The purpose of this qualitative case study is to explore restorative justice policy implementation at one school in Dochas School District by examining the perspectives of school-site staff who are positioned as street level bureaucrats. The study will include document analysis and interviews. According to Creswell (2013), a case study is a qualitative approach in which the investigator a real-life contemporary who studies a bounded system over time through detailed data collection reporting a case description and emergent themes. The use of a case study is appropriate because it aims to clarify the boundaries between the phenomenon and the current contextual circumstances of the policy shift from zero tolerance to restorative justice. The research questions that will frame this study are:
1) What are the perspectives of street level bureaucrats of the implementation of restorative justice?
2) How do street level bureaucrats’ understandings of restorative justice compare to central administrations understandings of restorative justice as related through official district documents?
Qualitative research, according to Creswell, involves an inquiry process of understanding based on the methods of inquiry that explore a social or human problem. The researcher builds a complex, holistic picture, analyzes words, reports detailed views of informants, and conducts the study in a natural setting (1998, p. 15).
A case must represent specificity rather than generality, and it is by this distinction that a ‘?bounded case’ or system exists (Stake, 2008, p. 121). This case study employs qualitative methods where the focus is to explore a case, a bounded group of teachers, counselors, and security guards within a bounded system, a particular school within the Dochas School District.
Yin claims that the case study method is best applied when research addresses descriptive questions and aims to answer those questions using a first-hand understanding of people and events (2002). A qualitative case study design supports the investigation of street level bureaucrats’ perspectives using interviews and document analysis. This comprehensive design strategy is an empirical inquiry that explores a case by addressing the “”how”” and “”why”” questions regarding the phenomenon of interest (Yazan, 2005). This case study serves the purpose of exploring the “”how”” and “”why”” following a district mandated policy change and the experiences of street level bureaucrats regarding that change.
The study will take place at Meitheal Middle School within the Dochas School District. This district is one of the largest in Southern California. Meitheal Middle School is located in an urban area of the district. The participants will be site-level employees who are positioned as street level bureaucrats at Meitheal Middle School. The phenomenon being studied is the street level bureaucrats’ perspectives on the policy change from zero tolerance to restorative justice at their school site.
Data collection procedures within the Middle School in the Dochas School District in which this is one of the largest across the California State will be simply through sampling of the information regarding the issue of street level bureaucrats. For such large states sampling is the best method of data collection in which the person making the study can have an easy time compiling the whole data for analysis. This phenomena being carried out in this study on the street level bureaucrats is one that concerns the issue of perspectives of the people across the California state. Within data collection and data analysis procedures in any study like this, the researcher has t take position at the end of the day after sampling out the whole study. The information collected helps him or her make up a report on the findings of the whole study he or she has collected. Reliability of the study and validity of the given research can all be measured through the issue of making sure all the people interviewed during the data collection are trustworthy in what information they are giving on street level bureaucrats across the state of California.
Maxwell (2012) describes the issue of the qualitative research on the street level bureaucrats as one that can be studied on the aspect of interviews and other qualitative research methodologies. This type of research perceives that the study can use the aspect of data collection using the qualitative analysis. This qualitative research can include the given application of the theoretical frameworks that entail in the study of the street level bureaucrats (Yin, 2014).
This study will be a case study explore the consequences of the newly implemented discipline approach, restorative justice, on the school site staff at one middle school. The study methods like the qualitative analysis has to provide eight school site employees an opportunity to express, through interview, their experiences with the implementation of restorative justice at their school site. The qualitative research analysis and design methods to be used gives meaning to the archived documents surrounding the restorative justice policy implementation. The narrative methods employed in this study will allow for the exploration of a single critical case (Yin, 2011), e.g., employees from one school site who have experienced the effects of restorative justice implementation.
The purpose for selecting the case study method is that it has the advantage of simplifying complex concepts and allows investigators to retain the holistic and meaningful characteristics of real-life events (Yin, 2011). “”The process of research involves emerging questions and procedures, data typically collected in the participant’s setting, data analysis inductively building from particulars to general themes, and the researcher making interpretations of the meaning of the data”” (Creswell, 200,7 p. 4). Bounding is a key part of a case study. Stake (1998) has described the value of a case study for explanatory purposes as, “”The more the object of study is a specific, unique, bounded system, the greater the usefulness of epistemological rationales”” (p. 445). Identification of the features that are within the system being studied are necessary for recognition of the findings among scholars.
