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Article

A History of Qualitative Research in Education in China  

Manli Li

Since the early 2000s, qualitative research (QR) emerged as an interpretive approach and has gained increasing interest in education in China, while it is deeply rooted in Chinese intellectual history. Indigenously, the concept of QR methodology sought to explore the richness, depth, and complexity of phenomena, which was a way to gain insights through discovering meanings by improving the comprehension of the whole overall. In the 1920s, pioneering intellectuals promoted Western education or new education in the New Culture Movement (around the time of the May 4 Movement in 1919), led by Hu Shih, Chen Tuhsiu, Li Tachao, and others. They actively advocated democracy and science. The May 4th Campaign dealt a heavy blow to the traditional rituals that ruled China for more than 2,000 years. It has inspired people’s democratic consciousness and promoted the development of modern science in China. Quantitative research, like statistical methods, was introduced in the field of education. With the development of theories and methods of probabilistic statistics for studying randomness, small sample theory, statistical estimation, and statistical tests were widely introduced in the 1940s. In the upcoming decades, for many, quantitative research evoked a strong allegiance in academia, particularly in education, since it was considered to be based on a belief in science, perhaps more so than what many considered qualitative research in China. Actually, the relationship between qualitative and quantitative research in education has been fraught with misunderstanding, confusion, and tension in China. After the 1990s, QR, which has been primarily advocated by Western researchers, has also grown in importance in educational and cultural studies in China as a methodological approach to research that aligns in important ways with quantitative research. Thus, internal tensions within the field of education have also emerged. Yet, though both approaches vary and have distinct genealogies and commitments, QR may be seen as a broad methodological genre in which open-ended interviews, participatory and non-participation observation, literature analysis, case studies, and other methods of social phenomena engage in long-term, in-depth, and meticulous studies. Such critically oriented QR has important implications for educational research.

Article

Qualitative Research on Educational Technology in Latin America  

Vani Moreira Kenski and Gilberto Lacerda Santos

Important changes have taken place in the field of educational technology over the last few decades due to leaps in informatics, the explosive growth of the use of computers in schools, and the popularization of the Internet as a tool for teaching and learning. This scenario demands a broader understanding of the educational potential of new resources and didactic materials available to schools and innovative modes of individual and collective action in an increasingly digital society. Such changes have been faster since the start of the 21st century, which saw increased interest in educational technologies and many researchers orienting their studies to the modus operandi of the process of teaching and learning mediated by various types of digital technologies, be they presential, non-presential, hybrid, mobile, collaborative, cooperative, interactive, individualized, assistive, active, ubiquitous, and so on. With this, research in the field of educational technology has been consolidated and has begun to adopt methods of qualitative research that take account of this diversity of objects. This article seeks to point out the contributions of qualitative research methodologies in the formatting of this field of knowledge in Latin America. This is based on an examination of the most widely used scientific journals in the region, drawing on almost 100 articles published between 2016 and 2017. The analysis indicates that educational technology is evolving in Latin America, mainly due to the continuous and accelerated advance of digital information, communication, and expression technologies (DICETs). At the same time, there remains a great lack of scientific journals in the area, an issue that must be addressed given the strategic importance of this field of knowledge for the universalization of education in Latin America. Peer-reviewed journals have prioritized studies based on research and development (R&D) methods that emphasize media engineering for education and have a predominance of case studies. But they also present research problems related to qualitative issues that arise from the use of DICETs in specific teaching and learning situations. The scenario under analysis shows that research in this area has gradually evolved from a strongly technical perspective to a humanist one through qualitative analyses focusing on the limits and possibilities of DICETs. Thus, they raise important clues for future research, such as the challenges of adopting collaborative and interdisciplinary research approaches aimed at better understanding the processes and educational relations mediated by technologies; the new possibilities of hybrid education that can be addressed in different school contexts; and the question of teacher training for this new scenario. Such developments are crucial for advancing knowledge about educational technology in Latin America.

Article

Collaboration in Educational Ethnography in Latin America  

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.

Article

Feminist Theory and Its Use in Qualitative Research in Education  

Emily Freeman

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.

Article

Implications of Queer Theory for Qualitative Research  

Boni Wozolek

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.

