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Qualitative Research Methods and Students With Severe Disabilities  

Karen A. Erickson and David A. Koppenhaver

Qualitative research methods, in many forms, have been used to deepen understandings in the field of severe disabilities for decades. Using methods such as individual case studies, grounded theory, phenomenology, content analysis, life history, and ethnography, qualitative research has served to explain bounded systems, generate theory, study the lived experiences of individuals, investigate historical and contemporary texts and contexts, share first-person narratives, and investigate cultural and social systems that involve students with severe disabilities. Indicators of quality in qualitative methods and means of establishing credibility have been explicated and are widely applied in the field. To varying degrees, qualitative methods have allowed researchers to represent the voices of students with severe disabilities and engage them actively in the research process, which is important given that a mantra among persons with severe disabilities and their advocates is nothing about us without us. Regardless of the methods, accurately representing the voices of students with severe disabilities and including them as active participants in research is not always easy to accomplish given the nature of their cognitive and communication profiles. Many students with severe disabilities do not communicate symbolically through speech, sign language, or graphic symbols. Others have limited means of communication and are dependent on familiar communication partners to co-construct meaning with them. Some approaches to qualitative research, such as post-critical ethnography, provide a potential path toward representing the voice of a broader range of students with severe disabilities because these methods lead researchers to interrogate assumptions in the field while examining their own positions, perceptions, and beliefs relative to the subject of the investigation. While these methods offer opportunity with respect to their ability to fairly represent and involve students with severe disabilities, they challenge previously accepted indicators of quality and means of establishing credibility in qualitative research. As qualitative research methods are applied in understanding students with severe disabilities in the future, these challenges will have to be addressed.

Article

Arts-Based Research  

Janinka Greenwood

Arts-based research encompasses a range of research approaches and strategies that utilize one or more of the arts in investigation. Such approaches have evolved from understandings that life and experiences of the world are multifaceted, and that art offers ways of knowing the world that involve sensory perceptions and emotion as well as intellectual responses. Researchers have used arts for various stages of research. It may be to collect or create data, to interpret or analyze it, to present their findings, or some combination of these. Sometimes arts-based research is used to investigate art making or teaching in or through the arts. Sometimes it is used to explore issues in the wider social sciences. The field is a constantly evolving one, and researchers have evolved diverse ways of using the communicative and interpretative tools that processes with the arts allow. These include ways to initially bypass the need for verbal expression, to explore problems in physically embodied as well as discursive ways, to capture and express ambiguities, liminalities, and complexities, to collaborate in the refining of ideas, to transform audience perceptions, and to create surprise and engage audiences emotionally as well as critically. A common feature within the wide range of approaches is that they involve aesthetic responses. The richness of the opportunities created by the use of arts in conducting and/or reporting research brings accompanying challenges. Among these are the political as well as the epistemological expectations placed on research, the need for audiences of research, and perhaps participants in research, to evolve ways of critically assessing the affect of as well as the information in presentations, the need to develop relevant and useful strategies for peer review of the research as well as the art, and the need to evolve ethical awareness that is consistent with the intentions and power of the arts.

Article

Life Stories, Criminal Justice, and Caring Research  

Chrissie Rogers

In the context of offenders who have learning difficulties, autism, and/or social, emotional, and mental health problems, their families, and professionals who work with them, caring and ethical research processes can be explored via fieldnotes. Conducting life story interviews and recording fieldnotes within qualitative criminological, education, and sociological research have long since been used to document and analyze communities and institutions and the private and public spheres. They richly tell us about specific research contexts, or everyday lives and relationships, that interview transcripts alone perhaps overlook. It is in the process of recording and reflecting upon research relationships that we can see and understand care-full research. But caring and ethical research works in an interdependent and relational way. Therefore, the participant and the researcher are at times vulnerable, and recognition of this is critical in considering meaningful and healthy research practices. However, the acknowledgment of the fact that particular types of research can be messy, chaotic, and emotional is necessary in understanding caring research.

