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Saudi Arabian Children’s Behaviour and Language Development Report (Assessment)

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Choosing the Type of the Interview

When considering effectiveness of the interview and my success, I will pay attention to such aspects as the ability to elicit the participant’s opinions, my interview performance as well as some ethical considerations. There are various types of interviews that can be effective in different settings. Some of these interviews provide more freedom and flexibility to both the researcher and the participant while others are more standardized. I chose a combination of general interview guide approach and informal conversational interview (Turner, 2010). These two approaches imply the use of pre-written questions used by the researcher in a way that best fits the situation. Thus, the researchers may choose the order of questions asked. The wording can be changed as well. The researcher is not confined to asking questions only as he/she can insert additional (explanatory) information as well as his/her ideas on various issues. This makes the interview similar to a conversation.

This format enabled me to remain flexible and maintain a friendly atmosphere while focusing on the goals of the interview. The friendly atmosphere established helped the interviewee relax and become more open. The interviewee was willing to participate in the discussion and provide his opinions on the matter. Importantly, the participant has to be free to express his/her viewpoints and, hence, he/she cannot be interrupted, encouraged/forced/assisted to answer in a particular way (Cortazzi, 2008). Of course, if the participant does not understand the question and asks for clarifications, the researcher should add some details. Jones (2013) stresses that the approach of a guided conversation is beneficial for the qualitative research as it provides the researcher with a bulk of details. The participant is not restricted to focus on particular questions as he/she can share his/her experiences and give evaluations to his/her actions. Of course, it is important to be careful when asking questions as researchers can be flexible but they have to stick to major points of their research (Patton, 2014).

I also used a format of the standardised open-ended interview, which also contributed to the necessary degree of flexibility and focus on major issues (Krysik & Finn, 2013). The choice was quite correct as I had a set of questions and I could see the reaction to this or that question, which enabled me to adjust my enquiry and maintain the friendly atmosphere. The interview was more like a discussion and sharing ideas. Of course, I was also able to elicit more precise and detailed answers. I believe this format is the most suitable for the goals of the interview as I was interested in the participant’s opinion on feasibility of my research. His ideas turned out to be very valuable. I took a closer look at the practical aspect of the issue. I understood that my research needed slight changes and more attention should be paid to the role of the community in the process of children’s integration into the multilingual environment.

Choosing the Participant Wisely

At this point, I would like to add that choosing the participant is also an important preparation stage for the interview. I employed a phenomenological approach that implies that participants are chosen on the basis of the researcher’s judgement as well as the purpose of the research (Groenewald, 2004). It is noteworthy that the vast majority of qualitative researches are based on this approach as the researcher focuses on evaluations of particular groups of people.

Tongco (2007) also stresses the importance of choosing samples wisely especially when it comes to qualitative research. Apparently, it is not enough to choose a representative of this or that group. It can be effective to select people who share certain features in common (background, socio-economic status and so on). I have acknowledged benefits of interviewing a person who is into the issue as he has personal experience and certain desire to share his ideas with others who find themselves in a similar situation.

Choosing the Right Questions

It is important to note that I asked “good” questions (Merriam, 2009, p. 95). These questions were mainly open and I did not try to provide possible variants of answers. These questions do not put any restrictions and the interviewee is free to respond in any way, which also helps to see the way he/she understands the question and feels about the subject matter (Anderson & Arsenault, 2005). The interviewee could use his own perspective and he was eager to share his ideas, which were quite helpful for me. I managed to avoid leading questions that also create bias and often make the participant to answer in a specific way (Driscoll, 2011). Of course, this can undermine validity of the results. This can also affect sincerity of the participant who would feel uncomfortable within certain boundaries and would try to answer in a way to please the interviewee. When considering the interview, I have to admit that some questions were not very effective as the participant could use very short answers (limited to agreeing or disagreeing). With a less responsive participant, this could lead to quite negative results, as I would be unable to understand the interviewee’s opinion on the matter.

The Use of Technology

I would like to add that using technology did not undermine effectiveness of my research. Again, the necessary trustworthy atmosphere was established even though the researcher and the participant did not meet in private. Wilson (2011) states that technology facilitates efficiency of qualitative research methods as people have already got accustomed to using it and do not feel the difference between face-to-face or computer-based communication. It is also important to note that the interviewee felt relaxed and comfortable as he was in his house (his zone of comfort). Mannay and Morgan (2014) emphasise that keeping the environment as natural as possible is beneficial for the qualitative research as people share their ideas and opinions frankly. Interestingly, Meho (2006) states that it is possible to conduct e-mail interviews, which will save a lot of time especially at the stage of data preparation and analysis. However, I believe the use of such applications as Skype will be the major computer-based technology utilised. The interview held shows that I need a face-to-face interaction to decipher nonverbal cues (which expands my understanding of the participant’s position) and to make sure that the necessary rapport is established. I believe issues associated with culture and interaction between people needs specific attention to emotions. Therefore, seeing the participant is quite important for the researcher. Of course, I will use emails to send and receive consent forms and so on.

