Research proposal: Three-way relationship between design frame, paradigm and methodology

My assignment will be segmented into three sections with discussion focusing on two position papers. The first section will analyse the three-way relationship between design frame, paradigm and methodology as presented by Hodkinson and Macleod. The second section will define whether Hodkinson and Macleod’s argument supports or contests Erickan and Roth’s argument. The final section will reflect upon changes to my own research proposal. The two papers that are to be discussed in this assignment are Hodkinson and Macleod’s 2010 paper ‘ contrasting concepts of learning and contrasting methodologies: affinities and bias,’ and Erickan’s and Roth’s 2006 paper ‘What good is polarizing research into Qualitative and Quantitative’? Hodkinson and Macleod’s position paper examines and assumes that there is a three-way relationship between paradigm, research methods and design frames on learning with focus on positivism and constructivism. Erickan and Roth’s paper focuses on disentangling the dichotomy of qualitative and quantitative research.

Hodkinson and Macleod have opposing ontological orientations. The authors argue that biases and affinities exist when conducting research. Macleod is more objective working with quantitative methods whereas Hodkinson complies to a relativist viewpoint primarily working with qualitative method (2010). These paradigmatic alignments play a significant role in the three-way relationship. The ontological viewpoint of the researcher influences the research question, the chosen methodology and the design frame (The open university, 2012k). This section will examine the four research approaches undertaken by Hodkinson and Macleod; one of mini-ethnography; a second involving life histories; and the other two are survey based methods. the authors have used these approaches to highlight the three-way relationship. For each approach learning is seen through a different metaphorical lens: learning as participatory, learning as construction, and learning as acquisition, respectively.

Hodkinson conducted the research on mini-ethnography. The purpose of the research was to explore the interrelationships between students, tutors, management, learning site and cultures that affect learning. Qualitative research approach was used. Given the ontological stance of Hodkinson and the qualitative nature of ethnographies, there is an immediate connection between what the researcher wants to explore and the chosen design frame. Ethnography is about the construction of meaning in societies and cultures (The Open university, 2012a). Hodkinson’s paradigmatic view that learning is relative and constructed leads appropriately to the use of an ethnographic design frame as ethnography allows for the exploration and examination of the people and situation (The Open University, 2012a). Constructionism is about knowledge building and meaning making (The Open university, 2012b). Hodkinson and Macleod (2010) state that ethnographic methods of research have strong affinities with researchers who view learning as participation within the cultural environment. The researcher is aiming to observe experiences in a natural environment (The Open University, 2012a). However, authors state that the focus on environment takes away the focus from an individual.

Both authors conducted the learning lives research project. The learning lives project used life histories as the research approach due to its centering on the individual (Hodkinson and Macleod, 2010). The authors address that though life histories are similar to ethnography as they are both case studies, the difference is that life histories foreground the individual, while ethnographies foreground the learning culture and context. Hodkindon contends that an affinity exists between these two design methods given the complementary nature of participation and construction. The affinity between paradigm and the use of life histories as a research method is dependent on whether or not researcher views learning as construction. Ontologically, constructionists focus on the individual perceptions of the world, on how people construct reality, and how this reality is constantly being constructed (The Open University, 2012c). Life histories can uncover the manner in which an individual learns through construction and reflection (Hodkinson and Macleod, 2012c). Apart from cognitive dimensions of learning, life histories are able to uncover social and emotional dimensions (Hodkinson and Macleod 2010), however dimensions and type of data are dependent on if the research is conducted by a cognitive constructionist or a social constructionist (The Open University, 2012d).

Hodkinson and Macleod present two forms of survey projects: panel and moving cross-sectional questionnaire. Both methods are described as quantitative. The primarily goal of panel survey is to produce quantitative information about specific sections of the population. Given Macleod’s positivist approach to learning, there is congruence between her theoretical perception and the use of quantitative methodology (The Open University, 2012e). The authors highlight the longitudinal focus of panel surveys and the similarities between the surveys and life histories in that the data is about the individual and not the location of learning (Hodkinson and Macleod, 2010). In using surveys, authors describe how learning needs are to be made quantifiable and that the reality is objectified. The focus is the conceptualization of learning as acquisition. The reification of the learning and the viewpoint that there is an objective reality adheres to a positive paradigm (The Open University, 2012e). Hodkinson and Macleod discuss how Felstead et al. produced the surveys to measure participation and acquisition. As expressed earlier, learning as participation tends to align with a constructionist paradigm. However, here the term is refined under a positivist paradigm to allow for the production of measurable data. The highlights how a researcher’s paradigmatic view can alter how they conceptualise research methods.

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