Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

The Qualitative Tradition: A Complimentary Paradigm for Research in Economic Education

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

The Qualitative Tradition: A Complimentary Paradigm for Research in Economic Education

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The qualitative tradition provides an alternative approach to investigate complex research and help augment the existing research about economic education. This study presents the underlying assumptions and methods for both quantitative and qualitative traditions and compares and contrasts the major differences between the two paradigms. Validity issues are addressed, and the article ends with a discussion on how qualitative research would compliment the existing literature in economic education. Quantitative research, based on deductive reasoning, start with the postulates in the researcher's mind. The researcher's pre-conceptions may cause her or him to overlook significant variables within the phenomenon. Qualitative research is able to overcome this quantitative difficulty by starting the research process with the participants. Through data collection and inductive reasoning, the qualitative researcher can develop testable hypotheses that were previously overlooked by traditional quantitative methods.

INTRODUCTION

Much of the research in economic education focuses on student performance and attitudes with the goal of improving teaching effectiveness and student learning. A framework often utilized is the input/output production model where student performance or attitudes is the dependent variable (see Figure 1). In this framework, a pre-course assessment is given. Then students are divided between a control group and a treatment group. The treatment group receives the new pedagogical method. A post-course assessment is given when the course is finished. Teacher and student related variables are the explanatory variables in this model, along with effort to control for exogenous influences. Over the past two decades numerous studies have been conducted using either the TUCE (Test of College Economics) or the TEL (Test of Economic Literacy) scores as a proxy for student performance. (1) Numerous studies using TUCE or TEL scores in this input/output framework have been conducted to test new pedagogical techniques and their results have been published. (2) There is concern that the marginal impact of additional studies using the TUCE to test for significant variables in student learning has become trivial. (3)

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

For research purposes, in any classroom there are student-controlled variables, teacher-controlled variables, and any number of variables that are exogenous including: each student's opportunity cost, the teacher's opportunity cost, and the fit between the instructor's teaching style and each student's learning style. The list of possible significant exogenous variables is infinite. One of the problems with the TUCE input/output framework is that the model has no power to investigate exogenous variables. For example, the input/output model has no way to control for a tragedy that occurs in the life of a student during the course of study.

Another problem with the input/output framework, like all models, is that the model is based on assumptions. The input/output framework assumes that participants desire to maximize their assessment scores. If instead, participants are targeting a passing grade rather than the highest possible score, the quantitative analysis used in the model will produce insignificant results.

A new method of modeling is needed to investigate variables that are exogenous to the traditional input/output framework. The purpose of this paper is to present an alternative paradigm that is able to examine variables that are exogenous to traditional quantitative research in economic education, namely qualitative research methods. The qualitative tradition uses methods that would compliment the existing quantitative results and provide a new approach to solving issues that traditional methods of research in economic education have not yet been able to address.

This study presents the underlying assumptions and methods for both quantitative and qualitative traditions and will compare and contrast the major differences between the two paradigms. …

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