Jul 30, 2020 in Education

The Effects of an Anti-Bullying Program on the performance of the First-Grade Students

Research Design

To study the impact of anti-bullying programs on the performance of the first-grade students, descriptive research design will be used. More specifically, descriptive case study research design will be used. Gary Thomas argues in his book, How to Do Your Case Study, that case studies are “analyses of persons, events, decisions, periods, projects, policies, institutions or other systems, which are studied holistically by one or more methods”. One of the many advantages of case study is that it allows to investigate a situation at hand with scrupulous attention to details. Hence, employing descriptive case study research design for the purposes of this research project will contribute to rigorousness of the findings. Case study is ideal for answering the research questions set:

1.  What is the impact of bullying prevention and intervention programs on the performance of first-grade students?

2.  What are the perceptions of elementary school teachers about anti-bullying programs?

In other words, this study seeks to understand the effectiveness of school-based bullying prevention and intervention policies, as perceived by key stakeholders in these programs, with the exception of students. Because descriptive case study research design is non-experimental, there is no need to identify independent and dependent variables. The reason for this is that non-experimental studies cannot produce reliable evidence that changes in an independent variable can subsequently change dependent variables.  

 

To collect data, two instruments will be used: questionnaires and follow-up interviews. Observational research design or correlational research design could potentially produce more reliable results, but this would consume too much time. Likewise, it is not easy to find a school or several schools, which  implement anti-bullying programs at the moment and which will give permission to observe the implementation of these programs. Hence, data will be collected through feedback from people who have designed, implemented, monitored, coordinated, assessed or otherwise participated in one or more bullying prevention and intervention programs.

Subject Selection

For the purposes of this research assignment, a sample of 100 participants will be collected. The sample will not be large enough to make generalizations, but it will nonetheless help the researcher to answer the identified research questions. The reason why a larger sample will not be recruited is because of the specific requirements set for potential candidates:

• Each potential candidate should be an elementary school teacher, school principal, school psychologist, program coordinator or some other stakeholder in a school-based anti-bullying program conducted in the past;

• Preference will be shown for those stakeholders who were involved in anti-bullying programs aimed specifically at first-graders or elementary school students;

• Each potential candidate should be thoroughly enlightened on the multifarious aspects of bullying and the theory of anti-bullying programs;

• Each potential candidate should be willing to participate in this study.

These requirements will help the researcher to winnow out the list of candidacies to 100 participants. Indeed, not too many anti-bullying programs are geared to the needs of first-graders. Likewise, there are no doubts that not all stakeholders reached will agree to participate in the study. 

Given the requirements for the sample as they are described above the so-called snowball sampling method will be used. Like other types of nonprobability samples, Maxfield contends, “snowball samples are most appropriate when it is impossible to determine the probability that any given element will be selected in a sample”. Another great advantage of the snowball sampling method is that it allows researchers to select a sample of participants, who would be otherwise difficult to locate. Indeed, in the snowball sampling method, a researcher needs to recruit several participants who meet his/her requirements and then ask these recruits to refer their friends and acquaintances who also want to participate in the study and who meet the criteria of the researcher. This sampling method also seems to be the most appropriate, given the financial constraints of the study.

In line with the ethos of the snowball sampling method, the author of this research project will identify several participants who meet all the criteria, offering them to participate in the study. After this, each selected participant will receive a list of qualifications outlined above to use as a yardstick for suggesting other participants. Short interviews will be held with each referred candidate to determine whether they indeed meet the criteria.

Procedures

Prior to commencing data collection procedures, the researcher will seek written consent from all recruits to participate in the study. Likewise, the researcher will explain to the sample their other rights. More specifically, each participant will have the right to withdraw from the study without necessarily explaining the reasons for withdrawal. Likewise, the participants will be entitled to ask for the results of the study once it is over. In addition, the author will take necessary measure to preserve the confidentiality, anonymity and other ethical rights of the sample. 

After this, the first procedure will be to conduct questionnaires with the selected participants. A questionnaire consisting of twenty simple questions based on the Likert-type scale and three open-ended questions will be distributed to all participants. The structure of the questionnaire is described in greater detail in the next section. Participants will be given one week to send back their questionnaires. It is expected that the return rate will be no less than 95%.

