In this three-part series, we hope to bring to light a few advantages of qualitative research in education within a user case project that highlights the tools that Moodle offers to apply the techniques to benefit your particular classroom.
Project Two: The Classroom Ethnographer
In this project, you gain more awareness about the specific dynamics that take place in your classroom. You can use the information obtained through the “Hobbyist” data collection project. You might find in your classroom some patterns similar to those in comparable places, but remember: The focus is understanding the students you are working with, not drawing general conclusions.
Ethnography is all about observation. It sounds simple, but a rigorous and conscious process of observing a group of people behave is a complicated endeavor, full of small but critical questions. In fact, one of the classic entry points of discussion involves the impartiality of the observer as s/he comes close to the “natural habitat” of a group of subjects. Should the observer remain impartial and at a distance, or get closer, and inevitably influence the social dynamics being observed? This, as well as similar basic field questions, emphasizes the subjective nature of the observer, a quality that takes utmost care and disclosure, and at the same time its innate value as a point of view.
When people use qualitative research techniques to record and study themselves and their peers, we call it autoethnography. A simultaneous practice where many or all the participants of a group take part in autoethnographic research can offer rich records of rigorous information that also offer an opportunity fpr peer review.
Thus, a basic “peer autoethnograpy” project involves applying qualitative research methods to activities. In each session, a few students (at least more than one) will be in charge of recording the events, being thoughtful and cognizant of their subjective points of view. From here, you can take the project a number of directions. Below are some examples:
#1: Expand the reach. You can extend the exercise to other classes or activities beyond school. Encouraging students to record their lives is showing promise as a qualitative research technique in any number of scenarios, from school onboarding to domestic abuse. To record external activities and integrate them into activities in a Moodle course, the Moodle Mobile app is ideal.
#2: Add multimedia. If you gave your students the task to keep track of classroom events, encourage them to take pictures and maybe take advantage of social media. The Moodle Poster plugin is a digital “scrapbook” where students can add and organize rich elements, individually or collaboratively.
This Moodle Practice related post is made possible by: eThink Education, a Certified Moodle Partner that provides a fully-managed Moodle experience including implementation, integration, cloud-hosting, and management services. To learn more about eThink, click here.