Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Deepening Understanding in Qualitative Inquiry

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Deepening Understanding in Qualitative Inquiry

Article excerpt

Within higher education, teachers' perspectives on teaching and learning have been identified as an important area of investigation (Hativa, 2002; Kember, 1997; Kember & Kwan, 2002; McAlpine & Weston, 2002). This paper describes how when various forms of data are analyzed using a visual inquiry approach (Butler-Kisber & Poldma, 2010) in conjunction with categorizing and connecting approaches (Maxwell & Miller, 2008), the results can be used successfully to track teachers' evolving perspectives on teaching and learning. It reports on the use of various types of data that were collected over a two-year period, including primarily repeated interviews, which were subsequently corroborated by teachers' concept maps and their reflective journals. It shows how these data were analyzed through visual inquiry and through the complementary strategies of categorizing and connecting (Maxwell & Miller, 2008). It demonstrates how visual inquiry as shown through teachers' concept maps helped to uncover and make explicit their emerging thoughts. The procedure of categorizing using the constant comparison approach (Butler-Kisber, 2010; Charmaz, 1998, 2000, 2005; Maykut & Morehouse, 1994) yielded a thorough thematic description of the evolution in teachers' perspectives about teaching and learning. Also, it shows how the use of connecting strategies through a narrative analysis (Lieblich, 1998) that probed the data contiguously, resulted in the production of narrative summaries (Rhodes, 2000), revealing some of the distinctions in individual teachers' perspectives. This paper argues that the use of these multiple approaches to data collection and analysis create a multifaceted way of examining teachers' perspectives, provide a more comprehensive understanding of the data, and increase the persuasiveness of findings.

We situate ourselves in this research process as two experienced higher-education teachers who embrace a critical social-constructivist epistemology (Schwandt, 1994). We believe that knowledge is constructed in social interaction and mediated by language/tools and that there are multiple ways of seeing, doing, and understanding. We draw from the pragmatists (Clandinin & Rosiek, 2007) in that knowledge is experience and hence inquiry is a way of knowing that emerges from a relational, participatory, inclusive and holistic process that develops over time. Inquiry then, is not just a series of discrete methodological steps, but rather as feminist research has shown (Creswell, 2013), involves an overall way of being in and doing research that is predicated on ethical and inclusionary practices with special attention to those who may be marginalized and/or silenced. We take, too, from critical realists (Maxwell, 2008), the imperative to listen and observe in great detail thereby observing anew with self-conscious reflection. We adhere to postmodern notions with a view to action and social change.

Research Questions

Over the past several decades, teaching has assumed an increasingly important role in higher education. The work of Ernest Boyer (1987, 1990, 1998) and the Scholarship of Teaching movement, as well as changing student needs and the changing landscape in higher education (Nicholls, 2001) have contributed to this shift. These factors, among others, have led to demands for greater accountability in the areas of both teaching and student learning.

Some have described the current teaching situation in higher education as problematic and the need for change as urgent (Charbonneau, 2003; Knapper, 2005). One area of particular importance in relation to teacher professional development concerns academics' perspectives on teaching and learning. Saroyan et al. (2004) define perspective as a conception or belief that can be conscious or unconscious. According to the authors, these perspectives play a critical role in the decisions teachers make about teaching and learning. …

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