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Descriptive Research: Defining Your Respondents and Drawing Conclusions

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A Framework for Design Analysis
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It has been used in research on curricula dealing with environmental studies programs, professional preparation of athletic trainers, and institutional comparisons. If the first challenge of curriculum is defining the concept, the second is adding a systematic terminology that will set out workable segments. How does one designate the scope and dimensions of the problem? The answers determine the nature of resources to be invested. The terminology proposed here is based on operational scope and the level of faculty members' engagement.

In the normal scheme of things, faculty members' day-to-day attention is fully occupied with keeping up-to-date in their fields, holding courses on track, and planning classes.

Again and again, faculty report that keeping up with their field is the major function. Ordinarily, much of the curriculum operates as a tacit design, accepted but not fully examined. Only intermittently do academics take the measure of the curriculum, and then only a few at a time. Thus, in the extreme, hiring decisions determine the curriculum. Yet the curriculum lies at the heart of education Its grand design is a matter of the greatest consequence.

Two lines of systematic search and invention mark the effort to get beyond a fixation with courses into a terminology that reflects the wider reach of learning. One is taxonomic, the other functional. Taxonomic approaches are the most popular. They mirror the process of the natural sciences, examining, describing, sometimes measuring, and sorting according to prominent characteristics cases in the field.

These features are then laid out in a hierarchy of family, genus, species, and variety. A field-based inventory stops short of the Carnegie Foundation's full classification. Functional categories are derived from concepts or premises considered critical to the processes of teaching, learning, or development.

Another approach to the problem of terminology postulates a paradigmatic structure to the curriculum. Each of these approaches has virtues in helping to understand and describe the complexity of the curriculum.

They do not, however, always make a connection with the curriculum as faculty members encounter it day by day. A terminology that combines the emphasis on design with dimensions close to the realities of practice could be even more useful. The value of such a typology is its capacity to establish a focus or scope for curricular change.

When confronted with large or pressing issues, people tend to exaggerate the scope to gain emphasis. It is neither necessary nor desirable to mobilize an entire institution around changes in the curriculum to address, for example, quantitative reasoning. A key point in this article is that clear definitions of scope and intentions lie at the heart of effective curricular change.

The terminology developed in the rest of this section takes account of the operating components of the curriculum at five levels: Three of these terms—course, program, and curriculum—are entirely familiar, although the refinement of their meaning might be new.

The other two are derived from understanding and use that have gone unlabeled, though teaching faculty often acknowledge them in discussions. Their potential for analytical use is suggested as several critical aspects of each term are pointed out: A Terminology for Curriculum Analysis Course.

Basic building block of a curriculum and fundamental unit of professional practice for academics. Can be subdivided into modules or units. The domain of individual faculty members. Students' role is reactive.

Departmental interest is usually tacit. Course reviews best conducted by three-person team from within the department, concentrating on description.

Groups of courses related by internal affinities of knowledge, technique, or methodology. Commonality of content in such sets of courses the hallmark. Faculty members from involved departments plus department heads.

Faculty in committees or task forces make decisions. Chief academic officer has supporting role. Aims must be clear to students. An arrangement of courses and learning options that leads to publicly recognized certificates or credentials.

Deans hold a primary interest. External bodies, usually professional associations or licensing boards, participate. External reviews play a major role. Consultants, advisory committees, and self-studies are significant. Chief academic officer in charge of initiatives. Deans and faculty responsible for operations. Board of trustees has oversight.

State could have a formal responsibility. Comprehensive, process-oriented academic plan requiring various working papers and position documents. Faculty view their courses as the fundamental unit of practice in the teaching-learning domain and the basic building block of the curriculum. As a basic device, the course is probably the most durable element in American higher education.

The course and grade survived with so little challenge for reasons that were no doubt as much psychological as they were historical. Both were primarily instruments of control. It is at the level of course that the greatest sense of responsibility and commitment to the discipline resides.

Few would question the importance held by courses in U. The difficulty arises when it is necessary to consider other levels of learning.

The way in which a discipline structures its knowledge provides the best structure for transmitting it to students [is one untenable assumption] The stakeholders and actors are individual faculty members, with students as implicated bystanders. The province of individual faculty members' control over courses has the qualities of a sacred right.

To address any curricular issue, however, ways must be found to factor in the external implications of a course as well as its intrinsic qualities. Students exercise their interests at this level largely through veto power—the capacity to reject a given course. Sources of information for the construction or review of a given course begin with the relationship between the structure of the discipline and the syllabus of the course, then move to more complex relationships.

Fortunately, the last 10 years have been marked by widespread attention within the disciplines—chemistry, sociology, and history have been the leaders—to the material to be taught and the method of teaching. From experience with change in curriculum at Wellesley College come the kind of questions that reach across disciplinary courses and broaden the span of concern: How would the discipline need to change to reflect the fact that women are half the world's population and have had, in one sense, half the world's experience?

Workshops or seminars in a nonprescriptive mode that illustrate a variety of techniques, such as team teaching, collaborative learning, computer-assisted learning, and experiential learning, offer a nonthreatening introduction to review of a course.

