Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Teaching Qualitative Research: Fostering Student Curiosity through an Arts-Informed Pedagogy

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Teaching Qualitative Research: Fostering Student Curiosity through an Arts-Informed Pedagogy

Article excerpt

Students entering their first graduate level research course usually have limited knowledge of qualitative research principles and methodologies due to the minimal exposure received in their undergraduate training. As such, qualitative research courses focus on introducing students to the underlying historical and philosophical foundations, familiarizing them with the variety of qualitative methodologies, and developing their capacity to conduct qualitative research (Onwuegbuzie, et al., 2012). Becoming a qualitative researcher involves a transformative process (Barrett, 2007) requiring a shift in thinking (Carawan, Knight, Wittman, Pokorny, & Velde, 2011), and a particular way of seeing and conceptualizing (Morse, 2005). This necessitates teachers' critical examination of pedagogical approaches that will best facilitate students on their journey in thinking like and becoming a qualitative researcher in higher education programs.

Problematic is that there is an underdeveloped body of literature related to the pedagogical approaches specific to qualitative research (Onwuegbuzie, et al., 2012; Waite, 2014). Typically, teachers use foundational literature and exemplar studies to familiarize students with qualitative approaches to research (Barrett, 2007). However, there remains a pedagogical focus on content, process, and methods (Rowe & McAllister, 2002; Stark & Watson, 1999) in which teachers emphasize the procedural steps of doing qualitative research so that there is a set of step-by-step methods to adhere to for students (Polkinghorne, 2006). This procedural focus on technical and methodological concepts has been influenced by the dominant discourse rooted in quantitative research in which the close adherence to method ensures objectivity and enhances validity (Polkinghorne, 2006). However, the transfer of this procedural focus to qualitative research overshadows the development of the researcher's skills in terms of mental processes related to perception, judgment and reasoning (Polkinghorne, 2006). It is suggested that graduate students have more difficulty developing the capacity for interpretive thinking than procedural steps related to the research process (Butler-Kisber, et al., 2002-2003). Considering that the researcher is the research instrument in qualitative research, his or her sensitivity to participants' responses and context are vital to the inquiry process and thus, these mental processes are important to develop (Polkinghorne, 2006). Additionally, the procedural focus has muted opportunities to foster passion and inspiration in students during the progression of a qualitative research course (Stark & Watson, 1999).

Existing literature in higher education indicates that teaching social science research methods, such as qualitative research, involve didactic approaches as well as pedagogies grounded in experiential learning theories and reflective practice (Kilburn, Nind, & Wiles, 2014). Recent years and educational developments have shown a greater focus on experiential learning approaches where students become immersed in the experience of qualitative research (Aronson Fontes & Piercy, 2000; Holtslander, Racine, Furniss, Burles, & Turner, 2012; Moss & Nesbitt, 2003; Smithbattle, 2014). Experiential teaching-learning theories manifest in pedagogical approaches in which the student is at the centre of learning and prompted to reflect upon and learn from their experiences (Dewey, 1938; Kolb & Kolb, 2012). For example, teachers have developed pedagogical approaches in which students are engaged in the practice of generating, analyzing, and interpreting qualitative data (Barrett, 2007). As evidenced in the nursing and medical fields, the use of arts-informed teaching strategies can be an effective medium for experiential teaching and learning (Casey, 2009; de la Croix, Rose, Wildig, & Willson, 2011; Frei, Alvarez, & Alexander, 2010).

The existing literature on arts-informed teaching methods for qualitative research, while limited, shows promise in demonstrating how the arts stimulates interest and expands students' understanding of qualitative research. …

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