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Qualitative research in teaching and learning: quality, innovation and future directions


Seminar 1: Quality in qualitative research: setting a new agenda
4 December 2003, Manchester Metropolitan University

This seminar was developed with two purposes in mind. The first was to provide a space for qualitative researchers to reflect and respond to the policy framework Quality in Qualitative Evaluation: A framework for assessing research evidence produced by the Cabinet Office (Spencer, Ritchie, Lewis & Dillon, 2003). The second was to initiate and develop ideas for the RCBN’s seminar series on qualitative research in teaching and learning. As such, the organisation was somewhat different from conventional RCBN programmed events, with the majority of participants invited to take part based on a professional interest in educational qualitative research. In total there were 24 participants, of which 17 provided data on their personal objectives for participating in the event and 12 filled in a post-event evaluation form. The process of evaluating this event was particularly under scrutiny given the nature of discussion on qualitative evaluation. One participant wrote on the RCBN’s standard evaluation form, “…this form is very open to critique and represents exactly the sort of objectives led, state based thinking we are hoping to address.” Whilst this participant viewed the form as a regulatory instrument, they also went on to say about the day’s event;

This was, however, a useful space for addressing it! Time and opportunity to discuss is the key benefit.

This theme arose throughout the day’s discussion, in a variety of contexts. Both the evaluation framework and the RCBN were critiqued for their foundation in technocratic beliefs about the function of research. Yet they were also recognised as providing a space in which technicist thinking could be challenged and extended. For example, while it was suggested that the authors of the qualitative framework had become caught up in the agenda of policy makers wanting a recipe book for evaluating the rigor and quality of qualitative research, it was recognised that they had made some headway in shifting their remit away from a procedural checklist, towards a more iterative process of professional judgement-making. The discussion on the framework was vigorous and it was suggested that written responses should be compiled for an issue of the Building Research Capacity newsletter.

The framework was also discussed in the light of the significant role systematic reviews currently play in research. This led to discussion on the permeability and variety of systematic approaches, and it was suggested there could be productive dialogue between researchers working with these various methods and qualitative researchers in future seminars. There were a number of other suggestions for the future seminar series including inviting a wider range of participants to the events, including practitioners and policy-makers. It was also suggested that the series looks to the future of education and how this vision may shape future research.

Written feedback from the event was predominantly positive, particularly as it related to the course objectives and participants’ personal needs, although there were some suggestions on how the event could have been improved – mainly related to organisational issues (such as ensuring the PowerPoint facility was working, providing a more intimate room) and pedagogical issues (such as encouraging all present to participate, and incorporate introductions at the beginning of the seminar).



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This page was last updated 18th February 2004