This research was supported by grants from Howard University’s Center for Urban Progress; Faculty Research Program through the Social Sciences, Humanities and Education; and Fund for Academic Excellence. Photographs are by the author, except the cover. Much appreciation is given to my students for their valued work.
Research theory and practice are interrelated. Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches have distinct features. Neither is ‘better’ than the other. Either-or arguments are misleading and distracting. Qualitative approaches emphasize perceptions and meanings. They are concerned with constructing, describing, representing and interpreting social reality. Teaching about qualitative research theory and practice entails developing and applying qualitative research pedagogies. Competing assumptions exist regarding teaching and learning qualitative research. These have implications for teachers and students. The assumption that learning derives from interaction implies that teachers are facilitators of knowledge, rather than experts who transfer knowledge. Understanding characteristics of qualitative research promotes effective teaching approaches. This chapter is an overview of qualitative research’s value and distinctiveness. Major pedagogical goals, necessary students’ skills and related teaching issues are highlighted. Reducing fear-based teaching, tension-filled learning and anxiety-ridden assessments helps encourage a willingness to venture beyond preconceived categories and step into the community in new ways. Interactive classroom and field learning strategies engage students. Creating classroom-community relationships enhances teaching and learning. Teaching requires conceptual and methodological rigor. Setting and achieving meaningful teaching objectives are assisted by linking instruction and qualitative community research (QCR). Purposeful and clear assessments improve teaching. Their utility is affected by explicit questioning of assessments purposes, goals, objectives, existent resources, types, strategies and results. Teaching involves thinking about data, as well as obtaining, organizing, summarizing, comprehending, analyzing and presenting information. Instruction obligates the instructor to self-reflect about thematic goals for teaching and learning QCR. The chapter concludes with a field assignment.
Conceptualization and technical procedures drive research. Theoretical and conceptual formulations, design and methodology are interrelated. A project’s aims and central questions directly affect intended data sources. Two forms of QCR are community-based research (CBR) and communitybased participatory research (CBPR). CBR uses a naturalistic community setting. Its objectives, design and methodology are typically planned by non-residents. CBPR involves community-based individuals and organizations in the research process, although the form and extent vary from project to project. This chapter describes CBPR’s benefits and characteristics. Emphasis is placed on health, wellness and health disparities. Suggestions for obtaining qualitative research funds are provided. Facilitators of CBPR are highlighted, e.g., sharing feasible expectations; and partnering based on clear expectations, specified deliverables, equity, and adequately anticipating and responding to challenges. Start-up considerations can be complicated and perplex. Potential for success is maximized when potential partners recognize and communicate their interests. Mechanisms and processes are promoted by mutual perceptions of fair and acceptable claims regarding the research process, results and uses. Structures and cultural styles of communities and research institutions also affect interrelationships and building of trust. QCR’s guidelines and principles are dynamic. Sensitivity, respect, appreciation and valuation are essential for rigor and collaboration. Thematic considerations affect QCR’s evolution, e.g., incorporating basic research and QCR in mixed method designs. Among other factors are linking translational research with improved service delivery and an institutional research agenda of community collaboration derived from mission-driven partnerships. Developing contacts and broadening relationships between research institutions and community organizations also expand QCR.
QCR is conceptually and methodologically useful. It has descriptive and explanatory potential, for example, understanding subjects such as gentrification, or contributing to mixed model mental health projects. This chapter explains ways in which QCR designs benefit research studies. Its aims are to re-emphasize the practical usefulness of QCR design and raise awareness of certain quantitative methodological problems. Suggestions for displaying qualitative results in numerical formats are provided. Researchers face potential quantitative methodological challenges. These include: obtaining study samples; random assignments; obtaining adequate follow-up samples; leaving treatment condition; length of instruments; impairment of participants; potential contamination; historical effects; intervention changes; self-reports; drug use data; inappropriate instruments; relationships with participating agencies; protection of research participants; determining effects of particular drugs; influence of testing on responses; and selecting appropriate statistical tests.
Practicing qualitative research involves acquisition of skills and integration of conceptual and practical learning. Comprehension, reading, critical thinking, interrelated teaching and learning comprehension strategies are essential. Pedagogical, conceptual and methodological insights from the innovative Community Technical Assistance Project (CTAP) at Howard University are described in this chapter. QCR involves social interaction and building relationships through collaborative conceptualizing, doing service, researching and sharing of results. In doing so, QCR becomes an endeavor of conceptualization, instruction, learning, research and assistance. Students, residents and faculty define issues, events and people of significance to the community. Local assets are emphasized. A QCR-oriented course helps develop institutional and individual relationships between the university, neighborhood entities and local people. Developing, acquiring, teaching and learning qualitative community-based research rely on critical thinking, conceptualization, methodology and assessment. Process and summative evaluations aid the process. Instruction and practice require pedagogical goals, such as student and faculty development of qualitative, quantitative, vernacular and visual literacies. QCR’s pedagogy assumes learners, researchers and participants are not simply acquiring and transferring knowledge; they are making meaning(s) of and from their experiences, information and knowledge. Applying constructivist-based learning premises and practices may promote effective qualitative research practices. According to constructivism, knowledge is constructed and embedded in people’s activities. Contexts of learning activities affect the construction of meaningful and useful knowledge. Moreover, social reality and knowledge have multiple perspectives. Constructivist teachers recognize that investigation involves contextual interaction with and creation of knowledge. An assignment in applying research skills is included in this chapter.
