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At the first step of this assessment I have to answer what the advantages and disadvantages are of relying solely on field notes, in comparison with producing a transcription of an audio or video recording, I thought it was an easy task. However, I found myself in difficulty since I was not sure where I could start off. During the second half of the twentieth century, we saw a huge growth in the amount of educational research and the emergence of a substantial methodological literature on how best to pursue it. The educational research became quite diverse, not only in the topics examined but also in the methodological and theoretical approaches that are used. "Perhaps not surprisingly, disagreement is closely associated with such diversity, and there are even differences of opinion over what is and is not research, and what is and is not educational research"(E891 Educational Enquiry, Study Guide, p. 63). Field notes or transcription of an audio or video recording are characteristics both of reflective practice and of what is often referred to as action research. Nevertheless, a great deal of educational enquiry is carried out as a separate task from educational practice, even when it is designed to inform practice directly. In this matter, the researchers may not be educational practitioners themselves, although they frequently are (E891 Educational Enquiry, Study Guide, p. 63).
Concerning the range of strategies that can be used to pursue educational research it is very wide and includes a wide range of issues such as laboratory and classroom experiments, large-scale surveys of the behaviour, attitude, small-scale investigations of particular schools or classrooms, etc. The results of the research, i.e. the data may be the product of direct observation on the part of the researcher or it may be produced by others, and can take a variety of forms, such as answering questionnaires by ticking in boxes on interview or observational schedules, numbers as recorded in published statistics, text from published or unpublished documents or from field notes written by the researcher during the course of observations or interviews, audio-or video-recordings and transcripts of these(Research Methods in Education, Handbook, p.26). A common way of conceptualizing this diversity is the distinction between quantitative and qualitative approaches and it is necessary, however, to emphasize that it is a very crude distinction and one that is potentially misleading. The most obvious distinction between the two sorts of research is that the former deals with numbers and usually employs statistical techniques, whereas the latter does not, or does so only to a minor degree. Going back to the main point of the question I have to deal with the qualitative research since field notes or audio - video recording are within this category. As interview transcripts are made and field notes of observation compiled the researcher continuously examines the data, by highlighting certain points in the text or making comments in the margins. The important points are identified by the researcher noting contradictions and inconsistencies, comparisons and contrasts with other data and so on. At this point the researcher is not just collecting data, but thinking about it and interacting with it. Much of these first attempts at speculative analysis will probably be discarded, but some ideas will no doubt take shape as data collection and analysis proceed. Much of this early activity may appear chaotic and uncoordinated, but such `chaos' is a prolific seed-bed for ideas (Research Methods in Education, Handbook, p. 68). However, sometimes, because of the pressure of time, the notes the researcher makes may be little more than a scribbled comment, or a one-word `indicator' particularly as the research goes on, one might write longer notes or memos or summarize parts of data that go together and that could be one of the disadvantages for the field notes. On the other hand, by writing the notes down, the researcher has the advantage of memorising better the outcome of the interview. Concerning though the audio video recording as it used to happen in the past, qualitative researchers relied primarily on written field notes as a source of data. However today, they use audio or video recorders, although they often supplement these recordings with field notes in order to provide additional information that may not be evident in the recordings which is one of its disadvantages. In addition, this might include such things as the layout of the setting, what happened before the recording began, talk that was too quiet to be picked up by the microphone, who was speaking to whom, non-verbal behaviour of various kinds, and behaviour that may be obscured on the video recording. Generally speaking, the aim when writing field notes is to provide as detailed and accurate an account as possible of the nature of a setting, and of what was said and done while the observation was being carried out (E891 Educational Enquiry, Media Guide, p. 8). Another advantage of the audio - video recording is the opportunity the researcher has to play over and over the interview and clarify more what he hears. In contrast, by audio - video interview, the interviewee loses his own privacy since an interview is more or less a confession. (866)
During the second half of the twentieth century, educational research has moved away from the use of the quantitative method and the associated reliance on positivist ideas about methodology, and towards various kinds of post-positivist approach - although neither quantitative research nor the influence of positivism disappeared completely. Educational research came increasingly reliant on relatively unstructured forms of data, such as audio and video recordings, open-ended field notes, and published or unpublished documents even using material from the internet. This data was analysed in ways that did not rely on quantitative method, being designed instead to produce accounts that are similar in basic character to those written, for example, by historians (E891 Educational Enquiry, Study Guide, p. 81). As a result, qualitative researchers work mainly with relatively unstructured data which is not framed in terms of analytic categories at the point of data collection. Researchers are using observational data produced in the form of open-ended field notes describing what is observed in plain and concrete language, and/or through audio or video recordings which are then transcribed. In addition researchers may use data from relatively unstructured interviews in other words, those that do not involve asking a set of pre-specified questions, or offering informants a choice from pre specified answers. Instead, for the most part, their aim is to encourage informants to talk in their own terms about matters that may be relevant to the research. Once again, the data is recorded by means of field notes, and/or more usually by audio recording and transcription (E891 Educational Enquiry, Study Guide, p. 104).
