Colley, Helen and Diment, Kim (2001) Holistic research for holistic practice: making sense of qualitative research data. In: Annual Conference of the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA), 5th - 7th December 2001, Cambridge, UK. (Unpublished)

Prevalent models of research advocate technical methods to guarantee ‘truth’. They suggest the discovery of a single ‘effective’ way to develop learning and skills through the isolation of particular categories and variables. We argue, by contrast, that holistic research is needed to inform the holistic practice that is pursued by many professionals in Further Education. In order to support the development of research capacity in FE (a key aim of the project on Transforming Learning Cultures in Further Education), this paper considers how holistic data analyses and interpretations were effected in two different qualitative research projects: one on secondary school pupils’ responses to Shakespeare in the National Curriculum, and one on mentoring relationships with ‘disaffected’ young people in post-16 pre-vocational training. We discuss how standard coding techniques fragmented highly personal stories, distorted or obscured key issues and over-simplified complex processes and contexts. In conclusion, we offer arguments for alternative methods of data analysis which may prove supportive of FE practitioner research, as well as providing evidence relevant throughout FE.

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