CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY Introduction Due to the rates of special education students who drop out of high school and the alarming negative consequences of noncompletion, this study will focus on identifying the top reasons why these students decide to drop out of high school in order to develop more effective dropout prevention programs…
322). Research Questions Given this objective, the key question that will be answered in this proposed study is “Why do students with disabilities drop out of high school?” This chapter discusses how this question will be answered. Because it is a “why” question, the qualitative methodology was selected as it is more appropriate when contending with such abstract human behaviors, such as the act of dropping out of school. This proposed study requires a flexible research design because it addresses a human phenomenon that should also make space for behavioral factors. Hence, the qualitative method’s objectives of describing and explaining variations, relationships, individual experiences and group norms make it the most suitable for this study. For instance, when observing and interviewing participants, the set of interview questions determined beforehand should allow enough room for follow-up questions. This is by using a nonstructured format (Morocco, et al, 2006). Likewise, analyzing the data to be gathered will involve flexibility as categories that are not expected will arise and factors that seem inconsequential may became significant. The study may need to be adjusted in the coding and analysis of the data as these previously insignificant factors and categories may become more important in order to be able to present more accurate and comprehensive results. Design Qualitative research can “see precisely which events led to which consequences and derive fruitful explanations” (Miles and Huberman, 1994, p. 1). Moreover, it has a higher chance of being able to arrive at unanticipated findings and new combinations and reationships (Miles and Huberman, 1994). These reasons are why the qualitative research design has been selected for this study as it can provide a clear view of why students with disabilities drop out of high school. It must be clarified that although quantitative data, such as statistics and percentages, will be used in the study, it only serves as supportive numbers that will lay the groundwork for this study. Furthermore, it is intended for this qualitative research to act as a precursive study for more accurate and extensive quantitative study on the same topic. Active Observation The study will employ a qualitative research design that will be based on active observation with “a nonstructured format to allow for maximum flexibility” (Morocco, et al, 2006, p. 140). The qualitative research design has been criticized by many for its supposed inexactness due to its “interpretative, subjective, impressionistic and diagnostic” nature as it has been claimed that there are no unbiased observers (Thomson, 2007). However, when contending with abstract data, like “the often contradictory behaviors, beliefs, opinions, emotions, and relationships of individuals” and in this case, the reasons why certain people act a particular way, active observation is best employed as its strength lies in its capability to be able to provide a textual characterization of complex events such as human experience (Mack, et al., 2005). Intensive Interview Data will be collected through intensive interviews of special education high school student dropouts through personal (face-to-face) meetings and via electronic mail (e-mail). An iterative questionnaire would follow the interview in order to elicit the ...
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