Mixed methods research is often discussed as an approach based on applying advantages of qualitative and quantitative studies when it is necessary to examine a research problem from several perspectives (Bhaskar, 1975; Heyvaert, Maes, & Onghena, 2013). It is important to note that qualitative and quantitative types of research are associated with different paradigms that are used as frameworks. Thus, there are several widely adopted worldviews: positivism or post-positivism, constructivism or interpretivism, pragmatism, and the transformative paradigm (Baran, 2016).
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Positivism is strictly related to quantitative research, and constructivism determines aspects of qualitative research. These worldviews are rather opposite in terms of their assumptions, and they cannot be applied to mixed methods research (Hesse-Biber & Johnson, 2015). Therefore, only pragmatism and the transformative paradigm can be discussed as directly associated with mixed methods research. The purpose of this paper is to review pragmatism and the transformative paradigm concerning mixed methods research, analyze how these worldviews are applied in real-life contexts, compare assumptions that are typical of these paradigms, and reflect on them in the context of my belief system.
The Transformative Paradigm and Pragmatism
Mixed methods research is characterized by the integration of philosophical views related to qualitative and quantitative research. In this context, a paradigm is a certain philosophical stance that is used by researchers as a pattern to examine, analyze, and interpret phenomena and processes (Morgan, 2013). As a result, only the transformative paradigm and pragmatism can be discussed as addressing specifics of this research. According to Creswell (2013), the transformative worldview “holds that research inquiry needs to be intertwined with politics and a political change agenda to confront social oppression at whatever levels it occurs” (p. 9). Mertens (2014) notes that this paradigm allows for concentrating on the needs and opinions of oppressed groups to stimulate some social change in communities. From this perspective, the transformative worldview is also associated with representing “pluralistic interests, voices, and perspectives” (Greene, 2007, p. 129). Thus, this paradigm is based on the idea of social and political transformation as a result of research.
Pragmatism is a philosophical theory developed by John Dewey and Donald Davidson. It is associated with the idea of multiple realities and the principle of practicality in conducting research (Schrauf, 2016). According to Ivankova (2014), pragmatists “reject the dogmatic either/or choice between quantitative and qualitative approaches and believe that the truth is ‘what works’ best for understanding a particular research problem” (p. 16). Therefore, the focus of pragmatists is on addressing research questions and solving practical problems rather than on selecting methods to meet requirements associated with qualitative or quantitative research. From this point, pragmatism is an appropriate background for mixed methods research.
Philosophical Paradigms in Real-Life Contexts
While selecting the transformative paradigm and pragmatism as philosophies to guide their research, investigators apply these worldviews to real-life contexts in different ways. Traditionally, researchers follow parallel and sequential approaches to data collection to organize their mixed methods research (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007). The parallel data collection means gathering qualitative and quantitative information simultaneously when the sequential data collection means gathering qualitative and quantitative information at different stages to expand or explain the previously collected data.
The transformative paradigm is selected by researchers when they want to focus on studying urgent social issues that involve the oppressed or marginalized population. While applying parallel and sequential approaches to collecting data based on the transformative worldview, researchers pay attention to involving participants in the process of analyzing results and finding solutions to research problems. Thus, participants are usually interviewed, provided with surveys to complete, and questions to discuss as a focus group. These studies are often related to the field of social policies, education, healthcare, and other areas (Shannon-Baker, 2016). From this point, when researchers choose to use the transformative paradigm, their goal is to find answers to research questions paying attention to opinions of people who suffer from certain social barriers, and the focus is on proposing a solution to identified issues.
Pragmatists also use parallel and sequential approaches to organizing the collection of various types of data. In real-life contexts, they focus on applying mixed methods because they need to examine the problem from different perspectives and collect as much information as possible. Pragmatists pay much attention to finding practical solutions; therefore, this paradigm becomes a background for healthcare studies, educational research, as well as sociological and psychological research (Hall, 2013). Investigators focus on pragmatism because they can collect both numerical and narrative data without being limited in their methods. As a result, chances for developing the most appropriate and working solution increase.
Comparison of Assumptions for the Transformative Paradigm and Pragmatism
To understand specific philosophical aspects that influence the application of the discussed paradigms to real-life contexts and studies, it is necessary to analyze the assumptions associated with these worldviews. The main assumptions connected with the transformative paradigm are the following ones: the focus on experiences and opinions of certain groups of people can lead to finding resolutions to social issues; the focus on demographic inequity leads to proposing certain actions; the development of inquiry and research influences social action (Baran, 2016). These assumptions explain the main conclusions made by followers of the transformative paradigm when they choose mixed methods to provide a background for the necessity of social action.
The assumptions associated with pragmatism should also be discussed in detail. Thus, pragmatists believe that research questions are more important to be taken into account than methods. Furthermore, the goal of the research is to solve practical problems and accentuate the functional value of a study rather than to represent reality. Additionally, pragmatists follow the idea of pluralism connected with the vision of reality (Shannon-Baker, 2016). While comparing and contrasting the assumptions typical of both paradigms, it is possible to state that these worldviews are similar in terms of relying on people’s experiences to propose solutions (Ivankova, 2014). Experiences and opinions of oppressed populations are important according to the transformative worldview, and multiple experiences to represent the complex reality are essential in the context of pragmatism. However, the main difference in these philosophical theories is in the fact that pragmatism relies on finding practical and effective solutions in general, when followers of the transformative paradigm are concentrated on finding solutions for the concrete group of people.
Relationship between Paradigms and Specific Research Interests
The transformative paradigm and pragmatism are related to each other as approaches that can be used to support mixed methods research. However, the key principles behind these philosophies are different. Nevertheless, both these paradigms are related to educational research because educators can conduct mixed methods studies with the focus on oppressed groups’ needs or with the focus on finding effective practical solutions (Creswell, 2013). Therefore, it is possible to speak about the relationship between these worldviews and such research interests or areas as educational and instructional leadership. While discussing instructional leadership from the perspective of the transformative paradigm, it is important to research how principals can contribute to improving instruction to address the needs of minorities, for instance. Also, pragmatism allows for using mixed methods research to study how instructional leadership can lead to achieving practical goals and desired outcomes with the focus on a set of factors that can influence the process.
Paradigms in the Context of My Belief System
Pragmatism fits my belief system because it influences not only one’s selection of methods but also a person’s approach to organizing the overall study to find concrete solutions to the identified research problem. Thus, pragmatism is selected as a key philosophy in this context because my task as a researcher is to conduct a study that can lead practitioners in solving a concrete problem. From this point, a general approach can be more effective than the concentration on representing reality through the eyes of oppressed individuals. As a result, it is possible to speak about the utility of research as a key factor (Feilzer, 2010). Therefore, pragmatism can be viewed as fitting my belief system because a researcher’s goal is often to receive certain outcomes.
The transformative paradigm and pragmatism are two key worldviews that are followed by investigators when they focus on mixed methods research. Although these paradigms are rather different in their assumptions and principles, there are also similarities in these philosophies’ interpretations of people’s experiences, research outcomes, and solutions to research problems. The transformative paradigm is viewed as appropriate for a limited number of studies; therefore, pragmatism is selected by the majority of researchers, especially in the field of education.
Baran, M. L. (2016). Mixed methods research for improved scientific study. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Bhaskar, R. (1975). A realist theory of science. Leeds, UK: Leeds Books.
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