Professor: Shirley Freed, PhD
Office Hours: T, Th am
Office Address: Bell Hall Rm 173
Web page: http://www.andrews.edu/~freed
Class Times: M-Fri, 1-5 pm
Phone: 471-6163 (of), 471-4939 (h)
Course Description: An introduction to the philosophy, theory, and methods of qualitative research. Features different theoretical approaches to ethnography. Initial training in using qualitative research methods with an emphasis on participant observation and the ethnographic interview.
Eisner, Elliot. 1998. The Enlightened Eye. Merrill Publishers. Columbus, Ohio.
Merriam, Sharan. 1998. Qualitative Research and Case Study Applications in Education. Jossey-Bass Publishers. San Francisco.
Hart, Chris. 1998. Doing a Literature Review. Sage Publishers. Thousand Oaks.
Wolcott, Harry. 1990. Writing Up Qualitative Research. Sage Publishers. Thousand Oaks.
Other readings will be required on an intermittent basis.
Conceptual Framework: Central to all coursework in the School of Education is the mission of the School. It is succinctly encapsulated in the foundation of the Conceptual Framework as "Educar es Redimir" (To Educate is to Redeem) through "Harmonious Development for Service." We believe we accomplish this mission through six major knowledge base areas – one of which is research. This knowledge base addresses valuing and conducting disciplined inquiry for decision-making. The outcomes of this knowledge base and shared by all programs in the School of Education are that each graduate will be able to:
1) Read and evaluate research in their discipline
2) Conduct research in their specialty area(s)
3) Report research findings according to standard guidelines in their field
While these are the major outcomes for this course, you can expect to see some connections with the other SED core knowledge bases – in particularly, the knowledge bases on worldview and communication and technology. Throughout the course we will be challenged as researchers living in a postmodern world. How does our worldview influence the way we do research? We will be sharpening our technology skills as we use the data bases in the library as well as the internet as a sources of information.
What to expect:
Since qualitative research itself is nonlinear, you can expect this class to be an intertwining of reading, writing, talking, and listening as we seek to unravel some of the many issues surrounding interpretive forms of inquiry. Firstly, the idea of researcher as instrument is seminal to this kind of research. So you will be engaged in an ongoing internal critical examination of yourself as the instrument of social research. I'll be trying to move you to a more objective place from which you might view yourself, others, and then to once again view yourself through a different lens. I'll be wanting you to be thinking about the boundaries into which you were born; the boundaries of higher education; the boundaries of each field experience; the boundaries of culture, gender and race. The stories you will share will help facilitate this piece!
As a researcher myself, I will be sharing my philosophical viewpoint which comes from a Christian world view. Each day you will get glimpses of how that affects the way I conduct research. We will look at the Gospels as four different qualitative reports of the life and ministry of Jesus on earth and make connections with research as we practice it today.
In this class we begin to develop your observational skills and interviewing techniques. I believe these kinds of research skills can only be developed by using them! So you will have many opportunities in class and outside of class to practice these skills. At first you will feel somewhat tenuous and awkward but as the course progresses you will develop confidence in your own abilities and in the value of these methods as sources of data.
You will have opportunity to read qualitative studies and to conduct a small research project of your own. It's important that you see this requirement as something more than a class requirement. It should involve a serious "wonderment" that you have – something that you have wanted to understand on a deeper level – something that you have wished you had more time to figure out or understand.
I will be approaching this class as a teacher/researcher which means that all the activities and interactions I'm orchestrating for you will be modeling ways that you might conduct your own research from data collection to data analysis and representation. I'll be working hard to develop a responsiveness in you that will build trust and confidence with those whom you might work later.
Finally, this class will be very short on lecturing but very long on experiential learning. You will be part of a list serve and a discussion forum and it will be here that many of your questions about the processes of the class will be explored and refined.
