Research Issues and Methods: An Introduction for Educational Technologists
40. QUALITATIVE RESEARCH ISSUES AND METHODS: AN INTRODUCTION FOR EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGISTS
Educational technology research is changing. Assumptions, questions,
methods, and paradigms that formerly dominated research in the field are
changing. Research questions and methods that might once have been deemed
unacceptable are gaining acceptability; studies published using alternate
paradigms may now be published. Are these "new methods" really
so new? Are they based on the same perceptions of quality as the well-established
quantitative methods? Are we losing the big picture in research? Are researchers
really calling for the end of quantitative research, the positivistic
research paradigm, all that has gone before?
It is the goal of this chapter to introduce educational technology researchers, both new and experienced, to the conceptual basis and methods of qualitative research. The goal is a modest one, due to the need for brevity in a small chapter in a large handbook. Controversy will not be sidestepped, but will not specifically be entered in to. Readers will be introduced, for example, to the "paradigm debate" currently swirling in the field and to the assumptions of various researchers who adhere to one view or another. Just as one cannot learn to conduct research by reading one book, a researcher who determines to conduct research to be labeled qualitative will need to study sources beyond this chapter to determine his or her own assumptions on which to base the work. The researcher must thus enter the debate, and will be responsible for describing the foundational ideas of the study. He or she will want to conduct the study with the utmost attention to quality, therefore will want to turn to more-detailed texts to learn more deeply how to apply qualitative methods. This chapter will point the researcher to such references and resources; however, we do not intend the chapter to be a definitive self-study text in conducting qualitative research. We intend to make the chapter a small and useful tool, a simple guide to assist educational technologists in learning and making decisions about qualitative research. It is thus intended as a beginning point, a brief tour of qualitative methods that may serve an educational technology researcher well in preparing to answer chosen questions, and serve the field in allowing new questions to be explored.
The objectives of this chapter are listed below. It is hoped that after reading this chapter, educational technology researchers will be able to: