Dora Marín-Diaz, Flávia Schilling, and Julio Groppa Aquino
This article focuses on the proposal of archival research in qualitative educational research. Based on the assumption that, in this context, different paths are available to the researcher, the question of how to select relevant sources in order to provide singular approaches to the issues at stake arises. More specifically, when conducting qualitative research in education how can the archives be navigated? To that end, the article begins with the notion of sociological imagination drawn from the work of Charles Wright Mills, in conjunction with Pierre Bourdieu’s reflexive sociology; for the latter, the construction of the object of investigation was based on a system of objective relations. Next, the archaegenealogical perspective of Michel Foucault is examined; for him the archive is the instance that governs the emergence of discourses.
In both cases, the goal is for the researcher to glean certain insights from the surface of what is said, critically describing the functioning of discourse around the problem investigated according to its dispersion among different practices, which in turn are responsible for giving form to the objects to which the researcher dedicates himself.
Rather than a methodology per se, the notion of the archive defended here, without any prescriptive intention, describes a specific way of conducting qualitative investigation marked by originality and critical accuracy.
Diana Milstein, Angeles Clemente, and Alba Lucy Guerrero
There are epistemological, methodological, and textual dimensions of collaborative educational ethnography (CEE) in Latin America that have spread and consolidated over the last twenty-five years. The beginnings of CEE were marked by sociopolitical struggles (social resistance movements and repressive dictatorships) but also were enlightened by thinkers like Fals Borda and Freire, who foresaw social transformation through a theory/action/participation tie. The result was several educational ethnographic studies carried out by groups of researchers working in networks. To a large extent, they aimed to problematize contradictions between official school education and the sociocultural realities of teachers and students. This type of research also aimed to understand and intervene in social change processes, which encouraged the incorporation of teachers as researchers in ethnographic studies. Teachers’ participation in research processes opened debates about fieldwork, but more particularly about relationships between researchers and interlocutors. In short, the history of CEE in Latin America reveals a marked development of collaboration, from being enacted but not made explicit in the written ethnographic report to open, explicit, and declared participation of nonacademic collaborators of all sorts: teachers, children, youngsters, indigenous communities, and so on.
The work of these collaborative teams not only differs in ways and degrees of research involvement (co-interpreting, co-investigating, co-authoring, and co-theorizing) but also in what a dialogic and sometimes contested research process entails in terms of knowledge production for counteracting Eurocentric, androcentric, adult-centric prejudices.
Teachers’ participation, children/youngsters as active collaborators, and language as a topic of research and as a research tool are three main themes. The stance of the researcher in CEE inevitably connects with his or her interlocutors as situated others—subjects with agency and rights and capable of involving the researcher in a joint process of reflexivity. Moreover, collaborative experiences in educational ethnography create new and feasible possibilities for the development of knowledge not only in education but also in research approaches to ethnography.
Critical discourse analysis (CDA) is a cross-disciplinary methodological and theoretical approach. At its core CDA explores the intersections between discourse, critique, power, and ideology which hold particular values for those teaching in developing contexts. CDA has emerged as a valuable methodological approach in cultural and media studies and has increased in prominence since the 2010s in education research where it is drawn on to explore educational policy, literacy education, and identity. This research has intersected with the field of information systems which has explored the dominant discourses and discursive practice of how information and communication technologies (ICTs) are viewed in policy and the contradictions between rhetoric and reality. It has also been drawn on in research in developing contexts to critique the role of ICTs in education. A brief historical background to CDA and overview of the key components of the approach will be provided. How CDA has been drawn on in educational studies will be examined and research on CDA will be highlighted to explore discursive practices of students and the influence of students’ digital identities on their engagement with and experience of online learning. By focusing on four key constructs of CDA—namely meaning, context, identity, and power—the potential of CDA to critically investigate how students’ are constructing their technological identity in an increasingly digital world will be demonstrated, particularly as examples of research emanating from developing contexts will be drawn.
