Teaching research methods: do
tutor conceptions of methodology
matter?
Mark NK Saunders
Frank Bezzina
1

The Surrey Busine...
Aim and contribution
 Highlight the issue of differing tutor conceptions about the
nature of research and methodology pra...
Overview of the argument
 Notion of misconceptions regarding research focuses on
students and in particular use of quanti...
The nature of misconceptions…
 framed as views or opinions that are incorrect due to faulty
thinking/misunderstanding
 r...
Misconceptualising research… from the
literature
 Interferes with students’ learning and be unproductive (Smith
et al., 1...
Conceptions of research
methodology
 theory of how research should be undertaken
not
 specific techniques used to obtain...
Conceptions regarding the nature of
research…
 Considerable agreement in text books…
 clear purpose –answering question,...
Conceptions regarding the
nature of research practice…
more variable…
 methodological plurality v. continued ‘paradigm wa...
Method
 Purposive sample of critical cases
 documented interest in RM
Questionnaire
 35 randomly ordered Likert style q...
Procedure
Email
with web
link

540

Responded
after 1
reminder

224

Noncompletion
despite
consent

Complete
response

-34...
Tutor conceptions on the nature
of research vary significantly
 Variability in responses particularly regarding focus:
 ...
Tutor conceptions of research
practice differ significantly between
quantitative and qualitative traditions
+ qualitative ...
Tutor conceptions of research
practice differ significantly between
mixed method and qualitative traditions
M “objectivity...
Discussion: do different
conceptions of the nature of
research matter?
 There are differing conceptions between those wit...
Discussion: do different
conceptions of research practice
matter?
 Conceptions of research practice differ according to t...
My personal view (as a pluralist)
 Academics’ conceptions do differ so, as suggested by Huck
(2009) students (mis)concept...
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Teaching research methods: do tutor conceptions of methodology matter - Mark Saunders & Frank Bezzina

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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, Technology, Business
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Teaching research methods: do tutor conceptions of methodology matter - Mark Saunders & Frank Bezzina

