sábado, mayo 07, 2005

QUANTITATIVE, QUALITATIVE, AND/OR THEORETICAL RESEARCH IN PHILOSOPHY FOR CHILDREN? , by Stella Accorinti

DEFINITION OF TERMS
Qualitative methods:

a) Ways of collecting information on the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of the target population. In general, information gathered using qualitative methods is not given a numerical value.
b) Methodology which tries to explain the phenomena to be studied without quantitative methods by using, for example, stories or citations from discussion.
c) The multiple ways that researchers use to try to understand the meaning of events and activities as understood by the subjects themselves, often referred to as participatory or the living subjects’ research.

Quantitative methods:

a) Methodology which aims to explain the phenomena to be studied numerically, using metrics
b) The multiple ways that researchers use when they study subjects usually in the laboratory, in which, often, they represent subjects numerically.


Research:

“’Research’ has come to be employed in contemporary academic life as a generic term referring to forms of inquiry pursued in all the many disciplines, from the natural sciences to the humanities. In this broad sense of the term philosophers have been engaged in research throughout the entire history of philosophy, and continue to be so engaged today, together with their scientific and humanistic colleagues in the many other disciplines […] The very best research in philosophy serves more often to generate disputes and differences than to resolve them.” Research can be qualitative or quantitative; it can include both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, or it can be of other types: historical research, theoretical research, etc.


ABOUT RESEARCH IN PHILOSOPHY, AND RESEARCH IN PHILOSOPHY FOR CHILDREN


QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE METHODS



Usually qualitative data involves words and quantitative data involves numbers. For this reason, there are some researchers who think , feel and write that one is better (or more scientific) than the other. To say that a methodology is more scientific than other is acceptable, because a part of the academic world is science. However, to say “better than” involves other kind of adjectives and meanings about the world of methodologies.

It would be impossible to demonstrate that one of these two methodologies is better than the other, because in the last instance numbers are words, and words can be included in numbers like Logic does. The entire world could, for bad or for good, be expressed in terms of numbers. It is true that many things would be lost lot if we do this, but many things are already lost when we use words to think about the world, because the language is full of noises that make communication something very difficult to achieve. So, if it is true that we loose part of what we want to communicate no matter whether we use words or numbers it seems that the best approach would be to intersect both methodologies.
We think that engaging in a discussion about whether a given research should be of qualitative or a quantitative nature is an sterile task to. Both approaches need each other to develop deepest a research. Numbers don’t speak by themselves, and qualitative methods use numbers in one way or another. In the following lines we will try to elaborate on why these two methodologies need each other.


RESEARCH, PHILOSOPHY AND P4C


APA Statements on the Profession asserts that:

“’Research’ has come to be employed in contemporary academic life as a generic term referring to forms of inquiry pursued in all the many disciplines, from the natural sciences to the humanities. In this broad sense of the term philosophers have been engaged in research throughout the entire history of philosophy, and continue to be so engaged today, together with their scientific and humanistic colleagues in the many other disciplines descended from philosophy in which the degree of Doctor of Philosophy is still granted. Philosophy's domain today, while no longer all-encompassing, embraces a rich array of problems and issues as important as any the human mind has conceived.”


If we agree with the above then we must recognize that philosophers have always done research. If this is right, what kind of research have philosophers been doing?

APA declared in this Statement that the research can be

a) “The attempt to achieve theoretical integrations of various domains of phenomena.”
b)
“Conceptual and methodological critique, involving the scrutiny of the basic concepts and methodologies of other disciplines, scientific as well as humanistic.”

c) “Interpretive and evaluative inquiry contributing to the enhancement of our comprehension of ourselves and our world.”

d) “The attempt to think clearly and rigorously about difficult questions.”

e) “Some research in philosophy deals with topics not investigated (or only investigated in limited ways) in other disciplines.”

f) “Philosophical research also deals with the understanding and assessment of aspects of the thinking of those who have contributed significantly to developments in the history of philosophy or of human thought.”

g) “Other work in philosophy deals with problems of social policy, normative theory and value theory on a more applied level.”

