Presentation on theme: "Theorising Qualitative Methods: Paradigms and Methods Sheila Riddell, Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity, University of Edinburgh."— Presentation transcript:
Theorising Qualitative Methods: Paradigms and Methods Sheila Riddell, Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity, University of Edinburgh
Issues arising from presentations l How do we access knowledge about the social world? l Tensions: Individual or more generalisable accounts? l Has been framed as tension between qualitative and qualitative research: challenge of post-modernism. Possible out-moded debate – all research makes some claims to generalisability (particularly applied research)
Research in Practice-Orientated Disciplines l Work in some areas (education, social work) criticised for being too applied/not applied enough. l Pressure for liberatory/transformative/emancipatory research l Can lead to reification of users perspectives – refusal to critique. Assumptions of homogeneity. Possible over-simplification in giving people voice. l View that all generalisation/theory should come from users - problematic l Particular challenge – work with people with learning difficulties. How much to interpret/theorise – even use of exact words debated.
Applied versus pure research l Suggestion that new focus on applied research may be damaging. l But could be very good thing for many Cinderella areas l As long as data gathering rigorous, may be used for different purposes –possible to produce theoretically- informed writing from applied research.
Research approaches in applied research centre l Almost all work uses mixed methods – literature reviews, policy analysis, analysis of official statistics, questionnaire/telephone surveys, interviews, focus groups, observation. l Try to critique methods - what do official statistics reveal/occlude e.g. in field of special educational needs l Recent work on Equalities in FE involves contrasting managers account with perspectives of grass-roots staff. l Work on direct payments – contrasts views of disability activists, service users, managers, social workers, trades union officials. Also involves cross-country comparisons.
Challenges of critiquing informants accounts Privileges account of researcher over that of individual social actor – feminist critique. Indefensible arrogance or responsibility of all social researchers? Inevitably happens in selecting & interpreting data & drawing conclusions. But should be done reflexively.
Conclusions l In applied research, mixed methods essential to capture (at least partial view) of complex reality. l Always need to be honest about limitations and nature of truth claims. l Frequently people over-generalise from partial accounts (e.g. special school teachers accounts of school inclusion) l But absolute view of reality cannot ever be achieved – this would be recognised by natural as well as social scientists
Policy approaches: summary l Features of all three policy approaches are currently present in Scotland l New legislation Education Additional Support for Learning (Scotland) Act 2004– attempts shift to systems approach l But arguably weak monitoring/enforcement mechanisms l Little focus on rights of disabled child – professional discretion remains dominant
Impact of policies in practice l Rhetoric of inclusion l But large (increasing?) numbers of children excluded
Impact of policies in practice (1) 2% of pupil population recorded as having SEN New ASL category – potentially much larger Socially structured: 70% of pupils with SEN are boys 67% of pupils attending special schools are boys Strong association with entitlement to free school meals Largest categories: non-normative – mld & sebd
Impact of policies in practice (2) l 2002/03 – 36,946 children excluded from school l Exceeded social justice target l Decision to abandon targets in this area l Exclusions socially structured: l Strong association with entitlement to free school meals & being looked after l 80% of excluded pupils are boys
Conclusions l Individualised approach championed by parents – but associated with identification & exclusion of large numbers of boys from socially disadvantaged backgrounds l Moves to systemic change approach – but will new ASL category produce different outcomes? l Professional discretion continues to dominate field l Civil rights approach has yet to gain significant foothold