Philosophical Paradigms, Data Collection, and Analysis Design of a Green Technology Education Mixed Methods Research

Philosophical Paradigms, Data Collection, and Analysis Design of a Green Technology Education Mixed Methods Research

Philosophical Paradigms, Data Collection, and Analysis Design of a Green Technology Education Mixed Methods Research

By Dr. John Peterson, PhD, FPA-BM Chairman of the Board

Beginning with the industrial revolution, the establishment of the capitalistic system initiated consumerism and intensified the separation between humanity and nature. Today, the intrinsic connection of technology to our daily life makes it almost impossible to imagine a world without it. All facets of our activities, from medicine to construction, from entertainment to education have technology built into them. The problem is that the same technology that assists us immensely to live a comfortable, safe, and productive life can also have the potential to destroy us. All side effects of the energy used to keep the current technology operating have produced damage to our environment.

To solve the conflict, we need to educate our society to become more responsible by emphasizing a green education to create a green and sustainable technology. Moreover, this is what this paper covers: data collection and data analysis design in a research methodology study of a green education focused on a green technology oriented in bringing solutions to the economic and environmental crisis.

Philosophical Paradigms

Johnson and Christensen (2012) explained paradigms as “a perspective about research held by a community of researchers that is based in a set of shared assumptions, concepts, values, and practices” (p. 31). Paradigms are also known as organizing frameworks or disciplinary matrices (McKerchar, 2008), and hold identifying characteristics, methods and practices that create expectations about the nature and conduct of research. The application of this concept of philosophical paradigms is appropriate when proposing a wide engagement to the cause of a green education for a green technology. Jonas (2010) wrote:

Every new step in whatever technological field tends not to approach an equilibrium or saturation point in the process of fitting means to ends (nor is meant to), but, on the contrary, to give rise if successful, to further steps in all directions. (p. 13)

Our contemporary civilization is on a continuous growth spreading in all areas: art, culture, religion, politics, and technology, among others. We progress, and with progress, we need a deeper understanding of our role as a civilization. Progress is not just “an ideological gloss of modern technology” (Jonas, 2010, p. 13), and not an option, but is a natural drive which automatically affects the fiber of society.

McKerchar (2008) elucidated that paradigm choices are reflections of the researcher views of the world (ontology) and of the belief that knowledge is created (epistemology). Creswell (1994) explained that quantitative and qualitative paradigms have the following five assumptions:

  1. Ontological
  2. Epistemological
  3. Axiological
  4. Rhetorical
  5. Methodological

In quantitative research, ontological assumptions relate to what is real, objective, and singular. In qualitative research, they are subjective and belonging to multiple realities. According to Creswell (1994), ontological assumption asks the question “What is the nature of reality?” (p. 5). The question, “What is the relationship of the researcher to that researched?” (Creswell, 1994, p. 5) exemplifies epistemological assumption. In quantitative research, the researcher is disassociated to “that being researched” (Creswell, 1994, p. 5), and in qualitative research, the researcher “interacts with that being researched” (Creswell, 1994, p. 5).

Axiological assumption explains the role of values. Quantitative research is value-free and unbiased, while qualitative research is “value-laden and biased” (Creswell, 1994, p. 5).

Rhetorical assumption relates to the language of research. In quantitative research, the language is formal, while in qualitative research the language is more informal. Methodological assumptions are founded on deductive processes (quantitative research) and inductive processes (qualitative research) (Creswell, 1994). AcademyHealth (n.d.) explained deductive process as “The process of using theory to guide research drawing inferences regarding specific applications from general principles or phenomena” (para. 1), as shown in Figure 1; and inductive process as “The process of using empirical observations to guide development of theory on inferring general principles from specific observations” (para. 1), as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1. Deductive process.

Figure 2. Inductive process.

A research study to bring new green curricula to schools should be a mixed method utilizing the characteristics of ontological and epistemological assumptions. The delicate challenge in mixed method design is to develop and conduct the best and most appropriate combination of strategies. In theory, it does offer a prospective to clarify puzzling problems, in “particular on the nature of causal relationships, but it still may not necessarily provide all the answers given the complexities of human behavior” (McKerchar, 2008, p. 13).

There are already pioneer institutions doing it. For example, American River College, part of the Los Rios Community College District in California, has developed a sustainability program named the GreenForce Initiative. The school offers courses such as “Clean Diesel Technology”, “Design and Fabrication of Solar Projects”, “Solar Technology”, and “Solar Systems Design, Estimation and Sales”, and will offer certificates in the last two areas beginning in the spring, 2010. Also beginning in the spring of 2010, ARC will offer courses in “Interior Design-Green Building and Sustainable Design” and “Lighting Efficiency”, as well as training for the “Energy Management Technician”. The following semester, certificates will be offered in each of these areas, and a degree will be available for the “Energy Management Technician”. (Green Technology, 2009, para. 2)

Criteria for Paradigm Selection

Researcher’s worldview. This criterion relates to how comfortable a researcher is with one of the assumptions: (a) ontological, (b) epistemological, (c) axiological, (d) rhetorical, and (e) methodological (Creswell, 1994).

