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Pursuing research questions with qualitative methods
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Pursuing research questions with qualitative methods



Workshop given by Gail Matthews-DeNatale to the May 2009 NERCOMP SIG on Assessment

Workshop given by Gail Matthews-DeNatale to the May 2009 NERCOMP SIG on Assessment



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  • Action research means integrating your research into the development of your project.
  • Note that worked with the results of two open-ended questions last time. Looking for patterns in large data sets.
  • Caveat:
  • Caveat:
  • Sloan Funded Includes both Quantitative and Qualitative (Triangulation) Pre-Course Peer Assessment Using Checklist Pre- Post- Attitudes and Assumptions Survey (students) CLASSE in Last Week Faculty First Semester Online Journals Videotaped Exit Interviews with Faculty Data Used for Two Purposes Improve Courses (Claudia Morner – improve her presence) Create Media-Rich Case Studies
  • http://at.simmons.edu/blendedlearning/pages/learnhow/casestudies/morner/interview_alone.php MAKE SURE YOU CLICK ON “Crafting Discourse”
  • Bottom image depicts doctors and nurses acting out a service scenario
  • One of the IDEO Staff putting himself through the experience of being admitted as an ER patient. Reviewing the video, say 20 minutes of this [click] Points to the significant difference between the experience/perspective of medical staff and the incoming patient. In what higher education scenarios might this be useful? Experiencing the process of class enrollment from the student perspective What other examples come to mind?? [ask the group]
  • Example from Lowell Community Matters Insert picture of map Map – identify neighborhoods Newcomers interview longterm residents and vice-versa The Lowell exercise could be used between first year students and seniors to look for patterns of acculturation and acclimation Or, [CLICK] Rochester study – asked a group of students to record their movements one day on a map Example – GA Tech library – night staff map the position of movable furniture to assess differences in how day/night students use the space
  • From the University of Rochester Study, Student feedback on paper version of website Paper prototype of a museum exhibit. Museums have experimented with temporary signage that is revised and moved in response to visitor input.
  • For example, to understand the software training needs of students, staff, etc, get permission to shadow several people.

Pursuing research questions with qualitative methods Pursuing research questions with qualitative methods Presentation Transcript

  • Pursuing Your Research Question With Qualitative Methods Gail Matthews-DeNatale Simmons College
  • You are here … but where to begin? What do you do now?
  • A Word on “Qualitative”
    • Related Terms
    • (What’s in a Name?)
    • Ethnographic Research
    • Participatory Design
    • Contextual Inquiry
    • Action Research
    • Core Beliefs
    • The client/learner perspective is different from our own
    • Need to understand the life patterns of those whom we serve/teach
    • It’s worth taking the time to talk with, observe, and try to “walk the life” of these people
    • If we involve clients/learners prior to (and during) the development process, the end result is improved
  • Qualitative Strategies: Usual Suspects
    • Open-ended survey questions
    • Focus groups
    • Observation
    • Interviews
  • Example: Simmons SSW ePortfolios Focus group with pilot student participants How would you describe an ePortfolio to someone who has never seen one? What was easiest about the experience … what was most challenging? With whom have you shared your ePortfolio? What advice would you give to an incoming student who has never created an ePortfolio?
  • Example: Brighton U Usability Lab People often forget the steps they took, where they got lost. Ask participants to do certain tasks (e.g., find something on a web site), then observe them in action. Note: Lab is desirable, but not essential.
  • Example: Simmons Blended Learning
  • Example: Simmons Blended Learning
    • Online Journal Writing Prompts
    • What did you learn about yourself as a teacher this week? What aspects of your course would you describe as a success and why?
    • What challenges are you experiencing as a teacher in this course? What are your quandaries or puzzlements?
    • What appear to be the learning accomplishments and challenges that your students have experienced so far in the course?
    • Looking at how you designed and deployed your course, what things are you glad that you took the time to do? What things would you do differently next time?
  • Example: Simmons Blended Learning
  • Thinking “Out of the Box”
    • Photo elicitation (participant-created)
    • Role Play / Participant Observation
    • Relational Mapping
    • Paper Prototyping
    • Shadowing
  • Photo Elicitation
    • Use the camera provided to take pictures of
    • Your favorite place to study
    • The computer you use in the library
    • One picture of the libraries to show to a freshman
    • All the stuff you take to class
    • The place you keep your books
    • Your favorite person or people to study with
    • A place in the library where you feel lost
    • The night before a big assignment is due
    • Source: Foster and Gibbons, Studying Students (2007)
  • Role Play “ What about designing something that isn’t physical, something like a service or experience, interactions over time? The best way to get a feeling for flaws in your design is to act it out. A place where I think the effort is really worth while, is where people are wrestling with quite serious problems: things like education, security, finance, or health.” Tim Brown (CEO of IDEO)
  • Participant Observation “ Another way to [deepen understanding] is to put ourselves through an experience that we are designing for. To project ourselves into an experience.” Tim Brown (CEO of IDEO)
  • Relational Mapping
  • Paper Prototyping
  • Shadowing
  • 15 Minute Breakout (Record on Flipchart)
    • Which methods are relevant to your group’s research? What other strategies come to mind?
    • How might you use several methods in conjunction with one another to gather a rich, triangulated, set of data?
    • Of the methods you deem relevant, which ones could you implement without additional support or training?
    • What additional resources will you need, and who on your campus might be able to provide that support/training?
  • Interviewing: Asking Good Questions "I've got two pieces of bad news about that experimental English comp course where students used computer conferencing. First, over the course of the semester, the experimental group showed no progress in abilities to compose an essay. The second piece of bad news is that the control group, taught by traditional methods, showed no progress either." From Steve Ehrman, “Asking the Right Questions”
  • Interviewing Truisms No such thing as a “perfect” interview Record practice interviews, review and critique with a trusted friend, person with expertise, etc. The better you listen, the more articulate your interviewees will become Practicing with recording equipment beforehand is like carrying an umbrella Your last interview will be orders of magnitude better than your first – plan accordingly
  • Sequence Matters Begin with “easy” low stakes questions to develop comfort and rapport Cluster questions according to themes, but only ask one question at a time Question clusters should begin with a general query, each question becomes increasingly specific Don’t go lock-step through your questions Consider using pre-interview exercises (e.g., mapping) to “prime the pump”
  • Wording and Pacing Matters Whenever possible, use open-ended questions (questions for which there isn’t a yes/no answer) Beware of questions that betray your assumptions (As a math major, in what ways are your needs for the writing lab diminished?) Good follow-up questions are the mark of a pro (for example? … in what way? … when was that?) Silence is a strategy – if you wait and appear to be interested, most interviewees will elaborate
  • Individually, take five minutes to jot down interview questions that would be relevant to your group’s project. As a group, pool questions – what patterns or clusters emerge? Select 5-10 questions that could be used in a one-on-one interviews for your project. Please also note who you would be interviewing (e.g., students in x year or y department, adjunct faculty, pre-tenure faculty, post-tenure faculty, etc.) 15 Minute Breakout (Record on Flipchart)
  • Gail Matthews-DeNatale Simmons College [email_address]