Sample Methods & Analysis

Pay attention here to how researchers
1) define the demographics of who was interviewed
2) select interviewees
3) conduct the interview
4) describe their positionality (their own identity as researchers)
5) transcribe & analyze the data.

Sample Interview Methodologies

Roda, A., & Wells, A. S. (2013). School Choice Policies and Racial Segregation: Where White Parents’ Good Intentions, Anxiety, and Privilege Collide. American Journal of Education, 119(2), 261-293.

The 59 parents we interviewed were from different neighborhoods, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds, though the majority (83%) were mothers and 88% lived in District Q. Roughly two-thirds of the parents interviewed, or 39 out of 59, were white, one-third were black and Asian, and the rest were composed primarily of Hispanic, biracial, and multiracial families. The range of annual family income was quite wide across the interviewees, with roughly 30% representing families making more than $150,000 per year (and many of these families making more than $200,000 per year); about half the parents said their annual family income was between $50,000 and $150,000, and one-fourth reported an annual family income of less than $50,000 per year. We also found the common correlation between class and race, with virtually all of the high-income families being white and all of the lowest- income families being black or Latino. In fact, only one white parent reported a family income of less than $50,000, while 21 of the 39 white respondents reported an annual family income of more than $150,000; for 16 of these families, the annual income was greater than $200,000 per year.

Our study included 59 parents randomly selected from a list of kindergarten lottery participants provided by the District Q administration. Normally, when doing this type of in-depth qualitative work, we would employ purposive sampling to assure diversity across interviewees in terms of key factors, such as parents’ race, ethnicity, income, education levels, and so forth. Because we lacked such sampling information, we randomly sampled the participants within zip codes to assure we had a geographic mix of people across many distinct neighborhoods.1 The larger percentage of white parents (n p 39) in our random sample is understandable because they disproportionately par- ticipate in the District Q kindergarten choice process, even though many of them end up enrolling their children in private schools. Since the district does not ask families their race and socioeconomic status on the choice application, we asked the parents for this information, as well as their immigrant status and languages spoken at home, in order to discern if families from diverse backgrounds experience the school choice process in different ways.

During the interviews, we asked parents open-ended questions about their assigned, zoned school and the reasons for participating in the lottery/G&T program, how they got information about the schools and the lottery process, on what criteria they based their final decisions, whether they were satisfied with their final school choice, and what they would change about the process. After the interviews were transcribed verbatim, we met to discuss how to code for themes and findings that were emerging based on the theoretical framework of our study (Merriam 2009).

The methodological steps for qualitative studies like ours can be thought of as inductive, emerging, and shaped by the researcher’s positionality in collecting and analyzing data. At the time of our study, we both had children in the third grade in one of the general education programs in District Q. We decided not to disclose this information to the parents we interviewed so that it would not influence their responses. In fact, even though our perspective was probably biased toward our own positionality as parents within the system, we felt that the advantages of our “insider” status outweighed the negatives, since it provided us with knowledge of the school choice process and the segregated and unequal schools and school programs that parents had to choose from. Furthermore, it did not affect which parents were chosen or how parents responded to the questions since we randomly sampled parents, and we did not tell parents our status as fellow parents. Furthermore, because District Q is an urban school district in a densely populated city, we did not know any of our randomly selected respondents personally.

In this way, the kind of knowledge that was obtained from the interview data with the 39 white, relatively advantaged parents focused on how they made meaning (e.g., constructivism) of the social realities concerning their choice of school/program for their children’s education in a constrained and segregated context. These parents are at the focus of our analysis here because, as we noted above, we were interested in how white, advantaged parents “display contradictory dimensions of their choice making” (Ball and Bowe 1996, 98), especially since they often exert more agency, power, and control in the school choice process.

The interviews with the white, advantaged parents yielded much evidence that school choice policies allowing for the creation of more diverse public schools would be welcome by many of the parents who tend to have the most choice in the educational system. Lacking such options, and faced with the choice between classrooms filled with mostly white and relatively affluent students versus those enrolling mostly black and Latino lower-income students, the parents we interviewed opted for the former, all the while lamenting the distinctions between the choices. Indeed, all but a handful of parents we interviewed articulated how and why they value more racially and ethnically diverse classrooms, with many citing the fact they were rearing children in New York City and not a lily-white suburb as evidence of their openness to living and educating their children in more diverse contexts, even as they were enrolling their children in racially/ethnically segregated schools.

