Communication in Wittenberg University’s Department of Education

Introduction

Conducting research has the main purpose in producing knowledge, even if such purpose is not apparent at the first sight. Accordingly, the methods of the research can be considered as the tools that will help to reach such knowledge, through presenting ways to leading from the stated problem to the answer. In that regard, the case of communication of teachers by Wittenberg University’s Department of Education is representative of the mentioned pattern. This paper analyzes the aforementioned case, in the context of the research stages, evaluating those stages in terms of appropriateness to the study’s objectives.

Management-Research Question Hierarchy

An essential stage of the research process is the formulation of the research question, and in that sense, a useful approach to such stage can be seen in the management-research question hierarchy. The management-research question hierarchy is the “process of sequential question formulation that leads a manager or researcher from management dilemma to investigative questions” (Cooper & Schindler, 2006, p. 80). The management-research question hierarchy contains several stages, the concluding stage of which is the formulation of measurement questions, i.e. the questions that should be asked and observed to obtain the information needed, where a management decision should be followed. The management -research question hierarchy in the case of Wittenberg Center for Professional Development (WittCPD) and the Education faculty can be represented as follows:

The hierarchy The step
Management dilemma An opportunity of offering a program of professional development courses, combined with an expected turnover leading to increased enrollment.
Management question What should be done to capitalize on such an opportunity?
Research question Should Wittenberg offer a master’s program?
How the program should be customized?
Investigative question Would there be potential interest in such a program if created?
What is the direction for the program’s content and orientation?
Measurement questions What is the percentage of people who would enroll in the program?
What are the obstacles to not enrolling?
What are the needs for the program?
Management decision According, to the findings of the study a course of action should be chosen, wither to offer the program and create workgroups to develop the content of the program, abandon the idea of offering this program at this stage, or abandon the idea completely.

It can be seen that the hierarchy led from recognition of problem/opportunity to the formulation of the research task, which in this case, a correct formulation of the questions at each stage appropriately directed the research efforts in this study.

The Exploratory Stage

The purpose of the exploratory stage can be seen in clarifying the actions that can be taken to solve the management dilemma. As the exploration stage leads to the determination the research questions, the actions taken during this stage are of great importance to the following research questions. Generally, qualitative methods are used in exploratory stages, which allow the “researcher to become familiar with the area(s) of interest, explore the field and consider the dimensions involved because of their open-ended, non-pre-ordained nature” (Carson, 2001, p. 205). In this case the method used was focus groups and brainstorming sessions, both of which corresponded to the initial task of the exploratory stage. In this case the task was in identifying the resources available, contributing to a master’s program in education, and the likelihood of the program’s customization.

Although it can be stated that the design of the exploratory stage in this case was appropriate in terms of methods, the questions that were addressed might be seen different. The exploratory stage in this case were divided into two different parts, one leading to the formation of the management question and the other leading to the formation of the research question. In the first part, the identification of the resources can be related to understanding the possibility of utilizing the opportunity, in terms of resources. The second stage was conducted to collect preliminary information, which can be seen as one of the main justifications of using focus groups, in addition to flexibility, saving time and money and group interaction (Healy & Perry, 1998). Considering that the result of the second exploratory stage should lead to the formation of the research questions, which in this case are related to answering whether the master’s program should be implemented and the nature of its direction and content, it can be stated that this stage was related only in formulating only the second part of the question.

The Sampling Strategy

The main purpose of sampling is the ability to generalize the findings of the research to the research population. Accordingly, if the sample is not representative of the target population, there might be a threat to the external validity of the study, i.e. the approximate truth of conclusions that involve generalizations” (Trochim, 2006). Translating the latter to the present case, where the target population is the practicing teachers in the State of Ohio and sample is 2,000 practicing teachers in a four-county area, sampling strategy can be seen in verifying that the answers of the sample are representative of the practicing teachers in Ohio.

The choice of random selection in sampling can be justified in that random sampling can be used to indicate the precision of the statistical; estimates. Accordingly, the nature of the study and its needs requires that the sample is representative of the whole groups. The type of probability sampling selected is cluster sampling, where the population was divided into different heterogeneous subgroups, i.e. Clark County, and Green, Montgomery, and Champaign counties. The rationale in choosing such design can be seen in the ability to fairly represent different geographical locations, which can be economically efficient, rather than covering all 88 counties in the state of Ohio. An issue that can be threatening to the validity of the results is the non-response rate. In that regard, even assuming that the sample number was increased in advance to counteract the non-response rate, there might be a threat that the respondents might significantly differ from those who did not respond.

Preliminary Analysis Plan

A preliminary analysis of the data in the present case will benefit from using EDA (Exploratory Data Analysis), in which the technique of presenting the data will allow outlining the patterns in the data, which in turn will allow its successful interpretation. To represent the data, frequency tables might be used to array the data. A frequency table might be useful to represent the data for repeated responses. Accordingly, the variables of interest in this case can be related to the reasons of the lack of interest and the reasons for having, interest in the master’s program, i.e. the variable which do not have a range interval. In that regard, ordering the data will allow inspecting the most important variables in this case. The enrollment intention can be represented as pie charts, as the comparison of nominal data will be suitable not only to indicate value of the variable, but also its relation to the other variables in the same group.

Another technique that will be used in data analysis is cross-tabulation, i.e. a comparison of classification variables (Cooper & Schindler, 2006, p. 505). In other words, cross-tabulation is useful to indicate the interrelation between different variables of the survey. In the present case, the variables which interrelations can be important can be seen in the enrollment intention and the reasons for interest, or enrollment intention and professional development areas of interest. The latter can be seen most suitable as the variation of intention between having an interest and lacking one, might be mutually exclusive in terms of reasons for interest. On the other hand, professional development areas of interest can be indicated by all participants, regardless of their enrollment intention. The advantages of using cross tabulation can be seen in analyzing the relationship between different levels of measurement.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it can be stated that the analysis of the research design in the case of Wittenberg’ Department of Education is appropriate to the intended objectives. A major problem in the design can be related to the low response rate, which might not be sufficient for generalization. Although a large sample might counteract non-response, the differences between these categories might be significant.

References

Carson, D. (2001). Qualitative marketing research. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE.

Cooper, D. R., & Schindler, P. S. (2006). Marketing research (1st ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Healy, M., & Perry, C. (1998). FOCUS GROUPS IN ACADEMIC RESEARCH PROJECTS. Theory & Practice. Web. 

Trochim, W. M. K. (2006). Sampling. Social Research Methods. Web.