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Methodology I am researching whether synthetic phonics can address the barriers boys have to learning.

In my Literature review I discovered the key barriers which can impact boys learning; lack of engagement, ability to reflect, self esteem, and lower teacher expectations. The literature review revealed the aspects of synthetic phonics which can be seen to combats these specific barriers, and which aspects are viewed negatively influence these barriers increasing their impact on the boys learning.

Collecting and analysing this data will show whether using the synthetic phonic approach to teaching literacy to boys which will address any barriers they have to learning and thus aid in improving their literacy skills. The aspects of synthetic phonics which can combat these barriers can be concluded from the collection and analysis of the data.

This research will be useful in education because there has been an ongoing gap between girls and boys achievements in literacy. Therefore finding a method which can address these barriers and help to support boys learning so that they can reach the levels achieved by girls will be an important piece of information for their teachers in order to aid in their development in literacy.

The basic research questions I wish to answer are;

What are the main barriers to boys learning?

How does the use of synthetic phonics address these barriers to aid in boys development of literacy?

After researching for the Literature review I was able to see what the main barriers to boys learning were; a lack of engagement and attention, difficulties reflecting on the knowledge

they had gained, low self esteem and teachers expectations. The Literature review showed me potentially how Read Write Inc could address these barriers, for example the short structured and fast paced delivery of the lessons, the use of questioning and speaking and listening as well as other aspects gave me ideas as to what to look for during my observations (see appendix ?) and what sort of questions to ask during interviews and for questionnaires.

Form my research I decided to use a holistic approach. I used an 'interpretivist' research paradigm which is essentially qualitative data (Denzin and Lincoln 1998). This approach to research uses detailed observation, and explanation. It attempts to study the whole situation in order to evaluate the complexity and ensure that their conclusion take account of both unique and general factors. (Atieno 2009:13) In order to understand whether or not synthetic phonics addresses the barriers boys have to learning, the research needed to take into account the setting where this learning would take place. Using qualitative research in a; real world setting the researcher does not attempt to manipulate the phenomenon of interest. (Patton 2002:39) For this reason I felt that an interpretivist paradigm using qualitative data collection would be the most appropriate choice for my research as, the researcher physically goes to the people, setting, site, or institution to observe or record behaviour in its natural setting. (Atieno 2009:13)

I also decided to use a quantitative method to collect the results allowing me to compare the achievements of boys and girls who are taught using synthetic phonics. By combining both methods I can gain a range of results which is beneficial as qualitative and quantitative methods produce different types of knowledge. This is because one party argues from the underlying philosophical nature of each paradigm, enjoying detailed interviewing and the other focuses on the apparent compatibility of the research methods. (Golafshan 2003:600) Therefore to gain a variety of results I decided to look not only at the quantitative assessment

results but also to use methods such as interviews and observations where the researcher is more involved in research itself. Patton (2002) supports researchers immersion in the research stating that when investigating real world situations there are often changes, which the researcher should be present for in order to include these changes in their analysis of any data gained. For this reason I felt that using qualitative data would also be appropriate as it would allow recordings and response to any changes or new ideas which came up during my research.

To conduct my research I used a variety of methods to combine different forms of data, in order to answer my research questions. Triangulation refers to the use of multiple methods to cross check and verify the reliability and validity of the data collected. (McNeil and Chapman 2005:23). I was able to use the information gained from my literature review, observations, interviews and my statistical data to influence, support and compare to each other in order to produce valid and reliable results to.

Interviews I decided to use a semi structured interview, I had a list of questions and themes to cover, which I was able to change depending on the direction of the interview (David and Sutton 2004). I chose to use this type of interviewing because, semi-structured interviews have more freedom than using methods such as a structured interview (Kajornboon, 2004) Corbetta (2003) states that using a semi structure interview, the interviewer is free to ask the questions he/she deems appropriate in the words he/she considers best, to give explanation and ask for clarification if the answer is not clear, to prompt the respondent to elucidate further if necessary, and to establish his own style of conversation. Probing is a way for the interview to explore new paths which were not initially considered (Gray, 2004:217). I

chose to use this type of interview as it gave me the opportunity to ask specific questions when new views or ideas came up so I could gain addition information which I may not have previously considered. Patton (2002) recommends to explore, probe, and ask questions that will elucidate and illuminate that particular subject and to establish a conversational style but with the focus on a particular subject that has been predetermined. Patton (2002:343) By using a semi structure interview I was able to ensure the clarity of my questions resulting in more valid results. I was also able to probe for additional information, therefore gaining more detailed data.

