The US Military is a major employer of the youth of America and accepts new recruits who have attained either a GED score or a High School Diploma. All people enlisting however, are also required to undertake another standardized test measuring intelligence and aptitude called the ASVAB, which is used in order to ascertain the job positions each recruit can apply for (Moore, 2010).
The purpose of the proposed qualitative phenomenological study is to explore, compare and contrast the experiences of men enlisting or who have enlisted in the US military with either a GED score or a high school diploma, and their shared experiences undertaking the ASVAB; thus it will explore the similarities and differences of lived experiences of three forms of standardized testing.
Qualitative research tries to encapsulate life as it really is and places emphasis on process and meanings (Sale et al, 2002, p.45); wherein the researchers make claims from their perspective and using strategies of investigation such as phenomenologies, ethnographies, grounded theory or case studies, collect data from which ideas, trends, themes or premises are developed (Walker, R. 2004; Johnson & Christensen, 2007). A qualitative method is therefore appropriate for this research because the data collected in a natural setting, will reveal a pattern and theme driven by the research questions (Creswell, 2006; Gay, Mills, & Airasian, 2006).
Phenomenological studies, as the term implies, are concerned with the study of phenomena such as specific experiences or events and their existence; in other words they attempt to describe, explain and ascertain the impact of a particular phenomena (Hancock, 2002), usually by means of in-depth interviews. Researchers using phenomenological methods are not usually interested in the experiences of one person but are more concerned with shared or similar experiences among individuals. Findings are presented by way of a very descriptive report intended to provide an experience of actually encountering the phenomena for its reader (Johnson & Christensen, 2007). Phenomenological studies thus regard perception as a primary source of information (Moustakas, 1994) and determine reality, which is appropriate for this study.
It is envisaged that participants will be 10 volunteer African American males who are currently enlisting or who have already enlisted in the US military. Some researchers using a qualitative approach do not necessarily determine the size of the sample prior to the study but allow its establishment when an oversupply of data is gathered. A sample group of 10 however, was decided on for this research based on time constraints and monetary costs, as well as the fact that other researchers have deemed 10 to be an appropriate and workable amount. Participant selection will be dependent on whether or not they are able to articulate their feelings and thoughts concerning their experiences with the phenomena under investigation. All participants will need to have undertaken the ASVAB standardized test, as well as a high school diploma or attained a GED score.
Data will be gathered by means of individual interviews with the participants. Interviews will be audio-taped and will be semi-structured and in-depth and will be expected to last around one hour. Field notes or memos will also be kept by the researcher after each interview to record the milieu of the interviews and reflective notes about what is being learnt or ascertained from the data, as well as to record the researcher’s own preconceptions of, and thoughts and feelings experienced during the interview process for later analysis. Data analysis will be ongoing and recursive throughout the study; in other words it will be a process of “interim analysis” (Johnson & Christensen, 2007, Chapter 17:1). Interviews will be transcribed and the transcriptions will be utilized for data analysis. Transcriptions will be read line by line and segmented and coded (by way of induction). Master lists of coding will be maintained and used, lists of significant and pertinent statements will be prepared separating those with a high school diploma and those with a GED score for further analysis, and common themes emerging from the invariant structures (Johnson & Christensen, 2007) of the experiences of each individual participant will be extracted.
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