture before teaching anything related to English. Such a facet is actually rather important given its similarity to the main research topic of the researcher involving disengaged Arab students. Going back to the methodology utilized, it can be seen that the author layers his critique with academic literature and his own personal opinions. While the amount of literature utilized in this article is rather sparse, it does help to support the critique created by Coultas (2012) and helps to further enhance the paper. Overall, it can be stated that a critique based method of analysis is ideal for any researcher looking to showcase the inherent weaknesses/problems in the current way of doing things and what appropriate steps must be taken in order to resolve such an issue.
Comparison between Narrative Analysis and Document Analysis
Merriam (2009) explains that narrative research hand combines direct quotes, views and perspectives from the research subject utilizing biological, psychological or linguistic approaches (though it can, of course, encompass even more approaches) and blends them with various types of academic sources in order to create a written output that is best described as an academic narrative since it seemingly seems to be an elaboration on the experiences of those writing and those being examined (Merriam 2009, pp 32-100). It is somewhat of an informal method of presentation. However, it is an ideal method if the purpose of the research is to showcase the views and experiences of both the author and the research subjects through the lens of a variety of academic methods of examination (Merriam 2009, pp 32-100). In comparison, when looking at chapter 7 of her book, Merriam (2009) elaborates on document-based research by stating that document-based methods of analysis primarily concerns itself with an examination of various academic texts in order to draw conclusions on a particular topic Merriam 2009, pp 139-165.
While each method of analysis does have its own level of strengths such as in the case of a narrative analysis that enables a researcher to utilize cultural and linguistic approaches in order to examine various types of data, it should be noted that a document analysis that is far easier to do and has a higher degree of academic veracity as compared to narrative-based research which can often result in mistaken conclusions Merriam 2009, pp 32-165. The fact remains that when it comes to the type of research needed when examining the attitudes and perspectives of multicultural teachers a document analysis based research is far more preferable since it relies on several views and opinions from various academic researchers in order to create a means of comparison that would yield results that show some similarity when it comes to particular issues Merriam 2009, pp 135-165. The reason behind this is connected to the fact that observing teachers within their classroom environments may actually result in them displaying attitudes which may or may not be how they really are since they know they are being observed. In the case of document analysis, the researcher can examine numerous perspectives from other researchers to see if there is some sort of overarching theme among multicultural teachers in their teaching methods and whether it affects the level of engagement among their students.
Despite the effective methodology shown by the Sercu (2005) study, another possible method would be to rely almost entirely on document analysis. As explained by Merriam (2009), a research study that relies almost entirely on academic literature without other methods of external data collection runs the risk of being confined primarily to the results exhibited by the research studies utilized Merriam 2009, pp 135-165. This results in a study are severely constrained in terms of the number of factors that it is capable of encompassing especially in situations where the research subject that is being examined is focused on a narrowly specific topic Merriam 2009, pp 135-165. On the other hand, relying purely on academic literature in order to investigate a particular study does have its advantages since it reduces the amount of time need during the initial stages of preliminary research and enables the research to more effectively justify the results presented by indicating that they had already been verified by previous researchers Merriam 2009, pp 135-165.
One example of such a strategy in the plan can be seen in the Olson (2012) study which focused on barriers and bridges to effectively learning the English language (Olson 2012, pp. 26-32). The primary method utilized by this study focused on utilizing a qualitative method which utilized information collected from 25 different articles on ESL teaching and learning in order to discover barriers to teaching English and what methods were implemented in order to address them (Olson 2012, pp. 26-32). Taking into consideration the needs of the study on the perspectives and attitudes of multicultural English language teachers, this particular qualitative research method seems to be the most appealing so far given that the method of data collection is simple, effective as well as efficient while at the same time staying with the necessary level expected from a PhD level study.
In the Barton & Dean (2011) study, “The Future of English: One Subject, Many Voices”, the authors attempt to conceptualize the future of teaching the English language within Great Britain by comparing 28 articles from various teachers, researchers and consultants in the field of education. This is a classic example of document analysis since it shows how this method of analysis can be utilized to examine dozens of different viewpoints regarding a particular subject. Barton and Dean (2011) were able to show that teaching English to students should be re-conceptualized within the broader field of rhetoric and communication arts (Barton and Dean 2011, pp.15-44). What this means is that teaching English should not be primarily limited to communicating the methods by which a person can effectively communicate in the language, rather, it is also necessary to teach it in such a way that it can be understood within the appropriate context of the person/culture that it is being taught to. The advantage of utilizing individual article comparisons when presenting data is that it helps to show in succession the views of various experts within the field of English language tutelage and helps readers to understand prevailing opinions on how a particular subject is to be taught.
