According to Trochim (2006), qualitative approach refers to the general way of thinking on how to conduct a qualitative research on a given topic of interest. He points out that qualitative approach explicitly or implicitly entails the purpose for which the qualitative research is conducted, the role played by the researchers, and the stages of conducting the research. In addition, it also incorporates the method(s) used in analyzing collected data. In his assertion, the main objective of conducting qualitative research is to gather insightful understanding of human behavior and factors that attribute to the latter. Therefore, qualitative research is more than answering the questions of what, where, and when, but rather spending much time on investigating why and how decision taken by human beings were and/or are made.
As pointed out by Trochim (2006), qualitative methods of data analysis normally attempt to draw out meaningful results based on large qualitative data. This approach eliminates the confounding factors that may be attributed to the large qualitative data which may obscure the main findings of qualitative research. Additionally, the author notes that qualitative approach usually allows reporting of summary results. This denotes a specified degree of confidence of the research approach. For instance, various qualitative results on the effectiveness of the instructional approach used by teachers have been outlined in order to provide accurate policy that can help in improving the quality of education.
This paper, thus, analyzes the findings of three qualitative research studies on teacher’s instructional effectiveness based on the rate of feedback, interaction with the principal and questioning skills. It also evaluates the approach and validity of the research studies on the topic of discussion. More so, the article proposes ways of addressing challenges associated with qualitative research based on the topic of the study.
Analyzing the Findings of the Article
According to Trochim (2006), the main objective of conducting a qualitative research is to conventionally produce information designed for a particular case to enable conclusions based on an informed assertion. Tellez & Waxman (2009), acknowledges that there are increasing qualitative studies on the effectiveness of teacher’s instruction approach as well as the understanding of the importance of context in the learning process. Therefore, the main aim of analyzing related articles in any qualitative research study in the field of teacher’s instruction is to allow one establish the effectiveness of instructional approaches towards the learners in school.
Kip Tellez and Waxman on their “A meta-synthesis of qualitative research on effective teaching practices for English Language Learners,” present important findings that can help in improving teacher’s instruction approach. According to the two authors, there has been an increase on the number of the researchers interested in conducting of qualitative studies in educational settings. They, however, note the failure by such researchers to pay attention to cultural backgrounds of both teachers and learners. They note that, though, educational ethnographies have assisted researchers in exploring the nuances of learners within the learning environment, they have failed to appreciate the complexity of teacher’s instruction towards the learners, whose second language is English.
Based on Tellez & Waxman findings, the qualitative research study has naturalistic and contextualized nature. This has enabled it to counter the manipulative aspect evident when using large data sources under experimental conditions. According to them, qualitative research findings appeal more to teachers and other educators. Such findings have been utilized to enable these groups to instruct or work directly with students in the classroom. Through such findings, the study has presented an inductive logic which enables policymakers not only to estimate the relevancy of the research findings, but rather to restructure their learning programs in order to improve teacher-learner educational relationship. As the two authors specify, they found out that the second language setting would help improve the effectiveness of instructional teaching practices. In its turn, this would enable teachers to have more understanding on the relevant teaching practices especially for those learners with different cultural backgrounds.
On the other hand, Will Dobbie & Roland Fryer use cross-thematic analysis and lines of arguments in their qualitative research in the projection of their findings. They suggest five policies within the teacher’s teaching perspective that would enable a school to be effective. According to the two, conducting a qualitative research in defining the frequency of the feedback to the teachers, the proper use of data by the teachers to offer various instructions, the knowledge of how to increase instructions time, and the reasons as to why one may need to incorporate intense tutoring, can successfully be used to explain the variation in school effectiveness. They note that the inability to identify school inputs especially the instructional approach used by teachers, have undermined the expected high students performance and achievement in the classroom. Their findings also showed the inability of qualitative research findings to come up with systematic measures that can help ensure teacher development, the use of data driven instruction, and meeting of student expectations has contributed to the ineffectiveness of teachers and schools (Dobbie & Fryer, 2011).
