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1 Running Head: Methodological Critique

Methodological Critique: Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research Methods Deanna Stefanyshyn ETEC 500 65C University of British Columbia Sunah Cho March 8, 2013

2 Running Head: Methodological Critique Introduction "All educational inquiry ultimately involves a decision to study or describe something to ask some question and to seek answer (gay, p. 6)". Often that is where the similarities end as there is no one way to approach research. Having read "Can instructional and Emotional Support in the First-Grade Classroom Make a difference for Children at Risk of School Failure?" (a quantitative research study), and "Developing Teacher epistemological Sophistication about Multicultural Curriculum: A Case Study" ( a qualitative research study), I will seek to examine why there is a need for different research methodologies in order to examine educational phenomena.

Part 1: Descriptive Analysis and Critique Quantitative research uses the analysis of numerical data to draw conclusions of a particular phenomenon or topic of interest (Gay, 2012). In the study mentioned above regarding instructional and emotional support in a first grade classroom, Hamre and Pianta (2005) used a large data set that met specific criteria, and controlled several outside variables, to select a random sample. They used test scores and various rating scales as their data, and analyzed their effects on students achievement. Due to the complexity of ensuring there was random placement of students deemed at high risk of school failure in classrooms with differing amounts of instructional and emotional support, I believe this method is appropriate because it provided enough data for analysis. Furthermore, the data measured exactly how the support might improve student achievement while creating a base for comparison between different classrooms.

3 Running Head: Methodological Critique Alternatively, qualitative research uses non-numerical data, generally in the form of comprehensive narrative and visual data, in order to gain insight into a particular phenomenon or area of interest (Gay, 2012). In the study regarding multicultural curriculum by Sleeter (2009), just one subject was selected as a case study with observations, journals, and course work forming the major data collections. These pieces of data were then analyzed and conclusions were drawn based on the interpretations of the researcher. Because there is no clear answer in this topic, and it may take considerable time to view differences in perceptions and implementation of a new curriculum, a case study approach allows time for the subject to process the information and change his or her beliefs. Furthermore, the researcher is given more opportunity to be able to include the various observations, and interpret them to fit the requirements of the study. While it was noted in the study that this particular case study was part of a much larger study of teachers working with multicultural curriculum, as with many quantitative studies, additional case studies in the same area may need to be considered by various researchers to provide reliability and validity to the findings.

The differences between quantitative and qualitative research does not end at the type of data used. The research question posed by each of the authors suggests the biggest difference in the two methods. While the quantitative study uses the question "does classroom support moderate children's risk of school failure?" (thus indicating that a yes or no answer be achieved through data collected), the qualitative study poses the questions, "how does teachers' thinking about curriculum affect development in the context of teacher education coursework? And how might an analysis of a novice

4 Running Head: Methodological Critique teacher's learning to think with more complexity inform teacher education pedagogy?" (Hamre & Pianta 2005; Sleeter, 2012). The incorporation of the word 'how' indicates that there is room for bias, and because the analysis is based on one, or perhaps a few, people's interpretation of the data, it could leave room for various opinions that may or may not be shared by the general public.

Beyond the research question I found there were also big differences in the selection and assignment of participants for each study. The quantitative study selected a random sample from a large group based on specific criteria, while the qualitative study selected their participant based on desired characteristics including: novice teacher, new to multicultural education, open to learning, and currently teaching in a diverse classroom. In addition to its tests, and similar to qualitative research, the quantitative study also used rating scales and rubrics as part of its data collection method. However, it applied a number to its findings while the quantitative study merely used them for analysis and interpretation in order to draw conclusions. Both studies began with a review of literature to rationalize their study and point out holes in current research that their study would fill. However, the qualitative study provided depth while I found the quantitative study lacked variety and scope. I question whether this is a difference in study methods or rather just the differing approaches of the authors. While both studies aimed to draw specific conclusions, the quantitative study focused more on statistical analysis while the qualitative study used more narrative descriptions. Finally, both studies reported any limitations they experienced and suggested how future research might be beneficial ((Hamre & Pianta 2005; Sleeter, 2012).

5 Running Head: Methodological Critique Part 2: Methodologies and Future Research When designing an education research project I think the most important aspect is to clearly define the research questions so that methods are developed around finding answers. When the questions are specific, it can be easier to establish the type of participants needed and determine how to proceed through the experiment so that specific data, related to the question, is collected and analyzed. Furthermore, a thorough review of literature can help guide questions and give insight into what methods might be appropriate based on prior findings. Finally, it is important that any external variables, that may threaten the validity of the study, be removed and any biases, that the researchers may bring with them, be eliminated.

After reading through both of these research studies I found myself agreeing more with the quantitative experiment because I related to the direct effects that can be shown through the analysis of numbers. I like to see data that cannot be influenced by the researchers own beliefs in order to bring about an effect that has enough significance to draw a conclusion. While it may not actually be true if research is done properly, I find that with qualitative research, the opinions and biases of the researchers can play a role in the findings of the study. As well, the researcher dictates what parts of the observations or journals they choose to use, which can then impact findings. However, I do appreciate the role that qualitative research plays in the education field and I am now more aware of the methods used in these types of studies and how to read them with a critical eye.

6 Running Head: Methodological Critique In my own research project I plan to use quantitative data in the form of reading scores to determine whether e-readers can increase reading comprehension. I will use a relationship study incorporating reading comprehension scores over a given time frame with some students using e-readers and others using print forms. As seen in the quantitative research study, it is important to control for other variables (such as having access to e-readers at home) and prior experiences. Using a pre-test and post-test would provide data for analysis to determine whether a relationship exists between e-readers and academic achievement.

Conclusion When assessing which research method to use at the beginning of a research study there are many variables to consider. Furthermore, sometimes it is not clear that a single method will yield the desired results. Therefore researchers should be educated on the different methods and select the approach that best suits the topic rather than the researcher.

7 Running Head: Methodological Critique References Gay, L.R., Mills, G.E., & Airasian, P.W. (2012). Educational research: Competencies for analysis and application (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall. Hamre, B., & Pianta, R. (2005). Can Instructional and Emotional Support in the FirstGrade Classroom Make a Difference for Children at Risk of School Failure? Child Development, 949-967. Sleeter, C. (2009). Developing Teacher Epistemological Sophistication about Multicultural Curriculum: A Case Study. Action in Teacher Education, 3-13.