Monday, November 11, 2013

Thesis Draft Excerpt: Likert headaches


It's all well and good to collect data for a thesis. But when you sit down to write the thing, you have to figure out the best way to present it all. You can't just throw some charts in there, highlight some percentages, and call it good.

I used a lot of Likert-type scale statements in my questionnaires. Those are the ubiquitous "Strongly agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree" things you've probably come across quite a bit in surveys over the years.

Today, I'm trying to wrangle a few related Likert-type scale statements into a meaningful representation of their significance, whether visually or in words. Here's a peek inside of my Likert headache.

Instructors (Western, native speakers of English) were presented with these statements:
I understand the cultures of my students.
I make an effort to understand the cultures of my students.
In my opinion, my students feel I understand their culture.
In my opinion, my students feel I make an effort to understand their culture.

Students (Muslim Arabs) got these statements:
I feel that my teacher understands my culture.
I feel that my teacher makes an effort to understand my culture.

When I was designing my research instruments, there was a slight element of throwing more than one angle of a question at my subjects and seeing what stuck. Or what came out of it. Now I have the results and I'm not sure how to parse them. I know I want to get at any discrepancies between what the instructors perceive and what the reality is. Which means that I should compare the statements like so:

"I understand the cultures of my students" AND "I feel that my teacher understands my culture."

Right? But where does that leave "In my opinion, my students feel I understand their culture"? Is there some kind of bizarre three-way bar chart I can use to show all of this? Or is one of those statements superfluous? If so, which one?

The other natural grouping is "I make an effort to understand the cultures of my students" AND "I feel that my teacher makes an effort to understand my culture." That leaves "In my opinion, my students feel I make an effort to understand their culture" a lonely orphan.

Anyway, I'm just working through this and I've brought you along on the journey. No need to solve my problem. Unless you CAN, of course.

6 comments:

Liz Johnson said...

I started to try to come up with a solution, and got a headache. Hmm.

No, really. I've typed out like three different things in this comment box and then erased all of them because they don't work. GAH!

Kathy Haynie said...

I think the "orphan" questions may actually be orphans. Or maybe they get discussed in light of the discrepancy - The teachers think they understand v. what the students perceive is understood - and the teachers' perceptions of what the students think is part of what gets in the way of actually moving closer to understanding. Maybe.

Kathy Haynie said...

PS - None of the teachers "disagree"? And what's with all the "neutrals" for students only? Are they trying to be polite? Hmmm…very interesting.

Andrew said...

The stacked bar chart does some weird stuff here, like how "Agree" adds up to 114%

You can do this in two graphs, leaving one as an orphan each time. Compare discrepancies between "I understand the cultures of my students" and "I feel that my teacher understands…" first, then compare "I feel that my teacher…" with "My students feel I understand…". You can't really logically put all three on the same chart (though it is physically possible to do so: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1189942/Uploaded/sample.png - it just doesn't make sense to compare all three)

Bridget said...

Hey, that's what I ended up doing! The 2x2 comparison, twice. However, as Kathy points out, this is really hard to explain in words. I'm not sure I'll keep it in.

Bridget said...

I trust the results for the teachers, but yes, the students just love neutral. That's why I don't like putting a neutral in Likert scale questionnaires, but you pretty much have to.

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