At Risk Adolescents
Through research, it has been established that inner city dwelling exposes youths to problems associated with adverse poverty levels. This implies that adolescents living in inner cities are more vulnerable to exposure to different conditions that may increase chances of negative behaviors. Behaviors such as drug use and abuse, engagement in criminal activities, early pregnancies and school drop- out are common among adolescents living in inner city areas. Such adolescents are in need of intervention programs to aid in curbing their negative behaviors and subsequently improving their academic and economic performance records. While programs such as Open Eyes, Open Minds (OEOM) purpose to provide interventions to such disadvantaged youths, various stakeholders are faced with the challenge of evaluating the effectiveness of the programs through their impacts on the academic and economic conditions of the children. The report that ensues recommends a study that will help in developing strategies for the evaluation of these programs to determine their level of effectiveness.
Study Questions and Hypotheses
To accomplish the objective of evaluating the effectiveness of the study, the following research questions will offer guidance to the study.
- What is the impact of OEOM interventions on the academic performance of at risk adolescents?
- What is the impact of OEOM intervention on the economic performance of at risk adolescents under the program?
- How can the information regarding academic and economic performance of the OEOM clients be collected and measured?
The hypotheses that resonate to these research questions include:
- OEOM intervention programs a have a positive impact on the academic performance of participants as evaluated through progress records.
- The impacts of OEOM intervention on economic progress depends on availability of additional resources for the clients to use
- The information can be collected through questionnaires and used in the analysis process.
The research will be aimed at answering the questions directly and it is believed that in this way, the desire of the stakeholders and parents of clients in the programs will be satisfied in knowing the program benefits to the adolescents. However, the parents and stakeholders need to be provided with the population report data prior to engagement of their children in the program. Some of the parents are visibly pessimistic about the programs hence the demands for program participation.
Research indicators and variables
As previously stated, the research objective is to determine the most effective ways of evaluating the effectiveness of the OEOM programs in academic and economic performance. To accomplish this, it is important to first determine whether there are actually improvements in these aspects. The use of measurement indicators and variables would be the most suitable approach to accomplish this. The variables in this context will be classified into two categories. The indicators for evaluating effectiveness in academic performance will be academic records and discipline cases. Academic reports are the most reliable evaluation tools for determining academic improvement. The reports can help to determine the impacts of OEOM interventions on the intellectual capacity of adolescents. According to research, poor living conditions impact performance negatively through reduced concentration. Additionally, poor conditions also result in access to resources which prevent the students from performing satisfactorily in their academic endeavors. Adolescents from poor families also tend to have divided attention as they engage in economic activities to boost their family incomes. They are thus likely to be associated with poor academic performance, as they spend lesser time in their studies. Using academic records as a measure of academic improvement is thus justifiable as an evaluation strategy for the program. Improvement in academic performance among program clients will therefore be taken as an indicator for program effectiveness. Apart from the greater impacts on education, there are various other indicators which are associated with poverty and which can be used to evaluate academic improvement. For instance, absence rates and stress also contribute to academic performance. These factors may also be satisfactorily used as an effective measure of academic performance.
Apart from academic performance, discipline has also been associated with academic capability. It is shown that disciplined students are more likely to perform better academically compared to indiscipline students. As such, the measure of discipline as an indicator for program effectiveness will be based on records of discipline cases prior to and after involvement in the program. Lack of discipline among adolescents will be portrayed through prevalence of negative behaviors such as aggressiveness, engagement in drug use and abuse and lack of regard for school rules and regulations among other behaviors. Through an indication of the frequency of engagement in indiscipline behaviors before and after the program engagement, it will be possible to determine whether the program is bringing out good outcomes for the participants. As such, the measure of discipline will be used as an indicator of academic performance.
Economically, the key variables that will be used include income generation and spending habits. The income generation practices will be used as a measure of economic performance due to the prevalence of low income among the poor adolescents. Since part of the OEOM programs provides interactions between the adolescents and mentors, it is expected that most of the adolescents will engage in reasonable income generating activities. The amount of income generated through these activities will be the measure of efforts made by the adolescents. However, the application of this indicator will not take into consideration the income generated through illegal activities such as sale of drugs and crime. To ensure that the returns reported by the youths are accurate, they would be required to submit proof of legal business conduct or of any other legal economic activities. The objective would be to get them to engage more actively in business without using up time that they would engage in studies. To ensure that this is happening, another indicator that would be used is the level of engagement in adverse practices such as drug use and crime. The adolescents will be expected to provide information on this since it is projected that engagement in such negative activities results from availability of time to waste. It is also an indicator of idleness and can be used as a measure of behavioral change. In addition to this, activities such as drug use lead to expenditures hence resulting in wastage of resources. This therefore forms another excellent variable for evaluating saving practices and monitoring expenditures.