Before the research resumes in the district and schools there will be the introduction of the participants in this study in which the issue of trust will be solved for the research to be valid. One of the reasons as to why I selected the site is that it has a large population and great in the education on street level bureaucracy. Dochas School has the ability to give the best results in this research and any given aspect of the study has to be included within the school. According to Maxwell (2012), the issue of complexities and generalization od events within the given research has to be accounted for in order to eliminate some of the challenges one may face in conducting the research.
This study will be conducted at Meitheal Middle School (pseudonym), a public school in the Dochas School District (pseudonym) serving grades 6-8. Dochas School District is among the largest in Southern California. There are 83 middle schools, 96 high schools and 451 elementary schools in the district. As shown in Table 1, the demographics of the district are 74% Latino, 8.4% African American, 9.8% White, 6.0% Asian, 0.4% Pacific Islander and 0.2% American Indian/Alaskan Native. The student population of Meitheal Middle school is 1,090. As shown in Table 2, the demographics of Meitheal Middle school are 92% Hispanic, 2.7% African American, 2.8% White, 1.1% Asian, 0.4% Pacific Islander, 0.1% American Indian/Alaskan Native. These details matter a lot within the field of research and study since it gives the readers the understanding they need to know how the study went down.
The Dochas School District has a stated goal of fully implementing Restorative Justice at all school sites by the year 2019. Training is regarded as one of the components within the implementation of the research across the globe so that the participants can be well versed with the issue of the street level bureaucrats in the chosen state. Central office personnel have carefully mapped the implementation process by creating a five-year initiative choosing large groups of school sites for training and implementation each year. Therefore, the middle school selected for this study is one that has participated in one of the first phases of the implementation. The school will be selected for this study based on location and accessibility.
Dochas School District and Meitheal Middle School Demographics 2016-2017
Dochas School District
Meitheal Middle School
American Indian/Alaskan Native
SOURCE: Dochas School District Fingertip Facts 2015-2016 and California Department of Education School Accountability Report Card 2015-2016
The study will use a purposive sample of teachers, counselors and security guards from Meitheal Middle School. Purposive sample is one of the non-profitability samples in which a research uses the characteristics of the given population where it can be known as the judgmental sample (Yin, 2014). The use of one school site lent itself to the use of a purposefully chosen sample of school site employees (4 teachers, 2 counselor and 2 security guard) giving the flexibility of offering multiple perspectives and providing insight to the research questions and, aiding in the discovery of the answers to these questions. Purposeful sampling is used for identification and selection of information-rich cases related to the phenomenon of interest (Palinkas, 2013). Creswell (2013) states that researchers select participants and sites for their study which will provide a purposeful understanding of the research problem, and central phenomenon in the study (p.156). The research problem according to this study is realizing the issue of street level bureaucrats across the given state of California. The following sections introduce the different participants in the study, how their perspectives will contribute to my research objectives, and how they were selected.
Teachers have some of the roles as SLBs and in the implementation of RJ and this make them to be positioned very well within the site of the research that is the school. Teachers are the front line employees in the implementation of RJ in the Dochas School District. Although the district has mandated the implementation of restorative discipline strategies, teachers at Meitheal Middle School make their discretion daily about whether to use the mandated strategies. Although school site administration delivers directives, the classroom is a isolated space where teachers choose what will best serve the students or themselves daily. In order to understand the experiences of Restorative Justice Implementation at Meitheal Middle School four teachers will be invited to participate in the study. These participants will be chosen based on their whether they were employed by the school before, during and after the implementation process while also taking their availability into consideration. This sample selection is not only purposeful, but also a convenience sample.
Counselors have specific roles in the participation of the SLBs and implementing the RJ since the research needs them to do that. One counselor will also be invited to participate in the study. Selection criteria will include employment at Meitheal Middle School before, during and after the implementation of Restorative Justice as well as availability participate in the interview process.
Security guards in the school are well positioned in giving a good and reliable information in regards to the street level bureaucrats. The final research group includes one security guard from Meitheal Middle School. Selection criteria will include employment at Meitheal Middle School before and after the implementation of Restorative Justice as well as availability to participate in the interview process.
