Education | Qualitative Inquiry in Education
Y611 | 6247 | Dr. Tom Schwen
Prerequisites: Y520 and admission to a doctoral program.
This course is designed on the premise that you are a serious
doctoral student who is either in the process of or about to start a
research project. In other words you are bringing a problem to the
class that could be framed in one or more of the perspectives of
qualitative inquiry. The class is constructed in a fashion so as to
permit you to refine your problem statement, pose reasonable research
questions, describe alternative methods, collect and analyze just
enough data so as to experience many of the exigencies of qualitative
The logic of the course outline is the abstract and quite inaccurate
linear research process that can be found in textbooks such as
Silverman. This is not to say the Silverman or any other
sophisticated researcher really believes qualitative research occurs
in a certain order. It is just a convenient fiction that permits the
author to provide a logical framework for discussion. I am using
this structure for the same reason. It is reasonable to discuss
problem frameworks before research questions and methods respectively
even if it doesn’t always happen in that way. You will be asked to
refine your thinking about your intellectual passion and research
interest by developing a more disciplined written description than
currently exists. Your understanding of your research problem should
be far more sophisticated than it is at present as you work through
the assignments in the class. This is my contract with you: I should
be orchestrating the course and coaching so you advance in this
understanding and you should be in touch with me (on a tight
schedule) through the assignments so I can best assist you in your
progress. Let me know early if you are in trouble conceptually or
methodologically. I can usually find a way through most clouds of
uncertainty, confusion or methodological morass.
Research in practice is often a tiring matter of successive
approximations. One rarely creates an acceptable research proposal
on the first attempt; the breadth of coverage in this course is far
too comprehensive to provide the necessary depth for a detailed
dissertation proposal or publication. (although about a third of the
previous class members have gone to immediate publication right after
the class.) You should be working with your mentor in your major and
consider taking additional courses to achieve the kind of excellence
that is required by professionals in your field. Collectively we can
learn far more about your problem and the methods that may shed light
on it, but this is the beginning of a critical journey not,
typically, the last stage.
Goals: The Student upon completing this class should be able to:
•differentiate between the major forms of qualitative inquiry with
enough sophistication to make informed choices for subsequent
•develop and revise a research proposal that meets the minimum
standards for publication in your major;
•develop a research report by
conducting three forms of data collection (on a minor scale) that
meets typical scholarly requirements for rigor and discipline;
describing the results of data collection in a Journal publication
addressing the strengths and weaknesses of your inquiry in a manner
that would inform subsequent inquirers about modifications that
should be considered in future research.
developing assertions about your research that would stand scrutiny
by an editorial board;
Texts: Doing Qualitative Research: A Practical Handbook. David
Silverman, Sage Publications, 2000
The Art of Case Study Research. Robert E. Stake, Sage Publications,
Handbook of Qualitative Research 2nd Edition. Norman K. Denzin &
Yvonna S. Lincoln editors. Sage Publications, 2000.
Readings on Reserve
Anderson, G. A. (1989). “Critical ethnography in education: Origins,
current status, and new directions.” Review of Educational Research 59
Association, A. E. R. (1992). “Ethical standards of the American
Educational Research Association.” Educational Researcher 21(7): 23-
Ayers, W. (1989). The good preschool teacher: Six teachers reflect on
their lives. New York, Teachers College, Columbia University.
Barab, S. A., M. Cherkes-Julkowski, et al. (1999). “Principles of
self-organization: Learning as participation in autocatakinetic
systems.” The Journal of The Learning Sciences 8(3&4): 349-390.
Barritt, L., T. Beekman, et al. (1985). Researching educational
practice, University of North Dakota.
Brantlinger, E. (1996). “Influence of preservice teachers' beliefs
about pupil achievement on attitudes toward inclusion.” Teacher
Education and Special Education 19(1): 17-33.
Brantlinger, E. and M. Majd-Jabbari (1998). “The conflicted
pedagogical and curricular perspectives of middle-class mothers.”
