Methodology Questions …. Even More Thoughts?


  Elements of a Case Study:
•Rich, vivid and holistic description (‘thick description’) and portrayal of events, contexts and situations through the eyes of participants (including the researcher) …. all involved: me,  pupils (both in my own school and other schools e.g. Australian ‘AllStars’),  parents and other adults who comment
•Contexts are temporal, physical, organizational, institutional, interpersonal … describes the blogs well?
•Chronological narrative –  definately ‘fits’ well
•tell the story – also fits well with what I want to do 

The Course Textbook, however, reminds us that there are also Problems with Case Studies (my thoughts on how to overcome these problems are in ‘blue’) 

  • Organisation difficulties (hopefully this won’t be too much of a problem because of RSS feeds to enable tracking posts)
  • Limited generalisability (because of the nature of the study, I hope to identify general trends e.g. gender issues if applicable … but only within this particular group of pupils. No claim will be made that the same effect would happen with a different set of pupils in another class situation)
  • Problems of cross-checking (using a variety of data gathering techniques should address the ‘cross-checking’ issue)
  • Risk of bias, selectivity and subjectivity (I have asked the depute head in school to meet regularly to discuss the research. She is very skeptical about the use of blogging and admits that she sees no difference between what I’m doing and allowing the pupils to freely use other social networks such as ‘My Space’ or ‘Bebo’. We have a good working relationship generally, so it won’t be perceived as a ‘threatening situation’ J. Kim P, a teacher from Sidney, whose pupils also blog, has agreed to be my ‘critical friend’ during the research period. Some of our pupils communicate with each other regularly through their blogs)

 Data Gathering Techniques used in Case Studies:

  • Observations (structured to unstructured) (regular RSS feed checks in order to observe who is posting, commenting)
  • Field notes (what is being said? Are the comments building on what’s been posted, or are they written in ‘isolation’ – e.g. Hi, how are you doing? Type of comment)
  • Interviews (structured to unstructured) (necessary, in order to establish that my view of what I’m reading is correct. Informal interviews can be held in class, formal interviews will ensure anonymity if required and will be useful for gathering data from pupils in Australia via teacher e-mail)
  • Documents (?….)
  • Numbers (although mainly a ‘qualitative’ study, some numbers will be included ….  explanation to follow!)


This will be used to ensure that I don’t ‘just see what I’m looking for’. Discussing my perception of events with my ‘skeptical colleague’ (depute head) and my ‘critical friend’ (Kim P from Australia ) will be one way of ‘keeping my feet on the ground’.  There will also be data collected from a variety of sourcesand in a number of ways over time in order that information gathered can be compared and contrasted. This should ensure enough information can be made available in order to answer the research question.

Stages in a Case Study:

  • Start with a wide field of focus ( I will look closely at the ‘big picture’. Who is posting and commenting? Who are receiving comments and from whom? What is being said in posts and comments?)

·        Progressive focusing (a closer look at comments in order to establish any formal / informal learning taking place. Distribution of questionnaires. Holding of formal and informal interviews in order to verify my interpretation of events)

  • Draft interpretation/report (avoid generalizing too early). (on-going discussions with skeptical friend / critical friend)

2 thoughts on “Methodology Questions …. Even More Thoughts?

  1. Just a wonder about your idea of looking at posting and commenting because I think that the types of posts being written during the case study time will impact on the types of comments that will be made. Would you concentrate on one type of post in your case study period or on a variety?

    ## types of posts – report backs, publishing narratives or poetry, imaginative writing, preliminary project work (info gathering), published project work, opinion reponses. All encourage different types of comments from short personal affirmations to longer questions.

    Maybe it comes back to the whole purpose of blogging in your room – have you discussed this with the kids? What do you use your blogs for?

    Also looking at comments there are a few different sorts of comments as well. I have found that when we worked on commenting as a writing focus the kids wrote better comments, asked better questions in their comments and received better answers as well.

    Maybe it will be useful/interesting to categorize or note the different types of posts and the different types of comments received. This could be part of the data collection/ documentation/qualitative part of your study?

  2. Hi Kim, I have noticed a great improvement in the children’s commenting skills. At the beginning of the session, the comments consisted of statements like, “Hi, great blog. Visit mine.” The pupils now tend to actually READ the post they’re commenting on – I hasten to add that this is a direct result of reading your own ‘Commenting Confidence’ post – thanks 🙂

    You ask about the ‘purpose of blogging’ in our room. This is a tough one! I’ve agonised over how to use the individual blogs this session. Last session, it was new and exciting to both me and the kids. I began with having only the class blog, but wanted to give the class more control. I set up a wikispaces account and gave them all their own ‘space’ for them to ‘showcase’ their writing… this did sometimes lead to problems of one pupil logging off and the whole class losing their unsaved work!

    Eventually, with the help of David Gilmour of East Lothian council, individual blogs were set up for the pupils in a way that I had control over how they were used. I was very grateful for the help … but, as we were using blogs set up by another authority, I was aware of our ‘responibility’. We began by having a ‘uniform’ like theme until I felt comfortable. Eventually, they were allowed to choose their own individual theme, but I was still very prescriptive about their use and the types of posts (poetry, project work, etc.) and comments of ‘two stars and a wish’ style were encouraged. Some of the best posts were made, however, just prior to the class going off to High School. They had gone for a 3 day visit and it was super reading their views about their experiences. I realised that, up until then, the blog content had been too ‘teacher led’.

    Soooo with this session’s P7’s, I’ve decided to take more of a ‘back seat’. I no longer say how the blogs have to be used. Some pupils do say, ‘Can I write my book review on my blog?’, some choose to hand write – some use their blogs because they want to (Anna’s ‘Thought of the Day’ idea is great – and she obviously enjoys it!). One or two boys have simply been posting pictures of their favourite cars, etc.

    It may work, it may not! I had an earlier comment from Ewan McIntosh about the need to ‘kick start’ an on-line community to keep it going. I wasn’t sure about this, but now agree. Just before the Christmas holidays, I came up with the idea of showcasing the ‘Blogs of the Week’ RSS feeds in the sidebar of the class blog. These will be chosen by the children. I suppose it’s another way of having the children look at what makes an interesting blog post ….thanks again for giving rise to the idea from the ‘commenting confidence’ post 🙂

    Finally …. loved your suggestion quoted below and will definately use it … thanks!
    “Maybe it will be useful/interesting to categorize or note the different types of posts and the different types of comments received. This could be part of the data collection/ documentation/qualitative part of your study?”

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