Course Syllabus, Spring 2001

Qualitative Research in Education

EDLEAD/ETSCS 605-002; EDPSY 593-002

Dr. Jan Armstrong, College of Education

University of New Mexico

Tuesdays 4 - 6:30 PM
Office: Education Office Building 107
Phone: 277-6427
Credit Hours: 3
Prereqs: see below

Office Hours: T 2-3:30, W 2-4 and by appointment

Course home page:

Instructor's home page:

Reading Assignments and Class Schedule

Welcome to Qualitative Research in Education! This is an intensive course in the use of field-based and general qualitative research methods in the social study of education. The aim of the course is to help participants acquire skill and gain experience in using a wide range of methodological and analytical research techniques. The emphasis of the course is on the collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of qualitative data.

Course Objectives

This course will provide experiences that will help you

extend your understanding of the theoretical and methodological traditions that guide contemporary qualitative research in education

learn how to engage in qualitative fieldwork and other data collection activities in an ethical and technically defensible manner

practice interviewing and field observation techniques

learn a variety of strategies for analyzing and interpreting qualitative data

think creatively and collaboratively about qualitative research design and analysis issues

critically examine your own personal and professional values as an aspect of your work as an educational researcher

Course texts and reading materials

Berg, B. (2001). Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences. (4th edition). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

DeMarrais, K. B. (1998). Inside Stories: Reflections on Qualitative Research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. (Selected chapters)

Course prerequisites

This course is intended for students who have completed at least one qualitative research course. Examples of such courses include Naturalistic Inquiry (ETSCS 502), Education and Anthropology (ETSCS 522), Ethnographic Research in the Classroom (ETSCS 623), and field research or qualitative evaluation courses offered by other programs and departments. Ideally, course participants will have a basic understanding of the aims and underlying assumptions associated with qualitative research. It is also helpful for students to know about conventional research methods (taken statistics or general research design courses) before enrolling in this course.

Course format

The format of the class will include a range of activities: class discussions of course readings, collaborative analysis of field and interview data, small group exercises, application assignments, talks by guest speakers, and lectures by the instructor. Plan to request and receive feedback on their work from fellow classmates and to provide feedback to other students upon request. Please come to class prepared to discuss, analyze, question, explain, and/or critique the assigned reading materials and/or data displays. Some classes may be scheduled in computer pods, and you should plan to spend a significant amount of additional time this term on your own "in the field", as well as in libraries and computer pods. I also encourage you to actively explore scholarly and empirical literature pertaining to your own area of professional specialization and interest.

Class attendance

Attendance is an essential part of this course. However, if you must miss a class (or a part of a class) please see to it that a classmate takes lecture notes for you, collects handouts, and generally fills you in on what you missed. Please do not call me or program secretaries to explain your absence from a particular class, but do call a fellow student. If you find that you must miss more than two classes, it will be necessary for you to retake the course at another time. If you find it necessary to withdraw from the course, please remember to notify me and submit the necessary forms to the registration office. If you find it necessary to take an incomplete, be sure to give me a letter indicating that you want an "I" for the course and specifying a date by which you plan to submit all remaining coursework. Allow at least two weeks for me to read and evaluate your work.

Course Requirements and Evaluation Procedure

Your course grade will be based on class participation, application assignments, and a portfolio representing work completed during the semester. The center of your activity during the semester should focus on learning about and practicing a wide range of data-gathering techniques and data-analysis strategies. Your portfolio should demonstrate how you have spent your time and what you have learned.

The portfolio will contain class exercises and assignments (not class notes and/or handouts); a critical review of the work of an "exemplary" qualitative researcher; informal notes based on your reading of one or more supplementary qualitative research methods textbook(s); practice field notes and interview transcripts; and other ethnographic materials. It should display your skill in data management (indexing and coding, field log and journal writing), and should demonstrate clearly the analytical strategies you have employed during the semester in order to understand and interpret qualitative data. We will discuss the portfolio further in class.

Ethical considerations

The purpose of class assignments and activities is to allow participants to develop specific inquiry skills. Students enrolled in EDAD/ETSCS 605 this term will not be engaged in formal research projects or pilot studies. Rather, the design of the course will employ training exercises and simulations intended to give students a chance to acquire hands-on familiarity with ethnographic research methods. Ethical and "human subjects" considerations mandate that students follow carefully the instructor's guidelines concerning all course activities and assignments. Failure to do so will result in grade reduction (at best) and could result in a grade of "F" for the course. On a brighter note, this course provides powerful opportunities to acquire and polish new research skills, learn about/with/from fellow classmates, and explore new and important conceptual territory. If anything transpires during the course of the semester that inhibits your ability to learn and enjoy this course do not hesitate to let me know. I will do what I can to help change the situation for the better.

Topical Overview

Qualitative research design: basic principles

Political and ethical considerations

History of qualitative research in education and the social sciences

Levels of participation and the psychology of field research

The power of place: making sense of material culture

Visual analysis

The role of theory

Data collection and sampling methods and issues

Field notes, field logs, field journals

Ethnographic and other interviewing methods

Analyzing qualitative data: basic principles

Getting and staying organized: qualitative data management

How and when to use qualitative data analysis software

Emerging fields of inquiry: learning and teaching in cyberspace

Reading, writing, and representation; evaluating qualitative studies

Last update 1/17/02 / jka