4.6. The Qualitative Research Method
Code-switching in the EFL classroom is checked up in teaching and learning milieu. Therefore, it looks essential to accumulate raw data from the classroom while teaching and learning are in progress. One form of qualitative research which is named as the observation technique is deemed appropriate for this use (Macgwaty, ). It is a means which can spotlight the issue of CS as it emerges in a natural classroom setting, and to collect the data that will be qualitatively interpreted and analyzed to get deeper information about the appearance of code-switching in the Algerian EFL classroom. Qualitative design is by and large defined by Denzin & Lincoln, (1998) as
(…) multi-method in focus, involving an interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of or interpret phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them (p.2).
The qualitative approach is often used in social sciences such as languages, Richards (2009), in this context, agrees that researchers have contributed to understanding “what happens in languages classrooms” (p.153) through qualitative research. This method seems to be appropriate in this research for it is used to accurately observe what was happening in the classroom during lessons, and to record the utterances of the participants. The outcome was rich data to be categorized and interpreted according to common themes in order to deal with the main theme of the study. Merriam (2009) discusses six types of qualitative research: phenomenological study, ethnography, grounded theory, narrative analysis, critical research and qualitative case study. The latter is undertaken in this study as it fits well to the description of Creswell, Hanson, Plano and Morales (2007), who describe case study as, a qualitative approach in which the investigator explores a bounded system (a case) or multiple bounded systems (cases) over time through detailed, in-depth data collection, involving multiple sources of information (e.g. observations, interviews, audiovisual material, and documents and reports) and reports a case description and case-based themes.
Regarding their definition of the term, this study involves the characteristics mentioned above. There is a case with a certain institution, its instructors and learners and study takes place there. In addition, data collection is not completed in one attempt, but completed over time with, again, some of the mentioned data collection tools: interviews and observations.
According to Merriam (2009), case studies are characterized as being particularistic, descriptive, and heuristic. This study is more particularistic since it focuses on a particular context, event or phenomenon. The case itself gains the primary concentration of the study.
Although the qualitative research method has various types of formats, the case-study design was preferred. The case-study design is, according to Leedy & Ormrod, (2005, p 135), permits in-depth observation of a particular phenomenon that is little or poorly understood as it occurred during the utterances of the participants for a defined period to obtain the data first-hand. This was the case in the present study; both the teachers and learners were observed in the classroom to determine if they used CS and how and when they used it.
Overall, qualitative research besides to the quantitative one (it will be discussed later in the same chapter) methodology were the most appropriate methods for having a deeper investigation on theoretical and practical assumptions of the subject matter of CS in the EFL classrooms.
In this research, one important method which was used to collect information for this research is classroom observation. It is one of the two methods which enabled the researcher to collect the necessary information for this research, to identify the factors that may lead to code-switching in addition to the possible functions achieved by both teachers and students inside the classroom. The observation of lessons in the classroom was appropriate for the qualitative part of this study because it is considered as a chief means to study the phenomenon of CS in the classroom as it occurred. According to Mackey and Gass (2005), classroom observation is a practical technique used for obtaining in-depth information about language phenomena in a natural setting. Heigham and Crocker (2009) define this technique as “the conscious noticing and detailed examination of participants’ behavior in a naturalistic setting.”(p.166), some of its advantages are described by many researchers as follows.
• Patton (2002) for instance pinpoints to the fact that through direct observation in a natural setting, a better understanding of the context as well as the participants’ practice can be captured.
• The same analyst Patton (ibid) maintains that by following such a method, the observer has the chance to learn what the participants would be unwilling to share in the interview.
• Merriam (1998) also puts that observation provides first-hand accounts of the setting and participants which encourage the researcher to be inductive when on the site.
• The observer has an opportunity to see practices that participants may not be aware of.
Observation notes facilitate the details of classroom recordings, and thus, helped in gaining deeper understanding of the teachers’ code-switching practice. Nonetheless, classroom observation disadvantages emerge when the impending divergence between the need to observe the real natural behavior and the risk of change in the observed person takes place. Put differently, when one observer attends the classroom, the participants may not behave in their natural manner. Thus, the practice observed cannot fully represent the participant’s typical performance. Heigham and Crocker (2009) enlighten that the observer could have an active or a passive role when observing, and that there are four different kinds of observers: complete participant, participant as observer, observer as participant, and complete observer (ibid). The observations of this work are all practiced by a complete observer. This indicates that the examiner does not participate in the classroom situation.
During the observation of EFL classes, the observer had a seat at the back of the class to decrease visibility from the learners because this could perhaps diminish or even influence their performance in the class. Concerning the observed teachers, it seems that they not to have any trouble with the attendance of the researcher. Since, the researcher was a non-participant observer, no comments are made and no questions are asked during the lesson by the examiner. Participation in the lesson was not needed as the data required were spontaneously generated during the class by the subjects (the teacher and students). Tape recordings and notes taking are adopted to describe about the physical environment of the classroom and to give a lucid image of what was really happening during the lectures.
In this research, the “observers neither manipulate nor stimulate their subjects” (Denzin & Lincoln, 1998, p. 80), for this reason the activities in the classroom had to be observed as they were presented without any interruption on behalf of the observer. The main purpose of this particular observation was to pay attention when students and teachers used code-switching as well as their attitude while they used it inside the classroom. Classroom recordings are mainly used to collect the data about the types and functions of code-switching to Arabic-French and enrich the data from the interviews and questionnaires in these two aspects as well. Some of the materials recorded have been transcribed into written forms which are used as extracts to support the author’s analysis.