Over the past 30 years, a growing field of scholarship has explored the relationship between education and the media. Scholars within this field have explored representations of education, schooling, teachers’ work and students in print and other news media, utilizing approaches that include critical discourse analysis, news framing analysis and, more recently, corpus-assisted discourse analysis. The relationship between these representations, public understandings of education and education policy has also been explored in the research literature, with a focus on the complex interplay between media discourses and public policy around education. The emergence of social media and the engagement of both educators and members of the general public on social media around issues related to education has seen this relationship shift in the first two decades of the 21st century. This, along with the growth of computer-assisted research approaches (including corpus-assisted analysis and network analysis, for example) has brought new theoretical and methodological possibilities to bear on the field.
Feminist theory rose in prominence in educational research during the 1980s and experienced a resurgence in popularity during the late 1990s−2010s. Standpoint epistemologies, intersectionality, and feminist poststructuralism are the most prevalent theories, but feminist researchers often work across feminist theoretical thought. Feminist qualitative research in education encompasses a myriad of methods and methodologies, but projects share a commitment to feminist ethics and theories. Among the commitments are the understanding that knowledge is situated in the subjectivities and lived experiences of both researcher and participants and research is deeply reflexive. Feminist theory informs both research questions and the methodology of a project in addition to serving as a foundation for analysis. The goals of feminist educational research include dismantling systems of oppression, highlighting gender-based disparities, and seeking new ways of constructing knowledge.
Alexandra C. Gunn
Formal early childhood education is a relatively modern institution to which increasing numbers of children are routinely exposed. Since the modern invention of childhood, the early childhood years have been increasingly established as a site for public and private investment in the name of individual and community development, the achievement of educational success, increased human productivity, and ultimately labor market productivity and excellence. As various forms of early childhood education have developed around the world, each has been imbued with values, perspectives, norms, and standards of its pioneers. They have also drawn upon and reinforced certain truths, knowledges, practices, and expectations about children, childhood, education, and society. As microcosms of society whose inhabitants are largely novice members of the communities of which they are part, teachers in early childhood education are routinely addressing issues of exclusion, injustice, and inequity with children and families. French historian and poststructural philosopher Michel Foucault’s (1926–1984) interests in the nexus of power-knowledge-truth and its consequences for life offer avenues for comprehending how modern institutions, such as systems of early childhood education, invest in and bring about certain forms of knowledge and practice. His methods of genealogical inquiry and discourse analysis make visible the workings of power as it moves on, in, and through human bodies. The perspectives made visible by Foucauldian analyses show how techniques, developed and applied within institutions, form humans in particular ways. Thus, it is possible to see the interplay between power-truth-knowledge, how things come to be, and how they may change.
Real groups constitute themselves as representatives of social structures, that is, of communicative processes in which it is possible to identify patterns and a certain model of communication. This model is not random or incipient, rather it documents collective experiences as well as the social characteristics of these groups, their representations of class, social environment, and generational belonging. In the context of qualitative research methods in the fields of social sciences and education, group discussions gained prominence mainly from research conducted with children and young people. As a research method, they constitute an important tool in the reconstruction of milieux and collective orientations that guide the actions of the subjects in the spaces in which they live.
This article begins with some considerations about group interviews, highlighting the Anglo-Saxon model of focus groups, the Spanish tradition of group discussions from the School of Qualitative Critics in Madrid, and group discussions conceived in the 1950s at the Frankfurt School in Germany. Next, the theoretical-methodological basis of group discussions and the documentary method developed in Germany in the 1980s by Ralf Bohnsack are presented. Both procedures are anchored mainly in Karl Mannheim’s sociology of knowledge, but also in Pierre Bourdieu’s ethnomethodology and sociology of culture. Finally, from the results of three research projects in education carried out in Mexico, Chile, and Brazil, the potential of this research and approach to data analysis is assessed. Based on the principle of abduction, the documentary method inspires the creation of analytical instruments rooted in praxis and that can delineate educational experiences in different contexts.
Robert J. Sternberg
High-stakes assessment is playing an increasingly important role in higher education at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. Such assessments are sometimes used for group purposes—to assess how well a university is doing in educating its students—and other times for purposes of evaluating individuals.
