15/05/2006 Education Psychology
DOI: 10.2167/eri426.0 SemanticScholar ID: 144162556 MAG: 2001505506

Combining Numbers with Narratives

Publication Summary

Mixing methods, especially those traditionally termed ‘qualitative’ and ‘quantitative’, has become a fashionable area for discussion in social science a third methodological movement perhaps (Gorard & Taylor, 2004). Some commentators have argued that overcoming wasteful paradigmatic strife leads to stronger research, others that the methods are not so much mixed as complementary, while others have argued that the mixing of methods has always gone on to about the same extent as now. In the call for this special issue, we sought papers from any of these, and other, perspectives, presenting findings, discussing methods or presenting philosophical positions for or against mixed methods. The four papers, and the related book reviews, selected for this issue cover just about all of these areas. However, it is interesting to note that each of the papers is centred on substantive results from an empirical project. Perhaps the days of papers simply discussing the feasibility of mixed methods are over. Siraj-Blatchford, Sammons, Sylva, Melhuish and Taggart use their own study on the Effective Provision of Preschool Education to illustrate the value of mixed methods research, and to address the critics of mixed methods who wish to maintain a ‘paradigm divide’ between qualitative and quantitative communities. Collins, Onwuegbuzie and Jiao have conducted a content analysis of four leading US research journals over four years, documenting the prevalence of different kinds of mixed methods studies, and considering some aspects of the consistency in the results of each study. Day, Sammons, Kington, Stobart and Gu report on the results of their research on the working lives of schoolteachers. The project is based on links between the complex modelling of existing official data on school outcomes, and related interview case studies of differently effective teachers. Kettley presents the results of a study of the determinants of attainment in Further Education or Sixth Form colleges, based on existing official data, survey and follow-up interviews. He, like the other authors here, shows no sign of being hindered by any ‘paradigm divide’. There is, in our opinion, a pressing need for education researchers to overcome rigid methods identities supported by terms like ‘qualitative’ and ‘quantitative’, and to learn more about a wider range of methods as users, consumers and critics of each others’ research. Part of the problem in enhancing research capacity is the unnecessary existence of methods identities among researchers, defended on pseudophilosophical grounds (Gorard, 2004). But a larger part of the problem is the indifference of many researchers to the appropriate use of numbers. This is also, perhaps, the easiest thing to change (Gorard, 2006). We all generally use numbers every day of our lives. We tell the time and date, and plan meetings or lectures, or we arrange our travel to work,

CAER Authors

Avatar Image for Stephen Gorard

Prof. Stephen Gorard

University of Durham - Professor in the School of Education

Share this

Next publication

2009 Psychology

The Dynamics of Category Conjunctions

R. Hutter, R. Crisp, G. Humphreys, Gillian. M. Waters + 1 more