Article

Critical Qualitative Research and Educational Policy  

Madeline Good and Sarah Diem

Critical qualitative research is full of possibilities and explorations that can assist in transforming systems for social change and the public good. It is an approach to research that at its core is concerned with the role of power; how it manifests in systems, structures, policies, and practice; and how contexts can contribute to and reify power and its deleterious effects. The use of critical qualitative methods and methodologies within the field of education has grown significantly since the 1990s. This is a large area of work that encompasses studies throughout the spectrum of educational topics, from early childhood learning to higher education and beyond. In the area of educational policy, while scholars use a multitude of critical qualitative methodologies and methods, critical policy analysis (CPA) has continued to grow in popularity. CPA provides opportunities for researchers to question policy in general––how it is formed, implemented, and evaluated, as well as its assumed impact. It is appealing because it gives space for scholars to not only critique educational policy issues but also offer new perspectives, approaches, and alternatives to the policy process. Critical inquiry, however, does not occur within a vacuum, so the dynamics of conducting critical qualitative research within a hyperpolarized sociopolitical context must also be considered. Contentious times make it increasingly important for critical qualitative scholars to (re)commit to the work of transforming education with the goal of creating a more just society. There are a multitude of hopes and opportunities for this burgeoning area of critical research, challenging us all to not only look toward creative approaches when studying issues of educational policy but also to persistently interrogate how our own positionalities and relations impact the work we do.

Article

Writing Qualitative Dissertations  

Sherick Hughes

Writing qualitative dissertations represents an internationally recognized pinnacle for students of higher education. The pressures and incentives for students approaching the dissertation writing landscape are undeniable. Unfortunately, too many doctoral students are offered limited strategies to begin navigating it. Moreover, doctoral students seeking maps from Education and other social science literature to guide them will find limited peer-reviewed scholarship that addresses the complexity of writing defensible qualitative dissertations. Too many doctoral students instead turn to some of the most popular qualitative dissertation textbooks that tend to provide limited representations of the writing landscape, albeit unintentional. These students may begin writing only to find that such landscape representations prepare them inadequately for the complexity of the territory. It is a territory filled with a variety of evolving writing tasks and possibilities. Doctoral students may consider at least seven evolving sets of tasks (ESTs) as strategies for navigating the messy terrain of the qualitative dissertation writing territory.

Article

Philosophical Tenets of Action Research in Education  

Luis Sebastián Villacañas de Castro and Darío Luis Banegas

The juxtaposition of action and research conveys a sense of the richness and complexity of action research, yet it does not entirely translate its nuanced and sophisticated philosophy. In turn, an understanding of this philosophy is crucial for grasping action research’s radical originality. In this context at least, it may be more accurate to define action research by drawing on the term practice, even though it does not form part of the basic conceptual pair. Not only does practice make it easier for us to trace the constellation of philosophical influences behind the theory and practice of action research—from pragmatism to postmodernism, including Greek philosophy and Marxist and psychoanalytic schools of thought—but also to identify where these influences end and action research emerges as the bearer of a nontransferable view. Beyond this, at the heart of action research lies a structural affinity with singular social practices, which are its key ontological sites—that is, the context where action research in each case fills its epistemological and ethical dimensions with meaning. What kind of knowledge does action research aim to produce? What behaviors do action researchers engage in? Compared to other research paradigms in the social sciences—the field of education included—the specific quality of action research has to do with how its epistemological and ethical dimensions are shaped not from without but from within any given social practice. This is the key to its specific ecology. In action research, the epistemological and ethical realms do not stand beyond or above the situated social practices, with their values, principles of procedure, knowledges, and discourses, including their own literacies and modalities—in short, their own internal cultures. Action research conceives and presents itself as a rational and systematic way for members of the different social practices to build and rebuild their own epistemologies and ethics precisely by drawing on, and selecting from, their own internal cultures. How does this ecological perspective translate itself in education? Education is one of the key areas in which action research is generally applied, together with welfare and healthcare. Yet apart from the specific use of action research by educators, action research carries within itself a specific educational philosophy (and a political philosophy as well) which underlies its application, regardless of the specific social practice in which it takes place. In the same way that action research is politically democratic, educationally speaking action research is participatory, meaning that learning, improvement, or development can only be realized through a self-determining process in which people act and research freely upon and among themselves. This is precisely what action research facilitates in the different social practices. Action research is always educational, whether one develops it in education, welfare, or healthcare. As a result, action research has contributed a clear-cut pedagogical model that some critical educators have already imported to their own educational institutions and practices: youth participatory action research.

