Theory and Method in Higher Education Research: Volume 9

Cover of Theory and Method in Higher Education Research
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Table of contents

(20 chapters)
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List of Contributors

Pages vii-viii
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Abstract

This chapter discusses the main challenges in higher education comparative research, focusing on cross-national forms of comparison and presenting examples from European research. The first part stresses the importance of constructing concepts which can travel across countries. This part identifies the different vertical levels of comparison involved in higher education cross-national research, discussing how the need for exploring general patterns in higher education (e.g. globalisation and Europeanisation) is confronted with the importance of taking into account the diversity within the particular cases (e.g. institutional and individual experiences). The second part focuses on the equivalence of meaning in large-N (in particular, the Eurostudent and REFLEX datasets) and small-N studies, identifying the respective limits of the two forms of comparison. The chapter contends that comparative research in higher education could benefit from more collaboration between small-N qualitative comparativists and experts of large-N studies used in European policy-making.

Abstract

This chapter focuses on theories and methods for policy studies in higher education, in an era of accelerating globalisation. Policy is increasingly conceived as a complex process which extends from global to local levels, and is contested at all levels. At the same time, higher education has assumed a more central role in the development of a so-called ‘global knowledge economy’. Thus, the re-conceptualisation of ‘policy’, along with the repositioning of the role of higher education in globalising times, call for a rethink on theory and method for higher education policy studies. With attempts to cover a broad global-local span, single theoretical framings are often insufficient, and theoretical eclecticism potentially offers more comprehensive insights into dynamic policy processes than single theories alone. In particular, the combination of critical theory and post-structural theory has presented a fruitful way to build policy ‘trajectory’ and ‘network’ analyses across multiple levels and sites.

Abstract

This chapter offers a pedagogical, analytical and heuristic framework for the critical analysis of higher education policy texts, and of the processes and motivations behind their articulations, grounded in considerations of relationships and flows between language, power and discourse. Theoretically the framework draws on critical discourse analysis, which provides a systematic framework for exegesis, analysis and interpretation, uncloaking the ways in which language (and other semiotic modes) work within discourse as agents and actors in the realisation, construction and perception of relations of power. The framework itself comprises two elements: one concerned with contextualising and one with deconstructing. The contextualisation element of the frame comprises three parts: temporal context, policy levers/drivers and warrant. The second element of deconstruction engages with text and discourse using a number of analytical lenses and tools derived from critical discourse analysis and critical literacy analysis.

Abstract

This chapter explores the use of critical discourse analysis (CDA) within higher education research. CDA is an approach to studying language and its relation to power, ideology and inequality. Within CDA, texts are not analysed in isolation, but as part of the institutional and discoursal practices in which they are embedded. Within the broad field of educational research, CDA has been increasingly used to explore the relationship between language and society; higher education research appears to be experiencing a similar turn to CDA. The chapter begins with an overview of CDA, outlining its origins, and discussing its position as both a theory and a method. A review of CDA-related higher education research follows. The review aims to show the scope and potential of CDA in the study of higher education. The chapter closes with recommendations for future work to develop and extend the use of CDA within higher education research.

Abstract

The aim of this chapter is to bring to the forefront the potential of discourse analysis in higher education research. It characterises discourse analysis as a constructionist perspective, underlying its empirical applications in the field of higher education. A two-phase model is proposed as a possible answer to the often stressed lack of methodological devices in the area of discourse analysis. This model combines the theory of discourse of Laclau and Mouffe with the critical discourse analysis of Fairclough, on the assumption that they have complementary elements that may be employed for research in the field of higher education. We selected a text to exemplify the use of discourse organisers (phase one) and to analyse the way discourses become dominant/excluded (phase two). We conclude by arguing that higher education research looking into discourses has major advantages to consider discourse analysis, both as a theory and method.

Abstract

Early career researchers are of increasing interest, regardless of national boundaries, given both policies to enhance international competitiveness, and concerns about individuals turning away from academic careers. As a result, there is a growing literature documenting how early career researchers navigate their journeys and decide to stay or leave. Our research is situated within this literature, yet is distinct in using a longitudinal qualitative team-based approach that has led to the conception of identity incorporating both the continuity of stable personhood over time and a sense of ongoing change. The scholarly contribution of this work is to articulate a contrasting perspective to the structural or systemic one common in examining early career researcher experience. Our goal in this chapter is to make transparent the decisions and actions underlying our approach and, in so doing, demonstrate the potential of researching the construction of identity in this way.

