Qualitative Research

I teach my grade 9 science students the difference between quantitative and qualitative data. It’s one of the first concepts of the semester. Quantitative = numbers, measurements. Qualitative = words, descriptions. Now I know that that are also quantitative and qualitative research methodologies and they are very different–and both use measurements and descriptions. As opposed to typical empirical research (quantitative methodology) where a hypothesis is tested by controlling the variables, then changing the independent variable to see the consequences on dependent variable, qualitative methodology involves studying social situations in naturalistic settings to understand or “make sense” of them. Depending on the research purpose and questions, the researchers may examine the undisturbed system in place or they may make an “intervention” or purposeful change to the system and then study the effects of that intervention. Qualitative researchers strive to “make the world visible.” Brene Brown has a beautiful way of describing this. She calls qualitative researchers, herself included, “collectors of stories,” and the stories are “data with a soul.” The data are collected directly from the participants. Brene uses a type of qualitative methodology called grounded theory. This means that she interviews many people about their lived experiences and inductively develops theories based on the common themes that arise from the data–therefore the theories are “grounded” in real life. Other types of qualitative methodology include case study, ethnography, phenomenology, narrative inquiry, action research, postmodernism/poststructuralism and critical theory research and more. In all of these methodologies, the qualitative researcher is typically not separate from the study. He or she is a “passionate participant” whose role is to reflexively examine and give voice to all other participants’ perspectives so that a comprehensive description of the research situation can be made. This passionate participate is looking forward to the privilege of collecting stories of student agency for activism (just like I collected these rocks). #100LSreflections #100dayproject 17/100

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