So, what is qualitative research anyway? Several attempts at explanation might be helpful as we begin this journey together! Thomas Schwandt in Qualitative Inquiry: A Dictionary of Terms states that "qualitative" is a
not-so-descriptive adjective attached to the varieties of social inquiry that have their intellectual roots in hermeneutics, phenomenological sociology, and the Vertehen tradition. Most scholars use the phrase "qualitative inquiry" as a blanket designation for all forms of such inquiry including ethnography, case study research, naturalistic inquiry ethnomethodology, life history methodology, narrative inquiry, and the like. It has been used as a modifier for the terms "data," "method," "methodology," "research," and "paradigm" and as a synonym for "nonexperimental" and "ethnographic." Because the adjective does not clearly signal a particular meaning, a great number and variety of scholars have attempted to define just what is the so-called qualitative paradigm, what are the basic characteristics of qualitative research, and so on. One might reasonably view the entire Handbook of Qualitative Research (Sage, 1994) as an attempt at an extended definition of the term. "Qualitative research" is simply not a very useful term for denoting a specific set of characteristics of inquiry.
Often, attempts at definition involve both implicit and explicit comparisons to the equally ambiguously used adjective ‘quantitative.' Perhaps the clearest use of the adjective is to distinguish between qualitative data–nonnumeric data in the form of words–and quantitative data–numeric data. The earliest qualitative versus quantitative debates might have been called "The Merits of Nonnumeric Versus Numeric Data Debates," but that doesn't have quite the same ring to it as the more common designation of the controversy. The same debate also meant defending as reliable and valid methods used to generate qualitative data (i.e., unstructured open-ended interviews, participant observation, and so on) from attacks by defenders of methods used to generate quantitative data (questionnaires, psychometric measures, tests, and so on).
‘Qualitative' denotes of or relating to quality, and a quality, in turn, is an inherent or phenomenal property or essential characteristic of some thing (object or experience). Ironically, there appears to be only one variety of qualitative inquiry that takes the definition of quality as its starting point. Elliot Eisner's (e.g., The Enlightened Eye, Macmillan, 1991) explication of qualitative inquiry begins from the point of view that inquiry is a matter of the perception of qualities and an appraisal of their value. The work of Eisner and his students aims to define and illustrate an aesthetics that explains how qualitative aspects of the experiences and settings of teaching and learning are to be perceived, appreciated, interpreted, understood, and criticized. The metaphors he employs for capturing the dual features of this methodology are connoisseurship and criticism (p 129-130).
I often feel like C. George Boeree of Shippensburg University who says:
The most common question I am asked by students considering taking my course is "what are qualitative methods?" Unfortunately, that's a hard one to answer.
I could start by telling you who uses them: philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, students of literature, historians, biologists...anyone, in fact, who finds the methods of the physical sciences somehow inappropriate for understanding human (and, occasionally, even animal) realities.
But perhaps the best way to get at a definition is to look at why these people have turned to qualitative methods:
1. For some, the manipulation most experimental studies require at least verges on the unethical. Whereas a chemical substance, a subatomic particle, or perhaps a white rat has no cause to object to being manipulated, human beings certainly may. To frighten them, persuade them of something, expose them to various conditions, etc., even in the name of science, may undermine their self-respect, their psychological integrity, their sense of self-determination, or even their physical health.
2. For others, it is the reliance on measurement that is disturbing. While reducing everything to numbers may be justified in the physical sciences, doing the same to human experience seems to dismiss the other, non-quantitative dimensions of that experience. How do you quantify meaning, for example, or love, or anger, or confusion? You can describe the Grand Canyon using only numbers -- but somehow that wouldn't capture the essence of it!
3. For still others, the issue is control. In order to find the relationship between two variables, all others must be controlled, whether by a reduction of actual variety, or by the establishment of control groups, or by statistically factoring out other variables. But how do you control the lifetime of experiences that a person brings to an experiment? What is the significance of a causal relation that does not occur independently outside the laboratory? And do results established by examining group tendencies then apply to individuals. Control is problematic in complex physical systems; imagine the problem with human beings.
4. Others are disturbed by the tendency to reductionism. In the process of manipulating, measuring, and controlling variables, it is a matter of practicality to go down a level-of-analysis. Hence the predominance of physiological and information-processing explanations for human behavior. But, by their nature, these explanations avoid the very problems they were originally intended to explain -- e.g. consciousness, meaning, personality, self, etc.
5. One more problem is that the experimental method and related methods are intrinsically deterministic. What, in fact, would be the point of establishing causal relations if these relations could not be relied on? On the other hand, many people involved in the human sciences are interested in things that assume at least some degree of freedom. Morality, for example, has little meaning if people are as determined as falling bricks. What are we to do with concepts such as bravery, responsibility, generosity, honesty, or compassion (or, for that matter, evil, guilt, cowardice...) if these are not a matter of choice?
Generally, what disturbs so many people about traditional approaches in the human sciences is that they don't capture life as it is lived. And that, perhaps, is the closest we'll get to an essence of qualitative methods: They are methods that at least attempt to capture life as it is lived.
SO - with that introduction, let's look at what we'll be doing on a daily basis!
Date Topic Assignments & Readings Due Monday, July 5
Introduction to Qualitative
What Makes a Study Qualitative
Choosing a Study Topic
Designing a Qualitative study
Dissertation Abstracts due
Keeping Things Plumb in Qualitative Research -
Eisner - Chap 1 & 2
Merriam - Chap 1
Tuesday, July 6
Self as the Research Instrument
Interviewing - active, in-depth, and focus groups
Eisner, Chap 3 & 4
Merriam - Chap 4 & 5
Mapping and Analyzing Ideas - Hart
Focus Group Interviewing - Morgan
Wednesday, July 7
Observations & Interview Transcriptions due
Eisner - Chap 5 & 8
Merriam - Chap 8, 9 & 11
Lost in Translation - Tierney
Metaphors We Live By - Lakeoff & Johnson
Sport Narratives - Denison
Thursday, July 8
Validity, Reliability Issues & controversies
Self as Researcher due
Eisner - Chap 6,10
Merriam - Chap10
The Promise & Perils of Alternative Forms of Data Representation - Eisner
Friday, July 9
Meaning in Qualitative Research
Eisner - Chap7 & 9
The Nature of Interpretation - Peshkin
Your final grade will be calculated on the following basis:
1) Webquest 50 points
This is an activity to introduce you to a number of excellent web pages and to the basics of qualitative research - you will find it on my webpage. Bring your responses to the various activities the first day of class. (For the qual/quant quiz - print it down and circle your responses.)
2) Participation 100 points
Because of the way I structure this class, much of your learning will take place during class interactions. Therefore, it is critical that you attend and arrive on time. I will be deducting 50 points for each unexcused (nonprearranged) absence and 25 points for each tardy. If this feels punitive, please talk to me!
3) Project (Choose a or b below) 300 points
a) The project should involve a serious "wonderment" you have. It will include a short review of the literature, some observation and interviews and writing of your findings.
b) A 3-chapter proposal for your dissertation including review of the literature and methodology. See http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR3-1/heath.html for ideas.
4) Reviews of 25 DA's/articles (at least 10 qualitative) 100 points
The purpose of this assignment is to give you a sense of what other scholars in your discipline are reporting about your topic - "wonderment." You will analyze the abstracts looking for the following aspects: author, date, research questions, theoretical standpoint (key citations), evidence used, results, and any other items you choose.
I also want you to develop a concept map of the dissertation abstracts demonstrating key ideas and their relationship to each other.
5) Observations and Interviews 100 points
You will have several opportunities to practice observing the details of various environments. I will be expecting you to write up one of those observations including your own reflections on the experience. You will also interview at least one person and transcribe the interview.
6) Daily Reading & Questioning Process 100 points
Each day there are a number of readings that you'll want to explore. As you read, create one question to bring to your small group and the "perfect" answer for your question. These questions will also be shared across groups. Your group will monitor and evaluate your participation for this assignment.
7) Self as Researcher 100 points
You will want to identify and write several stories/incidents associated with your "wonderment." These will be analyzed along with other life themes to help you understand in what ways you influence your research: question, data collection, analysis & interpretation.
8) Examinations 150 points
There will be two examinations in this class - both of which I expect will be further learning experiences. You will be involved in developing questions and assessing your own learning. These should not be viewed as stress-causing events!!
Total 1,000 points
Criteria: A 95-100% B- 80-83
A- 90-94 C+ 77-79
B+ 87-89 C 74-76
B 84-86 C- 70-73
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