There is considerable controversy in educational research with respect to the use of qualitative and quantitative data and as to what constitutes scientific research. The objective of this study is to explore the degree to which in-service teachers understand the difference between qualitative/quantitative data and methods, validity/authenticity, generalization and how these can be used to solve problems faced by the teachers. The study is based on 84 participants who had registered for a 10-week course on Methodology of Investigation in Education, as part of their Master’s degree program. The course is based on 11 readings drawing on a history and philosophy of science perspective (positivism, constructivism, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos). Course activities included written reports, class room discussions based on participants’ presentations, and written exams. Based on the results obtained it is concluded: (a) Most participants understood that the problem to be investigated precedes the method and determines the methodology to be used; (b) As all observations are theory-laden, it is preferable that interpretations based on both qualitative and quantitative data be allowed to compete in order to provide validity to our research findings; (c) The difference between validity and authenticity was controversial and most participants considered the need for interpreting data and hence favored authenticity; (d) Discussions led to the idea of ‘degrees of validity’ as both validity in the quantitative sense and authenticity in the qualitative sense, ultimately depend on critical appraisals of the community; (e) Generalizability of results obtained from qualitative studies was a controversial topic and most participants agreed that it is not desirable to generalize; (f) Discussions suggested an alternative: In both qualitative and quantitative research generalizability is possible, provided we are willing to grant that our conceptions/theories are not entirely grounded in empirical evidence but rather on the degree to which the community can uphold such a consensus; (g) Most teachers considered the use of participant observation in qualitative research as non-controversial. Class discussions led to the understanding that emphasizing observations may lead us to the Aristotelian ideal of empirical science; (h) Formulation of hypotheses, manipulation of variables, and the quest for causal variables was considered by many teachers to be equivalent to the scientific method. Discussions facilitated the understanding that this led to idealization and thus helped to reduce the complexity of a problem.
Quality & Quantity – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 5, 2008
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