After aggregating and analyzing how advantaged parents make meaning of their available choices in District Q, looking specifically at the contradictions in their choices, the following three themes emerged from the data: (1) Valuing Diversity but Facing Few Choices of Racially Diverse Schools, (2) Anxiety and Advantage: Getting White Kids into the “Best” Schools, and (3) Making Privileged, If Imperfect, Choices: The Social Construction of “Good” and “Bad” Schools. We describe each of these three themes and their overlaps and interconnections below.

Student Example

Benjamin M. Robbins 2013 “People Like Us Don’t Go There”: Local Culture and College Aspirations in Rural Nebraska” Yale Journal of Sociology.  New Haven, CT: Yale University: 98-129.

The data presented here are drawn from 42 interviews with rising high school seniors and one of their parents/guardians. The interviews used mixed methods including formal ranking exercises and network data collection as well as in-depth probes into systems of meaning. The students attend four different high schools in four different nonurban towns in Nebraska, each differing in population, distance from the nearest urban center, size of high school, and the kind of secondary or higher education offered… (Details about specific site…)

Permission to conduct research in each district was obtained from either the superintendent or high school principal and contact information for student, parent, and counselor participants was obtained from the administration of each school.

Selection of interviewees was done by referral from guidance counselors or administrators at the four high schools, from four different towns, each representing a different degree of urbanicity. I requested referrals for students in the top 10% of their class, adding the criteria of a high ACT test score later in the process. is was done to control for the fact that many students, regardless of location of origin, may not be best served by a more selective college experience. is sample includes some socioeconomic diversity so as to explore the connection between students’ perceived educational opportunities and socioeconomic status, a connection that research presented in this eld suggests.

In a semi-formal component of the interviews students were presented with a list of factors that may or may not have been important in their college choice. They were asked to rank these. Regardless of degree of urbanicity, socioeconomic background, or parental education the ranking fell out in more of less the same way for all students. is suggests a more uni ed outlook on college than initially anticipated. Four factors appeared in the top of the rankings for each school’s cohort:

  • Having to take out student loans
  • Considering what one wants to do after college: go to graduate school, get a job, join the military or other (indicate one)
  • Having lots of options of what to study
  • Going to a school that people will recognize

Lower-ranked factors across the cohorts were:

  • Being close to friends
  • Doing what my parents want me to do
  • Wanting to go to a public/private college

In what follows I illustrate the thinking of the students on the four more salient themes using material from the interview transcripts.


Survey Methodology

Rioual, Brigit. 2014. “The Study of Choice: Looking at Parent Surveys and Putting Them into Perspective” Trintity College Educational Studies

To conduct my study on parent perceptions of Northeast Choice and the schools their children attend through the program, I used parent responses from a survey that was administered by Northeast Choice in June 2013. Surveys were completed either through the mail or Internet, and had both a Spanish and English version. In this survey, parents were asked questions about how Northeast Choice is performing as a program, how they could improve, and how the school their child attends through the program is doing (See Appendix A for full questionnaire). Because I did not administer this survey, I do not know the response rate.

Once I received the data, I looked at the responses to each of the questions on SPSS, a computer program used for statistical analysis. I focused on how parents view the program and the schools the children attend through a few different questions. The questions I looked at were: • Does your child’s school know you and your family? • Do you receive the information you need from your child’s school, such as: your child’s academic progress, school events, special activities or programs, what your child is learning in school, school rules and policies? • Does your child’s school return your phone calls, emails, or other communication within a few days, display the diversity of your child on bulletin boards, paintings, murals, etc., and provide volunteer opportunities for all families? • Which activities have you participated in at your child’s school: parent/teacher conferences, after-school programs, end of the year events, school performances and volunteer as needed? They responded yes or no to these questions or checked which applied. For these questions, I ran a frequency distribution to find the percentage that said yes or no. Additionally, I looked at the question “would you recommend Northeast Choice to other families?” While it was a yes or no question, it did have a place to explain their reasoning. For this question, I focused on their reasoning. The question “does your child’s school know you and your family?” also had a place for them to explain why they said yes or no, so I looked at both the frequency distribution and their reasons.

