6. A series of comments on research in science education

Here I will reflect upon phenomenology and probably some other methods. Also my thoughts on some important concepts in research.

Fixed design: Research strategy where the research project is more fixed before data is collected. For instance, the golden standard randomised control trial maybe even with a control group or pre- posttest with a treatment in between. The test is constructed before the research is undertaken.

Flexible design: Research strategy where the research project is developed further when data is collected and are being analysed. For instance,

Validity is a measurement if you measure what you intended to measure, or with Robsons words (Real World Research, second ed. 2002. p 93): ”Validity is concerned with whether the findings are ´really´what they appear to be about.”

Internal validity: concerns the trustworthiness of the research process and how it is done. Cause & effect, the effect can be explain by the found cause and nothing else. The cause precedes the effect, cause and effect are related, no other plausible explanations can be found for the effect. In this sense are different biases or systematic errors considered and measure taken to avoid them? Here is a very good list of research biases:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917255/ Wikipedia also have a list of different biases: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

External validity: concerns how the research results can be generalized to other people or other studies.

According to Robson (Real World Research, 2002, p 107) internal and external validity tends to be inversely related. If you have controls to strengthen internal validity you often fight against external validity (or generalizability).

Reliability concerns the trustworthiness of the undertaken research, if the results can be repeated if someone else does the same research process.

Triangulation can be describes as using several methods, participants, perspectives, theories or analysis who, hopefully, point to the same results or complement each others in such a way the results are strengthened.

However, there are criticism against validity and reliability when it comes to qualitative research. Not all researchers agree that qualitative research can be reliable and valid, at all. Robson writes a couple of pages on this matter (Real World Research second ed., 2002, pp 168-177).

Phenomenology: ”A form of qualitative research in which the researcher attempts to identify commonalities in the perceptions of several individuals regarding a particular phenomenon.” – Data Definitions Adapted from the Glossary How to Design and Evaluate Research in Education by Jack R. Fraenkel and Norman E. Wallen, PDF here.

”Husserl rejected the belief that objects in the external world exist independently and that the information about objects is reliable. He argued that people can be certain about how things appear in, or present themselves to, their consciousness (Eagleton, 1983; Fouche, 1993). To arrive at certainty, anything outside immediate experience must be ignored, and in this way the external world is reduced to the contents of personal consciousness. Realities are thus treated as pure ‘phenomena’ and the only absolute data from where to begin. Husserl named his philosophical method ‘phenomenology’, the science of pure ‘phenomena’ (Eagleton, 1983, p. 55). The aim of phenomenology is the return to the concrete, captured by the slogan ‘Back to the things themselves!’ (Eagleton, 1983, p. 56; Kruger, 1988, p. 28; Moustakas, 1994, p. 26).”

– Groenewald, T. (2004). A phenomenological research design illustrated.

Groenewald describes his analysis (or lack of…?) as:

  • 1) Bracketing and phenomenological reduction.
  • 2) Delineating units of meaning.
  • 3) Clustering of units of meaning to form themes.
  • 4) Summarising each interview, validating it and where necessary modifying it.
  • 5) Extracting general and unique themes from all the interviews and making a composite summary.

The process of analysis (described quite thoroughly in the article by Groenewald) I get some vibes that the process of analysing data for/in discourse analysis i similar. There are differences, for instance the intention, the why. In phenomenology, as Groenewald way, you search for different thing that regards one specific phenomena.

Another interesting read on phenomenology is Van der Mescht Phenomenology in Education: A Case Study in Educational Leadership.

Collier-Reed & Ingerman writes the following regarding phenomenology and research:

”In deciding whether phenomenography can help a researcher answer the question posed in their research, it is important to take care to frame the question appropriately. As the approach is directed towards understanding the relationship between a student and a phenomenon in the world, it is important that the phenomenon is one that is able to be clearly articulated and shared by those participating in the research. As the focus of the research is not on the phenomenon per se, but rather on describing how students may conceive of the phenomenon, a critical first step is the researcher ensuring that participants attend to the same phenomenon during the data collection process. This is often non-trivial as the nature of some phenomena is such that it is challenging to ensure that participants describe their relationship with the same phenomenon as other participants.” – Phenomenography: From critical aspects to knowledge claim

Like discourse analysis there is a lot done in phenomenology and therefore a lot to read and reflect upon.



Dr Hennie Van der Mescht (2004) Phenomenology in Education: A Case Study in Educational Leadership, Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, 4:1, 1-16, DOI: 10.1080/20797222.2004.11433887 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/20797222.2004.11433887

Collier-Reed, B. & Ingerman, Å. (2013) Phenomenography: From Critical Aspects to Knowledge Claim. Jeroen Huisman, Malcolm Tight (ed.) Theory and Method in Higher Education Research (International Perspectives on Higher Education Research, Volume 9), p 243-260.

Robson, C., (2002) Real World Research second edition.

Groenewald, T. (2004). A phenomenological research design illustrated. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 3(1). Article 4. Retrieved 27/3 -16 from http://www.ualberta.ca/~iiqm/backissues/3_1/pdf/groenewald.pdf

Wikipedia on the bold words + above mentioned book.



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