Interviews across the research period are important since it is a way of collecting information that will be useful in the study. Data collection will consist of six interviews and document analysis of artifacts surrounding the implementation of Restorative Justice in the Dochas School District. This will include the conducting of six interviews and the collection of district documents pertaining to the implementation of Restorative Justice. According to Creswell (2013), data collection is a series of interrelated activities aimed at gathering good information to answering emerging research questions. I will interview participants and examine collected documents in order to understand the unintended consequences of the implementation of Restorative Justice at one single school site.
Four teachers, 1 counselor and 1security guard will participate in individual interviews. The importance of the use of interview can be best explained by Seidman (2013) when he explains that “”At the very heart of what it means to be human is ability of people to symbolize their experience through language”” (p.8). At its’s core, interviewing is a quest to understand the lived experience of another human.
Each interview will last approximately forty-five minutes and will be audio recorded. Field notes will also be taken during each interview. The interview protocol is semi-structured with open ended questions due to the nature of qualitative case study research. According to Galleta (2013), the semi-structured interview crafts an opening for analysis in order to achieve new understandings of the phenomenon being studied. It also leaves space through the researcher can explore contextual influences evident in the narrative but not explicitly stated.
All interviews will take place outside of the participants’ hours of employment and off school property. Interview questions will specifically address participant experiences with the implementation of Restorative Justice.
Documents from the school and district will be collected simultaneously during the collection of other data related to this study. These will possibly include district bulletins regarding implementation timelines and frameworks, schedules specifying administrative and school-site trainings, presentation handouts from these trainings and correspondences sent from the district regarding Restorative Justice.
Data Collection Procedures
Mode of Data Collection
How this is Appropriate for the Research Questions
Mode of Analysis
6 Semi Structured Individual Interviews
Interviews will allow participants to communicate their perspectives
Use of the internet to collect district and school site bulletins, emails and handouts
These documents will provide insight into the district and school site administrative intentions behind the policy shift
The first step in data analysis is the maintenance of accurate data collection procedures and detailed records throughout the process. The ongoing data log will be kept for future use within any other field of research and referencing. Confidentiality will be maintained throughout the study by use of pseudonyms. Audio recorded interviews will be transcribed and pseudonymized. Creswell (2013) purports that researchers may take a direct interpretation to the collected data drawing meaning from it, establishing patterns and putting it back together in more meaningful ways establishing correspondence between two or more categories (p. 199). Coding and data analysis for this study will take place simultaneously with data collections in order to discover emerging themes. This simply means that all the operations in coding and the data analysis will have to take place at the same time to make it possible for the research to be complete within the stated time frame. Open coding and content analysis will be used in this study so that it can work well. Coding is the issue of using computerized units to gain the given meaning within the research.
Teacher, counselor and security guard interviews will be transcribed in order to ensure accuracy. Analysis procedures will include examining verbatim transcriptions of the interviews and identifying relevant statements. After highlighting the transcripts they will be summarized to help identify recurring themes. This coding is helpful in all aspects to help analyze the situation within the research.
After open coding is complete I will identify relationships between the open codes and complete a textural description of prevalent themes. I will then write a structural description. According to Moustakas (1994), “”the Composite Structural Description is a way of understanding how the co-researchers as a group experience what they experience”” and this is within the coding procedures (p. 142). For this study the structural description will explain how the school site employees as a group at Meitheal Middle School experience the implementation of Restorative Justice.
In regards to content analysis, more resources are needed to make sure the study is authentic in all aspects and valid at the same time. The documents and artifacts gathered from the Dochas School District and Meitheal Middle School will undergo the same coding techniques as the above mentioned interviews. In addition, descriptive, interpretive, and pattern codes will be categorized across data in relation to the research questions (Miles & Huberman, 2010).
Axial coding is the disaggregation of core themes during qualitative data analysis. After the data set and interview transcripts have been analyzed and coded and themes identified axial coding will be used to compare emergent themes. Finally, selective coding will be conducted in order interpret axial codes and indicate one. Selective coding will be the final step in the analysis process allowing for a central theme(s) to emerge.
I am a white woman who has taught in schools with a primarily Latinx population. Throughout my career I’ve served lower socio-economic students and families and while I definitely experienced the world differently than them due to my race, they were able to relate to my impoverished childhood. I grew up in New York on welfare and experienced many of the same struggles my students faced. Watching my mother struggle to feed us as a single parent or not knowing if we would be able to pay the rent were common stress inducing experiences. I have always been able to build a rapport with families and students based on the common challenges of a low-income upbringing.
I have worked in secondary education for fifteen years, spending 9 years in the classroom as an English teacher and 6 years in out-of-classrooms the positions of literacy coach, instructional coach, and dean of students. My time in and out of the classroom has allowed me a fully developed view of the effects of policy implementation and discipline policies on teachers and students. I began teaching in 2003, under No Child Left Behind policy guidelines. The middle school I worked at was taken over that year by the state of California due to poor test scores. The site-administration was removed and the centralized directives poured down on the classroom teachers in an attempt to improve test scores. The district was in a struggle to improve test scores at any means possible and directives often seemed contradictory to one another and counter to the intended goal. While in the classroom I felt constant pressure to adapt to the ever-changing requirements communicated by site administration. I decided to deliver the instruction that I believed would most benefit the students while doing my best to avoid reprimand. Many times I found myself disregarding district or school-site policy because I felt the students would suffer if I were to follow it. My awareness of my role of a Street Level Bureaucrat began at this time when I recognized my use of discretion to implement or disregard policy directives.
When I left the classroom, it was, I hoped, to make a move toward more autonomy. I believed I would be able to get closer to the school site decision makers and help bring logic to the table. Teachers and students had been suffering due to unclear and conflicting directives and I truly thought the school site administration would be shocked to hear the struggles that were being experienced. What I found was school site administrators were simply following the directives of their farther removed superiors at the district level. There was no site discretion for decisions when it came to large initiatives such as curriculum or discipline. These policies were handed down from one level to the next starting with state policy. The disappointment of this realization was heavy.
My time as a dean of students began shortly thereafter and was a learning curve about discipline policies. Zero tolerance was in full effect and the school was suspending students as a regular practice. The pursuit of expulsion for truancy wasn’t an uncommon occurrence. I was trained by an Assistant Principal who taught that students were to be removed from school by suspension if they were disrupting the learning of their class. This was 2008 and public education was suffering from huge budget deficits. All but skeletal counseling services were eliminated from schools and any referrals for counseling for “”troubled students”” were made to outside nonprofit agencies. Teachers were exhausted and students were being disregarded if they interfered with the district’s push toward improved test scores. While working in this capacity I felt that I was doing an enormous disservice to the students who needed the most help, but the schools were unwilling to work with them and I was in another position where my hands were tied.
These experiences have led me to the study educational policy implementation with a focus on the shift from zero tolerance to restorative justice in one district. I have seen the damage that faulty implementation can have on teachers and students. I have also seen zero tolerance in effect on a generation of students.
The credibility and trustworthiness of this study will be established with the use of multiple data collection procedures (interviews and data analysis) and the use of a variety of participants allowing for the triangulation of the accuracy of collected information. According to Golafshani (2003), the researcher must ensure reliability and validity of the study based on the ability to maintain validity, and trustworthiness. Multiple cycles of open coding and categorization will enhance reliability. Consistent interview procedures and coding procedures will be employed throughout the study. Additionally, collection and analysis of the data will include robust written descriptions meticulously documenting emerging central phenomenon. Tracy (2010) argues that one of the most important means for achieving credibility in qualitative research is thick description. This involves providing enough details to the readers.
Document collection and analysis will take place beginning in September 2017. Participant recruitment and interviews are subject to IRB approval and are therefore projected to begin January 2018. The bulk of data analysis will take place in the spring of 2018. The first draft of the completed dissertation will be submitted for committee review in spring of 2018. Editing and revisions will occur in the summer of 2018 prior to the dissertation defense scheduled for July 2018.
This qualitative case study will use narrative methods to analyze the consequences of the implementation of Restorative Justice at Meitheal Middle School. It will include 6 school site member interviews and the collection and analysis of district and school site artifacts. The study will utilize grounded theory coding allowing for themes to emerge from the collected data. Selective coding will provide an opportunity for the researcher to address the research questions. This chapter concludes with a timeline for the data collection and analysis procedures.
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