Free and Alternative Schools

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The previous two chapters defined a question for this study, provided a literary background for this inquiry, and discussed a theoretical framework for this paper. A literature review revealed a fair amount of information surrounding free and alternative schools. However, none of the articles discussed science curricula for schools of this persuasion. Therefore, a quandary arose – how comparable is science education in an alternative school, explicitly the Blue Mountain School, to that of public education when specifically compared to the Virginia SOLs. In order to examine this issue, the theory Blue Mountain utilizes, progressive education, became the theoretical framework and was discussed in detail. This chapter explores how qualitative data enveloping the study will be collected and analyzed. Participant Observation A variety of qualitative methods will be utilized during the course of this study to ensure accuracy and provide authentication. However, first the use of qualitative research methods requires definition and rationalization. Largely due to the social aspect of this study and the potential emotional factors, qualitative analysis provides numerous benefits over quantitative methodology. Denzin and Lincoln (2005) define qualitative research as a situated activity that locates the observer in the world…qualitative research involves an interpretive, naturalistic approach to the world. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. (p. 3) This definition alone provides a strong reasoning for using qualitative methods for this study. In addition, because quantitative research ... ... middle of paper ... ...ain the most complete picture feasible, I have elected to gather data using participant observation, unstructured interviews, and surveys. By opting to utilize three different varieties of data collection, my study will achieve a level of validation not available if solely employing one or two methods – triangulation will be accomplished. Richardson and St. Pierre (2005), though arguing triangulation is too narrow, define triangulation as when “a researcher deploys different methods – interviews, census data, documents, and the like – to validate findings” (p. 963). Through the application of triangulation methodology and the research design, my study will be fully capable of comparing and contrasting scientific curriculum in public schools versus Blue Mountain School. In the next chapter, I will discuss the findings of my research and the analysis of the data.
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