The Mixed Methods in Teaching: Role of Beliefs

The Main Goal

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the Mixed Methods methodology in the article titled “Teachers’ Beliefs and Technology Practices: A Mixed Methods Approach” written by Deniz Palak and Richard T. Walls in 2009.

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Research Questions

The researchers present two well-defined questions to be answered during the quantitative stage of research. These questions are as followed:

  • How do teachers’ beliefs relate to their instructional technology practices?
  • How do factors other than beliefs relate to teachers’ instructional technology practices?

These questions adhere to the criteria offered by Onwuegbuzie and Leech (2006) for utilizing a Mixed Method approach, as they concern themselves with questions like “how” and “what.” The researchers rationalize the use of the Mixed Methods approach, stating that teachers’ beliefs are constructs that are difficult to structurize and rationalize, as they have a basis in the information as perceived by the teacher, practical knowledge, and a variety of personal biases. The Mixed Method approach is aimed to reduce the chances of misinterpretation and possible errors in the experiment. This seems like a valid rationale, which is supported by the fact that similar researches in this area also utilize MM methodology.

The Rationale for Utilizing the Mixed Methods Approach

The authors chose qualitative and quantitative methods of research in order to provide a number of different variables that would minimize the chances of potential error during data interpretation. The research is based on quantitative evidence received from surveys, whereas qualitative sources are used largely to interpret the data and compare the results with similar studies conducted in the past.

Thus, the purpose of using Mixed Methods in this article is complimentary. It must be noted that aside from utilizing a great body of available literature, they also introduced the case study method into the qualitative stage of the experiment. According to Palak and Walls (2009), they implemented a multiple case study design in the form of hermeneutic inquiry, in order to interpret and analyze the teachers’ instructional technology practices and correlate them with various conditions related to every individual practice. The teachers’ reflections, as well as lesson plans and classroom observations, were utilized to gather descriptive data that helped find the connection between their practices and attitudes towards technology.

Philosophical Perspective and the Foundation of the Study

According to Creswell and Plano Clark (2006), philosophical foundations are especially important in Mixed Methods studies, as they essentially try to co-align different philosophies and methodologies within the scope of singular research. This study utilizes a pragmatic method and system of philosophy, as it provides an umbrella framework within which qualitative and quantitative data can harmoniously coexist. The assumptions behind the pragmatic method are also well suited for merging QUAN and QUAL in order to gain a better understanding.

Mixed Methods Design Characteristics of the Study

According to Palak and Walls (2009), the study implements an explanatory sequential design, where quantitative data is used as a primary source of information, with qualitative results used to interpret the findings. While quantitative data was utilized to answer the two major questions presented at the beginning of the article, the qualitative analysis sought to answer if the teachers who were expected to be frequent technology users as a result of their technical training and technology available at their schools changed their beliefs and consequently their instructional technology practices toward a student-centered paradigm (Palak & Walls, 2009).

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In order to achieve that goal, the data collected during the QUAL phase was sequentially integrated and triangulated around the variables identified during the QUAN phase. This evidences the prevalence of QUAN over QUAL and establishes the connection between the two phases.

Mixed Methods Design Typology

The reviewed article follows the classic explanatory sequential design, which consists of three basic steps in the following sequence (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2006):

  • Quantitative data collection and analysis. In this study, quantitative data was obtained utilizing surveys. The data were analyzed using multiple regression and correlation analyses.
  • Qualitative data collection and analysis. In this study, qualitative data was gathered from literature as well as case studies that involved the participation of teachers with extreme and maximal differences in views and beliefs towards technology. The data was analyzed using the cross-case comparison method.
  • Interpretation. Data received from quantitative and qualitative parts of the research were analyzed and compared with results and arguments made by other researchers, whose works were presented in the literature section of the article.

Creswell and Plano Clark (2006) state that this typology is often utilized in educational research, as it allows the researcher to answer questions that cannot be addressed based on quantitative data alone. This typology seems appropriate for the questions addressed in this research. The author did a good job of following the established pattern, which made the research easy to follow and navigate through.

Sampling Strategies

The research utilizes two different sampling strategies for their QUAN and QUAL sections of the paper. Samples for QUAN were determined using probability sampling from randomly selected strata among the 28 schools with high ratings in the use of educational technology during class (Palak & Walls, 2009). QUAL implemented a maximum variation sampling strategy in order to compare and contrast teachers with diametrically opposing views towards technology in class and highlight major differences in teachers’ beliefs.

This approach towards sampling seems appropriate and sufficient, as it is well-rooted within the contemporary Mixed Methods literature (Teddlie & Yu, 2007). The case study method excludes the necessity for providing and analyzing a large number of case studies due to the uniformity of the presented extremities.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Study

As this research follows a sequential explanatory design pattern, it shares some of its common strengths and weaknesses, such as:

Strengths

The research design is split into two clear sections (QUAN and QUAL), which makes the design easy and straightforward to implement. In addition, it accommodates the scope of the research due to its quantitative orientation (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2006).

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Weaknesses

The research design takes a lengthy period of time to implement due to difficulties associated with survey and case study methods. In addition, some of the parameters of the QUAL stage, namely the number of participants, cannot be determined until the first stage of the study is complete (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2006).

Conclusions

The article analyzed in the scope of this paper uses a solid methodology in order to ensure the quality of data and accuracy of the analysis. Choosing MM for this study was critical to its success, as this type of methodology accommodates researchers who seek to answer questions that could not be fully examined using quantitative methods alone. The qualitative part of the research provided a solid and substantial basis for interpretation and analysis, which contributed to the validity and accuracy of the conclusions. The importance of the article lies not only in its findings but also in how well the article illustrated and justify the use of its methodology, providing instructional and educational value.

References

Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. L. (2006). Designing and conducting Mixed-Methods research (2nd ed.). New York, NY: 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.

Palak, D., & Walls, R. T. (2009). Teachers’ beliefs and technology practices: A Mixed-Methods approach. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(4), 417-441.

Teddlie, C., & Yu, F. (2007). Mixed Methods sampling: A typology with examples. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(1), 77-100.

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