Case Study Analysis
The article “Flagged for Success” by Jackson (2010) differentiates itself from the other research methods that have been presented so far by utilizing three distinct case studies as a method of analysis in order to examine the system the author devised whose purpose is to help students cope with her 11th-grade curriculum (Jackson 2010, p. 18). Various research guides define a case study as a type of research method that investigates various issues, problems and phenomena within their real-life context and should be considered a type of intensive analysis that places a distinct emphasis on developmental factors and how they relate to particular fields of research (i.e. education, psychology etc.). Within the study, it can be seen that the researcher separated the 3 case studies into three distinct categories in order to support her research:
- a student that is disrupted from his studies at home
- a girl that is disengaged and uncooperative with the type of lessons being given
- a student in severe academic trouble
By presenting three distinct cases, the author was able to highlight the types of problems that a teacher can come to expect and the possible responses that could be implemented (Jackson 2010, p. 18). A similar strategy could possibly be implemented by a researcher on a study on the attitudes and perspectives of multicultural teachers wherein instead of a survey or questionnaire. The researcher could instead focus on relatively few numbers of teachers and make a comparative case study analysis of each one. It should be noted though that depending on the type of case study at hand, it can vary in between qualitative and quantitative research. However, as seen within the context of the Jackson (2010) study, the type of case study analysis in this particular period of type is squarely within the realm of qualitative research.
Comparing Case Studies and Focus Groups
Stake (1995) in his book, “The Art of Case Study Research”, explains that case studies are primarily utilized when a unique character/research subject is being examined wherein it attempts to answer “how” or “why” a particular individual or set of people (though limited in number) act the way they do (Stake, 1995, pp. 1-35). As such, it is an ideal means of identifying the attitudes and perspectives of a select group of individuals; however, it cannot be utilized as a means of examination when it comes to large groups of individuals. This is where focus groups enter into the picture; focus groups, as explained by Rodriguez et al. (2011), are a qualitative method which utilizes the personal opinions, perspectives and the general attitudes and approaches research subjects to have towards a particular point of interest (Rodriguez et al. 2011, pp. 400-417).
For example, in cases where a researcher is only after an examination of a select number of individuals (no fewer than ten but no greater than 20) then a focus group-based method of examination is what should be utilized. When looking at the two methods of examination, it is usually the case that a researcher must ask himself/herself how in-depth does the research need to be based on its needs. As stated by Stake (1995), case studies usually focus on individual unique cases and perform an in-depth examination on such individuals in order to discover why the act in a particular way Stake, 1995, pp. 1-35). When applied to the case of multicultural teachers what would occur is that the researcher would in effect attempt to conduct an in-depth examination of individual teachers in order to determine their attitudes and perspectives regarding disengaged Arab students and how such factors impact their teaching style. The inherent problem, though with this particular means of examination is that it, in effect, constrains the ability of the researcher to examine multiple perspectives from various multicultural teachers. Such a case can be resolved through the use of a focus group which would enable the researcher to more effectively examine the attitudes and perspectives of teachers since the methodological basis of a focus group is direct inquiry through questioning which is not necessarily in-depth but does allow a better means of examining the views of a group as a whole (Rodriguez et al. 2011, pp. 400-417).
One of the more interesting types of alternatives to the survey-based study seen in the Sercu (2005) and Iashnova (2004) studies can be seen in the Elliott and Paige (2010) study which focused examining the disengagement found in middle school students when it came to learning science. The qualitative method utilized by Elliott and Paige (2010) revolved around the use of focus groups as the primary means of data collection. Each focus group was composed of an assortment of Year 9 students with varying types of demographics such as race, age, gender etc. Each student within the focus group was asked to relay their general opinion towards the subject, the difficulties they had with it and what factors resulted in their disengagement. Overall, the authors were able to determine the primary reasons encompassing student disengagement in science in a rather straightforward fashion.
