Qualitative management research:
the experiences of teachers and
learners
Professor Catherine Cassell
January 2014
Presentation Plan
• Background: the literature in this area

• Images of qualitative research
• The research project:
– Th...
Background
• There is little attention in the literature to how the
skills of conducting qualitative research are
acquired...
The literature: metaphors of
learning qualitative research
• Craftwork (Locke, 2011)

• Quiltmaker or bricoleur (Denzin an...
How we see qualitative
research
• Messy, ambiguous

• Complex
• Takes a long time to develop the skills to
do it well
• Ab...
Issues for the MBA audience
• Diverse audience

• Often working in a second language
• Do managers see qualitative skills ...
The research
• MBA students each completed a 500 word reflective
account of their experience of conducting
qualitative res...
Write a 500 word reflective account of your
experience of conducting qualitative
research (data collection and analysis). ...
Findings
• Perhaps not surprisingly students
reported learning lot about what was
required to be a qualitative researcher....
Practising skills: the interview
• The interview was a key source of learning e.g.
finding interviews; developing rapport;...
Practising skills: the analysis
• The analysis was seen as enabling an
understanding of the diversity of
information that ...
Challenging mindsets and
developing reflection
• Students suggested that the exercise had
encouraged them to think in new ...
Implications for teaching and
learning practice
1. Enabling practice

2. Managing the ambiguity of qualitative
research
3....
1. Enabling practice
1. These findings echo previous research
about the importance of practice (e.g.
Cassell et al, 2009; ...
2. Managing the ambiguity of
qualitative research
This group found the lack of control
associated with the interview parti...
3. Critiquing pre-existing epistemological
assumptions
Many difficulties arose here from the
automatic and uncritical appl...
4. Ensuring opportunities for reflection
Here the development of reflective skills
was important in that it enabled them t...
Reflection
• Writing this paper has cast light upon some
of my own teaching processes, in particular
my assumptions regard...
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Qualitative management research: the experiences of teachers and learners - Catherine Cassell

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Presentation for the HEA-funded workshop ‘Teaching Research Methods in Business and Management’.

Drawing on a mixture of practice and evidence, this one-day event provided an opportunity for those interested in the teaching of research methods in Business and Management – including qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods – to share experiences, insights, and good practice, and to discuss challenges and explore potential solutions.

This presentation forms part of a blog post reporting on the event which can be accessed via: http://bit.ly/1fcTwna

For further details of HEA Social Sciences work relating to teaching research methods in the Social Sciences please see http://bit.ly/15go0mh

Published in: Education, Business, Technology
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Qualitative management research: the experiences of teachers and learners - Catherine Cassell

  1. 1. Qualitative management research: the experiences of teachers and learners Professor Catherine Cassell January 2014
  2. 2. Presentation Plan • Background: the literature in this area • Images of qualitative research • The research project: – The learners – Data collection and analysis • Findings – Practising skills through the interview and the analysis – Challenging mindsets and developing reflection • Discussion: implications for management teaching and learning in this area.
  3. 3. Background • There is little attention in the literature to how the skills of conducting qualitative research are acquired • Qualitative research is a diverse field with a range of complex epistemologies and methodological approaches (Symon and Cassell, 2012) • Many qualitative researchers suggest that the skills are best learned by doing and there are interesting reflective and reflexive accounts available (e.g. van Maanen; 2011)
  4. 4. The literature: metaphors of learning qualitative research • Craftwork (Locke, 2011) • Quiltmaker or bricoleur (Denzin and Lincoln, 2005) • Learning to play a musical instrument (Humphreys, 2006)
  5. 5. How we see qualitative research • Messy, ambiguous • Complex • Takes a long time to develop the skills to do it well • About understanding patterns and making connections • Multiple interpretations throughout.
  6. 6. Issues for the MBA audience • Diverse audience • Often working in a second language • Do managers see qualitative skills as useful? • Philosophical disputes can be daunting for the newcomer (Harlos et al, 2003) • Learning shock (Griffiths et al, 2005).
  7. 7. The research • MBA students each completed a 500 word reflective account of their experience of conducting qualitative research as part of an assignment for a research and consultancy module designed to prepare students for real life consultancy projects • The assignment involved conducting a research interview with a client and analysing the data using an established method of analysis. • Had previously received just 7 hours tuition in qualitative methods • Analysed 172 accounts using template analysis aided by Nvivo.
  8. 8. Write a 500 word reflective account of your experience of conducting qualitative research (data collection and analysis). This could include some reflection on what you learned from the process of conducting the assignment and your views about the potential value and role of qualitative research in a business and management context. Please start this account on a new page and ensure that your pin number is not on that page.
  9. 9. Findings • Perhaps not surprisingly students reported learning lot about what was required to be a qualitative researcher. Two main sources of learning: – Practising skills through the interview and the analysis – Challenging mindsets and developing reflection
  10. 10. Practising skills: the interview • The interview was a key source of learning e.g. finding interviews; developing rapport; asking the right questions • The interview itself caused the greatest reported anxiety, mainly because students expected to have far more control over the interview than they found they actually had • Being a non-native speaker was generally seen as problematic though an alternative view was put forward.
  11. 11. Practising skills: the analysis • The analysis was seen as enabling an understanding of the diversity of information that could come out of an interview • Major concerns emerged from existing epistemological assumptions • Such assumptions were influenced by the students previous backgrounds.
  12. 12. Challenging mindsets and developing reflection • Students suggested that the exercise had encouraged them to think in new ways and facilitated open-mindedness • This led to a recognition that learning might be unexpected • Some students suggested that their learning had not initially been apparent but the demands of the reflective brought it to the fore. • In some cases students reflected back on what they had done in life before the MBA and critiqued that in the light of this new knowledge.
  13. 13. Implications for teaching and learning practice 1. Enabling practice 2. Managing the ambiguity of qualitative research 3. Critiquing pre-existing epistemological assumptions 4. Ensuring opportunities for reflection.
  14. 14. 1. Enabling practice 1. These findings echo previous research about the importance of practice (e.g. Cassell et al, 2009; Locke, 2011; Galliers and Huang, 2012). Practising skills enables students to experience some of the unanticipated things that may occur as part of a qualitative research process. How can students gain opportunities to practice their qualitative research skills is such time-bound courses?
  15. 15. 2. Managing the ambiguity of qualitative research This group found the lack of control associated with the interview particularly problematic. This conception of the interview neglects the relational element of the process and sees it as a one sided encounter to the benefit of the interviewer. How can we effectively prepare students for the ambiguities they will face?
  16. 16. 3. Critiquing pre-existing epistemological assumptions Many difficulties arose here from the automatic and uncritical application of positivist concepts and criteria such as reliability, objectivity, validity and bias How can we re-assure students that it is usual for there to be multiple interpretations through the analysis process? How can we teach criteriology on the MBA?
  17. 17. 4. Ensuring opportunities for reflection Here the development of reflective skills was important in that it enabled them to think about what they had learned from doing the interview and the analysis. Indeed this was clearly an important part of the assignment. Developing opportunities for reflection is crucial. How do we develop opportunities for reflection when limited time is available for a research methods curriculum?
  18. 18. Reflection • Writing this paper has cast light upon some of my own teaching processes, in particular my assumptions regarding MBA students • I have realised I am somewhat removed from my original experiences of learning to do qualitative research. As Humphreys (2006) points out, as experienced management educators and qualitative researchers we sometimes forget what it feels like to be the novice.

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