High-stakes assessment at the undergraduate level generally involves assessments of learning and reasoning at the end of the college experience. Sometimes, pretests are also given to compare cognitive skills before and after the college experience. There are several different approaches to measuring learning and performance outcomes: (a) standardized instruments and inventories; (b) indirect methods that focus on students’ perceptions of learning and engagement; (c) authentic performance-based methods, such as portfolios; and (d) locally designed tests and inventories. Each of these methods of assessment has different advantages as well as disadvantages. For example, standardized tests are normed, and thus it is possible to compare the performance of students at, say, one university to those at another. But standardized tests also measure outcomes that some scholars feel are less meaningful than the outcomes measured by other kinds of assessments. Indirect measures, such as of student engagement, look at students’ level of engagement with college but tell less about cognitive gains than some other kinds of measures. Performance-based measures such as portfolios have the advantage of measuring outcomes presumably relevant to each individual student; they are harder to score than some other kinds of measures, however, and they do not lend themselves readily to comparisons across colleges and universities. Homemade tests produced by individual institutions can be tailored to the goals of those institutions but generally lack the standardization and generality of some other kinds of measures.
Assessments of graduate and postgraduate students are of a different ilk. Generally, graduate, postgraduate, and hiring institutions are looking for presumed research and teaching competence. Publication records as well as letters of recommendation serve as primary bases for evaluating students going onto the job market. It is possible to entertain more sophisticated measures than just counting publications, such as various measures based on citations in the scholarly literature.
Queer theory is a tool that can be used to reconsider sociopolitical, historical, and cultural norms and values. Similarly, in qualitative research, queer theory tends to analyze the narratives of LGBTQ+ people and groups in ways that seek to queer everyday experiences. Both the theoretical framework and the narratives collected and analyzed in qualitative research are significant to unpacking business-as-usual in and across sociocultural contexts. This is especially true for systems of schooling, whereby LGBTQ+ people and groups are marginalized through schooling and schools, a process of exclusion that is detrimental to queer youth who are learning in spaces and places specifically designed against their ways of being and knowing. The significance of qualitative research as it meets the framework of queer theory is that it offers a practically and institutionally queered set of voices, perspectives, and understandings with which to think about the everyday in schools. This becomes increasingly important as schooling has historically been a place in which LGBTQ+ students and groups have resided at an intersection, where the sociopolitical and cultural marginalization that keeps the status quo in place crosses with contemporary values that both interrupt and reify such histories.
Maria Luísa Quaresma and Cristóbal Villalobos
Elites can be understood as a group of people in possession of the highest levels of economic, social, cultural, and political capital. For this reason, these groups are considered key actors in understanding social inequality, the configuration of social structures, and the distribution of power within societies.
In the field of education, elites tend to concentrate in a small, select group of schools and universities, forming a social context that is key to understanding processes of (social) mobility and the reproduction of social positions.
The indisputable relevance of education in both the formation and consecration of elites make it almost impossible not to focus in the educational system when one is called to problematize the power of elites.
Through a literature review surveying the available literature within the field as well as examples of previous research, principle epistemological, conceptual, and empirical frameworks necessary to address interviews with elites in the educational sphere can be observed. The chapter review three critical dimensions of the interview process: (a) design, analyzing aspects such as the potentialities and limitations of the different types of interviews, the issue of validity and, the question about the distance between interviewer and interviewee (b) contact and consent to participate, studding the identification, contact and pre-meeting stage and (c) the interview process, analyzing aspects such as the place of the interview, the cultural aspects involved in any interview, the objective and purpose of the interview, the knowledge and skills that the interviewer must display, and the dispute over the power and status that is displayed in this type of interaction. Researchers who study education and/or elite social classes and who want to deepen their understanding of a group of people might refer to this qualitative research process of studying elites in the educational field.
Qualitative observation is an attempt to view and interpret social worlds by immersing oneself in a particular setting. Observation draws on theoretical assumptions associated with the interpretivist paradigm. Thus, researchers who engage in qualitative observations believe that the world cannot be fully known, but must be interpreted. Observation is one way for researchers to seek to understand and interpret situations based on the social and cultural meanings of those involved. In the field of education, observation can be a meaningful tool for understanding the experiences of teachers, students, caregivers, and administrators.