The inherent problem, though with the research methodology utilized was that while the authors were able to utilize an effective means of data collection among the chosen respondents, there was an insufficient amount of academic referencing utilized. This casts serious doubt over the veracity of the claims made by the authors and, as such, is not a recommended method that can be effectively utilized within the researcher’s study. On the other hand, it should be noted that focus group-based methods are not all like the Elliott and Paige (2010) study. Other types of focus group-based methods of examination utilize a combination of strong academic literature and input based methods of examination in order to produce a research outcome that is highly credible. Such a method of analysis can be seen in the case of the Eisouh (2012) study which attempted to examine the two linguistic levels of production and recognition in the case of students within Jordan University (Elsouh 2012, p. 158). This involved a select group of research subjects wherein they are asked to accomplish a set of tests in order to determine their overall level of performance versus a predetermined level that is acknowledged as the “average” rate of accomplishment of the testing procedures that they are being subjected to.
The methodological reasoning behind the testing procedures was to elicit some data for using or recognizing these verbs by major English students and non-specialist students whose language of study was also English (Elsouh 2012, p. 158). What must be understood is that this particular research procedure is significantly different from that of the survey-based analysis that has already been tackled within this paper. Surveys usually deal with the opinions of the research subjects being analyzed while this type of focus group-based research deals with their level of performance based on the type of questions they are given. While it may seem that such a testing procedure is inapplicable in the case of evaluating the perspective and attitude of multicultural teachers, such an opinion is actually fallacious. There is any number of tests that can be given whose basis in psychology would help to create a more “in-depth” examination of the teachers and, as such, shows the value of this particular type of analysis. Another interesting reference that should be taken into consideration when conducting an examination on the attitudes and perspectives of multicultural teachers can be seen in the article “Personality type, perceptual style preferences, and strategies for learning English as a foreign language” by Mei-Ling & Li-Mei (2012).
What is interesting about the article is that it focused on how an individual’s personality determines the style by which they prefer to learn and strategies that they utilize in order to internalize information. However, instead of utilizing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Perceptual Learning Preferences Survey and the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning in order to examine students, instead these surveys can be utilized in order to examine the multicultural teachers. By doing so, a researcher will be able to determine their personality type and how this impacts their attitude and perspective when it comes to teaching disengaged Arab students. Such a tactic should prove to be an effective means of correlating specific types of multicultural teachers with practices that are in line with what various experts agree should be utilized when it comes to teaching disengaged students.
One study that stands out in terms of its ability to help explain disengagement among Arab students can be seen in the Al-Bustan & Al-Bustan (2009) study which focused on investigating the attitudes and preferences towards learning English at Kuwait University. This study is particularly important as an initial reference point since it delves directly into the population that the research on the attitudes and perspectives of multicultural teachers is centred on (Al-Bustan & Al-Bustan 2009, pp. 454-463). While the results of the study are somewhat sparse and give a vague recommendation regarding the need to determine the attitudes and preferences of students in order to better teach them English, the study was effective in showing the various facets that contributed towards student disengagement (Al-Bustan & Al-Bustan 2009, pp. 454-463). This is particularly important when it comes to any analysis involving Arab student disengagement when it comes to English since it will help to determine what precise practices are being implemented within a particular school that are not compatible with the types of engagement practices that are needed in order to encourage students to learn English.
One possible iteration of a narrative analysis to choose from is when it comes in the form of journaling by a researcher. Characterized by its use of personal pronouns such as I, my, and me, this type of qualitative study focuses on presenting the views of the author in such a way that it focuses on delivering a combination of personal opinion and academic literature in order to explain a particular case, problem or subject. Such a case can be seen in the article “Opening the Doors of Perception Interdisciplinary English – an Exploration” by Stevens (2012), in this article the author attempts to argue in favour of the interconnectedness of all subjects with the language being the primary focus of a student’s educational experience (Stevens 2012, pp. 11-15). While this particular method of examination does bear some similarity to ordinary narrative analysis, the main difference between the two is that unlike a narrative analysis, journaling reads more like a story based on the perspective of the author.
It does not inter-space academic literature with the personal views of the author or research subjects in closed quotations; rather, it integrates the author’s personals opinions with the researched data in such a way that instead of the author’s opinions supporting the data, it is the data that is supporting the opinions of the researcher. Other examples of a journaling based method of examination can be seen in the article “When Students Don’t Play the Game” by Towbin (2010). In this particular case, it can be seen that the researcher takes on a far more “conversational” tone as compared to Stevens (2010) wherein the article makes not only large use of personal pronouns but also inserts various snippets of conversation between the researcher and the various research subjects she is investigating (Towbin 2010, p. 42). Before proceeding, it is important to note that this article investigates the various challenges in engaging students that teachers experience on an almost daily basis and helps to shed light on what processes can be utilized in order to increase the level of engagement experienced (Towbin 2010, p. 42).
