This research aims to explore the parents’ perceptions of the educators’ teaching approaches. A qualitative case study research deems appropriate as I seek to investigate the existing knowledge of the participants, namely the parents, and concentrate on their insight experiences (Grech, 2019). The qualitative approach reveals such aspects of the studied phenomenon to understand it from the point of view of the participants and the peculiarities of the context, as well as the semantic components and life worlds of social agents.
Furthermore, a qualitative perspective will allow the researcher to ask rigorous details and use some open-ended questions, resulting in an in-depth understanding of the participants’ perspectives (Peacock, 2016). Moreover, this research method will empower me to understand and gather the verbal and non-verbal behavior (Green, 2017) of the participants.
Thematic analysis is a method of qualitative data that is ‘adaptable and flexible’ (Braun & Clarke, 2014). The flexibility of this method and its convenient research tool will allow me to scrutinize the information in multiple ways and give a richly detailed account of the data (Braun & Clarke, 2014). Thematic analysis helps identify semantic patterns in the data obtained and describing them in the context of research tasks. The topic is a laconic designation of significant information and is expressed in linguistic concepts that fix the main content of the text. Topics are distinguished using two fundamental approaches:
- “theory-driven” – deductive,
- “data-driven” – inductive (which corresponds to the logic of qualitative analysis as a whole) (Braun & Clarke, 2019).
If, in the first case, the categorical grid is developed based on a theoretical analysis of the literature, and then all data is distributed and analyzed according to its structure, then in the second, the topics are derived directly from empirical data. Thematic analysis is always a balance between deduction and induction (Braun & Clarke, 2019). In this study, the emphasis will be on the inductive logic of analysis.
This study follows a basic methodological strategy for thematic analysis. Primary data analysis will be performed first. The researcher re-reads texts and transcripts several times and formulates impressions, ideas, and assumptions about the material with which he will work in the future. Initial acquaintance allows one to “dive” more deeply into the data (Sharp & Sanders, 2019). I will also record spontaneous reflections and hypotheses, which will be changed and refined in further analysis.
The second step will be the definition of topics, that is, ordering the data array through the selection of semantic categories or units that transform the material of the collected texts or images into compact generalizations that reflect the main content. An indicator of the importance of a topic in qualitative analysis is not the frequency of its occurrence but the emotional and semantic load, that is, the “share” in the narrative. The definition of topics ranges from recognizing and naming (paraphrasing and briefly retelling) trends of interest to the researcher to a more subtle interpretation and reconstruction of psychological states hidden behind the respondent’s comments (Sharp & Sanders, 2019). In the latter case, it is essential to be careful and reason with the conclusions.
The third step will be the condensation of meaning: reducing everything significant that the respondent expressed and compressing long sentences into short ones, expressing the primary meaning of the statement in a few words (Peel, 2020). This technique is most often used in the framework of the phenomenological description and analysis of semantic experience (Giorgi et al., 2017). The coding technique is most commonly used in the “grounded theory” method (Flick, 2018). A grounded theory includes several theory validation procedures. Thus, to ensure the study’s validity, the thematic analysis will be supplemented with a grounded theory method at the coding stage.
The goal of grounded theory is to build a theory by rooting it as much as possible in the data. The critical relationship between data and theory is conceptual code. The code conceptualizes a hidden pattern of a set of empirical indicators contained in the data. That is, in generating a theory through the development of hypothetical relations between conceptual codes (categories and their properties), which were isolated (generated) from data in the form of indicators, we “open” a grounded theory (Flick, 2018). Since the topics have already been highlighted at this stage, selective coding will be performed. The axial category is selected in a certain way, and the field materials are coded so that the newly received codes (categories) are concerning the axial category. The axial category is the category in relation to which the most significant number of text materials are marked (Flick, 2018). Such categories, in our case, will be the previously outlined topics.
In addition, the method of constant comparisons is an essential methodological principle here. Through constant comparisons, relevant categories can be obtained; moreover, it becomes possible to formulate causal hypotheses (Weed, 2017). Thus, the category itself, which marks the phenomenon under study, becomes one variable, and the names of the groups between which the comparison is made become the values of another variable. Different values of the first variable in different groups allow one to hypothesize about the relationship. Over time, the categories both used by those acting in situations (or in their retrospective description) and those proposed by researchers will accumulate, and the analyst will see two types of them: those that they invented themselves to name a particular phenomenon, and those that they borrowed from the language of the participants. As theory advances, concepts abstracted from the situation will become labels for actual processes and behaviors to be explained, while concepts constructed by the analyst will serve as explanations. Thus, variables and hypotheses connecting them appear in a grounded theory. Hence, the data will be collected in a flexible and open-ended manner to draw out the most textural and structural descriptions of participants’ experiences.