Non-Verbal Communication

I also used my knowledge in nonverbal communication. Kee and Thompson-Hayes (2012) state that nonverbal communication is one of the most important components of the interview. I paid attention to nonverbal cues as it added valuable information. Thus, I could see that the interviewee was eager to communicate and respond to my questions. I could also trace the instances when questions were particularly interesting or challenging for the participant. I saw when the interviewee was particularly involved and when he was less focused. I could also trace meaningful emotions. The participant was somewhat more focused when he was talking about his child’s experiences. He was smiling when he mentioned that he also encourages his child. Of course, the interview was a great practice for me as I could notice various clues that will help me in my future.

Establishment of the Necessary Atmosphere

As far as my interview performance is concerned, it was quite successful though some imperfections can still be found. One of my successes was establishment of the necessary rapport. To achieve this goal, I implemented a brief research on the participant. I wanted to know more about immigrants having small children in the USA. I read some blogs, newspaper articles and talked with people I know. Even such a brief research provided me with many helpful insights. Roulston (2010) stresses that understanding the participants (their gender, ethnicity, interests and so on) is important as it enables the researcher to put the right questions and put them in the right way. I believe I managed to understand certain peculiarities of the interviewee, which helped me to create the trustful atmosphere.

Personal Traits and Experiences of the Participants and the Researcher

Of course, my qualities, my ethnicity, age and so on also played a significant role in this process. Seidman (2013) stresses that the relationship between the interviewee and the interviewer depends on their personal features including age, ethnicity, gender, education, socioeconomic status and so on. It was quite easy to establish the appropriate relationship with the interviewee as we share a lot in common. For instance, we are both Saudi Arabian who were brought up in this country and, hence, we share similar values. We also pertain to the similar social strata. We are almost of the same age. We also have quite similar educational background, which also helps to create the necessary rapport. I also think that the fact that the participant has a degree had a significant impact on his decision to take part in the research. The interviewee was more eager to participate in the research as he completed certain academic researches as well and he understands their value.

At the same time, we are quite different. One of the major differences is the fact that the interviewee lives in the USA where he has to assimilate as well as maintain his own traditions and values while raising his child. He also sees the way multilingual environment affects his child and he has a particular (very personal) view on the matter. Of course, his opinion on the way the child’s behaviour is affected by the multilingual environment may be quite biased as he has had certain issues when trying to fit in.

For me, the research is less personal, which is quite good for validity of the research as I can be unbiased (or as unbiased as possible). Of course, I may miss many things that are obvious for the participant who faces some issues every day. However, I believe that these differences did not spoil the atmosphere and the rapport established. Rossi (2013, p. 96) states that educational research often implies quite specific relationship between the researchers and the participant as the researcher may often “hold a position of influence over research participants”. However, this was not the case as the interviewee was more eager to help me as he might feel that I did not have the opportunity to observe my own child in the multilingual environment and, hence, I needed certain help to identify the most meaningful aspects of the problem. In my case, I was more dependent on the participant as I needed his evaluation of my project’s feasibility.

Explaining the Relevance of the Research

It is necessary to add that I was quite successful when explaining the relevance of the research. At that, I should admit that similarities we share made the process very easy. I simply named the topic of the research and the participant noted that the topic was quite important. He also asked me why I chose him to participate. After my explanation, the interviewee agreed that the topic was relevant and it had a direct impact on him or rather his child. Notably, choosing the right participants and understanding their peculiarities makes it quite easy to explain the relevance of the research. I believe that being exposed to challenges I will explore in my research, the participant is willing to explain his attitude towards many things and help me identify the most important aspects to consider.

Detected Flaws

Questions

As has been mentioned above, some of my questions were not very effective. I have to admit that the wording was quite inappropriate as the participant could simply say yes or no. I also feel I could ask some more questions that could help me to understand whether my research was feasible enough. Of course, the time was quite limited but I think I could ask some additional questions.

I am particularly dissatisfied with my utterance that included the reference to Hymes’ theory. I asked the question as if the interview was to know major aspects of the theory. I did not explain it to the participant and it was quite inappropriate to ask the interviewee about the reasons to view the matter from the perspective of the theory mentioned above. The interviewee answered the question in accordance with his understanding (ignoring the theory and focusing on certain role of the community). However, the participant could give a more complete answer if he was aware of the major points of Hymes’ theory.

