Using questionnaires to investigate education: a summary

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  • Using questionnaires to investigate education
    • Operationalisation of concepts
    • Samples and sampling frames
      • Schools routinely keep lists of pupils, staffs and parents, which can provide for sampling frames
        • Schools may not keep lists that reflect the researcher's interests
        • Schools may deny access to such confidential information
    • Anonymity and detachment
      • Questionnaires are formal documents and pupils may equate them with authority. Those in anti-school subcultures may refuse to cooperate or take the activity seriously, resulting in incomplete or invalid data
      • Teachers may feel able to set aside concerns about their careers an so give more honest answers to sensitive questions
    • Access and response rate
      • Schools may be reluctant to allow sociologists to distribute questionnaires because of the disruption to lessons it may cause or rejection of the chosen topic
      • Response rates can be higher in schools because teachers and pupils are under pressure to cooperate
        • Head may even authorise time to be taken out of lessons to complete the questionnaires
      • Parents and teachers are accustomed to completing questionnaires such as student satisfaction surveys
        • Both may not have the time
    • Practical issues
      • Michael Rutter used questionnaires to collect large quantities of data from 12 inner London secondary schools
      • Written questionnaires involve participants being able to read and understand them
      • Need to be brief because children have short attention spans, which limits the amount of information that can be collected
      • Children's life experiences will be narrower so questionnaires may be of little value
  • Pupils' grasp of abstract concepts is generally less than that of adults
    • May be more difficult to turn sociological ideas into language that they will understand
      • Could require the sociologist to over-simplify so much that there ceases to be any sociological value
      • Could produce answers that are baed on respondents' misunderstanding
    • Operationalisation of concepts
  • The questionnaire's purpose may become known thorughout the school long before all the pupils and teachers have been given it
    • Teachers may be able to analyse the pattern of questions and recognise the researcher's aims and intentions
    • Practical issues
      • Michael Rutter used questionnaires to collect large quantities of data from 12 inner London secondary schools
      • Written questionnaires involve participants being able to read and understand them
      • Need to be brief because children have short attention spans, which limits the amount of information that can be collected
      • Children's life experiences will be narrower so questionnaires may be of little value
  • Questionnaires can be particularly useful when researching sensitive educational issues because of their anonymity (depending on pupils being assured of this)
    • Response rates may be higher and data more valid
    • Anonymity and detachment
      • Questionnaires are formal documents and pupils may equate them with authority. Those in anti-school subcultures may refuse to cooperate or take the activity seriously, resulting in incomplete or invalid data
      • Teachers may feel able to set aside concerns about their careers an so give more honest answers to sensitive questions
    • Interpretivists emphasise the importance of developing a rapport and so reject this

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