For my research I interviewed three individuals from a model school teaching the scheme Read Write Inc. All of the participants had been teaching RWI for five years after the school introduced the scheme. I decided to interview the deputy head (who had been teaching the higher ability levels for 4 years), a class teacher who worked with the lower ability levels and the co-ordinator for RWI. I chose these particular staff members as I wanted to investigate whether there were different perceptions depending on the level of the boys as well as discovering the reasons for implementing this scheme from the co-ordinator and any other key information she could provide on the effectiveness of RWI on the boys in the school.

The information I gained from my literature review helped me to create appropriate questions to ask the staff members for my interview. I included questions to gather information on specific barriers to boys learning, (which I had investigated during my literature review) by asking the teachers for their perceptions on aspects such as boys concentration and self esteem. Through these questions I was able to see whether the teachers considered these issues to be a key barrier towards the boys development in literacy. I was then able to

continue from these ideas leading to my second research question of whether synthetic phonics can address these barriers by asking the teachers questions about their experience of teaching Read Write Inc in regard to the situations discussed as barriers in previous questions.

The questions I used for the questionnaire and the interviews were presented in sections of the different barriers to learning I had decided to focus on. This made it easier for the teachers to focus on and consider one barrier at a time. By sectioning the interview into themes, when new ideas occurred that linked to another theme I was able to quickly proceed onto the appropriate section keeping the conversation organised and flowing well.

When designing my questions for the interview I had to ensure that they were not leading and that they would elicit a valid response from the teachers. Hoyle et al (2002) suggest that questions have dual goals of motivating the respondent to give full and precise replies while avoiding biases stemming from social desirability, conformity, or other constructs of disinterest. (Hoyle, Harris and Judd 2002:144) To ensure my questions were appropriate I conducted a pilot interview. I then asked the interviewee to evaluate my questions on; clarity, bias, grammar, and whether they were appropriate. I then edited my interview to improve it prior to interviewing the teachers. Observations Another qualitative method I decided to use to collect data was an observation. An observation is a process used to learn about the activities of the participants under study in a natural setting (DeWalt & DeWalt, 2002). Schensul, Schensul and LeCompte (1999), define participant observation as the process of learning through exposure to or involvement in the day-to-day or routine activities of participants in the researcher setting (Schensul, Schensul and LeCompte 1999:97).

I decided to use an observational method for my research as it provided the opportunity to monitor nonverbal expression of emotions and to look at interactions between peers and pupils interactions with their teachers (Schmuck, 1997). By using this method it allowed me to observe events which participants in the interviews may have not noticed or been able to explain, which gave me additional information (Marshall and Rossman 1995) DeWalt and DeWalt (2002) state that "the goal for design of research using participant observation as a method is to develop a holistic understanding of the phenomena under study that is as objective and accurate as possible given the limitations of the method" (DeWalt and DeWalt, 2002:92). I chose to include observations as well as my interviews, literature review and statistical data in order to make the results I gained more valid. This is supported by Kawulich (2005) who states that observation can be used to increase the validity of research, because observations give the researcher a clearer understanding of the context of previous information. DeWalt and DeWalt (2002) state that using a variety of strategies increases the validity of a study. DeMunck and Sobo(1998) state that one advantage of using observations is that they provide rich and detailed description of situations. Dewalt and Dewalt (2002) also suggest that observations can aid to the quality of results. Angrosion and DePerez (2000) discussed the different types of observation which can be used in research. For my research I decided to use a foucsed observation. Angrosion and DePerez (2000) define this as an observation which is supported by previous research, which guides the researchers decisions about what to observe. In this case I used the knowledge I had gained from my Literature review on what the key barriers to learning where as well as the consideration of how synthetic phonics may or may not address these barriers to inform what I was looking for in my observations. From this information I created an observation

