Theory and Method in Higher Education Research: Volume 1

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

(21 chapters)
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Abstract

Institutional theory has arguably become a popular and powerful explanatory tool for studying various organisational issues, including those in the context of higher education. However, little is known about the efforts of higher education researchers in tracing the development of organisational institutionalism and applying the theory in their research for a better understanding of the nature of universities and colleges. The purpose of this chapter is thus to fill the gaps by analysing nine leading higher education journals. The results indicate that the application of institutional theory in higher education research is dominated by the concepts of new institutionalism developed in the 1970s and 1980s. In spite of a growing tendency to utilise the recently developed insights of institutional theory in higher education studies, the full potential of institutional theory has not been fully exploited by higher education researchers. We therefore propose some directions for further institutional analysis in higher education studies.

Abstract

This chapter develops a theoretical account of higher education policy creation and the relationship between universities and the state. Through this process, it demonstrates the relevance of theories from political science – including policy analysis and parliamentary/legislative studies – to higher education policy analysis. The chapter outlines the enduring relevance of political factors in shaping higher education around the world and the different ways in which political and policy analysis can be positioned within higher education research. A series of theoretical frameworks are introduced including policy networks, neo-institutionalism and principal-agent theory. These theories account for how policy is made, the behaviour of universities and policy makers, and the dynamics within the relationship between universities and the state. The chapter explains how these approaches can be adapted and applied to higher education policy research, and how frameworks from political science can inform and enrich studies of higher education.

Abstract

This chapter will focus on the use of evaluative research in higher education policy analysis. The approach will be illustrated by reference to higher education policy in Scottish higher education, with particular reference to the longitudinal evaluative research of support of teaching and learning (T&L) (the Quality Enhancement Framework or QEF). The chapter will discuss the features of the research process which are shaped by evaluation theory. We adopt a theoretical position on policy research which foregrounds the situated experience of policy as a core research focus. Policy is depicted as being underscored by an implicit theory of change which is used to structure and orientate the research focus. The design of the research is characterised by the involvement of potential users of the research output, with implications on the way in which findings are articulated, presented and ultimately used, along with aspects of the evaluative research design. The case study of the QEF will be contextualised, and the intersection between the design features and theoretical approaches, and the use and usability of research outputs, will be established.

Abstract

As more and more longitudinal data become available, researchers turn toward dynamic tools that better utilize these data to contribute to the understanding of postsecondary education. Event history analysis (EHA) is one such approach, and its ability to study change over time has lent itself particularly well to the study of higher education. This chapter introduces the family of methods, providing detailed descriptions and guidance for researchers both new to and familiar with these techniques. An example of reform of higher education governance is used to illustrate the concepts and components relevant to EHA.

Abstract

Universities are expected to operate with high efficiency, with ever-growing expectations from a rising number of stakeholders in society. From a theoretical perspective economic science does provide frameworks and methods in order to tackle this, with the cornerstone of defining efficiency as a simple relation of a quantity of inputs toward a quantity of outputs. For the practice of university management and policy this does not answer the crucial questions of which inputs and which outputs to measure, and how to ensure the quality aspect of such management approaches. Higher education research can contribute to answering these questions. This chapter outlines a sector-specific framework for efficiency analysis and management, including suggestions regarding how to implement efficiency-improving measures in university settings.

Abstract

This chapter presents and discusses various steps to ensure empirical reliability and theoretical validity in the construction of competence scales in graduate surveys. The development of a scale to assess demands of the teacher profession and related abilities in graduates for a German tracer study project serves as an example. Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), principal component analysis (PCA) and Cronbach’s coefficient alpha are employed to test the reliability of the scale. Differing results illustrate how the method applied influences decisions in the process of developing a scale. Our findings show that multidimensionality can only be tested appropriately by CFA; PCA renders no feasible or similar results to CFA depending on the predetermination of the number of factors; Cronbach’s alpha produces misleading results as the prerequisite assumption of unidimensionality is violated by the data.

Abstract

In this chapter, we discuss the Change Laboratory as an intervention-research methodology in higher education. We trace its theoretical origins in dialectical materialism and activity theory, consider the recommendations made by its main proponents and discuss its use in a range of higher education settings. We suggest that the Change Laboratory offers considerable potential for higher education research, though tensions between Change Laboratory design recommendations and typical higher education contexts require consideration.

Abstract

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) has gained prominence as an organizational development approach. For over 15 years, it has had varied use in higher education research as a methodology and as a collection of methods. Perhaps the most consistently used, yet most criticized, aspect of AI is the positive stance that its adherents adopt. In this chapter, we survey the prevalence and use of AI, both in the wider literature and in higher education research. We offer our own case study to illustrate the practicalities of employing it and discuss our findings. We suggest that educational researchers are overlooking relevant AI research published within other disciplines; that our own and other case stories can provide guidance for the use of AI in academic contexts; and that AI’s collaborative and positive standpoint has potential as a research methodology influencing policy.

