My methodology can vary depending on which direction I would like to take my research. Initially, I was more interested in a descriptive analysis which would look at the efficacy of incentives within the K-12 setting, specifically formal mentoring relationships. If I were to pursue this route, I could either pursue an experiential method of either introducing or removing incentives in exiting mentoring relationships through existing channels such as Higher Achievement. However, this approach could be potentially problematic and against IRB guidelines being that it is direct intervention in an educational setting. Another methodology I could use if I were to take this approach would be to conduct a survey with both students and mentors about their perceptions of incentives and their effects on students accomplishing certain tasks/goals.
This approach is appealing to me primarily because of my vein desire to arrive at conclusive results to potentially inform not only my mentoring relationships but others’ relationships as well. However, I believe the survey method would echo professor Flannigan’s argument that surveys and observations portray perceptions of reality rather than how your topic of research actually operates. Additionally, Brian Warnick, author of “Paying Students to Learn”, argues that even if incentives produce positive results on the academic achievement of children, results do not tell the entire story. I, similar to Warnick, plan on taking a normative approach and examine the question of should incentives be provided in the context of formal mentoring relationships.
The normative approach, unlike the descriptive approach, would not require me to collect data or run experiments. Instead, I could examine the question by consulting a host of contemporary and earlier moral and political philosophies echoed by Michael Sandel and Debra Satz. These two authors which I have previously studied argue that markets should not exist with certain goods based upon considerations of coercion and vulnerability. I could also extend this into an analysis from a Kantian standpoint and argue that there is something intrinsically valuable about education or reject this view altogether.