Critical Reflection on Methodological Studies and Qualitative Approaches

1400 words.At least 8 reference. Please look at the files that I uploaded. The requirements are in the “Methodological studies.”
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All marks are provisional until approved by Exam Boards
Feedback:
This is an excellent piece of work. You have produced a perceptive, scholarly and genuinely reflective
essay. You have developed a thoughtful exploration of your views on the use of qualitative
approaches to ECC research, making links to your personal philosophies and experiences.
There are just a few points where statements could be phrased slightly more fluently. For example:
“… was immediately apparent when I can began to study it more in-depth” – it seems that there is
a minor typographical error here, but the sentence overall could be expressed more simply (I would
avoid “in-depth” in academic work, in particular). This becomes slightly more problematic later (p.
5) where you repeatedly refer to “depth” in this way, where synonymous or more precise terms
related to the context of discussion may have been more effective. This is also one of the few points
in the essay where a slightly wider range of readings might have helped to add depth to your
exposition. These are mostly minor issues of presentation, however, and they do not detract
significantly from the substantive content of the essay which is excellent.
The use of Gibb’s reflective cycle is an excellent addition to the essay, reviewing the feedback from
task one and feeding these ideas into specific actions that you can carry forward into your future
writing. A good range of literature is cited to support much of your line of argumentation and you
have provided a good account of your personal perspective on research methodology.
Name of marker(s): Jamal Lahmar
Grade awarded:
73
Introduction
In this reflection, I will be considering various aspects of research, relating each to my studies
on the Education, Culture and Childhood degree at the University of Sheffield. Firstly, I will
look at various definitions of “qualitative research” and consider how they compare to my own,
personal research philosophy and consequently the effect this has had – and will have – in
studying for my degree. In the second part of this reflection, I will discuss my thoughts on
writing about research methods and outline the importance of this. I will reflect on the feedback
I received from a previous critical reading essay I submitted, using Gibbs’ (1998) reflective
cycle to guide me.
Definitions of ‘qualitative research’
Qualitative research “means different things to different people” (Strauss and Corbin, 1990,
p.10) and most researchers will have their own opinion and views on what qualitative research
is; how it is carried out; and the findings it produces. However, there is a basic consensus
among many academics that ‘qualitative research’ is a form of research where the findings are
not recorded numerically (Saldaa? , 2011, p.3) or, as Bryman (2008, p.366) states, any research
strategy that “emphasises words rather than quantification in the collection and analysis of
data”.
These definitions focus primarily on how data is obtained, whereas my preferred definition
includes looking at how the type of findings from qualitative research make it substantially
different from quantitative research. Flick (2008, p.2) states that qualitative research is
“interested in the perspectives of participants, in everyday practices and everyday knowledge”,
or, as Gonzales et al. (2008, p.3) states more comprehensively, it is research that “provides an
in-depth understanding of intricate issues and focuses on an understanding of the narratives
and observations obtained”.
Essentially, I consider qualitative research as any form of research that aims to extract meaning
from the experiences and attitudes of its participants. Because of the nature of the findings
being obtained, qualitative research methods usually gather data from “interviews,
observations, documents and artefacts” (Sandelowski, 2004, p.1374), rather than “statistical
procedures” (Strauss and Corbin, 1990, p.10).
My preferred definition fits well with my experiences of qualitative research in my degree
studies so far. It accurately describes the research I am planning to carry out as part of a smallscale research project in the upcoming semester and explains the type of data I am hoping to
collect and analyse.
My personal research philosophy
My views on both reading about and conducting research have been heavily influenced and
changed by my time spent studying for my degree so far. Before starting university, I was not
very aware that research philosophies existed, indeed that researchers could develop their own
ideas about the very meaning of research.
I have developed my own understanding and views on research and knowledge, which are best
described as being based on an interpretivist philosophy. I believe that meaning is subjective
and that within a research project, different participants will bring with them “different
understandings and interpretations” (Pring, 2004, p.98). Reality is seen through how we
understand and interpret all the small actions and words that build a social situation, creating
an overall picture of what we accept as knowledge. A researcher creates their own methods to
conduct their research and as such, the two are intertwined and cannot easily be separated
(Strauss and Corbin, 1990, p.4).