I coded these responses based on words that stuck out to me (See Appendix B: Tables 2 and 4 for the codes). In the findings section, I discuss the codes as being positive or negative because in some cases, if the parents responded yes, they still had an issue or a negative experience (and vice versa). While Northeast Choice received 247 mail surveys back, only 194 respondents answered every question that I focused on. This has given me a sample size of 194. Although not every respondent out of the 194 provided explanations to the two openended questions I focused on, I still analyzed those that did respond. By focusing on these questions with my sample size of 194, I was able to answer my research question: how do parents experience Northeast Choice and the school their children attends through the program?

Lit Review Paper Methodology

Wong, Paul, Chienping Faith Lai, Richard Nagasawa, and Tieming Lin. 2006. “The “Model Minority”: Bane or Blessing for Asian Americans?”  Journal of Multicultural Counseling 34: 38-49.

In considering the issue of the model minority label, several issues warrant discussion; we consider some of them in this article. First, it is appropriate to question the extent to which Americans in general continue to view Asian Americans as a model minority group. Second, we discuss how Asian Americans feel about this label. Third, we address the accuracy of this label. Fourth, we consider the extent to which such labeling may ironically hinder the academic performance of some Asian Americans. Fifth, we discuss the ways in which such labeling may have detrimental social effects for Asian Americans.

Lit Review Paper with Extensive Methodology

Ramstetter, Catherine L, Robert Murray and Andrew S Garner. 2010. “The Crucial Role of Recess in Schools.” Journal of School Health 80(11):517-26.

This was a comprehensive review of recess-specific literature. Studies, commentaries, and position state- ments dealing with children’s play, fitness, and/or physical activity were all assessed initially, as recess provides an opportunity for children to engage in these endeavors. However, articles were excluded from the review and discussion of the benefits of recess unless they mentioned recess specifically. Also excluded were articles which assumed the occurrence of recess for all children, for example, describing activities and games for recess; measuring students’ Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA); or discussing ways to increase or influence MVPA. Inclusionary criteria limited the review to articles discussing the benefits, barriers, policies and implementation or delivery of elementary-school recess in the United States. Peer- reviewed articles as well as commentaries, reports, and position statements written in English were included.

The authors began with a Google Scholar search to cull definitions, position statements, and policy recommendations from national and international associations and organizations. This search yielded several important documents, including a statement from the 1989 United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child which said, ‘‘The child shall have full opportunity to play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education; society and the public authorities shall endeavor to promote the enjoyment of this right’’ (Art. 31).10 Recess during the school day offers children this opportunity, and for this review, the date of the UN Declaration marked the threshold for inclusion. For this reason, publications prior to 1989 were excluded. The end date of the search was May 2009, when the authors wrote this article.

Following the Google Scholar search, a multi- database search was conducted through the lead author’s library OneSearch mechanism of the fol- lowing categories: ‘‘Education,’’ ‘‘Health & Biological Sciences (Incl. Medicine and Pharmacy),’’ ‘‘Nursing & Allied Health,’’ and ‘‘Psychology.’’ The OneSearch tool included CINAHL, ERIC, ProQuest, PsycINFO, PubMed, and Web of Science databases, among others. Key words searched were ‘‘school recess’’ which was then refined with additional keywords ‘‘academic,’’ ‘‘before lunch,’’ ‘‘cognitive,’’ ‘‘emotional,’’ ‘‘physical,’’ and ‘‘social.’’ Additional articles were selected from the references of included articles. The broad scope of the search yielded over 200 articles, from those focused on one specific aspect of recess to those that examined multiple factors, including how to structure and conduct recess. Because there were so many articles captured, in addition to the exclusionary criteria previously listed, the authors agreed to additional parameters: position statements were only included if they were from a national organization or association and were recess- specific; commentary were excluded unless the commentary was nationally disseminated and/or cited by others (eg, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Recess Rules9). Fifteen articles (reviews, experiments, or commentary) were identified, which specifically addressed the influence or benefit of recess for the whole child in a school setting in the United States (Table 2).9,11-24 Other studies and articles are referenced which offer support for one or many aspects of recess.