Q Dissertation: Brown on principals’ perceptions of professional development

Brown, Crystal Lea (2013). What works? Principals’ perceptions of professional development. Doctoral dissertation (Educational Leadership), North Carolina State University.

Abstract: Principals play a pivotal role in the professional growth of teachers. In turn, teachers have a tremendous impact on student learning. This study seeks to understand the perceptions principals have of effective elements of professional development and their role in facilitating the professional development of teachers in order to impact student learning. Q-methodology was utilized to investigate the subjective opinions of public school administrators. Literature on professional development was reviewed and statements pertaining to effective elements of professional development were used to create a set of statements. Statements were printed on cards. Then, thirty-four public school principals and assistant principals sorted, in a forced distribution, the cards according to their beliefs about professional development. A post-sort survey was used to glean demographic and perceptual data. The Q-sorts were factor analyzed to reveal statistical correlations among the administrators. Focus group interviews for each factor were conducted in order to gain more insight about the administrators’ perceptions of professional development. Data analysis indicated three statistically significant factors: Sustained Over Time, Collaboration and Follow-Up, and Collaborate. Along with these factors, data emerged explaining how principals view their role in facilitating professional development for teachers. The findings of this study generate insights into professional development for teachers and provide policy makers, researchers, and practitioners information about this important topic.

Q Dissertation: Parker on the private school choice decision process

Parker, Tara Wooten (2015). Understanding the private school choice decision process: A Q-methodology study. Doctoral dissertation (Educational Administration and Supervision), North Carolina State University.

Abstract: The availability of school choice options has increased the schools’ accountability to both parents and students. This study’s purpose was to gain a deeper understanding of the subjectivity of the school choice decision process that private school parents undergo. Q methodology was utilized to explore this decision process. Research literature was reviewed and led to the development of statements addressing influential factors on school choice decisions. These statements were printed, and thirty-five private school parents sorted these statements based on the factors’ influence on their school choice decision. Post-sort interviews further explored the subjectivity of the decision process. The Q sorts were factor analyzed to determine the statistical correlations between the statements. Three emerging factors surfaced as distinct preferred school environments by private school parents. Data analysis explored these factors and a name for each factor was assigned based on the strongest influential statements. These three factors included a Developing the Whole Child Environment, a Strong, Academic Environment, and a Safe Environment with Like Peers. Findings presented numerous factors that influence school choice decisions. Data also provided information regarding perceived strengths and weaknesses of both public schools and private schools. The findings directed implications for both public and private school administrators and policymakers. These implications can help drive school reform initiatives. Without addressing these parent preferences, schools will not be able to compete in the market economy created by school choice.

Q Dissertation: Mitchell on African-American doctoral students and for-profit institutions

Mitchell, Melita Pope (2015). Factors influencing prospective African American doctoral students selection of for-profit institutions. Doctoral dissertation (Adult and Community College Education), North Carolina State University.

Abstract: The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the values, attitudes, and beliefs that influence the selection process of African Americans who pursued their doctorates at for-profit universities. There are several types of educational settings learners have to choose from once they decide to obtain an advanced degree. Included in these options are traditional, not for profit universities (NFPUs) and for-profit universities (FPUs). The number of African Americans who pursue doctoral studies impacts the number of African Americans who will eventually become faculty members and upper level university administrators. The institutions where individuals obtain their degrees can impact their ability to move into these positions in certain academic environments (Adams & Defleur, 2005).

This study utilized Q methodology to uncover the perceptions of African Americans toward the values, attitudes, and beliefs that impact the decision to select for-profit universities for a doctoral degree. Seventeen students that selected for-profit doctoral degrees that are currently enrolled or graduated from for-profit universities participated in the study. The participants each sorted 80 statements based on their perception of the level of influence each factor had on their selection of doctoral education. Participants were asked to sort the statements using a ranking system of (+7) most impacted my decision through (-7) least impacted my decision. In addition to the sort, a post card sort questionnaire collected demographic data. Thirteen (76.5 %) of the seventeen participants completed this information. Four groups emerged as a result of the sorting of the statements that assessed the students’ perceptions of the influences on doctoral program choice at for-profit institutions. These groups were described as selection for balance and convenience, selection for interpersonal connectedness, convenience and self-efficacy and comfort with the lack of confidence.

