Beki Grinter

Posts Tagged ‘qualitative data’

If I Can’t Use Grounded Theory What Should I Use Instead?

In academia, discipline, empirical, HCI, research on April 3, 2012 at 3:57 pm

I’ve been posting about the problems I see when people do not apply Grounded Theory properly. A consequence of this is that I’ve been asked for alternate recommendations. This presents me with a dilemma.

On the one hand, I’ve potentially put people in the situation of asking me for this type of advice. But, on the other hand I find it troublesome. I feel that becoming a researcher is about taking on the responsibility for trying to open up a set of alternatives that might be viable candidates. I feel that the methods as much as the responsibility for the research questions, outcomes and write up belong to the researcher.

But, trying to balance that belief I have about the nature of research and those who do it, against alternative world views, I would suggest the following sets of resources to pursue finding those alternative approaches to qualitative data analysis.

Miles and Huberman’s Qualititative Data Analysis, an Expanded Sourcebook, while somewhat dated now contains a variety of qualitative method approaches. Another book in a similar vein is Creswell. But truthfully, there are a lot of these types of books that will survey the breadth of qualitative methods. Just try typing Qualitative Data Analysis into Google Scholar… One thing you’ll notice is that Sage Press produces a lot of texts in this area. You might try looking at a few of those online and see whether they look helpful.

Another place to look is in the related literature to the problem that you’re interested in. What did they do. I would look at empirical studies that did not include technology as well. While HCI is theoretically diverse, other fields have other traditions of scholarship. Look at qualititative studies that sought to understand the context in which you want to operate or technologically support, how did they analyze their data? What are the sources they refer to. Follow those sources.

But, I am not going to recommend a particular alternative approach. It’s very difficult to do this without understanding the research in detail. Let me give you an example. At Georgia Tech thesis proposals are scheduled for 3 hours. Prior to that time a document of considerable length is read, typically I’ve seen them range from about 50-120 pages. And after taking the 2-3 hours to read that, spending time reflecting on it, and then having 3 hours of discussion I am in what I feel to be a reasonably good place to make recommendations.

And I believe it is the responsibility of the researcher to pick their methods. Even if that means that sometimes it results in trial and error. Trial and error is what research is about, it’s the process of developing expertise. And that includes with methods as well as with the domain and the technology.


Why I Wish to Keep my Teaching Comments Out of My Evaluation

In academia, academic management, empirical on September 21, 2011 at 8:30 am

I’ve written a lot about metrics in the past, today my focus is on how qualitative data is generated and the implications for evaluation. I am aware that my management (and I use that term deliberately since this is an evaluation situation) want to see the comments that students write. They currently only see the numeric scores. Their argument is that the comments would enrich their ability to evaluate my teaching.

But, I find myself very resistant to the idea.

First, how do comments shed light on teaching? How do the comments, often typed out hastily in the throws of week 15 of a 16 week semester explain the ebb and flow of the class, the work I did to bring the class together, to draw the timid into discussion, to manage the differences in perspectives among class participants, to listen and counsel the students who brought them problems not related to the class but to their lives and their struggles and joys? These are subtleties of the experience that I’ve never seen in students’ comments. Not surprising, they’re not teachers! Teaching is an intimate and deep experience, one that can only be truly understood through experiencing the classroom. I realize the desire to measure it, but teaching evaluations are only partial instruments hence the ability to improve the scores without improving the actual teaching. Adding comments won’t change that.

Second, I have a particular concern as a woman. I am sure I am not alone in having comments about my body as part of the feedback. It’s tough enough knowing that as a woman my body and its “problems” is a part of the students’ discourse. But I accept that to be young is not always to be thoughtful or kind, and I teach despite that, knowing that I get to keep those indiscretions out of the professional discourse about me. While I respect my all male management, I find the idea that they can read remarks about my body embarrassing. It transforms an annoying inequity confronted by female scientists into a public humiliation.

And that’s why I don’t want my teaching comments made public.