Theory and Method in Higher Education Research: Volume 6

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

(13 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-ix
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Abstract

Higher education research is replete with discussion of boundaries imagined as structural constraints in need of removal or circumvention. But, while foregrounding national–transnational frameworks, leadership strategising and institutional structures, the scholarship is subdued about how boundaries are actually dealt with at ground level. How do practitioners come together, day by day, across higher education boundaries; and what is required for desirable practices to be nurtured? It is on this issue, and in particular the theorisation of this issue, that this chapter will focus.

This chapter presents and develops a relational working framework, based on the work of Anne Edwards. We highlight three core concepts (common knowledge, relational expertise and relational agency), disaggregating each into constituent features. We then apply the framework to reinterpret previously published empirical studies, to demonstrate its broad applicability. We argue that the framework usefully conceptualises how practitioners work with others across boundaries; that it helps us to notice how many boundaries are, in fact, routinely permeated; and that it usefully highlights important aspects of local practices that are easily obscured.

Abstract

In this chapter, we explore uses of corpus linguistics within higher education research. Corpus linguistic approaches enable examination of large bodies of language data based on computing power. These bodies of data, or corpora, facilitate investigation of the meaning of words in context. The semiautomated nature of such investigation helps researchers to identify and interpret language patterns that might otherwise be inaccessible through manual analysis. We illustrate potential uses of corpus linguistic approaches through four short case studies by higher education researchers, spanning educational contexts, disciplines and genres. These case studies are underpinned by discussion of the development of corpus linguistics as a field of investigation, including existing open corpora and corpus analysis tools. We give a flavour of how corpus linguistic techniques, in isolation or as part of a wider research approach, can be particularly helpful to higher education researchers who wish to investigate language data and its context.

Abstract

There is an identified need in higher education research for methods which have the capacity to generate conceptual insights grounded in concrete local practice but with wider applicability in understanding and facilitating research-based change. This chapter outlines an intermediate approach to qualitative data analysis which can support theoretical knowledge advancement from practice-based research, which I call the difference-within-similarity approach. It involves a particular way of conducting dialogues with our data: of interanimating similarities and differences within our qualitative datasets. The approach outlined involves first identifying a similarity, then systematically examining differences within that similarity to generate theoretical explanations. Drawing on sociocultural theorising, particularly dialogic theory and cultural–historical activity theory, the approach is based on the idea that new meanings arise from a comparison of multiple perspectives on the ‘same’ phenomenon. The tensions between such perspectives are seen as a key driver for change in educational practice. Therefore, articulating and examining such tensions in our data gives an opportunity to simulate the possibility of change in our analysis and, hence, develop insights which can inform change beyond local settings. Important here is that the differences examined are bound together by an analytically productive similarity. Through multiple research examples, the chapter identifies and illustrates a range of ways of articulating productive analytical similarities for comparison in our data: through theory/literature, through forward and backwards processing of data itself and through a process termed ‘weaving’.

Abstract

Higher education researchers are often challenged by the difficulty of empirically validating causal links posited by theories or inferred from correlational observations. The instrumental variable (IV) estimation strategy is one approach that researchers can use to estimate the causal impact of various higher education–related interventions. In this chapter, we discuss how the body of quantitative research specifically devoted to higher education has made use of the IV estimation strategy: we describe how this estimation strategy was used to address causality concerns and provide examples of the types of IVs that were used in various subfields of higher education research. Our discussion is based on a systematic review of a corpus of econometric studies on higher education–related issues that spans the last 30 years. The chapter concludes with a critical discussion of the use of IVs in quantitative higher education research and a discussion of good practices when using an IV estimation strategy.

Abstract

This chapter presents a form of both co-participation theory and artful inquiry methodology as useful approaches in carrying out research into the student experience. Participatory Pedagogy is predicated on repositioning participants as co-producers of knowledge by introducing them to important aspects of the research, providing a platform to foster expression and affording opportunities to co-shape the research process. Artful inquiry can take many different forms, but collage in particular has the capacity to bring new meanings to the surface even in well-researched fields, such as the student experience. In supporting a Participatory Pedagogy approach, collage can unpack powerful testimonies of personal experience. A practical application of this pairing is also presented based on research into the student experience. This gives readers an insight into how it can be applied to a study, what its limitations might be and especially how students, particularly those from under-represented backgrounds, can benefit from being involved.

Abstract

The Pasifika (Pacific Island) research methodology talanoa (conversation) has contemporary resonance beyond its local context. At the recent Bonn Climate Change Conference, for example, talanoa was adopted to spark international dialogue about our collective futures. But this and other recent instances raise the question as to whether and how talanoa can and should be applied in a non-Indigenous context – or, indeed, online. As a culturally diverse research team, we undertook a talanoa about our experience of researching historical literacy with Māori and Pasifika students through talanoa. Here we introduce what we learnt from the literature about the nature of talanoa, its use as a methodology, and its application in higher education and reproduce our own recent online talanoa on the experience of learning to do talanoa together. Three key lessons emerged from our research conversation. Firstly, we learnt that time is of the essence: researchers must carefully balance the need for the talanoa to run its natural course with the need to not overburden the participants. Secondly, we learnt that where the researchers undertake the talanoa is less important than attending to the relationships (the ) between the researchers and participants, and the researchers and participants themselves. And, finally, in keeping with what some Māori researchers and their allies have argued of Kaupapa Māori research methodology, we learnt that indigenous methodologies like talanoa, when employed with care and in recognition of their emergence out of decolonial struggles for indigenous sovereignty and self-determination, can foster a fruitful intercultural research conversation.