One modality for improvement in this sector of the curriculum is course review. The scrutiny of courses is usually left to the faculty member and no one else. More useful is a departmental review by three-person teams that examine syllabi, texts, classroom techniques, and evaluation.

If the courses taught by the teams' members are interrelated, the way is opened to examine relationships among courses. The emphasis is on description, not justification.

Because the intellectual harmonics of each course echo across related studies, reviews by collegial teams tend to be very useful. At the outset, participants deserve to be reminded that they are their own experts: Arrangements of related courses constitute the next functional level.

The term patterns is not in general use, but the idea—groups of courses that are related to each other by virtue of internal affinities of knowledge, skills, and methodology—is readily recognized.

Interdependence among courses, a commonality of substance, has long been recognized informally, but systematic attention to the implications of relationships has seldom been explored. Relationships among courses lie at the heart of a thorough analysis of a curriculum. Three basic structures are possible: Only the first is used with any regularity. In the natural sciences, strings of prerequisites are the means to expanding, in steps, the understandings students have of the discipline.

Other fields have emulated the sequential pattern, often as a matter of convenient scheduling. In an associative pattern, courses are related in a kind of mosaic: Many student-designed programs have an underlying expectation that an associative pattern will be the final outcome. This assumption is also apparent in fields like literature or history. The notion of parallel relationships is less developed, although the idea was applied with good results in the cultural studies introduced under the National Defense Education Act of the s.

The idea is that students who study, say, 19th-century European history will gain from a tacit exchange of ideas if they pursue courses in Victorian prose and poetry and the Romantic Movement in German literature at the same time. The actors and stakeholders in pattern analysis are faculty within the disciplinary departments and in closely related fields, often those jointly involved in the preparation of students for professional certification. Students' interests are largely inferred rather than solicited, with the final judgment left to reaction and response.

Currently, several strong lines of interest are best addressed through pattern analysis; writing across the curriculum is prominent among them. The more successful approaches overreach departments. Still other topics that can benefit from pattern analysis are clusters focusing on civic responsibility, leadership, and professional ethics.

A modality for working through these curricular issues is an interdepartmental committee, study group, or task force. The scope of the charge can be made very specific, and beneficial outcomes are usually clear: The first committee is charged with surrounding the issue, bringing views forward, and developing alternatives, not decisions.

The second committee is charged with recommending a decision and action plan. Another level of focus is those clusters of courses with a distinct shape or form. The term constellations is not generally used, but the idea is well understood. Constellations are groups of courses related to one another by their mode of response to some common aim , to extrinsic factors rather than intrinsic relationships in the subject matter.

Often that aim has a rationale of its own and must be clearly communicated. Major and minor course sets and the general education sector are the prominent examples.

It is the proposals for new constellations, however, that today present the most interesting challenges to the curriculum: A critical issue, as discussed later, is whether these topics affect the entire curriculum or just one sector. The interest groups, stakeholders, and actors at this level cover a much wider range than for a course or pattern. Students' interest is frequently direct and vocal. Frequently, interest groups outside the university have a stake in the outcome and the process.

Even though faculty are the source of information and judgment, only the top administration can command and orchestrate the use of the resources likely to be required for a thorough analysis of a constellation. The chief academic officer, the provost, or a vice president necessarily plays a major role as the convening authority—although not necessarily the sponsor. Sources of information on the topics arising here are likely to be rich and varied.

Staff support will probably be required to collect, organize, and distribute materials. Time is a major factor; as much as two academic years might be required for study, communication, and negotiation. At this level, the costs of analyzing the curriculum and the recurring future costs of change rise substantially and can rarely be absorbed into normal operating expenditures.

Only a major task force or commission planning for operations over several years is likely to give complete results. Investment in the process itself becomes a matter of prime importance.

Collections of courses that lead to certification or credentials lie at the heart of institutional accountability, and the complexities are familiar territory to anyone who has participated in regional or professional accreditation. Among the essential features of programs , as the term is used in this article, is the requirement for communicability. The public expects that persons certified through an educational program will hold and act on certain knowledge, skills, and understandings.

The stakeholders, interest groups, and actors for programs are extended by one more degree. External parties like licensing boards, advisory bodies, visiting evaluators, professional societies, and even state legislatures are always involved at this level of curricular analysis.

The dean holds much of the initiative. A wide range of possibilities exists for program review, and each exercise is tailored to fit the requirements of the particular institution. Not too many years ago, internal program reviews gained wide attention, largely as an instrument of retrenchment.

After one or two experiences, most institutions found the process prohibitively time-consuming, costly, and indeterminate. Because the elements of self-study and iteration that go into program reviews are so costly, they are best reserved for evaluations in which the materials can be turned to several uses.

In this suggested terminology, the term curriculum is reserved for an institution's entire educational program. It is the locus of corporate responsibility for learning that engages faculty, trustees, administration, and students.