  1. 1. Teaching research methods: do tutor conceptions of methodology matter? Mark NK Saunders Frank Bezzina 1 The Surrey Business School www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs
  2. 2. Aim and contribution  Highlight the issue of differing tutor conceptions about the nature of research and methodology practice and their implications for learning and teaching  Contribute by:  Outlining evidence that academics hold differing conceptions about the nature of research  …and about research methodology (practice)  Raising awareness of the likely implications of these findings for *designing and planning learning activities (A1) *developing effective learning environments, particularly re supporting projects/dissertations (A4) 2 2 The Surrey Business School www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs 2
  3. 3. Overview of the argument  Notion of misconceptions regarding research focuses on students and in particular use of quantitative methods  Yet misconceptions depend on epistemological arguments  Misconceptions tend to privilege a particular epistemological standpoint rather than adopt relativist position  Students’ conceptions of research methodology shown to differ and, dependent upon epistemological viewpoint of researcher, may be considered misconceptions  Research argues misconceptions can be corrected in the classroom  But do those involved in teaching have different conceptions and, in effect, privilege different views? (paradigm wars?) dependent upon their methodological expertise.  If they do … what are the likely implications?The Surrey Business School 3 3 www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs 3
  4. 4. The nature of misconceptions…  framed as views or opinions that are incorrect due to faulty thinking/misunderstanding  reflected in the contextulalised beliefs/ideas/understandings of those researching (Meyer et al., 2005)  considered deviations from widely accepted norms  can be grounded in intuition, (unorthodox) assumptions, or generated by inconsistencies in texts, academics’ classes (Huck 2009) 4 4 The Surrey Business School www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs 4
  5. 5. Misconceptualising research… from the literature  Interferes with students’ learning and be unproductive (Smith et al., 1993)  -may be overcome by instructional confrontation (Brown & Clement 1989; Kawulich, 2009)…  but may not (Mavareck, 1983; Garfield 1995)  Academics can add support to students’ misconceptions if they also hold them (Huck, 2009) but….  is a ‘deviant’ (or alternative) conception a misconception?  do academics recognise the legitimacy of alternative The Surrey Business School conceptualisiations? 5 5 www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs 5
  6. 6. Conceptions of research methodology  theory of how research should be undertaken not  specific techniques used to obtain data  specific procedures used to analyse data Research questions… 1. Are differing conceptions regarding the nature of research prevalent among academics? 2. To what extent do academics in the quantitative, qualitative and mixed-method traditions hold differing conceptions of research practice? 6 6 The Surrey Business School www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs 6
  7. 7. Conceptions regarding the nature of research…  Considerable agreement in text books…  clear purpose –answering question, solving problem, finding out…  systematic –based on logical relationships,  involve distinct alternative perspectives  subject to multiple interpretations  need to be aware of impact own and others’ biases  Limited research on conceptions  studies refer to students’ misconceptions 7 7 The Surrey Business School www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs 7
  8. 8. Conceptions regarding the nature of research practice… more variable…  methodological plurality v. continued ‘paradigm wars’  dominance of North American and, in particular, quantitatively orientated positivistic tradition  quantitative-qualitative distinction: is it crucial or false?  superiority of a particular method  growing recognition of value of mixed method 8 8 The Surrey Business School www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs 8
  9. 9. Method  Purposive sample of critical cases  documented interest in RM Questionnaire  35 randomly ordered Likert style questions  nature of research (13 statements) -Meyer et al., 2005  conceptions quantitaitive and qualitative traditions (22 statements) –Harper and Kuh (2007), Eby et al (2009)  6 closed demographic questions including…  highest qualification  expertise in RM  involvement in RM teaching 9 9 The Surrey Business School www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs 9
  10. 10. Procedure Email with web link 540 Responded after 1 reminder 224 Noncompletion despite consent Complete response -34 190 10 10 The Surrey Business School www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs
  11. 11. Tutor conceptions on the nature of research vary significantly  Variability in responses particularly regarding focus:  “research is basically a tool about answering questions”  “research means finding out more information about what is already there”  “research is about finding solutions to problems  “when academics do research the results are always unbiased”  But there are no significant association between these differences and research traditions 11 11 The Surrey Business School www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs 11
  12. 12. Tutor conceptions of research practice differ significantly between quantitative and qualitative traditions + qualitative research lacks internal validity + qualitative research lacks construct validity + qualitative research contributes little to the advancement of knowledge + qualitative research lacks methodological rigour + qualitative research is only useful when corroborated by numbers + objectivity is the gold standard of research + subjectivity compromises accuracy - there are no universally superior research methods + research is the quest for truth 12 12 The Surrey Business School www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs 12
  13. 13. Tutor conceptions of research practice differ significantly between mixed method and qualitative traditions M “objectivity is the gold standard of research” M “subjectivity compromises accuracy” There are no significant differences between mixed method and quantitative traditions 13 13 The Surrey Business School www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs 13
  14. 14. Discussion: do different conceptions of the nature of research matter?  There are differing conceptions between those with expressed interest in methodology  Conceptions of nature of research vary but not according to tradition.  Is this a cause for concern in designing and planning learning?  Is this a cause for concern in supporting students (e.g. dissertations/projects)?  If it is a cause for concern, how might we address it? 14 14 The Surrey Business School www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs 14
  15. 15. Discussion: do different conceptions of research practice matter?  Conceptions of research practice differ according to tradition:  In particular differences in agreement with others’ conceptions persist between quantitative and qualitative traditions persist but…  Does finding fault with one, based on the standards of another promote understanding of methodology?  What are the implications of this for learning and teaching?  Is this a cause for concern, and how might we address it? 15 15 The Surrey Business School www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs 15
  16. 16. My personal view (as a pluralist)  Academics’ conceptions do differ so, as suggested by Huck (2009) students (mis)conceptions may be generated by their tutors  Such conceptions may interfere with learning of concepts (Smith et al., 1993)  As Research Methods teachers we need to:  adopt a pluralist approach in designing courses exposing students to various methodologies  articulate the reasoning behind differing conceptions in the traditions whilst highlighting the utility of each and…  …be open about to students about our own preferences whilst stressing legitimacy of alternatives 16 16 The Surrey Business School www.surrey.ac.uk/sbs 16

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