4.6.2. The Interview
The next step of data collection was conducting a semi-structured interview with some more experienced teachers of English to draw out some more enlightenment. Similar to the questionnaires, the interview required the interviewees to elucidate their attitudes towards employing Arabic/French and explain their reasons for accepting or rejecting Arabic. The interviewees’ responses rely on recordings and note-taking during and after the interview. The latter was conducted during the last visit to the schools.
The interview is another sort of a qualitative method besides observation. It is among the most familiar strategies for collecting qualitative data. The different qualitative interviewing strategies in common use emerged from diverse disciplinary perspectives resulting in a wide variation among interviewing approaches. According to Kvale (1996),
In an interview conversation, the researcher listens to what people themselves tell about their lived world, hears them express their views and opinions in their own words (p.01)
Qualitative interviews have been categorized in a variety of ways, with many contemporary texts loosely differentiating qualitative interviews as structured, semi-structured and open interviews (Heigham and Croker, 2009). The latter is named as an unstructured interview, too. Semi-structured in-depth interviews, however, are the most widely used interviewing format for qualitative research and can occur either with an individual or in groups. In this work, the semi-structured interview is adopted. In a semi-structured interview, the interviewer has a clear picture of the topic that needs to be covered, yet in such case the interview may be developed in unexpected directions which could open up imperative new areas (Heigham & Crocker, ibid).
To learn about what teachers do with and when they use C.S in the EFL class, teachers’ interview is used in addition to the classroom observation to answer these questions. The interviews generally take time between 30 minutes to several hours to finish; whereas, the interview presented in this research lasted about twenty minutes. Some leading questions are written about the topic to be investigated to enforce the answers previously given in the questionnaire. The questions posed are used as guidelines and the topic was left for discussion. The types of questions that are used as leading questions were what called by Kvale (1996) as introducing questions. Some follow up questions are asked to the interviewees when needed in order to collect as much information as possible about C.S. Thoroughly, the chief aim from these interviews was to inquire about teachers’ thoughts and experiences of code-switching in the EFL classroom, and whether it helps them in teaching and learning English. In the interview presented in this work, five questions have been suggested. The first question aims to check teachers’ opinions and views about C.S. Then, in the second and the third questions, teachers are asked about the influence this phenomenon has, and whether CS is a good strategy on the learning and teaching process, respectively. Question four seeks to verify what spots teachers permit the use of C.S by their learners. Finally, the last question is asked to see if C.S is beneficial in making students-teacher rapport. Fundamentally, the chief goal of asking such inquiries is to have more profound information about the occurrence of C.S in the Algerian EFL classroom generally and to elicit teachers’ attitudes towards it.
4.7. The Quantitative Research Method: A Questionnaire
Besides the qualitative research method which contains lesson observations and interviews, the quantitative research method was handled to probe CS appearance in the EFL classroom. A survey technique in the form of a questionnaire was applied to check the teachers’ and their learners’ attitudes towards the phenomenon of CS. According to Mouton (2005), the results from the quantitative research method have the potential to be generalized to larger populations if appropriate sampling design had been done; if the questionnaire was properly constructed, it could have high measurement reliability; and high construct validity if proper controls were implemented.
This form of research method necessitates that the researcher identifies, formulates and standardizes the variables relevant to the study. A questionnaire was developed in accordance to such measurements. The responses of the participants were then quantified, statistically analyzed; the interpretations thereof were expressed in nominal and percentage values and then presented in both tables and graphs. The results were next used to answer the research questions that collectively address the main focus of the study. This research method is preferred as it allows for the generalization of the research results to the wider population within the schools in the study. The quantitative research method employs a number of data-collection techniques that produce data which can be summarized through statistical analysis. In the present study, the researcher used the survey research, also known as a descriptive survey or normative survey (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). A questionnaire is the most commonly used data-collection method of all quantitative designs in various areas of human activity. However, it requires careful attention in its construction otherwise its questions may not address the main research problem.
According to Brown (2001) questionnaires “are any written instruments that present respondents with a series of questions or statements to which they are to react either by writing out their answers or selecting from among existing answers” (p.06). Some advantages of using questionnaires are also mentioned by Dörnyei (2010). According to him, questionnaires save researchers’ time, effort, and financial resources. They also help the researchers when it is almost impossible to collect data from hundreds of people in a short period of time. In other words, researchers can ask a large number of people to fill in the questionnaire as it is almost impossible and requires lots of time to have a face-to-face interview. Wray and Bloomer (2006) also mention some advantages of questionnaires and agree with Brown (2001) for being able to reach people from different locations. They also declare that it is easier to categorize gathered data as the format is the same for all participants. They argue that it is best to accompany questionnaire with other data gathering tools such as; interviews, tests and observations. In this study, questionnaires were supported with observations and interviews.
Apart from the data collected through lesson observations, additional data were collected in the form of the syllabi to better inform the researcher about what was taking place or supposed to take place in the classroom. The main objective was to analyze the nature of the phenomenon of C.S that occurs in the classrooms of the schools under study, its causes, and whether or not it was of any educational value.
A questionnaire can be either structured or semi-structured. The former involves a list of questions of which the responses are in the form of a checklist and a rating scale, known as the Likert Scale (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005; Rea & Parker, 2005; Frazer & Lawley, 2000). The latter is very similar to the structured questionnaire, except that it also contains open-ended questions designed to seek the respondents’ own opinions in more detail, or to seek clarification on a preceding question. In the present study, two semi-structured questionnaires were used because they comprise close and open ended questions. The first one was for EFL teachers, and asked questions about their views and expectations towards the use of Arabic, and how C.S affects the teaching and learning process. The second type was for students and asked a variety of questions related to their views on the use of Arabic in EFL classrooms.
4.8. Research Procedure