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Standards for Qualitative Research in Education

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Presentation on theme: "Standards for Qualitative Research in Education"— Presentation transcript:

1 Standards for Qualitative Research in Education
Margaret Eisenhart

2 A Prolegomenon on Standards
Howe, K. & Eisenhart, M. (1990). Standards for qualitative (and quantitative) research: A prolegomenon. Educational Researcher, 19 (4), 2-9.

3 The Trajectory of Debate 1980-90
- Entrenched quantitative methods and standards vs. a highly suspect newcomer - Two strands: 1. Research methods vs. epistemologies 2. Research methods for different purposes

4 Our position: Side with the second strand
Distinguish standards for specific research designs from standards for the general value of an educational research study Focus on standards for general value

5 The Nature of General Standards
Abstract Refer to the educational value (or value added) Apply to both quantitative and qualitative methods

6 5 General Standards (guiding principles)
Specific data collection and analysis methods must be competently applied. Contributions from previous theories, previous research, other relevant literature and researcher subjectivity (bias) should be made explicit The fit between research questions, data collection and data analysis should be clear.

7 Value constraints must be recognized and met.
Overall warrant (validity) must be established by rejecting rival or alternative inferences or explanations. Value constraints must be recognized and met. --Educational research should be valuable to education (external value). --Educational research should be ethical (internal value).

8 What’s Happened to the Debate about Qualitative Standards since 1990?
Epistemology takes center stage Internal value constraints receive lots of attention Other general standards receive little attention

9 National Research Council Committee on Scientific Principles in Education Research (est. 2000).
NRC (2000). Scientific research in education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

10 SRE’s 6 General Principles for High Quality, Scientific Research in Education
Pose significant questions that can be investigated empirically 2. Link research to relevant theory Use methods that permit direct investigation of the question

11 Provide a coherent and explicit chain of reasoning
Replicate and generalize across studies Disclose research to encourage professional scrutiny and debate

12 Side-by Side Comparison
Howe & Eisenhart 1. Competent application of methods External contributions made explicit Fit of research questions, data collection and analysis Overall warrant established Internal and external value constraints met NRC 1. Link research to relevant theory 2. Use appropriate methods 3. Pose significant questions 4. Provide a chain of reasoning 5. Replicate and generalize 6. Disclose research for scrutiny and debate

13 Can We Talk about Shared Standards for the Trustworthiness (Validity and Reliability) of Educational Research? I think so, but both qualitative and quantitative researchers have to take this effort seriously.

14 Necessary First Steps (qualitative and quantitative)
Share a definition of trustworthiness One possibility: When the evidence for the results reported is sound and when the argument made based on the results is strong Make strategies for achieving trustworthiness a formal component of all research designs

15 Qualitative Strategies for Trustworthiness
Identify threats to understanding (of social context, meanings, a group, etc.) in situ. Key Q: How could the researcher’s understandings be wrong?

16 Key References Maxwell, J. (1996). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Maxwell, J. (2002). Understanding and validity in qualitative research. In A.M. Huberman & M.B. Miles (Eds.) The qualitative researcher’s companion (pp ). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

17 4 Kinds of Understandings that Qualitative Research Provides
Descriptive understanding Interpretive understanding Theoretical understanding Generalizability

18 Descriptive validity: Could the description be wrong?
Descriptive accounts must be factually accurate—where the physical, concrete, or behavioral details are agreed to by both researcher(s) and participants.

19 Main strategies to reduce threat:
Main threat: Inaccurate or incomplete evidence Main strategies to reduce threat: Detailed evidence Triangulation of data sources

20 Interpretive validity: Could the interpretation be wrong?
Interpretations must be meaningful to study participants, or meaningful from the participants’ perspective.

21 Main strategies to reduce threat:
Main threat: Imposing the researcher’s own perspective Main strategies to reduce threat: Systematic testing of emergent interpretations against participants’ words and actions Member checks

22 Theoretical validity: Could the theory be wrong?
A theory must provide a good explanation for the phenomena studied. Both the concepts and the relationships among them must be valid.

23 Main strategies to reduce threat:
Main threat: Discrepant data, negative cases, or rival explanations not taken seriously Main strategies to reduce threat: Systematic attempts to find discrepant data and disprove alternative explanations Consensus of other researchers

24 Qualitative generalization
2 kinds Internal (within group or site, but beyond those studied directly) External (to other groups or sites)

25 Main threat to internal generalizability:
Those observed and interviewed not typical of whole group Main strategy to reduce threat: Purposeful sampling Surveying

26 Main threats to external generalizability:
Phenomena studied is a special or idiosyncratic case Main strategies to reduce threat: Site selection Assess generalizability of theory or big idea, not findings

27 A Note on Reliability Qualitative research does not attempt to eliminate variance between researchers or the researcher’s influence on the setting. It does attempt to illuminate how a researcher’s values, expectations, and background influence the study.

28 Threat: Researcher’s influence unclear
Strategy: Audit trails

29 Conclusion General standards for qualitative (or quantitative) research in education are within our reach, but to get there, we must get passed epistemological battles and turn our attention squarely to standards for trustworthiness (validity) that are meaningful (relevant) and useful in our field.

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