Abstract

In this chapter, we review the ways in which scholars have conceptualized and relied on the notion of identity to understand the academic career. We explore the use of identity as a theoretical construct in research about the experience of being an academic. We discuss the individual and organizational factors that scholars have focused on when seeking to understand the role of professional and personal identity in academic careers, as well as recent and emerging shifts in the use of identity within this line of scholarship. Research suggests that if we are to understand the future of the academic career, we must understand the identities of its current and prospective members and, more importantly, how those identities shape goals, behaviors, and outcomes. We close with recommendations for future research and theory development.

Abstract

In this chapter, the authors discuss challenges and decision-making in the process of conducting quality mixed methods research in higher education, and offer the lessons learned from their experiences. The chapter begins with a discussion of quality and the ways of establishing quality in mixed methods studies. Two examples of studies are used to illustrate the issues involved in addressing quality in conducting mixed methods studies in different higher education settings. The first example discusses the challenges associated with establishing the quality of meta-inferences in a mixed methods (quantitative to qualitative) design that was used in two studies of students’ engagement and persistence in pursuing graduate degrees online in the United States. The second example presents the methodological steps and criteria for evaluating the quality of a multilevel mixed design study to explain quality management in Greek higher education. The authors also reflect on how researchers can become active participants in the co-construction of quality in mixed methods research.

Abstract

Queer theory is a form of critical analysis that aims to destabilize hegemonic discourses around sex, sexuality and gender, particularly in relation to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. This discursive chapter focuses on how queer theory, when transformed into method, or queering, provides a more embodied and holistic understanding of student learning in higher education. It notes that, whilst queering has become an applied method in some areas of higher education research, it has yet to address the phenomena behind university students’ sexual orientation and a more general orientation towards or away from study and learning. Core to such a method is: a four-dimensional paradigm for understanding the power of dominant discourses related to the body and orientations to learning – performance, performativity, materiality, and incorporeality; explorations of orientations towards or away from learning in which sexually influenced pleasure/shame amplifies those orientations; and longitudinal narrative enquiry.

Abstract

This chapter will explore how different feminist theories and theorists have informed what counts as research, what is defined as a research issue, and methodological approaches to research in higher education. It will consider the theoretical and methodological tools feminist academics have mobilized in order to develop more powerful explanations of how gender and other forms of difference work in the relation to the positioning of the individual, higher education and the nation state within globalized economies. It pays particular regard to the feminist political project of social justice.

Abstract

The visualisation of knowledge structures through concept mapping can be employed to reveal critical links between theory and practice. This allows consideration of particular disciplinary knowledge structures and the active role of the student in manipulating these structures to gain understanding, in a manner that can encourage students to contribute to the evolution of practice. The focus on knowledge structures can highlight the relationship between the curriculum and the discipline, and provides a tool to facilitate the integration of contemporary educational theories that may underpin teaching and curriculum development, such as learning styles, threshold concepts, conceptual stasis and semantic gravity. Visualisation invites original connections to be made between ideas and re-orientated to reveal new ways of conceptualising teaching at university: to include the structural transformation of knowledge as a potential threshold concept in higher education.

Abstract

This chapter argues that there are many, just many many variables which contribute to academic performance as measured in degree outcome, and, as such, simple bivariate analysis is inappropriate. We use structural equation modelling, and explore the contribution of academic behavioural confidence, to make the point that it does contribute to academic performance, but to a lesser extent than self-efficacy theory argues. We suggest that this is because degree outcome is made up of many efficacy variables, which we argue are better captured overall in academic behavioural confidence.

Abstract

In this description of phenomenography, we take a functional view of the theoretical underpinnings that have traditionally been used to support its trustworthiness as a qualitative research approach. The chapter has two objectives, first to serve as an introduction for those considering embarking on research with a phenomenographic framing, and second to enable the recognition of the quality and scope of the knowledge claim inherent in phenomenographic outcomes.

Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to investigate students’ qualitatively different ways of understanding the learning object in three undergraduate courses in the discipline of accounting. The theoretical framework of variation theory, a general learning theory, is applied. The lecturers chose a learning object which is investigated under two different teaching conditions – the conventional lecture model and the variational method. Two student groups were identified as a comparison group and a target group, comparable in various relevant parameters. All students took three required accounting courses. In the comparison group, the lecturers used the conventional lecture model and in the target group the variational model. The results indicated significant differences between the two groups’ examination results in the three courses, with students in the target group performing much better. The educational implications and limitations of the study, and areas for further research, are discussed.

Cover of Theory and Method in Higher Education Research
DOI
10.1108/S1479-3628(2013)9
Publication date
2013-09-26
Book series
International Perspectives on Higher Education Research
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78190-682-8
eISBN
978-1-78190-683-5
Book series ISSN
1479-3628