Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Research Methodology by Numbers - a Teaching Tool

Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Research Methodology by Numbers - a Teaching Tool

Article excerpt

1. General introduction or background

Research Methodology became a feature of Universities of Technology (UoT's) in South Africa in the mid 1990's with the introduction of the Bachelors degree in Technology. Every student had pass this course. In the faculty of Commerce the first six students were subjected to this course through a process of lectures only. A local text was prescribed and the introduction of the course started with the difference between quantitative and qualitative studies and the ideas of modernism and post modernism and all the theory that the lecturer thought a good course should have. The only text that existed in South Africa at the time was not the most comprehensible. Since then many more have been authored which are easier to follow.

The results were poor as there was too much to remember and no context within which to place their knowledge.

Thus, a process was started to turn this subject around. The existing texts were of little help, and so it was that like Ball and Pelco (2006) from the College of William and Mary, a process of discovery was initiated to create students interest in the subject and allow them to benefit more from the experience. At the end students had to be able "to do", and what better way, than to learn by doing. Enjoyment was also a factor that needed to be considered so as to assist in the development of the higher degrees in the university because the university depended on these students returning for study further.

The intermittent years have seen an annual revision of the notes and assignments in the course handout, which has now swollen to some 120 pages, with requirements for each assignment specified and the marking rubric presented so that the students, or their peers or mentors, can assess progress before the work is submitted. In this manner the number of facilitators becomes endless, to the advantage of the student.

2. The developmental years

The number of students who chose this Research Methodology course increased rapidly to the point where the Faculty of Commerce had some 1000 students at this level after the normalization of the political situation in South Africa. This "massification" of education led to its own problems. There was not enough time to spend with every individual for correcting and marking their work. Some of the classes were also offered through "block release" in which the lecturer met with the students for a week as they flew in from their home countries and then returned with a set of assignments laid out to facilitate completion of the work. The full-time classes increased as access to higher education permeated to all, but the number of facilitators did not increase proportionately.

A process of emailing of assignments began, and the load of correcting and advising was spread to persons in the student's community who could assist. Each student had to find in the community three people who could mentor him or her. The first of these was someone who had studied Research Methodology or had a Masters degree, to assist with the methodology sections. The second was a Mathematics teacher in the local high school to help with the numbers, graphs and elementary statistics and the third an English teacher who would give guidance on the layout and expression.

Initially, both quantitative and qualitative methods were made compulsory for students who had to choose from this plethora of "incomprehensible" methods, one method that suited their particular problem statement. This was unsuccessful as there was no underlying understanding of the process of research which had been masked in the search for "being correct" and "inclusive". Different teachers of the Research Methodology course also had vastly different ideas of what constituted a Research Method. There were those who taught an almost pure course in statistics and those who taught only phenomenological methods. There were also those who had a higher degree but knew little of the research process as it did not form part of their coursework or they mimicked the methodology of their supervisor. …

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