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Research Methods in the Sociology of Education

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on 29 March 2011

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Transcript of Research Methods in the Sociology of Education

Research Methods in the Sociology of Education Different Types of Method There are broadly four different approaches to research in the sociology of education:
Survey
Ethnography
Experiment
Secondary Sources
Survey Methods Seeks to collect data from large and representative samples. Questionnaires Can be relatively easy to administer and analyse
Used to measure/quantify beliefs. Actions (e.g. truancy) and opinions. The essential thing about a questionnaire is that the respondent should complete it themselves. I know that we sometimes refer the things that people like Market Researchers or political pollsters use as questionnaires but strictly speaking, because they ask the questions and fill in the answers, they are conducting a structured interview.
Interview Surveys Tend to be face-to-face Good interview technique is about getting the balance right between the interviewers insight into the purpose of the survey and the respondents actual point of view. This is hard to manage particularly in those areas of social life like education where we can be very aware of relative differences in status and power.
Ethnographic Methods Seeking focused insight into a particular group or way of life Criticised for back of objectivity and reliability.
Very time consuming so hard to collect data from more than a few cases in a given time frame.
Non-Participant Observation Overt:- this is when those being observed are aware of the fact that they are being studied. Often this technique needs formal introduction into a setting so that the critical distance of non-participation can be maintained. It is often argued that these are the most appropriate ethnographic methods in educational settings. This is because it is considered to be ethically less problematic to keep a distance from the relationships and activities to be observed rather than getting involved. It is also argued that non-participant observers are more likely to be objective and less biased than if they get involved
Favours use of closed questions as this makes it easier to compare responses from different individuals/ sub-samples. Used to create an overview of either: Tend to generate quantitative data a cross section of the population such as the amount of children achieving 5 A*-C GCSEs in different groups (e.g. boys and girls, different ethnic groups, different social classes) How things change over time (often called a longitudinal survey), e.g. how the number of people going to University has increased over the past fifty years. Can give respondents anonymity = greater chance of revealing things that are less socially acceptable (e.g. parents knowing about truancy but not doing anything about it). However, they depend on a given level of literacy among respondents (i.e. limited use with infant school children). Lower response rates than other methods (even good questionnaire surveys might not get back more than 30% of the questionnaires distributed). Use a variety of levels of structure from a set number of questions to a conversation on a theme (e.g. “what was school discipline like for you). Better at gathering more qualitative data. Interviewers can help respondents understand the purpose of a question. Can collect responses that could not be anticipated but are valuable. However, interview respondents are less likely to be honest about socially undesirable actions or opinions. Interviewers need to be trained in avoiding leading respondents into saying things that they think the interviewer wants to hear. For example, in an unstructured interview on educational achievements respondents might regard social skills as valuable (“the best thing about 6th form for me was gaining confidence) but we might not have anticipated this in designing a questionnaire. Preferred method of interpretivist sociologists who value the rich detail of the qualitative data that ethnography can collect. Is thought to provide a much more complete impression of the thing being researched than other more quantitative approaches. How do we know what think we we know Click here to play sound file Click here to play sound file Click here to play sound file Click here to play sound file Covert:- A bit like spying in as much as those being observed remain unaware. This is supposed to give insight into more genuine behaviour as no-one is going to play up to the observer. A good example of this is the Ofsted inspector who comes into your class. Everyone knows why s/he is there and politely ignores him/her which meant s/he could do her/his job. Two basic types: you can zoom in and out and pan round the screen while the file plays but if you click to the next step or select another item to focus on you will stop the player
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