Rigorous qualitative research is long-term, and demands in-depth engagement in the field. In general, the research process is cyclical, with the researcher(s) moving through three domains: prior-to-field, in-field, and post- or inter-field. Prior to entering the field, the researcher(s) examine their assumptions about research as well as their own biases, and obtain approval from an Institutional Review Board. This is also the time when researcher(s) make decisions about how data will be collected. Upon entering the field of study, the researcher(s) work to establish rapport with participants, take detailed “jottings,” and record their own feelings or preliminary impressions alongside these quick notes. After leaving an observation, the researcher(s) should expand jottings into extended field notes that include significant detail. This should be completed no later than 48 hours after the observation, to preserve recall. At this point, the researcher may return to the field to collect additional data. Focus should move from observation to analysis when the researcher(s) feel that they have reached theoretical data saturation.
Allison Daniel Anders
Committed to research as an ethical and political practice, post-critical ethnographers work to center emic perspectives, local knowledges, and critiques in everyday languages in order to illuminate the exercise of power in the re/production of systemic inequities (e.g., economic, cultural, geographic, linguistic, political, racial, and social). Post-critical ethnographers underscore the importance of positionality and reflexivity in the practice of ethnography and pursue multiple, complicated understandings and complex representations, often experimental, in the writing and production of research. Informed by critical, interpretivist, and postmodern theories, post-critical ethnographers critique dominance, oppression, and inequity. In educational research, they choose schools, student, teacher, administrator experiences, and often local contexts to frame their research. Addressing both the particularities of experience and historical geopolitical contexts, post-critical ethnographers offer incisive analyses and ask their audiences to challenge systemic inequities and consider what could be otherwise in inequitable relations but is not yet.
Mark D. Vagle
Post-intentional phenomenology is a phenomenological research approach that draws on phenomenological and poststructural philosophies. In its early conceptualization, post-intentional phenomenology was imagined as a philosophical and methodological space in which all sorts of philosophies, theories, and ideas could be put in conceptual dialogue with one another—creating a productive and generative cacophony of philosophies/theories/ideas that accomplishes something(s) that these same individual philosophies/theories/ideas may not be able to do, in the same way at least, on their own. Although this desire remains, post-intentional phenomenology now serves as more of an invitation for others to play with and among philosophies/theories/ideas to see what might come of such playfulness—and to have the work of the methodology itself potentially produce social change, however great or small. The post-intentional phenomenologist is asked not only to identify a phenomenon of interest, but also to situate the phenomenon in context, around a social issue. An underlying assumption of this methodology is that all phenomena are both personal and social—that is, phenomena are lived by individuals and are in a constant state of production and provocation through social relations. Such a methodological configuration can be of use to studies of teaching—as the work of teaching (as a post-intentional phenomenon) is lived, produced, and provoked by all sorts of entangled complexities that may or may not be conscious to the individual.
Marilia Sposito and Felipe Tarábola
The specifics of approaches to qualitative research in the field of youth studies in Brazil are presented. Research projects that focus on young people should recognize the specificities that can be translated into analyses of the diversity and inequalities of youth experience. Two aspects are key: Markers of age can inform early approaches, since there is international agreement on the general extent of this stage of life (from 15 to 29 years of age), and the occurrence of differences among adolescents, that is, young people approaching the age of majority and young people in transition to adult life. Thus, the process of data collection needs to allow for the possibility of bricolage techniques in order to effectively study the subjects, presupposing their interactions and positions in contemporary society. Starting from an initial reflection on the main milestones that guide the very idea of youth and the ways in which the studies in education have dialogued with this field in Brazil, four aspects need to be considered when carrying out empirical investigations: contexts and research spaces; the successive approximations and times of investigation; sounds and images; and the potential benefits and hazards of using virtual networks and the internet for data collection in studies of young people. This combination of procedures requires the researcher to exercise sociological imagination and act with some degree of creativity. However, there must also be rigorous care in selecting research techniques and applying them to whatever the project may be.
