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Personal features and educational experiences of Adult High School Students (AHS)

Techniques and instruments

Initially, a series of quantitative scales were applied to answer the question of whether there were any differences in the education-related cognitive schemas between persons who complete secondary and people who drop out of school. Both variables to be studied (frustration tolerance and motivation) are key when tackling the challenges represented by formal education and therefore the information that these scales are going to provide is extremely valuable. In addition, sociodemographic information was compiled related to students finding a job. Specifically, the following instruments were used: 

  • (a) Sociodemographic questionnaire

    This questionnaire is used to measure sociodemographic variables that will help us determine the student profile in each school being studied. This questionnaire was drawn up by the actual researchers and included questions related to:

    • Age and gender of the participants

    • Their origin

    • Family situation and responsibility

    • Education history

    • Work history

    • Learning difficulties

    • Psychiatric disorders

  • (b) Questionnaire on socialsocio-personal factors for youth job-seeking

    This questionnaire was taken from Martínez-Rodríguez & Carmona (2010), and was slightly modified. This test aimed to obtain initial information on why students were studying and how satisfied they were with the course. In addition, the questionnaire was intended to obtain information regarding which qualities would have to be worked on among students to improve their chance of finding a job. It should be mentioned that this test is only based on the students' point of view. Future research would be well-advised to corroborate this information with the teachers' point of view.

  • (c) Frustration intolerance questionnaire

    Using Harrington's Frustration Discomfort Scale that was published in 2005. It has been validated in English and is being validated in Spanish. This questionnaire comprises 28 questions, divided into 4 factors although it also offers a total score. The author was contacted and he gave permission for his questionnaire to be used. Researchers in South America were also contacted who have translated this scale and are in the process of validating it. They provided us with our working version of the scale. In this questionnaire, the highest scores both on the general scale and for the 4 factors indicate lower frustration tolerance.

  • (d) CEAM-II questionnaire or Questionnaire or Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire II

    Working from the idea that the student plays an active role in their learning and that occasionally it can be more effective to work on attitudes and skills concerning the student's study than the actual teaching methods or contents. In an attempt to assess these aspects, we used the CEAM-II questionnaire or Questionnaire or Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire II and specifically the version validated by Professor María Carmen González Torres (University of Navarra). Scores were taken from this questionnaire for 6 motivation factors and 7 learning strategy factors. 

Our prior hypothesis was that there would be clear differences between AHS and Training Cycle students in the scores for these factors and that, in general, the Training Cycle students would be more motivated and would have better study strategies.

However, a quantitative scale cannot reveal a full image of the present, past and future situation of the participants during their education process. Consequently, the results obtained with these scales have been complemented with a participative, qualitative research methodology: the focus group.

Specifically, focus groups are one of the most frequently used techniques in qualitative research, in the psychological, social and educational area. They involve bringing together the research participants (between 6 and 12 persons) to discuss and think about a relevant topic, both for participants and for the researcher. The discussion groups should be run by a moderator who guides and encourages the group session. This technique has been considered particularly useful to explore knowledge and experiences from people in their educational process as the group provides the discussion and activates the comments and opinions, creating a rich source of testimonies.

As a first step to forming the focus group, a protocol was defined concerning topics and subtopics that we wished to tackle with the participants. The aim is not so much to create a closed list of questions but to draw up a script that we can use to guide the conversation. The suggested prior topic schema was as follows, enriched and modified by comments from the participants:

  1. Experiences in the education process

    1. Experiences in the education process (failure, causes, attributions, etc.)

    2. “Transition” to Félix Urabayen  and reasons for studying AHS

  2. Motivation behind studies

    1. Failure

    2. Habits

    3. Teacher characteristics

    4. Social support

    5. Frustration tolerance 

  3. Future expectations

    1. Expectations, long term goals

    2. Expectations, short term goals

Given the diversity of AHS students, it is fundamental to investigate the students' different prior education experiences which might help us understand their current attitudes toward the education process. On the other hand, we have two main reasons for finding out why students chose to sign up at Félix Urabayen. Firstly, motivation was one of the variables being studied in the quantitative part of the study and this would complement any data we obtained. Secondly, it was fundamental to find out how they felt when approaching this education stage in order to adapt the teaching process. Finally, we considered adding the future expectations aspect because investigating student expectations might lead towards improvements in the training or academic guidance offered at the high school.

Principal Investigator

Maite Aznárez
Principal Investigator
masanado@unav.es

General contact:
Campus universitario s/n
31009 Pamplona
Spain

+34 948 425 600
masanado@unav.es

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