Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Opening the Ears That Science Closed: Transforming Qualitative Data Using Oral Coding

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Opening the Ears That Science Closed: Transforming Qualitative Data Using Oral Coding

Article excerpt

This article is based on a paper presented at the 6th Annual Qualitative Report Conference on January 9, 2015 at Nova Southeastern University. It also draws on the article Reflections on Catholic Education in the USA: A Dialogue Across Generations from the 1950s to the 2000s (Bernauer, 2015) where I first formalized the steps in "oral coding."

The first part of the title of this article ("Opening the Ears that Science Closed") is intended to convey the changes that have occurred in the way that I now approach phenomena based on my journey from quantitative to qualitative researcher. I previously described this journey elsewhere in detail (Bernauer, 2012) so I will draw on it here only when it seems appropriate. However, I am finding that new manifestations of these changes arise as this journey continues in real time and I have come to think that the development of "oral coding" is the most recent manifestation. Apparently, the effects of having been "trained" to conduct research using quantitative methods based on the rationalistic paradigm (although I was not aware at the time that I was under this or any other paradigm nor that an equally valid naturalistic paradigm even existed!), has had a more powerful and persistent effect on my way of thinking and acting than I thought. I have most recently become aware of the impact of this paradigm based on what I now perceive to be the often mechanical application of the "scientific method" and its consequent narrowing effect on our capacity to appreciate the complexities that exist in the social "sciences" especially with respect to trying to further understand that most complex of phenomena - human beings and the organizations and societies that they create.

I first began to recognize my emerging paradigmatic transition from quantitative to qualitative methods a few years ago and I used "twists" to mark important turning points (Bernauer, 2012) as exhibited in this segment.

Although Twist 11 describes the most significant writing effort in terms of its impact on identity, I came to recognize another interesting but-until-the timeof-this-writing, unknown, subconscious behavioral characteristic that I adopted in relation to collaboration with colleagues. I now realize that when I worked with colleagues who were primarily of the "quantitative mindset" I found myself developing precise problem statements and statistical methods. I now think that perhaps a quantitative mindset does not necessarily mean an exclusive focus on numerical data but rather the need to use a more scientific approach to both problem finding and problem solving. (pp. 9-10)

I cite this particular segment because it sheds some light on my recognition of the concept pointed out by Guba (1981) and that is that the essential difference between qualitative and quantitative traditions is not the methods that are used but rather the paradigmatic assumptions underlying them. In particular, I now recognize that I unconsciously relied on the "scientific approach" (with its underlying "rationalistic paradigm") as my pathway to "truth." As noted previously, I am still uncovering how much of what I think and do is based on this paradigm. However, let me be very clear that just as Guba envisioned a rapprochement between the two traditions, I too do not see differences as an irreparable chasm - whether one looks at a phenomenon based on the naturalistic or rationalistic paradigm depends both on the purpose of the study and the nature of the problem. And certainly, most phenomena admit of multiple ways of looking at them. In fact, I believe that it is in a respectful conversation among those who look at phenomena from different perspectives that the interdisciplinary approach to both problem finding and problem solving can be fully developed and form the foundation for designing quality studies that use an artistic mixture of quantitative and qualitative approaches. This reflective and reasoned approach contrasts with the sometimes faddish propensity to use "mixed methods" simply because they may be currently in vogue. …

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