Moreover, observation as a source of data uses most kinds of documents, observation requires the researcher to record the data by means of field notes, audio or video recording. Whenever electronic recordings are used, these usually must be transcribed, which in a sense are time-consuming activities that must be carried out before the even more time consuming activity of analysis starts.
Very often observation in qualitative research uses audio or video recording which usually provides a more accurate and detailed record than the use of field notes. However, these techniques still do not record everything. For example audio recordings omit nonverbal behaviour that may be very significant in understanding what is being expressed. On the other hand, camera angle will make some things visible and others obscure or out of focus. Furthermore, both audio and video recordings need to be transcribed, and errors can be introduced here. Even transcription involves inference (Ochs, 1979, p.2). The researchers have to be very careful when interviewing people and collecting data. In other words, they reject the idea that interview data can be used either as a window into the minds of informants or as a source of information about the social worlds in which they live. At this second part of my assignment the question which is needed to be answered is what would be lost by relying on audio recording rather than a video recording. Up to now, I have tried to analyse the usage of the audio video recording by the researchers and pick point advantages and disadvantages of this method.
There is a need for more time to be consumed when we do the transcription of an audio instead of a video recording due to the fact that we can only listen to the audio instead of listening and watching a video recording. In addition, with the audio recording we lose important non-verbal and contextual information. Unless we are familiar with the speakers we may also find it difficult to distinguish between different voices. Wherever possible, supplement audio-recordings with field-notes or a diary providing contextual information. Moreover, audio recordings omit nonverbal behaviour that may be very significant in understanding. What is happening while a researcher is asking someone something that could be seen in the video recording is easier to be interpreted. Laughter or coughing could be very important on the ground of what it is said but is missing from the audio recording since both need to be transcribed and errors can be introduced here easier with audio recording since transcription involves inference. Moreover, the usage of the audio recording may mislead the researcher since he only has the voice and not a picture of the interviewee. However it is more intimidating to video record an interviewer and it goes without saying that permission should be sought before any audio or video recording. (734)
Coming to the third part of the assignment, I have to point out the advantages and disadvantages of the structured interviewing. Structure or unstructured interview again falls into the educational research. According to Stenhouse "A research tradition which is accessible to teachers and which feeds teaching must be created if education is to be significantly improved."(An introduction to Curriculum Research and Development, 1975, p.165). Furthermore, David Tripp's words are very significant as he mentioned the importance of the educational research by saying that there is no doubt if educational research seeks to improve practice it needs to be grounded in educational events and not in academic theories (Critical Incidents in Teaching, 1993, p. 152). And this statement could be true since from my own experience when I recognised the fact that I had been very successful in the classroom when I was very ignorant of what academics considered knowledge essential to teaching, that I became aware of the difference between knowledge of academics and knowledge of teachers after I had educational lessons in pedagogical as part of the compulsory course so I could continue teaching. The above mentioned statement by David Tripp fit me since I am well aware that improving teaching is by grounding in educational research in realities of teachers' everyday experience. We are all familiar with interviews from everyday life. It could be from having experienced them ourselves in the form of employment interviews, media interviews, and so on. It could be also by been interviewed, or have conducted interviews, for research purposes. Basically, the interview is an interactional format that consists of an interchange between one or more persons by asking questions and a person (or a number of people) answering them. An interview can be distinguished from a test or an oral examination in that the aim is for the person questioned to provide information or opinions, while the interviewer does not usually make any explicit evaluation of the answers beyond what might be required for the sake of politeness (E891 Educational Enquiry, Media Guide, p. 10). Even though interviews are described in broad terms, we also recognise when an interview is taking place and it is also important to understand the considerable variation in their character. This is not just about differences in purpose but even research interviews may vary considerably in a number of ways. As it mentioned before one of these it is possible to interview one or more persons simultaneously thus marking the distinction between individual and group interviews. Another significant difference concerns is where the interview takes place on whose territory, for example. (435)
E891 Educational Enquiry, Media Guide, (2007), The Open University.
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