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Summary Evaluation
Developing research capacity in qualitative inquiry Seminar


May 12th 2004 New Hall, Cambridge University

This event was the second seminar in the qualitative research series entitled “Qualitative Research In Teaching And Learning: Quality, Innovation And Future Directions”. It was developed from the discussion and feedback generated from the first seminar in this series, held at MMU on 4th December 2003. There were two speakers at the event, Jan Winter and Ian Stronach, with Peter John cancelling at the last moment and not able to be replaced. Colleen McCulloch and Alan Dyson responded to the two speakers and there were opportunities for open discussion.

The seminar was well attended, with TLRP researchers making up the majority of participants. In their personal objectives for attending the event, participants had quite diverse reasons for participating, although the most common objective was to increase their understanding of using qualitative research methods. Given that the aim of the seminar was to discuss and build knowledge around notions of partnership in qualitative teaching and learning research, there was not a lot of emphasis given to research methods in the speakers’ presentations. This resulted in a significant amount of feedback from participants that the event had not met this aspect of their personal objective for attending the event. For example, one person commented “I expected more emphasis on qualitative inquiry and not an exclusive emphasis on partnership/practitioner research”.

The seminar did generate a lot of discussion and the following is a summary of themes that arose in the course of the day:

• the conflictual and problematic nature of the hybrid identity of the teacher-researcher,
• similarities between professional identities, for example the professional vulnerability of the contract researcher, teacher-researcher and FE lecturer,
• professional identities are currently subject to an audit culture of accountabilities, however they are also subjectively constructed in terms of commitments (or things “they” believe).
• partnership is one of the ways currently promulgated through public policy that research should impact upon practice and that these partnerships between teachers and researchers are often utopian visions,
• while differential power is inevitable, and necessary in the production of knowledge, the more transparent the negotiation is, then the more opportunities there are to build partnerships that have more mutual advantages and encourage participation.
Qualitative Research
• when compared with new understandings about science and its relationship to social life, the evidence-based research movement typified by the EPPI-Centre is using a static and deterministic version of science,
• current issues in science such as stem cell research are being debated in the light of social and human issues like ethics and religion, the type of knowledge being produced is socially robust knowledge, emphasising heterogeneity and is an active or creative force, in other words, science is becoming more like qualitative research.
Research capacity-building
• what does building research capacity actually mean in the case of teacher-researchers and if it is about inducting teachers into an HE culture of research, is this ethical because within the HE culture they become subordinate?
• if the dominant notion of capacity-building in the TLRP and RCBN is implicit in the skills survey conducted by the RCBN then it is a set of quality criteria against which not only teacher-researchers are found lacking, but also competent, professional qualitative educational researchers,
• the use of metaphors like “capacity” and “building” are masculine metaphors that imply concepts such as “measurement”, “linearity” and “standardisation”, new metaphors of “tapestry”, “weaving” and “threads” might better encapsulate the more feminised, richer and emotional aspects of the work of qualitative researchers.
• there is a systemic destruction of research capacity in the way researchers are employed, and perhaps there is a political role for the RCBN in addressing this.

Feedback from the day indicated that a number of participants appreciated the opportunity to take time out from their routines to critically engage with these issues. A discussion document generated by the day’s discussion has had a significant impact on future programme planning for the RCBN. In particular, it has informed the planning for the contract researchers’ conference planned for the end of 2004.

While the room was not ideally suited to the kind of discussion that took place at this venue (it was long and narrow) the venue management was very efficient and helpful and the facilities were good.



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This page was last updated 14th September 2004