Article

Qualitative Approaches to Studying Marginalized Communities  

Dana Moree

Marginalized populations are by definition composed of people who have fewer possibilities and options in their lives than those studying them. This fact has to be reflected before, during, and after the research itself. There are many facets of this basic assumption. One of them is, how are marginalized perceived by the researcher? Are they helpless victims, or people who are able to tell their own stories? Another relevant detail is the personality of the researcher. When the researcher comes from outside the marginalized group, the key question is, which methodology can be best applied to give a voice to those who are marginalized? On the other hand, when the researcher is a member of the group being studied, the key question is how to achieve the distance necessary for analysis. There could be many more such relevant facets, but the quality of the final research product is partially determined by any number of decisions that are made during the planning of the research and the conducting of the research. All of these decisions have methodological consequences. There are a wide range of qualitative research approaches, such as participatory research, autoethnographic research, narrative and biographical research, or traditional qualitative research based on interviews with representatives of marginalized groups. In the early 21st century, there has been a shift away from a top-down, outsider perspective that sees the marginalized as helpless victims and toward more participatory research designs that promote and give a space to the marginalized voice. The common denominator of all these decisions is whose voice is being heard—does it belong to the marginalized group or to the outside world? Is it possible to overcome the boundaries between these two worlds? And what role does methodology play in this story?

Article

Interviews and Interviewing in the Ethnography of Education  

Geoffrey Walford

Interviews are frequently used in ethnographic research, but it is argued that they pose particular difficulties in interpretation. While ethnographers are interested in understanding how people construct and interpret cultures in their natural settings, interviews are based on rules that counteract most normal interactions. Thus interviews in ethnography can only be interpreted within the context of that wider ethnography and the data generated has to be tested against other data generated by different means and data generated in other interviews. Although some ethnographers avoid the use of interviews, others use a range of different forms of interviews. It is argued that Basil Bernstein’s concepts of classification and framing can be used to clarify the range of forms and to highlight the potential relationships between the form of interview and class, gender, and ethnicity.

Article

Common Core Standards (U.S.)  

Patrick Shannon

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are part of a third wave of school reform in the United States. With accompanying tests, these standards combine calls for increased academic rigor, beginning in the 1980s, with more recent efforts to hold schools, teachers, and students accountable for learning outcomes in publicly funded schools. Origins of CCSS can be traced to the 1996 National Education Summit where the National Governors Association (NGA), philanthropic foundations, and business leaders founded Achieve to broker rigorous high school graduation requirements. In 2009, Achieve became the project manager for the construction of CCSS. In 2010, implementation began with incentives from the Obama administration and funding from the Gates Foundation. Advocates choose among a variety of rationales: faltering American economic competitiveness, wide variability among state standards and educational outcomes, highly mobile student populations, and/or a growing income achievement gap. Critics cite federal intrusion in states’ rights, a lack of an evidentiary base, an autocratic process of CCSS production, and/or a mis-framing of problems facing public schools. With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, federal advocacy of CCSS ended officially.

Article

Globalization of Educational Knowledge and Research  

Keita Takayama

Transnational flows of educational knowledge and research are fundamentally guided by the global geopolitics of knowledge—the historically constituted relations of power born out of the continuing legacy of modernity/coloniality. In the early nation-building stage of the 19th century, state-funded education was at the core of states’ pursuit for economic and social progress. Newly formed nation states actively sought new educational knowledge from countries considered more advanced in the global race toward modernity and industrialization. The transnational lesson drawing in education at the time was guided by the view of modernity as originating in and diffusing from the West. This created the unidirectional flow of educational influence from advanced economies of the West to the rest of the world. Central to the rise of modernity in Western state formation is the use of education as a technology of social regulations. Through the expansion of state-funded education, people were turned into the people, self-governing citizens, and then the population that was amenable to a state’s social and economic calculation and military deployment. But this development was embedded in the geopolitical context of the time, in which Western modernity was deeply entangled with its underside, coloniality in the rest of the world. Various uses of education as a social control were tested out first in colonial peripheries and then brought back to the imperial centers. Today, the use of education for the modernist pursuit of perfecting society has been intensified through the constitution of the globalized education policy space. International organizations such as the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) act as the nodes through which transnational networks of education policy actors are formed, where the power of statistics for social and educational progress is widely shared. Both developed and developing countries are increasingly incorporated into this shared epistemological space, albeit through different channels and due to different factors. The rise of international academic testing such as OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has certainly changed the traditional pattern of education research and knowledge flows, and more lesson drawing from countries and regions outside the Anglo-European context is pursued. And yet, the challenges that PISA poses to the Eurocentric pattern of educational knowledge and research flows are curtailed by the persistence of the colonial legacy. This most clearly crystalizes in the dismissive and derogatory characterization of East Asian PISA high achievers in the recent PISA debate. Hence, the current globalization of education knowledge and research remains entangled with the active legacy of coloniality, the uneven global knowledge structure.

