Transformational leadership is one of the most common types of leadership when people demonstrate their best skills and knowledge on how to organize the work of employees and promote the achievement of positive results. The characteristics of transformational leaders in the article are an idealized influence, inspirational motivation, individualized consideration, and intellectual stimulation (Balyer, 2012). Though the study was not focused on gender differences, it was proved that female principals demonstrated more positive considerations in terms of leadership.
In the chosen article, Balyer (2012) used a qualitative research design that was based on in-depth interviews to explore on behavioral patterns, beliefs, and other attitudes developed among Turkey teachers. Semi-structured questions were posed to the participants as a part of ethnographic research with the help of which teachers’ perceptions of certain items were identified. The semi-structured interview is one of the common qualitative data collection methods when a researcher asks predetermined, but open-ended questions to gather the required portion of information, gain control over conversations, and provide the participants with an ability to choose and make independent decisions (Ayress, 2008). An ethnographic research design was used (Balyer, 2012). The peculiar feature of ethnography is the possibility to comprehend and describe social and cultural aspects of the chosen theme (Fetterman, 2008).
Summary of Data Collection
Sampling strategy. The choice of a sampling strategy matters in relation to qualitative research because it helps to determine the interactions of the study’s participants, the situations, and the results. In comparison to quantitative research methods where random sampling is supported, a qualitative study is usually characterized by purposeful or criterion-based sampling strategies. In this article, the author used a purposive sampling strategy describing it as one of the best options to be used for the analysis of small numbers of individuals and their answers (Balyer, 2012). This strategy aims at identifying the perceptions of teachers of transformational leadership and understanding human needs, interests, problems, and contexts.
Sample size. The author clearly identified the sample size. 30 teachers from six different schools in Istanbul, Turkey were chosen for the participation in this qualitative research (Balyer, 2012). The 2011-2012 academic year was used. It was also important to identify an equal gender variable because this identification added considerable value to the conclusions and future judgments of teachers’ perceptions of transformational leadership, the importance of education, and the necessity to develop the characteristics in terms of the chosen leadership style.
Types of data collected. The repertory grid technique was used to gather the data. It is a part of a constructed interview method when a participant has to deal with a triad of elements and use different ways to answer the questions. The data was gathered in several stages. First, the teachers were provided with e-mails to learn the purpose of the study and to prove their voluntary intentions to participate. Then, the dates and the conditions under which the interviews could be arranged were discussed. 50-60 minutes were spent on each interview. The interviews were recorded and noted. In general, the researcher got access to oral and written information for the analysis.
Ethics. The interviewer performed the roles of a facilitator and a listener in the data collection process. It was necessary not only to ask questions, but also to record the answers. Taking into consideration the ethical aspect of research, it is necessary to admit that all participants were informed about the forms, goals, and methods of interviewing. Ethical approval was granted when the participants were informed (Balyer, 2012). Besides, the researcher used pseudonyms in the article maintaining the importance of anonymity of the participants and even the institutions chosen for the study.
Summary of Data Analysis
Data Preparation. The researcher turned out to be the only instrument of the data analysis. In other words, the results introduced in the study, as well as the process of data analysis, was the product of the researcher’s work and the ability to interpret the data. The knowledge of the researcher played an important role in the data preparation process. The researcher was required to develop a number of questions that could be offered to the participants of the study. Recording details had to be solved before the actual interviewing process. As the content analysis technique was used for the analysis of the data, the researcher had to prepare for it, analyze similar data on the chosen topic, and comment on it in terms of the literature review. Data organization procedures were crucial in research. An individual visit to each participant was a part of the process to prepare the participants and make sure that all technical points were discussed.
Description. During the data analysis process, a coding system was used to separate the participants and not to lose the information they offered about transformational leadership and the characteristics of good leaders. The repeated themes that were observed during the interviews had to be grouped into special coding categories and named. Coding was used to disaggregate the data and break it down into clear segments (Schwandt, 2007). In general, the first stage of the analysis included the creation of specific categories. The second stage included the conceptualization process when all statements could be brought together and formed the answers to the questions. Repetitions were removed. Finally, the results and the relations between topics were clarified and explained. With the help of the constant comparative approach, the data was analyzed and used in terms of the theory that emerged through a continual analysis. Interview transcripts helped to gather multiple aspects and clarify how to use codes in the development of the findings section.
Themes’ Appropriateness. In the beginning, four main characteristics were identified. In findings, the author discussed transformational leadership behaviors in terms of those four aspects, namely idealized influence, individualized consideration, inspirational motivation, and intellectual stimulation. No additional themes and topics were raised in the article. The author used the answers of the participants to explain the chosen characteristics and to investigate human behavior and perceptions from different perspectives.
Validity of Findings
Four field experts were invited to ensure content validity, and the recordings of the interviews were used to make sure that all answers were correct. Besides, the questions were developed in regards to the suggestions given by those four experts. Power relation and locations were avoided in the study.
The chosen article added several important points to the topic, research problem, and the working process. Transformational leadership was proved as a substantial concept for schools with the help of which it was possible to move forward. Teachers’ opinions and leaders’ behaviors should be analyzed together to create the conditions under which male and female leaders could achieve positive results. Finally, the chosen methods proved that qualification, qualities, and manipulations could not be ignored.
Qualitative data analysis is a crucial and complicated process a researcher may participate in. To complete the task, achieve good and effective results, and consider the rules and standards, it is necessary to learn each step separately and use the examples that help to understand the peculiar features of the research process.
Data Collection Methods
Methods of qualitative data collection should usually involve face-to-face interactions with a participant. There are four major methods that could be offered to gather qualitative data: interviews, focus groups, observation, and action research.
Interviews can be structured (the same questions in the same way), unstructured (no or little structure), and semi-structured (focused and clear). They are defined as a foundational means of data collection when a qualitative research method is chosen (Ayress, 2008). The example of how to use this method can be observed in the article of Folta, Seguin, Ackerman, and Nelson (2012).
Focus groups form a type of qualitative interviews when a group of people is involved in the discussion of the same idea at the same time (Morgan, 2008). This method is appropriate when the resources are limited, and the great insights have to be developed within a certain group. The article by van Leerdam, Rietveld, Teunissen, and Largo-Janssen (2014) can be used as the example of a focus group study that aims at investigating the importance of leaders’ education in medicine.
Observations help to use natural settings in order to answer the main research questions and describe the situations from different perspectives. This method is attractive for many researchers because of its flexibility and the possibility to include several topics in one discussion (McKechnie, 2008). For example, an observation was a part of qualitative research developed by Tan, Hee, and Piaw (2015) to examine leadership in a certain setting.
Action research is a flexible method when change is considered as the core of the process. Its strength is the possibility to combine the generation of knowledge and the professional development of all participants (Somekh, 2008). There are many academic projected based on action research, and the article by Greenwood (2012) can be used as an effective example of how action research is applicable to the higher education world.
Data Preparation Methods
Data preparation consists of such step as recording, transcribing, coding, and making field notes. As a rule, a researcher gets prepared for an investigation beforehand. It is necessary to think about the ways and software that can be used to record the data taken from interviews, observations, or focus group discussions. Then, the researcher should find enough time to transcribe the data and check its validity and appropriateness. Finally, it is important to develop such activities as coding and developing description and themes in a proper way.
Coding is a process when research ideas are generated, identified, arranged, and systematized. It is expected to identify an event (topic), clarify the features and phrases, and distinguish behaviors or other issues that matter in research. Many authors use coding as its main step in data analysis. For example, independent coding was used by Chang, Longman, and Franco (2014) in their study about leadership development in terms of higher education.
Developing Description and Themes
Thematic analysis is the process of developing themes and description inherent to research. It is one of the main methods that are frequently used to clarify if saturation occurs in a working process (Firmin, 2008). The themes have to be generated by means of the constructs that are observed in the data. The researcher usually derives themes from codes developed earlier. For example, in the article by Isaac, Kaatz, Lee, and Carnes (2012), thematic analysis was performed relying on the information obtained from the journals and based on the insights of course-related experiences.
Validity is a crucial aspect of qualitative research. As a rule, it determines the soundness of a study and its significance. There are several techniques that can be used by researchers to check if the study is valid or not.
Bracketing. Bracketing is a scientific research process when a researcher may suspend assumptions or biases and focus on describing a certain phenomenon (Gearing, 2008). It is expected that a researcher places specific brackets on the phenomenon, determines several suppositions, and reintegrate the generated data. McNeil’s project (2015) can be used as an example of how to bracket own experience and biases in research concerning leadership in the academic field in order to introduce thoughtful material on the topic.
Triangulation. Triangulation is a qualitative method for the analysis of information. It aims at establishing validity in the study and analyzing the research questions from different perspectives (Schwandt, 2007). Many qualitative researchers use triangulation as the main method of data analysis because it helps to get a complete picture of a research topic and use cross-check information to prove the correctness of the answers. The example is Holly’s (2012) dissertation about gender and leadership relationship.
