A NEW RESEARCH PARADIGM

Given the previous discussions of traditional research methods that have been used to study affective teaching and now the introduction of quantum mechanics, you may wonder how you might advance the study of affective teaching methods using the most recent physics and philosophy at our disposal. But you shouldn't worry about balancing the two. It is true that when educators use this different lens to examine their thinking regarding reality, inquiry, and teaching, they will also need to refine their research and assessment tools. But one would fail if attempting to examine gravity by using something other than Newtonian physics. The same is true when examining the subjective. It is critical to use the proper philosophy and inquiry methods for such a unique domain, and it may be the reason so many historical authors have struggled with the notion of measuring, assessing, or conducting research on the subjective experience.

It may be just as true that we cannot separate the objective from the subjective in our need to measure or investigate results. It may be time that the traditional methods of assessing various forms of research be reconstructed to an integral methodology where we would expect to see more use of triangulation, cross-over designs, action research, and constructivism. There is an obvious failing when we attempt to use the traditional core methods of research such as experimental designs that demand a control group, intervention, and randomization. Such an approach expects us to think as positivists and that we can control our world in various ways to be more objective using deductive methods.

Likert (1932) was one of the first researchers to be concerned with the idea of being able to measure the subjective concept of social attitudes, which were thought to be endless in possibilities or even impossible to objectively measure. His historic work has led to many strategies where the subjective number scales have been refined, revised, and have sometimes given rise to false statistical methods. Likert states:

On this basis one of our cardinal problems is to find whether social attitudes, in this sense, can be shown to be measurable, and if an affirmative answer is forthcoming, a serious attempt must be made to justify the separation of one attitude from others. (p. 8)

The very first Likert scale testing was specifically designed to examine a “'judgment of value' rather than a 'judgment of fact'” (p. 12). The objectification of
the subjective experience is not new, but many foundational principles of reality have changed since the turn of the 20th century.

Interpretive Inquiry

Additional challenges are related to states of truth and their relationship to objectivity and subjectivity as discussed earlier. Some have argued that neither alone is truth. “Reality resides neither with an objective external world nor with the subjective mind of the person knowing, but within dynamic transactions between the two” (Barone, 1992, p. 31). Rogers also argued that we cannot dichotomize the objective from the subjective and suggested that everything is actually connected—supporting quantum mechanics. One of her postulates states, “Man is a unified whole possessing his own integrity and manifesting characteristics that are more than and different from the sum of his parts” (Rogers, 1970, p. 47).

There are many who have or will begin to question the scientific rigor when there is an integration of the subjective to make an objective observation or measurement more valid. I believe that the objective and subjective must work together for the best knowledge to be identified. This integration seems to violate the positivist philosophy of a singular reality that can be found by the deductive process of dissecting something into its smallest and measurable parts in order to obtain the best truth. Such thinking is certainly not acceptable, as integrative thinkers look at subjective experiences that impact the individual's affective development related to feelings, values, ethics, and a sense of the self or who one is becoming.

There appeared to be a growing swell by contemporary higher education researchers and theorists from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s who articulated a need for a new research paradigm that included the use of qualitative methods and alternative philosophies of inquiry (Conrad, 1989; Heshusius, 1994; Leslie & Beckham, 1986; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Ornstein, 1995; Peterson, 1986). For example, Lincoln and Guba's (1985) classic work highlighted the need for researchers of human experience to consider ethical issues related to the continued use of the positivistic attitudes regarding inquiry. They argued effectively that naturalistic methods are more appropriate for human experience studies. Ornstein (1995) encouraged the use of narrative research that used thick or qualitatively rich descriptions instead of statistical inference when one researches teaching methods. Could it be that there is a need for an interpretive inquiry method to assess affective teaching, allowing the investigator to observe and be a part of that dynamic while seeking understanding as to what transpired in the classroom between faculty and students?

The historical literature describes various methods of interpreting human experiences. Polkinghorne (1983) discussed hermeneutic systems and phenomenology as a developing movement, including the work of Dilthey, Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Gadamer, Ricoeur, Shultz, Weber, and Habermas. This movement focused on “human experience as it is lived”
(Polkinghorne, p. 201) and involves accessing the meaning of action and not just the presence of action. Interpreting meaningful action originated with the Greek word hermeneuein, which means to interpret. Not all hermeneutic theorists, as listed by Polkinghorne, agree on what it means to have a hermeneutic study, and it is more useful to move to an eclectic term of interpretive inquiry to describe the interpretation of affective pedagogy.

Interpretive inquiry requires rigorous examination of a large body of data. When conducting an interpretive inquiry, the researcher takes great care to meet certain scientific rigors that are designed to validate the data. One such rigor may be to triangulate the data, which means that connection and correlation are made from two or more data sources or perspectives that may include objective and subjective data (Burns & Grove, 2008; Glesne & Peshkin, 1992). As a starting point for studying affective teaching, a triangulated approach seems to be an excellent beginning. There are increasing methodological challenges, however, to taking a triangulated approach. Consider when an ethnographer is sitting on the urban streets trying to take in an entire interactive, dynamic city street in New York, or a classroom researcher is sitting day after day in a class examining a classroom from various perspectives. Richardson (1994) called this comprehensive data integration crystallization and stated, “Crystallization provides us with a deepened, complex, thoroughly partial understanding of the topic. Paradoxically, we know more and doubt what we know” (p. 522). Crystallization occurs when data come from multiple points and then are collectively seen as a theme, or when a theme emerges from the data. Greene (1994) clearly articulated the paradoxical tension experienced by the interpretivist inquirer: “On one hand, interpretivist evaluators need methodological quality assurances for their audiences. On the other hand, the very idea of prescriptions for quality or any other methodological concern is philosophically inconsistent with the basic tenets of interpretivism” (p. 37).

This chapters identifies several philosophical shifts that would make meaningless a statement that suggests we cannot measure the subjective, such as affective teaching methods. Not only can we evaluate the objective actions and practices seen, but we can also integrate this with the subjective experience in order to understand more of what has occurred. Thus, not only can we observe a phenomenon occurring, we can begin to ask questions regarding the motives of the participants in that phenomenon. This approach integrates objective observations with the subjective elements that influence an outcome for enhanced understanding overall. In addition, we look at the various phenomena in order to have deeper understanding of what was observed—called interpretive inquiry, or hermeneutic research.

The value of affective teaching is based on the subjective learning experiences of the student who has an inner experience that academics usually ignore in our assessments of the courses. Historically we have attempted to make everything measured in nursing more objective so we can be more assured that we can measure it. The research on intention experiments, consciousness
experiments, and the reality of quantum mechanics suggest all this focus on objectivism is for naught. Objectivity is really an illusion we construct to make us feel better about what we are doing— able to measure with numbers, tools, and unbiased tampering. However, if we use methods, such as interpretive inquiry, we will be able to measure the subjective and objective as integrations of data that will give us our best understanding of what is happening. In addition, it does not require us to ignore key aesthetic and subjective nursing practices that center on caring or presence for fear we cannot measure it.

 
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >