Before turning to a presentation of my findings and an analysis of them, I present an overview of real and potential problems with my research, which ensure than any conclusions drawn from my findings must be considered provisional. As my research was based on one class in one school, the extent to which my findings apply more generally, beyond the specific context I investigated, may be questioned. Despite this, as a detailed study of one class, I hope that my findings will at least be of interest to those in other situations who may be faced with similar problems. Indeed, as Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2007, p. 148) note, even if “the premises of naturalistic studies include the uniqueness and idiosyncrasy of situations, such that the study cannot be replicated… that is their strength rather than their weakness.”
I am aware of three particular issues that may have affected my research. First, I cannot be sure that students did not read the ‘background information’ section of Stage 11 in their own time. Although at no stage did I ask the class to read the text of this section, at least one student did (Pupil E, who revealed in Questionnaire 2 that she had read it). Furthermore all students were invited to look at pictures in the section, and they may have looked at the text at the same time. Although I did my best to minimise the students’ contact with the ‘background section’, as some of the students may anyway have read its contents, their knowledge of Roman politics may not in fact have arisen solely from our reading of the Latin stories. Second, student absences ensured that not all students were present for all parts of this research; indeed, for only 21 students was I able to see their exercise book as well as answers to both my questionnaires. In some ways, therefore, the picture of the class drawn by this research is based upon incomplete evidence. Third, my research did not establish as clearly as it could have done what students knew before my lessons began. This is a particular example of a general problem with (particularly, short-term) naturalistic research: “the researcher, in exploring the present, may be unaware of important antecedent events” (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007, p. 158).
Also potentially problematic for my conclusions is the nature of the evidence on which they are based. I had no opportunity to pilot my questionnaires; this was to be regretted, as I noted during analysis that the wording of some questions might James Watson Assignment 1C PGCE Classics have caused confusion. It must also be acknowledged that “whether respondents who complete questionnaires do so accurately, honestly and correctly” (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007, p. 157) is a problem that affects my research – especially as all my questionnaires were self-administered. That situation, together with students putting their name on their questionnaire, may have ‘modified’ certain responses, possibly from a wish to please their teacher. More generally, my presence in the class as researcher and teacher – and a teacher still learning how to teach! – may have meant that I was simultaneously too close to the students and too occupied with other issues (for example, classroom management) to be a fully objective and comprehensive observer. Additionally, looking at the students’ exercise books is not an unproblematic activity; as with all documentary analysis, we must be aware that the documents “may be highly biased and selective, as they were not intended to be regarded as research data but were written for a different purpose, audience and context” (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007, p. 201). Nevertheless, I do feel that the data I collected is a representative reflection of the class’s work over three lessons and a homework, and even if the conclusions cannot be regarded as definite, they are at least highly suggestive.
More to my regret is that I had only three lessons in which to carry out my research. A fourth lesson would have given scope for some more participatory activities (I had planned to ask students to prepare a campaign speech imagining Caecilius as a candidate, an activity for which there was insufficient time), as I remain aware that Citizenship involves participation as much as it does the learning of facts. Additional time would also have given scope for the stories to be read fully – although we followed the storyline of the stories discussed here, parts of them were studied at haste. Additional time spent on Stage 11 would also have given me a longer time to observe the class at work, which might have improved my findings and thus conclusions.