Training and experience. This criterion relates to technical writing, computer statistical programs, and library skills for quantitative research; and relates to literary writing, computer assisted text analysis, and library skills for qualitative research (Creswell, 1994).

Researcher’s psychological attributes. This criterion relates to how comfortable the researcher is with rules and guidelines. Quantitative researchers are more comfortable with rules when conducting research than qualitative researchers, who are more comfortable with the absence or lack of specific rules and procedures. There is also the issue of ambiguity (low tolerance in quantitative researchers, and higher tolerance in qualitative researchers), and time consumption for studies (shorter duration in quantitative and longer duration in qualitative researches) (Creswell, 1994).

Nature of problem. In quantitative research, other researchers usually have already studied the problem so there is an existing body of literature, theories, and known variables. In qualitative research, the study is exploratory, with unknown variables (Creswell, 1994). A scarcity of proven successful enterprises limits the implementation of a green education for green technology. Perhaps here a mixed approach between known and unknown variables, reflects best the employment of ontological and epistemological assumptions.

Audience for the study. Both quantitative and qualitative researchers should consider, as a criterion, an audience for the study based on individuals accustomed and supportive of their paradigm (quantitative or qualitative) (Creswell, 1994).

A Single Research Paradigm

McKerchar (2008) wrote that researches emphasize different strategies depending on the purpose of their overall design. This is not necessarily a problem if a clear rationale justifies it. A mixed methodology design develops and conducts the most appropriate combination of strategies, “That is, the possible combinations for mixed method research are almost unlimited” (McKerchar, 2008, p. 13). This is especially true when the deductive process (quantitative research) and the inductive process (qualitative research) overlap data at the collection phase, at the analysis phase, or in the conclusions and recommendations. Johnson and Christensen (2012) wrote that pragmatism will dictate that the research be designed in a way that best helps answer the research question. These authors also elucidated that mixing qualitative and quantitative methods into a mixed methodology will result in pragmatic knowledge.

The Education Paradigm

Ecological Crisis

Lately, after more than a quarter of century of growing crises, subjects relating to nature are becoming a part of public awareness. Today, society is already “conscious that natural resources are finite and insufficient to meet the unbearable demand of the human population” (Nascimento, 1999, p. 202). However, according to Nascimento (1999) “present societies have admitted indifferent behaviors, both consciously and unconsciously, resisting changing whatever is necessary, unless these changes guarantee immediate pleasure and power” (p. 202). Therefore, people just live and only feel responsible for their own lives. At the same time, a great majority, while suffering the consequences of the existing technological model, does not realize what is happening to the environment and the need to transform our ways to deal with these issues.

Green Education

The present patterns hold our civilization unsustainable if our existing values are not changed. “That change effectively comprises an educational problem of complex nature” (Nascimento, 1999, p. 202). Environmental education emerges in this framework as a new manner of correcting the individual’s responsibility for the world, and as a new proposal for the rational and wise managing of the co-dependent association of economy and environment.

However, “the problem is not related to questioning whether environmental education is essential, but which kind of environmental education is important, in order to incite a change of values and behaviors” (Nascimento, 1999, p. 203). It should be directed to the core of the driver that stimulates the crisis: technology, and especially technology related to energy production and expenditure.

The Technology Paradigm

“I am sorry to say that there is too much point to the wisecrack that life is extinct on other planets because their scientists were more advanced than ours” (John F. Kennedy).

Economic and Social Development

Economic development is desirable because it brings prosperity to nations and their people; however, there is a social unevenness associated with recent economic growth associated with geographical prosperity and impoverishment, usually reflected in technological infrastructure. According to Rowntree, Lewis, Price, and Wyckoff (2006), “This geographic unevenness in development, prosperity, and social infrastructure is a characteristic signature of the early twenty-first century” (p. 39).

Green Technology

The term technology refers to the application of knowledge for practical purposes. The field of green technology encompasses a continuously evolving group of methods and materials, from techniques for generating energy to non-toxic cleaning products (Green Technology, 2009).

