Our proposed research design was to use a mixed-methods, multi-site, comparative case study, using both quantitative and qualitative processes. Examining both quantitative and qualitative methods allowed for a more complete analysis of the research questions and findings (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998), as well as provide a broader basis for generalization of results (Simons, 1996). For example, this study intended to answer: (a) What elementary school structures support students in STEM curricular areas? (b) Do these supports differ for subgroups of students, i.e. students of color, students in poverty, and English language learners? (c) What are the components of elementary STEM opportunities to learn that foster interest, participation, and academic success in STEM content areas, especially for marginalized students of color? Our mixed-methods approach was guided by these research questions, and “ultimately reflect[ed] a value of both subjective and objective [STEM] knowledge” (Johnson & Onwuegbuzi, 2004; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003). We planned to use data sources centered on (a) recruiting schools to develop a focused priority research agenda; (b) conducting trend analyses of participating schools; and (c) a collaborative analysis of the research questions and recommendations for further action. It is important to note that mixed methods studies, such as this one, are strengthened when research teams are comprised of individuals from a variety of disciplines (Simons, 1996). This allows researchers to engage in a “mixed methods way of thinking” while discussing “different ways of seeing, interpreting, and knowing” about the data (Sammons, 2010, p. xi). Our C-PEER research team includes doctoral candidates from various K12 backgrounds including expeditionary learning, professional development, distributive leadership, and coaching teams.
Planned instrumentation. The C-PEER team planned to use instruments organized with specific constructs. For example, teacher surveys will measure the shared values and vision of teaches, as well as support conditions and relationships within the building. We also intended to collect information from both teachers and administration using the (Teaching, Empowering, Leading, and Learning) TELL Colorado surveys. These anonymous instruments would allow researchers to assess teaching conditions within school buildings, as well as throughout participating districts. Since these surveys would be designed to support school and district improvement planning, as well as inform policy decisions, our hope is that they would be extremely reliable and valid measures. It is our intention to design this study that will yield high-quality evidence for educators and school districts.