Abstract

In this chapter, the authors discuss the use of various kinds of images, namely photographs, drawings and verbal metaphors, as research data. These, perhaps less conventional forms of data, have been used to identify and probe deeper into beliefs and conceptions that are closely connected with identities, but which might not be obvious to the research participants themselves. The purpose of this chapter is to provide examples of how images can be used in research, and to identify some of the features particularly pertinent or specific to the use of images. The authors draw on their own research using these forms of data in studies on teaching and learning in higher education. The authors describe key issues related to data collection and analysis, and identify challenges in these processes. They also discuss trustworthiness of images as data and dependability of interpretations in the process of analysing photographs, drawings and metaphors, and identify ethical perspectives specific to research utilising these data.

Abstract

Evaluation of research is a core function of academic work, yet there has been very little theoretical development about what it means to ‘know’ in relation to judgements made in examination of doctoral research. This chapter addresses the issue by reflecting on findings from three projects aimed at enhancing understanding of doctoral examination. In order to progress understanding about knowledge judgements in the doctoral research context, the chapter draws on two key contributions in the field of knowledge and knowing, namely, Habermas’ cognitive interests and Chinn, Buckland and Samarapungavan’s notion of epistemic cognition. It examines the common ground between the two bodies of theory, drawing illustratively on empirical work in the field of doctoral examination. The comparison of the Habermasian theory of cognitive interests with Chinn et al.’s notion of epistemic cognition led to the conclusion that there were areas of overlap between the two conceptual schemas that could be utilised to advance research into doctoral examination in higher education. Habermas’ cognitive interests (which underpin his ways of knowing theory) offer a conceptual lens that facilitates analysis of the interaction of ontological and epistemic components of knowledge production. Chinn et al.’s notion of epistemic cognition allows for finer grained analysis of aspects of the cognitive work involved in knowledge rendition. This work is particularly pertinent in an era that sees the boundaries of the disciplines being challenged by the need for new perspectives and cross-disciplinary approaches to solving complex problems.

Abstract

In this chapter, we report on a meta-analysis of 30 refereed journal articles published between 1996 and 2015 by academic developers from Australasia, Britain and South Africa. We used a disciplinary lens to examine academic development research during this period. Specifically, we analysed the academic development literature to identify ‘ways of knowing’, the extent of explicit use of theories and research methods. Findings indicate that academic development research continues to be largely experiential, under-theorised and fragmentary. Articles analysed tended to fall within three research clusters, including education and educational psychology; professional learning and scholarship of learning and teaching; and sociology and philosophy. Qualitative research methods and psychological and sociological disciplinary lenses were dominantly referenced and adopted.

Abstract

This chapter discusses how Nancy Fraser’s theory of two-dimensional participatory justice may be employed in research concerned with inequalities within higher education. The main concepts of Fraser’s theory are discussed and evaluated in the light of the critical attention they have attracted. Following that, I demonstrate the empirical application of Fraser’s ideas through discussion of extracts of data from a recent small-scale investigation undertaken within a UK-based higher education institution. Finally, I conclude by discussing the strengths of Fraser’s concepts with some indications for future research.

Abstract

The capability approach is a normative framework that seeks to evaluate the quality of life through the evaluation of individual freedoms. It is behind the Human Development Index and it is increasingly applied in educational research, mostly in topics related to inequalities and curriculum development. This chapter provides an overview of the use of the capability approach in higher education. It first outlines its two versions, the evaluative version of Sen and the relational version of Nussbaum, arguing their complementary nature. Second, it points out its major critiques, namely the difficulties in its operationalisation. Finally, it reviews some examples of its application in higher education research, focusing mostly in Western-based contributions.

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Abstract

This chapter extends the phenomenographical research method by arguing the merits of engineering the outcome space from these investigations to effectively communicate the outcomes to an audience in technology-based discipline areas. Variations discovered from the phenomenographical study are blended with pre- and post-tests and a frequency distribution. Outcomes are then represented in a visual statistical manner to suit the specific target audience. This chapter provides useful insights that will be of interest to researchers wishing to present findings from qualitative research methods, and particularly the outcomes of phenomenographic investigations, to an audience in technology-based discipline areas.

Abstract

This chapter offers to higher education research a theoretical and methodological proposal based on narrativity, pointing to the articulation between metanarratives, public, conceptual and individual narratives. Stemming from social constructionism, it draws on concepts such as floating signifiers and nodal points, borrowed from discourse analysis, to explore the conflict and struggle between discourses. The examples provided focus on how individual narratives enact discourses on higher education institutional governance, as expressed in public narratives, and on how narratives influence the perceptions of institutional actors. Our goal in this chapter is, on the one hand, to propose an operationalization of discourse analysis, and, on the other hand, to signal the contribution of the narrative approach in revealing research findings based on the process of meaning construction.

Cover of Theory and Method in Higher Education Research
DOI
10.1108/S2056-375220151
Publication date
2015-09-29
Book series
Theory and Method in Higher Education Research
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78560-287-0
eISBN
978-1-78560-286-3
Book series ISSN
2056-3752