Pilot Study Design: The Participant, Interview Questions, Researcher Positionality, and Informed Consent

This short essay focuses on developing some of the practical parts of the plan for my pilot study. The tentative title currently is An EBD Teachers Perspective on Trauma and Resilience: A Pilot Study. Special education services assist students with many categorical disabilities. Washington state identifies 14 different categories granting eligibility for specially designed instruction (Child with a disability or student eligible for special education, 2017). When people consider these disabilities within schools, Emotional and Behavioral Disability (EBD) is not often the first one imagined. Gresham (1999) describes EBD as externalizing behaviors and internalizing behavior. The pilot study is designed to understand how teachers understand trauma and resilience in EBD students. This paper will review the proposed selection process for a participant, the interview questions to be implemented, and the researchers’ positionality in the pilot study.

Furthermore, there is an appendix with proposed forms for informed consent. The document includes a description of the study, the potential harms, and benefits of participation. It also delineates a participant bill of rights, a record to attest their consent, provide specific permissions to be granted to the researcher, and a description of confidentiality for this study.

Selection Process

Guetterman (2015) reported that qualitative researchers working in education were less likely than researchers working in health sciences to provide academic citations for sampling strategies and decisions. He noted that many studies were likely to relate their selection process as being theory-driven and purposive in looking at health sciences. While my projected narrative research pilot study’s focus and intended audience are for people working within education, my social work background seems to drive me to provide a rationale for my selection process.

Acharya (2013) describes both purposive and convenience sampling as the most commonly used method for research sampling. In general, the idea is that participants are selected due to their meeting a set of criteria. I do have an idea about who I would choose for my pilot study; I haven’t explicitly reached out to anybody to participate. For this paper, I will enumerate the selection criteria I currently have.

To help stay distanced from working with an explicitly high-risk population, my participant must be over 18 years old, working as a teacher within special education services. I am particularly interested in teachers working with students with some of the most severe emotional and behavioral disabilities. These students often are on a spectrum of how much time they are able to maintain with their general education, and I am most interested in the staff that might have some of these students with the majority of their school days. Students in full-day district level programs are more likely to have experienced some of the highest levels of trauma. I live in the Tri-Cities in Washington State. There are three major school districts, one in each of the cities, Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick. Each of the towns has self-contained district programs to work with EBD students. Their programs’ names are the Bridges Program in Pasco, the BESST program in Richland, and Tier II Behavior Classrooms in Kennewick.

Along with these three programs, Lourdes Counseling Children’s Day Program is a mental health agency that contracts with the districts. Their role in the community appears to be working with students who the school districts cannot meet their needs within their school-based programs. I have contacts at all of the schools. In the prior academic year, I took an educational leave of absence from my role as a social worker with the Bridges Program at Pasco School District. In starting this Ph.D. program, I wanted to be able to dedicate as much time as necessary and get back into the rhythm of academic study. While on this educational leave, I took a part-time position assisting at the Children’s Day Program as their social worker. I made connections at each of the districts as I helped coordinate all of the students entering their program. I could draw a participant from my current employment, my previous job, another district’s behavior program, and meet my selection criteria.

I don’t have a specific name that I know will participate in this pilot study; I am sure that one of the teachers from within one of these schools will be willing to join me in this interview. I am purposefully keeping my options open to see what direction appears best to proceed. In conjunction with the ecology of ideas this semester, I have slightly increased my vision for my expected dissertation project. Since last year, I’ve known that I want to do a participatory action research project as a type of program evaluation with teachers to examine trauma and resilience in their classrooms. Recently, the thought of facilitating my participatory research as a cross-district/program activity struck me. It would seem like a great opportunity to partner with the different districts and programs and form a group of behavior teachers focused on developing resilience and understanding trauma.

The plan, as described in my consent form, is currently to offer an interview via a video conference. I listed Big Blue Button (https://bigbluebutton.org) as the anticipated choice due to the exemplar that Amy Anderson and her description of it being able to be FERPA compliant. If Zoom (https://zoom.us) were an option, that would actually be my preferred option. Pasco School District, along with the other local districts, all use Zoom for their meetings and synchronous engagement with students and staff during COVID-19. I considered discussing the possibility of either an in-person interview and a socially distanced one via video conference. It seemed more straightforward to include the plan for video conferencing versus concerns of an in-person interview and developing methods for keeping my participant safe from potential sickness due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. I plan to follow up with at least one teacher to participate in the interview. If the first teacher I approach does not desire to partake in the interview, I will approach another. My interview will be audio recorded with the permission of the participant and have a transcript created.