The results of this study indicate that for-profit universities have done an excellent job in communicating their understanding of the needs of African Americans seeking to pursue doctoral studies. The findings of this study assert that there are many influences on the decision making process for African Americans that choose to attend for-profit institutions for doctoral study. Admissions requirements, institutional traits, self-efficacy, experiences and goals all influenced participants of this study. Participants indicated a need for convenience in delivery especially in regards to their lifestyle before the degree program. Flexible schedules that allow individuals to continue working were identified as a characteristic to offer. In addition, utilizing faculty and alumni to make connections and encourage enrollment was a distinguishing characteristic to another group of participants. Marketing the concept that for-profit institutions are a place to receive the needed degree to advance career and personal goals was also indicated. Lastly, the final factor lacked the confidence in their ability to be accepted and, subsequently, successful at traditional, not for profit universities found for-profit institutions a viable alternative for doctoral study. This factor found comfort in continuing their education at a for-profit institutions because they were confident from past experiences they could be successful at that type of institution.

The understanding acquired through this research study can assist admissions professionals, department chairs and faculty in the development of effective recruitment strategies for African American doctoral students. In addition, program development can be enhanced so that recruitment, retention and persistence can be addressed. Understanding the attitudes of potential students regarding the doctoral decision making process can offer a distinct perspective of what factors should be considered when creating admissions requirements, marketing plans, program development and delivery options.

Q Dissertation: Richardson on exercise science students’ views of obesity

Richardson, Laura A. (2016). Weights: An exploration of university exercise science students’ views of obesity. Doctoral dissertation (Curricular and Instructional Studies), University of Akron.

Abstract: The prevalence of obesity stigmatization and discrimination is powerful, socially acceptable and widely under-explored. It has been well documented over the past two decades that people of size are targets of discrimination. With the escalating trend of obesity and vast documentation of weightism, future exercise professionals will treat and assist many patients of size. This study investigated the views of students towards obesity and weight management treatments in a first year Exercise Science course. Q methodology was chosen as a method to explore and measure students’ subjectivity. Measuring subjectivity can be difficult to quantify especially when addressing sensitive material such as negative or discriminatory perspectives. The statement of the problem consists of a two-fold agenda exploring students’ views and implementing Q methodology as a needs assessment to identify areas of obesity education that may be considered for potential modifications within Exercise Science curricula. This study aims to empirically assess differing views and report first-year university students’ perspectives of obesity, within an introductory exercise science course, as a starting point to determine if additional educational strategies should be implemented within the undergraduate exercise science curricula. Providing a robust education for preprofessional students is critical and in the process, it is a priority to help minimize possible obesity bias and discrimination. Understanding and evaluating students’ views towards course content material promptly during the undergraduate studies may significantly facilitate threading awareness and exposure of weightism early and continuously throughout the undergraduate program. It is essential for students (preprofessional) to be educated regarding extensive issues of obesity care while being sensitive to treatment options. Identifying discriminatory or unconscious bias among students is the first step. Subsequently, developing mechanisms and strategies for educators to increase bias awareness for obesity acceptance must follow.

The focus on students’ subjective perspectives related to obesity has received unduly scarce attention in previous studies. This lack of attention may be partially caused by difficulties in measuring subjectivity. This current study addressed the challenge by developing an analytical approach using a robust concourse that increased the precision of exploring views. This study revealed first-year university students’ views of obesity and demonstrated how Q methodology can be used as a needs assessment tool in Exercise Science undergraduate program.

Laura A Richardson <laura2> is currently visiting instructor of Sports Science and Wellness Education at the University of Akron. An article related to her dissertation appears in Advances in Physiology Education, 2015, 39(2), 43-48, available at http://advan.physiology.org/content/39/2/43.

Q Bibliography: Wijngaarden on ethnography in tourism research

Wijngaarden, Vanessa (2016, April 12). Q method and ethnography in tourism research: Enhancing insights, comparability and reflexivity. Current Issues in Tourism (online).

(doi: 10.1080/13683500.2016.1170771)

Abstract: Whereas other writers have recently presented Q method as an option for use in combination with traditional surveys, I employed the mind-mapping technique within a deeply qualitative approach. Showing how the Q method adds value to reflexive ethnography, I highlight the extended possibilities for its application in tourism studies. The method allows qualitative researchers’ novel entries into the perspectives and lived experiences of hosts as well as guests, providing enough rigidness to enhance their systematic handling and comparability, while being flexible enough to do justice to their complexities and nuances. The Q method can successfully be embedded in ethnographic fieldwork practices and used even with illiterate people. By adding themselves as a research participant, researchers can reflect intensely on their own subjective understandings and positions, as well as on their methodological approaches. This is of special value in tourism studies where extended reflexivity is especially urgent, because researchers are often placed in the same category as tourists by their research participants. (The first 50 people can access this article for free through http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/rx6YWRyw5Kf8bpyuZds4/full)

Vanessa Wijngaarden <vanessa.wijngaarden@gmail.com> is affiliated with the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS), University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany.