Moreover, economic performance will also be evaluated through spending habits. Although most of the inner-city adolescents come from poor families, poverty in some of the families comes due to the combination of low incomes and poor spending habits. The ability to prioritize their expenses thus comes about as one of the ways through which economic potential can be evaluated. The adolescents have no one to teach them financial management in their families hence the need to be taught this virtue through the program. True learning only comes from commitment and practice of what one is taught.
Although the four key variables that will be used in evaluating program effectiveness have no empirical measurement values, obtaining a measure will depend on the availability of measures to be used. For instance, in academic performance, percentage improvement could be used as the measurement value. Discipline could be measured through frequency i.e. cases per week. The income could be measured by amount per week while expenditure would be measured through percentage reduction per month or per year.
In order to accomplish the objectives of the research, the study will be a qualitative study. Qualitative research approach is suitable for studies where there is need to collect primary information through various procedures. In particular, the qualitative approach to research has been proved effective where there is need for flexibility. Different types of qualitative research design exist. The most common and the one which will be applied in the proposed study is an exploratory research design. The exploratory type of qualitative research is used where the objective is to obtain more information about a given phenomenon. The method helps to acquire information that can explain phenomena in deeper context. In the proposed study, the phenomenon under discussion is the evaluation of OEOM program effectiveness. This will require explanation of the impacts of the programs in academic and economic context. As such, this gives sufficient justification to the use of qualitative research design. The study focuses on the process as well as the outcome and uses inductive reasoning to come to a conclusion regarding the impacts of the program under evaluation. In addition to this, qualitative research also determines meanings from themes presented through various primary data sources (Creswell & Clark, 2004). In the proposed study, information will be collected through questionnaires from different participants. It is only through qualitative research that such information can be interpreted thematically and thus represented accurately.
While using the qualitative approach, the study will be based on a questionnaire as previously mentioned. Questionnaires developed will be focused on obtaining the most accurate information from the participants. In order to accomplish this, questions will be formulated using a neutral note to avoid a connotation of biasness. This means that the questions will be as direct and as succinct as possible. To enhance clarity of questions, statement of the study objectives will be mandatory so that suitable themes can be selected and only questions within the limits of those themes related in the study objectives. In addition to this, the questions will not require the respondents to reveal any information that pertains to their private lives. In lieu of this, any study carried out to evaluate the progress of the adolescents under OEOM programs will be limited to the aforementioned measures of academic and economic effectiveness. The same procedure will be used in the selection of participants for the process to ensure that only valid results are obtained.
In order to confirm the validity of the research tool i.e. the method and questionnaire, key principles of validity will be considered. The questionnaire has to be valid both internally and externally. The internal validity of the questionnaire relates to the content of the tool. In this regard, various features have to be considered. An appropriate and valid questionnaire should not divert from the subject of study. Furthermore, key ethical concerns relating to research will also have to be adhered to. The foremost is reverence for confidentiality. One way through which the questionnaire will address this, as mentioned earlier is through avoiding questions that required confidential information about participants and their families. The questions will also be formulated without biasness. In most cases, biasness in questionnaires is portrayed through asking leading questions. As such, the questionnaire will avoid biasness through strategically asking questions that are neutral and the respondent is allowed to formulate their own answers. Another factor that may affect external validity is divergence from the study subject. This will be addressed by maintaining a vision of the study objective. The described factors can affect the study to a larger extent since the results are the most crucial part of a study and if misrepresented due to misinterpretation of questions or asking questions wrongly, can result in invalidity of the entire study.
Externally, validity of the study will relate to its coherence within the objective context. The relevance of the study and the questionnaire used to the environment in which it is applied; the choice of the most suitable participants for the study and the treatment accorded to the study participants all contribute to its validity. For instance, questionnaires filled by participants under duress do not constitute valid research instruments. Similarly, using participants who are inexperienced and who do not possess the kind of information desired makes the information contained in the questionnaires invalid. In order to address this issue, careful choice of participants will help to avoid this inability. Other factors that will influence the validity of the method and instrument include consistency and reliability. Consistency pertains to the use of the same tool for all the participants while reliability depends on confirmation that the method used in appropriate for the kind of research to be carried out. In this case, the qualitative research is confirmed appropriate through various studies and will be used across all participants. It is expected that this method will be beneficial towards obtaining the relevant information for the study.