Interview Questions

Kim (2016) summarizes qualitative research as “informed by different interpretative paradigms uses words rather than numbers in its analyses and focuses on understanding human action through interpretation rather than prediction and control” (p. 4). Following an interview methodology for a narrative inquiry benefits from having planned questions. To develop those questions, articulating the purpose and the research question that is sought to be understood helps build the questions to be used. The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship an individual teacher has with their students related to a common risk factor of that population of students. Namely, I hope to uncover how a particular teacher views trauma and resilience both within their own life and the lives of their students.

I would hypothesize that most teachers who work with students with severe EBD have a firm idea of what trauma and resilience are. Most teachers who work with that population, especially if they are more experienced, can clearly articulate the specific traumas their students have endured. I think many of the teachers might have difficulty expressing defining the trauma as a trauma-focused mental health professional might, and I am interested in their connection with resilience.

In general, I am seeking to view the teachers understanding of trauma and resilience and how it relates and connects to their students and their own life. The following are some of the questions being proposed for inclusion in my interview. I hope to participate in the interview and have it semi-structured, which Creswell et al. (2017) offers as a descriptive element of narrative inquiry. I also want to have the flexibility to follow where the conversation goes and connecting with my participant.

  • How did you come to work with EBD students?
  • Do you feel like you chose this population specifically, and is there a reason you went in this direction?
  • How do you find yourself connecting with the stories, lives, and experiences of your students?
  • How do you define trauma?
  • Do the students you work with have histories of trauma, and how do you see that impact them in their lives?
  • Are there more unseen impacts of trauma that maybe other educators don’t recognize?
  • How you define resiliency?
  • Do the students you work show resilience, and how do you see them doing that in their lives?
  • Are there ways to increase a student’s ability to be resilient, and how does a teacher implement those activities?

Researcher Positionality

Only September 17th, I got the opportunity to participate in a mutually recorded phone conversation with JB a fellow student in TSD 6660 Narrative Research. We spoke for approximately 36 minutes over the phone. We had initially planned to talk over a Facetime video chat, but both had problems with lag on the internet connection. The connection issues were likely caused by both us having had kids at home participating in online school simultaneously as our conversation. After mutually agreeing to record the phone conversation, I made an audio recording of the conversation using my Zoom H4N. I later used the application Descript (https://www.descript.com) to re-listen to and make a conversation transcript. I am unsure if that would be appropriate for more formal research. Again following Amy’s exemplar of informed consent, she reported using a professional transcriptionist.

Can software assisted transcription services be ethical to use? I used the free trial for Descript and likely would have to pay for further use, but the software is exciting and appears to be extremely accurate. My interest and excitement might stem from being a technology enthusiast. In some ways, because the software completes the translation on the device, it seems like it should be permissible. From a user perspective, I found how the software was able to parse the two different voices as separate people, the user interface of showing both the transcript/hearing the interview/seeing each word emphasized as it was said made for a beneficial research experience. The general software functionality appears mostly focused on editing. For example, video descriptions report that you can search for filler words and delete them in the transcript, and that will delete them in the audio/video file being edited. I’ve also known podcasters who use it to create transcripts of their podcasts to share. They don’t appear to have any documentation talking about the use-case of an academic study.

JB and I discussed what connects our life with the pilot research topic. JB was assigned a separate dyad partner and had previously participated in her discussion with that partner. She graciously agreed to work with me as well. She described that all three of us have similar projects, but that we are all doing the same thing, but going about it from “very, very, different perspectives.”

In my description of my research and focus, I went back to some historical trauma that I went through and my story of overcoming those difficulties. Zerubavel and Wright (2012) describe social and self-stigmas as a factor contributing to wariness researchers and clinicians have to discussing wounded healers. There are some potential problems that clinicians with difficult experiences in their past might face as a part of the work they do with their clients. I first hand can relate to having many social work students that I have taught have come from traumatic pasts with a desire to help and support clients who had similar difficult experiences. I haven’t necessarily seen the same magnitude of teachers working with EBD students having similar experiences. I will admit my experience with teachers is far less than with social work students.