The analysis performed will assure the interpretative and theoretical validity of the study. Interpretative validity assumes that interpretations are based on the respondents’ language and as close as possible to their concepts. The respondent’s actual words must confirm conclusions. Although the researcher cannot directly approach the values that the respondents give to their judgments and actions, they can construct (reconstruct) them based on the data obtained (Charmaz & Thornberg, 2020). As for unconscious structures, beliefs, and values, their psychological reconstruction is based not on paraphrasing, reformulating, and isolating the meaning of the respondent’s judgments but on explanatory theoretical principles and ideas (Charmaz & Thornberg, 2020).
Theoretical validity already goes beyond the limits of specific descriptions and interpretations; it is directly related to the theoretical constructions of the researcher. Theoretical validity breaks down into two components: the validity of the concepts used that apply to a given topic and the validity of the postulated relations between these concepts (Charmaz & Thornberg, 2020). In addition, since the study design is qualitative, generalizability is determined by “target” and “theoretical” rather than randomized samples. Internal generalizability (generalization to communities, groups, institutions, which were actually studied in this case) and external generalizability (generalization to other communities, groups, and institutions) are distinguished.
A total of 8 semi-structured interviews will be used as the data collection tool, two of which will be piloted with two parents, as shown in figure 1 above. This will enable me to gather preliminary feedback on the methods being applied and gather accurate evidence productively and abundantly (Ary et al., 2014). The data collected from the interviews will be coded and later organized, categorized, and defined according to the specified themes.
The study seeks to target only two-year groups in our educational system; therefore, the sample size needs to be small, and a non-probability sampling method will be applied. In this case, the purposive sampling method would be appropriate, where samples will be chosen according to the criteria being studied, where the sample representation will be a balanced choice according to gender, level of education, and their preferred spoken language (English/Maltese) in year 1 and year 2 classes within one school. Purposive sampling allows the researcher to access “knowledgeable people” (Ball, 1990) while not trying to seem “objective,” as it is virtually impossible to be. However, purposive sampling benefits this research immensely, as it will provide valuable information from a reliable source.
Three parents from each year group within the same school (Year 1 and Year 2) will be selected and presented with questions and prompts as to what could have helped them better understand the teacher’s ulterior motive of the particular activities and also the teacher’s actions taken after that. Ary et al. (2014) emphasize that while conducting the interviews, the interviewer must be willing to listen to answers that contradict his/her own experiences, morals, or beliefs. However, as mentioned earlier, whilst keeping the voice free of any expressions of approval or disapproval, interviewees will be prompted and encouraged to talk.
Contrastingly, Hammersley (2000) states that the researcher should not be detached from his/her pre-assumptions. The notion of social criticism itself has changed over recent times. He expands this idea by saying that postmodernism, essentially, “subjects to sceptical criticism any framework that could indicate what would count as more or less convincing evidence.” With the shift in society’s collectively agreed norms and ideals, the methods and their form evolve as a consequence, rejecting their previous embodiment altogether. He makes a fundamental distinction “between a research that retains a commitment towards the possibility of knowledge that is valid from all points of view and that which does not” (Hammersley, 2000, p. 5). That is, if objective knowledge is possible, then the researcher’s true intention should be to remain critical while inevitably remaining biased.
In order to provide this opportunity, the researcher will use the method of writing analytic memos since it is quite common among researchers who use the methodology of thematic analysis and grounded theory (Rogers, 2018). Maintaining memos is a form of thematic analysis based on this methodology; it implies manual annotation and selection of data, the researcher writes the emerging ideas right in the process. The main advantage of this additional methodological step is that the process provokes reflection since detailed notes are written (Rogers, 2018). In addition, the researcher is left with a fixed path of how they came to this or that “topic.” Also, the advantage of the method is its relatively low labor input and flexibility.
According to Creswell (1994), the researcher’s theory of knowledge is an epistemology that can decide how social phenomena can be studied. This study will be conducted using the phenomenology paradigm in which the concept “regard of the teachers’ pedagogy” is featured as a phenomenon. An important aspect of analysis in phenomenal logical studies is staying close to the meanings expressed by participants. Mouton and Marais (1990, p. 12) state that phenomenologists “hold explicit beliefs.” Therefore, the commitment to abide by the participants meaning will diminish the risk of imposing my own bias over the data.
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