Article

Research Challenges and Innovative Methodologies, Approaches, and Processes  

S. Anthony Thompson

Investigative practices, including research methodologies, approaches, processes, as well as knowledge dissemination efforts continue to evolve within inclusive or special education. So too do such practices evolve within related fields such as nursing, psychology, community-based care, health promotion, etc. There are several research approaches that promote the tools required to effect inclusive education, such as: evidence-based practice (EBP), EBP in practice, creative secondary uses of (anonymous) data, collective impact, qualitative evidence synthesis (QES), and lines of action (LOA). Other approaches that promote a more inclusive education research agenda more generally, include action research and participatory action research, inclusive research, appreciative inquiry, and arts-based educational research.

Article

Practice-Focused Research in Initial Teacher Education  

Jane Abbiss and Eline Vanassche

A review of the field of practice-focused research in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) reveals four broad genres of qualitative research: case studies of teacher education programs and developments; research into student teacher experience and learning; inquiry into teacher educators’ own learning, identity, and beliefs; and conceptual or theory-building research. This is an eclectic field that is defined by variation in methodologies rather than by a few clearly identifiable research approaches. What practice-focused research in ITE has in common, though, is a desire on the behalf of teacher educator researchers to understand the complexity of teacher education and contribute to shifts in practice, for the benefit of student teachers and, ultimately, for learners in schools and early childhood education. In this endeavor, teacher educator researchers are presented with a challenge to achieve a balance between goals of local relevance and making a theoretical contribution to the broader field. This is a persistent tension. Notwithstanding the capacity for practice-focused research to achieve a stronger balance and greater relevance beyond the local, key contributions of practice-focused research in ITE include: highlighting the importance of context, questioning what might be understood by “improvement” in teacher education and schooling, and pushing back against research power structures that undervalue practice-focused research. Drawing on a painting metaphor, each genre represents a collection of sketches of practice-focused research in ITE that together provide the viewer with an overview of the field. However, these genres are not mutually exclusive categories as any particular research study (or sketch) might be placed within one or more groupings; for example, inquiry into teacher educators’ own learning often also includes attention to student teachers’ experiences and case studies of teacher education initiatives inevitably draw on theory to frame the research and make sense of findings. Also, overviewing the field and identifying relevant research is not as simple as it might first appear, given challenges in identifying research undertaken by teacher educators, differences in the positioning of teacher educators within different educational systems, and privileging of American (US) views of teacher education in published research, which was counteracted in a small way in this review by explicitly including voices located outside this dominant setting. Examples of different types of qualitative research projects illustrate issues in teacher education that matter to teacher educator researchers globally and locally and how they have sought to use a variety of methodologies to understand them. The examples also show how teacher educators themselves define what is important in teacher education research, often through small-scale studies of context-specific teacher education problems and practices, and how there is value in “smaller story” research that supports understanding of both universals and particularities along with the grand narratives of teacher education.

Article

Ethnographic Inquiry in Teacher Education  

José Ignacio Rivas-Flores

Teaching’s purpose is to build a society’s knowledge and skills through a group of students using a curricular proposal within a social and institutional framework. It therefore takes place in institutions specifically created for this purpose, which, as such, represents a culturally constructed environment that is in line with the conditions of the society in which this process unfolds. Thus professional cultures have been historically constructed according to the working conditions, the teaching experiences transmitted from generation to generation, and the evolution of the educational systems. In addition, institutional cultures are developed according to the particular history of each school. Student cultures also form as social groups within these institutions. This represents a complex system that goes beyond mere instruction by curriculum. Preparing the professionals who will go on to work in these institutions requires an understanding of these cultural frameworks and the competence to be able to act on them. Ethnographic research promotes an understanding of educational reality from a critical reflective perspective, and this is only possible if researchers themselves participate in those frameworks. Ethnography can be understood as a shared construction of places for reflection, aimed at comprehending the cultural, social, and political phenomena that involve participants in the processes of change and transformation. Teacher preparation must, therefore, be established with an ethnographic approach, which reconstructs the school experience from a critical reflective perspective. In this way, the conditions for developing a professional identity based on the reconstruction of this experience are created. The theories, in this case, offer the opportunity to pursue this critical dialogue, breaking away from the prescriptive role that they adopt from a positivist perspective. Ethnography contributes to the tasks through three basic dimensions. First, teacher preparation throughout is an object of educational inquiry: there are many research studies of an ethnographic nature that report teacher training methods in an attempt to understand the processes taking place. Second, ethnographies are a tool for preparing future teachers: in this case, this refers to a curricular use of ethnography aimed at future teachers’ understanding of the educational processes through research. Third is a way of understanding learning—in other words, ethnographic attitude as a learning strategy and the use of ethnographic inquiry strategies and tools as means of learning about educational processes. This last case generally entails staying and acting in schools, and it is what most clearly links research and teaching in a shared process.