Going back to explaining the process of journaling utilized in this particular case, it can clearly be seen that the author rarely references academic literature and instead chooses to focus on her professional experiences in order to elaborate on the various problems encountered. While this is perfectly fine when it comes to short articles focusing on personal views, it is not recommended for research articles that wish to have a certain degree of academic veracity and professionalism in the way in which they present their data. The mere fact that the article lacks sufficient academic views calls into question the various arguments and points of view that she brings up. It should be noted though that various academic guides indicate that journaling is a very informal type of qualitative study and have little in the way of mainstream acceptance given its overly opinionated method of conceptualization.
Comparison between Journaling and Observation
Merriam (2009) explains that in the case of observation-based research, the researcher in effect becomes an observer of a particular situation/event as it transpires then subsequently reflects on the event and draws conclusions based on the reflection that was created (Merriam 2009, 117-138). However, Merriam (2009) goes on to explain that the inherent problem with observation-based research is that while it is an effective means of qualitative analysis it does have shortcomings such as access to the research subject, proper scheduling, the potential for observational bias and other such problems that may occur Merriam 2009, 117-138).
On the other hand, the main difference when it comes to journaling and observation lies in the fact that journaling is primarily utilized the personal perspective of the researcher in order to explain various aspects of the subject/problem currently being examined while observation-based research does the complete opposite wherein the data utilized in the examination is based on the actions of the research subjects Merriam 2009, 27-138). It should be noted though that observation-based research is considered a more academically sound method of examination as compared to journaling, not only due to the fact that it is one of oldest methods of qualitative based research but also since in the case of journaling there is always the potential for significant research bias Merriam 2009, 117-138). It should also be noted that observation-based analysis allows the researcher to draw on multiple sources of information in order to explain a particular subject or problem and, as such, allows for the creation of a far more succinct explanation of actions and events since it comes from multiple sources instead of a single primary source.
Another potential qualitative research method to utilize comes in the form of observational analysis. In this particular case what occurs it that the researcher in effect becomes an observer of a particular situation/event as it transpires then subsequently reflects on the event and draws conclusions based on the reflection that was created Merriam 2009, 117-138. This style is often utilized in various areas of education as a means by which apprentice teachers observe teachers at work and make their own reflections and conclusions regarding the different teaching styles shown and how it conforms to their own method of teaching Merriam 2009, 117-138. Such a research method was actually seen in the study of Vacca-Rizopoulos & Nicoletti (2009) which focused on developing effective strategies for teaching Latino ESL students (Vacca-Rizopoulos & Nicoletti 2009, pp. 67-76). What is interesting about this particular type of research study is that it can also be utilized by a researcher in investigating the attitudes and perspectives of multicultural teachers. As it can be seen within the Vacca-Rizopoulos & Nicoletti (2009) study, academic literature and reflections made by the teachers were interspaced by personal opinions regarding their observations and, as such, this particular strategy could also be similarly utilized in order to observe multicultural teachers in action and see how their perspectives and attitudes towards disengaged Arab students impact the way in which they work.
Another type of observation analysis comes in the form of a longitudinal study which focuses on the observation of a particular population over a prolonged period of time. In the article “Preventing Student Disengagement and Keeping Students on the Graduation Path in Urban Middle-Grades Schools: Early Identification and Effective Interventions” by Balfanz, Herzog & Mac Iver (2007), readers are presented with a longitudinal analysis that followed 13,000 students from 1996 until 2004 that attempted to find early indicators of disengagement among middle school students which resulted in lower rates of graduation (Balfanz, Herzog & Mac Iver 2007, pp. 223-235).