This chapter describes skills and strategies for connecting QCR theory with practice. Despite its limitations, qualitative research can be conceptualized as instruction, practice and assistance. They are assessed based on a project’s objectives. In all cases, making appropriate decisions about data is essential. Gathering evidence is linked to a general awareness of community-based research and a QCR orientation. These are achievable through practice and varied assessments. The chapter offers suggestions for faculty and student assessments. Guidelines for students are provided. Among the challenges of community-based research are collaboration, defining a community and entering a community. Each can be anticipated and reduced by careful planning and assessments. Conceptualizing a community in terms of its resiliency is a perspective and an approach that provides useful data, especially about marginalized communities. Finally, two getting started assignments are given; one on community observations, the other on reviewing print media.
This chapter describes a practical suggestion for a possible CBPR project and presents thematic findings from a 2010 spring semester pilot project. Collaborative development of a proposed prototype community DVD tour can incorporate core QCR features. These include clear objectives, perceived beneficial outcomes, a feasible work plan, realistic timelines, appropriate evaluation and alignment of institutional interests with community research. Linking conceptualization with QCR design and methodology is essential. The process is guided by a theoretical framework. This helps resolve problematic matters such as handling discourse, integrating mixed method approaches, understanding empirical descriptions and making meaning from information. The pilot project’s objectives were to obtain perceptions of community and university persons about the university’s service and leadership contributions to the Pleasant Plains community in Washington, DC. Students collected and analyzed information through fieldwork, visual documentation, literature reviews, conversations, interviews and participant observations. The following were among the results: Barriers to trust and achieving effective outcomes include insufficient information and misperception; Consistent university institutional involvement is needed; Connecting the university and neighboring community is aided by structured student service-learning and recognition for faculty communityservice; Regularizing institutional engagement and dialogue promotes university-community research.
Qualitative research involves problem solving, metacognition and evaluation. Constructing knowledge and developing meanings from what students learn requires reflection. Thinking about using QCR and reflecting about what is being learned -- along with why and how -- are metacognitive skills that improve coherent results and assist evaluation. A multi-disciplinary curriculum of measurable objectives and activities also assists reflection and metacognition.
Methodological techniques and conceptual analysis guide QCR. Planning helps qualitative researchers identify and explore the meanings that participants attach to their experiences. An observation guide or ethnographic protocol is useful for standardizing collection procedures and capturing informative details. Clarifying data analysis procedures is crucial. Project staff training helps credibility and consistency of collection and analytical techniques. Triangulation, using multiple sources and methods of collecting and analyzing data, may permit collection of meaningful data. Coding and ratings are based on pre-established theoretical categories, emergent conceptual constructs or both. Manual and/or software analytical techniques are used. Results may be numerically tabulated. Quantitative coding can supplement qualitative procedures. Ensuring validity and reliability may be a concern for some qualitative researchers, but not others, particularly ethnographers striving for authenticity. Ethnography involves attempted immersion in participants’ lives to obtain their perspectives and understandings of their cultural and social realities. Despite its disadvantages, e.g., considerable time to gain trust and difficulties in generalizing, ethnography is popular. It can be integrated with quantitative methods or function as a stand-alone method. While ethnography does not emphasize traditional reliability and validity, it strives for rigor. Its methods are authentic and defensible when they follow a sound protocol. Grounded theory is frequently used to extract information and develop refined themes. Focus groups are also popular. They demand attentiveness to tasks. All qualitative research is concerned with design, study management, study site, sampling, data collection and analysis. Photography and visual literacy enhance QCR. This chapter concludes with focus group assignments.
