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STEM in Teaching Qualitative Research

Gibbs, Graham R. (2013) STEM in Teaching Qualitative Research. In: HEA Social Science Annual Conference, 23-24 May 2013, Liverpool, UK.

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The results from the first stage of a project examining the use of computer assisted qualitative data analysis (CAQDAS) and mixed methods teaching in qualitative analysis to promote numeric and technology skills in undergraduate students. Results from a survey of qualitative research teachers carried out as part of the project will be presented.

This paper will report the preliminary results from an online survey of teachers of qualitative research methods (Survey 2), which has been undertaken as part of a project to determine what barriers there are to the inclusion in undergraduate qualitative methods teaching of skills relating to the use of CAQDAS programs and the use of mixed methods in research designs. The project will also try to discover and summarise good practice and to develop guidelines for such teaching content that can be used at undergraduate level, though the full details of this will not be available until after the conference.
There is little current reference to technology or number in both the use of qualitative methods in social research and especially the teaching of qualitative methods, particularly at undergraduate level. The one exception to this is the discussion of the use of CAQDAS programs in several textbooks aimed at undergraduate users. However, there is no strong evidence that this translates into widespread use of the programs in undergraduate teaching in the UK. Indeed in a web-based survey of teachers of qualitative methods (Survey 2) that I carried out for a previous HEA funded project (REQUALLO) I found only 6% of departments that replied to the survey used CAQDAS at undergraduate level, although much higher proportions used it at postgraduate level. At the moment, at undergraduate level, there is a distinct inequality in software use between qualitative and quantitative research methods teaching. Almost all undergraduate courses on quantitative methods will, at some point, cover the use of statistics and will require students to use software (such as SPSS).
There are two factors that might begin to challenge this comparatively low level of software usage in qualitative methods: the increasing use of CAQDAS in research and the growth of interest in mixed methods approaches. In the case of the former, there is evidence for a strong growth in the use of CAQDAS in social research.
There is also a growth in the popularity of mixed methods designs, not only in the number of published papers using such an approach, but also in the number of PhD students undertaking such projects. To support this, in the last few years, many of the major publishers of CAQDAS programs have included functionality in their software that integrates quantitative data with the qualitative analysis. This includes a range of data mining, keyword in context searches and cluster analysis techniques as well as the ability to import quantitative case attribute data that can be used in the analysis. All this is integrated with the basic thematic coding system the software supports.

There are, however, significant barriers to the increased use of number and software in undergraduate qualitative methods teaching. In Survey 1 I asked teachers why the software was not used at undergraduate level. Common reasons given included, no time (17%), lack of teachers’ skills in the software (13%), no funding for site licences or local support for software (12%) and most commonly, that it would take too long to teach (24%). However, significantly, given the antagonism of some qualitative researcher to software use, only 3% said that the software was not used in teaching because it does not support the methodology or the theoretical approach they used.

This situation is changing. Many UK universities now hold site licences for the software (just as they do for statistical software). About a year ago, QSR, the publisher of the market leading NVivo software, told me that 74 UK universities held site licences and there are several who hold similar licence for competing programs.
Nevertheless several barriers remain:
1. Lack of skills in both CAQDAS use and mixed methods amongst qualitative research methods teachers at undergraduate level.
2. There are few good exemplars, usable at undergraduate level, of how software and numeric skills can enhance qualitative analysis.
3. Lack of OERs suitable for undergraduate use that tackle this issue (but there are some QSR videos on this).
This paper will report on the current state of skills teaching and of available resources with a focus on the UK

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Schools: School of Human and Health Sciences
School of Human and Health Sciences > Centre for Applied Psychological Research
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Graham Gibbs
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2014 15:48
Last Modified: 04 Nov 2015 22:19


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