Ethical Concerns

Furthermore, I have to admit that I failed to pay the necessary attention to ethical concerns. Webster (2013) stresses that having a signed ethical consent is only a part of the sustainable and ethical approach that has to be applied. It is clear that ethical research is the one where questions and answers are ethical, the relationships between the researcher and the participant are ethical and ethical issues are explicitly addressed (if applicable). Clearly, all my questions were ethical and they did not make the interviewee feel uneasy. However, I feel I failed to engage the interviewee in the importance of certain ethical issues. I could put a direct question as to particular ethical issues associated with the research. This could provide me with the necessary insights into the way people see the problem. Johnson and Christensen (2013) stress that ethical concerns are not limited to sexuality or drug abuse and it is important to address a variety of ethical issues in a research. I think it would be beneficial for the research if I asked the interviewee about possible ethical issues that could arise. Clearly, the participant lives in quite a different community and he can see specific ethical issues children in multilingual communities face. This information could help me develop more effective questionnaires.

Participants’ Comments

As for the participant’s opinions and the way he responded, I would like to stress that he was very friendly and responsive. Again, nonverbal cues I traced suggest that he was quite pleased to take part in the research. The participant smiled and nodded whenever he agreed. It is also necessary to add that the interviewee was very attentive and serious. He wanted to make everything as clear as possible. Thus, when he was talking about his child going through a period of changes, he hesitated trying to choose the right and the most precise words. He also tried to give quite detailed answers.

Importantly, when listening to the participant and especially when analysing his responses, I paid attention to nonverbal cues as well as wording, which is essential as it enables the researcher to elicit the most relevant information (Hale & Napier, 2013). For instance, I felt the participant was about to use the word ‘problems’ as the child who had to integrate into a society that is different often faces certain issues (misunderstanding, alienation or even violence). However, the participant chose the word “changes”. This shows his positive attitude to the process of integration. The participant understands the importance of effective integration into the community, and he also knows that this process (as well as certain challenges) is inevitable. It is also clear that the participant supported his child and tried to help him go through the hard period. As has been mentioned above, he also encountered certain issues associated with integration into the community and he had already developed certain techniques to make the integration effective and as smooth as possible. Rubin and Rubin (2005) state that close analysis of particular words of participants, which often contain several additional meanings, is crucial and, hence, the researcher has to unveil the meanings enclosed in the participant’s responses.

The participant shared his viewpoints openly and he stressed the importance of the community in the integration process. He admitted that linguistic and cultural aspects are often intertwined and they needed to be analysed in terms of the life in the community. His perspective expanded the boundaries of my research and I saw particular gaps in my understanding of the issue.

Relevance and Benefits of This Reflection

Analysis of the present interview helped me to see imperfections of my research methods. In this respect, I would like to note that “reflective commentary” approach has proved to be effective for me (Shenton, 2004, p. 68). Shenton (2004) notes that the researcher has to understand him/herself to be able to avoid bias and implement the most effective research. A reflective commentary is a summary of major achievements and issues the researcher encounters during a research or different phases of his/her research. I intend to write reflective commentaries during a number stages of my research. This will be especially important at the preparation stage and when interviews will be held. This will help me remain focused and avoid possible mistakes and bias.

For instance, this reflection helped me to see that I should fill in the gap concerning ethical considerations. Leadbeater et al. (2006) state that ethical concerns are specifically burning when it comes to the research involving children and adolescents. During my research, I will focus on behaviours of these two groups and I will also address their parents. Of course, I will have to be more ethically sensitive and have the necessary skills to implement the research effectively. Thus, when analysing texts I will pay specific attention to “five key areas of ethical competence”: competence, informed consent, confidentiality, power, social justice (Evans, Hearn, Uhlemann & Ivey, 2010, p. 19). Apart from receiving signed informed consent forms, I will make sure that my questions are ethically acceptable. I think I may need to change wording or omit some questions when talking to some people. This will depend on participants’ profiles. Of course, participants will be free to ignore questions they find inappropriate. Again, implementing a brief research on major groups of participants may help me develop proper questionnaires and to be able to analyse participants’ responses in a more efficient way, as I will understand, at least, some motivations of participants.

As has been mentioned above, I have acknowledged the need to be more prepared to the interview as I was unable to choose the right questions in some cases. Cone and Winters (2011) provide a detailed guideline for getting ready for the interview. It is clear that the preparation stage is complex and needs specific attention. I will implement a research on participants. I will try to elicit more information on the mental models of people who will take part in the research, as this will enable me to analyse their responses more efficiently. Mental models are sets of beliefs, values and knowledge that affect people’s behaviour and decision-making (Cone & Winters, 2011). Of course, I will have to speak the language of the participants, as this will ensure full understanding.

In future, I will also avoid asking questions that contain information participants are not aware of. For instance, the case with my question on the relevance of Hymes’ perspective for my research is quite suggestive. It is clear that first I had to introduce major aspects of the approach to the participant to understand his opinion. However, this would take some time, which is quite limited during the interview. Thus, I could simply incorporate major aspects of Hymes’ approach into my question and, in that way, I could understand whether the participants sees the perspective appropriate for my research.

