Methodological approach

The study of transliteracy used predominantly qualitative methodology, which is suitable for research, given its exploratory nature. It is based on hermeneutics as a philosophy and a methodological approach. Philosophical understanding in this study is derived mainly from the work Truth and Method by a German philosopher, Hans-Georg Gadamer (2004). The philosophy of hermeneutics provides an interpretive framework for this methodological approach. Hermeneutical philosophy is closely aligned with phenomenology and their connection is apparent in hermeneutic phenomenology. As described by Sharkey (2001), hermeneutic phenomenology is used to understand subjective experiences and then move beyond them to understand underlying structures in these experiences. Hermeneutics provided a philosophical and methodological framework to uncover a range of perspectives leading to an understanding of transliteracy. The overall transliteracy study is an outcome of my prolonged presence in the field and work in professional and academic contexts.

An action research approach was used for research projects conducted in the high school setting because it suited the nature of practice-based research and is a well-established methodological approach in education (Holly et al., 2009). Action research cycles of planning, acting, observing, and reflecting are well aligned with the notion of the hermeneutic circle in which any understanding develops.

Mainly qualitative data-gathering methods were used in the study overall, in combination with some quantitative methods (e.g., surveys, counts of references to e-texts in participants’ published or submitted works). Quantitative results were always considered in relation to other data and participants’ interpretations.

A number of qualitative approaches are based on the integration of data collection and analysis. In the research projects as part of the transliteracy study, data were regularly analyzed and the results used to inform the next stages of data-gathering. Cycles of deductive and inductive reasoning unfolded as described by Strauss and Corbin (1998, pp. 136-137):

Although statements of relationship or hypotheses do evolve from data [we go from the specific case to the general], whenever we conceptualize data or develop hypotheses, we are interpreting to some degree. To us, an interpretation is a form of deduction. We are deducing what is going on based on data but also based on our reading of that data along with our assumptions about the nature of life, the literature that we carry in our heads, and the discussions that we have with colleagues.

Data were gathered and analyzed with a multiplicity of perspectives and meanings in mind. Data were triangulated and findings probed as much as possible, with constant monitoring of variations in data and signs of contradictory evidence. Informal feedback from teachers and library staff in the high school context, as well as any significant observations from them, were documented in my research notes and included in the data mix.

Research questions

At the beginning of this chapter there was a reference to the development of ideas that connected initially separate research projects. At the center of all investigations was learning and knowledge production as it developed through the execution of substantial and information-rich tasks. High school students and academics worked on projects of different complexity, but all their work required some construction of meaning, investigation, and interaction with a range of sources and tools. All research data were collated and investigated from the perspective of the following research questions:

  • • What constitutes transliteracy?
  • • How do participants experience transliteracy?
  • • How does transliteracy contribute to participants’ learning and knowledge production?
  • • What are some of the aids and challenges to transliteracy?
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