My experiences of methodological studies
Studying methodology and methods was not something which I had done much prior to degree
level. However, I have found it an incredibly interesting part of my second-year programme.
The importance of both studying, and writing about methods and methodologies was
immediately apparent when I can began to study it more in-depth. Even without a specific focus
on educational research, everyone has views on methods and their importance in conducting
research. I’m sure almost everyone will have felt exasperated when reading that a product or
service has been rated highly by a large proportion of users, only to discover that the sample
size was very small, or the participants were asked leading questions.
To a certain extent, it can be argued that the basics of methodological study is founded on
common sense, making it easy to learn about. For example, it is fairly evident and simple to
understand that a research project involving a small number of participants cannot accurately
portray the attitudes or beliefs of a whole nation; or that speaking to adults would not be the
best method to gain insight into the experiences of five year olds at school.
Despite research methods and methodology being a very accessible area of learning, I feel I
have learnt a great deal about it, in much more depth, during my second year at university.
During my first year, most modules were based on subject-matter, rather than gathering data
or conducting research. In my first-year assignments, thought was sometimes given to the
credibility of data or claims made in articles by discussing the reliability of the research
methods involved in gaining results. However, this was normally a very brief consideration
and not at all in-depth. It was not until the submission of an essay I wrote reviewing a research
article, in my second year of study, that I gave much greater and in-depth consideration to
methodological studies.
Having studied a wide variety of research methods, such as questionnaires, interviews and
observations, I have learnt that rarely is one research method perfect for one research project.
There are pros and cons for each method, a matter which has been extensively written about in
literature, such as Cohen et al. (2011) who examine in detail the strengths and weaknesses of
different instruments for collecting data in Research methods in education. Often, the way to
obtain the most interesting and valid findings is to use a variety of different methods. This
process of triangulation can help balance out the advantages and disadvantages of different
methods and unearth the most relevant and consistent findings. However, some researchers
argue that “a piece of interpretative research has value and completeness in itself” (Thomas,
2013, p. 146) and therefore triangulation is not always necessary.
Reflecting on feedback from my critical review essay
Academic reflection is the process by which an individual evaluates an experience to “arrive
at a deeper understanding of the incident and surrounding issues” (McMillan and Weyers,
2013, p.7). Reflection is vital for anyone who wants to improve their work. To reflect on the
feedback from my critical review essay, I will be using Gibbs’ (1998) reflective cycle. It aims
to guide reflection to help learners improve their experiences by “involving feelings, thoughts
and recommendations for future actions” (Husebø et al, 2015, p.369).
Overall, I was pleased with the grade I received for my critical review. There were many
positives in my feedback and I found the criticism to be constructive, rather than purely
negative.
The first stage of Gibbs’ reflective cycle is ‘description’ (Husebø et al, 2015, p.370) – there
were two key areas highlighted by the marker of my essay in which improvements could be
made. Firstly, would be to increase the critically of my work, specifically by including more
complementary and more conflicting literature sources. The second key piece of feedback was
to ensure that I applied my analysis in specific relation to the article at hand, rather than in a
more general sense.
By analysing this feedback, I can understand why it was given – recommending I include more
conflicting evidence for my arguments will help me better justify the conclusions I make in
essays. The feedback was informative and helpful, and the clear and direct way in which it was
written has made it easy for me to see where I can do better in future and hopefully improve
my understanding of methodological studies. The final stage of Gibbs’ reflective cycle is
developing an action plan, and if I were to conduct another review of an article, or a similar
task, I would focus on including more conflicting sources to ensure the criticality of my writing
and apply my analysis specifically to the content I was reviewing.
Conclusion
In conclusion, I have enjoyed the methodological studies I’ve undertaken in my degree. I have
developed my own research philosophies which fit well with my experiences of research and
methodological studies so far and are appropriate for the research I would like to read about
more and conduct in future work for my degree. Methodological studies are incredibly
important as without considering them, data that is unreliable will not be exposed and valid
findings cannot be credited as important and reliable.