Article

Action Research  

Eileen S. Johnson

Action research has become a common practice among educational administrators. The term “action research” was first coined by Kurt Lewin in the 1930s, although teachers and school administrators have long engaged in the process described by and formally named by Lewin. Alternatively known as practitioner research, self-study, action science, site-based inquiry, emancipatory praxis, etc., action research is essentially a collaborative, democratic, and participatory approach to systematic inquiry into a problem of practice within a local context. Action research has become prevalent in many fields and disciplines, including education, health sciences, nursing, social work, and anthropology. This prevalence can be understood in the way action research lends itself to action-based inquiry, participation, collaboration, and the development of solutions to problems of everyday practice in local contexts. In particular, action research has become commonplace in educational administration preparation programs due to its alignment and natural fit with the nature of education and the decision making and action planning necessary within local school contexts. Although there is not one prescribed way to engage in action research, and there are multiple approaches to action research, it generally follows a systematic and cyclical pattern of reflection, planning, action, observation, and data collection, evaluation that then repeats in an iterative and ongoing manner. The goal of action research is not to add to a general body of knowledge but, rather, to inform local practice, engage in professional learning, build a community practice, solve a problem or understand a process or phenomenon within a particular context, or empower participants to generate self-knowledge.

Article

Attitudes and Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs in Regular Schools  

Elias Avramidis and Anastasia Toulia

There has been a proliferation of studies examining attitudes toward the inclusion of students with special educational needs (SEN) in regular education settings. Most studies to date have focused on examining the attitudes regular teachers hold toward inclusion on the assumption that their acceptance of the policy of inclusion is likely to affect their commitment to implementing it. Other researchers have directed their attention to the attitudes held by typically developing children toward their peers with SEN and, to a lesser extent, to the attitudes of parents toward the inclusion of students with SEN in their children’s classroom. Teachers have been found to generally hold positive attitudes toward the notion of inclusion, which are largely affected by the severity of the child’s disability, the level of in-service training received, the degree of prior teaching experience with students with SEN, and other environment-related factors. Typically developing students have been found to hold neutral attitudes toward their peers with SEN. Age, prior experience of studying in inclusive settings, and parental influence seem to influence their attitudes. Studies on parents’ attitudes have revealed neutral-to-positive attitudes toward the general notion of inclusion. Several factors were found to influence parental attitudes, such as their socio-economic status and education level along with their child’s type of disability. Most attitudinal research to date has described static situations through the employment of single methodological research designs. Consequently, there is a need for mixed-method studies that employ coherent and, wherever possible, longitudinal research designs.

Article

Disciplinarity and Educational Research  

David Bridges

Inquiry is not honored as “research” unless it is marked by some kind of discipline in the sense of its systematic and sustained approach, the rigor of its methods, or perhaps its situated scholarship—its disciplined character. Historically and in the contemporary academy, such discipline has been differentiated and socially institutionalized in the form of disciplines—forms of knowledge distinguished (not always tidily) by their methods of inquiry, central concepts, and a body of scholarship. Interdisciplinarity, cross-disciplinarity, and transdisciplinarity presuppose disciplinarity, and if they are to stand as research, they require some kind of rigor or discipline. Education in itself is not a distinctive discipline in this sense; rather, it is a field of inquiry that draws on the wide range of disciplinary resources available in the academy including disciplinary, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary approaches to its themes. At one stage educational research drew especially on the disciplines of history, philosophy, psychology, and sociology, though this formulation has varied internationally and has evolved over time as new disciplines have joined the traditional disciplines and these have at the same time fragmented and hybridized. These developments, among others, have led to notions of postdisciplinarity, but discipline in research is a condition both of discerning what is most deserving of belief and of making a “community of arguers” possible, however its particular forms evolve and expand.

Article

Sonic Ethnography in Theory and Practice  

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.