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Selecting participants in a qualitative research study

This was an activity for my Qualitative Research Methods course with the almighty Dr. Jayson Richardson in the University of Kentucky’s school technology leadership doctoral program.

So you have a fantastic research question that has the potential to make a big dent in the circle of knowledge in your field… Where are you going to get your data?

Choosing your research participants is an essential component to your study. Miles and Huberman point out that not only are you choosing people for your study, you are also selecting the settings, events, and processes. They share that is important to line up these factors with the research questions that are the basis of your study. Ideally, you will be selecting participants who are the best source of data-rich information that can answer those questions.

While a common practice in quantitative research is to randomly select participants from a population, this is often not the preferred method of selection in qualitative research. Quantitative research is often used to make generalizations to a larger population, while qualitative research is used to richly describe what is happening within a specific setting and time.

Joseph Maxwell describes the selection of participants in a qualitative study, as purposeful selection. This is a strategy that deliberately selects the settings, people, and activities in order to provide data that can’t be found elsewhere. This method is able to provide you, the researcher, with information that will best answer your research questions. A rich source of data is much more important that being able to say participants were randomly selected.

Category:  Education ,Technology     

His hat, it hangs

Shawn White is a teacher, father, husband, and lover of life in New Hampshire. He’s talented in many ways. His poem below is just one of his talents.

Category:  Education ,Life in General     

Not old school: Architecture in support of learning

Can you imagine how creative and excited you would feel if you were a student or teacher in these schools?

Category:  Education     

Resources for learning space design

Architects Brian Guthrie and Jerry Schomberg from Vantage Architects in La Crosse, WI.

Architects Brian Guthrie and Jerry Schomberg from Vantage Architects in La Crosse, WI.

I’m fortunate that the community of Onalaska, WI approved a funding referendum in February that will allow my elementary school to be expanded and totally remodeled over the next year or so. We’ll go from about 55,000 square feet to nearly 93,000. Plus, we’ll be able to change the open concept design of the school (built in 1972) to one that is more suited for contemporary learning and teaching. I can’t wait to see the final product, but am really enjoying the current design process. Our architects have been fantastic and I’m so proud of the staff in my school for the time they put into what we want in our new school.

The point of this post is to share some fantastic resources for anyone else who may be building or remodeling a school or even a single classroom.

The Third Teacher (from the Cannon Design Group) is a great book that shows how learning spaces can positively impact learning. Even if you are just rearranging your classroom, this book will be an excellent resource.

The Language of School Design is an excellent book. If you are building or remodeling a school, buy multiple copies of this book to put in the hands of every person who will have input on the design of your new learning spaces.

Carolyn Foote is a teacher librarian in Texas. I saw her present on learning spaces at the IntegratED conference in February 2014, and left her session with so many ideas that helped guide my current building design process.

Dave Meister is a superintendent in Paris, IL and was the first person I called to start my own education about school design. His new high school should be up and running in the fall of 2014 and it looks like an amazing facility.

Steven Weber is an incredibly helpful person when it comes to creative classroom spaces. Connect with him for an explanation of the Learning Commons he designed for his school.

Naomi Harm is talented in numerous ways, learning space design is certainly one of those areas. I’ve seen her present on the topic and she will fill your brain.

Baker Nowicki Design out of San Diego has been a constant source of information and inspiring ideas. Their designs are beautiful and learning-centered. The crew who manages their Twitter account is quick to share info and answer questions. The video below is just one of the many resources the BND bunch sent my way.

Category:  Education     

Techlandia 58 with Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas is a doc student at George Mason, tech integrationist, and teacher in a French immersion school in Prince Georges County in Maryland. She’s passionate about being a DJ, flipping her class, and leading professional development for fellow teachers.

Category:  Education ,Technology     

Techlandia 57 with David Theriault

This might be one of my favorite Techlandia conversations ever. David Theriault is a high school English teacher in California and shares some fantastic ideas about the world of education. He’s a seriously smart and kind human being.

Category:  Education ,Technology     

Techlandia podcast, episode 55

Episode 55 of the Techlandia podcast features Carolyn Foote. She shares some great information about the design of learning spaces. I attended her learning space session at a conference in February, and she is fantastic.

Category:  Education ,Technology     

Ninjas and the 4 C’s

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills highlights the 4 C’s, which are learning skills that “separate students who are prepared for increasingly complex life and work environments in the 21st century, and those who are not.” Those skills are in the areas of creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.

My kids (ages 11 and 8) made the video below, and I think it is a great unintentional demonstration of the 4 C’s. Their creativity certainly comes through in their version of the “how to be a ninja” video. Their critical thinking is evident in how they decide the edits and other tech tricks needed to show the special effects and then upload/publish their work. Communication skills are on display as they talked with one another and to their audience. I’m proudest of the collaboration they used to pull this all together. Hard to believe these are the same two kids who often complain that the other one is “looking at me” and “breathing too loudly.”

This work was their own doing, and neither my wife or I made a single keystroke to assist them. I will take credit for providing them a stimulating home environment to help stoke these 4 C skills. I’m also appreciative of the schools they attend in the School District of La Crosse.

Category:  Education ,Technology     

Happy Day at Northern Hills

Today was International Happy Day. I was home with a sick child, but was happy to watch the Badgers win their basketball game while my little one napped. I also put this video together of videos and photos taken by the staff at my school. I’m biased, but I can’t imagine a better place to work and be a student than my school.

Category:  Education ,Life in General     

Meetings as “improvisational garbage cans”

from Flickr user tiarescott http://www.flickr.com/photos/tiarescott/69821764/

from Flickr user tiarescott http://www.flickr.com/photos/tiarescott/69821764/

I’m reading the book Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership by Bolman and Deal right now and am in the chapter titled “Organizations as Theater.” I love this section about meetings from the chapter.

March and Olsen (1976) were ahead of their time in depicting meetings as improvisational “garbage cans.” In this imagery, meetings are magnets attracting individuals looking for something to do, problems seeking answers, and people bringing solutions in search of problems. The results of a meeting depend on a serendipitous interplay among items that show up: Who came to the meeting? What problems, concerns, or needs were on their minds? What solutions or suggestions did they bring?

Garbage can scripts are likely to play out in meetings dealing with emotionally charged, symbolically significant, or technically fuzzy issues. The topic of mission, for example, attracts a more sizable collection of people, problems, and solutions than the topic of cost accounting. Meetings may not always produce rational discourse, sound plans, or radical improvements. But they serve as expressive occasions to clear the air and promote collective bonding. Some players get opportunities to practice and polish their lines in the drama. Others revel in the chance to add excitement to work. Audiences feel reassured that issues are getting attention and better times may lie ahead. But problems and solutions characteristically linger on, detached from one another.

Today I spent most of my day in meetings. Some of that time was very productive and worthwhile, and some was not. It’s easy and lazy to blame the meeting facilitator about a bad meeting, but doing so is also a waste of time. What I need to realize and remember is that meetings are not always about “getting things done.” Meetings can also serve other important purposes. I love this sentence from the quote above, “Meetings may not always produce rational discourse, sound plans, or radical improvements. But they serve as expressive occasions to clear the air and promote collective bonding.”

If I’m not engaged or interested in the meeting topic at hand, I can shift my focus to the players in the meeting to see what else is really happening. What roles are we all playing in this drama (using language from Bolman and Deal)? What things aren’t being said? If I don’t like what is happening, how might I add to the conversation to make our time together more successful?

Adequate team members show up to each meeting. Remarkable team members make the meeting better by their participation, ability to listen, and their focus on the other people in the room.

Category:  Education