Article

Moral and Character Education  

David Ian Walker and Stephen J. Thoma

At core, moral and character education aims to develop the moral person. How this end state develops has been hindered by interest from different theoretical positions, differences between practitioners and theoreticians, different assumptions about how far character is educable, and associated measurement problems. Traditionally, moral education is concerned with the interpretation and strategies one uses to understand moral phenomenon and defines the moral person as a predominantly thinking entity, whereas character education emphasizes the development of habits and dispositions as a precondition for the moral person. Current interest is in finding commonalities across these traditions towards the achievement of human flourishing. These points of intersection have often been overlooked, but current work is demonstrating the importance of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches for practitioners, researchers and policymakers.

Article

Qualitative Design Research Methods  

Michael Domínguez

Emerging in the learning sciences field in the early 1990s, qualitative design-based research (DBR) is a relatively new methodological approach to social science and education research. As its name implies, DBR is focused on the design of educational innovations, and the testing of these innovations in the complex and interconnected venue of naturalistic settings. As such, DBR is an explicitly interventionist approach to conducting research, situating the researcher as a part of the complex ecology in which learning and educational innovation takes place. With this in mind, DBR is distinct from more traditional methodologies, including laboratory experiments, ethnographic research, and large-scale implementation. Rather, the goal of DBR is not to prove the merits of any particular intervention, or to reflect passively on a context in which learning occurs, but to examine the practical application of theories of learning themselves in specific, situated contexts. By designing purposeful, naturalistic, and sustainable educational ecologies, researchers can test, extend, or modify their theories and innovations based on their pragmatic viability. This process offers the prospect of generating theory-developing, contextualized knowledge claims that can complement the claims produced by other forms of research. Because of this interventionist, naturalistic stance, DBR has also been the subject of ongoing debate concerning the rigor of its methodology. In many ways, these debates obscure the varied ways DBR has been practiced, the varied types of questions being asked, and the theoretical breadth of researchers who practice DBR. With this in mind, DBR research may involve a diverse range of methods as researchers from a variety of intellectual traditions within the learning sciences and education research design pragmatic innovations based on their theories of learning, and document these complex ecologies using the methodologies and tools most applicable to their questions, focuses, and academic communities. DBR has gained increasing interest in recent years. While it remains a popular methodology for developmental and cognitive learning scientists seeking to explore theory in naturalistic settings, it has also grown in importance to cultural psychology and cultural studies researchers as a methodological approach that aligns in important ways with the participatory commitments of liberatory research. As such, internal tension within the DBR field has also emerged. Yet, though approaches vary, and have distinct genealogies and commitments, DBR might be seen as the broad methodological genre in which Change Laboratory, design-based implementation research (DBIR), social design-based experiments (SDBE), participatory design research (PDR), and research-practice partnerships might be categorized. These critically oriented iterations of DBR have important implications for educational research and educational innovation in historically marginalized settings and the Global South.

Article

Teacher Education in Australia  

Diane Mayer, Wayne Cotton, and Alyson Simpson

The past decade has seen increasing federal intervention in teacher education in Australia, and like many other countries, more attention on teacher education as a policy problem. The current policy context calls for graduates from initial teacher education programs to be classroom ready and for teacher education programs to provide evidence of their effectiveness and their impact on student learning. It is suggested that teacher educators currently lack sufficient evidence and response to criticisms of effectiveness and impact. However, examination of the relevant literature and analysis of the discourses informing current policy demonstrate that it is the issue of how effectiveness is understood and framed, and what constitutes evidence of effectiveness, that needs closer examination by both teacher educators and policymakers before evidence of impact can be usefully claimed—or not.