Research Questions and Mixed Method Study
The research question is as follows: “What technology do teachers use and how do they use that technology to facilitate student learning?” (Ruggiero & Mong, 2015, p. 164). It seems that the mixed method approach is justified in this case, as the quantitative approach helped the authors of the study assess “demographics and scale ratings of technology tools”, and the qualitative approach was used to compare teachers’ answers about the way they used the technology (Ruggiero & Mong, 2015, p. 165).
The authors explicitly state that they used the quantitative approach to calculate what technologies were used more or less often and visualize how teachers learn about technology tools and their application to identify specific patterns, while the qualitative approach helped them identify themes and patterns that reflect their perception of technologies in the classroom and how they can be used (Ruggiero & Mong, 2015). According to Creswell and Clark (2007), the mixed methods approach is used to understand the research topic using different data, where the data obtained with the help of the qualitative approach is compared to quantitative data.
The philosophical perspective that provided the foundation for the study is epistemology, a branch of philosophy that studies how people learn and use knowledge. In this case, the authors assess how teachers used their knowledge of technologies in the classroom (Ruggiero & Mong, 2015).
Mixed Method Design Characteristics
The timing was concurrent, as the authors used triangulation in the study; according to Creswell and Clark (2007), “triangulation seeks convergence, corroboration, and correspondence of results from the different methods” (p. 62). The data collection phase in the study occurred at the same time for both methods, although their analysis was separated. While the quantitative method utilized surveys, the qualitative method consisted of interviews, but both of them were conducted concurrently.
The priority was equal since, in this case, triangulation was used: “seeking convergence and corroboration of findings from different methods that study the same phenomenon” (Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2006, p. 480). Thus, there was no aim to prioritize one of the methods over the other as the findings of both methods are complementary. In the examined study, the approach was QUAN + QUAL, as the qualitative method targeted teachers’ perception of technology, how it is used in the classroom, and technology’s integration, while the qualitative method calculated what technology is used by teachers and how often (Ruggiero & Mong, 2015).
The integration of the approaches included the splitting of the research in two: surveys as methods of the quantitative approach assessed what technology teachers used in the classroom (Powerpoint, games, film or video, etc.) and the percentage of teachers that used these technologies, while the qualitative method included teachers’ responses to four themes: “technology as an integration process”, “design as a tool of technology”, “use of technology in the primary, middle, and secondary classroom”, and “value of technology integration” (Ruggiero & Mong, 2015, p. 168). In the study, data obtained from both methods were combined to get a complete picture of technologies in schools and how they are utilized by teachers.
I believe that the authors’ study is a good example of a mixed method approach as the data that they obtained using both methods is used to support the findings and assumptions, and none of the methods outweighs the other, which strengthens both the assumptions presented in the study and its findings. Furthermore, the mixed method approach helped the authors provide an extensive answer to their research questions that are backed up with details and evidence obtained both from surveys (quantitative method) and in-person and online interviews (qualitative method) (Ruggiero & Mong, 2015).
Mixed Methods Design
The study’s design was triangulation, a method that implies that both the qualitative and quantitative research can be used in the study to “be mutually corroborated” (Creswell & Clark, 2007, p. 62). This typology was chosen to analyze the percentage of teachers that utilized technologies, and compare their preferences to the opinions voiced during in-person interviews that would help identify patterns in the way teachers utilized technology.
The mixed method is reflected in the research question as well: “What technology do teachers use and how do they use that technology to facilitate student learning?”, where “what” and “how” questions represent both the qualitative and the quantitative characteristics of the study (Ruggiero & Mong, 2015, p. 163). The use of technology was analyzed thematically, which “provided triangulation data to support any observed relationships among technology practice” (Creswell & Clark, 2007, p. 165).
In my opinion, the design was chosen correctly, as a study based only on a quantitative approach would not be able to address how technologies are used, as there would not be any insight into teachers’ opinions and daily practices. At the same time, a study based on the qualitative approach only would lack accurate numbers and percentage of teachers using technologies, which would complicate the determination of patterns and the overall popularity of technology tools in schools. Furthermore, the qualitative method would not be able to calculate the time teachers spend on using various tools in the classroom. Thus, the combination of both methods resulted in a two-sided approach to the problem, which had a positive influence on the study’s profoundness.
The sampling in the study was purposive; the authors explain that purposive sampling was necessary because they needed to choose participants with a specific qualification (teachers) (Ruggiero & Mong, 2015). Snowball sampling was used to identify participants who could participate in the study. Snowball sampling is an example of a sequential sampling, where the principle of gradual selection is the primary one (Teddlie & Yu, 2007).
In my opinion, purposive sampling was a sufficient method because any other type of sampling could undermine the research. With the help of snowball sampling, the authors picked participants whose qualifications corresponded with those needed in the study, and the gradual selection of participants helped avoid bias that could be present if researchers themselves identified and contacted teachers who could participate in a study.
Strengths and Weaknesses
This study has multiple strengths and weaknesses. Strengths include well-validated substantiated findings, supported by the mixed method, and a data collection method that required less time compared to a sequential design. The large sample size for surveys (1048 teachers) is also an advantage. Weaknesses include a small sample size for interviews (111 teachers), the need for expertise to utilize both methods correctly, possible discrepancies that can emerge due to the mixed method used in the study, and the potential inability of researchers to integrate the data of one type of data collection (surveys) into the other (interviews).
Furthermore, all participants from the sample size were from one state, which demonstrates that the data cannot be generalized. Ruggiero and Mong (2015) also point out that an observational study could be beneficial in this case, as they would have the opportunity to observe teachers utilizing technology directly. Thus, the subjects’ bias in responses to surveys and interview questions were unavoidable.
Creswell, J. W., & Clark, V. L. P. (2007). Designing and conducting mixed methods research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Onwuegbuzie, A. J., & Leech, N. L. (2006). Linking research questions to mixed methods data analysis procedures. The Qualitative Report, 11(3), 474-498.
Ruggiero, D., & Mong, C. J. (2015). The teacher technology integration experience: Practice and reflection in the classroom. Journal of Information Technology Education, 14, 161-178.
Teddlie, C., & Yu, F. (2007). Mixed methods sampling: A typology with examples. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(1), 77-100.