The curriculum encompasses all the sectors of the institution involved with the process of teaching and learning. Issues appropriately addressed at this level are very few, but they are among the most important for an institution's future—for example, what profile of programs best fits the institution.

Issues must be selected and treated with care. It is both a tactical and strategic error to declare an issue to be a problem of the curriculum if it really lies within the realm of a program or constellation. Leadership among the actors and stakeholders resides with the senior academic officer, provost, or academic vice president. The president's and the trustees' major functions are oversight and support.

All of the faculty have a primary stake in the character of the curriculum. Issues that are truly curricular in scope will affect all courses in some way, for the most critical decisions determine the learning environment, define the conditions of professional practice, and change the financial operations of a college, school, or university.

A full review of the curriculum opens so many demands for information that it can seldom be undertaken without a special staff unit charged with coordinating responsibility. The self-study has become the instrument of choice for conducting such a review. Costs are high, and presidents often seek outside funding from friends of the institution or foundations. The amount of time required is also large, taking as much as three or four years to reach implementation.

Brockliss, French Higher Education in the 17th and 18th Centuries: A Cultural History Oxford: Clarendon Press, , p. Lawrence Stone Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, , p. Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, , p. McGraw Hill, , p. The Undergraduate Curriculum Buckingham, England: Society for Research into Higher Education, , p.

What Can We Learn from History? Harper, , p. Carl Kaysen New York: McGraw-Hill, , p. Lowther, Designing the Learning Plan: Regents of the University of Michigan, , p. Bowen, Investment in Learning: Jossey-Bass, , p. Conrad, The Undergraduate Curriculum: Westview Press, and C. McCutchan, ; for a discussion of five of the essential conflicts that surface in curricular work, see Elliot W.

Mayhew and Patrick J. Ford, Changing the Curriculum San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, ; for a full review of definitions and the literature that supports them, including a review of the use in kindergarten through grade 12 and an articulated schema of major topics that bear on the curriculum, see Joan S.

Regents of the University of Michigan, A Systematic Approach San Francisco: That is why descriptive research is the next stop on our train ride through the different research methods. Hi Yusuf, The answer to your question is that it depends on what your research goals are. Or are you asking open-ended questions to gain information on customer perception?

Exploratory research is not defined based on the topic of your study, but instead on the information you are trying to find. If you want to do exploratory survey research on the topic, ask respondents to share their favourite parts of the event and areas where the event can be improved. This is opposed to writing multiple choice questions that force the respondent to choose from a premade list of answers.

This is extremely informative and so simple to understand for novice researchers like myself — I am currently working on my Msc dissertation proposal and the goal of my study is to generate data from nurses and explore their knowledge, perceptions, attitudes and beliefs in the use of music in an emergency department..

I have decided to use two focus groups with participants in each.. In the country I am living in such study has never been done and overall there is a dearth in European literature addressing this topic..

After reading your article my mind is clear that the most suitable design would be exploratory.. I am writing this first of all to thank you for your post and to please ask for your opinion on whether you feel I am on the right track? I am glad that you found the article so helpful! Sounds like you are right on track in your exploratory research. Focus groups are definitely a great way to develop a better understanding of how a group feels on a topic. After you receive all your valuable feedback, remember that the information is still exploratory.

To quantify your findings, you will have to journey to the descriptive or causal forms of research. But for now your focus groups will be a great starting point to gather general sentiments on the subject, giving you direction for follow up studies.

When setting up your focus groups remember to find a good mix of nurses based on different descriptors like age, years employed, gender, location of work, etc. Glad to hear you liked the topic sha sha! I will try to satiate your appetite for research design topics by pumping out more articles! Hi Mr Rick First of all , I would like to thank you for the insights you provide us with , concerning the exploratory research.

Sounds like some interesting research! I think you would benefit from solidifying your research objectives! Here is a link to a great article about how to build your research objectives:. Your email address will not be published. Privacy Policy Terms and Conditions. And 4 Ways to Implement it in Your Research! The following two tabs change content below.

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The Design Approach

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Exploratory research design does not aim to provide the final and conclusive answers to the research questions, but merely explores the research topic with varying levels of depth. It has been noted that “exploratory research is the initial research, which forms the basis of more conclusive research.

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Exploratory research is a research that gathers preliminary information that will help to define a problem and suggest a hypothesis. It is usually conducted when the researcher does not know much about the problem and needs additional information or desires new or more recent information.

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Definition Exploratory research is a methodological approach that is primarily concerned with discovery and with generating or building theory. In a pure sense, all research is exploratory. •Exploratory, descriptive or hypothesis-testing study? Why? •A causal or a corralational study? Why? Why Conduct Exploratory Research? Categories of Exploratory Research • Experience surveys • Secondary data analysis Author: mycomputer Created Date.

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exploratory research definition psychology The goal of exploratory research is to formulate problems, clarify con- cepts, bisnesila.tkatory research is defined as the initial research into a 3/5(2). CHAPTER 3 Research design and methodology INTRODUCTION This chapter covers the research design and methodology, including sampling, population, Exploratory research According to Polit et al (), explorative studies are undertaken when a new area is.