August 21, 2016

Thoughts On The Trial Study

Research designs and research activities need to be trialled before they are deemed appropriate for full research implementation to ensure their validity, fitness for task, fitness for purpose, and their reliability, and to make any amendments. Research activity within educational research is the task that research participants interact with, and the interaction between participants and task is the object of investigation. The trail study is effectively ensuring a fit between the activity and the design as best as possible so that the interactions between participants and tasks are captured as effectively as possible relative to the research problem and research questions.

Activity trial

In what way does the activity match the research problem? In what way will the activity facilitate the needed interactions between it and the participants in order to produce suitable data for analysis relevant to the research questions? There are no easy answers due to the dynamism of the human subjects. Even in experimental designs (to some extent depending on the specific design type), famed for allowing the researcher to have freedom of manipulation of the environment and variables, it is difficult to predict exactly what kind of interaction shall occur between participant and activity. An important objective of a trial study therefore is to ensure the activity is suitable and interesting enough to sustain interaction and generate enough data for analysis.

The activity of my research is collaborative therefore it was important to carry out a trial study to ensure interest among the participants and therefore their interactions with the activity is sustainable to the point where enough data can be generated for suitable analysis. Success criteria of any research activity varies widely depending on its type and the way in which it is used to assist with resolving a particular research problem, and can be determined therefore through understanding your research problem, your research questions and your research design.

I considered the trial of the activity a success not in terms of the quantity of participants but the quantity of the data: the activity was able to hold the attention of the participants to the point where enough data had been collected. The nature of the research design enabled this success due to its focus on the importance of the content of the activity and not the quantity of participants. Other research methods using the same activity would likely emphasise quantity of the participants.

Research design trial

Following the activity, the design was then trialled. It has to be emphasised that depending on the design, either a part or the whole design can be testable. Again, because of the nature of my research design only a part of the design is trialled at this time for the purpose of fulfilling the requirements of the upgrade paper, and also obviously because I want to make sure that it works! The other half of the design shall be trialled at a later time with that trial discussed in the thesis.

Essentially, in a sequential exploratory mixed method approach the qualitative phase occurs first followed by the quantitative phase. The findings from the qualitative phase, which in this case is based on grounded theory, shall be used to develop the methods of the quantitative phase. Reasons why are extensive and are beyond the point of this blog post, but essentially because of the nature of this design the grounded theory approach is being trialled first.

Are you still with me? Yes? Brilliant, if any person could explain to me what the heck I am talking about, answers on a post card to………

The first part of the research design trial, the grounded theory trial, is currently ongoing but initial thoughts and findings suggest that the grounded theory aspect is working and has really helped me to understand mixed methods research more to the point that I have altered the mixed methods variety for this research.

Summary thoughts

There has been a lot to understand and process regarding this trial study especially considering that now the trial study can actually turn into a case study as part of the multiple case study approach of the research. It has been, and is, challenging because I am not just doing the trail study as a slap on attachment to the upgrade paper. This has been and continues to be a serious, detailed, reflective exercise of my research design and research activity and has helped a lot with my understanding of the activity data, ways to approach the analysis and understand the data, and understand the effectiveness of the research approach.

The trail study has evidenced the fact that whilst it is extremely important to read the relevant literature around your research design for academic argumentation for and against (and with just grounded theory alone there is a wide variety of different arguments), it is just as important to simply try it out. It is because of this trying out of the design that I figured out a potential fault with the previous favoured mixed method variety, concurrent triangulation, fixable only through switching to another mixed method variety, the sequential explorative variety.

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