Creating and Using Learning Objects in Qualitative Research Education

Article excerpt

Based upon the lessons learned and the educational materials generated from a doctoral course on qualitative data analysis, a group of doctoral students, their professor, and a linguistics consultant launched an on-going project to create a series of reusable learning objects designed to help other groups of students and professors learn how to analyze qualitative data. The results of the first six months of this project are shared, as the team describes how they have begun to use instructional design and software applications to create a digital learning environment in the form of a series of activities engineered to help analysts learn how to master grounded theory open coding. Key Words: Grounded Theory, Reusable Learning Objects, Qualitative Data Analysis, and Digital Learning Environment


In the summer of 2005, a group of marriage and family therapy doctoral students took their second course in a two-course qualitative research sequence. In the first course, they learned about a variety of qualitative research methodologies such as ethnography (Fetterman, 1998), phenomenology (van Manen, 2002), and grounded theory (Glaser, 1994; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss, 1987; Strauss & Corbin, 1998), and had begun to master the skills needed to design a study, and to collect qualitative data via fieldwork and interviews. The second course picked up where the first course ended, and the students began to learn how to analyze the data they had collected and prepared the semester before.

This second class was taught by Ron Chenail in the form of an extended workshop; week after week the students analyzed the interviews they had conducted with each other the previous semester. This was done from a variety of methodological perspectives such as generic qualitative analysis (Caelli, Ray, & Mill, 2003), grounded theory (Glaser, 1994; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss, 1987; Strauss, & Corbin, 1998), phenomenology (van Manen, 2002), and recursive frame analysis (Chenail, 1995). They would come to class each week with their analyzed transcripts, memos, audit trails, and journals in hand, and share their results, insights, questions, successes, and frustrations with their fellow classmates, Ron, and Jan Chenail, a linguistics expert who served as a participant-observer for the class. As a result of this intensive immersion into the world of qualitative data analysis, the students successfully mastered the skills and knowledge they would need to conduct similar analyses in their forthcoming dissertations and other future qualitative studies.

The students also produced an extensive body of valuable educational product in the form of their various rendered analyses of their interviews and their archived reflections on this learning process. In reviewing these materials, it became clear to all of the participants in the class that these artifacts were just the sort of insider perspectives and tacit knowledge that could prove to be useful for subsequent groups of novice qualitative data analysts to review. The work could also be mined for insights on the learning of this process and also for them to see that everyone struggles in their pursuit of mastering these analytical systems.

To distill the potential value of these materials and insights, Ron invited the students to continue their learning process after the course, and to work as a team with Jan and him to transform the materials they had used to learn qualitative data analysis into a new set of learning activities that could be re-used by future groups of learners. From that invitation, Jennifer Spong, Michele Liscio, Lenworth McLean, Holly Cox, Brenda Shepherd, and Nura Mowzoon, from the class, volunteered and the newly formed team began working on deconstructing the original, face-to-face doctoral class and reconstructing it into a digital learning environment (Chenail, 2004) consisting of a system of reusable learning objects (Barritt & Alderman, 2004; Wiley, 2002b). …


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