SWK 557 (Research 1)
Research Proposal: The Effectiveness of the
“Character Education” Program
1. Research problem
The problem I’ve chosen to research addresses information needed to guide practice decisions at the
Leadership Training Institute (LTI). In past months, there were many staff meetings held to examine how
adequately LTI was responding to certain problems and whether or not they were reaching the target population as
they had hoped. The target population is African-American youth and a majority of the clients at LTI are African
American males between the ages of thirteen and seventeen. The recurring concern was that these youths were
repeat offenders and the successful reintegration of these adolescents into their community and schools was
minimal. The results of studying one central program offered to help at-risk youth can serve as a model for testing
the effectiveness of other programs. My research question involves one program entitled “character education”.
The question is: Does the program “character education” meet the needs of the target population at LTI?
2. Relevant concepts in the question
The relevant concepts in the question are centered around meeting the needs of the at-risk
youth served by LTI. The first part of the problem in question has to do with the logistics of the
“character education” program as well as the ways in which the staff implement the program.
Questions that come to mind are: What are the objectives of “character education”? Are these
objectives realistic and attainable? Does the program appear to improve the character of the
juveniles in question? Another key concept has to do with a possible correlation between the
“character education” program and repeated juvenile delinquents that participate in the program.
The purpose of the proposal is to make a change in the status of the juveniles and additionally in the
practices carried forth at the Leadership Training Institute.
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The variables which are relevant to the concepts in question are specifics of the character
education program as well as the implementation of the program. Another variable is the status of
the clients which are involved in the aforementioned program.
The variables mentioned above can be operationalized by selecting a random sample of clients
within each age range of the population in question (i.e.: one client that’s thirteen, then fourteen, etc
until seventeen) that are in character education. The programs and services used by each client will
serve as another means of operationalizing the variables along with how the staff member assigned
to each case goes about implementing said services.
3. Research Hypothesis
My hypothesis is this: If the youth participating in character education have changed past
behaviors that resulted in criminal punishment then the program is effective. The variables which
are relevant to the concepts in question are specifics of the character education program as well as
the implementation of the program. Another variable is the status of the clients which are involved
in the aforementioned program. The variables mentioned above can be operationalized by doing
research at the “character education” meetings. Both the staff members and the participants would
be included to determine the level of effectiveness of the program.
4. Data Collecting Method
Unstructured observation will be a key method for collecting data. For the staff, their ability
to facilitate the group and engage the youth of LTI is important to the study. How they handle
conflict and resolve any issues that the clients raise in a random group sessions are important when
looking at implementation.
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Participant’s activity and behavior will be recorded as well. Another data collection method is
unstructured self-administered questionnaires. The staff and participants would be questioned
regarding strengths and weaknesses as well as overall feelings and reactions to the program.
Interviews with clients would also be done to get the history of those in “character education” and
to discuss whether there have been any changes in their behavior. Staff would be interviewed to find
out if they believe significant changes have been made in their client’s behaviors. Finally, statistics
regarding the success rates of the youth in “character education” will need to be collected and
analyzed. The observations as well as statistics will be discussed in depth in this proposal.
There are pros and cons to every method of data collection. In this case, unstructured
observation will be an asset because it allows for the data collector to evaluate what they see rather
than just relying on the staff and clients who may not be objective in their analysis of the “character
education” program. Sensory data is beneficial due to the fact that the information being studied is
primary rather than secondary information. The negative aspect to observation, however, is that
subjects may act differently when they are being observed. Observer bias is also a con in this form
of data collection. Regarding validity, observing the clients and staff involved in “character
education” falls under the heading of content validity. In other words, it allows the researcher to
look at the nature of what they want to measure.
Feasibility is another important aspect to conducting a study. Observation, in this proposal,
is feasible in terms of the scope of the project as well as fiscally. “Character education” is made up
of ten adolescents and is run by the two case workers in the Aftercare program. It is a small enough
group, that two observers, at most, are needed to record relevant information in fixed number of
meetings. The other key aspect of observing is that it doesn’t require fiscal consideration. When
assessing the feasibility of data collection there are other things that need to be taken into account.
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The use of sensory data can be time consuming and when studying any population or program you
must have the cooperation of those involved. Both the clients and staff must cooperate in order for
the research to move forward and their willingness to do so can impact all aspects of the study.
