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. During the second half of the twentieth century, there was 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 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 a wide range of issues such as laboratory and classroom experiments, large-scale surveys of the behaviour, attitude, 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in boxes on interview or observational schedules, numbers as recorded in published statistics, text from published or unpublished documents or from field notes written by the researcher during the course of observations or interviews, audio-or video-recordings and transcripts of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 whereas the latter does not or does 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.
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. (736 words)
Coming to the third part of the assignment, I have to point out the advantages and disadvantages of the structured interviewing. Structured interview 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). From my own experience, this is very important to me, since I recognised the fact that I had been very successful in the classroom while being ignorant of what academics considered knowledge essential to teaching. I actually became aware of the difference between knowledge of academics and knowledge of teachers after I had taken educational lessons in pedagogy as part of the compulsory pre service course so that I could continue teaching. Additionally, improving teaching is by grounding in educational research in realities of teachers’ everyday experience.
We are all familiar with interviews from everyday life which basically the interview is an interactional format that consists of an interchange between one or more people 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 was mentioned before, it is possible to interview one or more persons simultaneously thus marking the distinction between individual and group interviews. Another significant difference concerns where an interview takes place on whose territory, for example.
In structured interviews characteristic of survey research, interviewers in general, reveal as little as less possible about themselves, in contrast of what can be read from their appearance and behaviour. However, this is the case during the formal part of the interview; there is more to be disclosed in informal interchanges before or after the interview. However, in qualitative interviews, with their more unstructured format, it is common for interviewers to provide more information about themselves. In addition, some commentators have argued that they are obliged to do this, as part of an appropriate reciprocity that ought to operate between researcher and researched (E891 Educational Enquiry, Study Guide, p. 234). Another fact that the researcher should take into consideration when he or she is preparing a structured interview is the design of the interview. To avoid mistakes piloting is very necessary. Observation schedules and the way the researcher records observations also need to be reliable, since it needs to mean the same to others as it does to you. You need to make sure that you negotiate with each other to arrive at mutually agreed definitions of the behaviours and situations you want to concentrate on. As Coolican points out: “We know that each person’s view of a situation is unique and that our perceptions can be biased by innumerable factors. An untrained observer might readily evaluate behaviour which the researcher wants reported as objectively as possible. Where the trained observer reports a hard blow, the novice might describe this as `vicious’” (Research Methods and Statistics in Psychology, 1990, p.63).
Coming back to my working experience, as an assistant head master, I experience structured and semi structured interviews almost every day. Being with young students from 15 to 18 years of age as educators we are in constant discussion with them. While I was studying for the structured interview my mind always goes back on the first days of each year for the first year students in school. Every assistant head master normally is responsible for at least 25 first year students; as a result, I always have freshmen at school that I have to interview them so I can have a brief idea about them. The interview is developed as a structured one and many questions could be answered by either answering yes or no or by filling in with a few words. The most important for me is to drain as more useful information as possible. Furthermore, based on the given participant’s answers to my questions, I have to determine not only the student’s personal problems, hobbies and interests but also oral fluency, vocabulary strengths, and general communication skills. This assessment target, which in a sense is not part of the structured interview it is a tool which I have to develop so that I can comment at the end of the interview for myself. As it is obvious, the interviewees are often nervous and sometimes are shy. I usually put a lot of effort to get as more as possible from the interviewee and this sometimes becomes more and more difficult for me. As Mcnamara mentioned the interviews are particularly useful for getting the story behind a participant’s experiences and the interviewer can pursue in-depth information around the topic but it is also useful as follow-up to certain respondents to questionnaires, e.g., to further investigate their responses. (General Guidelines for Conducting Interviews, 1999, p. 12).
Whenever I come to the end of the interview, a lot of thoughts go through my head. The fact that I learn more about my students could become an advantage or a disadvantage for me or any interviewer. However, this part should stay with me or any other interviewer and I should explore more strengths or weaknesses of this method. As a starting point for the advantages of an interview I should mention the fact that all participants are getting equal chances to answer on the same questions and present themselves as best as possible since all the questions are set up in such a way to give them the opportunity. Face-to-face structured interviews are quicker to conduct and they give better opportunity to assess the interviewee’s meaning and interpretation of the questions. They also help to identify any confusion that might come up from the so asked question or answer, more easily and efficiently. In addition, they allow the chance to present material to interviewees and get their reactions.
Furthermore, face-to-face structured interviews are generally better than mail questionnaires with interviewees with unknown educational skills that may not be clarify for the questions asked. They are also helpful when sensitive information is looked for since interviewers normally can establish a trust with the interviewee and they are able to drain answers to questions that the interviewee may otherwise be negative to answer or to answer truthfully. In addition, where less is known about the way in which interviewees think about an issue or about the range of possible answers to a question, structured interviews has the chance for interviewers to ask additional questions, if needed to get reasonable answers. Moreover interviewees are asked the same questions in the same way. This makes it easy to repeat (“replicate”) the interview. In other words, this type of research method is easy to standardise and provides a reliable source of quantitative data.
On the other hand, there are also disadvantages from the structured interview such as the associated one with obtaining data from tests, questionnaires and structured interviews. These methods are often aimed at capturing dispositions, such as respondents’ abilities, attitudes or tendencies to act in particular ways. However, people’s responses to particular questions or test items on particular occasions within the research context may be different from what they would typically say or do in other circumstances. In other words, their responses may be generated by particularities of the research context, and may not apply more generally. Even where the responses are the product of a disposition, researchers will not know exactly under what conditions this disposition is acted on (E891 Educational Enquiry, Study Guide, p. 148). However, interviews also develop the dynamic for an interviewer to intentionally or unintentionally influence results and violate consistency in measurement. The survey interviewees are very sensitive to cues given by the interviewer’s verbal and non-verbal behavior. As well, an interviewer has the opportunity to ask further questions or give clarifications and may undountefully influence the expected answers. Although they are faster to conduct than mail questionnaire surveys, face-to-face interviews are costly due to the amount of staff time required to conduct interviews and to the cost of travel. Coming to my interviews, I am, however, generally able to make fairly accurate judgments about students background and abilities. In most cases, I also get feedback as interviewer. Many participants said they found my tone of voice and my encouraging approach very helpful. That kind of feedback certainly helped me as the interviewer.
Coolican, H. (1990) Research Methods and Statistics in Psychology, London, Hobber and Stoughton.
E891 Educational Enquiry, Media Guide, (2007), The Open University.
E891 Educational Enquiry, Study Guide, (2007), The Open University.
McNamara, C., (1999), PhD. General Guidelines for Conducting Interviews, Minnesota.
Ochs, E. (1979) ‘Transcriptions as theory’ in Ochs, E. (ed.) Developmental Pragmatics, New York, Academic Press.
Research Methods in Education, Handbook, (2003), The Open University.
Stenhouse, L.(1975) An introduction to Curriculum Research and Development, London, Heinemann.
Tripp, D. (1993) Critical Incidents in Teaching, London, Routledge.