Did the paper describe an important clinical problem addressed via a clearly formulated question?
Yes, the paper aimed at answering two research questions which were how does special education teachers engage in social relationships with individual children? And what do the teachers do to support social interactions between peers?
Was a qualitative approach appropriate?
In order to keep with the goal for this study of exploring child and teacher social behavior in context, the researcher used a qualitative approach. It was in fact appropriate considering the fact that data originally collected through naturalistic classrooms observation was coded and analyzed for emergent themes. Qualitative methodology was selected for its ability to support a more in-depth look into the complexities of classroom interactions (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Marshall & Rossman, 2006).
How were the setting and the subjects selected?
The setting is in special education classrooms. The study attempted to explore ways in which early childhood special education teachers supported children's social behavior within the context of their preschool classrooms. The subjects in the study involved children from each classroom to represent a range of abilities and competencies found in the previous quantitative analysis. The classroom teachers were three females, each with a master's degree in early childhood special education.
What was the researcher's perspective, and has this been taken into account?
The researchers perspective is seen right from the beginning by clearing stating the objective of the study which attempts to explore ways in which early childhood special education teachers supported children's social behavior within the context of their preschool classrooms. The researcher's perspective has been put into the picture throughout the study. The data which was collected was coded and analyzed for emergent themes within a qualitative framework.
The findings further broaden the researcher's perspective because they revealed a variety of strategies and behaviors used by early childhood special education teachers and their assistants to respond socially to the children in their classroom (McConnell et all, 1992). The grouping of the collected data into five themes is a further confirmation of just how the researcher's perspective is taken into account. This gives the two a multiple lenses through which to view children's and teachers' social experiences in the classroom, providing the potential for a richer understanding of both what is observed as well as how it actually transpires.
What methods did the researcher use for collecting data-and are theses described in enough detail?
The researcher selected two children from each classroom to represent a range of abilities and competencies found in the previous quantitative analysis. The classroom teachers were three females, each with a master's degree in early childhood special education. However, the researcher does not seem to have collected enough data due to the simple fact that the observations only tool place during the morning hours when children were mostly active. In addition to that, the observation was only carried out for two hours only and this could not have allowed enough time to familiarize the researcher with the teachers and students.
The researcher has described this in details given that, after the initial visit, each study child was observed for two 1-hour sessions on two separate occasions during daily classroom activities. In addition, the researcher spent many hours ranging from 10-14 hours in every classroom observing both individual children as well as the whole group. This clearly indicates that the researcher spared no effort in collection of the data. In a detailed manner, the study further explains how extra time provided opportunities to observe each child beyond his or her individually scheduled observation time and to see all of the children and teachers in each classroom engaged in multiple activities and experiences.
Through recording the researcher managed to gather data on the children's social behavior this was in addition to initiations and responses from teachers and peers. The researcher successfully managed to record for each child. The researcher further embarked on reviewing classroom transcripts before selecting the focus cases for the present study. This allowed in seeing the overall classroom dynamics and the interactions between teachers and the two study children within each classroom over the course of several days (Sroufe, 1983). On finishing all the classroom observations, the researcher provided teachers with a brief questionnaire which included requests for demographic information and several questions about their curricular priorities. This is a clear indication that the researcher was successful in collection of data.
However, responses were later reviewed alongside the classroom observations to find points of agreement and disagreement. Coding In the original study, 25% of the observations was recorded simultaneously by two observers, coded using a predesignated coding framework, and checked for minimum inter-rater reliability.
What methods did the researcher use to analyze the data-and what quality control measures were implemented?
The researcher used the data mining technique in order to analyze the data collected. The simple reason behind the choosing of this technique is because it normally focuses on discovering the knowledge as well as modeling it in order to make it predictive as opposed to leaving it descriptive. The data was first cleaned before being analyzed. It was later taken through the first analysis in order to check its quality. The analysis of the main data came third mainly to address the original question of the whole research. The data was finally analyzed in order to provide for additional analyses and report. As far as quality control measures are concerned, the data's quality was looked at early enough. Using the frequency counts, the data quality was assessed.