The study was actually quite successful in this endeavour in that it was able to create predictive indicators involving poor attendance, misbehaviour, and course failures in sixth grade in order to identify 60% of the students who will not graduate from high school (Balfanz, Herzog & Mac Iver 2007, pp. 223-235). The main purpose of an observation-based research study of this particular nature is to observe a certain set of variables over a prolonged period of time. As a result, a researcher would be able to determine the specific changes that occur in these variables and how they impact developmental trends across particular cases Merriam 2009, 117-138. Such a method of examination could be potentially utilized in the examination of the perspectives and attitudes of multicultural teachers in teaching disengaged Arab students and how such perspectives change over time given a variety of external factors that influence their views and behaviours. It should be noted though that any research study that attempts to formulate its own raw data utilizing longitudinal analysis can last for months if not years given the necessity of examining changes over a prolonged period of time.
Somewhat similar to the case of the use of surveys are methods of online data collection. As explained by Merriam (2009), there is a considerable degree of uncertainty in the classification of online data, especially when it comes to the collection methods utilized (Merriam 2009, 55-270). Due to the shift towards online resources, it has been noted that researchers have been turning towards online methods of data collection, such as in the case of surveys. The inherent problem though with this particular method of data collection and analysis is the fact that it casts serious doubt on the academic veracity of the data collected since nearly anyone could potentially take a survey and that individual may or may not suit the target demographic being examined. Another perspective on the use of can be seen in the article, “The New A Levels: A Survey of the Experience in English”, focused on the work of the NATE Post-16 Committee wherein a survey was conducted in order to evaluate the experiences of teachers with the new A level systems (referring to the U.K. based system of education) and whether they were better or worse off as a direct result of the system that was put in place (The New A Levels: A Survey of the Experience in English 2011, pp. 11-20).
Focusing on specific subject matters such as: “Managing the new courses”, “Evaluating the New Courses” and “Facing the future”; the survey was conducted online and was able to evaluate over 114 teachers in varying capacities in order to examine their present-day experiences (The New A Levels: A Survey of the Experience in English 2011, pp. 11-20). When examining the results of the study, it was shown that teachers had a generally positive response towards changes in the way in which English was taught. This is particularly encouraging since various other articles that have been examined so far also indicate the necessity of changing present-day teaching practices in order to better comply with the shift in student interests as of late. When examining the use of surveys in this particular case, it was determined by the researcher that such a technique could also be utilized when identifying the best qualitative methods for research on perspectives and attitudes of multicultural English language teachers on teaching English to disengaged Arab students.
By utilizing an online survey, the researcher will be able to more easily obtain the needed data from teachers within particular regions in the Middle East and, as a result, would help to speed up the research process since survey results are usually not that overly elaborate as compared to qualitative study questionnaires. Another potential avenue of approach when it comes to survey-based research can be seen in the case of the Setia et al. (2012) study which focused on the potential use of English songs as a means of developing the proficiency of students in utilizing the English language (Setia et al. 2012, pp. 8-12). In this particular case, the researchers created a mixed qualitative/quantitative study in order to examine the impact of English songs on student performance. The statistical program SPSS was utilized in this endeavour and was an effective method of quantifying the results in such a way that they could be interpreted qualitatively. The study was actually successful in that it was able to show that utilizing English songs in various teaching methods actually significantly improved the performance of students. It should be noted though that mixed qualitative/quantitative testing procedures require a significant level of know-how in properly utilizing statistical software and, as such, is a testing procedure that should only be utilized in qualitative studies when it is necessary to quantify a large portion of data in such a way that it can be easily understood.
Based on an examination of all the possible methods of examination that could possibly be utilized, it has been identified that a structured interview-based method of examination would be the best choice in order to pursue the goals of the study. What must be understood is that learning disengagement is not only due to disinterest in a particular subject but is also due to a variety of barriers that prevent a student from learning effectively which results in the disengagement happening in the first place. By comparing the opinions of multicultural English language teachers on the issue of barriers to teaching English to disengaged Arab students and comparing such data with that of relevant academic literature, it can be expected that such a comparison can yield substantial results involving the impact of ESL teacher perspectives and attitudes on the effectiveness of their teaching methods and practices.
It was determined that the only way this could be possible since structured interviews allow researchers to more directly analyze the subjects they are examining since an interview allows for a certain degree of “give and take” wherein while the interview is being conducted a certain degree of feedback is given by the research subject involving not only that topic being researched but other aspects that the researcher may have missed. As a result, an interview-based method of qualitative research would allow the research to more directly observe the responses of the participants and adjust the method of questioning as necessary in order to gain a better grasp on their perspectives and attitudes towards disengaged Arab students. Such a method cannot be done through the methods of qualitative analysis mentioned (with the exception of focus groups and case study analysis). It is based on this that the primary method of analysis that will be utilized by the research will be a structured interview approach.