Moreover, Joseph Blasé and Jo Blasé in their article, Effective Instructional Leadership, incorporate qualitative research with the view of demonstrating daily impact of the principal on the teacher’s perspective on his or her instructional leadership characteristics. According to them, the primary objective of any learning community should be to build an effective connection or interaction between people (teachers and principals) both socially and intellectually. Failure to enhance this control would distance the associated parties, thereby undermining their effectiveness in the learning process.
Based on Joseph Blasé and Jo Blasé findings, qualitative research provides an insightful understanding on teacher-principal interaction as provided by their social settings. According to the two, direct principal assistance to the teacher, group development, staff and curriculum development can only be achieved through understanding the social settings of each of these parties. In so doing, the teacher reflects on the behavior of his/her students as he/she tackles perplexing classroom questions, consequently, enhancing the experiences.
Evaluating the Approach and Validity of the Quality Research Studies
The three qualitative research articles outlined above have incorporated in them qualitative approach which validates their research findings. In their study Kip Tellez and Waxman used coding and categorizing in synthesizing the qualitative results. This has enabled them to demonstrate, with much understanding, the effectiveness of teacher’ instruction approach. According to the two scholars, it is through coding and categorizing qualitative data, as suggested by 25 studies, that four main teaching instructional orientations were established. These included communitarian teaching practices built on community settings, protracted language event strategy that maximizes teacher’s verbal activity, teacher-student connection based on school themes, and use of multiple representation such as objects and indexes in enhancing teaching methods. This way, the authors managed to clearly point out the inability of educational ethnographies to address pertinent issues which are attributed to teacher’s instructional ineffectiveness.
On the other hand, Will Dobbie & Roland Fryer used participatory approach in analyzing the unparalleled data collected in 35 charter schools to illustrate how the ineffectiveness of teacher’s instruction can result into an ineffective school performance. Their findings are further justified by their methods of collecting data. The data was collected from principals, teachers, students, lesson plans, and more so from videotaped observation of classroom lessons. That is, most of the information was collected from school participation during which principals were asked about teacher and staff development, school culture, instructional time, and data driven instruction among others. Additional information was also obtained through interviewing each school leader as based on coded lesson plans. Finally, each school was visited on a full day basis. This eliminated any error in determining their culture based on human capital policies, parental engagement, and lesson plans that would have resulted from biases brought about by the time factor (Dobbie &Fryer, 2011).
The validity of their research approach is based on the fact that they managed to study the effectiveness of teacher’s instruction and its impacts on school effectiveness in a real life situation. Additionally, through enhanced participant observation and participation, the research findings provided a greater understanding of the differences in various behaviors exhibited by teachers and whether such behaviors do affect the effectiveness of their teaching practice. For instance, participant observation acted as a parameter with which the teachers’ interaction with students could be better understood.
On the other hand, Joseph Blasé and Jo Blasé used symbolic interaction theory as a grounded theory in explaining the iterative process between a principal and a teacher that influences instructional leadership. As Trochim (2006) points out, grounded theory helps in generating questions which are essential in guiding the research. The theory also helps the researcher in developing core theoretical concepts as he or she begins to gather data. In Joseph Blasé and Jo Blasé article, symbolic interaction theory is used to further elaborate on the meaning of human construct as may affect their social setting. In so doing, the two authors develop questions such as those inquiring on the characteristics of school principals that influence the teaching processes in class and the effects such characteristics can have on classroom instruction. Therefore, their approach best suits the realm in which the topic of effectiveness of teacher’s instruction is engaged.
Reasons and Challenges of Using Qualitative Interviews
There are three main reasons for conducting qualitative interviews. One is to help in the evaluation of educational programs and settings that are aimed at individualizing student’s educational outcome. Second is aimed to explore on the individual behavioral differences between principals, teachers, and students and how such differences affect the effectiveness of educational outcomes. Finally, the qualitative research helps in understanding of the meaning of effective instructional leadership to teachers and principals. This, eventually, improves the overall school effectiveness.
As Trochim (2006) points out, qualitative interviews incorporate open-ended and closed-ended questions designed in a format that enables the researcher to deploy a more standardized method of analysis, thereby, gaining insightful findings. This form of interview also presents the researcher with raw data that assists him or her in understanding the effective instructional leadership from their participants’ point of view. The social cues of teachers, students, and principals including that of voice, intonation, and/or body language can furbish researcher with extra information important for the research.