Qualitative research predominate in Brazilian studies on gender and education. This article points that these methodologies contribute to this field as powerful tools that break the naturalization of gender relations, uncovering the subtle forms of gender inequality in everyday life and highlighting the social construction of gender. The common effort in ethnographies to make strange what is familiar are useful in overcoming these pitfalls. Qualitative methodologies are also important in the construction of contextual analyses that avoid essentialist statements about men and women as fixed universal notions, a frequent bias in gender studies. Latin American research on gender in education has used these principles with good results and this article offers some examples, developed mainly in Brazil. It also suggests researchers use qualitative methodologies to link gender to other social determinations such as class and race, in an intersectional perspective. The challenge of constructing intersectionality finds in qualitative research methods a powerful ally because it allows investigators to understand how each form of inequality combines with the other, creating new meanings. The article also stresses that analysis based on qualitative data may help break the dichotomies between social structures and individual action, fostering the understanding of the simultaneity between actions of the subjects and social determination, between change and permanence, between individuals and society. Finally, the conclusion draws attention to the need for greater dialogue between quantitative and qualitative research in the area of gender and education studies, opening space for issues highlighted in statistical analysis to be explored in qualitative research, which in turn might generate new questions to be investigated in macro-social databases.
Begoña Vigo Arrazola
Research feedback is given in very different ways with different intended functions and effects. From a positivist or reconstructed positivist perspective, for instance, feedback is used primarily as a strategy for improving research validity, while from a critical perspective the intention is to induce deeper and sustained levels of participation, critique, and influence toward a purpose, ultimately, of social transformation. From a philosophical foundation this aim allies with the significance of not only understanding contemporary educational empirical reality under neoliberal forms of capitalism but also developing critical consciousness for the transcendence and transformation of this condition. From within a critical education perspective, research feedback therefore sets out to engage schools and their communities, including teachers and parents, as co-researchers and reflective agents capable of understanding and changing education and its social relations, not only being recipients of it as in Freire’s notion of a banking concept of education. Change is encouraged both within the framework of the investigation and with respect to broader social relations.
Antonia Candela and Gabriela Naranjo
There are several different ways of understanding ethnography. On one extreme there are studies that use certain “ethnographic techniques” for practice observation, and on the other, there is the assumption that it is a complex theoretical-methodological framework that implies an ideological, political, and sociocultural approach, in order to describe the perspective of the participants. A third perspective seeks to broaden the understanding of the complex construction of scientific knowledge in the classroom. Surveys can unearth a clear tension between the etic and emic approaches, each one related to the theoretical-methodological allegiances of their researchers which can be modified somewhat through their findings. A future inquiry into the complex and heterogeneous contexts of Latin American classrooms can suggest a way to bridge macro with micro contexts of different socioeconomic and cultural and political conditions. Other growing topics that could be developed more thoroughly in the future are, for example, the multimodality of communication processes within the classroom, and studies on scientific education from an intercultural perspective, particularly considering the debt we have with the 50 million indigenous people in our region in taking into account their cultural perspectives and contributions to knowledge.
Walter S. Gershon
As its name suggests, sonic ethnography sits at the intersection of studies of sound and ethnographic methodologies. This methodological category can be applied to interpretive studies of sound, ethnographic studies that foreground sound theoretically and metaphorically, and studies that utilize sound practices similar to those found in forms of audio recording and sound art, for example. Just as using ocular metaphors or video practices does not make an ethnographic study any more truthful, the use of sonic metaphors or audio recording practices still requires the painstaking, ethical, reflexivity, time, thought, analysis, and care that are hallmarks for strong ethnographies across academic fields and disciplines. Similarly, the purpose of sonic ethnography is not to suggest that sound is any more real or important than other sensuous understandings but is instead to underscore the power and potential of the sonic for qualitative researchers within and outside of education. A move to the sonic is theoretically, methodologically, and practically significant for a variety of reasons, not least of which are (a) its ability to interrupt ocular pathways for conceptualizing and conducting qualitative research; (b) for providing a mode for more actively listening to local educational ecologies and the wide variety of things, processes, and understandings of which they are comprised; (c) ethical and more transparent means for expressing findings; and (d) a complex and deep tool for gathering, analyzing, and expressing ethnographic information. In sum, sonic ethnography opens a world of sound possibilities for educational researchers that at once deepen and provide alternate pathways for understanding everyday educational interactions and the sociocultural contexts that help render those ways of being, doing, and knowing sensible.