Interview Questions for Teachers
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules in order to take part in this study, the following is are a set of questions meant to examine your attitudes and perspectives regarding disengaged Arab students. It is hoped that through this examination, this study will be able to develop new practices that should improve the level of engagement of such students.
- As a multicultural teacher, what have been your attempts at shaping your English lessons in order to conform to the local culture?
- What do you believe is the primary reason behind student disengagement within classroom settings?
- Over the past few months, what have been your attempts at improving student engagement?
- Do you believe that student engagement is directly influenced by the teaching style implemented within a particular lesson?
- Do you think that students would be more engaged in learning English if it is taught by a local or does being a multicultural teacher allow you to better explain the various nuances associated with learning English?
- Have you utilized your own cultural experiences as the basis behind your teaching method?
- What problems have you encountered in understanding the various nuances of the local culture?
- Do you believe that understanding the ways in which the local culture works would in any way impact your ability to increase the engagement of your students?
- What is your opinion regarding current student engagement practices that emphasize on adapting to local customs in order to better teach students?
- Is there are a comparative difference between your teaching style and that utilized by local teachers in teaching English?
- Based on your past experiences, what have been the main problems you have encountered in teaching students from a culture that is different from your own?
- Can you suggest any improvements that would result in better student engagement?
Thank you for your time.
(INSERT NAME HERE)
Perspectives and Attitudes of Multicultural English Language Teachers on Teaching English to Disengaged Arab Students
You are cordially invited to participate in a research study involving the examination of the perspectives and attitudes of multicultural English language teachers on teaching English to disengaged Arab students. You were selected as a participant based on your position as a multicultural English teacher who regularly interacts with disengaged Arab students within a classroom setting. Prior to participating in this study, please read through this form in order to familiarize yourself with the responses expected of you. Should you have any questions or concerns, please voice them out to the researcher at any time. This study is being conducted by (PLACE NAME HERE) who is a doctoral degree candidate.
The purpose of this study is to examine how multicultural English teachers approach teaching Arab students who have shown a significant level of disengagement. This will be achieved through an examination of your perspectives and attitudes regarding student disengagement and by doing so should enable the creation of better educational strategies and policies in order to address problems that have been identified.
Should you agree to participate in this study; the following will be expected of you:
- Sign the consent form indicating that you are willing to participate in this study and that you are allowing the researcher to utilize the information you give as part of the data analysis.
- Give clear, concise, and above all, honest answers on the questionnaire as well as to the individual interviewing you.
- Fill out all the segments of the questionnaire
- Indicate your demographic data on the questionnaire
- Be interviewed by the researcher after finishing the questionnaire and give honest responses
Assurance of Anonymity
All information that will be obtained via this method of data gathering will be kept strictly confidential with all research participants being assured of the anonymity of their responses. None of the responses will be released with any indication that they were given by a particular individual. The results will be quantified into basic statistics to ensure that no personally identifiable information can be identified. Information gathered from respondents of the survey will be destroyed after a period of 10 years to further ensure that no personal information will be leaked in any way.
Voluntary Nature of the Study
Your participation in this study is strictly voluntary. Your decision whether or not to participate will not affect your current or future relations with anyone involved in the study. You may withdraw from the study at any time without any penalty, even if you initially decide to participate.
The risk of Undertaking the Study
While there are no outright risks in participating in a study of this nature, there are some long term risks that should be taken into consideration. There exists the possibility that participants in the study may face victimization or undue criticism due to the views they present. In order to prevent such problems from occurring, all the data will be sealed within a locked cabinet and will not be presented without ensuring that all possible methods of identification have been removed beforehand.
Perspectives and Attitudes of Multicultural English Language Teachers on Teaching English to Disengaged Arab Students
Contacts and Questions
The researcher conducting this study is (First Name Last Name). The researcher’s adviser is XXX XXXX, PhD. You may ask any questions you have now. If you have questions later, you may contact us.
Contact info for the researcher: Contact info for the advisor
You will receive a copy of this form from the researcher.
Statement of Consent
I have read the above information. I have asked questions and received answers. I consent to participate in the study.
Printed Name of Participant: _________________________________________
Signature: _________________________________ Date: _____________
Signature of Investigator: _____________________ Date: _____________
Participant Pseudonym: __________________________
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