Qualitative research perspectives, methods and data help shape educational pedagogies, policies, practices and assessments. They provide insights and empirical evidence for services and interventions. Development of a qualitative evidence base may help align mental health principles, priorities, practices and services. Mixed research methods (MRM) and community-based participatory research (CBPR) are important for cultural competency and cultural proficiency. Paradigms of quantitative vs. qualitative fail to grasp complexities of health disparities and inequities. Nevertheless, qualitative research has to be marketed. Its research questions, designs and findings must be aligned with funders’ missions. Grant applications require careful consideration of numerous issues. Among them are: preparatory groundwork; conceptualization; preparation of application; clarity and interrelatedness of approach, methodology and design; investigators and consultants; human subjects; research environment; budget; and submission. Failure to pay strict attention to each of these may lead to rejection based on a non-fundable review score. Assessing qualitative research involves determining strong associations between theory, meaning and constructs. Although not designed to test a theory or measure a construct, qualitative research is based on sound conceptualization. Obtaining meaningful data involves conceptual and consequent methodological clarity. Meaning-making (making meaning) from data assists our understanding of mental health policies and practices. Assessment of qualitative research instruction is not standardized or evidence-based. However, stemming from theory and practice, it is possible to assert several principles of culturally proficient research.
Research, pedagogy, instruction, learning and practice are not neutral endeavors. Values neutrality is insisted by some; others regard it as unachievable. Both positions are concerned about the role of values in QCR. Ethics and values are embedded and revealed through qualitative processes of cognition, reflection, interpretation and construction of knowledge. These are fundamental for conceptual and methodological issues of representation and voice. Qualitative research is a science, not an ideology. However, eliminating social inequities, reducing disparities and achieving social justice are goals of some researchers, educators, policy-makers, practitioners and everyday people. Qualitative advocacy research necessitates consideration of one’s stance and methods. Research perspectives may reinforce or challenge inequitable power relations, social structures, cultural assumptions, values, norms and behaviors. Different groups have different views about the meanings and uses of research. These are researchable issues. Advocacy research is characterized by a collaborative approach that affirms and confirms the value of insights by participants and researchers. Data are collected and analyzed through multiple sources and methods. Value is placed on participants’ and researchers’ cognitive frameworks, experiences, cultures, discourses, meaning-making, reflecting, and related ways of shaping and expressing their realities. The participants’ community is also considered a validator of the credibility, authenticity and reliability of the findings, not just the researcher’s scientific community.
Qualitative research has much to offer, not just as an adjunct to quantitative or mixed methods, but as a leader in particular studies. QCR’s role and applicability partly depend on recognition of its conceptual and methodological challenges. The field could benefit from consistent and rigorous self-inquiry. More conceptual and methodological rigor is needed. Among the conceptual challenges are the following: non-consensus on what constitutes core principles of qualitative inquiry; overreliance on quantified approaches; tendency to see qualitative research as an illuminating supplement, rather than a potential stand-alone contributor; and resistance to mixed models of research. Among methodological challenges are: non-understanding of scientific basis and methods of ethnography and other qualitative research approaches; problems in analyzing, interpreting and integrating subjective data; and difficulties in achieving validity, reliability and generalizability. Grappling with these challenges is aided by vigilance in linking a project’s conceptualization, aims, questions and methods. QCR’s challenges and resolutions occur within theoretical, methodological and analytical frameworks.
This chapter highlights particular qualitative methodological issues. An outline of grounded theory, a major analytical approach, is presented. It involves refinement and confirmation of themes. Transcription coding schemes are essential for analyzing discourse and interviews. Analysis can be done manually or by qualitative software. Through constant comparisons of information from within each category, codes can be collapsed into manageable categories. Inter-rater reliability is important. Software can run descriptive analyses of coded data, based on a list of codes entered into the program. Emergent general patterns within and across domains or categories can be formulated. Social science and pedagogical theory are foundations of ethnography. Qualitative community-based research has the potential to uncover the meanings of concepts, how they are constructed and displayed, and the effects of definitions and constructs. Socio-cultural research methodologies, qualitative research and ethnography specifically center on the intersection of social, cultural and individual factors as mediators in people’s lives. Institutional settings, classroom learning environments and community settings offer opportunities for exploration and initiation into qualitative research reasoning, conceptualization and methodologies. Instructional goals affect skills development and influence how students and faculty think about research. Thinking about research in general and reflecting on QCR in particular are essential for the intent, design, methodology and use of a research project. Central issues for QCR are the identification and application of its organizing principles. Several implications can be noted. Research requires conceptualization, not just design and methodology. Rigor is necessary. Qualitative research training and emulation are needed.
Qualitative community research can be conceptualized as theory, pedagogy, instruction, learning, practice and service. It requires contemplation, subject mastery, expertise, rigorous conceptualization, diverse approaches, skilled procedures, access to hidden data, interpreting and making meaning from information, and constructions of knowledge. QCR provides data and ways of making meaning from information and experiences. Common interests exists among faculty, students and communities, despite their perceived differences. Community-based participatory research performs service and advocacy roles by documenting perspectives and providing a basis for public and social policy planning and initiatives. A major conclusion from our research is that engaging a university and community is mutually beneficial.