Apart from that case, it is clear that I have to pay more attention to the wording. I feel I need more preparation. Of course, I will adjust the questions to make the interview similar to a conversation but I will have a pre-written set of questions. This will help me remain focused and precise (Dey, 2005). I was a bit nervous during the experiment. Though it was not very noticeable (my voice did not shake, there was no hesitation in my speech) but my psychological state affected the way I chose words. I feel I had to be more precise.

In conclusion, I can say that even though there were some flaws, the interview was quite successful. My performance is satisfactory. Of course, I will have to improve some of the techniques I used. I will also add some changes to the research that will become more relevant and valid. I found the interview and the reflection very effective, as I am now able to fill in the gap in my knowledge and skills.

Interview with Hussain

Background

Hussain is an American of a Saudi Arabian descent and with the corresponding cultural heritage. He was interviewed by the author of the research via Skype.

Interview

Interviewer (I): Hello, Hussain. It is very nice to meet you. Thank you for taking your time to answer my questions.

Hussain (H): The pleasure is mine.

I: I will ask you several questions regarding the feasibility of my research project. I will need some pieces of advice from you based on your experience of moving from Saudi Arabia to the US and helping your son accommodate to the new cultural environment. Does that sound all right?

H: Sure, go ahead.

I: Thank you. I am planning to consider the effects that multiculturalism has on the development of Saudi Arabian children.

H: That sounds like an interesting idea (smiles). However, I am a bit curious about why you decided to choose me for this interview.

I: I did, because my research revolves around the Saudi Arabian children, who develop in a diverse and multicultural environment, such as the one that your son ended up in as your family moved to the United States.

H: (nodding) Oh that makes sense. Actually, my son had a few issues when integrating into the American society.

I: That’s very interesting. In fact, it touches upon one of my research questions, “What are the effects of multilingualism on children’s language development and behaviour in a Saudi Arabian community?” So, from what I understand, it all boiled down to language issues. Am I right?

H: Not quite. Sure, he had to ask people to talk slower and use simpler words a lot, but he also – how do I put it? – (stops, looking for the right word) he went through a lot of changes.

I: What kind of changes were these?

H: At first, he seemed to be rather aggressive when there was a misunderstanding, whether a linguistic or a cultural one. However, after the assistance that we received from the Saudi Arabian community, he started learning to solve conflicts.

I: So, basically, what you say is there is an obvious link between the ethnographic community and the development of speech skills.

H: Pretty much.

I: The theory about the connection between ethnographic communities and the process of speech development was suggested by Dell Hymes. Do you think that there is a reason to view the problem from the perspective of Hymes’ theory?

H: Yes, I believe that it was the influence of the community that helped my son to adjust to the new environment and develop English speaking skills. Of course, don’t forget to give my son some credit for studying well, too! (Smiles)

I: If you were to address this topic, would you have asked this question differently?

H: The question about multiculturalism?

I: … and its effects on the children developing in a Saudi Arabian community.

H: (Choosing words carefully) I would also address the issue of intercultural conflicts.

I: Do you mean the kind of conflicts based on language difference or on the one between the two cultures?

H: I’d say, both, because, personally, I believe they are intertwined. The differences between cultures define the differences between languages.

I: Indeed, they are. Well, I wish you, your son and your wife the best of luck. Thank you for the interview, Hussain!

H: You’re welcome (smiles). Good-bye!

I: See you!

Consent Form

The Effects of Multilingualism on Saudi Arabian Children’s Behaviour and Language Development

Purpose of the Study

You are being asked to participate in the research on the impact of multiculturalism on Saudi Arabian children’s behaviour and language development. The purpose of this study is to identify exact ways multilingualism affects Saudi Arabian children’s development and behaviour in American and Saudi Arabian communities.

Methodology

If you agree to participate, we will have an interview that will include questions concerning your child who is now raised in the US community and is affected by multilingualism. The interview will last 15-20 minutes and will be held with the help of Skype. With your permission, your answers will be tape-recorded.

Risks

There is a risk that some of the questions asked can be sensitive for you. However, if this will be the cases you can choose not to answer the question. You may also withdraw from the interview at any moment.

Confidentiality

All of the information provided will be completely confidential and available to the researcher only.

Statement of Consent

I have read the information provided above and I agree to participate in the research and I agree to have the interview tape-recorded.

Your Signature____________________________ Date________________________

Your Name___________________________________________________________

Researcher’s Signature________________________ Date_____________________

Researcher’ Name_____________________________________________________

Reference List

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Wilson, L. (2011). Chapter 9: Integrated interdisciplinary online interviews in science and health: The climate and health literacy project. In J. Salmons (Ed.), Cases in online interview research (pp. 239-261). London, UK: SAGE.

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