Research Methodology: Perceptions of Academic Resiliency in a Struggling Urban

7 pages
1677 words
Wesleyan University
Type of paper: 
Dissertation methodology
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This chapter aims to provide a detailed description of the methodological approach used during the study. It also explains different tools that were used to collect and analyze data with a clear explanation of the targeted group and the sample population where the researchers collected data. Qualitative technique addressed through phenomenological research was the main methodology used in the study. The use of qualitative techniques will play a vital role in eliciting more information on individual's perceptions of academic resilience.

Research Design

According to Kumar (2005), a research design refers to a specific plan, strategy, and structure outlining all the activities and procedures undertaken by the researcher to obtain the best answers to the identified study questions or problems. As stated earlier, this study used qualitative methodology to study different phenomenon related to the academic resilience of student believed to be at risk and studying in a school located in an urban setting. The researchers preferred using different methods of data collection applicable to qualitative research methodology due to their powerful ability in enhancing the validity of the results gathered. Also, the use of combined methods such as surveys, interviews, and observation helps in overcoming different biases that may accrue from utilizing a single technique (Nachmias & Nachmias, 2012). Kumar (2005) argues that data obtained after using combined techniques enhance the validity and reliability of the study findings.

The qualitative study was, therefore, addressed through a phenomenological research, which aims at examining the implication of the lived experiences of different study respondents while identifying the main essence of human experience as described by the study participants. The research took place in an urban school setting. The school under investigation bears its location in one of the poorest 435 congressional districts in the United States. The majority of students in this class were known to be at risk of accomplishing their four-year study.

According to Merriam and Tisdell (2015), qualitative research helps in understanding how different people, interpret their lifetime experiences, how they make up their world, and the diverse meanings attributed to their previous experiences. The use of direct quotation and careful description of situations, events, interactions, and the corresponding observed human behavior associated with the use of qualitative research would help in increasing student achievement and enhancing the teaching profession in general (Labuschagne, 2003). Also, the study of education is considered an applied social science. Behaviors must be explored and discovered to implement change. Hence, critical observation can play an essential role in ensuring that the desired study outcomes are achieved.

As stated by Merriam and Tisdell (2015) qualitative research helps the study participants to build their experience towards theory from the observations gathered in the study. As such, this premise postulates into the exclusion of a pre-conceived hypothesis as witnessed in other techniques such as quantitative methodologies. The goal of the research, therefore, remained to understand and describe various factors that determine resilience among stakeholders of the school including students, teachers, and administrators.

For instance, a study conducted by Merriam (2009) reveals that phenomenological studies begin from a perspective that is free from any hypothesis of preconceptions and seeks to describe a certain experience as opposed to explaining it. The researchers used a descriptive study due to its ability to spread the research widely and allowing variations among people, elements, events, and situations under investigation. These features are essential in helping the researcher to make the aspired generalizations (Mugenda & Mugenda, 2003). A door to door approach employed during the community visit played a critical role in ensuring that all individuals were reached to ascertain the reliability and validity of the results obtained.

Study Population

This study targeted the engagement of participants who were mainly educational stakeholders including students, administrators, parents and key informant people found in a struggling school located in the urban area of New York City. The researchers first established the existence of the NYC Office of School Renewal and sought for its mandate in helping schools that were pointed out as Priority or Focus Schools by the New York State Department of Education. In this case, priority represented the bottom 5% lowest-performing schools statewide; while focus meant the bottom 10% of progress in a subgroup. The researchers identified a total of 100 subjects from the school and the adjacent community as it was believed to be a sufficient number to provide adequate information as per the research needs. Thirty-Eight respondents took part in the interview, 30 participants took part in the survey while the remaining thirty-two participated in data collection through observation.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

Students attending school at the identified urban school, the school administrators, their parents, teachers and key informant individuals were chosen voluntarily from the immediate community and included in the study. However, any interested volunteer who was not a permanent resident of the area was excluded.

Sampling Procedures

During the study, the researcher selected samples from the appropriate population targets which included the school and the adjacent community. The study used purposive sampling technique which helped in selecting samples with critical attributes to represent the entire population. Participants were picked depending on how they appeared before the researcher to serve the intended role.