Of the original sample of 100 participants, teachers will be selected for the second phase of the study: interviews. At this stage of research, the exact number of interviewees is unknown, but it is expected that no more than 30-50 study participants will be teachers. The purpose of conducting interviews is two-fold. First, it will enable the researcher to cross-reference the results of the questionnaire. Second, interviews will be instrumental in answering the second research question of this research problem – that is, in canvassing the opinions of elementary school teachers about anti-bullying programs. Interviews will be conducted either in face-to-face settings or through Skype or other online video-chatting service. It is planned that each interview will last between one hour and one and a half hours. Hence, a time period of two to four weeks will be needed to conduct the interviews.

The last major procedure of this research would be to analyze the collected data and to make recommendations on its basis. But this procedure merits special attention and will be discussed separately in the last chapter.

Measurement Instrument

In academic research, measurement instruments are divided into two broad categories: instruments completed by researcher and instruments completed by participants or subjects. Of all subject-completed instruments, the questionnaire has been chosen for the purpose of this project. As to instruments administered by researcher, the interview has been selected. Speaking of the content validity of the chosen measurement methods, it seems to be at a proper level. Yet, their external validity – that is, the ability to generalize the results of a study from a sample to a population – is limited by the small number of participants in this study. Looking ahead, it is difficult to speak of the reliability of the chosen measurement instruments. Again, because reliability is linked directly to validity, it may suffer due to the small sample. Yet, if the data collection and analysis are carried out consistently, reliability will be at a proper level.

As to the questionnaire, the questions designed to obtain demographic data about the participants will not be included in the below preview, but they will be certainly included in the final questionnaire. That said, below are several examples of questions that will be included in the questionnaire:

• Do you agree with a statement that bullying has an impact on the scholastic achievements of students?

Strongly disagree Disagree  Undecided   Agree   Strongly agree

• Do you agree that this impact is generally negative?

Strongly disagree Disagree  Undecided   Agree   Strongly agree

• Do you believe that standard anti-bullying practices are effective in their basic function?

Strongly disagree Disagree  Undecided   Agree   Strongly agree

• Do you agree that schools do enough to curb bullying?

Strongly disagree Disagree  Undecided   Agree   Strongly agree

• Do you suppose that anti-bullying programs aimed at younger audiences, such as first-graders, are more effective than anti-bullying programs implemented with teenage target populations?

Strongly disagree Disagree  Undecided   Agree   Strongly agree

• Do you agree with the idea that anti-bullying programs in early grades have the potential to actually prevent the occurrence of bullying in senior grades?

Strongly disagree Disagree  Undecided   Agree   Strongly agree

• Based on personal observations, do you believe that school-based bullying prevention and intervention programs implemented with first-graders actually reduce the incidence of bullying?

Strongly disagree Disagree  Undecided   Agree   Strongly agree

As to interviews, the list of questions is not yet carved in stone, but some preliminary questions are the following:

• Describe the achievements and limitations of the last anti-bullying program implemented at your school. Did it live up to your expectations?

• How did students react to the program?

• Have you noticed some meaningful change in the long term?

• Why do anti-bullying programs fail to achieve greater results?

• What components should an effective anti-bullying program include?

• Is there any other imaginative solution to the problem of bullying? 

Importantly, each interviewee will be asked follow-up questions in the course of the interview. After all, as Hannum and Martineau surmise, it is almost impossible to design and effective interview without adjusting it in the process.

Data Analysis

Analyzing the results of the questionnaire would not be a difficult task. The responses from the collected questionnaires will be manually transferred into a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet will be then downloaded into the special-purposes software, which will automatically collate the inserted data. After this, the percentages of study participants who agree or disagree with each particular sentence will be calculated, leaving little room for bias.

Making sense of interview data without skewing the findings would be a more formidable challenge. Radcliff, for example, advises that researchers should work through an initial transcription to “streamline the whole interview process by pointing out problems with questions or the interviewer’s delivery”. Following Radcliff’s advice, the researcher will analyze the first several interviews to see if there are some systematic problems with them and to make necessary amends, if any. Bird, Menzies and Zimmerman, for their part, recommend analyzing the audio of the interview after each such interview, transcribing and breaking it down into “smaller coherent units for subsequent analysis”. Therefore, the researcher will scrutinize the responses of the interviewees, looking for common threats and/or for trends. These trends will later be cross-referenced to the findings of the questionnaire and summarized in the results, findings and/or discussions sections of the research project.

Analyzing and interpreting qualitative data, especially data from interviews, is sure to consume a great deal of time. Depending on the number of participants who will be selected for interviews, it may take up to one month.

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