Model not understand the research. Some schools may

Model not understand the research. Some schools may

Model Answer- Participant Observation One strength of using participant observation to investigate the idea that ethnic minorities are treated differently within the education system is that it allows the researcher to join in.

They will be placed in the same situation that teachers find themselves in routinely, which will allow them to see things through the teachers eyes. This means that the researcher will be able to see things from the same perspective as teachers. This would allow the researcher to create a close bond with the teacher/s and this would mean that they would be more likely to confide.This is particularly important as this is a sensitive subject area.

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Teachers may only show their true feelings, opinions and behaviours if they feel they can trust the researcher. However this can also be a weakness. As the researcher becomes drawn into seeing things from a teachers perspective they may become blind to insights that would otherwise become available. This would result in the research being biased. Another strength of using participant observation is that it allows the researcher to obtain more ‘truthful data’. When using questionnaires or interviews it easy for participants to lie.However, if the researcher is part of the situation i.

e. another teacher or a classroom assistant it would make lying much more difficult. This means the study is much more valid. However, the mere presence of the observer may affect the behaviour of both the teachers and pupils. Teachers may associate any outside observers with Ofsted inspections.

This may result in teachers putting on a show and not acting as they usually would. They may usually treat pupils from ethnic backgrounds differently on a normal everyday basis but the presence of the observer may put an end to this.This is called the Hawthorne effect. Ofcourse, this would depend on whether the researcher was covert or overt. There are practical issues to consider when conducting participant observation research.

Any research conducted within schools requires informed consent. This is not always as straightforward as it seems. Consent is required from the school, parents and the British Sociological Association states that any research involving children should include their informed consent as well.This may be an issue as children, young children especially, may struggle to understand the meaning of ethnicity and the idea that teachers may treat students differently according to their ethnicity. Children cannot give their informed consent if they do not understand the research. Some schools may also require permission from governors or the Department for Education before any research can take place. This would be very time consuming.

Another practical issue associated with participant observation is the issue of time and money. Observations generally take a lot of time to carry out, which as a consequence can become very expensive.When this is combined with an educational setting it can become even more time consuming as the researcher has to fit in with the timings of the school day, year and avoid exam periods. This type of research method also raises considerable ethical considerations.

If a teacher displays openly racist or clearly discriminates against ethnic minorities does a researcher remain as just that and do nothing except use it for the purposes of the research study or do they disclose this information to the relevant people in authority? Another ethical issue which would need to be considered is confidentiality.Teachers may give opinions and may show behaviour which is unprofessional or politically incorrect. Researchers need to ensure that any information they receive during the course of the observation remains confidential and when using it in their research they must ensure that the person remains anonymous. There are also theoretical issues associated with participant observation. The main one is the Hawthorne Effect which has already been discussed in some detail. However, on the positive side participant observation has high ecological validity.It is conducted in real life and the researcher becomes part of this, so it can be generalised to the outside world.

When investigating teachers there are a number of practical issues that need to be taken into consideration. Teachers may feel that they do not have the time to commit to taking part in a piece of research. Teachers may also need permission from their line manager or more senior management to take part in any piece of research. There are also a number of ethical issues that need to be taken into account when researching teachers. As participant observation the researcher will have access to the staff room.Teachers in the staff room will feel like they are in a safe environment to express their feelings.

The researcher may hear things from teachers who have not given consent to take part in the research. Does the researcher use this or remain ethical and ignore it? There are also a number of theoretical issues to consider when researching teachers. The issue of teachers behaving uncharacteristically because they have an observer in the classroom has already been discussed. In addition to this, any teaching staff who take part may have been selected by senior members of staff to show the school in the best possible light.This would make the findings unrepresentative and would mean that the findings would not be able to be generalised to other educational settings. This type of approach would be favoured by interpretivists. Interpretivists believe that people do not simply react to external stimuli, but interpret the meaning before reacting.

They feel that any research should uncover meanings, motives, emotions and beliefs. In contrast to this positivists believe any research should be as scientific and empirical as possible. They do not think that feelings or motives are an important part of the research process.

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