Activity 2.5: Reflecting on the research methods

This is my take on activity 2.5;

1. In the discussion of task A11 (pp. 279–81) the account of the students’ utterances is plausible, but why is transcript data to be preferred to the video data for such a visual task?

Probably at time of writing this paper, transcript data could be analysed much easily when compared to video data. Video data would be too time consuming to extract data and investigate.

2. A criticism sometimes made of quantitative research is that it uses preconceived categories rather than letting findings ‘emerge’ from the data. The ‘Commentary’ on task A11 (pp. 280–1) is qualitative rather than quantitative, but it could be argued that it also uses preconceived categories.

For example, Elaine’s words before the intervention, ‘No, because it will come along like that’, and the fact that the next utterance is by John on the next question are interpreted as, ‘She gives a reason to support her view and this is not challenged.’

Her words after the intervention, ‘Now we’re talking about this bit so it can’t be number 2 it’s that one. It’s that one it’s that one’ are interpreted as, ‘In proposing number 4 Elaine is building on these two earlier failed solutions’ (p. 281).

Wegerif and Mercer have prior expectations about ‘exploratory talk’, defined as ‘talk in which reasons are given for assertions and reasoned challenges made and accepted within a co-operative framework orientated towards agreement’ (p. 277).

So notions such as ‘reason’, ‘support’, ‘challenge’ and ‘failed solution’ have specific, preconceived meanings. Do you think it would be possible to avoid the use of preconceived categories when analysing this data?

In such a study, preconceived meanings are not selected and used at random. The research needs to have a structure through which the data may be deciphered.  When interpreting what is being read from the transcripts or seen via the video data, researchers will bring along their own baggage of experience which will determine such preconceived categories. Moreover they need to agree on which criteria they will be on the look out.

Without such categorisation, it is difficult to generalise results. Moreover such a method is much more efficient as it is not time consuming as the case with pure qualitative analysis. Still, qualitative methods allow for the interpretation of the data being analysed.


3. Again in relation to task A11, what evidence might support the following claim on p. 281?

‘In the context of John’s vocal objections to previous assertions made by his two partners his silence at this point implies a tacit agreement with their decision.’

Video evidence would show gestures and/or facial expressions which the boy has made. An interview after the session with John could have supported (or not) this claim.

The whole transcript for the pre and post discussion around problem A11 could have given strength to the claim.

4. On p. 281, the authors claim:

‘It was generally found to be the case that the problems which had not been solved in the pre-intervention task and were then solved in the post-intervention task, leading to the marked increase in group scores, were solved as a result of group interaction strategies associated with exploratory talk and coached in the intervention programme.’

When you read this claim, did you ask yourself if the researchers had looked at whether this was also true of the control group? If time allows, feel free to look at the papers in which fuller accounts of the study appear.

5. In the post-intervention talk around problem A11, John says, ‘No, it’s out, that goes out look’.

This utterance doesn’t use the words ‘cos’, ‘because’, ‘if’, ‘so’ or a question word, but it is plausible that John is giving a reason. How might one deal with such a problem?

Software output need to be updated for such utterances or else researchers would need to go through such talk and update results.

6. Are you convinced that the study effectively demonstrates the authors’ case that:

‘the incorporation of computer-based methods into the study of talk offers a way of combining the strengths of quantitative and qualitative methods of discourse analysis while overcoming some of their main weaknesses’?

This paper does not give the impression that researchers are analysing a large set of data normally found in quantitative research.

The use of such computer-based text analysis may be decreasing the objectivity found in qualitative analysis. Such analysis allows the researcher to become ‘sensitive to content and context’. Such a strength of qualitative studies may be lost through such a study.

7. What does the computer add to the analysis?

Speed of data analysis. Thus more data could be processed. Still I think that with such a small sample, setting up the software and conducting this research through software probably has been too time consuming.

8. What is the status of computer-based text analysis 10 years on? Spend 20 minutes trying to answer this question by searching the web.

A quick search has not given me many results. Maybe this means that such tools are not mainstream. In this particular wiki (see:  Shulman gives an overview of various tools which are available for text analysis.

As for technology in general, computer-based text analysis has evolved. Text mining and text analytics seem to be derivatives of speech analysis where the input text is structured,  patterns in the structured data emerge thus outputting data which may be used for research purposes. The evolvement of technology has improved such analysis, where the focus seems to be on text analysis. Through Internet and big strides we have seen in past years, I think that data is much more available and rather then creating the tool, nowadays the focus is on selecting the best appropriate tool.

9. How does this paper compare with Reading 1?

Reading 2 is more focused on literature, on analysing different types of research methods and how these may be effective in the particular study of student talk. Both papers have a common theme ; that of collaborative learning, which today is still a very valid issue in education.


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