By reflecting on a critical review I wrote about a research article, I have been able to see the
areas in which I am successful at analysing methods and methodologies, but also I have been
made aware of areas where I have been less successful and as a result have developed an action
plan to enable me to improve my studies surrounding research methods and methodologies in
future.
References
Bryman, A. (2008) ‘The end of the paradigm wars?’. In: Alasuutari, P., Bickman, L., and
Brannen, J. (eds) The Sage Handbook of Social Research Methods. London, Sage
Cohen, L., Manion, L., Morrison, K., and Bell, R. (2011) Research methods in education (7th
ed). London: Routledge
Flick, U. (2008) Designing Qualitative Research. London: SAGE Publications
Gibbs, G., Great Britain Further Education Unit, & FEU (1988) Learning by doing: a guide
to teaching and learning methods. London: FEU
Gonzalez, L., Brown, M. S., and Slate, J. R. (2008) Teachers Who Left the Teaching
Profession: A Qualitative Understanding. The Qualitative Report, 13(1), 1-11
Husebø, S. E., O’Regan, S., and Nestel, D. (2015) Reflective Practice and Its Role in
Simulation. Clinical Simulation in Nursing, 11(8), 368-375
McMillan, K., and Weyers, J. D. B. (2013) How to improve your critical thinking & reflective
skills. Harlow: Prentice Hall
Pring, R. (2004) Philosophy of educational research (2nd ed.). London: Continuum
Saldaa? , J. (2011). Fundamentals of qualitative research. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Sandelowski, M. (2004) Using qualitative research. Qualitative Health Research, 14(10),
1366-1386
Strauss, A., and Corbin, J. (1990) Basics of qualitative research. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE
Thomas, G. (2013) How to do your research project: A guide for students in education and
applied social sciences (Second ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE
All marks are provisional until approved by Exam Boards
Feedback:
This is an excellent piece of work. You have produced a perceptive, scholarly and genuinely reflective
essay.
Though improved from task 1, there are just a few points where the fluency of your expression and
precision of wording could be further-enhanced. For example: “Qualitative research has received
criticism from its quantitative counterparts” – it is odd, in this case, to personify quantitative research
in this way, simply stating that limitations of qualitative research have been identified by some
authors would be a more credible statement. Such issues do not detract significantly from the
substantive content of the work though, which is excellent.
You have developed a thoughtful exploration of your views on the use of qualitative approaches to
ECC research, making links to your personal philosophies and experiences. A very good range of
literature is cited to support your line of argumentation, and you have responded honestly and
appropriately to your positive feedback to task 1.
Just one minor point on formatting: use justified rather than left-alignment. Otherwise, the
presentation of this document is good, with correctly set font-sizing, line-spacing etc.
Name of marker(s):
Jamal Lahmar
Date marked:
21/12/2016
Grade awarded:
75
Introduction
This semester, I have learned about qualitative research and methodologies. I think that
it is worth reflecting on my experience and the knowledge that I have gained from it.
This reflection will cover my views on qualitative research in relation to Education,
Culture and Childhood (ECC). I will begin with my perspectives on qualitative
approaches to ECC research, followed by my opinions on methodological studies in
ECCC research which includes my thoughts on the feedback I have received from my
first assignment.
Qualitative Approaches to ECC Research
According to Cooley (2013) and Holliday (2007), qualitative research’s involvement
within the ECC field occurred due to anthropological and sociological reasons, as
researchers during the fifties were interested in comprehending the way young people
transitioned into adults (Spindler, 2000 as cited in Cooley, 2013). Qualitative research
provided an abundance of subjective detail on the recognising the way humans
operated that quantitative methods were unable to detect, and has grown “from being
an isolated activity… to now being used by countless of educational researchers”
(Cooley, 2013, p.253), with this purpose remaining consistent in modern times.
