Thursday, 18 July 2013

Laying the path

After posting about how I am hoping to use the Summer for reading and planning (post-module musings), and having had Paula reinforce the potential value of doing so in her recent email, I also wanted to get the permissions 'ball rolling' by getting out my letters of consent before the end of term.

In this inquiry I am planning to use students from two of the schools I am currently working at, and so need to produce two letters of consent - one for the principal of each school (the gatekeeper of my participants) and one for the students themselves, which, due to the chosen age of my study group, requires parents/ guardians consent too.

Using the model consent form on the libguides web page as a starting point I added and subtracted sections to personalise it to my inquiry, and re-worded several sections to ensure I was being as clear and open as possible.
I also felt, and this was suggested in an email from Paula too, that due to the nature of my inquiry topic I needed to produce a separate document that outlined clearly the format my inquiry would take - basically a guide to what I would be asking participants to do and why - then it hit me, I've already produced an outline to submit for approval! So I took the most relevant sections of my Module 2 Inquiry Proposal and trimmed them into a one-page, gatekeeper-/ student-/ parent-friendly guide to my aims, objectives, and how I will approach my upcoming research.

I was initially concerned with gaining written consent from the school principals, as without permission to interact with their pupils I have no inquiry!
I gave both 'gatekeepers' an envelope containing two copies of the consent letter plus my 'inquiry guide'. I felt that it was important that both the principals and I had a copy of the letter - signed by both - as record of what had been agreed. My reason for this being that the letter is a contract, one that requires both parties to uphold their side of the agreement. In having one copy held by either signatory it feels more open, more honest and, hopefully, allows less opportunity for misunderstanding between myself and the school principals (given that my research won't be taking place until after the long Summer break).

I am very pleased to say that I have already received back one letter giving me consent to use students at the school, and although I haven't had the second one back yet I have been given every reason to believe that there will be no problem there either. PHEW!

So now all I have to do is choose which students to give letters to and why - a big decision that needs consideration - after all 'we have to examine the concepts we use in order to ensure that our approach is reasoned and reasonable' (Fraser 2004, p.21).
  • Is my sample representative of a) my schools and/ or b) the wider population of local dance school students? After all, my choice of student could alter the validity of my research.
  • Will my students be able to talk honestly and freely without feeling worried that talking about certain things might cause problems in the future? To reduce the possibility of this happening I will only be selecting participants that study dance lessons with more than one teacher at the school.
  • Motivation is a concept that might prove difficult to some so, therefore, do I choose students whom I believe are able to understand the concept? Or is this predicting and ultimately projecting my own ideas/ conceptions of a student's understanding or ability onto my research? (Greene and Hogan 2005, p.8)  Should the sample group be randomly drawn or hand-picked?
  • I also need to consider the impact of not choosing certain students to participate and how they might view this. Is it important that I take steps to explain to all pupils about my research and why, if I decide to pick my sample, some students fit the criteria and some don't? If the aim of my inquiry is to benefit my students as well as others then I must make sure that by not taking part my students aren't demoralised.
Lots to think about, reflect on and post about prior to giving out letters before the end of this term.

Watch this (blog) space!


Fraser, S. 2004. Doing research with children and young people. London: Sage Publications

Greene, S. and Hogan, D. 2005. Researching children's experience. London: SAGE

Sinden-Evans, A. 2013. Module 3 WBS 3760 - BA (Hons) Professional Practice (Arts) - Library Subject Guides at Middlesex University Learning Resources. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 18 Jul 2013].

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sarah, it's excellent to see that you are starting to get going on your enquiry already. My good intentions have been way laid to a little summer laziness! I believe these initial blogs will be particularly helpful when writing about our progression through the next module. Reading your blog has given me a kick to get going again, I am particularly keen to get some literature reviews done. Thanks for the inspiration!