Sunday, September 19, 2010

Some Possible Ways to Collect Data

Last week, I was thinking about the various ways I could collect data for my research. I used my personal experience to help inform my thoughts, although I have kept in mind that my experience may not be typical for an EFL teacher abroad.

At this point, I have conceptual three ways to gather qualitative data. One is to do about a year's worth of participant observation. I believe this would be the most "reliable" approach as I could "objectively" observe my participants adjusting their teaching techniques to the classroom culture. However, this method would require the most time, resources, and cooperation.

The second idea, which I would combine with the first, but it would be more feasible to do without the first, is to interview these participants. At most, this would require me to visit the site for a first and maybe final meeting, but I could conduct the majority of interviews online via Skype, Google voice and video chat, or some video conferencing program like Adobe Connect. Here I could collect the participants' impressions of the foreign classroom and their development of their teaching approaches and philosophies.

The third idea, which is the most feasible but least "reliable" in terms of objective truth, is conducting interviews of participants who have had experience teaching EFL abroad. I learned in the qualitative methods course that this technique is called a "retrospective interview." There are too many risks with collecting reliable data as I feel that I could manipulate the interview too easily to get the answers I'm looking for not to mention the fact that memory is fallible and people like to embellish their experiences to make the narrative more interesting.

I believe that the best approach, if I had the time and resources, is to use a combination all three methods, which would support the concept of triangulation. As I asked in my class, I wonder if it is possible to do a part of the combination (the faster and cheaper aspects) for a dissertation and to a follow-up study (the slower and more expensive aspects) later on. I do not desire a dissertation that is fast and cheap, but the saying on campus is that "a good dissertation is a done dissertation."

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