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.
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 focuses on measurements gathered experimentally (Denzin and Lincoln, 2005), qualitative methodology secures its position as the preferred method for data collection in this analysis.
Throughout the data collection phase of this study, I will engage in participant observation-based research. Angrosino (2005) defines this observation technique as “grounded in the establishment of considerable rapport between the researcher and the host community and requiring the long-term immersion of the researcher in the everyday life of that community” (p. 732). Rapport will be gained through volunteering time and sharing of my various skills at Blue Mountain School whilst gathering data. As a pre-service teacher, not solely as an outside researcher, I will be able to quickly achieve trust of the teachers, students, and administrators at Blue Mountain School. Jackson (1990) provides another definition of field notes she formulated after gathering various definitions from fellow anthropologists. She states others define “field notes as representing the process of transformation of observed interaction to written, public communication: “raw” data, ideas that are marinating…Some see their notes as scientific and rigorous…others...