Using open source narrative media to support the learning of qualitative data analysis approaches at University Centre Doncaster
University Centre Doncaster (UCD) is part of Doncaster College. This is a mixed economy FE college which provides a substantial amount of HE, situated within UCD. The student population comprises of students from within the local community and provision works towards the widening participation agenda.
This learning activity forms part of the dissertation module on a BA Top Up Early Childhood Studies (ECS) programme. The 40 credit Dissertation module is introduced to the students at level 6 to support their self directed project – an empirical study on a topic relating to the Early Years area. As the dissertation involves gathering and analysing primary data, the students need guidance on how to approach the process of systematic data analysis. The learning activity described here is designed to introduce learners to some of the essential theory and practical techniques of qualitative data analysis with the grounded theory approach (Strauss and Corbin, 1998).
To introduce learners to the theory, terminology, and processes which support the development of grounded theory as an approach to qualitative data analysis.
To support learners in narrative construction (Laurillard, 2002), reflection and meaning making when undertaking qualitative data analysis.
In previous years students have found it difficult to get to grips with grounded theory as an approach to data analysis, due to the complex terminology involved and the systematic thinking which they are required to apply. The media blend which we now use to introduce grounded theory to students has the potential to support meaning making, cater for different learning styles as well as offer flexibility in terms of the teaching and learning process.
Previously the teaching of qualitative data analysis used traditional learning resources only, such as book chapters (Strauss and Corbin, 1998; Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2007) and a lecture on the principles of grounded theory. The issue which emerged with this approach was that many of the students struggled to construct an understanding of the complex processes involved in coding and analysis. The current blend of media and resources used, seeks to address this issue and support students’ learning needs, while capitalising on the flexibility of access which an online resource provides.
The OER effect
Taking into account the complex terminology used to describe the grounded theory approach, there is a need for the learner to construct a narrative of the learning content, linking narrative construction directly to cognition and meaning making. In order to support students in their narrative construction the learning activity utilises an open educational resource (OER) by Huddersfield University focused on explaining the principles of grounded theory. The OER combines written text, animation and short video clips of lectures on the grounded theory approach. The 5 short video clips are signposted making clear which aspect of the grounded theory approach they explain: core elements, open coding, axial coding etc (School of Human and Health Sciences, 2009). The dynamic presentation and multiple media used explain concepts in several different ways, aiding the learner’s knowledge construction.
Key points for effective practice
The use of the OER in this case had to be embedded within the authentic learning and teaching activities which students engage in within the module.
The OER was used as one of several elements within a learning blend (Littlejohn and Pegler, 2007) including face to face lectures, tutorial support, group activities focused on analysing interview transcripts and online discussions providing a discursive element to the students’ learning. To be successful the OER had a specific purpose within this learning blend (narrative construction) which worked to complement the rest of the activities students engaged in (discussion, production/coding of data, reflective writing).
The OER material was flexible enough to be used in several ways - as part of the face to face lecture students had, as part of independent study at home supporting reflection, and as the subject of discussion amongst students on the institutional VLE and face to face.
Conclusions and recommendations
The video clips used in the OER are parts of a lecture delivered by Graham Gibbs on the grounded theory approach. Part of the effectiveness of the resource came from students being able to hear an explanation of the theory from an established and contemporary author of qualitative data analysis texts.
This experience has further shown that the use of the OER was most effective when embedded in the authentic learning activities which students were engaging in and discussing. Students were able to understand the theory better through applying it to the data they were collecting through interviews and observations.
The flexibility of the OER medium and the clear signposting with sections for open, axial and selective coding, means that students will be able to refer to parts of the resource in the process of coding.
The OER needs to be introduced to learners as one of several interconnected tools and activities which constitute the learning blend for this module of study. In this case the OER was one of the narrative construction tools used, alongside the guided reading and tutor notes and supplementing the discursive tools used: discussion forums, tutorials and seminars.
Dr Ester Ehiyazaryan: Ester.firstname.lastname@example.org
Laurillard, D. (2002a) ‘A Framework for Analysis’ In Rethinking University Teaching, 2nd Ed., London, Routledge.
Littlejohn, A. and Pegler, C. (2007) ‘Documenting e-Learning Blends, In Preparing for Blended e-Learning, London, Routledge.
School of Human and Health Sciences (2009) Learning Qualitative Data Analysis on the Web, University of Huddersfield, [Online] Available from: http://onlineqda.hud.ac.uk/methodologies.php
Link to OER: http://onlineqda.hud.ac.uk/
Adapted from https://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20140614115352/http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearning/oer2/casestudies.aspx under a CC-BY license.