n Education as Change - The case for an emancipatory qualitative research : reflections on assessment of quality

Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1682-3206
  • E-ISSN: 1947-9417
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In as far as Critical Emancipatory Qualitative Research is concerned, unlike in other forms of both qualitative and quantitative research, the issues of quality, role and function refer to the same process. Thus while this paper reflects on what constitutes quality in critical emancipatory qualitative research (CEQR), it at the same time refers to its role and function.<br> In order to concretize this reflection, the paper focuses on and draws examples from three CEQR works, namely one DEd thesis, evaluations of one MEd dissertation and reviews for publication of the joint paper we presented with a colleague to a conference in Oxford in 1999. These three research works provide bases for describing what constitutes CEQR and quality thereof. The position we are supporting is the one that sees quality in CEQR as grounded on research's social usefulness, on its relevance to the experienced needs of the people, on being able to respect methodological principles while being true to that which is personal and particular. Seeing quality this way clearly departs from understanding research as being about trustworthiness, or objectivity, or universalizing of findings, or neutrality or pursuance of science for its own sake.

The narrative in the paper proceeds by juxtaposing CEQR against other forms of research so as to explain clearly how quality is multiple and different depending on the paradigm one operates from within. For example, we interrogate quality of the mentioned DEd thesis by looking at whether it would have been possible to research and make the same rich findings as one did using CEQR, had the paradigm and methodology been different. We also look at one successful dissertation of one of our three MEd students who graduated in April 2001 against the background of evaluation reports of the external examiners who assessed him. This exercise assists us in reflecting on what constitutes quality in CEQR. Finally we interrogate the Oxford paper mentioned to above and refer to the views of reviewers who were assigned the task of commenting upon it when it was submitted for publication.
As we move towards the conclusion, we seem to be drawn to the understanding that when it comes to typically human activities like education, better research is the one that privileges social usefulness rather than objectivity. Better research is the one that goes all the way to the depth of meaning construction in pursuance of finding out what makes humans 'tick'. This is not the case for quantification that may provide broad patterns, but it is the case for quality that elicits and exhumes the buried depths of human understanding that do not necessarily generalize or universalize. This exercise has led us to come to the conclusion that research, especially CEQR, is about being truly human as a researcher rather than about reliability or validity per se. Just like quality or the truth, knowledge that research in general creates is multiple and inherently about relations of power especially where humans are involved. CEQR enables the researched in particular, the research community and the researchers in general to ask difficult questions about who controls research, in whose interest are certain kinds of knowledge produced, and so on. We are led to the findings that no other research enables the researched to use and recognize their voices better than CEQR. The question of quality in research therefore is whether it is an appropriate exercise to enable the researched to speak on their own behalf, in their own terms or just to enable the researchers to pursue knowledge for its own sake. The data in this paper convince us of the importance of the former.

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