So what is this research? What kind of knowledge will you create and for what purpose? How can we judge the truthfulness of your account? What makes this different from other ways of "creating knowledge" eg an election campaign, preaching..... This is the meat of your "methodology" section (if you back it with references).
Researchers, who are teachers, are encouraged to undertake research based upon a need identified in their career and school. They are expected to show that the research has impacted upon practice defined as both their practice and the practice of others, or even defined as impact on the quality of learning of pupils and standards attained. In the main, most sensibly opt for research in their own area of work, and they act as internal practitioner researchers.
1.Contributing to a Form of Knowledge: Practitioner Knowledge
This context leads them towards a specific set of methodological issues, which they ought to have some deep understanding of.
They should be aware that they are trying to create the kind of knowledge that would be recognisable to practitioners as useful. This utilitarian view leads them to questions such as
• What strategies might be effective in including pupils with Downs’s syndrome in mainstream education?
• What are the effects on learners and staff of selected learning strategies to raise attainment in mathematics?
Such questions have an immediate usefulness to the practitioners themselves, and may be of interest to a wider practitioner audience.
The research however, is unlikely to reveal much about bigger issues however. Questions such as:
Is social class a determinate of success at school?
How can effective school management contribute to raising achievement and attainment?
2. Small Scale Case Studies
In the main practitioners will be undertaking very small-scale case studies in their own institutions. There may be a small contribution to the broad questions outlined above, but this is not the first priority for utilitarian practitioner research like this. Hence, there is a particular kind of practitioner knowledge that is being sought.
3. Tests for Truthfulness
On the whole, it is unlikely that the research can or will be repeated in the same institution, or could it be. After all, the aim was to move the institution on and to change the environment at the heart of the research. Therefore we should not, could not use a test such as “reliability”. Such a test is more likely in large-scale positivist research methodology. Rather, a test might be if the research finding fits with the “ecology’ or shows “ecological validity”, does it make sense at “face value” (face value validity).
In the end, if it works, then it could be useful. Practitioners would not worry too much about whether we can explain how or why it works. It is good to show some insights into how and why questions, but this is not the prime feature of such practitioner research.
4. Beliefs and Values
The beliefs and values of the practitioners are central to the research effort. Practitioners are unlikely to disprove the project that they have invested their soul in. Rather they might be exploring ways to enhance its effect. The life and career experiences that have generated their beliefs and values about practice have a major impact on research questions and the interpretation of data. The wise practitioner researcher will describe their beliefs and values early in a professional autobiography, a practice first developed in feminist research in the 1980’s.
5. Power and the Research Process
Post-graduate researchers who are practitioners should at least acknowledge their influence on the research process. This is not least a description of involvement and the power distribution between researcher and researched as it combines with power and influence in the work place.
6. The Importance of Context
To be small scale and practically useful internally is an important feature of practitioner research. The variables can be considered to be pretty unique in such small situations. The context therefore has a fundamental influence on the findings. It happens like that here……and possibly not everywhere.
Making “general” rules about practice, simplifying finding to a code for future practice is the main feature of research. Practitioners rightly want to know if you do x then you are likely to get Y.
Bassey describes how the research outcomes are generalizable in such small-scale practitioner research, not in a direct way but rather so that people in similar contexts might relate to it (so called “Fuzzy generalisation”). This is unlike much research in say medicine, or physics. The scientist will want research that is exactly generalizable to all situations. At times, some including the DfES has called for research to identify effective practice that could be generalised to all schools. This is fundamentally flawed because not all schools are the same in terms of history, culture and environment. Rather, a large number of similar case studies might indicate a general observation about similar contexts.
This is a specific form of generalisation that MA researchers should be aware of, and indeed defend
8. Interpretavist Tradition: Dealing with Perceptions in a Socially Constructed World
Many pieces of postgraduate research describe themselves as “interpretavist”. Postgraduate practitioner researchers need to explore what that means. They need to show how they are striving to portray all the actors. They deal with perceptions, and they live in a socially constructed world.
In such a world “bad behaviour” is not some objectively real thing. Rather “bad behaviour” is constructed by the players as what they determine as "bad behaviour". They come to agree what is “bad behaviour” at one time and place, and we cannot reliably understand that it is the same as bad behaviour in a different time and space. Another example might be the concept of stress and burn-out.
Appendix: Headings for the Methodology Section
How the research approach fits with the Context and Need of the Organization
How important will the context be in your research? How dependent will the answers you get be on the specific context you are studying? Or will you be doing a broad spread of many different contexts, and institutions? Will different contexts influence the results?
The form that generalization will take
Is your work general sable to every instance at all times like an experiment in a science lab? Burn a peanut and see how much energy it gives. The answer is the same (broadly) in every lab anywhere, anytime. No other variables. Is your research the same? If not then what sort of generalization will you make? Well did you say it was going to be useful.........? In which case lessons will be learned to apply and generalize to others.
Truth, Truthfulness, Reliable and Valid?
Well what test will we use for "truth".
The scientist in the lab can say, do this yourself and you will get the same results. That means it is reliable. We can rely on the answer to be the same. If you did the same research again in the same place, will you get the same results? Can you do the same research in the same place? If you do the research somewhere else, will the results remain exactly the same?
Would you accept that if the practitioners agreed that it was truthful, then it is?
Would you be happy that people in the context would recognize the research because it fits with how they see things? (Ecological validity)
What is your approach to "objectivity"? Is it objective because your procedures are judged to bee objective? Or is it objective because the things you describe have a real existence in the way you describe them. Would your description change according to time and place? For example, does your research depend upon perception, understandings, the ways we represent things in language? A good example is the concept of "burn out". Did it exist before we used the word and the image it conveys? And was that burn out then the same as we know it as. No much of the world is socially constructed by us. We agree to see it that way at that time. Is you research like that and based upon the way people see the world?
Is the description valid? Is the explanation valid? How will you check for this?
Can you control variables like in a science lab? Or perhaps there are too many, and they are too varying to control.
Kinds of Data
Does you research have kinds of data, which gives a rich portrayal of the actors and participants in detail and in their setting? Is it a rich tapestry you are weaving? Or is the data precise, specific or numerical? Are you dealing with perceptual data and attitudes? Will you be portraying multiple perspectives?
How do you capture your lived experience as a professional?
Are you involved as a practitioner and a researcher? How are the sponsors involved? What other power structures exist? How will this affect the research questions and research answers?
Is this democratic? Do the researched get a say in design, reporting or anything?
The Kind of Knowledge
Is this the kind of knowledge that practitioners want and will use? Or will it be blue skies thinking, the sort of knowledge that just exists for no use, yet? Is it to be used by policy makers? Is it knowledge to add to the theory of teaching/learning/leadership or whatever? What is its relationship to theory? Are you verifying theory, generating theory, or just trying to describe or explain?