Sample Size Determination

Academic resilience can be well-studied when a phenomenological study is conducted on some urban based struggling schools to understand how students and other key stakeholders such as school administrators, teachers, parents and the adjacent community are engaged in school activities. These stakeholders play a critical role in determining the level of academic resiliency attained by different students in the identified school. A sample size of 100 respondents believed to be large enough to represent the entire study population was determined.

Research conducted by Mugenda and Mugenda (2003) established that keeping the sample size below 10,000 enables the researcher to maintain a quantifiable number of subjects and generates more appealing, valid, and reliable results. The researchers divided the participants into 12 different Focus Group Discussions to engage them in recorded interviews which could help in generating findings that were more reliable. Educationists and associated study experts found during the community visits were included in the research as key respondents. These respondents were permanent residents of the adjacent community to ensure that information gathered was valid based on individual experiences.

Construction and Research Instruments

Merriam (2009) defines a quality research as one in which all the tools used to collect data yield a type of result that can be used to provide valid and reliable answers to the study questions. The capacity to use structured and semi-structured questionnaires in this study helped to enhance the impact of mixed methods of data collection. On the other hand, FDGs were combined with key Informant Interviews to gather information from the study participants basing on their attitudes or behaviors, awareness, perceptions, and opinions regarding factors that determine academic resilience in students studying in a struggling urban school.

Furthermore, a structured interview plan which employs face to face approach was utilized when collecting data regarding the demographic characteristics of the participants, their attitudes, and perceptions regarding different programs implemented in the school and the entire community to increase their academic resilience. Appropriately constructed questionnaires were successfully used in determining and measuring the participant's knowledge, and opinion about the strategies suggested for tackling factor that determines academic resilience among students in school.

Direct engagement of the community key persons and educationists played a critical role in measuring subjective parameters such as individual perception and attitudes regarding factors that determine academic resilience. A total of 10 interviews were held with the principal informant persons in the community and recorded for future use during data interpretation. It is beneficial to use combined methods due to their ability to generate substantial findings that are valid and reliable.

Data Collection Techniques and the Proposed Strategy

Merriam (2009) defines a quality research as one in which researchers are willing to become part of a culture that they wish to study and present the attributes present in that culture through the help of its residents. This study relied on observation, interviews, discussions, and surveys as the primary sources of data that would be interpreted, analyzed and presented as the final results of appropriate comparison with the information obtained from secondary sources.

According to Creswell (2015), researchers should always use purposive sampling when identifying respondents basing on places and individuals that can provide the best help in understanding the study key phenomenon. Individuals who took part in this study included community supporters, school administrators, and teachers. Also, this study laid a great focus on high school students in grades 9-12 with varying levels of academic achievement. All students who participated in the study were considered to be at-risk as result of the school's renewal status and the neighborhood in which it exists. Three techniques including observation, survey, and interviews were used to collect data.


Observation allows researchers to collect vital information from the study participants by watching their behaviors, different events, or noting physical characteristics in their natural environment (Creswell, 2015). The researcher began by determining the focus of the study and developed different research questions before selecting appropriate areas to focus on during data collection. The study focused mainly on interactions between students and community members, school administrators, and teachers with a comparison of teachers' knowledge, skills, and behaviors. This emphasis was aimed at understanding individual perceptions of academic resilience in a struggling urban school.

The researcher combined three analytical techniques to collect the observed data. These methods included recording sheets and checklists, field notes and observation guides. Recording sheets and checklists were used as the most standardized ways of data collection due to their ability to include both present questions and their responses. On the other hand, observation guides helped in listing the process, behaviors, or the interactions while field notes acted as open-ended narrative data that was later on dictated onto a tape recorder.


The survey conducted during the study took the form of focused group discussions where participants were surveyed to obtain the necessary information. According to Rubin et al. (2005), FGDs can probe people's behaviors, and attitudes hence can play a critical role in helping to study several realms of communication. The researchers used FGDs to examine normative b...

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