Member check. A member check is another method of qualitative data analysis that is used to optimize the validity of findings by involving research participants as independent members of a research team. For example, the researcher can ask the participants to clarify their phrases in the interviews or comment on the already achieved information or tasks. It is possible to include all study’s participants or make a purposeful selection (Sandelowski, 2008). As a rule, a member check has to be conducted after the themes are identified and refined. For example, Collier and Rosch (2016) asked their participants to send one-page summaries of the interpretation of their experiences during the research process. In this case, member checks help to improve data and provide the participants with a chance to make additional comments.
Audit. Auditing in qualitative research is the process when a third-party examiner observes the study independently and develops an audit trial. This method helps to render a judgment and encourage reflexivity about the work done (Schwandt, 2007). The results of auditing can be observed in the project on leadership qualities and education developed by Carnes and Lupu (2016).
Discussion Question Assignment
A three-article dissertation by Huber (2014) about servant leadership and self-efficacy in higher education is based on three articles with different research designs. One of the articles is the example of a qualitative study. It aims at discussing the perceptions of teachers of servant leadership qualities that may influence an online learning process. With the help of the chosen design, the researcher is able to break down the barriers that may exist between the participants, questions, and researchers and disclose the phenomenon under consideration (Huber, 2014).
The chosen article proves that servant leadership plays an important role in higher education that is offered online because the virtual environment creates new opportunities and unpredictable challenges for all participants. Transformative learning and online teaching promote the creation of strong leaders. Action research is the method that shows how it is possible to combine online teaching, servant leadership, and a number of important skills to achieve positive results, commitment, and satisfaction (Huber, 2014).
Ayress, L. (2008). Semi-structured interview. In L.M. Given (Ed.), The Sage encyclopedia of qualitative research methods (pp. 811-812). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Balyer, A. (2012). Transformational leadership behaviors of school principals: A qualitative research based on teachers’ perceptions. International Online Journal of Educational Sciences, 4(3), 581-591.
Carnes, N., & Lupu, N. (2016). What good is a college degree? Education and leader quality reconsidered. The Journal of Politics, 78(1), 35-49.
Chang, H., Longman, K. A., & Franco, M. A. (2014). Leadership development through mentoring in higher education: A collaborative autoethnography of leaders of color. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 22(4), 373-389.
Collier, D.A., & Rosch, D.M. (2016). The internal conflicts of undergraduate students regarding effective leadership practices. Journal of Leadership Studies, 10(2), 19-30.
Fetterman, D.M. (2008). Ethnography. In L.M. Given (Ed.), The Sage encyclopedia of qualitative research methods (pp. 288-292). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Firmin, M. (2008). Themes. In L.M. Given (Ed.), The Sage encyclopedia of qualitative research methods (pp. 869-870). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE
Folta, S. C., Seguin, R. A., Ackerman, J., & Nelson, M. E. (2012). A qualitative study of leadership characteristics among women who catalyze positive community change. BMC Public Health, 12(1), 383-395.
Gearing, R. (2008). Bracketing. In L.M. Given (Ed.), The Sage encyclopedia of qualitative research methods (pp. 64-66). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Greenwood, D.J. (2012). Doing and learning action research in the neo-liberal world of contemporary higher education. Action Research, 10(2), 115-132.
Holly, M.M. (2012). Gender and leadership: Educational leadership through feminine eyes: Have the barriers in acquiring educational administrative positions for women changed in the last fifteen years? Web.
Huber, R.L. (2014). Servant leadership, self-efficacy, and communities of inquiry in higher education online learning. Web.
Isaac, C., Kaatz, A., Lee, B., & Carnes, M. (2012). An educational intervention designed to increase women’s leadership self-efficacy. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 11(3), 307-322
McKechnie, L.E.F. (2008). Observational research. In L.M. Given (Ed.), The Sage encyclopedia of qualitative research methods (pp. 573-575). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
McNeil, B. (2015). A phenomenological study exploring the leadership development experiences of academic research library leaders. Web.
Morgan, D. (2008). Focus groups. In L.M. Given (Ed.), The Sage encyclopedia of qualitative research methods (pp. 353-355). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE
Sandelowski, M. (2008). Member check. In L.M. Given (Ed.), The Sage encyclopedia of qualitative research methods (pp. 502-503). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Schwandt, T.A. (Ed.). (2007). The SAGE dictionary of qualitative inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Somekh, B. (2008). Action research. In L.M. Given (Ed.), The Sage encyclopedia of qualitative research methods (pp. 4-7). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Tan, M., Hee, T.H., & Piaw, C.Y. (2015). A qualitative analysis of the leadership style of a vice-chancellor in a private university in Malaysia. SAGE Open, 5(1), 1-11.
van Leerdam, L., Rietveld, L., Teunissen, D., & Lagro-Janssen, A. (2014). Gender-based education during clerkships: A focus group study. Advances in Medical Education and Practice, 5, 53-60.