The final component needed to analyze data collection methods is reliability. There are
problems with reliability when it comes to observation. With this method, the attitude and demeanor
of the observer and subjects effect social research. There is the chance of catching people on a bad
day or other such variables which could taint the study. One way to combat this issue is to have a
few observers go the “character education” program during different days for a fixed time period. It
is said that one way to denote accuracy is when there is seventy percent agreement. There is also the
solution of having more than one data collection method to see if the same conclusion is reached as
The use of existing statistics, quantitative research, is an alternate method of collecting data
as well. In the “character education” program there are statistics available as to how many kids have
completed the program along with how many have committed acts of delinquency again. Another
important record is attendance of the character education clients. This research will be another
indicator as to the effectiveness of the character education program. Existing statistics can be used
in this case to measure the hypothesis as stated in section three. They would serve to indicate
consistency or inconsistency in the success rates of the character education participants. Missing
data, however, is one significant problem with statistics. Data isn’t always updated and the research
can only work with the data presented to them. Therefore, current data doesn’t get taken into
account and the assessment is incomplete. A researcher that looks at the data not only in terms of a
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general pattern but also in conjunction with other methods will still get significant findings from the
data. There are also problems which are present in validity and reliability.
5. Obtaining a sample
The method of sampling I plan to use is random sampling. The study population, in the
program, have fairly homogenous backgrounds. They are all from same demographic region, single
parents, have committed similar crimes, etc. In a random selection everyone has a chance of being
chosen. Rather than selecting individuals based on intuition or personal bias, random selection
allows for more objectivity. Within the category of random sampling there’s simple random
sampling. The researcher will assign a number to each unit (or client) and from there numbers will
be pulled out and the study population is selected. The con to this approach is that the case is often
made that there is no such thing as random sampling that you can’t always be sure that the study
population is truly representative. However in a random sample, the idea that everyone has an equal
chance of being chosen is key.
Validity, Reliability, Feasibility
Conducting an extensive observations and interviews presents an easier means to create a valid
study. Despite the in-depth nature of the study, many critics question the objectivity of qualitative
studies and research. This is where reliability comes in. The more you test and re-test using
alternate methods, the more reliable and valid the results are. The same issues mentioned in the
previous section regarding feasibility are true here as well. There is no fiscal burden and the scope
of the study group is conducive to an in-depth analysis of those in the “character education”
program. However, cooperation might be a problem.
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The age of the clients in the program are from thirteen to seventeen, therefore not only do you
have to have the cooperation of the youths but you also need to get parental consent. This
population is tough and it isn’t easy to get them to share anything personal let alone an extensive
look at their lives.
Maintaining an ethical study requires knowledge of confidentiality, consent when associating
with minors, reporting your results, etc. Before approaching the adolescents, it’s essential to get
consent from their parents and to explain exactly how the research will be conducted. Plus it’s
ethical to explain the parents’ rights in terms of a voluntary study so they aren’t kept in the dark in
any way. Anonymity is a form of protection that will be offered as well should the research be
publishable. Everyone that participates in the study will have to give their written informed
consent complete with what their role will be and how the research will come to pass.
6. Research Design
My research design will combine qualitative and quantitative research. The qualitative
aspect will involve a self-administered questionnaire as well as interviews of clients and staff in the
character education program as well as their families and randomly selected teachers. The self-
administered questionnaires would be given to the participants and staff in the program and would
include scales for them to asses their own progress as well as to rate the program. They would
contain questions about how they’re getting along with their parents and siblings, if they’re doing
the same things that got them in trouble before, are they fine with the way things are, are there
things they would like to change about themselves or people around them, would you hit someone
or steal. In other words, questions that would ask them to vouch for their character. The interviews
would be alternate way to have the participants answer questions regarding their progress in all
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systems and areas of their lives. In an attempt to triangulate data collection methods, the design will
also include quantitative research. Statistics will be collected to address how many juveniles have
been repeat offenders after they participated in the character education program for at least a month.
The results will be compared to other statistics that address how many youths have been repeat
offenders since they entered the character education program. In terms of the first part of the design,
the interviewers will be recruited and trained in order to minimize bias amongst data collectors.
They will be also be blind as to the hypothesis.
Participation in the study will be voluntary and the participants will be informed that they
are participating in a study. In addition, they will be informed of the consequences of the study
(how the results will be used). Those that participate over the age of eighteen will have to sign a
consent form and those that are under eighteen will sign a form along with their parents. The
contents of the consent form will be discussed in further detail in the next section of the proposal.
