Sunday, November 6, 2011

Qualitative Research

What is Qualitative research?
Stephanie Wirt
University of Florida

Qualitative research involves observation, documentation, interpretation and reflection on the part of the researcher.  Through examining the articles Using Participatory Visual Ethnography to Explore Young People's Use of Visual Material Culture in Place by K. Eglinton, Reflections on the Narrative Research Approach by T. Moen, and Qualitative forms of research methods by M. Stokrocki I will discuss key factors of qualitative research as it relates to art education and my research interests.

Key Words: Qualitative Research, Qualitative Inquiry, Narrative

            Qualitative research is guided by questions that have personal significance to the researcher.  The researchers is the leading instrument of investigation who uses a systematic process of describing, analyzing and interpreting to characterize and classify information observed in everyday life (Stokrocki, 1997).  The qualitative approach to research involves studying things in their natural environment as they interact with it in order to make sense of and interpret it.  This type of study involves prolonged observations and engagement with the subject of inquiry   (Moen, 2006). 
            In Qualitative forms of research methods Stokrocki references E. Eisner when discussing the characteristics of qualitative research.  The six key features of qualitative inquiry identified are "1) field-focused, 2) constructed so that the researcher is the instrument, 3) interpretive in nature, 4) expressive in language, 5) highly detailed, and 6) persuasive" (as cited in Eisner, 1991, pp.32-40).  Stokrocki identifies and defines ethnography, micro ethnography, phenomenology, educational criticism, case study, and social critical theory as types of qualitative inquiry.  Moen and Eglinton expand on these categories of inquiry by illustrating the importance of the personal narrative as a method of qualitative inquiry.  With the narrative research approach the researcher is examining to understand, through documentation, reflection and story-telling, the experience of humans as they encounter everyday life situations (Moen, 2006). 
            In Reflecting on the Narrative Research Approach, Moen discusses ideas of Vygotsky and Bakhtin as they relate to narrative research.  Moen agrees with Vygotsky and Bakhtin that any research that considers an individual or single group cannot exist in a vacuum and still be valid (Moen, 2006).  The dialogue of the researcher, whether internal, with participants or audience, is fundamental to qualitative research.  The internal dialogue of the researcher acts as the "talking through" of an idea with one's self in the process of coming to a meaningful conclusion or in solidifying one's own knowledge and understanding.  Meaning is made through shared experience (Moen, 2006).  That sharing of ideas can be through dialogue with other people or with one's self.  Therefore, the voice of the researcher is what constitutes the narrative and acts as the documentation of the research itself.
            My personal research direction involves utilizing both qualitative and quantitative research methods.  In the process of creating curriculum for high school arts based on the big idea of Identity, I will be analyzing the differences between curriculum as designed and curriculum as implemented in preparation for writing a better informed curriculum guide for high school art teachers.  In dealing with contemporary high school students visual and material culture is an important part of their identity construction.  Eglinton points out that the personal narrative is a valuable ethnographic tool in conveying over reaching themes.  She also points out that the "place and space" has largely been left out of visual arts education.  This leads to a disconnection between theories and approaches used to engage teenage students in examining visual material culture (Eglinton, 2008).  With this awareness, I realize that any curriculum I write or implement needs to take into account the place and space of my students.  Therefore I must examine the place and space of my students prior to curriculum design.  It also makes me wonder how I can create curriculum that engages students that exist in a different place and space. 
            In order to investigate my students' perspectives and understanding of their place and space I will need to conduct interviews and utilize surveys.  To do this I will need IRB permission.  However, to investigate my own successes, pitfalls and processes in designing and implementing specific curriculum I will utilize a narrative approach in synthesizing my data collection.  My data collection will take the form of a research journal which describes, analyzes and interprets my daily interactions with my students, my process of curriculum design and implementation.  I essentially will be doing a prolonged study of myself as a practitioner of art education and research, of my students as they interact with me and their experiences in the classroom, and the stages of curriculum design.  All of this in preparation for writing a quality curriculum guide for future high school art teachers.

Eglinton, K. A. (2008). Using participatory visual ethnography to explore young people’s use of visual material culture in place and space. In R. Hickman, (Ed.). Research in art and design education (pp. 51-66). Chicago: Intellect Books.
Eisner, E. (1991). The enlightened eye: Qualitative inquiry and the enhancement of educational practice. New Your: Macmillan
Moen, T. (2006). Reflections on the narrative research approach. International Journal of Qualitative Methodology, 5(4), 1-11.
Stokrocki, M. (1997). Qualitative forms of research methods. In S. D. La Pierre, & E. Zimmerman (Eds.). Research methods and methodologies for art education (pp. 33-56). Reston, VA: NAEA.

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