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H809: Activity 11.2 and 11.3

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Activity 11.2: Categorising the studies met so far (1.5 hours)

Use Table 11.1 to classify each of the empirical research studies met so far in the H809 readings. Note down your reasoning and conclusions.







A. Observation

B. Participant Observation

C. Documents, artefacts and records


Asking Questions

B. Other People's Data

A. Experimental

B. Quasi-experimental


Hiltz & Meinke (1989)









Wegerif & Mercer (1997)









Laurillard (1994)









Oliver et al. (1997)









Roschelle (1992)









Conole et al. (2004)









Jones & Preece (2006)









Tolmie (2001)









Greenhow & Belbas (2007)









I found this quite difficult to do in many cases as the categories seemed to have a very positivist slant and some of the studies we looked at were anti-positivist. I think my confusion arose when 'asking questions' covers both interviews and questionnaires and is considered to be semi-interventionalist. In my opinion many questionnaires produce quantitative data and can be categorised as semi-interventionalist but interviews produce mainly qualitative data and are interventionalist because the role of the interviewer must be accounted for. Looking back on the date of initial production of these categories (Madge, 1953) I suppose it is natural that there is a strong positivist approach at this time.


So, what are 'new' research methods and how do they relate to the framework in Table 11.1?

Let's consider three variants of 'asking questions' using interviews:

Interview 1: A woman with a clipboard stops you in the street and asks you a lot of questions about soap powder.

Interview 2: Somebody phones you up to ask you how you are planning to vote.

Interview 3: You are asked to take part in an e-interview, using email, about your Open University studies. For most of us this would feel like a new research method.

They are all 'interviews' - the researcher asks questions and you, the respondent, answer them. Spend a few minutes reflecting on what exactly is 'new' about Interview 3.


I believe that 'new' reflects the method of communication; the material that can be included (screen shots, audio files, video); and the researcher's acknowledgement of their part in the process.


Activity 11.3: Effect of interviewing style (15 minutes)

We want you to do a 'mind experiment'. Imagine you are being interviewed about your views on government spending on education.

  • Do you think your answers would be different, depending upon which of the three interview methods mentioned above was actually used?
  • How would they be different?
  • What if the topic was whether you had ever broken professional rules?

Once you have reflected and made notes, discuss your thoughts in the Modulewide Forum.

Interview 1: I am likely to refuse as I do not want to be interviewed about soap powder just for the benefit for commercial companies and I am generally busy and do not want to be interrupted in the middle of a task.

Interview 2: I would definitely refuse - I hate phone interviews, my voting choice is private information and I hate being interrupted in the middle of things.

Interview 3: Course information is useful research for planning and so I would be inclined to take part. The fact that it is by email is also a positive as I can take part when it is convenient for me and I am not interrupted.


I would have to consider the purpose of the interview to be serious and important work if I were ever to consider answering the question concerning whether I had ever broken professional rules. I would also have to be certain of anonymity.

My answers were interesting. They resonated with the comments made by Adam Joinson that nowadays the more sophisticated audience is aware that online is confidential rather than anonymous. I also agree with Adam that I am encouraged to participate if the research is transparent i.e. where I can see a useful outcome for the data.



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