Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Listening to Juvenile Corrections School Teachers: A Step-by-Step Process for Interview Studies Guided by Hermeneutics

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Listening to Juvenile Corrections School Teachers: A Step-by-Step Process for Interview Studies Guided by Hermeneutics

Article excerpt

Interviewing is a complex and oftentimes unpredictable endeavor. There is no single approach to interviewing as a research method and there is no guarantee with regards to how the interview will go, or how the participant will behave (Roulston, deMarrais, & Lewis, 2003). Depending on the theoretical perspective you align with, and your research purpose and question, the style of an interview can range from what Gubrium and Holstein (2002) refer to as a basic model or an active model. In the basic model, an interviewer's role is simply to pull information from the interviewee, taking care not to contaminate the information with subjectivity or extraneous information. In the newer active model, there is not a single truth as the interviewee takes on a more active role than simply asking for information. Now, the researcher and interviewee take on a more collaborative partnership in seeking understanding about the topic at hand (Gubrium & Holstein, 2002).

Conducting an interview with a participant that may include sensitive topics involves special care taken to ensure a positive, safe, and productive research experience for both the researcher and participant (Watts & Liamputtong, 2013).

In this article, I share how I utilized a hermeneutic perspective to guide my interview study with teachers from juvenile corrections (JC) schools. The purpose of the study was to explore how teachers in juvenile corrections (JC) school settings understand their working conditions. The guiding research question was: How do teachers understand (make meaning of; interpret) their experiences in their juvenile corrections school's working conditions? I will present this study's theoretical perspective, research design, procedures, and participants. I begin with a discussion about hermeneutics, the theoretical perspective of this study. Next, I describe the methodology employed to conduct this study's research. Then, I provide detailed procedures for data collection and analysis, and include the Listening Guide developed based on one JC school teacher to illuminate the methods.

Defining Juvenile Corrections Schools

Juvenile corrections (JC) schools are situated in locked correctional facilities where youth are confined and also attend school. Across the United States each year, teachers in JC schools work with approximately half a million students who come to their classrooms with significant academic, behavioral, and mental health needs that far exceed proportions in general public school settings (Quinn, Rutherford, Leone, Osher, & Poirer, 2005; Shippen, Patterson, Green, & Smitherman, 2012). Teachers in JC schools engage in work that comes with challenges not found in typical public schools (Gagnon, Houchins, & Murphy, 2012; Houchins, Puckett-Patterson, Crosby, Shippen, & Jolivette, 2009; Mathur, Clark, & Schoenfeld, 2009; Mathur & Schoenfeld, 2010). There are unique challenges related to the setting itself, in addition to the staff and student population (Gagnon & Barber, 2010; Gagnon et al., 2012; Mathur & Schoenfeld, 2010; Mulcahy & Leone, 2012; Nelson, Sprague, Jolivette, Smith, & Tobin, 2009; Wang, Blomberg, & Li, 2005). Although teachers in JC schools are likely to experience more challenging working conditions, little is known about how these teachers cope with such experiences. Researchers have primarily collected large scale survey data addressing their working conditions, and therefore the resulting knowledge base consists of broad information that does not necessarily represent teacher voices, opinions, understandings, or interpretations of their experiences.

Entering into this research study, I knew that I would have to plan carefully with consideration to the potentially complex and sensitive nature of my participants' experiences. It was of utmost importance to me to create a safe, inviting, and trusting environment for my JC teacher participants.

Subjectivity Statement

The experiences of teachers in JC are deeply personal to me. …

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