Journal of Curriculum Studies 30(4): 431-460.
Flinders, D. J. (1992). “In search of ethical guidance: Constructing
a basis for dialogue.” Qualitative Studies in Education 5(2): 101-115.
Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures: Selected essays.
New York, Basic Books.
Kloosterman, P., A. M. Raymond, et al. (1996). “Students' beliefs
about mathematics: A three-year study.” The Elementary School Journal
Kozol, J. (1992). Savage inequalities: Children in America's schools.
New York, Harper Perennial.
Levinson, B. A. The social commitment of the educational
ethnographer: Notes on fieldwork in Mexico and the field of work in
the United States.
Levinson, B. A. (1998). “(How) can a man do feminist ethnography of
education?” Qualitativey Inquiry 4(3): 337-368.
Levinson, B. A. (1998). “Student culture and the contradictions of
equality at a Mexican secondary school.” Anthropology & Education
Quarterly 29(3): 267-296.
Mabry, L. (1991). Nicole: Seeking attention. Learning to fail: Case
studies of students at-risk. D. B. Strogher. Bloomington, IN, Phi
Delta Kappa: 1-24.
Mabry, L. (1996). Assessment at Santana Math and Science Academy.
School improvement: Facilitating teacher professional development in
Chicago school reform. R. Stake, T. Souchet, R. Cliftet al. Urbana,
IL, Center for Instructional Research and CUrriculum Evaluation,
University of Illinois: 137-180.
Price, R. (1976). Behavior setting theory and research. The Human
Context. R. H. Moos. New York, Wiley: 213-247.
Scott, M. (1980). “Ecological theory and methods for research in
special education.” The Journal of Special Education 14(3): 279-294.
Shulman, J. (1987). “From veteran parent to novice teacher: A case
study of a student teacher.” Teaching and Teacher Education 3(1): 13-
Stake, R. and L. Mabry (1995). Case study for a deep understanding of
teaching. Research on teaching. A. Ornstein. Boston, Allyn & Bacon:
Stake, R. E. (1978). “The case study method in scoial inquiry.”
Educational Researcher 7(2): 5-8.
Assignments—Fieldwork: This series of assignments should be around a
single theme. I hope you will use this opportunity to initiate a
dissertation or serious research project. In any event we will you
use the dissertation or formal publication structure so that you have
practiced the process of developing a research proposal. 55% of
1. Research Prospectus (Due Sept 15) 2 to4 pages. The document
will look very much like the prospectus that is required for
Nomination to Candidacy, perhaps a bit longer. Remember its
speculative document that speaks to a plan where not all the
variables or contingencies can be known in advance. This will be a
first draft that will be revised through the semester.
•The research question
•A justification of the topic (Conceptual rationale)
•A description of the context for the study (site/ behavior to be
Possible sources of data such as
Documents and/or related artifacts
Attempts to ensure validity
•Possible Results and Conclusions
2. Observation Report (Due Sept 29) 3 to 5 pages. This is an
analytic report summarizing at least three observations. You should
summarize and reconstruct your field notes in such a fashion so that
reader understands the scene, the players and their actions, and is
led to a deeper understanding of the dynamics you describe. You
should go beyond description to analysis of the transactions. There
should be an appropriate ration of description to interpretation,
about 2/3 / 1/3.
3. Interview report (Due Oct 13) 3 to 4 pages. Construct a
summary of three or more interviews. In the same manner of the
observation report go beyond a simple restatement of the interview to
describe a theme, a pattern or an insight you derived from the
interviews. You may start by describing the interviewees, their
relationship to your problem and a brief summary of the interview. Go
on to interpret the interviews in the context of your study. Use
direct quotes where it adds to the arguments you are developing. Do
include your attempts at post hoc validation and the interview plan
in an Appendix.
4. Document Analysis (Due Oct 27 ) 3 to4 pages. Develop a
brief summary of relevant documents. Describe the relevance of the
documents, how they were obtained and what you believe they mean in
the context of the study. You should count the phenomena represented
in the documents if it is warranted.
