Hoepfl, M. C. (1997). Choosing Qualitative Research: A Primer for Technology Education Researchers. Journal of Technology Education, 9(1).
Due to researchers unfamiliarity with qualitative research, many have veered away from using it or even viewing it as a valid research methodology. Hoepfl took on the challenge of explaining qualitative research in this article. She began the article by pointing out the usefulness of this type of methodology in the discovery process when variables would be identified for further research inquiries using either quantitative or qualitative methodologies. She furthers her argument about the worthiness of qualitative research by describing features of qualitative research and went into great detail in all areas with descriptions of best practices when using qualitative methodologies in research studies. She described the role of the researcher, research design, data collection techniques, observation strategies, analysis of data, and role of reporting research study information. She does not stop there. She goes on to explain that for this type of research the reviewers have an important role to play and one that is not the same as a reviewer of quantitative research. Credibility, transferability, dependability, confirmability (p. 58) are all necessary for qualitative research studies to be viewed as trustworthy by the others in the research community and beyond. Hoepfl ends the article by addressing the need for researchers to carefully consider a variety of research methodologies and to use the methodology that is best suited for the research question posed.
The author begins the article by addressing both quantitative and qualitative research with the understanding that both have their place in the research community. Then, throughout the article, she crafts a thorough explanation of qualitative research through the lens of quantitative research. She used this viewpoint as a starting point and continues comparing and contrasting the two methodologies because, as stated in the beginning of the article, many researchers are more familiar with the quantitative methodology. Her explanation of qualitative research is thorough and addresses most aspects of this type of methodology that must be considered when a researcher begins to construct and articulate a research question. Readers will gain an understanding of not only the reasons for using this type of method, but also basic information about this research technique and how to begin to apply and use this type of methodology.
I see a comparison between the methodology used when completing qualitative research and the methodology I employ when teaching in an English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom. When reading the features of qualitative research (p. 49) mentioned by Hoepfl, I do many of these on a daily basis in the classroom. The classroom is a natural setting for data collection, and I, as the researcher/teacher, act as the human instrument of data collection. I observe my students collect detailed descriptive notes about my students and their performance on specific tasks in the classroom. I discover and interpret information about my students’ performance. I pay attention to the understanding and learning of all students in my classroom as well as the unique individual learning differences that I encounter. I have a goal as to what concept I want my students to learn, but if necessary, I will teach remedial concepts or challenge students when necessary. I do share information about what works for me in my classroom with other instructors as well as pre-service teachers. This allows for others to test what has worked for me in their own classrooms. Teaching ESL may be unique in this aspect when compared to other areas of instruction because the students that are in my classroom come from a variety of backgrounds so English proficiency needs can vary greatly. I know what concepts should be taught at a particular level, but I also know that as an instructor if I want to be effective, then I have to adapt and change what I do in order to meet the needs of the students in my class. That, is where there is one glaring difference between the two. As a teacher, I do intervene and change what I am doing for a purpose or a reason, as a researcher, I can adapt what I am doing, but it should not be for the purpose of manipulating the end results; researchers must remain more impartial or trustworthiness will suffer.
I can see the need for qualitative research in educational technology. Educational technology is a new field and does not have the broad base of information to build from as other fields in education do. With more researchers employing qualitative research methodologies to look at the big picture concepts, some of the gaps in regards to research studies that do not build upon each other may be lessened. Relationships between past research studies may be able to be made more easily. In addition, by starting with the big picture and then focusing further research, whether qualitative or quantitative, on specific details that come into question because of the more broad qualitative study, future research is able to build on something which will strengthen the research efforts in the field of educational technology.