Descriptive observation, interviews and other qualitative methods are older than written history. The history of field work could be found in Herodotus and Marco Polo. However, only since the XIX Century “qualitative methods”, as we call tehm today, were consciously used in the social sciences. Then, qualitative methods, were not used by philosophers for their research from the beginning. The same can be said about quantitative methods and philosophy.

APA Statement assures that:

“The criteria of assessment of work in philosophy may be complex; but no other discipline is more attentive to the cultivation of intellectual conscience and of critical acumen.”

If other discipline were to apply the above statement to itself , it certainly could be accused of having an ethnocentric view. However, philosophy continuously express this kind of positive statements about itself. If we watch around us in the academic field, it is amazing to hear and read this. How does philosophy know that “not other discipline is more attentive to the cultivation of intellectual conscience and of critical acumen.”?

Hence, if it is right that philosophy can do the seven jobs that APA describes , from points a to g, and, moreover, it does it in a way that “no other discipline” can do it better than philosophy in the aim of cultivating the intellectual consciousness and/or the critical acumen, we are in front of a super-discipline. We, philosophers, know that it is not true. Many dissertations, books, papers, conferences, presentations, lectures, etc, show us, from the beginning of the philosophy, that this is not a mega discipline. Philosophy is not on top of the other disciplines in any of the meanings that APA suggests. If philosophy could do something like this, then we, human beings, would see some problems totally resolved. The super-ego that the traditional philosophy have shown trough the times made some philosophers to start thinking what happens in philosophy.

To think about the nature, challenges, and appropriate uses of quantitative, qualitative, and/or theoretical research in Philosophy for Children implies, at a minimum, to think about what happens with research in Philosophy, what we are doing in philosophical research, what is the relationship between qualitative and/or quantitative methods and philosophy, and finally, do the same job with Philosophy for Children. At this point, another discipline enters the stage: Education. Philosophy for Children (P4C) is an educative program centered in philosophy. It is not only a philosophical program.

Certainly, P4C itself has a lot of problems to resolve P4C. One of them, and not a minor one, is what is the role that P4C has chosen to play in education. If P4C is involved in reforming education, in the re-edification of education, in edifying a new education, etc., then the job is a research about the implicative statements that P4C can offer, in a transparent (public) way to education, both formal and informal. In order to offer something to the world of education, P4C must show what it can offer. In this way, P4C needs to use not only qualitative methods, but also quantitative methods. When P4C claims that critical thinking turns children more critical, more attentive, and more engaged, etc., (and almost all the papers, texts, books, etc, about P4C supprot this view) P4C needs to demonstrate it with numbers, and interpretations about numbers produced. This interpretations need to show, in clear (and public) propositions, not only the assumptions of P4C, but also the methods that P4C utilizes and why.

However, my view is that P4C has not made clear what its role in education is. P4C is saying that it helps students become more intelligent, in a multidimensional way. Moreover, multidimensional thinking is presented by P4C like the higher and last of the proposals in the program. However, in practice, it seems that P4C is concerned more about how its practice can be developed in more and more schools than what kind of practice is P4C developing. P4C seems more worried about the number of schools and students engaged in the program around the world, than about the quality of the program itself.

Research about P4C implies research about the quality of the formation offered to the future teacher trainers, and how P4C could accompany them, for example, during the first year in the classes. We confront some kind of contradiction when P4C claims that the practice is as necessary as the theory, but, having said that, it lets the teachers on their own in the classroom, or the teacher trainers themselves go to the classroom, not just to accompany, but to head the sessions.

Research about P4C is a large and deep challenge. More than thirty years after the creation of the program, we need to say exactly what is happening with P4C, and to clarify what we find, what we have, what we can offer, and what have been the results, both positive and negative. Qualitative and quantitative methods are invaluable to analyze and evaluate the program, in a very and real deepest research.


