Seyyed-Abdolhamid Mirhosseini (ed.): Reflections on Qualitative Research in Language and Literacy Education

Seyyed-Abdolhamid Mirhosseini (ed.): Reflections on Qualitative Research in Language and Literacy... Research in applied linguistics has been dominated by positivistic and quantitative approaches at the cost of marginalizing, ignoring, or even delegitimizing qualitative inquiry. As Benson et al. (2009) show, qualitative studies published in the 10 famous journals in the field of applied linguistics amount to 22 per cent of all published articles between 1997 and 2006. Richards (2009) also concludes that of the research papers published between 2000 and 2007 in 15 major journals related to language teaching, only 10–25 per cent were qualitative in their methodology. The dominance of quantitative research is also well observed in the dozens of books published on research methods in language studies focusing just on quantitative approach (Hatch and Lazaraton 1991; Phakiti 2014; Plonsky 2015) and the comparatively few published works delving into qualitative research in applied linguistics and language education (Heigham and Croker 2009; Zacharias 2012). Aimed at voicing ‘the need for the further recognition and visibility of qualitative inquiry in the field’ and inviting ‘the research community to revisit trends and traditions in studies on language and literacy teaching and learning’ (p. 4), this volume is one of the few works that have detailed on the theoretical and practical sides of qualitative research in language and literacy education studies. In his introduction, Mirhosseini highlights the systematic ignorance of the field of qualitative research paradigm while emphasizing that taking the quantitative path would not provide researchers with trustable answers to many research questions. The editor also argues that the knowledge of the field about various concepts has not improved during the past couple of decades particularly because of the blind insistence of the majority of researchers to follow the quantitative research methods. After this introductory chapter, the book is divided into three parts dealing with theoretical, methodological, and practical aspects of qualitative research. The four chapters of the first part of the book deal with theoretical considerations which are less often discussed in relation to language and literacy studies. In Chapter 2, the first chapter of Part I, Ruanni Tupas, drawing on his personal experience in submitting an article to a journal which was finally rejected, discusses how ideologically interested viewpoints toward knowledge creation and dissemination have discredited and delegitimized the otherwise legitimate alternative paths of inquiry in language education research. He then calls for a more inclusive and pluralistic research landscape and argues that to demolish the obstacles to knowledge production, we should ‘embrace the personal and experiential as credible forms of scholarly evidence’ (p. 26). In Chapter 3, Doecke, Anwarand, and Illesca explore how social, historical, and political contexts influence the shaping of the realities. Elaborating on the dialogues between and among them, the co-authors of this chapter highlight the value of storytelling, narrative, and dialogue in language studies especially within postcolonial settings where English has adopted different sociopolitical roles. While confirming the need to move from number to word data in research, they also add that ‘an awareness of language as a social phenomenon is integral to an understanding of what people are doing when they tell stories to one another’ (p. 33). Todd Ruecker, in Chapter 4, elaborates upon the notion of context by highlighting ‘the epistemological and methodological challenges that qualitative researchers face when working in contexts and with participants they are not intimately familiar with’ (p. 46). Drawing upon his personal experiences, Ruecker illustrates the messiness of qualitative inquiry and the obstacles researchers should tackle in conducting such research. He concludes with a number of suggestions for overcoming the inherent challenges of doing qualitative research. The next chapter by Christopher Anderson focuses on the issue of ethics in qualitative research on language education. This chapter extensively explores a very rare case of ethics in applied linguistics to direct readers’ attention beyond what is normally conceived of ethics in research. Tracing back the peripheral role of ethics in applied linguistics to the asocial ‘tradition of researching language data rather than human behavior’ (p. 67), the author problematizes the status quo and calls for a more central role for ethics in qualitative studies. By providing an actual instance of how prevalent ethical issues are in ethnographic inquiries, he suggests that ethics define what a discipline is, how answers to research questions should be sought, and how researchers should behave and interact with all elements of their research context. The second part of this volume comprises Chapters 