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2 Approaches to qualitative research. DAVID NUNAN. Contrasting quantitative and qualitative research. How many contrasting items can you add to these lists?. Qualitative classroom data. What types of qualitative data might be collected in classroom research?.

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contrasting quantitative and qualitative research
Contrasting quantitative and qualitative research

How many contrasting items can you add to these lists?

qualitative classroom data
Qualitative classroom data

What types of qualitative data might be collected in classroom research?

examples of qualitative data from classroom research
Examples of qualitative data from classroom research
  • Narrative accounts of a typical school day
  • Observer’s notes
  • Maps and SCORE charts
  • Lesson transcripts
  • Lesson plans and teachers’ notes
  • Open-ended questionnaire responses
  • Video/audio recordings of classroom interaction
  • Stimulated recall responses
  • Interview protocols (transcripts)
  • Diary entries
  • Copies of students’ work
case study defined
‘Case study’ defined.

“A case study is what you call a case, in case, in case you don’t have anything else to call it.”

(Response from a student who was asked to define ‘case study’)

“A detailed, often longitudinal investigation of a single individual or entity (or a few individuals or entities)”

(Nunan & Bailey, 2009: 158)

case study characteristics
Case study characteristics

a detailed, often longitudinal investigation of a single individual or entity (or a few individuals or entities)

naturalistic – no manipulation of subjects; no treatment

the researcher sets out to find out what’s happening

not merely pre-experimental

the investigation of a ‘bounded instance’

an “instance in action”


What are some of the ‘instances’ that could be investigated in second language teaching and learning?

selecting the case examples
Selecting the case: examples
  • Halliday: The first language acquisition of a single child
  • Brown: The first language acquisition of three children
  • Schumann: the acquisition and acculturation of two adults, two teenagers and two children over a ten-month period
  • Peck: The role of language play in the English development of two Mexican children 
selecting the case examples1
Selecting the case: examples
  • Celce-Murcia: Daughter’s bilingual acquisition of English and French in California and France over several years
  • Allwright: Turns, topics and tasks in two lower level ESL classes over 10 weeks.
  • Block: The perceptions of six adult English learners and their teacher in Spain.
  • Chuk: Autonomous student teachers in a TE program

A longitudinal case study examines development and performance over time.

(Duff, 2008)

multiple perspectives and triangulation
Multiple perspectives and triangulation

By concentrating on the behavior of one individual or a small number of individuals (or sites) it is possible to conduct a very thorough analysis (“thick” or “rich’ description) of the case and to include triangulated perspectives from other participants or observers.

(Duff 2008: 4)

the value of case studies
The value of case studies

Strong in reality

You can generalize from an instance to a class

It can represent multiple viewpoints and support alternative interpretations

Can provide a database that can be reinterpreted in the future

Insights can be put to immediate use

Case study reports usually more accessible than reports of psychometric studies

selecting the case
Selecting the case

“The individual case is usually selected for study on the basis of specific psychological, biological, sociocultural, institutional or linguistic attributes, representing a particular age group, a combination of first and second language ability level (e.g. basic or advanced), or a skill area such as writing, a linguistic domain such as morphology and syntax, or mode or medium of learning, such as an on-line, computer-mediated environment.” (Duff, 2008:32-33)


Discuss the following statement:

“As ‘rules of the game’, reliability and validity are irrelevant to case study research.”

What are Adelman et al.1976:140) trying to say below? Do you find their argument convincing?

It is tempting to argue that the accumulation of case studies allows theory building via tentative hypotheses culled from the accumulation of single instances. But the generalizations produced in a case study are no less legitimate when about the instance, rather than the class from which the instance is drawn (i.e. generalizations about the case rather than from it).


“If you study grains of sand, you will find each is different. Even by handling one, it becomes different. But through studying it and ones like it, you begin to learn about a beach. “

(Larsen-Freeman, 1996: 165)

alternative rules of the game
Alternative rules of the game

a) credibility (in preference to internal validity)

b) transferability (in preference to external validity/generalisability)

c) dependability (in preference to reliability)

d) confirmability (in preference to objectivity)

defining ethnography
Defining ethnography

“the study of people’s behavior in naturally occurring, ongoing settings, with a focus on the cultural interpretation of that behavior.” (Watson-Gegeo, 1988).

principles of ethnography
Principles of ethnography

Focus on cultural patterns in groups


Theoretical framework


defining introspection
Defining introspection

The process of observing and reporting on one’s own thoughts, feelings, motives, reasoning process and mental states.

The term also covers retrospection, in which there is a gap between an event and the reporting of the event.

 Concurrent introspection: Occurs simultaneously with the event being reported.

 Immediate retrospection: Occurs right after the event.

 Delayed retrospection: Occurs some time after the event.

introspection immediate retrospection delayed retrospection
Introspection, Immediate retrospection, delayed retrospection

2. What were you doing and thinking immediately prior to the class?

3. What are you doing and thinking last Monday morning?

1. What are you doing and thinking right now?

introspection reliability and validity
Introspection: reliability and validity

What do you see as the threats to the reliability and validity of introspection?

How might reliability and validity be improved?

stimulated recall
Stimulated recall

Use of data collected during an event (e.g. audiotape, videotape, field notes, SCORE charts, classroom transcripts) to stimulate the recollections of the people who took part in the event.

diary journal studies
Diary / journal studies

A diary study in second language learning, acquisition, or teaching is an account of a second language experience as recorded in a first person journal.

Experiences are “documented through regular, candid entries in a personal journal and then and analyzed for recurring patterns or salient events. (Bailey 1990: 215)

auto biographical research
(Auto)biographical research

a broad narrative approach that focuses on the analysis and description of social phenomena as they are experienced within the context of individual lives. … It offers a longitudinal portrait of the phenomenon under investigation. (Benson and Nunan, 2005)


Complete this statement

Elicitation refers to …………………..


Which of the following collection methods could be used for elicitation?

  • Standardized tests
  • Classroom observation
  • Interviews
  • Classroom tasks
  • Questionnaires
  • Stimulated recall
  • Focus group discussion
  • Diary keeping
  • Surveys
defining elicitation
Defining elicitation

Elicitation refers to a range of procedures for obtaining speech samples and other data from subjects. Such procedures may range from the administration of standardized tests through to questionnaires and interviews.

(Nunan, 1992: 230)

To what extent does this definition accord with the one that you produced?

Which paradigm?

As a data collection device, to which paradigm does elicitation belong – the psychometric or naturalistic?

Elicitation versus observation

  • What are the pros and cons of elicitation as opposed to naturalistic observation?
  • Why might SLA researchers use elicitation rather than observation?
picture description tasks and sla
Picture description tasks and SLA

Consider the following elicited language.

R: Look at him, he’s working. …

I: Working in the … er … park

R: And her?

I: And same, change flowers or pot. Fresh one. (Hmm) Or watering. I think so.

R: Yeah. And them?

I: And them working together. (Nunan, 1992: 139)

What grammatical feature is the task trying to elicit?Is it successful?

analyzing qualitative data
Analyzing qualitative data
  • A ‘grounded’ approach
  • Developing themes

Finding patterns

Meaning condensation