The process of establishing the validity of the questionnaires will involve a thorough consideration of all the factors pertaining to questionnaire validity. This will be done during the process of preparation. After understanding the research problem and questions thoroughly, the conceptualization of the questionnaire will follow. This process is described as involving confirming four key aspects. After completion of the questionnaire process, the validity confirmation process involves confirmation of the suitability of the questionnaire to the intended purpose. This first relates to confirmation of the content, relevance of the content to the target participants and comprehensiveness. In addition to this, the questionnaire must also have the questions arranged in a logical manner. The logical sequence can be effective in helping the participants to understand the questionnaire and what is expected of them. Furthermore, Radhakrishna (2007) describes an effective questionnaire as encompassing all aspects of reliability and accuracy. The test for questionnaire reliability is the pilot test which is carried out during the questionnaire testing process. The objective of the pilot test is to help in identifying areas that need rewriting and subsequently to make corrections where necessary before the actual questionnaires are administered.
The procedure to be followed in using this method will be dependent on many factors. This means that effective preparation will be required prior to developing the actual questionnaire and using it to collect data. For instance, one of the preparation procedures would involve contacting the potential participants of the study. This does not imply that the adolescents under a program will be appointed and then allowed to participate as this would paint the researcher in a negative light. On the contrary, it is necessary that all adolescents within OEOM programs will be informed of the intended study. They would then be requested to offer maximum assistance if requested to do so. Before the actual questionnaires are issues, a test questionnaire with some of the questions similar to those in the final questionnaire and others in a different manner. The test questionnaire was meant to evaluate how effective the actual study would be. Another preparation strategy will be to prepare the requirements for the study. Preparation of the actual questions for the study, availing other stationery such as pens and erasers, providing identification codes for the questionnaires will also be necessary. The questionnaires have to be coded for record keeping and accountability since the names of the participants will not be used for identification purposes for the sake of confidentiality. During the actual questionnaire issuance process, the participants will be asked to respond to each of the questions to the best of their knowledge. In the formulation of the questions, the study will make maximum use of open ended questions to provide more insight into the desired information.
A total of at least 50 respondents will be involved in the study. The respondents are expected to be part of the population of youths who attend the OEOM programs in any of metropolis. The participants will be accessed using a probability random sampling technique from any of the running programs. It is expected that those selected to be among the participants will be within the program for at least one year and will have different economic, academic and social backgrounds. The random sampling technique will help to achieve this kind of diversity. Gender will also be a non- essential part of the participants’ selection process. The decision to depend on this particular group of participants is determined by the desired information type. According to a study by (Bird, 2009), the process of selecting participants for a study is crucial as it determines the validity of tool used. As such, the process should be addressed carefully in order to ensure only willing participants are included in the study. Random sampling gives all members of the population equal chances of participating in the study. As such, it is the purest form of sampling that can be used in qualitative research.
The random sampling procedure will involve approaching individual potential participants and requesting them to be part of the study. The first step would be to inform the participants of the objective of the research and how their contribution to it would help in continuing the programs of OEOM as well as helping other parents to help their children from poor backgrounds. The will also be informed honestly of the intention to use the results of the study in a wide population network. From this basis, the participants will then be asked if they would participate willingly. The objective is to avoid any appearance of coercion and subsequently to enable the participants to also respond honestly to the questionnaire questions. Through collaborative participation, the respondents will be informed that they are free to ask questions in cases where some of the questions were considered ambiguous.
Data Collection Procedures
The questionnaires will not contain many questions. A total of 10 questions will be asked within the questionnaire, with only one question having multiple choice answers. This question relates to the age of the participants. The first question will require the participants to select a given age range i.e. between 10 -14 and 30-35 years. The next questions will relate to academic and economic improvements in the lives of the participants. The academic section will require to key in numerical data relating to their class performance at the time of program initiation and after a period that will be set by the research timeline e.g. after six months in the program. This means that questionnaires will have to be administered at least twice in order to satisfactorily record the relevant information. For discipline cases, the adolescents will be expected to make the same numerical statements that indicate the frequency of engagement in disciplinary actions. The frequency will be asked in a simple manner i.e. how many times have you been punished for making a mistake in class this term? This will spur the student to begin making counts of his/ her punishment records. Other questions will be asked to determine the level of engagement in academic activities before, during and after involvement in the OEOM intervention programs. Such questions will be focused on factors that contribute to school performance and effectiveness such as attendance rates, sickness and participation in extracurricular activities.