6–9 and deals with Chapter 4 of the major methodological approaches in qualitative research, namely, ethnography, grounded theory, action research, and conversation analysis. Chapter 6 by Sunny Man Chu Lau explores ‘how ethnographic studies with post-structuralist and feminist orientations have informed and are informed by sociocultural literacy developments’ (p. 77). Focusing on classroom ethnography, the author illustrates how ethnographic research can delve into the lived experiences of research participants and unravel the social and cultural particularities which are commonly ignored in quantitative inquiry. Grounded theory is what the next chapter by Bob Broad explores. Building his argument mostly on composition and writing research, Broad shows how to deal with big pools of qualitative data through a grounded theory perspective. He draws on an ongoing auto-ethnographic study on the effect of writing on shaping individual and collective identity to clarify how open and focused coding of data can be done to qualitatively explore and categorize various aspects of a phenomenon. In the next chapter, Anne Burns and Pamela McPherson discuss design and methodological issues involved in action research. Providing detailed explanations of a classroom-based study of second language literacy development conducted by themselves, the authors illustrate the process-oriented and iterative nature of this research type. Using examples of their own research project, they also show how the dynamic and emergent design of action research can pave the way for better understanding of social and cultural complexities. Ethnomethodology and by extension conversation analysis are what Shelton and Smagorinsly examine in the final chapter of this section. The authors emphasize the often marginal role of conversation analysis in language and literacy studies. Analyzing and discussing some interview data, they also show how teachers’ identity is constructed and discovered in conversation. Clear examples of different stages of analysis are provided for the readers to show the potentials of conversation analysis in examining ‘the creation and maintenance of various aspects of social order through the organization of talk’ (p. 121). Entitled ‘research in action’, the third part of the book includes three chapters which present real life instances of qualitative research projects to exemplify some of the theoretical and epistemological orientations discussed in the previous two parts. In Chapter 10, Gordon West and Graham Crookes describe their own research conducted in Korea as an instance of appropriate research methodology for investigating teachers’ attempts in implementing critical pedagogy in the context of teaching English to young learners. Throughout the chapter, the authors reason with examples that research in critical language studies should be, theoretically and methodologically, consistent with principles and practices of critical pedagogy. Chapter 11, by Daisy Fredrick, delves into the prospects and problems of doing qualitative fieldwork on restrictive language policy education in the USA. Reporting on her own local research in which she had employed multiple ethnographic and qualitative research tools, such as interviews, passive and participant observation, audio recording and field notes, Fredrick elaborates on the challenges each of these data collection methods may face and discusses the modifications she made to each method to overcome some of those challenges. The final chapter of this volume is co-authored by Albers, Harste, and Holbrook who consider themselves as both ‘word people’ and ‘visual artists’ (p. 171). This chapter is unique in that it has opened new horizons for language and literacy research by introducing and exploring art-based approach to language and literacy research, a perspective which has not yet been raised in applied linguistics research literature. Criticizing academic research and by extension qualitative research as lacking ‘joy and pleasure’, the authors claim to be pursing ‘methods that disrupt commonplace notions of how to analyze data’ and allow the researchers to release their imagination and open horizons for thinking otherwise (p. 171). The rest of the chapter describes the unique research methodology which the authors have employed to put to work the concept of ‘poetic distillation’. Providing readers with many examples, the chapter sheds light on various aspects of poetic distillation as an innovative research tool which goes much beyond the realm of written and spoken language and into the realm of images, sounds, and bodily gestures. As mentioned earlier, this volume is one of the pioneering works in dealing with qualitative research within the realm of language and literacy studies. The editor has made a successful attempt to shed light on both theoretical and practical sides of qualitative inquiry. Some of the issues covered in this volume are among the least discussed topics in the literature, and their inclusion can be a starting point for their wider application