Peer-Reviewed Journal Article Critique
Dr. Francella Smoker
I selected, reviewed, and critiqued Yost’s (2006) article which reported a qualitative research study of enhancing the retention of qualified teachers. I selected this particular study primarily for three reasons which are:
- I was interested in a qualitative research design in general.
- I was interested in learning more about the reality of new teachers’ daily work and experiences.
- I was curious about what are some of the factors which contribute to the retention of new teachers, as well as factors that challenge new teachers.
The following four sections follow Merriam and Associates (2002) template for assessing the quality of qualitative research. In the final section, I provided my overall evaluation rating of the article’s quality along with a justification for that rating and a discussion of three indicators of quality drawn from Merten’s (2010) questions for critically analyzing qualitative research.
The problem, although not clearly stated in the format of a problem statement, was described as a need to study the teacher education experience in a teacher education program. In order to understand details of the meaning of teachers’ experiences, a qualitative study was appropriate and a good fit with the problem. The problem was clearly situated within the literature. Yost (2006) discussed the literature around teacher retention and presented the results of a qualitative study focused on the obstacles teachers face through their first year in teaching, and to what extent they were able to use critical reflection as a problem-solving strategy. The article’s major components of the problem, purpose, research questions, research design, supporting literature, and theory were appropriately aligned. The researcher’s relationship to the problem and assumptions and biases were not revealed. Yost (2006) made a cogent argument for the need to examine obstacles faced by novice teachers that may influence teacher resilience and therefore teacher retention. This knowledge is valuable to scholars and practitioners in order to improve the retention of teachers and to identify ways to allay factors associated with teacher attrition.
Yost (2006) identified the study as a qualitative research design and the conceptualization of a basic qualitative research aligned with the methodological literature. Yost (2006) utilized a variety of data collection techniques including interviews and observations with principals who were responsible for supervising teachers, interviews with second-year teachers, and observations of their teaching performance (Merriam, 2009; Polit & Beck, 2004) that was consistent with qualitative research designs. The sample was stratified and the rationale provided was to obtain a range of teaching experiences from urban, suburban, private, public, middle, special education, and elementary education settings. Ten teachers were selected from a group of 17 volunteers. With the exception of one Hispanic, all other participants’ were white, were between the ages of 22 to 25 years old and had a GPA of 3.42.
Primary data was through interview and observation of teaching performance over a two-month period. A second phase of data collection occurred five years after graduation from the teacher education program in which a questionnaire was sent out requesting information. Data collection was congruent with attempting to understand this group of teachers teaching philosophy, methods of teaching, and managing of behavior. Data management and data analysis were sufficiently described. Interviews ranged from one to two hours and were tape recorded. Videotapes of classroom performance were also transcribed. Data was then compiled with interview data and field notes and analyzed using the QSRís NUD DIST, N4 or NVivo software to classify, sort, and arrange information for the coding process.
Strategies to ensure validity (credibility) and reliability (trustworthiness) included (a) member checks, (b) adequate engagement in data collection, (c) intentionally seeking variation in the sample, and (d) providing rich, thick details to contextualize the study. The study was credible, trustworthy, and dependable and has potential transferability to other situations. In regards to ethical concerns, the article did not provide details of how the teachers were recruited or how obtained consent from the teachers was gathered. However, the researcher stated that the teachers were selected from a group of 17 volunteers who graduated from the same teacher education program.
The participants of the study were clearly described and Yost (2006) made explicit statements in terms of four prepositions that provided an in-depth understanding from the perspectives of the teachers about their student teaching experiences. Underlying these prepositions was the work of ten deeply committed hard working teachers who shared deep information and their perceptions of describing factors that shaped their current views and successes. The findings corresponded directly to the problem; that is, attempting to understand the obstacles teachers face through their first year in teaching and to what extent they were able to use critical reflection as a problem-solving strategy. The findings were presented with a balance of narrative description of teaching strategies and direct quotations that illuminated the narrative descriptions. The classroom observations were also discussed as a part of the findings.
The purpose of the study was to answer the questions:
- What major obstacles did successful novice teachers face during their first year of teaching?
- What teacher education or other factors shaped their current views and successes?
- To what extent are these teachers able to use critical reflection as a problem-solving tool?
The data clearly showed some of the challenges experienced by second-year teachers in their first year of teaching. The findings were positioned and discussed in terms of the previous studies and theory and can be characterized as dense explanatory descriptions. According to Kearney (2001) qualitatively findings characterized by dense explanatory descriptions are considered the gold standard as the findings explain human behavior and choice-making. The insights and contributions were clearly stated and discussed from the perspective of the researcher, administrators, and teachers. Limitations were discussed and the researcher described how internal and external validity were maintained. For example dependability, objectivity, and confirmability were discussed. Findings also suggest that positive school environments are not enough in themselves to support struggling teachers.
The results of the findings led to recommendations for teacher education programs relating to how resiliency and persistence can be fostered and enhanced in teacher candidates. It would be ideal to produce novice teachers who are resilient and persistent in the face of complex problems. Yost (2006) also recommend future research be conducted.
On a quality scale of one to ten, with one being a very low-quality study and ten being a very high-quality study, I rate this study as an eight. The study was sound with meaningful findings, logical conclusions, and prepositions that can be refined into hypothesis for quantitative empirical testing. This rating is justified because the study was correctly labeled as a qualitative study and as such allows the reader to understand the subjective meaning of the teachers’ experiences and gain insights into what motivated these teachers to be resilient, persistent, and to remain teachers. Even though the problem was not clearly stated in the format of a problem statement, the problem was identified, the population and sample were clearly stated, and prepositions were generated at the end. Yost (2006) provided a detailed explanation of the processes of collecting the data, how the data was analyzed and presented implications for the results. Recommendations for further research were provided which is important in generating more research that ultimately can lead to social action or policy and practice changes.
In terms of seeking out those who are silent or marginalized the study was not on target as, from the sample of 10 teachers, only one minority group was represented; that being the Hispanic teacher. The researcher directly addressed being critically reflexive and the article overall did not convey a sense of bias. The researcher conducted member checks with the participants as a means of ensuring the authenticity and credibility of the findings. Regarding enhancing social justice and human rights, the study makes a direct impact. The dissemination of the findings through publication generated useful knowledge to practitioners. A call for further research to address how teacher reflection, inquiry, and self-efficacy in relation to resiliency and ultimately teacher retention could lead to additional research that eventually will lead to improving inclusion practices. Yost (2006) noted that stories from beginning teachers typically revolved around reality shock, the lonely struggle to survive, and the loss of idealism implying that teacher education programs can better prepare teacher candidates for challenges they will face as new teachers. Another implication from the result of the study is the notion of self-efficacy. Teachers confidence levels are related to a personal ability to problem-solve and cope with dilemmas that arise. The details of participant recruitment and informed consent were not revealed which are important elements of demonstrating ethical research.
Kearney, M. H. (2001). Levels and applications of qualitative research evidence. Research in Nursing and Health, 24(2), 145-153.
Merriam, S. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Merriam, S., & Associates. (2002). Qualitative research in practice: Examples for discussion and analysis. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Mertens, D. M. (2010). Research methods in education and psychology: Integrating diversity with quantitative and qualitative approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Polit, D. F., & Beck, C. T. (2004). Nursing research: Principles and methods (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Yost, D. S. (2006). Reflection and self-efficacy: Enhancing the retention of qualified teachers from a teacher education perspective. Teacher Education Quarterly, 33(4), 59-76.