Using mixed methods

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I’ve come to think of myself a working largely within a mixed methods paradigm. Most of the projects that I do combine a number of different methods because I believe that this offers me the best chance of understanding the phenomenon that I’m interested in. I am also constantly surprised by the paramilitary wings of the quantitative and qualitative fields who respectively hold that nothing that can’t be counted is real and that nothing that can be counted has any value. So I try and assert the idea that if researchers are to understand the world they need to approach it in a variety of ways and through a variety of lenses. Some of this will seek to measure, to quantify and to lock down reality, others will seek to describe, explore and open up reality. Ultimately there are huge advantages in combining approaches to combine the insights that both offer.

I’m going to be teaching a session mixed methods to our EdD students on Wednesday. This is what I thought that I might cover.

Using mixed methods in educational research

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One comment

  1. I agree with all that you seem to be doing here (always a bit of guesswork when you have only the powerpoint and not the voice-over). The other example I’ve used is of progression through methods. A good example is the IES evaluation of the telephone guidance pilot, which was largely quantitive (questionnaires) with some evaluation of interviews by people listening in. One finding was the lower level of both use and satisfaction by older people. UfI then gave NICEC (Ruth Hawthorn and myself) a double contract to explore this. Ruth led a strand using semi-structured interviews to explore if it was the method of communication (phone, email) that altered usage/satisfaction. I ran a strand using very loosely structured interviews, more-or-less narrative method, exploring whether ‘career’ and ‘career management’ came to reflect different concerns in later working life. Both had interesting findings; mine in particular threw up themes of concern that we would not have asked about if we had ‘asked questions’: notably a concern with ‘time’ and with what I encapsulated into Erikson’s term ‘generativity’. Both reflect a move away from career ‘ambition’ into other life and work concerns, and that has significant implications for how we offer (and indeed how we advertise) career services for older people. But these concepts were not ones much considered in the career development field, so then – more mixed methods – I did further literature work to explore these ideas and begin to theorise them into our field.
    In summary, progressively mixed in an unfolding research question rather than an up-front mixed methods design.

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