5. Annotated Bibliography (Due Nov 10) 2 to 3 pages. Pick the
most important bibliographic items related to your study. Either
describe the rationale for the study or interpret your results in the
light of the bibliographic references. You should list each item and
summarize and critique it related to the argument you are developing.
This assignment will translate into either the lit review in the
final paper or the interpretation section of the final report or both.
6. Final report (Due Dec 1) 15-25pgs. Construct a journal
length article for a journal in your field. . Restate the purpose,
lit review, analysis, design, results (use Stake’s notion of
assertion) and substantive understandings you developed and include
recommendations for future research. In a cover letter please be
very frank about the lessons you learned during the process. (Divulge
your mistakes of omission and commission.)
Assignments-Group work and class participation You will be asked to
form a small group formed by common interests or research problems.
You will be asked to share drafts of your assignments and to critique
these drafts as they are presented. I hope to simulate some of the
most enjoyable and productive aspects of the research process. I
believe you will learn form one another and your papers will
substantially improve because of this exchange. If you treat this
assignment seriously you could actually become addicted to the
research process. 10% of final grade
Assignments-Reading You will be given short reading and interpretive
assignments from time to time to allow you focus on the critical
elements of the lesson. These assignments will be due on the day the
reading assignment is to be discussed. 10% of final grade
Assignments-Final Test This assignment is still negotiable. I could
see a reflective paper or a complete revision of the cumulative
assignments as a substitute. Frankly I am interested in our
assessing your progress at mid semester and then making a
determination with you. 25% of final grade
Caveats and Warnings As I mentioned earlier this class plan assumes
you will be working intently to advance your research problem as much
as humanly possible. I believe you can surprise your self with your
progress if you follow the agenda, work like a demon and don’t worry
about grades and other extraneous issues like family, friends and a
life. This is immersion pedagogy. There are plenty of great
resources and I am quite good at coaching without owning your
problem. Don’t expect to be excellent initially. I will work with
you to improve your understanding of the problem. You can achieve
excellence with discipline and hard work.
Also, this is the place in the Syllabus for the usual warnings about
late assignments and incompletes. I want you to know I am severely
allergic to both phenomena. I shake and develop headaches and get
really cranky in the presence of such requests. Please don’t ask
unless you have a very good reason. Students who profit the most from
this class plan work with passion and discipline usually left to
national emergencies or weddings. I have been known to be reasonable
in the event of real emergencies.
Introduction Session 1/ Introduction to the course, Discussion of
course requirements, Ax fight exercise
Theories of Inquiry
Session 2, Qualitative Inquiry the Field
Read: Silverman Chs 1-6 Read quickly for general understanding
Stake Chs 1,2,3 especially Ch 3
Denzin & Lincoln Ch 1,6,7,13
Session 3 Preparing for Qualitative Research
Read Silverman Chs 7-10
Stake Ch 4
Denzin & Lincoln Ch 1 read again
Session 4 The Role of Theory in Qualitative Research
Read Silverman Ch 6 (reread)
Denzin & Lincoln Chs 2,7,19
Session 5 Observation
Read Stake Ch 4
Silverman Chs 8,11
Denzin & Lincoln Ch 25
Session 6 Interviewing
Read Silverman Chs 10,11
Holstein & Gubrium monograph
Denzin & Lincoln Ch 24
Session 7 Document Analysis
Denzin & Lincoln Chs 26,27
Session 8 Validity/ Methodological Integrity
Read Silverman Ch 13
Stake Chs 5,6,7
Denzin & Lincoln Reread Ch 6
Session 9 Ethnography
Denzin & Lincoln Chs 15, 17, 18, 28
Readings Anderson, Geertz, Kozol, Levinson
Constructing the Report
Session 10 Data Analysis
Stake Chs 5,6
Denzin & Lincoln Ch 29
Silverman Chs 10,11,12 Pt 4
Session 11 Reporting your study
Silverman Pt 5
Stake review Ch 8
Denzin & Lincoln Find sections of personal relevance Chs 36-39
Session 12 The Ethics of Qualitative Research
Readings Flinders, AERA
Denzin & Lincoln Ch 14 check extensive index citations & read
Session 13 Presentation of class Projects
It is quite possible we will need to extend a session or two. For
example we could easily take two weeks to read and discuss issues
related to Ethnography. We will also schedule a work session to
review and critique each other’s work this session will occur about
Faculty & Student Researchers I have scheduled several active
researchers to give presentations about their qualitative inquiries.
