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Delphi method technique can be described as structural surveys that are conducted based on the use of intuitive available information from participants who are mainly expertise. Its main purpose, therefore, is to structure a group of communication processes in an effective way. This helps groups of expertise in dealing with complex problems. Since Delphi method was established more than 50 years ago, it has been used with the same rationale of establishing an objectively possible consensus that helps in addressing a given complex problem. In essence, the Delphi method is a family of techniques rather than a single clearly-understood procedure. It features a series of rounds in which information concerning a given complex problem is collected from expert panelists, analyzed, and fed back to them for their individual opportunity of revising their judgment based on this feedback (Hsu & Sanford, 2007).
Background of Delphi Method Technique
In 1950’s, Delphi method was developed by the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California as an operation research that was intentionally coined as a research effort that improves the use of expert predictions in enhancing policy-making (Hsu & Sanford, 2007). Being a monovariable exploration technique for technology forecasting whose development started in 1944, the Delphi method has ever since recognized the importance of human judgment as not only legitimate but as well useful in generating insightful inputs in forecasts. This is due to the fact that Delphi method has overcomes the biasness of single expert opinion by relying on theoretical assumptions and methodological procedures as developed by RAND Corporation. It is in this regard that Delphi method has been widely used in generating forecasts in the fields of technology, education, policy determination, program planning, and resource utilization among others. What substantiates the Delphi method technique from the common surveys, as will be established during the discussion of some studies in this paper, is that, whereas the latter attempts to identify “what is,” the former addresses “what could/should be” (Hsu & Sanford, 2007).
Evaluating Studies that Utilizes the Delphi Method Technique
In 2011, Melvin Weber, Alleah Crawford, David Rivera, and Dori Finley used the Delphi method in assessing the entry-level workplace soft skills and competencies for managers. The purpose for their study was to offer comprehensive outlook of soft skills that are needed in entry-level hospitality management positions. The background of Weber et al (2011) study was contributed by the inability of research studies that had been conducted since 1980’s to consider soft skills competencies essential components in the entry-level of hospitality management positions. As defined by Weber et al (2011), soft skills refer to “interpersonal, human, people, or behavioral skills” that are required in application of technical skills and knowledge important in workplace. Therefore, such skills are essential whenever one is to realize success in management positions.
Weber et al in their study uses Delphi method in establishing Delphi panels has since helped in evaluating the list of soft skill competencies that are discussed in various literatures. One of Delphi panels comprises of 10 hotel and restaurant human resource professionals while the other consist of 10 educators who teach human resource at the four year institution of higher learning. In the study, the contacted potential panelists as described by various literatures discussed and defined the intent of the two rounds of Delphi panels. The first round of Delphi panels assessed the importance of soft skill competencies while the second Delphi panel focused on how much entry-level managers use competency. In both the two rounds, panel members were asked to rate competencies and provide more specific feedback.
Through the two iterations, the study was successful as the research supported the necessity of soft skill competencies for entry-level hospitality mangers. By using Delphi method, an agreement was reached for its importance by those who educates and others who hires entry-level mangers. This has since provided support for these skills to be discussed and studied further both through research and importantly developed within the classroom set up (Weber et al, 2011).
On the other hand, Delphi method has been used in determining research priorities in career and technical education. In the article, “Research foci for career and technical education: Findings from a national Delphi study,” Jeanea Lambeth uses Delphi method in determining research priorities in career and technical education. The purpose of his study was to identify consensus among Career and Technical Education (CTE) experts through the use of Delphi technique in relation to problems, objectives, and activities that are essential research agenda for CTE.
Similar to Weber et al study, Lambeth’s study involves experts especially from 25 states in the United States with a representation of 57 affiliations and organizations that have direct ties to CTE. However, contrary to Weber et al study, Lambeth’s Delphi process was conducted based on three rounds of which data was then collected using online survey collector, Survey, and MonkeyTM (Lambeth, 2009). As usually noted, the success of any Delphi process is depended upon effective selection of expert panel members. In this study, the panel included educators, career and technical educational student organizations, executive directors of professional associations, university professors, representatives from state’s education departments, advisory committee members, business and industry partners, and educational policy makers (Lambeth, 2009).
In subdivision, Round one had 32 participants, Round Two had 43 participants, and Round Three had 44 participants. Each participant was provided with questions such as open-ended questions, “Reflecting on your familiarity with Career and Technical Education, please list, starting with the most important, up to ten major research problem areas that should be investigated by researchers?” (Lambeth, 2009, p.71). With question two stating, “Please add any additional comments you may have regarding Career and Technical Education research,” (p.71). In so doing, the study encompasses one of the major key characteristics of Delphi method which is enhancing regular feedback. Additionally, by including model validation method in round four in order to illustrate a systematic approach to communicate path towards a desired consensus, the researchers enhanced the key characteristic of structuring information flow. Through this, the study resulted into various panelist opinion and suggestions that attempted to make sure that CTE is presented as a unified body which is positioned to address educational trends and issues at nation level. For this purpose, the study was successful.
Another study that utilizes Delphi method technique is the research conducted by Thomas Bruening, Dennis Scanlon, Tracy Hoover, and Carol Hodes in 2006. In the study, Bruening et al uses Delphi method to investigate attributes and characteristics of exemplary career and technical essence of teacher preparation programs. Using 3-round Delphi process similar to Lambeth’s study, this study identified national panel of experts that included site directors and directors of Research and Dissemination Centers within CTE (Bruening, 2006). But unlike the previous discussed studies, researchers for this particular study conducted site visit to institutions based on 13 critical attributes as the basis for their structured interview process.
In order to effectively exhaust the study, various questions were presented to respondents based on a case study approach. These included questions like “What qualities and attributes of institutions that prepare CTE educators?” And “What are the exemplary, leading, and innovative teacher preparation programs, and what makes them different from the rest?” However, the limitation which was encountered by Delphi process that agitated focused group participants on their views regarding how CTE faculty modeled exemplary teaching should be was that researchers had not control over respondent. It thus resulted into exaggeration of approaches that actually did not give out insightful feedback. But through case study approach coupled with Delphi process, the study was successful as it was able to outlined exemplary, leading, and innovative characteristics that are essential in helping teacher education through focusing on diversity of program delivery model to foster change in profession.
In conclusion, Delphi method has been highlighted as important research techniques that help in addressing complex issues by achieving convergence opinion relating to real-world knowledge as contributed by experts. It is therefore imperative for research institutions and researchers to continue relying on such a methodology in order to come up with policy framework that can predict the future outcomes based on experts’ point of view.