My own story starts before I was born. I told JB about my father, who committed a triple homicide prior to my being born. It was a horrific crime, and I grew up until the age of 12, visiting him in prison. His case was famous in Washington State and somewhat nationally, and Charles Campbell was executed in 1994. This experience had an enormous impact on my life, and it’s trajectory. I started making poor decisions and using drugs. I would say looking back as a way to cope with the loss I felt. I ended up going to a boy’s ranch and making a radical change in my life. I’ve written more about his experiences previously (Campbell, n.d.; Campbell, 2019). Through the trauma that I experienced and later, my desire to help and support other youth has driven my current life position. I learned that I wanted to work with youth who were making poor decisions in their lives, had mental health disorders, or described as having EBD by the schools. My desire to help address that trauma and develop an increased ability to be resilient in my clients and students is the why for this project.

I have several assumptions. Many of the theories are based on my experience working with various EBD teachers. I believe that they will likely be able to describe the multiple traumas in their student’s experiences. They will be able to draw connections between those traumas and the impact on their lives. They might struggle more in being able to connect with how to develop resilience. In many settings, it is common to focus more on problems versus the solutions used to address those problems.


Acharya, A. S., Prakash, A., Saxena, P., & Nigam, A. (2013). Sampling: Why and how of it? Indian Journal of Medical Specialities, 4(2). https://doi.org/10.7713/ijms.2013.0032

Campbell, J. (2019) The path to the ph.d.: Intertwining my experiences and research topic. https://jacobrcampbell.com/resources/essays/intertwining-my-experiences-and-research-topic/

Campbell, J. (n.d.) About my story, a bit of testimony. https://jacobrcampbell.com/testimony/

Child with a disability or student eligible for special education. Washington State §§ WAC 392-172A-01035 (2007). Available at https://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=392-172A-01035

Creswell, J. W., Hanson, W. E., Clark Plano, V. L., & Morales, A. (2007). Qualitative research designs: Selection and implementation. The Counseling Psychologist, 35(2), 236-264. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000006287390

Gresham, F. M., Lane, K. L., Macmillan, D. L., & Bocian, K. M. (1999). Social and academic profiles of externalizing and internalizing groups: Risk factors for emotional and behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders. https://doi.org/10.1177/019874299902400303

Guetterman, T. C. (2015). Descriptions of sampling practices within five approaches to qualitative research in education and the health sciences. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 16(2). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-16.2.2290

Kim, J.-H. (2016). Understanding narrative inquiry: the crafting and analysis of stories as research. SAGE.

Zerubavel, N., & Wright, M. O. (2012). The dilemma of the wounded healer. Psychotherapy, 49(4), 482-491. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027824


“Teachers Perspective on Trauma and Resilience” is a narrative inquiry conducted by Jacob Campbell for coursework related to TSD 6660 - Narrative Research, which is a part of the requirements for a Doctorate of Transformative Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies. The purpose of this research project is to explore and better understand the view points and understanding a teacher working with students who have emotional and behavioral disabilities (EBD) related to trauma and resilience of their students.

You are being offered the opportunity to engage in an interview, which the researcher will ask open-ended questions to further explore your perspectives regarding student with EBD. This will last no longer than 60 minutes and will be audio-recorded. A time will be scheduled convenient for you and the researcher. The topics of the interview will include the following: your perspective your engagement with students who have EBD, the lens that you see these students through and their behaviors, your mental model of trauma and the impact it has on students, and you see reinforcing resiliency in students. There are no right or wrong answers, rather the researcher is solely interested in your honest opinions and beliefs. During that time, you will be invited to talk in a manner you find safe and comfortable concerning your personal story.

For the protection of your privacy, all information will be kept strictly confidential and your identity will be protected within the limits of the law. The research procedure is designed to not collect unnecessary identifiers, and personal information will be kept separate from the interview data. The interviewer will also ask you to refrain from giving names and when necessary use pseudonyms when referring to any other persons in the interview. Your request to omit particular details that you specify to the interviewer will be honored. Big Blue Button is the preferred online platform user for video calls, and is protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). As with any online related activity, the risk of a breach of confidentiality is always possible. To the best of our ability this study will remain confidential. To minimize risk, all data collected will be stored on password protected computers. Cloudbased data storage and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) will be enabled.

Only the principal researcher, Jacob Campbell, and his faculty instructor,Dr. John Scott PhD, will have access to the data associated with this study. Dr. Scott will not see data associated with a name unless you give permission in this consent form. A copy of the signed confidentiality statement will be sent to you via email. Electronic data will be password protected, and hard copy data will be stored in a locked area accessible only by the principal investigator and destroyed within three years of completion of this research project. In the publication or presentation of the findings, no information that could personally identify you will be used unless you give consent. Data will be published in written for this course assignment, but may also be included in a doctoral dissertation, or other publication.

There are no reasonably foreseeable risks or negative consequences of participating in this research other than talking about personal experiences, and the time/energy commitment to complete the interview. For your participation, no direct benefit, including any monetary recompense or treatment, is offered of guaranteed. If you choose to take part, your contribution will help increase our general awareness of teacher views of trauma and resilience. Based on the experiences of participants in similar research studies, you may find the interview affords an enjoyable opportunity for reflection and self-expression.

Participation in this study is completely voluntary. If you decide to participate, you may refuse to answer any question(s), withdraw your consent, and/or discontinue your participation at any time and for any reason without penalty or prejudice. You may also request a summary of the research findings by providing a mailing address along with your signature below.

This research has been reviewed and approved by the faculty of California Institute of Integral Studies, Dr. Scott. If you have any concerns or are dissatisfied at any time with any part of the study, you may report your concerns (anonymously, if you wish) to him by email jscott@ciis.edu.

Participant Bill of Rights

You have the right to…

  • be treated with dignity and respect;
  • be given a clear description of the purpose of the study and what is expected of you as a participant;
  • be told of any benefits or risks to you that can be expected from participating in the study;
  • know the researchers’ training and experience;
  • ask any questions you may have about the study;
  • decide to participate or not without any pressure from the researcher or his or her assistants;
  • have your privacy protected within the limits of the law;
  • refuse to answer any research question, refuse to participate in any part of the study, or withdraw from the study at any time without any negative effects to you;
  • be given a description of the overall results of the study upon request.
  • discuss any concerns or file a complaint about the study with the Human Research Review Committee, California Institute of Integral Studies, 1453 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, hrrcoffice@ciis.edu

I, ___________(your name), attest that:

  • I have read, understood, and received a copy of this Informed Consent form, the Participant Bill of Rights, and confidentiality Statement
  • I have had any questions about this research answered to my satisfaction;
  • I understand that my confidentiality will be protected within the limits of the law;
  • I consent to participate in this study on the life story that brings individuals to study Studio Art in Higher Education
  • I am willingly and voluntarily participating in this research.

Participant’s Signature Date

Permissions Granted

I, __________(your name),

Check one:

_____ give permission to researcher use transcript text-only.

_____ give permission to researcher to use transcript text and voice audio recordings.

_____ give permission to researcher to use transcript text, voice audio, and video recordings.

Participant’s Signature Date

If you would like to receive a written summary of the results of the study, please provide an email address where it can be sent:

Confidentiality Statement

Your privacy with respect to the information you disclose during participation in this study will be protected within the limits of the law. However, there are circumstances

where a researcher is required by law to reveal information, usually for the protection of a patient, research participant, or others. A report to the police department or to the appropriate protective agency is required in the following cases:

  1. if, in the judgment of the researcher, a patient or research participant becomes dangerous to himself or herself or others (or their property), and revealing the information is necessary to prevent the danger;
  2. if there is suspected child abuse, in other words if a child under 16 has been a victim of a crime or neglect;
  3. if there is suspected elder abuse, in other words if a woman or man age 60 or older has been victim of a crime or neglect.

Author Note

The following essay was originally posted as a paper for TSD 6660 - Narrative Research as a part of my Ph.D. Studies in Transformative Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies.