Labelling Pupils with Additional Support Needs: An Exploration of the Perceptions of Teachers in a Mainstream Primary School Setting
Sections of this example dissertation:
CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY
The intellectual abilities displayed by pupils with Additional Support Needs are influenced by their teachers and the teaching strategies they use within the classroom (Alexander & Strain, 1978). Therefore, the researcher aimed to use this project to gain a greater insight into the opinions of teachers and how effective labels are in allowing pupils to achieve the most appropriate education for them. The researcher chose to use a qualitative interpretative approach for this research project as it appeared to be the most suitable when examining people’s feelings and ideas (Elliot & Timulak, 2005).
The researcher chose to carry out interviews to collect data rather than questionnaires for a variety of reasons. This was to confirm that the questions and the answers were understood by both the interviewee and the interviewer (Oppenheim, 2005). This would also ensure that all the questions were answered thoroughly, with the use of ‘follow-up’ questions where necessary.
The perceptions of mainstream primary school teachers were examined through the use of interviews. The researcher adopted a ‘respondent interview’ technique whereby she asked a set of questions in a tight structure which was followed by the interviewee (Powney and Watts, 1987). The researcher prepared a combination of both open and closed questions: seven compulsory questions, combined with four follow-up questions used to ‘prompt’ the interviewee into further discussion (Oppenheim, 2005).
- What are your views regarding labelling children with an Additional Support Need?
- Prompt: Can you explain why or say a bit more about what has informed this view?
- How well supported do you feel in teaching children who are suspected to have an Additional Support Need before they are given a formal diagnosis?
- Do you think it is helpful, for both teachers and the pupil, to label a child with a diagnosis?
- Prompt: Why do you think this?
- Do you alter your teaching and learning strategies in any way following a pupil’s diagnosis?
- Prompt: What were you doing before a diagnosis compared to after?
- Is there an impact of a diagnosis in terms of the support from schools or local authorities you receive?
- Prompt: Are you better supported by Support for Learning, educational psychologists or other relevant professionals on how to include this child in your class as a result of a formal diagnosis?
- How complex, or otherwise, do you think it is to decide upon appropriate classroom strategies for children who are experiencing learning difficulties before they are given a formal diagnosis?
- What would be helpful before and after a child’s diagnosis in terms of your attempts to maintain an inclusive classroom?
The researcher used the purposive sampling technique of Total Population Sampling in order to avoid sampling bias and with the aim of gaining an insight into the perceptions of teachers at all stages in the primary school (Etikan, Musa & Alkassim, 2016). This included all eleven professionals who were directly teaching at her Professional Experience and Practice placement school within the City of Edinburgh, Scotland. Seven of these teachers gave consent to be interviewed for this research project. Each of these teachers were fully qualified educators with at least three years of teaching experience. Their current classes for the academic year 2017/2018 had a minimum of 18 pupils which included at least one child that had a label of an Additional Support Need. Four are currently teachers in early years classes (Primary 1 – Primary 2); two are teachers in middle years classes (Primary 3 – Primary 5); and one teacher is a teacher in the upper primary school classes (Primary 6 – Primary 7).
Role of the Researcher
The researcher obtained permission from the University of Edinburgh to conduct the study of teachers’ perceptions of labelling pupils with Additional Support Needs. Once this permission was granted, the researcher asked for consent from the Head Teacher from the researcher’s Professional Experience and Practice placement school to carry out this study within their school, interviewing their teachers. It was stated to each teacher the aims and procedures involved in the research project. Each teacher was informed that the study was entirely voluntary, and they could withdraw at any time without giving a reason. They were also informed that each interview would be kept confidential and the data would be securely and anonymously stored.
In this study, the researcher’s role was to collect data through individual interviews and analyse the data gathered through systematic steps. The fact that the researcher is studying to become a primary school teacher may affect the degree of reliability. The researcher has a personal perception of the world of the teacher and has experience of teaching children, in a mainstream school, who have Additional Support Needs. As this is difficult to ignore, the researcher may unintentionally be disposed to self-fulfilling prophecies (Powney & Watts, 1987). Therefore, self-monitoring and an acknowledgement of the above was given much consideration before setting out for each interview.
Data Collection Procedure
Interviews with each of the seven participants were located within the teacher’s own classrooms during February 2018. The researcher arrived prepared with an audio recorder and an interview script (an introduction to the study and the pre-set questions). It took the form of a ‘formal’ to ‘less formal’ interview where the researcher had set questions to be asked (‘formal’) with the option of follow-up questions to be asked where required (‘less formal’) (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2000).
The interviews were audio recorded and then transcribed verbatim. The use of audio recording allowed the researcher the ability to replay the data several times in order for the material to be studied thoroughly. The researcher did not take notes throughout the interview to reduce interviewer bias affecting objectivity and analysis. This also allowed the interviewee not to be distracted and created a more informal interaction.
The data analysis of this qualitative research study was based on a grounded theory approach. This followed a systematic design of the three stages of coding: open coding; axial coding; and selective coding (Creswell, 2012). The initial stage of open coding included attempts to find categories arising from the findings. Axial coding allowed the researcher to identify the central ideas and consisted of exploring these ideas to offer actions, strategies and consequences. Selective coding was the process of constructing a story from the interrelationships between these categories and included constructing a hypothesis from this data. This systematic approach allowed the researcher to identify patterns, themes and relationships from the data to present an analysis exploring the perceptions of mainstream primary school teachers on labelling pupils with Additional Support Needs.
The researcher read and understood the Ethical Guidelines for Education Research before commencing the study (British Educational Research Association, 2011). The Head Teacher of the researcher’s Professional Experience and Practice placement school was given an information and consent form stating the purposes and procedures of the study and asking for permission to undertake this research project within the school (see Appendix A). It was stated that the Head Teacher had the right to withdraw from the project at any time without giving a reason. All teaching professionals were given a similar form upon receiving consent from the Head Teacher (see Appendix B). This also informed the teachers that the study was entirely voluntary and that they, too, were free to withdraw from the study at any time without giving a reason. Both forms stressed that all information gained from the teachers would be kept confidential. Participant’s names were removed from the data and will hereby be referred to by an alias of Teacher 1 – Teacher 7. All real names spoken by participants, including those of colleagues and pupils were removed. All data was stored electronically and anonymously on the researcher’s personal computer. This information will remain on the computer, password protected, for the recommended one year before permanent deletion. The researcher and the researcher’s supervisor are the sole individuals whom have access to the raw data.
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