in the future. Despite its many positive points, this volume is however not without shortcomings. For example, the majority of contributors to this volume are based in the USA with many other parts of the world like mainland Europe and Africa not represented. This issue is more noticeable in a volume on qualitative research which aims at equal representation of various geographical, cultural, and social perspectives. The book has also left the concerns over mixed methods research untouched. It would have made the book more balanced, had the editor devoted some chapters to how qualitative research can complement quantitative analyses, and what roles qualitative paradigm can play in mixed methods inquiries. Left untouched are also issues about modern and emerging qualitative research methods, such as digital technology, social media data, and computer-assisted data analysis. Despite these shortcomings, this book has broken new grounds in qualitative research in language and literacy studies and is therefore a must-read for researcher in applied linguistics especially the ones with qualitative orientations. It can be considered an important publication in giving qualitative research in applied linguistics the attention it deserves. Further steps can also be taken in the future to deal with the issues which could not be included within the limits of this single volume. REFERENCES Benson P. , Chik A. , Gao X. , Huang J. , Wang W. . 2009 . ‘ Qualitative research in language teaching and learning journals, 1997–2006 ,’ Modern Language Journal 93 : 79 – 90 . Google Scholar Crossref Search ADS Hatch E. M. , Lazaraton A. . 1991 . The Research Manual: Design and Statistics for Applied Linguistics . Newbury House . Heigham J. , Croker R. (eds). 2009 . Qualitative Research in Applied Linguistics: A Practical Introduction . Palgrave . Phakiti A. 2014 . Experimental Research Methods in Language Learning . Bloomsbury . Plonsky L. 2015 . Advancing Quantitative Methods in Second Language Research . Routledge . Richards K. 2009 . ‘ Trends in qualitative research in language teaching since 2000 ,’ Language Teaching 42 : 147 – 80 . Google Scholar Crossref Search ADS Zacharias N. T. 2012 . Qualitative Research Methods for Second Language Education: A Coursebook . Cambridge Scholars Publishing . © Oxford University Press 2017 This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Applied Linguistics Oxford University Press

Seyyed-Abdolhamid Mirhosseini (ed.): Reflections on Qualitative Research in Language and Literacy Education

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© Oxford University Press 2017
ISSN
0142-6001
eISSN
1477-450X
D.O.I.
10.1093/applin/amx049
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Research in applied linguistics has been dominated by positivistic and quantitative approaches at the cost of marginalizing, ignoring, or even delegitimizing qualitative inquiry. As Benson et al. (2009) show, qualitative studies published in the 10 famous journals in the field of applied linguistics amount to 22 per cent of all published articles between 1997 and 2006. Richards (2009) also concludes that of the research papers published between 2000 and 2007 in 15 major journals related to language teaching, only 10–25 per cent were qualitative in their methodology. The dominance of quantitative research is also well observed in the dozens of books published on research methods in language studies focusing just on quantitative approach (Hatch and Lazaraton 1991; Phakiti 2014; Plonsky 2015) and the comparatively few published works delving into qualitative research in applied linguistics and language education (Heigham and Croker 2009; Zacharias 2012). Aimed at voicing ‘the need for the further recognition and visibility of qualitative inquiry in the field’ and inviting ‘the research community to revisit trends and traditions in studies on language and literacy teaching and learning’ (p. 4), this volume is one of the few works that have detailed on the theoretical and practical sides of qualitative research in language and literacy education studies. In his introduction, Mirhosseini highlights the systematic ignorance of the field of qualitative research paradigm while emphasizing that taking the quantitative path would not provide researchers with trustable answers to many research questions. The editor also argues that the knowledge of the field about various concepts has not improved during the past couple of decades particularly because of the blind insistence of the majority of researchers to follow the quantitative research methods. After this introductory chapter, the book is divided into three parts dealing with theoretical, methodological, and practical aspects of qualitative research. The four chapters of the first part of the book deal with theoretical considerations which are less often discussed in relation to language and literacy studies. In Chapter 2, the first chapter of Part I, Ruanni Tupas, drawing on his personal experience in submitting an article to a journal which was finally