In comparing and contrasting qualitative and quantitative research, the following conclusions may be reached. In terms of purpose, qualitative research aims to understand & interpret social interactions, while quantitative research seeks to test a hypothesis, look at cause and effect, and make predictions. In addition, qualitative research utilizes smaller, not randomly selected groups, as well as attempting to identify patterns. On the other hand, quantitative research focuses on numbers, instead identifying statistical relationships. As far as results, qualitative research generates specialized findings, while quantitative research produces results in generalizable findings, applicable to other populations. The focus of a qualitative study is wide reaching, examining the depth of the problem, while in quantitative research the focus is narrow, testing a specific hypothesis (Johnson, & Christensen, 2008).
In contrast, the distinction between qualitative and quantitative research is considered by some to be abstract and general, and therefore of limited value. The argument used to deem this distinction as unreliable are the similarities of different standpoints on important issues among qualitative researchers. In addition, the overlap between many features of qualitative and quantitative research often makes it difficult to separate qualitative and quantitative research (Allwood, 2012).
Research plays a key role in pedagogy, as evidenced by the multitude of teaching methods and techniques available to physical educators. While the stereotype of monotonous and strongly regimented physical education classes were mostly true in the past, nowadays physical educators all over the world are pursuing the latest trends in P.E. in an effort to make their classes more appealing to students; resulting in increased motivation and participation. The days of calisthenics in a gymnasium filled with unmotivated students seem to be long gone, giving way to exciting developments such as the increased use of technology and interdisciplinary collaboration. With the advent of common core, P.E. teachers are finding new ways to incorporate literacy, as well as other subjects to their students (Jones, Brown, & Holloway, 2012).
Research undoubtedly plays a key role in discerning which trends in physical education are valuable and are here to stay, and which amount to nothing more than a passing fad. Physical educators rely on properly conducted research to determine how to best present a topic to their students, bearing in mind their developmental, physiological and psychological characteristics and needs (Longmuir & Tremblay, 2016). Physical educators today rely on research and, more precisely, on empirical evidence to help guide decision making, which ultimately helps shape the curriculum. It is important to realize research is not exclusively confined to experts in the field, but rather it is accessible to anyone who is interested in gaining more knowledge on a particular subject. The importance of research cannot be understated: It is absolutely crucial in helping broaden knowledge in pedagogy as it introduces educators to more effective teaching practices (Jones, Brown, & Holloway, 2012).
In the field of pedagogy, applied research may be preferred. This is because applied research seeks to find solutions to practical problems, as opposed to basic research, which sometimes does not have a clear and immediate application. Physical educators benefit from applied research because it involves testing theoretical concepts in a practical environment; namely their groups of students (Armour & MacDonald, 2012).
Within applied research, the qualitative methodology is appealing to some, as it is based on extensive observations and interviews, not solely on data collection. Another reason why this type of research is more conducive to pedagogy is because it may be conducted in a natural setting, such as a classroom. The constructionist perspective states meaning and reality are situational specific, with no meaning necessarily more valid than another. Within this research perspective, the qualitative method tends to be more non-linear, allowing for more flexibility in terms of research methods. (Baumgartner & Hensley 2013)
Another common research method in physical education is descriptive research, aimed at gathering information from a subject group. This type of research first determines the way things are and then moves on to describe and define what it is in the present. Likewise, descriptive research utilizes a wider variety of methods to collect data (Thomas, Nelson & Silverman, 2015). Descriptive research is well suited to studies seeking to identify the attitudes or opinions of various groups of individuals. Examples of descriptive research are opinion polls, surveys and questionnaires in which participants are asked about their opinion on a variety of subjects. Another descriptive research technique involves observational studies, which is a descriptive technique in which behaviors are observed in the participants natural setting, such as a classroom or play environment (Baumgartner & Hensley, 2013)
In conclusion, the writer analyzed a dissertation titled On-task student behavior on days with and without structured physical education by Kayla Byrd of Eastern Oregon University. The goal of this dissertation was to examine the effect of physical education instruction in the on-task behavior of students in the classroom. The study was quantitative in nature, with the author observing the on-task behavior of twenty-nine students on days with and without physical education. Students were observed twice throughout the six observation times for fifteen minutes each. An extra observation day was scheduled due to student absence on a physical education observation day, which increased the number observation days to seven. To document on-task behavior the researcher used the Davis School District Observation Form, marking on-task behaviors by making a slash in the ten second interval box and off-task behaviors by placing a letter code in the ten second interval box (e.g.: T= talking out/noise: Inappropriate verbalizing or making sounds with object, mouth, or body, O= Out of seat: Student fully or partially out of assigned seat without teacher permission, I= Inactive: Student not engaged with assigned task and passively waiting, sitting, etc., N= Noncompliance: Breaking a classroom rule or not following teacher direction within fifteen seconds, and P= Playing with object: Manipulating objects without teacher permission). The data was then analyzed using a two paired T-test and descriptive analysis.
There were numerous threats to the validity of the study. Firstly, the students were observed by a single observer. The lack of observers limited the diversity of what was considered to be on-task behavior. The observer determined each day what was on-task behavior and what was off-task behavior. In order to limit the variability, the observer wrote down what was to be considered off-task during the various activities prior to each observation beginning and followed the same structure for each observation and each activity. Secondly, activities varied during observation times. Though the observational visits occurred at the same time each day the activities were different on each observation period. Lastly, each student was only observed twice throughout the study, once on a physical education day and once on a non-physical education day.
These validity concerns generated results showing there was no significant difference between physical education and student on-task behavior, with the author recommending more research to be done on the amount and quality of physical education in addition to the effect physical education has on student on-task behavior.
As far as methodology, the writer suggests a considerably larger number of subjects, accompanied by additional observations conducted by more than one observer. The fact different activities were observed with each observation possibly contributed to the underwhelming results of the study, with the author unable to make an accurate correlation between physical education and the students behavior in the classroom.
In summary, the writer would like to further examine the link between physical fitness levels and academic achievement by proposing a research study on the relationship between performance in the physical fitness test (FITNESSGRAM) and academic achievement in fifth-grade students. A possible research hypothesis is fifth-grade students who demonstrate aptitude on the physical fitness test will score higher in standardized academic tests than students who perform poorly on the physical fitness test.
Another possible study would focus on the development of methods to monitor the motivation, confidence, knowledge and understanding of the components of physical literacy. Such a study has increased importance in light of the current obesity and inactivity crisis affecting our youth. Physical education develops physical competence so all children are able to move efficiently and effectively, while understanding what they are doing. The desired outcome of effective PE instruction is physical literacy, creating an essential basis for their full development and achievement. A physically literate young person has the skills, confidence and understanding to continue participation in physical activity throughout the life span. In terms of methodology, such a study would be qualitative in nature given its scope. Additionally, there would be a necessity to make use of a large number of subjects in a comprehensive attempt to gather as much information as possible on their experiences in physical education over their lifetime. Though time consuming, the results of such a study could prove to be extremely beneficial to physical educators in their efforts to raise a more physically literate generation.
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