Research Methodology

We are taking a mixed-methods approach to our research project, because we believe that we can gain a more holistic understanding of our research topic by examining it from various methodological perspectives. The benefit of such approach is that it enables us to formulate and reassess the assumptions that we make about our research focus.

So far we have produced two preliminary drafts of a two-part survey that we plan on distributing to the students of Skyline a few weeks before we arrive in Williams Lake. We hope that by conducting our surveys beforehand, it will enable us to form a better sense and understanding of the dynamic students we will be working with. This will ultimately help us shape our focus group discussions better during our stay at Williams Lake, by tackling some issues and concerns that may be raised during the preliminary surveys. In addition, we hope that by giving students the survey in advance, they will have more time to learn about what we are doing and understand their role as students in shaping the outcome of our project. It is important to keep in mind that all the work that goes into the formation of the surveys is part of an evolutionary process that is receptive to change based on trial and error.

The first part of the survey is a short, multiple-choice response and likert-scale survey that we have designed to acquire data about the student demographic of Skyline alternate. From this survey, we hope to gain a general understanding of the research population that we will work with. This survey gathers information such as the students’ sex/gender, race/ethnicity, and school attendance. We decided to use Google Forms over other survey platforms such as the UBC survey tool, as our community partner can continue to revise and administer this survey even after we complete this course. This platform will also be accessible to students via their smartphones or tablets during class time. To view our survey, please click here.

For the second part of our survey, it is comprised of more comprehensive, open-ended questions that aim to highlight the personal experiences of students at skyline in a number of intersecting ways. We deliberately chose to create text boxes for each question to ensure that the responses would be fairly similar in length from all the students. We acknowledge that by restricting the space for each question could potentially influence the depth and detail of the responses, however we have chosen to follow through with our initial plan. Given the sensitive nature of our questions, this survey will be administered in person and on paper. For ethical research purposes we have ensured that the student responses will remain completely anonymous and confidential. To view our survey, please click here.

We aim to match the responses from both the online survey and the written responses by using their student numbers in order to identify any initial patterns or themes amongst the feedback. However, we aim to use this information cautiously as well, as such data often allows us to make certain assumptions and enforce stereotypes that can be dangerous and misleading. We were particularly aware of this while constructing the online demographic survey, as having fixed categories that students had to choose from was slightly uncomfortable, yet difficult to avoid in this type of survey. The compilation of responses from the two-part survey will support us during our focus group discussions with the students. We are not only interested in gaining a deeper understanding on the issues and concerns that may have surfaced through the surveys, but also the variation of issues that may arise for different groups. Additionally, one of the benefits of using a mixed-methods approach, is the ability to confirm or challenge our assumptions that we make prior to arriving at Williams Lake. As we wait for the responses back from Skyline, our group plans to continue our general research on alternative school systems, as well as reading more case studies of focus group discussions with students and youth. One of our main focus right now will be researching more on the various ways to group the students during these discussions. This would heavily depend on our intention as well as the outcome from the responses.