The present expectation is that this field will bring innovation and changes in daily life of similar magnitude to the “information technology” explosion over the last two decades. In these early stages, it is impossible to predict what “green technology” may eventually encompass. (Green Technology, 2009, para. 3)

Table 1

The Goals that Inform Developments in Green Technology

Note: Source: Green Technology (2009). Green technology: What is it? Retrieved from

Gore (2007) wrote:

When a new technology emerges as the primary medium for the sharing of information—like the printing press in the fifteenth century or television in the twentieth century—those who adapt to the new technology have to literally change the way they process information. (p. 20)

The relationships among education, school and environment have historically reflected the relationships of society and science to the global environment. In order for the adoption of a green technology, there is a need for society to think green, and education can establish the consciousness of this need. Serious organizations with a worldwide influence, such as the Green Education Foundation (GEF), have developed powerful tools for a sustainability education to provide educators “with the real-world applied learning models that connect science, technology, and math education with the broader human concerns of environmental, economic, and social systems” (Green Education Foundation, 2012, para. 1).

The activism for products related to a green industry has become a common trend; for example, the Institute for Responsible Technology is a world leader in educating policy makers and the public about genetically modified (GM) foods and crops. Others, such as the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a “501 c3 non-profit organization committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for our nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings” (U.S. Green Building Council, 2012, para. 1), have done a tremendous job educating and supporting the education of green technology.

In rural Brazil, we find an example of how sustainable technology influences the solution of the economic problem. Solar energy has its use restricted by a reputation of being expensive, although this is not necessarily true. Fabio Rosa, a young graduate in agronomic engineering found an interesting solution to an old dilemma: How to bring electricity to poor people in the most remote rural areas in the southern region of Brazil.

Rosa’s idea was to install inexpensive poly-wire and fiberglass posts as electric fences for cattle, and at the same time, as collectors of solar energy. After this concept was explained to local small farmers and ranchers, (who saw the benefit of an 85% reduction in costs and an increase in productivity), it was widely adopted, having 700 solar electric and fencing systems installed in sixteen Brazilian states (Bornstein, 2007). This is green technology. This is what education can bring, and this is what this paper covers: Data collection and analysis design in a research methodology study of a green education focused on a green technology oriented in bringing solutions to the environmental crisis.

Research Question

Research questions have a fundamental role when designing a mixed research study. According to Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004), “research methods should follow research questions in a way that offers the best chance to obtain useful answers” (as cited by Duke and Mallette, 2011, p. 32). Duke and Mallette (2011) explained that, when elaborating mixed research questions, the first thing to do is to write separated quantitative and qualitative questions followed by an explicit mixed research question.

According to Onwuegbuzie and Leech (2006), the quantitative and qualitative research questions are most aligned or compatible with respect to the underlying paradigm and methods used when both types of questions are open-ended and non-directional in nature. They both seek to discover, explore or describe a particular participant, setting, context, location, event, incident, activity, experience, process and/or document.

This study’s research question is: How education to adopt green technology, as part of a solution for our environmental and economic crisis, will influence short-term interest in college-level students.

Data Collection

Perhaps a good approach for mixed method research should be a sequential data collection; however, the method of data collection connects intrinsically to the research question and to the analysis design. This connection, this tripod of three support legs: question, collection, and analysis are dependent of each other and equally strong.

According to Driscoll, Appiah-Yeboah, Salib, and Rupert (2007), sequential mixed methods data collection strategies involve collecting data in an iterative process whereby the data collected in one phase contribute to the data collected in the next. Data collected in these designs to provide more data about results from the earlier phase of data collection and analysis, to select participants who can best provide that data, or to generalize findings by verifying and augmenting study results from members of a defined population (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007, p. 121). Sequential designs in which quantitative data are collected first can use statistical methods to determine which findings to augment in the next phase.

In this research study, the collection of data will take place through standardized open-ended interviews and closed fixed-response interviews. The format of these interviews will be a questionnaire. According to Teddlie and Tashakkori (2009), standardized open-ended interviews are those with exact wording and sequence of questions determined in advance, and interviewees are asked the same questions in the same order in an open-ended format. In closed fixed-response interviews, the questions and responses are determined in advance; responses are fixed with respondents choosing from fixed answers.


A questionnaire is a self-report data collection instrument that is filled out by research participants. Questionnaires are usually paper-and-pencil instruments, but they can also be placed on the web for participants to go to and “fill out.” Questionnaires are sometimes called survey instruments; however, the actual questionnaire should not be called “the survey.” The word “survey” refers to the process of using a questionnaire or interview protocol to collect data (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009).