rejected, discusses how ideologically interested viewpoints toward knowledge creation and dissemination have discredited and delegitimized the otherwise legitimate alternative paths of inquiry in language education research. He then calls for a more inclusive and pluralistic research landscape and argues that to demolish the obstacles to knowledge production, we should ‘embrace the personal and experiential as credible forms of scholarly evidence’ (p. 26). In Chapter 3, Doecke, Anwarand, and Illesca explore how social, historical, and political contexts influence the shaping of the realities. Elaborating on the dialogues between and among them, the co-authors of this chapter highlight the value of storytelling, narrative, and dialogue in language studies especially within postcolonial settings where English has adopted different sociopolitical roles. While confirming the need to move from number to word data in research, they also add that ‘an awareness of language as a social phenomenon is integral to an understanding of what people are doing when they tell stories to one another’ (p. 33). Todd Ruecker, in Chapter 4, elaborates upon the notion of context by highlighting ‘the epistemological and methodological challenges that qualitative researchers face when working in contexts and with participants they are not intimately familiar with’ (p. 46). Drawing upon his personal experiences, Ruecker illustrates the messiness of qualitative inquiry and the obstacles researchers should tackle in conducting such research. He concludes with a number of suggestions for overcoming the inherent challenges of doing qualitative research. The next chapter by Christopher Anderson focuses on the issue of ethics in qualitative research on language education. This chapter extensively explores a very rare case of ethics in applied linguistics to direct readers’ attention beyond what is normally conceived of ethics in research. Tracing back the peripheral role of ethics in applied linguistics to the asocial ‘tradition of researching language data rather than human behavior’ (p. 67), the author problematizes the status quo and calls for a more central role for ethics in qualitative studies. By providing an actual instance of how prevalent ethical issues are in ethnographic inquiries, he suggests that ethics define what a discipline is, how answers to research questions should be sought, and how researchers should behave and interact with all elements of their research context. The second part of this volume comprises Chapters 6–9 and deals with Chapter 4 of the major methodological approaches in qualitative research, namely, ethnography, grounded theory, action research, and conversation analysis. Chapter 6 by Sunny Man Chu Lau explores ‘how ethnographic studies with post-structuralist and feminist orientations have informed and are informed by sociocultural literacy developments’ (p. 77). Focusing on classroom ethnography, the author illustrates how ethnographic research can delve into the lived experiences of research participants and unravel the social and cultural particularities which are commonly ignored in quantitative inquiry. Grounded theory is what the next chapter by Bob Broad explores. Building his argument mostly on composition and writing research, Broad shows how to deal with big pools of qualitative data through a grounded theory perspective. He draws on an ongoing auto-ethnographic study on the effect of writing on shaping individual and collective identity to clarify how open and focused coding of data can be done to qualitatively explore and categorize various aspects of a phenomenon. In the next chapter, Anne Burns and Pamela McPherson discuss design and methodological issues involved in action research. Providing detailed explanations of a classroom-based study of second language literacy development conducted by themselves, the authors illustrate the process-oriented and iterative nature of this research type. Using examples of their own research project, they also show how the dynamic and emergent design of action research can pave the way for better understanding of social and cultural complexities. Ethnomethodology and by extension conversation analysis are what Shelton and Smagorinsly examine in the final chapter of this section. The authors emphasize the often marginal role of conversation analysis in language and literacy studies. Analyzing and discussing some interview data, they also show how teachers’ identity is constructed and discovered in conversation. Clear examples of different stages of analysis are provided for the readers to show the potentials of conversation analysis in examining ‘the creation and maintenance of various aspects of social order through the organization of talk’ (p. 121). Entitled ‘research in action’, the third part of the book includes three chapters which present real life instances of qualitative research projects to exemplify some of the theoretical and epistemological orientations discussed in the previous two parts. In Chapter 10, Gordon West and Graham Crookes