Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research Methods

In the studies of education, quantitative and qualitative approaches are commonly used. The methodologies are different. The purpose of a quantitative approach is to describe the current environment, investigate relationships, and to study cause and effect. The purpose of a qualitative approach is to provide a focused, interpreted, and detailed study of the participants and their environment. In regards to research, it is interesting to question what is more important: quality or quantity?

The four major designs of quantitative design are Descriptive survey, Correlational, Causal comparative, and Experimental. The first design is to simply describe the current environment. Characteristics include using large samples, tests, questionnaires, focus limited to attitudes and concerns, and statistical analysis of numerical data. An example is “What kinds of activities typically occur in urban after-school programs?” The second design is called Correlational. The purpose of this step is to determine the statistical relationship between two or more variables. Points of this step include using one group of participants measuring on two levels of variation, focusing on direction and nature of a certain relationship, and using instrumentation to measure variables. An example would be to study the relationship between grades in major classes (English & Math) to minor classes (Art & Gym). The third step in Quantitative design is Causal comparative. The purpose of this design is to explore relationships among variables that cannot be changed or controlled by the researcher. Characteristics of this step include selecting participants from at least two groups in which the independent variable has already occurred. An example of this is determining the effect of community service has on the achievement of high school students? The final step in this design is Experimental. The purpose of this step is to establish cause and effect relationships between variables. Characteristics include control and manipulation of the causal and extraneous variables. An example of this design is examining the effect of 1) inclusion or 2) traditional classroom.

Qualitative designs provide environment focused, interpreted, more detailed descriptions of the subjects and their settings. This design also has four areas. The first area is referred to as Action research. The purpose of this research is to provide a solution to an educator’s problem in his or her own school. Characteristics include data collection in a cyclical nature. The second area is called Historical research. This research is used to gain insight into past events or issues in order to better understand a current situation. Characteristics include artifacts, social issues and policies, and already used data. The third area is referred to as Ethnography. Ethnography research is research done to obtain a better understanding of the shared beliefs and practices of a particular group. Characteristics of this research include observation and interviews of subjects, a lengthy period of time needed, and subjects are observed in their natural environment. The final area is called Grounded Theory. Grounded Theory is used to analyze patterns, which have previously been identified. These patterns have derived from theories emerging from data. Characteristics include data collection using analytic strategies, conceptual process, and respect of a subject’s values.

In the educational field research is done on a daily basis. Educators and researchers are constantly trying to better understand relationships. Based on the problems that face a certain educational field would dictate the research method and design to utilize to achieve the best results. Each design mentioned possesses a particular characteristic that coincides with the type of educational problem. It is my opinion that Qualitative research design would be a more appropriate approach to the problems facing education. For example, recently in Massachusetts where I am currently a Reading teacher, there is a strong emphasis on standardized testing. The testing I am referring to is the ITBS. (Iowa Test of Basic Skills) A Qualitative design would take into affect the lack of cultural sensitivity this test represents. Additionally, it has been shown in previous research that standardized tests cause anxiety in younger learners. The use of the four designs: Action research, Historical research, Ethnography, and Grounded theory are better designs for education. Qualitative research is more focused. It is also more detailed. The research provides a better picture of the student and his/her educational environment. Through interpretations of the participants and the external and internal settings, this design would provide more appropriate research for an ever-changing topic.

The school where I teach is located in an urban area. Ethnography research design incorporates that the researcher emerges himself/herself into the environment. It would provide the researcher with the opportunity to observe his/her participants in their natural setting and would also provide a lot of observation data. This type of research requires a lot of time and warrants interviews to establish trust. Education in urban schools is harder than rural areas. It is harder because educators do not have the support from families like they should. Additionally, educational standards are not different around the country. The theory that “all children are the same” is not accurate. Expectations are the same when research shows it should be different. A Qualitative research design would better serve what happens in schools across the United States.