Q Bibliography: Howard et al. on notions of fairness in Fair-trade Carbon Projects

Howard, Rebecca J., Anne M. Tallontire, Lindsay C. Stringer, & Rob A. Marchant (2016, February). Which “fairness”, for whom, and why? An empirical analysis of plural notions of fairness in Fairtrade Carbon Projects, using Q methodology. Environmental Science & Policy, 56, 100-109. (doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2015.11.009) (Open access text available: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1462901115301106)


  • Uses Q methodology to identify three factors on fairness in carbon projects.
  • Links factors with contested fair trade and carbon processes and practices.
  • Maps key fault lines in fair carbon debates onto theoretical dimensions of fairness.
  • Signals need to make fairness definitions explicit when designing Fairtrade standards.

Abstract: Fairness is a relative concept with multiple, subjective and competing notions of what it is, how to achieve it, and for which beneficiaries. Fairtrade International’s collaborative efforts to develop a standard to certify Fairtrade Carbon Credits (FCCs) brought together multiple stakeholders in a deliberative context. This paper uses Q methodology to empirically assess the notions of fairness this wider consultation group held. Three distinct ‘factors’ (or perspectives) are identified, and discussed in relation to a multi-dimensional framework for exploring fairness. The first factor prioritises development delivered through organisations, participation in decision-making and use of minimum prices to adjust trade imbalances. The second factor conceptualises a non-exclusive approach maximising generation and sales of FCCs, involving a commodity chain where everyone performs their optimum function with financial transparency and information-sharing to facilitate negotiations. The third factor involves minimising intervention, allowing carbon commodity chains and project set-ups to function efficiently, and make their own adjustments to enhance benefits access and quality received by beneficiaries. The three factors reflect debates within carbon and fair trade spheres about who should be playing which roles, who should be accessing which benefits, and how people should be supported to interact on an uneven playing field. Communicating findings to standards organisations enables a more open and inclusive policy process. Our research provides a critical reflection on these plural notions of fairness, identifying areas of (dis)agreement within the FCC dialogue, and provides a wider, yet manageable, set of inputs for supporting the FCC process during its inception and subsequent implementation. Clearer definitions of “fairness” are also useful for standards organisations in reviewing ex post whether “fairness” goals have been met.

Rebecca J Howard <R.J.Howard12@leeds.ac.uk> is with the Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, UK.

Q Dissertation: Merrill on intermediary enforcement in online advertising

Merrill, Kenneth (2015). Dedicated to infringement: The politics of intermediary enforcement in online advertising. Doctoral dissertation (Media Studies), Syracuse University.

Abstract: In the wake of recent legislative efforts designed to curb copyright infringement on the web—the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PIPA)—governments have increasingly come to rely on private industry (e.g., content providers and third party content networks) to serve as intermediaries for the enforcement of intellectual property rights on the web. Often this form of infrastructure-based content mediation occurs through private ordering and the creation of industry standards and in-house best practices designed to deal with alleged intellectual property infringement. The emergence of these indirect infrastructure-based modes of enforcement (DeNardis, 2012) raises several important questions for innovation, Internet interoperability, and freedom of expression on the web. This study seeks to shed light on this murky area of content mediation by examining how online advertising professionals construct meaning around value-laden concepts like intellectual property rights and how these cognitive constructs go on to influence the shape of the networked public sphere. The study uses a mixed method approach combining Q methodology and focus group interviews to examine cognitive and discursive patterns of meaning-making regarding intellectual property infringement among online advertising professionals, a key industry in this increasingly privatized infrastructure-mediated regulatory environment.

Q Dissertation: Parker on educators’ perceptions of how student backgrounds affect academic outcomes

Parker, James H., IV. (2015). Middle school educators’ perceptions of student backgrounds affecting student academic outcomes in rural coastal North Carolina. Doctoral dissertation (Education), North Carolina State University.

