This is a data analysis assignment from my Educ 610 course on qualitative research, in which I was asked to apply and then reflect upon what we had been learning about how to code, categorize, memo and theme data to draw conclusions through actively analyzing a transcribed interview we had conducted. We were asked to include a section introducing the research data being analyzed, a summary of our findings in the form of themes, and a self-reflection on our data analysis experience. This artifact is a good example of my learning journey when it comes to step 5 of the research process: data analysis and interpretation (Creswell, 2015). I demonstrate my familiarity with action research approaches to research design, data collection, analysis and interpretation through using an iterative, interacting spiral (Springer, 2007). It demonstrates my commitment to follow up and make sense of material I had learned how to solicit in an earlier course (see Practice artifact, “Establishing a Collaborative Relationship between a Teacher and Parent: A Reflective Analysis”).
This artifact is also a testament to my ability to adapt and persevere through a challenging learning situation, as I was required to demonstrate skill in a qualitative approach that I would not use by choice. Coding and categorizing data on my own, with no input, participation or oversight by research participants or Elders, especially if the research touches on Indigenous knowledge or learners, runs counter to my personal orientation, ontology, epistemology and theoretical position (Ponterotto, 2005). I continue to take seriously the concern Indigenous scholars have with coding methods that cut up, decontextualize, recombine and insert the researcher’s perspective into the words of Indigenous “informants” (Graveline, 2000; Smith, 1999). I share their understanding that coding can be an appropriative, colonial and violent act, with real and harmful consequences for Indigenous learners and their communities.
Even though I can not identify genetically as Indigenous myself, I have enmeshed myself in my husband’s and daughter’s cultures to the extent that it sometimes makes me feel physically ill to witness, let alone participate in colonial practices. I feel so as I write this. Perhaps my empathy increases alongside my growing knowledge and grief for the culture that I have also lost due to colonization – I have never known the language, traditional teachings or sense of place my Scottish ancestors held dear before they were driven from their homeland by British conquest and exploitation. This artifact illustrates my understanding that requiring students of any age or level to undertake an assignment that is fundamentally against their worldview may cause them more pain than growth, and I hereby commit to avoiding this in my own practice as a teacher, especially with my Indigenous learners.
In any case, although I articulately advocated for an alternate assignment structure (see Appendix 1), that would be compatible with my guiding paradigm (Ponterotto, 2005), in the end I was compelled to respectfully comply with the course and program requirements. Appendix 2 reveals my ability to undertake language or verbal exchange-based “in vivo” coding, in order to identify words and phrases used by the interview participants that I consider salient in a first cycle through the data (Saldaña, 2009). The different colours of the analytic memos in this artifact also demonstrates my second and third stages of first cycle coding from text that I had “cleaned,” however uncomfortable I might have found the process. The “code book” part of this artifact required as a part of the assignment (appendix 3) details not only my attempt at axial coding but my application of the dynamic model of inquiry associated with action research (Creswell, 2015) that I used both as a strategy for the project as a whole as well as for the process of selecting a strategy for data analysis and interpretation. I cycled through three iterations of identifying a problem, attempting a solution, reflecting, and trying another solution (Creswell, 2015). Appendix 4, a renewed consent form, demonstrates my understanding of the unique ethical concerns inherent in action research projects that change in focus over time.
In the end, my instructor and I worked together so that I could complete this assignment to her satisfaction and I found the eventual findings valuable as an action that I can apply to my teaching practice in special education: a commitment to only hold an IEP meeting when a caregiver is present (if not more than one, in addition to the learner themselves). I very much appreciated my instructor’s encouragement for me to be completely honest and her willingness to engage fully with my struggles with the processes of coding data. The reflexive summary of my experience in this artifact demonstrates my ability to show vulnerability and use informal frankness to reflect upon my attempts to find an approach to coding that I could tolerate, so that I could work through and eventually achieve success in this research challenge.
Creswell, J. (2015). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. (5th ed.).
Boston, MA: Pearson.
Graveline, F. J. (2000). Circle as methodology: Enacting an Aboriginal paradigm, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in
Education, 13(4), 361-370, DOI: 10.1080/095183900413304
Ponterotto, J. (2005). Qualitative research in counselling psychology: A primer on research paradigms. Journal of Counseling
Psychology, 52(2), 126-136.
Saldaña, J. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Ltd.
Smith, L. T. (2012). Decolonising methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples (Second ed.). New York, NY: Zed Books.
Stringer, E.T. (2007). Action research (3rd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.