describe their own research conducted in Korea as an instance of appropriate research methodology for investigating teachers’ attempts in implementing critical pedagogy in the context of teaching English to young learners. Throughout the chapter, the authors reason with examples that research in critical language studies should be, theoretically and methodologically, consistent with principles and practices of critical pedagogy. Chapter 11, by Daisy Fredrick, delves into the prospects and problems of doing qualitative fieldwork on restrictive language policy education in the USA. Reporting on her own local research in which she had employed multiple ethnographic and qualitative research tools, such as interviews, passive and participant observation, audio recording and field notes, Fredrick elaborates on the challenges each of these data collection methods may face and discusses the modifications she made to each method to overcome some of those challenges. The final chapter of this volume is co-authored by Albers, Harste, and Holbrook who consider themselves as both ‘word people’ and ‘visual artists’ (p. 171). This chapter is unique in that it has opened new horizons for language and literacy research by introducing and exploring art-based approach to language and literacy research, a perspective which has not yet been raised in applied linguistics research literature. Criticizing academic research and by extension qualitative research as lacking ‘joy and pleasure’, the authors claim to be pursing ‘methods that disrupt commonplace notions of how to analyze data’ and allow the researchers to release their imagination and open horizons for thinking otherwise (p. 171). The rest of the chapter describes the unique research methodology which the authors have employed to put to work the concept of ‘poetic distillation’. Providing readers with many examples, the chapter sheds light on various aspects of poetic distillation as an innovative research tool which goes much beyond the realm of written and spoken language and into the realm of images, sounds, and bodily gestures. As mentioned earlier, this volume is one of the pioneering works in dealing with qualitative research within the realm of language and literacy studies. The editor has made a successful attempt to shed light on both theoretical and practical sides of qualitative inquiry. Some of the issues covered in this volume are among the least discussed topics in the literature, and their inclusion can be a starting point for their wider application in the future. Despite its many positive points, this volume is however not without shortcomings. For example, the majority of contributors to this volume are based in the USA with many other parts of the world like mainland Europe and Africa not represented. This issue is more noticeable in a volume on qualitative research which aims at equal representation of various geographical, cultural, and social perspectives. The book has also left the concerns over mixed methods research untouched. It would have made the book more balanced, had the editor devoted some chapters to how qualitative research can complement quantitative analyses, and what roles qualitative paradigm can play in mixed methods inquiries. Left untouched are also issues about modern and emerging qualitative research methods, such as digital technology, social media data, and computer-assisted data analysis. Despite these shortcomings, this book has broken new grounds in qualitative research in language and literacy studies and is therefore a must-read for researcher in applied linguistics especially the ones with qualitative orientations. It can be considered an important publication in giving qualitative research in applied linguistics the attention it deserves. Further steps can also be taken in the future to deal with the issues which could not be included within the limits of this single volume. REFERENCES Benson P. , Chik A. , Gao X. , Huang J. , Wang W. . 2009 . ‘ Qualitative research in language teaching and learning journals, 1997–2006 ,’ Modern Language Journal 93 : 79 – 90 . Google Scholar Crossref Search ADS Hatch E. M. , Lazaraton A. . 1991 . The Research Manual: Design and Statistics for Applied Linguistics . Newbury House . Heigham J. , Croker R. (eds). 2009 . Qualitative Research in Applied Linguistics: A Practical Introduction . Palgrave . Phakiti A. 2014 . Experimental Research Methods in Language Learning . Bloomsbury . Plonsky L. 2015 . Advancing Quantitative Methods in Second Language Research . Routledge . Richards K. 2009 . ‘ Trends in qualitative research in language teaching since 2000 ,’ Language Teaching 42 : 147 – 80 . Google Scholar Crossref Search ADS Zacharias N. T. 2012 . Qualitative Research Methods for Second Language Education: A Coursebook . Cambridge Scholars Publishing . © Oxford University Press 2017 This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)

Journal

Applied LinguisticsOxford University Press

Published: Oct 1, 2018

References

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