Date of Degree
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
James D. Simpson
Alfredo Ortiz Aragón
Arthur E. Hernandez
Research Focus. In Central America, the country of Belize shares its border with Guatemala and Mexico. These countries, with El Salvador and Honduras, are known as the most dangerous areas in our world outside active war zones (Dudlry, 2012; Edwards & Gill, 2002; UNODC, 2019). Crime is the largest contributor to instability in the region and creates a dangerous environment that must be reduced. Reduction of crime can correlate to an increase in available educational opportunities (Edwards, 2002; OSAC, 2019). The U.S. government conducts foreign humanitarian programs that increase educational opportunities in hope of reducing crime and stabilizing the region (Foreign Humanitarian Assistance, 2019). The humanitarian assistance program builds schools to increase educational opportunities in remote areas. Minimal research exists from the stakeholders’ point of view on the significance of building schools in remote areas. Research Methods. Utilizing the stakeholders' point of view, this qualitative action research study was designed to help community and international stakeholders improve the school building process. Leavy (2017) and Stringer (2014) explained that qualitative methods are useful for understanding and explaining individuals' experiences as they happen. Herr and Anderson (2015) agree that qualitative methods are appropriate for obtaining an in-depth understanding of the phenomena from personal experiences. The research design was centered on action research. Action research is a qualitative research method that seeks to understand complex dynamics involved in social context (Stringer & Aragón, 2021). This research study followed an international non-profit organization, Global Aid Consultants, and stakeholders through a new school building process in a remote area of Belize. The 20 research participants included parents, school faculty, community leaders, and international stakeholders of the school building process. The research data was collected through interviews, photographs from the research site, and key documents. The collected data was analyzed using grounded theory thematic analysis (Charmaz, 2014; Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña, 2020). Document photography (Margolis & Pauwels, 2011; Wang & Burris, 1997) and Feminist Theory (Code, 201) were used as guides throughout the study. Research Results/Findings. The thematic analysis method was used to analyze the data using the grounded theory. The three data sources of interviews, photographs, and documents were analyzed. The data analysis procedures were framed in four steps to better understand the research questions. The four steps were (1) identifying codes in the data, (2) creating categories of codes, (3) reviewing the categories and synthesizing them to generate themes through analytic memoing, and (4) applying the emerging themes to the research questions. The analysis identified over 600 codes that were grouped into 30-35 categories that emerged from the data. The categories were synthesized and merged into seven themes. The seven themes were applied to the research questions. The first research question, “How do the stakeholders perceive (feel, view, act) the new school?” was answered with the themes of “Motivation for School” and “Safe Learning Environment.” The second research question, “From the stakeholders’ perception, how did building a new school impact the community?” was answered with the themes of “Creates Opportunities,” and “Grows the Community.” The last research question, “From the stakeholders’ perception, how can the school building process be improved?” was answered with the themes of “Partners are Needed,” “Schools Cost Money,” and “Communication is Key.” These emerged themes were supported by the research data, literature, and my philosophical worldview. Conclusions From Research. This research study highlighted insights into understanding the process of building a new school in Belize and its immediate impact on the local community. After careful reflection and interpretation of the findings, two key theoretical models emerged. Both theoretical models were generated from insights grounded in my research using real world data (Charmaz, 2014) and from feminist theory which helps those who are marginalized to be heard (Code, 2014).
In the first model, key concepts for building a school, it was found that to build and complete a school it takes "partners" with "resources" who "communicate" together in an "environment" they support to create developmental change. Developmental change occurs when stakeholders assist communities to develop the capability and capacity to address a problem. For example, in this research a new school was built that increased the outlook for the community. The new school building process requires many stakeholders with unique skills and monetary assets to complete the project. Moreover, the community’s involvement and investment in the process is necessary. Each of the key findings of building a school were found to have a supporting relationship to each other.
The second key concept was the school’s immediate effect on the community model. How does the new school impact the community is one of the most frequent questions asked by others, including stakeholders. According to the research, the local, national, and international stakeholders believe the new school provided a “safe learning environment” where the community is “motivated for school” that “creates opportunities” and “grows the community.” To increase the success of the new school, it was important for the community to develop motivation to utilize its full potential. Motivation is an integral part in education and a key component in learning; however, the environment must be available. A safe and secure environment in a community that has the infrastructure to support education will ensure the creation of new opportunities. Role models, teachers, and peers introduce students to new opportunities and ideas that otherwise would not be available. The newfound opportunities can lead to economic growth and rewards for the person and community. The new school is a good example of creating something through a common vision where the community has grown both physically and intellectually from the school building process. It takes parents, teachers, principals, practitioners, policy makers, and government agencies at the local, national, and international levels to make a project like this possible.
Speer, Stephen Todd, "Understanding the Significance of Building a School in Belize Through Action Research" (2023). Theses & Dissertations. 410.