I have chosen to use Pring’s (2004) definition of ‘qualitative approaches’, which states
that “… qualitative research… addresses that which is distinctive of the personal and
social, namely, the ‘meanings’ through which personal and social reality is understood”
(p.45). This definition relates to my own philosophy on ECC research, as I believe that
the way that we, as human beings, perceive ourselves and the world around us is
shaped by the society we live in and how we process information that is presented to us.
This can result in an array of perspectives, which shows how humans are complex
beings with no singular fixed answer to the world. In my opinion, it is crucial to have a
clear awareness of my subjects and how their diverse contexts contribute to my
understanding of ECC research as the main subjects of it are people living in a world
where education is affected by social constructions. Similar views on the
multidimensional nature of and how society contributes to the way people behave and
perceive the world around them humans are shared by qualitative researchers, along
with the subjectivity that comes with qualitative research and the importance of
understanding the different individual angles that participants provide (Atkins and
Wallace, 2012; Cohen, et al., 2011; Pring, 2004; Thomas, 2013; Wellington and
Szczerbinski, 2007). Bruner (1999 as cited in Pring, 2004) specifically mentions how
“Education – and education research – cannot be kept separate from the life of the
culture at large” (p. 14) and Pring (2004) further elaborates that “Educational
experiences do not leave people as they were. People become, in an important sense,
different persons” (p. 15). They demonstrate how subjective ECC research is and are
statements which I identify with philosophically.
Qualitative research has received criticism from its quantitative counterparts, who
argue that its subjectivity can lead to bias and inaccurate outcomes (Cohen, et al., 2011;
Wellington and Szczerbinski, 2007). It has also been criticised for its “narrowly microsociological perspectives” (Cohen, et al., 2011, p. 21). Although I agree with the
significance of qualitative approaches, placing too much emphasis on its use or
exclusively using it in ECC research. I believe that balance is necessary when conducting
research, especially with people. Researchers should not ignore an opposing approach
just because of contrasting philosophies, but should seek to use both means in a
cohesive manner as they are effective in their own way.
Therefore, I prefer the mixed-methods approach, known as the “third methodological
movement” (Teddlie and Tashakkori, 2009; Johnson et al., 2007 as cited in Cohen, et al.,
2011, p.22). This approach surfaced as a result of the debate surrounding the
dichotomous view on quantitative and qualitative approaches and proposes for a
combined use of the two ways. While it is a relatively new approach, proponents argue
that in a world where both quantitative and qualitative elements exist, using both
approaches can help to strengthen understanding results, aiding in lessening bias and
gathering more accurate data, particularly in ECC research (Cohen, et al., 2011; Ercikan
& Roth, 2006; Niaz, 2008; Wellington & Szczerbinski, 2007). As I am interested in digital
technology and cultures in education, using a mixed-methods approach will give me the
balance necessary for my field of research, with quantiative numbers giving me
statistics of digitally informed or uninformed participants and qualitative methods
addressing the sociocultural aspects and humanistic areas of my research context.
Methodological Studies in ECC Research
Since Kuhn’s (1962 as cited in Cohen, et al., 2011) work, methodological studies has
grown and earned its own field of research (Cohen, et al., 2011). Based on my
experience this semester, I did not find that difficult to study and write about research
methods as it is relatively straightforward and there is an abundance of literature
within the field (Atkins & Wallace, 2012; Cohen, et al., 2011; Cooley, 2013; Ercikan &
Roth, 2006; Hathaway, 1995; Holliday, 2007; Thomas, 2013; Wellington & Szczerbinski,
2007). However, I found it challenging as I have never done it before, and in fact, was
not aware that methodological studies existed until I started this module. Furthermore,
compared to subject-matter related ECC research, I did not find it as stimulating.
According to Giroux (1988 as cited in Greenfield, 2007), “knowledge has to be
meaningful to students before it can be critical” (p.230), and while it has not affected my
criticality, I found it difficult to connect with the topic as I did not have any interest in it
unlike subject-matter topics which I can relate to. Greenfield (2007) i …
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