A day of mixed methods

This was a pre-conference day focusing completely on mixed-methods. Not surprisingly it’s an area full of tensions on a number of different levels from the theoretical to the practical. below are my notes – or skip to the bottom for what I learned.

Jennifer Green
The day was started off by Jennifer Green whose presentation (Parables) Stories of mixed methods was told as a series of stories to illustrate some of the thorny issues (brambles) that are clearly taxing the mixed methods community. She made reference to inquiry and lenses through which researchers look – saying that alternative representational forms are useful in interpreting what is going on. Reality is complex, so using different methods of representation may do better justice to reality.

Her presentation began with a story of a morning walk in the forest and hearing different bird sounds (all parrots) – used as a story to highlight differences in methods and methodologies. Then there was a story about dogs in the park being called names (labelled) by other dogs. Their annoyance was about generalisations and prejudice – being labelled. Qualitative and quantitative are just such labels and she argued that more definition is required. In relation to mixed methods what is being mixed – actual methods? methodologies? philosophical standpoints? It struck me that the diagram in Crotty’s book is good for this (focus of a future post). Overall she gave a good introduction to the current tensions and dilemmas in mixed methods.

Other highlighted of the day were:

Joanne Mayoh and Anthony Onwuegbuzie
They talked about phenomenology – divided into two broad areas. Descriptive phenomenology – a reduction method and interpretative phenomenology – literally interpreting by the researcher. Joanne talked of trying to mix descriptive phenomenology in with post-positivists views. This showed a mixed methods approach that involved working within an alternative paradigm in a single study. One question that was raised was about definitions. What for example is the difference between a phenomena and an experience.

Janice Morse
Janice talked about the tricky area of research design for those using a mixed methods approach. She talked about embedded design so rather than a mixture of methods, consider the addition of a supplemental project or component. She pointed to an example of this by Hurley et al (2013) in ‘Midwifery’.

Stevan Weine
He provided good examples of how triangulation is possible on many different levels – not only with quantifiable data but different perspectives from the individual, parents and community. Even time triangulation was included – possible with a longitudinal study. Stevan summarised by suggesting that person, space, time, method, and theory triangulation each contributed significantly to large projects. Like others, he emphasised that the language of triangulation is not helpful.

Donna Mertens
Her talk was of transformative mixed methods. The transfromative paradigm has social justice as a first principle. When taking a transformative approach there are clear assumptions about axiology, ontology, epistemology and methodology. Interesting reference to Kaupapa Maori for research methodology – a cultural perspective on research – embedding Maori culture in research design. She has written a book on transformative research and evaluation.

Anthony Onwuegbuzie and Kathleen Collins
Talking about the importance of sampling. He began with a discussion of generalisation – danger of generalisation from the experience of participants. Also there can be problems with case to case transfer. Naturalistic generalisation is also something to be wary of. This is where the reader makes their own generalisations.

Glenn Phillips
Use second life to model classroom interactions – giving pre-service teachers the opportunity to teach prior to going into the classroom. Other students (not pre-service teachers) act as the pupils within the second-life environment. He makes reference to Mindell’s (1995) Sitting in the fire. This shows his idea of ‘worldwork’.

So what have I learned?
Mixed methods is still establishing itself.
Problems of terminology are significant.
It is essential to be explict about paradigm, methodology and methods.
Mixing can occur at any of these levels.
Phenomenology is recognised as tricky.
Studies are often not done with enough rigour, according to sociologists.
Axiology is something that I need to understand – help appreciated here!
Constraints on word-count for methodology sections in journals can be a problem – so JMMR (for example) gives more allowance for that.
There is a new website coming live in June: http://www.mmira.org.

Tomorrow sees two workshops – more on that in 24 hrs.

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About Mike Martin

Teacher educator based at Liverpol John Moores University in the UK. Researching subject knowledge of pre-service teachers.
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