The study will be in keep with the standards set by the “Evaluation and Research” section of the
National Association of Social Work Code of Ethics. Ethics are important to consider and problems
can arise regardless of the design chosen. A study that conclusively establishes causality, for
example, has ethical problems associated with that particular design.
7. Informed Consent
The consent form below is based on the one in the text book. The wording is the same but its
been formatted to fit this particular study. The first form would be used for staff and some
consenting adults. The next form would be filled out by parents of participating youths as well as
the youths themselves. I would go to the staff and families to obtain their informed consent.
You are being asked to participate in a research study. Included in this form is information about the study
along with the details of your involvement. Those in charge of this study and his/her representatives will
also describe the study and answer any questions you may have as they arise. Please read this form
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carefully and feel free to ask questions for further clarification. Your participation is entirely voluntary and
you can refuse to participate without penalty or loss of benefits to which you are otherwise entitled.
Title of Research Study: The Effectiveness of the “Character Education” program
What is the purpose of this study: The purpose of the study is to determine the effectiveness of the
character education program at the Leadership Training Institute.
What will be done if you take part in this research study? Participants will be asked to fill out a self-
administered questionnaire assessing current status in the courts, school, home life, the program in
question, as well as other relevant environmental systems. Participants, at random, will also be interviewed
with the purpose of understanding their life history and providing a contextual background for data
What are the possible discomforts and risks? The possible risks involve any unresolved feelings
regarding past decisions and potential reactions to looking at their current status. There may be discomfort
with revealing information in various aspects of their lives.
What are the possible benefits to you or others? The benefits include improvement in the quality of
services received in the character education program. It has the potential to improve staff practices in this
program as well as other programs at the Leadership Training Institute. In addition, it is possible that the
study will clarify client’s needs and problem areas and affect further progress.
If you chose to take part in this study, will it cost you anything? No
Will you receive compensation for your participation in this study? No
What if you are injured because of this study?
If you do not want to take part in this study, what other options are available to you?
Participation in this study is entirely voluntary. You are free to refuse to be in the study, and your refusal
will not influence current or future relationships with the Leadership Training Institute.
How can you withdraw from this research study and who should I call if I have any questions?
If you wish to stop your participation in this research study for any reason, you should contact: ______ at
(516) . You are free to withdraw your consent and stop participation in this research study at any time
without penalty or loss of benefits for which you may be entitled. Throughout the study, researchers will
notify you of new information that may become available and that might affect your decision to remain in
the study. In addition, if you have questions about your rights as a research participant, please contact…
How will your privacy and the confidentiality of your research records be protected?
Authorized persons from the Leadership Training Institute have the legal right to review your research
records and will protect the confidentiality if those records to the extent permitted by law. If the research
project is sponsored then the sponsor also has the legal right to review your research records. Otherwise,
your research records will not be released without your consent unless required by law or a court order.
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If the results of this research are published or presented at scientific meetings, your identity will not
Will the researchers benefit from your participation in this study?
Are there any procedures and forms that parents and minors need to be aware of?
Your signature indicates that you have read the above the consent form and you are willing to participate in
the study as a staff member at the Leadership Training Institute, a consenting parent, or a consenting
minor. Please note that a signature is required of staff members as well as a parent and minor for each
participant in order to participate in said study.
8. Data Analyses
One method I propose to analyze data is the discovering of patterns. Since the study is a
comparison of juveniles in the character education program versus clients that are serviced by LTI
in other programs, the discovering patterns approach to data analysis would be beneficial. This
methodology would be used to compare behavioral patterns of the clients in both categories and
therefore lead to the verification of the hypothesis. The following outline would be used to
analyze the data collected from this study.
Frequency: How many times have clients demonstrated positive changes in behavior (in meetings,
scenarios clients have shared, etc)?
Magnitude: What changes, or efforts to change, do they make? How does it mirror what’s taught
in the programs?
Structures: What are the different criminal activities associated with their behaviors: drugs,
violence, theft? Are they related in any particular manner?
Process: Is there any order among the elements of structure?
Causes: What are the causes of juvenile criminal behavior? Is it more common in particular social
classes or among different religious or ethnic groups? Does it occur more often during good times
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Consequences: How does criminal behavior affect the families of juveniles in both the short term
and the long term? What changes does it cause in juveniles?
A scenario in which the pattern of positive behaviors was higher for the clients in the
character education program as opposed to the other program would verify the hypothesis. More
specifically if behaviors clients reported were directly linked to what was taught in the character
education meetings they attended, then my hypothesis would be verified.
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