I hope to make the process more accessible and less mysterious with
these presentations. I have picked researchers from each area of the
School so I believe you find at least a minority of the research
reports relevant to your major. Since these are excellent
researchers all of the presentations should be instructive.
http://www.latrobe.edu.au/www/aqr/index.html Association for
http://www.ualberta.ca/~iiqm/ International Institute for Qualitative
http://www.nova.edu/sss/QR/index.html The Qualitative Report
http://www.iat.unc.edu/guides/irg-55.html Readings in Qualitative
http://www.socresonline.org.uk/socresonline Sociological Research
Some Relevant Journals
Anthropology and Education Quarterly
International Journal of Qualitative Studies
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography
American Educational Research Journal (Publishes qualitative
Selected Bibliography the word selected is just a cover for saying
there is a vast literature and these are some of the classics from my
point of view.
Burawoy, M. et al. Ethnography Unbound. University of California
Crotty, M, The foundations of social research: meaning and
perspective in the research process. Sage. 1998
Denzin, N. K. Interpretive Biography Ethnographic Practices for the
21st Century. Sage, 1997.
Denzin, N. K. Interpretive Interach'onism. Sage, 1989.
Denzin, N. K. The Research Act, 3rd ea., Prentice Hall, 1989.
Denzin, N. K. and Lincoln Y. S., eds., Handbook of Qualitative
Research (Sage, 1994).
Eisner, E. & Peshkin, A., eds. Qualitative Inquiry in Education: The
Teachers College Press, 1990.
Erickson, F. Qualitative Methods in Research on Teaching. In M. C.
Handbook of Research on Teaching 3rd ed. Macmillan, 1986.
Fielding, N. G. and Lee, R. M., eds. Using Computers in Qualitative
Research. Sage, 1991.
Guba, E,G., and Lincoln, Y.S., Naturalistic Inquiry. Sage. 1985
Hammersley, M. What's Wrong with Ethnography? Routledge, 1992.
Harnmersley, M. and Atkinson, P. Ethnography: Principles in Practice.
LeCompte, M. D. and Preissle, J. Ethnography and Qualitative Design
Research 2nd ea., Academic Press, 1993.
LeCompte, M. D., Millroy, W. L., and Preissle, J., eds. Handbook of
Qualitative Research in Education. Academic Press, 1992.
Lofland, J. and Lofland, L. H. Analyzing Social Settings 3rd ed.
Marriam, S. Case Study Research in Education: A Qualitative Approach,
Miles, M. B. and Huberman, A. M. Qualitative Data Analysis 2nd ea.,
Patton, M. Q. Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods 2nd ea.,
Phillips, D. C., Expanded Social Scientists Bestiary: aguide to
fabled threats to, and defenses of, naturalistic social science,
Rowman & Littlefield, London 2000
Phillips, D.C. & Burbles, N.C., Postpositivism and Educational
Research, Rowman & Littlefield, London 2000
Reinharz, S. Feminist Methods in Social Research . Oxford University
Stake, R. The Art of the Case Study. Sage, 1995.
Wolcott, H.F. Transforming Qualitative Data: Description Analysis and
Interpretation, Sage, 1994.
Wolf, D.L. (Ed.) Feminist Dilemmas in Fieldwork. Westview, 1996.