A CONCLUSION TO BEGIN WITH

Looking forward, from the beginning of this paper, that is not the beginning of its writing, we found that the most urgent and deepest challenge is not research about the nature, implicative assertions, assumptions, errors and non-errors of qualitative and/or quantitative methods, but research on what is really research in philosophy in this century, and, by default, what is research in Philosophy for Children. The offers of qualitative and quantitative methods are clear (and public). We can discuss about them, and we can adopt different points of view about them, but we don’t need to first discuss about the nature, challenges, etc of these methods before discussing about philosophy and about P4C. It is ethnocentric to try to subsume the two different methodologies under a philosophical discussion when we don’t know what philosophy is. The same holds for P4C.

Philosophy needs to ask itself what is its place in our world, at a time when the mega-narratives have fallen down, and philosophy cannot explain the world in a Hegelian view, because the total perspective is a contradiction itself. Moreover, philosophy needs to ask why it proposes itself as “the more attentive discipline” for almost every problem, even when philosophers are asking what philosophy really is. Recent open discussions about theoretical and anti-theoretical ways are only one example of this. P4C must engage in a questioning about what philosophy is in our time. Only when P4C assumes the questions, it will be in a position to offer some answers, some questions, and some help to education. This, of course, if at end of these discussions P4C has something to offer.


Notes

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention, TIPS, Center Department of Health and Human Services, Tobacco Information and Prevention Sources, Glossary, 2002

Heli Kirvesoja, “Experimental ergonomic evaluation with user trials: EEE product development procedures”, Department of Process and Environmental Engineering, University of Oulu, Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Technology, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Kuusamonsali (Auditorium YB 210), Linnanmaa, on April 20th, 2001 , ‘Key Definitions’

Alan Canfield, “Body, Identity and Interaction: Interpreting Nonverbal Communication”, Glossary in Chapter 10, 2002, http://canfield.etext.net/

Heli Kirvesoja, “Experimental ergonomic evaluation with user trials: EEE product development procedures”, Department of Process and Environmental Engineering, University of Oulu, Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Technology, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Kuusamonsali (Auditorium YB 210), Linnanmaa, on April 20th, 2001 , ‘Key Definitions’

Alan Canfield, “Body, Identity and Interaction: Interpreting Nonverbal Communication”, Glossary in Chapter 10, and also Chapter 9, 2002, http://canfield.etext.net/