sheet to use during my observation to ensure I was focusing on the key aspects of the lesson which were relevant to my research. Another type of observation which I decided not to use for my research was described by Angrosion and DePerez (2000) as a descriptive observation, where the research observes and records everything they see and experience during the data collection. The disadvantages to this method are that the research is assumed to know nothing of what they are observing which can result in the collection of a large amount of information which is not useful to the research, whereas the method I chose to use ensured all the information gained was key to answering my basic research questions. I observed three Read Write Inc lessons, in a model school for Read Write Inc. One of the classes was a higher ability group, another was of a class of average ability and the third was of a class of lower ability pupils. During the observation I considered the themes which I discussed in both my interviews with the teachers and the literature review; engagement, reflection, self esteem and teacher expectations. Wolcott (2001) supports the use of interviews used to aid in informing observational research. I broke the key themes down into specific questions to help me to focus on the different aspects of each of my main themes. By placing these questions into a chart on an observation sheet it made it easier to record the data clearly and also ensured that no sections were overlooked. Kawulich (2005) suggest keeping organised, structure field notes. (Kawulich 2005:21). I listened to and observed pupils interactions in their pairs and with the teacher. (DeWalt and DeWalt 2002) I also observed their behaviour during the lesson. Merriam (1998) suggests that when observing the researcher should shift from focusing on individuals or activities, to then focusing on the overall situation (Merriam 1998). Quantitative results

Whilst conducting my research I consulted secondary statistical data to use to compare to and support my findings from my interviews, observations and literature review. I collected results of boys and girls results in reading and writing, as well as comparison to the national averages of boys and girls achievements in literacy. The benefit of this was that I was able to put this data into a table (see appendix?) which presented the results clearly. Statistical data can be converted into tabular or graphical information (McNeil and Chapman 2005:17). This data can then be used to find correlations or trends, which can help to uncover cause and effect relationships between the various variables of the barriers and achievement of boys literacy skills (McNeil and Chapman, 2005).

Ethics Before the interview and observation took place I wrote a letter to the school requesting permission to observe the classes, collect data on results and asking if the teachers would take part in my interviews and explained the purpose of the research (appendix ?). Jackson (2009) expresses the need to acquire informed consent before conducting this type of research (Jackson, 2009). I informed the teachers of roughly how long the interview would take, and that I would be recording it (Patton, 2000). I assured the teachers that the pupils achievement data, observations and interviews would be confidential and neither their names nor the name of the school would be included (Gray, 2004). The teachers were made aware of their right to withdraw from the interview at any time (Gillham 2000). Other methods

I decided not to use questionnaires for my research although they are a more reliable method than an interview, due to their standardized nature. Everyone who fills one in is subjected to

the same stimulus. (McNeil and Chapman 2005:44) Another advantage to a questionnaire is that they allow for the possibility of gaining results from a larger sample. (McNeil and Chapman 2005) Despite these advantages of using questionnaires I chose not to incorporate them into my research because participants will have their own interpretation of each question which may differ to the intended meaning, resulting in less valid data (Popper, 2002). Evaluation of methods Similarly one disadvantage to an observation is that researcher bias can impact the results. Bias undermines the internal validity of research. (Grimes and Schul 2002:249) Observations are subjective in that the results recorded are affected by how they are interpreted by the researcher. All observational studies have built-in bias; the challenge for investigators, editors, and readers is to ferret these out and judge how they might have affected results.(Grimes and Schul 2002:249) Therefore the data I gained from undergoing observations could have been impacted by a subconscious bias. Similarly a disadvantage to the interviews is that the teachers may have had a bias toward the Read Write Inc scheme, as it was used in their school (Jackson, 2009).

Although the other methods I used during my research such as looking at the quantitative data of the assessment results provided the study with highly reliable data which could not have been impacted by any form of bias. McNeil and Chapman (2005) state that positivists see quantitative data as more reliable than other methods because they are normally organized in standardized and systematic ways. (McNeil and Chapman 2005:17)

On the other hand the quantitative data gathered from the assessment results did not reflect the reasons behind the difference between the boys and girls literacy achievements (Jackson, 2009).

Whereas the qualitative data from my interviews and observations were descriptive therefore the results gained reflected the process, meaning and understanding through the words of participants and descriptions of observations (Golafshan 2003).

Therefore the combination of the results from both the quantitative and qualitative methods provided valid and detailed information in order to answer my research questions. McNeil and Chapman (2005) argue that a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods as part of a triangulation approach produces the most practical results (McNeil and Chapman, 2005)

During my observations I found it difficult to keep changing my focus between the individuals and the lesson as a whole. I feel they may have missed key interactions, while I was focusing more on specific conversations, which could have impacted on the data I gathered.

After considering this difficulty I could have addressed this issue by observing each group twice. The focus for the first observation would have been on the individuals, allowing me to record detailed descriptions of their interactions and non verbal expressions. I would then observe the class interaction and situation as a whole during the second observation, which would allow me to reflect on the context and the teachers interaction and teaching methods. If I were to redo this research I would take this into account when observing the groups.

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