Abstract

Globally, growth in the number of students from diverse backgrounds entering university requires broader understanding of how persistence and success is enacted at an individual lived level. We know very little about how learners draw on ‘internal capabilities’ when persisting in higher education; these capabilities are not innate but instead develop in interaction with an individual's environment (social, cultural, familial and political) and are informed by existing access to forms of capitals. Exploring how internal capabilities and capitals inform the act of persistence contributes much needed alternative perspectives to the issue of educational participation. This chapter outlines how the work of Amartya Sen and Pierre Bourdieu can be usefully combined and utilised within the higher education setting. In presenting this theoretical fusion, this chapter defines one approach to exploring what learners bring to the higher education field (capitals) and how existing capabilities are actioned to support relative success within this environment. Details of how this approach was applied within one study are provided and conclusions are drawn relating to wider applications of this methodological approach.

Abstract

This chapter explores researching student experience in higher education from a Deleuzian perspective. It explores the key principles of a Deleuzian approach and introduces the concepts of becoming, assemblage and affect in relation to student experience in higher education. It shows how such concepts have been applied in two examples of research on student experience – the first reconceptualising the experience of ‘transition’ to university and the second exploring how student feedback might be gathered and engaged with differently in order to deepen teachers' pedagogic reflections. The chapter shows how Deleuzian approaches avoid finding commonalities in student experience and instead place an emphasis on affective connections that in turn prompt us to engage in new ways with student experience.

Abstract

Building on the proposition that Bernstein's ideas are due for a revival in higher education research, the call for studies in which theory is put to use and for policy studies to engage in textual analysis, this chapter argues for the affordances of the theoretical underpinnings of Bernstein's pedagogic device and critical discourse studies in investigating connections between policy and practice. Drawing on the sociology of pedagogy and applied linguistics, this chapter aims to explore the theoretical complementarities of the chosen approaches for exploring how policy ideas move through time and space. A focus on the notion of recontextualisation enables an understanding of how influences beyond the discipline itself, including policy discourses, can shape learning, teaching and assessment practices. The illustrating case examines policy on learning and teaching and how these ideas are recontextualised from national policy through to institutional policy and individual practices. The critical or questioning angle of both approaches in seeing ideas, including policy, as never value-free but as situated within their sociopolitical context can shed light on how policy ideas make their way into universities and in whose interests.

Abstract

The main objective of this chapter is to explore the potential and applicability of framing, a multidisciplinary and multiparadigmatic ‘metatheory’ of sense-making through communication, or media effects specifically, in guiding higher education research. To reach this objective, the author first synthesized theoretical discussions on framing in different disciplines, collated the core concepts developed around the framing concept and developed a universal framing process model, to be applied with the introduction of a theme and the selection of research paradigms. Following that, the author provided an overview of the application of the framing concept in higher education research and explored the potential application of the model to guide and coordinate framing research in the field.

Abstract

This chapter offers a systematic review of research into quality assurance and quality management in higher education. It begins by considering quality as theory and discusses the methodology applied. The origin and meaning of the terms quality assurance and quality management, as they are used in higher education, and their application and practice, are then discussed. The issues and critiques that have been raised concerning quality assurance and management are identified, before some conclusions are reached.

Abstract

Responding to the knowledge needs of stakeholders has been a defining feature of higher education research. However important responsiveness is, it does not automatically assume beneficial change of policy or practice as a result. When research generates impact beyond the academy, little is known about its epistemic, organisational and temporal characteristics and their links. Are these knowledge characteristics a typical reflection of the field or do they have a certain specificity that may account for their reach into the wider spheres of policy and practice and society at large? In this chapter, we look at the knowledge characteristics of higher education research that was submitted for the ‘impact’ element of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) – the United Kingdom's national level assessment of research. We identified 53 impact case studies within a broadly defined and multidisciplinary field of higher education research. We investigate the theories and methodologies used, the researchers and institutions that conducted the research, its sponsors and the timescales of the various research projects. In the United Kingdom, the REF includes assessment of nonacademic impact. The latter has emerged as a key criterion and a metric for evaluating and funding academic research. We contribute a sociological conceptualisation of the knowledge characteristics and their links as an ‘epistemic-organisational-temporal nexus’ at which actors' interests intersect. This conceptual framework advances our understanding of the investigated multidisciplinary research field, with relevance to applied social sciences generally.

Cover of Theory and Method in Higher Education Research
DOI
10.1108/S2056-3752202106
Publication date
2020-11-09
Book series
Theory and Method in Higher Education Research
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-80043-321-2
eISBN
978-1-80043-320-5
Book series ISSN
2056-3752