The aim of this paper is to present a question for the class’ consideration. The paper will also discuss implications of the question in the context of the course and the teacher’s profession. It will be argued that the relationship between qualitative and quantitative research methods, as well as positivistic and phenomenological inquiry paradigms, are of a complementary nature.
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Forward-looking educators recognize that all research is informed and shaped by undergirding philosophical assumptions about the nature of reality and knowledge. It follows that the choice of research methodologies and paradigms has a direct impact on the outcomes of a study. A critical examination of ontological and epistemological aspects of research has resulted in the bifurcation of approaches to inquiry, thereby producing polar paradigms and methods (Scotland, 2012; Wang, 2014).
However, even though the recognition of a researcher and an object of their inquiry as interdependent entities has helped to advance human understanding of a wide-range of social and natural phenomena, it is necessary to consider whether or not educational research can benefit from the combination of different paradigms in the pursuit of the truth (Guba, 1990). Thus, the question that will be presented before the class is formulated as follows:
Should educational researchers amalgamate different methodological approaches and research paradigms in order to add credibility to their conclusions?
An alternative paradigm dialog had entered the philosophical stage after intellectual soundness of objectivist ontology and epistemology has been challenged by proponents of the phenomenological tradition (Guba, 1990). Whereas positivists maintain that the adoption of scientific methods is sufficient for uncovering the truth, followers of new research traditions argue that both the social context and recognition of one’s subjectivity should also penetrate the realm of inquiry (Firestone, 1987; Martin, 2013).
Even though it is hard to disagree with the latter group of researchers, it is possible to take an issue with the rigidity of their perspective. One can argue that the adherence to a single mode of inquiry and interpretation can muddle scholars’ scientific lenses, thereby preventing them from properly testing a hypothesis or even arriving at one.
The findings of a study on different research methodologies conducted by Martin (2013) suggest that even by adopting divergent ontologies, it is possible to draw similar conclusions about an object of inquiry. It means that by underpinning their research with varying ontological perspectives, education scholars can generate different kinds of information. From this vantage point, it is clear that the comparison of studies with polar paradigms and research methodologies can produce new lines of inquiry.
Thus, the education community, in general, and attendees of the course, in particular, can benefit from utilizing different ontological platforms when trying to understand certain phenomena. This assertion is reverberated by Firestone (1987) who also posits that different types of inquiry “corroborate each other” (p. 20).
In the light of intellectual endeavors of Firestone and Martin, it is essential to consider and discuss in the class the following points:
- strengths and weaknesses of phenomenological inquiry;
- strengths and weaknesses of positivistic inquiry;
- the feasibility of combining the two research traditions.
The paper has presented the question about different approaches to scientific inquiry that can be discussed in the class. It has been argued that by adopting opposite assumptions about the nature of reality and knowledge, it is possible to better understand an object of scientific inquiry. The class will be encouraged to consider whether or not the amalgamation of different research paradigms and methodologies is beneficial for educational scholars.
Firestone, W. A. (1987). Meaning in method: The rhetoric of quantitative and qualitative research. Educational Researcher, 16(7), 16-21.
Guba, E. G. (Ed.). (1990). The paradigm dialog. London, England: SAGE.
Martin, T. J. (2003). Divergent ontologies with converging conclusions: A case study comparison of comparative methodologies. Comparative Education, 39(1), 105-117.
Scotland, J. (2012). Exploring the philosophical underpinnings of research: Relating ontology and epistemology to the methodology and methods of the scientific, interpretive, and critical research paradigms. English Language Teaching, 5(9), 9-16.
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Wang, V. (2014). Handbook of research on scholarly publishing and research methods. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.