It is important that you have a basic understanding of the characteristics of three approaches to research as we have identified them: (1) realist/scientific/post-positivist (quantitative), (2) subjective/interpretive/constructivist (qualitative), and (3) critical/transformative. To get an overview of the characteristics and differences among the three genres refer to Chapters 1 and 2 of Creswell (2012), Cohen’s Chapter 1, and particularly the two charts: Characteristics of Research Genres and Philosophical Stances. This assignment is intended to assist you in exploring these three approaches used in conducting educational research. Familiarizing yourself with research in education and in the social sciences generally means that you should be able to identify the research approach used by social scientists.
There is considerable diversity in how educational researchers approach their research as well as in the methods they use. The three approaches mentioned provide a framework that attempts to make sense of this wide array, and hopefully helps us to better understand the research that we read. A number of the methods used by researchers fall generally within these three main categories—but we recognize that there are others which do not (e.g., feminist methods and philosophical analysis).
There are different labels applied to the various research approaches. The breakdown we use parallels the one put forth by several authors including Cohen, Manion, and Morrison (2007; also 2003). These authors differentiate between positivist research, which can be thought of as traditional scientific, and naturalist research, which is interpretivist, even anti-positivist. These two categories were historically labelled quantitative and qualitative, which indicates the type of data that is common to each approach. The quantitative and qualitative language is very common, and it is what Creswell (2012) uses. Cohen et al. further identify the category of critical inquiry, which includes the political and idealogical contexts in which research is conducted and that impinge on the research process. The intent in this approach is to deliberately emancipate individuals and groups, to transform society, not just to understand them as is the overriding goal of the first two approaches.
Cohen et al. (2007, p. 27; also 2003) summarized the central concern of each of the three thus:
• Realist/scientific/post-positivist—prediction and control
• Subjective/interpretive/constructivist—understanding and interpretation
• Critical/transformative—emancipation and freedom.
Find three research papers on a topic of interest, one representing each of these research approaches (but not mixed methods).
Choose a topic—presumably a research area of interest to you (e.g. class size, inclusion, technology in the classroom, differentiated instruction, homework, classroom assessment, full day kindergarten, ESL). It is preferable to use a common theme for all three articles, but you may need to use a different topic for an article because some topics do not lend themselves readily to all three approaches. Use your knowledge of the characteristics that define the three genres to select the three articles so that each is clearly representative of the approach. Choose only credible, peer reviewed journals. Do not use newspapers or popular magazines.
It may be useful to develop search criteria to find the articles. This means thinking about appropriate key words to use in your search. For example if you are interested in effective teacher professional development you may start with “teacher professional development”. You may then need to narrow your search using more specific key words like “mathematics” or “learning communities”. You may also choose key words that represent branches of the particular tradition of inquiry in which you are interested, like “interpretive” or “feminist”.
Characterize the study according to five important descriptors of the particular genre.
The article is to be selected based on the characteristics for that particular genre—realist/scientific/post-positivist (quantitative), subjective/interpretive/constructivist (qualitative), or critical/transformative. Begin with the Characteristics or Philosophical chart and the information found in your textbook, and choose the five characteristics you will use to apply for each study. Include the three abstracts in your paper, and the reference for each abstract. You do NOT have to use the same characteristics or philosophical stances for the three abstracts. You are asked to include the abstracts in your assignment, but you will need to read the entire study to understand the research and should refer to the study to support the characteristics you choose.
Part 1. (a) List and describe five characteristics (you may mix from both charts) or philosophical stances of the appropriate genre which apply to each of the three studies you have chosen. For each characteristic or philosophical stance, explain in your own words what the characteristic or philosophical stance means (you may use quotes from Creswell and others), and state clearly how this characteristic or philosophical stance applies to the article (use an example from the article for support). Three or four sentences for each characteristic or philosophical stance are appropriate.
As an example, a common characteristic that is used to distinguish realist/scientific/post-positivist (quantitative) and subjective/interpretive/constructivist (qualitative) is from “data representation”. Quantitative research uses numerical data and qualitative research often uses words as data. Quantitative research often asks questions such as “what is the effect of…” or “what is the difference…” These questions are commonly answered through statistically analyzing numerical data. Qualitative research asks questions such as “what does it mean to…” or “what do girls think about…” These questions are commonly answered by coding quotes from the participants into themes. (Please do not use this example in your assignment.)
(b) For each article, briefly explain why you think the authors decided upon the research approach that was used in the study. HINT: The reason should be related to the problem or purpose of the study. Then briefly explain why the other two research approaches were not chose. Give brief examples from the articles to support your explanations.
(c) How could you modify or extend this study using one of the other research approaches? Be specific and use an example for support.
Part 2. Read the three attached abstracts. Decide whether each study fits best with realist/scientific/post-positivist, subjective/interpretive/constructivist, or critical/transformative research. Choose one characteristic and one philosophical stance from the charts for each abstract, and provide an example from each abstract to support each characteristic and philosophical stance.
Part 3. Choose the research approach which you think best fits your worldview. You may find that you share characteristics or philosophical stances from more than one approach, but one approach may dominate. For part 2 of the assignment, you may also consider the mixed methods research approach. Choose three characteristics or philosophical stances for the research approach and connect these to your research interests. Use examples to support your reasoning. To illustrate, I might choose mixed methods and say that for one philosophical stance, epistemologically there are many kinds of knowledge that are both important and valid. Thus, if I am researching whether professional development has benefited teachers, I would value the teachers’ thoughts about what they learned and how they think they are implementing the “new teaching approach”, and could interview teachers. I could also use a measure of student achievement to see if the student results would complement or expand the teachers’ thoughts. In this way, I consider both kinds of knowledge valid and important.
Include the abstract for each article, including the complete reference, in the body of your assignment. Simply copy and paste the abstract from the website where you found the article.
The assignment may be completed in a grid/table format or whatever you prefer for clarity and organization.
Include references (to document your articles and additional references that you use). Use APA style.
Evaluation: Part 1- 15/20 marks, Part 2 – 3/20 marks, Part 3 – 2/20
Text book: he textbook for the course is: Creswell, John W. (2015, fifth edition), Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research; Pearson, Merrill, Prentice Hall. ISBN: 9780133831535