APA Statements on the Profession, paragraphs 1 and 4.
“Another major difference between the two is that qualitative research is inductive and quantitative research is deductive. Some experts in the field say that in qualitative research, a hypothesis is not needed to begin research. However, they said that all quantitative research requires a hypothesis before research can begin. We were surprised with these assertions; because we think that it is almost impossible begin research without any hypothesis. It is possible that our hypothesis could be hidden, or maybe it was difficult to find, mixed in the first chaos that mean think in a new way for old thoughts, however, the hypothesis is there. Nobody can find something if “before” (chronologically, or logically , or both) didn’t think (consciously or unconsciously, in this hypothesis – it could be something like a proto-hypothesis )
Another major difference between qualitative and quantitative research is the underlying assumptions about the role of the researcher. In quantitative research, the researcher is ideally an objective observer that neither participates in nor influences what is being studied. In qualitative research, however, it is thought that the researcher can learn the most about a situation by participating and/or being immersed in it. These basic underlying assumptions of both methodologies guide and sequence the types of data collection methods employed.
Although there are clear differences between qualitative and quantitative approaches, some researchers maintain that the choice between using qualitative or quantitative approaches actually has less to do with methodologies than it does with positioning oneself within a particular discipline or research tradition. The difficulty of choosing a method is compounded by the fact that research is often affiliated with universities and other institutions. The findings of research projects often guide important decisions about specific practices and policies. The choice of which approach to use may reflect the interests of those conducting or benefiting from the research and the purposes for which the findings will be applied. Decisions about which kind of research method to use may also be based on the researcher's own experience and preference, the population being researched, the proposed audience for findings, time, money, and other resources available (Hathaway, 1995).
Some researchers believe that qualitative and quantitative methodologies cannot be combined because the assumptions underlying each tradition are so vastly different. Other researchers think they can be used in combination only by alternating between methods: qualitative research is appropriate to answer certain kinds of questions in certain conditions and quantitative is right for others. And some researchers think that both qualitative and quantitative methods can be used simultaneously to answer a research question.
To a certain extent, researchers on all sides of the debate are correct: each approach has its drawbacks. Quantitative research often "forces" responses or people into categories that might not "fit" in order to make meaning. Qualitative research, on the other hand, sometimes focuses too closely on individual results and fails to make connections to larger situations or possible causes of the results. Rather than discounting either approach for its drawbacks, though, researchers should find the most effective ways to incorporate elements of both to ensure that their studies are as accurate and thorough as possible.
It is important for researchers to realize that qualitative and quantitative methods can be used in conjunction with each other. In a study of computer-assisted writing classrooms, Snyder (1995) employed both qualitative and quantitative approaches. The study was constructed according to guidelines for quantitative studies: the computer classroom was the "treatment" group and the traditional pen and paper classroom was the "control" group. Both classes contained subjects with the same characteristics from the population sampled. Both classes followed the same lesson plan and were taught by the same teacher in the same semester. The only variable used was the computers. Although Snyder set this study up as an "experiment," she used many qualitative approaches to supplement her findings. She observed both classrooms on a regular basis as a participant-observer and conducted several interviews with the teacher both during and after the semester. However, there were several problems in using this approach: the strict adherence to the same syllabus and lesson plans for both classes and the restricted access of the control group to the computers may have put some students at a disadvantage. Snyder also notes that in retrospect she should have used case studies of the students to further develop her findings. Although her study had certain flaws, Snyder insists that researchers can simultaneously employ qualitative and quantitative methods if studies are planned carefully and carried out conscientiously. “ Mike Palmquist (ed.), Generalizability and Transferability, “ The Qualitative versus Quantitative Debate”, Colorado State University, 2005


“The possible ways of pursuing and contributing to these and other such kinds of inquiry are legion, and continue to increase as the discipline grows and evolves.” APA Statement. Paragraph 6
M. Lipman, Thinking in Education, second edition, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2003



REFERENCES


APA Statement on Research in Philosophy, in http://www.apa.udel.edu/apa/governance/statements/research.html (Originally published in Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, Vol. 70, No. 2, pp. 119-121. Last revised: May 16, 2001)

Torcuato Di Tella, Hugo Chumbita, Susana Gamba, Diccionario de Ciencias Sociales y Políticas, Buenos Aires, Ariel, 2000


Martin, J. (1982). A Garbage can model of the research process. In J. E. McGrath, J. Martin & R. Kulka (Eds.), Judgment Calls in Research (pp. 17-39). Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.


McGrath, J. E., Martin, J., & Kulka, R. A. (1982). Some quasi-rules for making judgement calls in research. In J. E. McGrath, J. Martin & R. A. Kulka (Eds.), Judgment Calls in Research (pp. 103-118). Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.


Online Dictionary of the Social Sciences, http://socialsciencedictionary.nelson.com/

Seigfried, C. H. (1996). “Who Experiences? Genderizing Pluralistic Experiences,” Chapter 7 of Pragmatism and Feminism: Reweaving the Social Fabric (University of Chicago Press), pp. 142-73.

Seigfried, C. H. (1996). “What’s Wrong with Instrumental Reasoning? Realizing the Emancipatory Potential of Science,” pp. 174-201.


Wersma, W. (2000). Identification of research problem. In W. Wersma (Ed.), Research Methods in Education (pp. 27-51). Boston: Allyn and bacon.

Wersma, W. (2000). The review of literature. In W. Wersma (Ed.), Research Methods in Education (pp. 52-81). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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