Qualitative Research Article Critique – A Year in the Life of an Elementary School

1.0 Results

1.1Data Analysis

Even though the procedures used by Dorgan were less that desirably described, the researcher’s analysis of data seemed to be relatively explicit and clear. The themes emerge throughout the report of the study and are part of direct excerpted commentary of the participants in the study. Dorgan does not put the words in the mouths of the participants but rather analyzes and narrates the responses of the participants. Indeed, Dorgan includes all statements of the participants in the study even those that seem to be generally oppose the theme of her study; that CRTs and SOL have negative impacts on education. Even though this is true, it should be noted that such is the only example of the said commentary and the overall tomes of comments by the participants’ articulate a sense of defeat and frustration.


The report by Dorgan indicated the researcher triangulated the data collection techniques in ethnographic analysis and employed the three principal methods in the collection of data for the study. These primary techniques include observation, interviewing of participants and data analysis. Various themes were emergent from the data collected in the study which was coded. These themes were outlined in the results section of Dorgan’s research study. Even though the goal of a qualitative research study cannot be generalized, it ought to be made clear that the findings reported by Dorgan in her report can actually be transmitted to other situations and contexts (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2003). That is, even though there are no two schools with similar context, the general functioning of any school as a whole and the response of the school to political stimuli ought to be compared to every other school in a similar situation. The findings of the study are a result of the driving force in the research study; two questions highlighted by Dorgan in page 1205 of the article. In particular, the questions are 1. “What was the effect of a political decision on pedagogical decision making?” and 2. How might the demands of a new testing program affect how teacher(s) teach and how children are expected to learn?” It is also pertinent to note that the research by Dorgan was not driven by hypothesis as would be the norm in qualitative studies (Dorgan, 2004). Instead, Dorgan begins her study by asking questions and collects her findings around these set of questions. However, while this is the case, it should be noted that the questions actually form somewhat a hypothesis that is based on Dorgan’s perceived notion that political decision making will certainly have an effect on teaching and learning and secondly, a new testing program will certainly affect learning and teaching.

1.3Theoretical Integrations

The theories in the study are grounded within and also emergent from the collected data. In essence, the theory within the study may be stated in terms of answering the research questions aforementioned. The theory by Dorgan emerges in her conclusion of the article where she draws support from other related literature with supporting observations and analyses. A vehicle for ideation is provided by the general similarity of the said contexts on a broad level (Dorgan, 2004). The theory by itself suggests that the political policy will actually have a powerful effect on the pedagogical teaching, decision making and learning strategies in the state of Virginia. Dorgan is keen to state that, “Teachers will continue to spend their days doing what they are told to do, reaching for goals they did not themselves establish, and worrying about whether or not they are doing enough” (Dorgan, 2004, p. 1224).

2.0 Discussion

2.1 Interpretation of the Findings

Even though the procedures that Dorgan used in collecting data for her study were less than desirably described, the researcher’s analysis of the collected data seemed to be relatively explicit and clear. The summary of the emergent themes by Dorgan appears to be based on contexts of the participants and are complete. The themes emerge from the participants themselves and are not imposed on the situation by the researcher. The researcher makes a continuous effort in noting the regular patterns of attitude, tone and commentary in terms of the respondent’s commentary throughout the interviews as well as other social contexts that can be observed within the natural academic environment.

From the findings of the study, the notion of quality and quantity as well as the shift in methods of teaching was quite alarming (Dorgan, 2004). The various effects of CRTs and SOL on the system within Virginia and in the particular elementary school appear to be at odds with what an individual would perceive to be the trend in education across North America (Dorgan, 2004). In equal fashion, it was also disturbing to note that the teachers who participated in the case study lacked control in terms of approach and organization used in the delivery of curricula. The most pressing issue in the study as discovered by Dorgan was perhaps the lack of time. The teachers, who attempted to adhere to guide which accompanied the new curricula, reported that they felt they were being rushed and lacked the sufficient time to accomplish their objectives.

By the fact that my goal is to discuss how the themes/findings are interpreted and not enumerated, I will avoid any further attempt of drawing out the themes. Instead, I will comment on how the said findings are developed and used within the study. Dorgan notes the themes in her findings but not as explicitly as a reader would expect. In her results section, she divides her areas into two parts with the first part describing how teaching and learning is affected while the second part shows how students cope. These involve the major emergent themes but fail to articulate the themes in the study as a qualitative research ought to (Neuman, 1997).


2.2 Implications/Recommendations

With the study by Dorgan, it may be possible for the government to tackle some of the pressing issues within education such as the lack of time that teachers stated was a bottleneck in completing the curriculum. The quality and quantity of education being passes to students needs to be addressed as Dorgan found out that these were quite alarming (Dorgan, 2004). There is need to address these as they greatly impact the education system in regard to the knowledge that students gain from schools. The effects of SOL and CRTs also needs to be addressed as they were discovered to be at odds with what an individual would believe to be the case and trend in the education system within North America (Dorgan, 2004).

3.0 Global Issues

3.1 Presentation

The report of the study is presented relatively well for a qualitative study. Coding is used by Dorgan as well as grouping the findings of the study thematically to ease the analysis of data and comprehension by a reader. The research also answers the research questions with these findings presented well in the research report.  However, the conclusion by Dorgan on the study seemed to be a bit vague. Even though it is evident that the purpose of the study was fulfilled and the research questions answered, it is unclear in the report whether any approaches by the participants was actually effective in terms of adaptation to the new instructional methods, curriculum or efforts by the school’s administration.


3.2 Research Credibility

The research by Dorgan being qualitative is credible due to a number of reasons. Through the triangulation of the methods of data collection between interviews, observation and data analysis, Dorgan is able to enhance the validity and credibility of the research. Dorgan also authorizes two of the participants to view an initial draft of the research report and give feedback on how the report can be polished. This is part of the stages in undertaking a case study and helps in improving the general credibility of a research since a study is as good as its final report (Neuman, 1997).

In addition, the methods used in collecting the data for the study are coupled with excerpts from the actual data collected. The author further states the credibility of her study by noting within the introduction of the report that he focus solely was on the goal of the study.

Moreover, the move to provide excerpts from the interviews conducted and accounting for subjectivity allows the respondents in the study to speak for themselves. Dorgan thus reduces the possibility that a reader can perceive that she is very subjective in the efforts of understanding the situations of the participants. Lastly, by referencing other literature on similar topics and contexts, a level of transferability of the research is suggested by Dorgan thereby adding to the credibility of the study.

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