Research Questions in a Mixed Methods Study
The peculiar feature of the study under analysis is that its authors make a decision to employ mixed methods to investigate the ways of how teachers use technologies in the classroom, evaluate internal and external barriers, and achieve a better understanding of the chosen topic. Therefore, the list of research questions is divided into quantitative and qualitative. There are three quantitative questions in the study focusing on the impact of risk, self-efficacy, and technology on “participants’ use of technology in the classroom” (Li, Worch, Zhou, & Aguiton, 2015, p. 2). Two qualitative research questions aim at explaining quantitative findings through explaining why risk-taking may not influence the use of technologies by native teachers in their classrooms, and how technologies may support the chosen activities (Li et al., 2015). All these questions seem to warrant the development of a mixed methods study because the division into stages helps to recognize issues and then find strong evidence to explain their urgency in the field of education.
Reasons for Integration
The integration of mixed methods was stated explicitly by the authors in the title of the article and in its introductory section. From the very beginning, Li et al. (2015) introduced the aim to investigate current technologies by teachers using a mixed methodology approach and dividing the study into a survey phase (a quantitative part) and an interview phase (a qualitative part). In addition, they explained that “the integration of survey results and interviews helps to build a deeper understanding of digital native teachers’ use of technology in classrooms” (Li et al., 2015, p. 2). Crewswell and Clark (2018) prove that mixed methods represent different models that guide research decisions using logic, interpretations, and examples. In other words, quantitative data may be not enough to explain the peculiarities of the digital generation in the classroom. Qualitative information may perform a considerable supportive role in the study.
Special attention should be paid to the foundation for the study and the choice of a philosophical perspective. Crewswell and Clark (2018) underline that it is appropriate to use different assumptions for each stage of the research process, including postpositivism to identify variables and instruments and constructivism to give an in-depth description. The shift from postpositivism to constructivism has to be gentle and properly explained not to lose a single detail and achieve the goal of the explanatory sequential design. In this case, Li et al. (2015) aim at identifying and explaining emotional responses of teachers to new technologies and needs of students and comparing their expectations with their actual knowledge. Postpositivism and constructivism are good choices to develop the study and receive answers to all research questions.
Mixed Methods Design Characteristics
The appropriateness of the mixed methods design will be discussed in terms of three main characteristics, including timing, priority, and integration. A mixed methods research question may be analyzed either “concurrently, sequentially, or iteratively” (Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2006, p. 483). In the chosen study, the authors use sequential timing and follow such scheme as “QUAN qual” because the qualitative phrase is predetermined by the results of the quantitative phase. Therefore, the priority belongs to quantitative research because this kind of work creates a solid basis for the entire study. In their turn, qualitative results are useful for an explanation of the survey and promoting a better understanding of the digital generation of modern teachers in the classroom. This integration is unique because it proves that without one stage another stage cannot be completed. The authors did a good job in their intentions to connect qualitative and quantitative information to explain one general topic, the peculiarities of the use of technology by teachers.
Mixed Methods Design
In the article, it is explained that it is correct to consider mixed methods as a method and as a methodology at the same time because it is a good method to gather and analyze information as well as an important process to integrate qualitative and quantitative methods. The authors define it is “a third methodological movement” (Li et al., 2015, p. 2). The explanatory sequential design is a considerable part of mixed methods research. It is based on two interactive phases: the first is to gather and analyze quantitative information, and the second is to develop and use qualitative information. In other words, qualitative data is used to explain quantitative data. The authors explain their choice by the possibility to understand survey results through interviews and the necessity to choose participants for their interviews regarding the results of the quantitative phase (Li et al., 2015). The relationships between qualitative and quantitative data have to be properly identified.
The chosen study design helps to understand the benefits of purposive sampling and clarify the worth of each sampling strategy. As a rule, purposive sampling is used in qualitative studies where particular settings and participants are selected to achieve the desirable outcomes (Teddlie & Yu, 2007). The study was divided into two phases. A quantitative survey had a convenience sample of 76 teachers from the US University. The participants were Caucasians (approximately 93%), females (approximately 67%), between 22 and 24 years old who taught students of 7-12 grades in different subjects, including science, math, social studies, etc. (Li et al., 2015). Despite various subjects and spheres of teaching, all participants demonstrated almost similar technological skills, self-efficacy, and risk-taking. The main goal of quantitative sampling was to clarify if the same people wanted to participate in another stage of research. Regarding the methods and results achieved, the qualitative phase was characterized by purposive sampling, where the participants were gathered into three groups with low, medium, and high level of the use of technology.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The main benefits of the study are based on the chosen study design. The explanatory sequential design is not hard to develop because all stages are clearly identified and explained. It is easy to describe the results of the study and organize them in the most convenient form. The connection between the phases supports a researcher and shows the right way, even if some challenges occur. However, in addition to a number of strong aspects of the study, it is also necessary to admit its weaknesses. The authors indicate self-reporting by participants as one of the study’s limitations (Li et al., 2015). A small sample size is another weakness because the achieved results cannot be applied to other populations, including the teachers of other grade levels or other subjects. Finally, the connection between the stages that has already been identified as the strength of the study can challenge a researcher because of the necessity to make a decision concerning the second stage regarding the results of the first stage. If a single mistake occurs while gathering quantitative information, certain complications can be observed in the second phase.
Comments on Data Analysis and Results
In general, the results of the study help to understand better how teachers use technologies in classrooms. It was necessary to choose appropriate participants and prove the correctness of communication methods. Optimistic views of the role of technologies in teaching were achieved through clear answers and personal judgments of the participants.
Crewswell, J.W., & Clark, V.L.P. (2018). Designing and conducting mixed methods research (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications.
Li, L., Worch, E., Zhou, Y., & Aguiton, R. (2015). How and why digital generation teachers use technology in the classroom: An explanatory sequential mixed methods study. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 9(2), 1-7. Web.
Onwuegbuzie, A. J., & Leech, N. L. (2006). Linking research questions to mixed methods data analysis procedures. The Qualitative Report, 11(3), 474-498.
Teddlie, C., & Yu, F. (2007). Mixed methods sampling: A typology with examples. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(1), 77-100.