12 Days of SoTL: Day 06

Methods

On Day Six of SoTL:
We think about our data collection methods. Do our methods actually answer your questions?
Ask yourself, if you have a small group of students (10 or 20) how valuable is the data you get from a questionnaire with Likert Scale answers?

Are you too worried to try something new? What about a tweak to this method? Use open answer questions for some more in depth insights?

Methods are your tools. Your methods is how you collect your data, or where you get your data from. Like any tool, one standard way of collecting data might not work in your specific case. You might have to tweak the tool or use different tools to collect data in different ways to compare and contrast (data triangulation).

A real-life equivalency

It is a little bit like using a tap and die, because the screws you have in your toolbox don’t fit and you need to cut a different size of screw. Or you live at a high altitude you might have to decrease the amount of yeast for your bread recipe from the one you would use at low level ground. Methods whilst often having agreed descriptors and applications, are often adapted to the situation. This is why you find so many variations.

An actual example

As an example take photography as a research method. Initially, under a more positivist viewpoint, the items seen on the photographs were considered simply a depiction of a mutually understood reality. These methods can be helpful, and for instance highlight how much graffiti and doodles are on the benches in lecture halls and what they say. Photography can also be used as a focus point for interviews, to ease interview situation and gain better insights.
Other visual research left the taking of photographs to the participants, and their stories about the things depicted provide much richer insights into their experience, and will show the researchers very quickly that what we think we see is not necessarily what the participants see. This visual research method can be expanded into rich pictures, collages, even art, where participants draw, or create collages. You can see how complexity of a method can be tweaked and expanded according to the purpose of why you are using the method.

Open Resources

My colleagues were so generous to share their CPD slides about the various methods they taught, which I collated into this Sway presentation: https://sway.office.com/Hg8FfzfRlnB66A48?ref=Link

There is an interesting series of YouTube videos exploring the question: What is data? This is the link to the playlist: 

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