Research instruments are defined as testing devices that are used for measuring a certain phenomenon and include methods like the paper and pencil test, use of questionnaires, conducting of interview, use of research tools or even developing set of guidelines that are used for observational purposes. Often in a concept research instruments are usually uses of questionnaires and interviews (Katsiaficas, & Cleaver, 2001).
Use of questionnaires
When it comes to educational and evaluation research questionnaires are the most and widely used methods of data collection. Questionnaires are best used in collecting information on opinions, knowledge, facts, behaviors and attitudes. Development and testing of questionnaires involves five sequential steps namely: research background conceptualization of the questionnaire, analysis of the format and data, establishment of its validity and finally determination of its reliability. Questionnaire should be developed systematically to help minimize errors that occur during the measurement process thus enhancing the quality of the data as well as the utilization of the research. The questionnaire developed for collecting data on the effect of the school breakfast programs on classroom is found in the appendix.
Reliability and validity checks on the questionnaire research instrument
Reliability: the reliability of using questionnaires in obtaining information on the effects of the school breakfast on learning in the classroom involves its consistency of the measure or the degree in which the instrument is able to measure similarly each time its is administered under same conditions and subjects in short it refers to the repeatability of the measurement under same conditions in a different time. In most cases the reliability of using questionnaire is estimated as it can not be measured hence it's the tool is considered reliable if the score of an individual is similar when administered with the test twice. The reliability of the questionnaire is done by carrying out a pilot test which seeks to answer if the tool of measurement answers the effects of school breakfast program on the learning in classroom. The reliability of this instrument can be achieved by using reliability types like test-retest, alternate form; spilt half depending on the nature of date internal consistency on either it is ordinal, nominal or interval/ration. For instance to access the reliability of the questions administered on ratio/interval scale, its internal consistency is the best techniques to use while reliability of the knowledge question is best measured by the tests-retest or split half technique (Katsiaficas, & Cleaver, 2001).
The pilot test involve collection of data from 20-30 subjects which are not included in the sample and data obtained is subjected to analysis using the statistical package for social sciences or any related software. Using SPSS software measures correlation matrix as well as the view of 'alpha if items are deleted column. Statements must have 1s, 0s while the negative values are eliminated. Items which can improve the reliability are deleted to improve the reliability of the tool. A minimum of 20% of the items should be deleted it help preserve the content of the data. The reliability coefficient ranges fro a value of 0 to 1 with 1 representing absence of error and 0 representing data full of error. Often a reliability result of 0.7 or higher value of alpha is considered by many as an acceptable value of reliability.
Validity checks: the concept of questionnaire validity is the strength of the conclusions, inferences or propositions of the measuring instruments and it's often refers to the approximation to the truth or falsity of the derived conclusion .propositions and inferences. In normal case questionnaires can be tested using four types of validity which include: the conclusion validity, internal validity, construct validity and external validity (Norland-Tilburg, 1990). Validity of a questionnaire can be attained through services of a panel of experts and by conducting a field test. The type of validity to be used can be: construct, content, face or criterion depending on study objectives set. The question used must measure what is intended, represent the content, use appropriate sample population and be comprehensive such that it is able to address the purpose and goals set of the study which is to identify the effects of the school breakfast program in classroom learning process.
In addition to that carrying out a readability test using either of the following methods is essential: fog index, Flesch-Kincaid readability formula, fresh reading ease and gunning-fog index. The process enhances the validity of the questionnaire used in the study. The questionnaire is ready for pilot testing after one obtains an approval from the institutional review board as well as the expert opinion (Katsiaficas, & Cleaver, 2001). Use of oral interviews is also a good instrument of gathering data and information because it provides primary data which is not distorted hence being original. Use of oral questionnaire also enables the interviewee/interviewer to clarify issues being asked and provides an opportunity for the interviewer to see the behavioral characteristics of the interviewee therefore, being able to judge on the truthfulness or clarity of the data/information being provided.
Effects of the program
The introduction of the school breakfast programs have yielded a lot of benefits to the learning process in the classroom in the following ways: first it has led to increased student participation .Increased number of nutritional intake as the type of food provide in these schools have highly planned menus that are characterized incorporation of very nutritious foods which are individually packed well as well accepted by the students.
Has led decreased disciplinary referrals of the students, has created a sense of community in the school set up as it has served a great deal in reducing the stigma on students who go to cafeteria to take their breakfast because its distribution is planned such that it makes the breakfast program a normal part of the school day programs.
In addition to that psychologists have proofed that taking breakfast have an influence on the performance of the students as students have found out that children who often eat breakfast has higher energy levels hence resulting to a better ability to learn as compared tot similar students who did not take any breakfast. These school breakfast programs also influences the classroom learning as students become more attentive when they take breakfast in the morning hence earning higher grades in morning subjects like math as well as showing fewer cases of behavioral and emotional problems in learning times (Norland-Tilburg, 1990).
The program has also ensured that students eat a balanced and nutritious food which has a great influence on their learning process since students who eat unhealthy food perform poorer than those who take nutritious breakfast. other benefits that the school breakfast program has yield in classroom learning include: kids being able to get to school on time as to able to get the breakfast, decreased number of tardy students, it brings more order to the following activities of the day, helps in attracting kids tot her classroom and hold them there, empowers students to bee responsible e.g. by keeping the classroom tidy, reduced classroom noise levels, gives students a good start as they are not hungry, it wakes the kids up, keeps students on task while in classroom, health and happier students creating a conducive environment for an effective classroom learning process and finally promotes students reaming focused for longer periods in the classroom (Norland-Tilburg, 1990).