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Assessment of Data Gathering Techniques

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This paper is devoted to the methods of data collection, data collection procedure and methods of data analysis. First section is about interview technique used in data collection and the evidence for the choice for it; the second section reveals the procedure of data collection, and the last one is about the methods undertaken to the data analysis and the evidence for applying those.

Methods of data collection

Data collection tools chosen are typical for a qualitative research. It is a semi-structured interview and secondary documents. Interview is the most appropriate tool for conducting the research, which purposes is the examination of personal attitudes and evaluations to the reforms, and the identifying of the reforms` problems from the inside. An interview could help to obtain relevant and comprehensive information better than any other method, such as a questionnaire, due to its individual and person-oriented way of communication. The focus group for the interview consisted of professionals of 30-70 years old, involved in actual teaching activity in HEI. However, before starting the data collection I intended to face with the respondents in the range of 24-57 years old, while this conclusion was made on the formal assumptions of the working age of the teaching staff in Kazakhstan higher education institutions. But in reality I discovered that the actual age of the teachers is ranged between 30 and 70 years old, and they made up the respondents.

The interview consisted of 18 questions, dividing into three groups of queries. First two questions were about general information about the respondents and his attitude to the reforms in the whole. The main part of the questions were focused on the particular parts of the reformation, such as three-level education, credit technology, academic mobility, curriculum, teaching activity under new conditions, research activity, testing system. And the final part of interview was devoted to the evaluations of two educational systems and whether they would support the return to the Soviet educational system if there were a possibility.

Data collection procedure

From the very beginning of data collection I aimed on face-to-face interviewing, but in practice corrections occurred in this for some reasons, one of which was the lack of time of several respondents for oral interviewing, while they showed their willingness to take part in this. So, it was their offer to answer in a written form, which I did not plan before. In fact, I conducted 33 oral interviewing and received 5 written answers, although this number could be higher, if five respondents would perform their promises. If ranging according to the level of the universities, 18 people from capital. All oral interviews were recorded and transcribed universities and 20 people from regional ones were interviewed.

The interviewing was proceeding in two languages, Kazakh and Russian, depending on the preferences of the interviewees. In the whole the language issue should be taken into account for any researcher, who deals with people and. particularly with the sphere of education in the countries of the post-Soviet area, because after the disintegration of the Soviet empire, language became a tool for delimitation in cultural and educational spheres, and particular in the mean of language for instruction. So, teaching staff in Kazakhstan educational institutions is divided on monolinguals and bilinguals, where the first group mostly is presented by ethnic Russians.

The most ethnic Kazakhs use two languages, while some part of them chooses Russian language as a preferable one. Usually this is dictated by their educational background, because they were taught in Soviet school and higher institutions, where Russian was the dominant language of instruction. Nowadays they face with the problem of language for working and this is a challenge for many of them. But most likely it is rightly to say about the issue of three languages in Kazakhstan higher education; this problem is studied in findings chapter. In the whole, as for Kazakh respondents the half of them preferred to be interviewed in Kazakh language, while others were interviewed in Russian, including those who are monolingual Russian natives.

In the cases when I knew who would participate in the interview, the interview questions, information sheet and a consent form were e-mailed in advance. Unfortunately, that did not necessarily help to that people were ready for the interview on the actual day or at least look through the questions. Only two respondents spent their time to the preliminary acquaintance with the questions, but on the other hand, their non-readiness was useful in other way, namely spontaneous and freely sharing their thoughts.

The way of answer of each respondent was individual and I chose to follow their preferences rather than dictate own manner of running the process. Some respondents liked to be interviewed in a traditional way, when I ask the questions followed by their answers. Others took the list with the questions and followed consequentially from one point to another. One professor first read through all the questions with little comments and then started to answer every question in-depth, adding new facts and examples. So, in any session my task was not to disturb the flow of the thoughts, because the respondents prefer a free manner of conversation. This approach allowed me to receive valuable insights on the research problems, which appeared sometimes in the end of the interviewing or even when the recorder was turned off. Some insights were announced purposefully after I switched off the recorder. The tendency of almost all the sessions was that the more the respondents were involving into the reasoning, the more thoughtful and useful information and examples appeared. Other words, following to the preferences of respondents was productive, while it could be longer in time. In average timing of the interviewing made up around 50 minutes, with 31 minutes in the short and 75 minutes in the longest session. No any exclusions or withdrawals occurred in any of the sessions.

Methods of data analysis

Coding was the next step I undertook after the finishing the transcribing of the interviews. Following Creswell on the types of coding, which is expressed in three ways, such as …, I suggested that the application of predetermined coding is relevant to the type of data analysis I intended to conduct.

Predetermined codes in the case of my research can be found in those, derived from the preliminary knowledge of the research issue and which was incorporated into the interview questions. From the very beginning I was aware of the focus of my research questions and the purpose of data collection, which are: 1. the identification of the problems in the implementation of Bologna process in Kazakhstan higher education through the views of the actors of the reforms, and 2. to make generalization of the findings from the different sources of data and to provide the recommendations promoting the best possible adaptation of the European education standards in Kazakhstan higher education.

So, the interview questions were made up in the way of covering different issues of Kazakhstan higher education, influenced by the reforms. So as the interview was semi-structured, there were open-ended questions on the particular topics, which in turn worked properly for thematic coding. Thus, the coding was categorized with the following main groups such as: respondents` evaluations of the reforms, three-level education, credit technology, academic mobility, curriculum, teaching activity under new conditions, research activity, testing system, and the comparisons with the previous education system.

Sometimes the respondents could touch several themes at once, so that the information on different topics was intertwined in one answer. This happened in the cases when respondents suddenly remembered additional information on the question they already answered or when they tied one theme with another in their own way. So, my next step in the coding process was to separate this combined information for each thematic code, that Saldana calls as “splitting” coding (Saldana 2012:23).

The thematic coding seemed logically justified also because following to Creswell:…

This is what I intended to do in the chapter of findings, i.e. to design it in such a way when there would be a sequence of the sections on the different aspects of educational reforms in Kazakhstan, considering from various points of view on the same object.

As for the methods of data analysis I concluded that at least more than one technique was necessary to conduct the data analysis. Again, being focused on the research questions from the beginning, I realized what knowledge I wanted to obtain, and content analysis was chosen as an appropriate method for this purpose. So it was very important for me to discover what teachers think about the reforms and how they express their thoughts through words, the vocabulary they used in their answers, following that Quotation.

Content analysis was applied also for the analysis of secondary documents, relating to the research issues of the thesis.

However, as any other technique, content analysis has its limitation, one of which its insufficiency in making the generalized inferences from the findings.

Thus, other method applied for the data analysis was a constant comparative method, which is close to what Creswell characterizes as Quotation.

Comparative method was used for comparison of various teachers` views on the particular reform issues and in comparing those to data found in secondary documents.

Both methods, i.e. content analysis and contact comparative method, were considered as the addition to each other, as Quotation.

To conclude, this paper was written as a continuation and an addition to the previous one and thus covers all the subtopics I wanted to include into methodology chapter. This material is a raw draft of the chapter and a subject to be revised and added as new arguments and thoughts will appear.

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