Abstract: The perceptions of educators affect their students. When educators discount their student’s ability to be successful based on student background, this is termed “deficit thinking.” Deficit thinking reinforces the stereotype threats of students, which may cause lowered academic outcomes for these students. Q-methodology was utilized to investigate the subjective opinions of middle school educators. I reviewed literature on deficit thinking and interviewed middle school educators pertaining to student background affecting educational outcomes to create a set of statements. Statements were printed on cards. Thirty-one middle school educators sorted the cards, in a forced distribution, according to their beliefs about student background. The Q-sorts were factor analyzed to reveal statistical correlations among the administrators. One-on-one and focus group interviews for each factor were conducted in order to gain more insight about the middle school educators’ perceptions of student background affecting educational outcomes. Data analysis indicated three statistically significant factors. Along with these factors, data emerged explaining how middle school educators view the role of student background affecting educational outcomes. The findings of this study generate insights into middle school educators’ perceptions of their students and provide policy makers, researchers, and practitioners with information about this important topic.

Q Dissertation: Bicking on application of the Toyota Production System

Bicking, Cortes J. (2015). Toyota Production System (TPS) theories-in-action and lean implementation theories-in-action: A contrast in maximization of human potential. Doctoral dissertation, Human and Organization Development, Fielding Graduate University.

Abstract: Thousands of companies have tried to emulate the Toyota Production System (TPS), through the concept of Lean manufacturing, resulting in disappointment or failure. Case studies have identified broad causal factors such as leadership actions, lack of overall skills, and “cherry-picking” TPS techniques, instead of embracing them in the spirit and mindset intended. This research sought to identify the collective mindset, which enables Toyota to effectively apply TPS, when others cannot. The findings provide insight into prerequisites of Lean implementation. Such knowledge benefits companies desiring to embrace continuous improvement thinking into the fabric of their culture and consultants concerned with “how”. The research began by exploring the similarities and differences between Lean implementation theories-in-action and TPS theories-in-action. A triangulated approach using case studies, q-sort methodology, and survey was employed. Participants in the q-sort and survey came from 2 sources. The first, a company that has attempted to implement Lean practice more than once with disappointing results. The second source, a team of Toyota employees from their Erlanger, KY plant. Comparisons yielded 3 important findings. First, Toyota responses indicate a willingness and commitment to challenge the status quo, at every level, not evident in the other company. Second, a definite lack of understanding the underlying purpose of Lean and the tools was apparent in the non-Toyota organization. Third, the method of organizational learning employed by Toyota has a different focus than the non-Toyota organization. The findings indicate prerequisite organizational characteristics, necessary for successful implementation of Lean, exist. A CAS perspective, openness to collaborative, non-defensive, reflection within Toyota far exceeds the non-Toyota company. Further investigation on how to foster collaborative reflection among teams, organizations, and society is warranted and could enable positive social change.

Q Dissertation: Pelham on prescriber perceptions while managing pain

Welham, Grace C. (2015). Prescriber perceptions while managing pain. Doctoral dissertation, Social and Administrative Science in Pharmacy, University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Introduction: This study used Q methodology to explore and describe prescriber perceptions while managing pain. Patient psychological and sociocultural context impact the pain experienced by different patients. From a quality of care perspective, it is important for prescribers who manage and treat pain to recognize these differences. Objectives: Phase 1: Objective 1a explored a prescriber-level model of what influences decision-making in pain management. Objective 1b created a sample of items from Objective 1a to be sorted and ranked in Phase 2. Phase 2: Objective 2a used a by-person factor analysis to identify prescriber “types.” Objective 2b described the prescriber types through interpretation of the factors that emerged from Objective 2a. Methods: Phase 1 of this study used semi-structured interviews to qualitatively explore Primary Care Prescriber perceptions of pain management to develop the Concourse of responses. From the Concourse, the Q-set was developed, which forms the statements that were sorted and ranked by prescribers who completed the Q-sort. The Q-sort is a method of data collection that allowed by-person factor analysis. The Q-sort was administered as part of a self-administered, paper-based questionnaire. By-person factor analysis identified prescriber types that emerged from the Q-sort data. Results: Three prescribers types were identified. Confident Clinicians focused on clinical characteristics of the patient, developed a treatment plan based on those characteristics, and worked with the patient to determine the best treatment. Sensitive Psychologists, while also considering clinical characteristics, focused more intently on patient psycho-behavioral characteristics. They were sensitive to the increased potential for abuse or addiction in patients with poor psychological status. The Seasoned Realists considered the patients most holistically, and recognized that no matter their treatment of choice, the patient must be able to access the treatment. Conclusions: The three prescriber types that emerged from the data share common perspectives of pain as they are all trained in the allopathic tradition. However, certain perceptions distinguished the Sensitive Psychologists and the Seasoned Realists from the Confident Clinicians. These distinguishing perceptions are what can be used to differentiate prescribers by their perceptions. The main limitations of this study are the lack of generalizability and a reliance on self-report.