The second method, the questionnaire approach, is felt by McKernan (2000) to be ‘…the most commonly used method of inquiry. It is a form of interview by proxy, with the interviewer removed from the face-to-face contact of the interview method.’ (P125) In its most simple format the questionnaire is easy to use, quick to fill in, easy to follow up and will provide feedback on attitude (Hopkins 2000:P136). However, there is a range of issues when using questionnaires, Bell (1993) suggesting that ‘It is harder to produce a really good questionnaire than might be imagined.’ (P75) McKernan (2000) endorses that view and warns that amongst the disadvantages are the amount of time taken, compiling successful questions and low response rates. (P125). Nevertheless, the use of questionnaires will provide direct access to the learners and add balance to the interviews with colleagues.
The final data collection technique will involve direct observation of the learners in the role-play situations. As Bell (1993) points out, ‘Direct observation may be more reliable than what people say in many instances. It can be particularly useful to discover whether people do what they say they do, or behave in the way they claim to behave.’ (P109) From this, it can be surmised that observation can clearly add ‘real evidence’ to the perceptions and thoughts of interviews and questionnaires. The quality of the output from observational studies requires skill in handling to produce effective data with which to work.
McKernan (2000) concludes that there are a number of other disadvantages including the size of group observed and quantifying the gathered data. (P62) Direct observation as a non-participant of the group will add to the range of techniques used and strengthens the reliability of the overall techniques. Learners will be consulted regarding the observation and issues discussed with them as there are significant difficulties in conducting covert observation, summed up by Bryman (1998:P144) as ‘…highly controversial because of the suggestion in many quarters that it is an ethically dubious practice.’
‘Researchers endeavour … to collect information from a smaller group or subset of the population in such a way that the knowledge gained is representative of the total population under study. The smaller group or subset is a ‘sample’.’ Cohen and Mannion (1998:P87) point out the need to consider sampling when dealing with the potential group involved in the research project. Bell (1993) concludes that the question of sampling is resolved as follows, ‘The number of subjects in your investigation will necessarily depend on the amount of time you have.’ (P83) Cohen and Mannion put forward a range of sampling tools including probability and non-probability, random and stratified samples (P87) whilst Bryman (1998) argues the case for a representative sample using a type of probability sample. (P107) To ensure that each unit in the population has an equal probability of inclusion in the sample the research group will be drawn at random from the payroll list.
‘Any research project is likely to raise ethical issues. This is particularly so if it involves people directly, but may also be the case even if you conduct your research entirely on documentary evidence.’ (Blaxter et al 1997:P146) Bell (1993) goes further and adds ‘People will be doing you a favour if they agree to help, and they will need to know exactly what they will be asked to do, how much time they will be expected to give and what use will be made of the information they provide.’ (P52) This view is endorsed by McKernan (2000) who adds that ‘It is crucial for all participants to know what their rights are in research of any kind.’ (P241) Hopkins (2000) identifies a range of principles that may be observed in the commitment to action research including, observing protocol, involving participants, reporting on progress, maintaining confidentiality and obtaining authority before using quotations. (P221/2)
‘One point that should be underlined at this stage is that writing is not the only mode of communicating experience of an action research project. Countless other effective methods exist:oral presentations …’ reflects McKernan (2000). Whilst there are a range of different styles and formats for the written report such a document will be produced on completion of the project and used together with oral presentations as a means of disseminating the results.
The rationale outlined in this report has been compiled with the specific objective of producing a research project that will provide the data capable of providing answers to the questions posed as part of the proposal: Will the use of role-plays produce greater learner satisfaction with the training provided? Will the use of role-plays add value and improve the results of the learning process? Although the project timetable covers three months only, from inception to report, approval is required within the next week in order that the project may be launched.
Anderson G. (1990), Fundamentals of Educational Research, London: The Falmer Press Bell J. (1993), Doing Your Research Project, Buckingham: Open University Press Blaxter L., Hughes C. & Tight M. (1997), How to Research, Buckingham: Open University Press Bryman A. (1989), Research Methods and Organization Studies, London: Routledge Burgess R. (1993), Research Methods, Walton-On-Thames: Nelson Cohen L. & Mannion L. (1998), Research Methods in Education, London: Routledge