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CONSIDERING RESEARCH METHODOLGY IN EDUCATION 1

Individual Journal Assignment:


Considering Research Methodology in Education
Karina Zanrosso
ETEC 500-65A
University of British Columbia
Prof. Sunah Cho
Feb 23, 2016

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The field of research methodology is constantly changing, and so too are the

views held towards the value, validity, and relevance of the diverse research methods,

particularly between both qualitative and quantitative methods. Up to this point in

time, many qualitative researchers and quantitative researchers did not see the

legitimacy in the other approach to doing research. However, members of both research

camps began to realize, on a deeper level, the value of the alternate approach (Mertler,

2016). From an educational standpoint, and when considering and assessing the value in

different methods of research with regards to education, one must take a step back and

remember the simple purpose of research. The purpose of research is to generate

knowledge rather than to realize one method or another [] research questions, not

method ought to drive education research (Ercikan & Roth, 2006). It is this

aforementioned generating of knowledge that must be given priority when researchers

plan, assess, and execute their studies with their preferred method(s).

As we know, []both qualitative and quantitative research methods are

valuable in their own right. One is not inherently superior or inferior to the other. Both

approaches to research are scientific in particular ways, and each has its own strengths

and weaknesses. Since they each contribute important research findings that help us

better understand educational phenomena, most educational researchers would agree

that educational problems are best investigated using whatever method or methods are

most appropriate for the research situation. (Mertler, 2016). There are many variables

to be considered when one is faced with the task of deciding on the appropriate research

method. Questions such as:

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Who are my participants? What kinds of information do I want to collect? What kinds of

information am I able to collect? How much time do I have to gather? How will I analyze my

data? are to be considered. Rather that focusing too much on the method itself, one must

place more focus on the research and its purpose.

In the article, What Good is Polarizing Research into Qualitative and

Quantitative? we are encouraged to put the research question itself first, allowing that

to guide the decisions around choosing a research method. Ercikan and Roth focus on

the somewhat harmful and all too common polar distinction between qualitative vs.

quantitative research, suggesting that this view can be limiting for research and can

lead to inappropriate inferences based on findings. This article aims to inform us that

the question should drive the method selection, and the approach to research should be

integrative and chosen in such a way that best suits the research question(s). We are

encouraged to move beyond this polarization and see things through a different lens-

one that emphasizes unique research aims that are not necessarily meant to fit into

either category.

In contrast to Ercikan and Roths work, Denzin discusses the threats that exist

to validity and ethics more specifically while focusing on qualitative research in his

article, The elephant in the living room: or extending the conversation about the

politics of evidence. He uses the analogy of the elephant in the room to emphasize the

evidence-based model whose threats can no longer be ignored. And although Ercikan,

Roth and Denzin may be in agreement with certain aspects of addressing research

methodology, there is a distinct difference with regards to mixed-methods research; in

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fact, one could argue they disagree completely about the value of mixed method

research. While Denzin sees it a threat, Ercikan and Roth favour an integrated

approach. Denzin sees mixed method research as a threat to validity and claims that a

return to mixed-methods inquiry fails to address the incommensurability issue-the fact

that the two paradigms are in contradiction (Denzin, 2009). Unlike Ercikan and Roth,

Denzin feels the need to look closely at qualitative measure to address the threat this

gold standard poses throughout the world today.

Considering both articles, and from an educational standpoint, I find myself

agreeing with Ercikan and Roth in terms of a more integrated approach to research,

particularly in seeing that value of mixed methods research and a strong emphasis in

letting the question guide the researcher. As an educational researcher, I would most

often favour a mixed method approach for a number of reasons. Of course, every method

will have certain limitations, however, []one of the distinct advantages of mixed-

methods research is that the strengths of one type of data and analysis can often be used

to offset the weaknesses of the other (Mertler, 2016).

There are certain questions in education that rely on both methods in order to get a

better understanding of the problems/issues present.

For instance, in education research is often conducted in hopes to explore a

certain trend or issue that exists in hope to implement or make changes to policy,

curriculum, assessment practices, etc. For example, one may examine the idea of

anonymous peer feedback and increased student achievement. After looking at existing

literature on this topic, and generating research questions, the researcher decides that

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using qualitative methods will be most beneficial. They then decide to study several

classes under the same instructor-some using anonymous peer feedback and others not,

to determine the benefits that anonymous peer feedback has on student achievement.

Through observations and having students participate in the same structured peer

feedback process, the researcher is able to gain insight and develop hypotheses for

further quantitative research. They may find that in fact there is in fact a positive impact

on student achievement when using anonymous peer feedback. From here, the research

decides to delve deeper into this research, as they realize their original sample size is

small and they wish to generate results from a larger sample population. Perhaps they

want to include other instructors within that educational institution and have a more

structured approach in terms of gathering numerical data. This is a good example of

how incorporating quantitative research could potentially address the limitations of the

former method. The researcher may decide to conduct an online survey and/or face-to-

face interviews to all instructors that currently use or have used anonymous peer

feedback, and examine the perceived benefits on student achievement. In doing so, they

are able to gather information around attitudes and opinions from a much larger sample

population. This researcher has now employed a mixed method approach to best suit

their research needs and gather the most relevant and accurate data as possible.

A mixed-method approach is one that combines quantitative and qualitative

approached by including both quantitative and qualitative data in a single research

study (Gay, Mills & Airasian, 2009). Instead of including only one instructor and their

students, the researcher is able to expand their research and include many more

instructors in hope to address any flaws, or generalizations that may be self-fulfilling in

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nature. In this case, an instructors teaching style and delivery itself may have influence

on the impact of the peer feedback process, and the overall results; by incorporating

quantitative methods, one may address this bias. This is one example where a researcher

may decide that combining both methods is the best possible option in addressing their

initial research question.

In combining both qualitative and quantitative measures, not only can one offset

weaknesses of each, but they also have more options, flexibility, and a much more

tailored approach to addressing their research question. To some degree, one could

argue that almost all research is flawed, and as researchers it is our responsibly to do

our best to reduce these flaws; we must be aware of bias, self-fulfilling prophecies, as

well as skewed generalizations. With that said, using both methods has the potential to

cover as many perspectives as possible.

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References

Denzin, N. K. (2009). The elephant in the living room: or extending the conversation about the
politics of evidence. Qualitative Research, 9(2) 139160.

Ercikan, K., & Roth, W-M. (2006). What good is polarizing research into qualitative and
quantitative? Educational Researcher, 35, 14-23.

Mertler, C. A. (2015). Introduction to Educational Research. Sage Publications.