Course Syllabus, Fall 2003

Qualitative Research in Education


Dr. Jan Armstrong, College of Education

University of New Mexico



Mondays 4 - 6:30 in Mitchell 117                                    

Credit Hrs: 3                                        


Office:   Simpson 116

Phone:   277-6427


Office Hrs.: T 2-4 & by appt. (2 Ð 2:50 on 9/23,10/28,11/25)


Course home page: http://

InstructorÕs home page: http://

Course schedule:


Introduction and overview


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


¯     develop basic skills in the application of advanced information technologies for information gathering and analysis


Course texts and reading materials


Berg, B. (2003). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences. (5th edition). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.


deMarrais, K., (1998). Inside stories: qualitative research reflections . Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.


Armstrong, J. (2003). Readings for qualitative research in education. COE Photoduplication center (wait for announcement).


Course prerequisites


This course is intended for those who have completed at least one qualitative research course. Examples of such courses include Naturalistic Inquiry LLSS 502), Education and Anthropology (LLSS 522), Ethnographic Research in the Classroom (LLSS 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 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, collaborative analysis of field and interview data, group projects, talks by guest speakers, and instructor presentations. Please come to class prepared to discuss, analyze, and/or critique assigned readings. 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 Òin the fieldÓ, as well as in libraries and computer pods.


Class attendance, withdrawals and incompletes


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 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 2 or more classes, it will be best 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 ÒIÓ 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. Be aware, however, that I may not be able to evaluate and submit a grade for your incomplete work until the end of the semester in which it is submitted.


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 articulate and 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); 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 as the course proceeds. Written guidelines will be provided. Talk with me if you would like to explore the possibility of submitting an electronic portfolio this semester.


Ethical considerations


The purpose of class assignments and activities is to help you develop specific inquiry skills. In this class, you will not be engaged in formal ("real, publishable") research projects or pilot studies. Rather, the design of the course will employ training exercises and simulations intended to give you a chance to acquire hands-on familiarity with ethnographic research methods. Ethical and "human subjects" considerations mandate that you follow carefully my 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 ÒFÓ 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 effectively and to enjoy this class do not hesitate to let me know. I will do what I can to help change the situation for the better.


Best wishes for a challenging, productive and engaging semester!






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