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Phenomenology in My Future Research

Creswell (1998) states “a phenomenological study describes the meaning of the lived experience for several individuals about a concept or phenomenon” (p. 51). I will use this approach in my future research. I choose phenomenological research because it involves both rich description of the lifeworld or lived experience, and where I will adopt a special, open phenomenological attitude which, at least initially, refrains from importing external frameworks and sets aside judgements about the realness of the phenomenon. I will seek to examine a single phenomenon – the perceptions of student teachers. One focus of this study was to investigate the differences and commonalities between the teacher’s professional development and how these characteristics affected their perceptions about their impact on student achievement. In particular, my study will attempt to investigate the effectiveness of the distance learning program and its impact on teachers’ perceptions of the quality of their practice. I will incorporate a variety of methods to uncover the underlying meaning or structure of these perceptions in this phenomenological study. I also will examine the perceptions of student teachers through a qualitative interview design, through surveys, individual interviews, and group discussion.

The choice of a suitable approach to conducting my future research is, according to Creswell (2003), tied to three main considerations as follows:

1. The nature of the problem to be investigated

2. The personal experiences of the researcher; and

3. The audience for whom the research is intended.

These outlined issues are considered in the choice of my particular methodology.

Moustakas (1994) embraces the common features of human science research such as the value of qualitative research, a focus on the wholeness of experience and a search for essences of experiences, and viewing experience and behaviour as an integrated and inseparable relationship of subject/object. The transcendental emphasis includes these features, but “launches” (p. 22) a phenomenological study with the researcher setting aside prejudgments as much as possible and using systematic procedures for analyzing the data. Setting aside prejudgments is called “epoche,” a Greek work meaning to refrain from judgment. Thus, the process is called transcendental because the researcher sees the phenomenon “freshly, as for the first time” and is open to its totality (p. 34).

By clearing my mind through the epoche process, I will recall my own personal and professional mentoring experiences throughout the past 10 years, all of which are positive and meaningful. Through this bracketing process, I will reflectively meditate, letting the preconceptions and prejudgments enter and leave my mind freely.

The way of analyzing phenomenological data, according to Moustakas, follows a systematic procedure that is rigorous yet accessible to qualitative researchers. The inquirer describes their own experiences with the phenomenon (epoche), identifies significant statements in the database from participants, clusters these statements into meaning units and themes. Next, the researcher synthesizes the themes into a description of the experiences of the individuals, both textual and structural descriptions, and then constructs a composite description of the meanings and the essences of the experience.

In addition, phenomenological analysis has many benefits, for example:

  1. Phenomenological analysis commences as soon as the first data is collected and the goal is to find common themes and broad patterns in data.
  2. It involves a return to individual or corporate experience in order to obtain comprehensive descriptions about a phenomenon and this was done through interviews and focus groups.
  3. The structures of an experience, i.e. the experiences and opinions of those interviewed during the data collection phase, is interpreted during phenomenological analysis. Moustakas (1994:13)

In conclusion, I will use phenomenology as a diagnostic research tool and I believe that it can and should be applied to professional development research. The benefits of the methodology is that it creates room for research problems to be studied within the context in which they occur allowing those who experience a phenomenon first hand to give an account of their own perceptions of these experiences before any theorizing. Moreover, It is a rather tedious methodology involving the use of multiple data collection protocols within the same study. Although it is rather qualitative in nature, it lends itself to quantitative data analysis. Therefore, the method needs to be applied with rigour and used by researchers who are expert in their field.

References:

Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Creswell, J.W. (2003). Research design. Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Moustakas, C.E. (1994). Phenomenological research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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Categories: Journal
  1. Sara
    October 21, 2010 at 2:50 AM

    Hi, I am trying to write research paper about barriers to adult education but I am having a hard time deciding on which qualitative design to use.The “Phenomenological design” seems most appropriate. What do you think?

    • December 23, 2010 at 4:36 AM

      I am sorry. I am so busy lately. Yes, you can use that design.

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