However, for this qualitative analysis, all of the original transcripts from the three classes were reviewed by the two researchers in separate ways to establish a sense of children's and teachers' overall social experience. Each researcher created a summary of experience for each child focusing on social behavior with peers and adults. Through the following of these steps, the researchers immersed themselves in the data to have an overview of the children's classroom social experience guiding the emergent themes analysis. In a bid to make the analysis more efficient the researchers engaged in a collaborative process of comparing and collapsing their original emergent themes and they finally arrived at five of them which enabled them to categorize the running records. One of the themes involved the adaptations made by teachers that helped support individual children's positive social experiences.
The second theme revolved around the positive emotional connections made between teachers and students. The third theme was on sustained negative interactions between teachers and students. Fourthly, the researchers identified the ways that teachers promoted positive social engagements and interactions with peers (Guralnick et al, 1998). The final theme focused on the ways in which teachers help their students with conflict resolutions. To make the analysis successful, each researcher coded the transcripts individually for the six study children, placing the observational data into five categories and then meet again to reach on a consensus. The analysis revealed a variety of ways in which the teachers in these three early childhood special education classrooms responded socially to the children. All of the teachers made individualized adaptations and accommodations to address children's specific needs.
Are the results credible, and if so, are they important within the profession?
The results in this research are credible because of the following reasons. First the researchers are categorical that their aim in looking qualitatively at the running records from the three dynamic preschool classrooms was not meant to compare teachers or students on explicit characteristics, but to elaborate the unique interaction issues that crop up for teachers and children and the ways that they are responded to within the diverse and complex contexts that constitute these early childhood special education settings.
The credibility of the results is further seen where the researchers deduces that, although Karen integrated classroom had children who were typically developing, there was a range of social competencies among children in each of the classrooms and some children in both of the self-contained settings had only mild social delays (Birch et al,1996). The results are seen as important in the profession due to the support of assistant teachers who are said to have played an important role in nurturing social experiences which were equally included in the observation and later in the analysis. The analysis clearly shows a number of ways in which the teachers in the entire three special education classroom responded to children socially. This plays an important role in showing that they are in deed professionals.
What conclusions were drawn, and are they justified by the results?
The conclusions in the research are deduced from the end result of the research. The results focused on what was noticed in teachers as well as students. One of the conclusions that is widely supported by the results is the idea of teachers to continue navigating the delicate balance between encouraging socialization among all of the children while continuously enforcing limits for some of them. The results supported the idea of young children with disabilities to learn how to initiate spontaneous social behaviors toward their peers in appropriate ways, so that ultimately they will benefit from positive social relationships. Another conclusion is that teachers in their effort to redirect inappropriate social behaviors may without intention discourage spontaneous social engagements taking away the very opportunities they hope to create for young children with disabilities.
Are the findings of the study transferable to other settings?
The findings in this research can be termed as general and therefore are transferrable to other settings. This is because they reveal that the complex roles that teachers play as facilitators of social experience are evident in not only childhood special education classrooms but also in other areas. However, teachers in this specific study responded in different ways and in very individualized ways to the children, demonstrating multiple styles of social engagement with their students and promotion of social interaction between peers. The transferability of the findings is further seen through the researchers' emphasis that teachers individualized their adaptations in response to particular children in ways that are often explained in the social skills literature and this was supported by scholars. The teachers, just like in any other classroom setting seemed to understand their students well and they worked hard to accommodate their individual's special needs.
However, the addressing of children's social interactions with peers proved to be a more involving responsibility as most children required specific kind of teachers in order for them to fully participate in the social life of the classroom. On the other hand, the study was small in scope although it looked at a complex set of classroom variables surrounding the nature of social experiences in three early childhood special education classrooms. All in all, the six children selected for this analysis represented a wider scope and therefore the findings could easily be transferred to other settings.