In terms of economic capacity, the student will be expected to fill in information on his/ her efforts to engage in economically building activities. The participants will also be required to provide information regarding their saving capacities. To conclude the survey, the participants will be requested to answer an additional question on the use of drugs to enable the program managers to evaluate the effectiveness of the program in preventing negative behaviors. Since most of the negative behaviors associated with poverty derive from lack of parental participation in the growth process and limited parental attention, it is expected that this section will be able to help in obtaining information which relates to parental care. Other questions that will be asked include the possibility of engagement in crime, alternative sources of income and uses of the funds generated through activities supported by the program. It will be crucial to determine whether the knowledge given to the adolescents during the OEOM programs is put to reasonable use or not.
From these details, it is observable that data collection will involve both theoretical and numerical information. The data is designed to be easy to analyze and represent both through summary and through qualitative presentation. The numerical and theoretical data received will help to answer the research questions satisfactorily and thus make informed decisions regarding the most appropriate evaluation strategies for academic and economic performance among the participants of OEOM programs.
The process of analyzing qualitative data is intensive and requiring of much attention to details. Before data analysis, it will be necessary to carry out a data coding process which will help to identify the most essential themes in the expected answers. The responses to the questionnaire have both narratives and numbers as descriptions of the participants’ experiences. Creation of themes related to the expected content of the study will involve outlining the key words associated with each response. For instance, in the academic evaluation section, the key themes in determining academic performance will include improvement, positive and better performance. In discipline, the key objective would be to recognize the use of phrases such as less punishment, reduced aggressiveness and enhanced wellness. These themes will be used to analyze the responses given by the participants in order to determine the impacts that the OEOM programs are causing in their academic lives. In economics, the key terms that the study analysis will look out for include improved balance, higher amounts, savings and less spending. These are the terms that will be used to create values associated with improvement in the two key sections of analysis.
Each of the questions in the questionnaires will be coded for ease of identification and representation through the use of statistical tools. The two major questions relating to academic performance and economic growth will be represented through tabulation. On the other hand, the other questions will be analyzed through recursive abstraction. This process involves repetitive summary of data obtained from different questionnaires. Extracting the essential information is followed matching the collected information to different themes in each question. The summary process is then followed where only the most relevant information will be included in the final report. In data representation, the final report will include data in narrative form supported by time series charts. The charts will indicate progress in terms of academics and economics between the times of entry into the OEOM programs to the time of research conclusion. As such, the summary made on the final report will include the confirmation of whether the process of evaluation was satisfactorily conducted or not based on the key measures given in the research introduction.
The research that will be carried out will be effective in addressing the key research questions. The qualitative research design that will be used for the study has been confirmed effective for narrative research practices and will thus be justifiable for this particular research. Specifically, the use of questionnaires is justified as it has been proved an effective method of collecting information and accomplishing research objectives. The data collection procedure will begin through random sampling during which at least 50 participants will be expected to participate in the questionnaire survey. The information collected from this process will be analyzed through numerical analysis as well as through recursive abstraction. Through the two procedures, the information will be represented in narrative as well as in statistical formats through the use of time series charts. The research proposed will be effective in addressing the lack of evaluation tools for the OEOM programs. Despite being effective, there are bound to be certain limitations associated with it. For instance, the scope of the study will be limited in that it only focuses on the evaluation strategies.
Bird, K. (2009). The Use of Questionnaires for Acquiring Information on Public Perception of Natural Hazards and Risk Mitigation: A Review of Current Knowledge and Practice. Natural hazards and Earth System Sciences, 9: 1307- 1325.
Creswell, J.W. and Clark, V. (2004). Principles of Qualitative Research: Designing a Qualitative Study. Retrieved from https://www.andrews.edu/leaderpart/roundtable/2004/workshops/2b/au-qual-071504-jwc-vpc.pdf
Radhakrishna, R. (2007). Tips for Developing and Testing Questionnaires/ Instruments. Journal of Extension, 45(1).