Home > Journal > Individual and group discussion-understanding the experience of others

Individual and group discussion-understanding the experience of others

This week my class conducted individual and group discussion facilitation. In the individual facilitation of discussion, I actually disagree with the dichotomy quantitative and qualitative research, because the both are complementary. Almost all-social research is a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches. Qualitative research should receive greater attention from social scientists, or those who intend to solve the problems associated with human existence as a unique creature. Truth about these creatures can be expressed by a variety of approaches both quantitative and qualitative, but it is suggested that the principle of axiological in obtaining the truth take precedence over the truth of mathematical sophistication. We still have much to learn and implement in qualitative research. Some things to note are that there is a climate of openness, moral support and policy, and the desire to seek truth with a more humane way.  Denzin and Lincoln (2000) clearly give us understanding that qualitative research fits with the nature of social science. It regarded that multi-variety of human behaviour is as important as their social setting.

The object of the study in qualitative research is social process and meaning within. The setting of the qualitative research is as nature as daily life. Researcher and the objective have an intimate relation. The framework of the research is flexible. The process of inquiry is inductive. The data collection and analysis is ongoing process. Furthermore, the most important thing, qualitative research is parallel with the development of knowledge because the use of theory holds significant factor in its validity and reliability.

In contrast, Denzin and Lincoln (2000) argues quantitative research is to observe phenomena in terms of variable by counting, classifying and constructing statistical formula. The setting is tightly controlled by presenting sampling of population. Data is in the form of number and statistics. Researcher tends to remain objectively separated from objects. Furthermore, theory is accepted to test hypotheses. Therefore, this research regarded as the most efficient research. However, the generalization in interpreting findings misses the contextually touch of phenomena.

However, both qualitative and quantitative research design may not be viewed as the opposite design that is better than another is. The major concerns of employing particular research design whether qualitative or quantitative is much more concerns with the problems and questions that need to be solved.

Since qualitative research explain world through interpreting phenomena not in the terms of numbers, interpretive is regarded as the paradigm of this research. In my opinion, qualitative research has function to facilitate us to understand others’ behaviour, to facilitate us to be openly critique and criticize, and to facilitate us to emancipate the problems. These characteristics are obviously needed for us to understand others’ behaviour.

In the group facilitation of discussion, I tried to expose the term ‘transpersonal’, it literally means ‘beyond (or through) the personal’. It refers to experiences, processes and events in which our normal limiting sense of self is transcended and in which there is a feeling of connection to a larger, more meaningful reality. This group discussion also introduced a participatory approach to integral transformative learning in which all human dimensions are invited to co creatively participate in the unfolding of the educational process.

Transpersonal experiences include: deep love and connection with other people, moments of highest happiness and serenity, the sense of sacredness or awe, mystical unions with nature or with the Divine, memories of previous lives, out-of-body and near-death experiences, psychedelic states, awareness of subtle energies or supernatural intelligences, creative inspiration, meditative and contemplative experiences.

Transpersonal processes include: spiritual healing, profound psychological transformations, transpersonal psychotherapy, spiritual discipline and training, vision quests, spiritual crises and emergencies, kundalini awakenings, possession, mediumship and channelling. Transpersonal events include: religious and magical rituals, raves, religious festivals and other collective manifestations of spiritual participation.

Transpersonal researchers use a wide variety of methods, which are suited to different research questions. These methods include: case studies, phenomenological investigation, archive research, anthropological investigation, narrative analysis, intuitive inquiry, heuristic inquiry, participant observation, surveys, questionnaires and psychological tests, experimental methods, physiological measurement, and action research.

Research is rightly viewed as “empirical,” but “empirical” often is inappropriately restricted to quantitative and experimental/intervention types of research. When the term “empirical” is mentioned, one tends to think of research that is quantitative and is based on experimental/intervention/outcome study designs. In fact, the true meaning of “empirical” has to do with knowledge that is based on actual experiences, rather than on theories, speculations, or rational inferences. It is true that the results of experiments and intervention outcome studies are “empirical,” but so are the results of other (non-experimental) quantitative research approaches (e.g. correlation studies, causal-comparative studies, and quasi-experimental studies). The results of qualitative research studies (which work with verbal accounts of research participants, rather than with numbers) also are empirical. Indeed, it could be argued that the research materials collected in qualitative studies are even more “empirical” than the numbers collected in quantitative studies, because the former are closer to the research participants’ actual experiences than are the latter. In qualitative designs, experiences themselves are directly described; in quantitative designs, experiences have been mediated and transformed (and some might even say distorted) by having to be represented by numbers. This usually is not recognised by those who privilege numerical findings as being somehow more “empirical” (and, hence, more trustworthy?) than verbal accounts. What also is insufficiently recognised is that qualitative studies can be used to draw valid conclusions about process and outcome, provided they are carefully designed, include a sufficient number of research participants, and if the findings are examined carefully for meaningful patterns. If properly designed and interpreted, qualitative findings can be just as “evidential” as quantitative findings.

Research must be, and can be, completely objective; the researcher should not be subjectively involved in a research project. Indeed, “subjectivity” in any form is to be avoided. This privileging of objectivity and avoidance of subjectivity favours a stance of the researcher as a separate, distanced, uninvolved participant in the research project. It also favours the use of objective, standardized assessment instruments over more personal, experiential reports by the research participants themselves. The researcher, along with his or her own expectations, intentions, and biases, always is intimately involved in any research project, and it may be best explicitly to recognize this and optimise possible researcher influences in a study, rather than allow these to remain “unconscious.” Also, regarding the objective, numerical scores on standardised assessments, what frequently is not acknowledged is that the assessment items themselves originated with the subjective experiences of research participants, initially expressed verbally and qualitatively.

Research is chiefly about information. Although this is true, research also can be about transformation. Indeed, transformation might even be substituted for information, in describing research, if what is transformed is properly described. A research project and its findings can transform the knowledge base of the discipline in which the research is conducted and even the discipline itself; it can transform the eventual practices of those whose lives and work are informed by the research, can provide transformative opportunities for persons who contribute to a project as research participants, and can foster possible transformative changes in the researcher.


Braud, W. & Anderson, R. (1998) Transpersonal research methods for the social sciences: Honoring human experience. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln, Y.S. (2000). The discipline and practice of qualitative research. In Handbook of Qualitative Research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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