When developing a questionnaire this study will follow Teddlie and Tashakkori’s (2009) 15Principles of Questionnaire Construction:

  1. The questionnaire items match the research objectives.
  2. Understand the demographic and cultural characteristics of the research participants.
  3. Use natural and familiar language.
  4. Write items that are clear, precise, and relatively short.
  5. Not use “leading” or “loaded” questions.
  6. Avoid double-barreled questions (a double-barreled question combines two or more issues in a single question).
  7. Avoid double negatives.
  8. Determine whether an open-ended or a closed ended question is needed.
  9. Use mutually exclusive and exhaustive response categories for closed-ended questions.
  • Mutually exclusive categories do not overlap (e.g., ages 0-10, 10-20, 20-30 are NOT mutually exclusive and should be rewritten as less than 10, 10-19, 20-29, 30-39, …).
  • Exhaustive categories include all possible responses (e.g., if you are doing a national survey of adult citizens (i.e., 18 or older) then the these categories (18-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69) are NOT exhaustive because there is no where to put someone who is 70 years old or older.
  1. Consider the different types of response categories available for closed-ended questionnaire items.
  • Rating scales are the most commonly used, including:

Numerical rating scales (where the endpoints are anchored; sometimes the center point or area is also labeled).

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Very Low Very High

Fully anchored rating scales (where all the points on the scale are anchored).

1 2 3 4 5

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree

1 2 3 4

Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree

Omitting the center point on a rating scale (e.g., using a 4-point rather than a 5-point rating scale) does not appreciably affect the response pattern. Some researchers prefer 5- point rating scales; other researchers prefer 4-point rating scales. Both generally work well.

Rankings (i.e., where participants put their responses into rank order, such as most important, second most important, and third most important).

Semantic differential (i.e., where one item stem and multiple scales that are anchored with polar opposites or antonyms are included and are rated by the participants).

Checklists (i.e., where participants “check all of the responses in a list that apply to them”).

  1. Use multiple items to measure abstract constructs.
  2. Consider using multiple methods when measuring abstract constructs.
  3. Use caution if you reverse the wording in some of the items to prevent response sets. (A response set is the tendency of a participant to respond in a specific direction to items regardless of the item content.)
  4. Develop a questionnaire that is easy for the participant to use.
  5. Always pilot test your questionnaire.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Questionnaires

Strengths of questionnaires

  • Good for measuring attitudes and eliciting other content from research participants.
  • Inexpensive (especially mail questionnaires and group administered questionnaires).
  • Can provide information about participants’ internal meanings and ways of thinking.
  • Can administer to probability samples.
  • Quick turnaround.
  • Can be administered to groups.
  • Perceived anonymity by respondent may be high.
  • Moderately high measurement validity (i.e., high reliability and validity) for well-constructed and validated questionnaires.
  • Closed-ended items can provide exact information needed by researcher.
  • Open-ended items can provide detailed information in respondents’ own words.
  • Ease of data analysis for closed-ended items.
  • Useful for exploration as well as confirmation.
  • Usually must be kept short.
  • Reactive effects may occur (e.g., interviewees may try to show only what is socially desirable).
  • Nonresponse to selective items.
  • People filling out questionnaires may not recall important information and may lack self-awareness.
  • Response rate may be low for mail and email questionnaires.
  • Open-ended items may reflect differences in verbal ability, obscuring the issues of interest.
  • Data analysis can be time consuming for open-ended items.
  • Measures need validation.

Weaknesses of questionnaires

  • Usually must be kept short.
  • Reactive effects may occur (e.g., interviewees may try to show only what is socially desirable).
  • Nonresponse to selective items.
  • People filling out questionnaires may not recall important information and may lack self-awareness.
  • Response rate may be low for mail and email questionnaires.
  • Open-ended items may reflect differences in verbal ability, obscuring the issues of interest.
  • Data analysis can be time consuming for open-ended items.
  • Measures need validation.


Green education is the path to green technology, as shown in this paper. We, as a society, have an obligation to better our civilization by making the best use of our tradition, education and entrepreneurship to build a new alternative future, with green technology leading the way in solving the current environmental and economic crisis. According to Driscoll, Appiah-Yeboah, Salib, and Rupert (2007), “Mixed methods designs can provide pragmatic advantages when exploring complex research questions. The qualitative data provide a deep understanding of survey responses, and statistical analysis can provide detailed assessment of patterns of responses” (p. 27).


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Rowtree, L., Lewis, M., Price, M., & Wyckoff, W. (2006). Diversity amid globalization: World regions, environment, development (3. ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Onwuegbuzie and Leech (2006, September). Linking research questions to mixed methods data analysis procedures. The Qualitative Report (11)3 pp. 474-498. Retrieved from

U.S. Green Building Council (2012). About USGBC. Retrieved from

The FPA-BM has as Chairman of the Board Dr. John Peterson, Ph.D. A leading education specialist for over 15 years, Dr. John Peterson is a published author and the creator and implementer of several undergraduate and graduate programs. Emphasizing practical access to learning methodologies, Dr. Peterson has developed curricula focused on online and face-to-face training, optimizing new technologies for the benefit of his students’ achievements in real-world careers. In addition, Dr. Peterson is an experienced consultant to the requirements of the Florida Department of Education regarding the licensing and compliance of new institutions.