However, there is a number of challenges associated with the use of qualitative interview in understanding the effectiveness of teacher’s instructions. Firstly, the process is more subjective and time consuming, due to the fact that it allows reactions from the respondents to enable the researcher gain insights of the personalities, moods, and interpersonal dynamics that play around between the interviewer and teachers or principals. It can also be challenging for the interviewers in case they are not well aware of participant’s skills and experiences as presented by the learning environment. This can be addressed through ensuring that interviewers are well trained on how to conduct interviews without being bias. Another important factor is the need to consider school culture and experience when designing qualitative interview questions.
One of the major limitations of qualitative interview as pointed out by Trochim (2006), is its inability to define the reality as it purports to measure. In this process, a scale of measurement is shaped on an individual. This may hinder the individual’s understanding of the term. Therefore, qualitative interview is denoted as an aggressive tool that enables researchers in coming up with the way of measuring effectiveness of teacher’s instructions. Additionally, it can result into prejudice against the teachers or students. In so doing, an interviewer may go against an ethical issue of protecting the privacy and informed consent of the participant.
Trochim (2006), is of the view that field investigators, especially the qualitative interviewers, should only act as measuring instruments that are deployed to help their respondents to better understand particular situations. There is, thus, the need for them to engage rightful procedures in ensuring that participants are accurately and effectively contacted before reporting or conducting a research which concerns the latter. Protecting participant’s privacy and consent can be achieved if they are effectively and accurately informed on the purpose of conducting the research.
Experimental research is not an appropriate approach for this study. Based on Trochim (2006) argument, experimental research is only designed to reduce errors, control biases, as well as to eliminate unwanted data that might influence the findings of the research. Such facts contradict this study, since its main objective is to understand the entire school culture and environment that affects the effectiveness of teacher’s instructions. It is in this respect that this study develops an interviewing instrument with ten qualitative questions.
1) What characteristics inhibited by the school principal influence class teaching?
2) How do these characteristics affect classroom instruction?
3) What other alternative approaches and procedures have been built by the teacher to overcome the impact of the principal’s characters on classroom instruction?
4) How does a teacher’s instruction approach demonstrate his or her communitarian teaching ability?
5) What approach to teaching does the teacher use in instructing and connecting with students in the classroom?
6) How often are student’s results reported by a teacher?
7) What criteria does the teacher use in analyzing data from interim assessment to allow him modify instruction approach to mirror individualized student’s goal?
8) Which school themes are envisaged in teacher’s instruction approach in the classroom?
9) How does school culture incorporate multiple representations in supporting teacher’s instructional approach?
10) Why does lack of experimental variation in school inputs affects its instructional ability and that of teacher as well?
The main reasons of outlying the abovementioned ten questions is to achieve highly credible and valid results from participants that would provide data essential for understanding the topic under research. Secondly, the ten questions would help an evaluator in probing into more details on how the participants understand the questions, and whether they are unable to interpret them as was intended. Finally, these qualitative questions present an avenue for a researcher to further explore his or her knowledge and expertise, especially in interpreting themes raised by the participants as outlined in the questionnaire.
Proposed Methods of Administering, Interpreting, and Reporting the Data Collected
The most appropriate way to administer the aforesaid interviews is by holding face to face interview with the participants. That is, verbally through structured questionnaires. This way, an interviewer would be able to gather more information on the topic based on the participant’s social cues. While interpreting the data, the use of grounded theories is essential as it will help the evaluator in improving his understanding of the topic as attributed by the theoretical core concepts that support the collected data. Moreover, using integrative diagrams, sessions, and peer articles can effectively help in reporting the collected data. These integrative diagrams and articles act as summarizing devises that enable researchers not only to interact, but also share their findings with others.
In conclusion, qualitative research has essential components that help in understanding the real situation of teacher’s instructional effectiveness. It has been pointed out that the qualitative interview unlike the quantitative one helps in obtaining more information on participant’s reaction towards a given topic. It is, therefore, very important in understanding a topic. However, caution should be taken by interviewers not to engage in unethical codes which may make them interfere with the validity of their research.