Conference Report: Teaching Against the Grain: The Challenges of Teaching Qualitative Research in the Health Sciences. A National Workshop on Teaching Qualitative Research in the Health Sciences

  • Joan M. Eakin University of Toronto
  • Eric Mykhalovskiy York University
Keywords: teaching, health sciences, structural constraints, disruptive effects

Abstract

This essay reflects on the proceedings of an invitational workshop on the nature and challenges of teaching qualitative research (QR) in health science settings. The context of this workshop is the increasing interest in QR in the health sciences and the inadequacy of pedagogy and institutional support for QR. We argue that there are special problems associated with teaching in an environment that embraces numerically based forms of knowledge and marginalizes unconventional research. Changes in the health research environment (e.g. applied research funding) and in the university environment (e.g. faster and briefer training) do not mesh easily with core premises of QR and can have a homogenizing, "dumbing down" effect on teaching. Teaching across wide disciplinary and professional divides, and among students with little or no social theory, can promote teaching QR as procedure, and at the lowest common denominator. Teachers must deal with the disruptive effects on students and other faculty of the critical dimensions of QR, and manage the structural constraints and political demands of thesis supervision. Despite the challenges of teaching "against the grain," the rewards and promise of teaching qualitative research in such environments remain, and we call for further discussion and leadership in this area. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0502427

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Author Biographies

Joan M. Eakin, University of Toronto
Joan M. EAKIN is Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Canada. She is a sociologist who has worked in faculties of medicine since the start of her academic career. She teaches graduate-level courses in qualitative methodology and in social theory and health, supervises doctoral students, and coordinates a qualitative research group called QUIG (Qualitative Inquiry Group) which hosts seminars and links qualitative research resources across the University of Toronto. Her research, largely ethnographic and "structural interactionist" in nature, centers on the relationship between health and the social relations of work, e.g., "Health and the social relations of work: a study of the health-related experiences of employees in small workplaces," Sociology of Health and Illness, 1998, 20(6), 896-914; "'Playing it smart' with return to work: Small workplace experience under Ontario's policy of self-reliance and early return," Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, 2003, 01(2) 20-41. She has collaborated with Eric MYKHALOVSKIY on several projects, including critical reflection on the evaluation of qualitative research (Journal of Evaluation of Clinical Practice, 2003, 9(2), 187-194).
Eric Mykhalovskiy, York University
Eric MYKHALOVSKIY is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Dalhousie University and an Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, York University (on leave 2004-2005). For the past five years he has worked in faculties of medicine where he has taught qualitative methodology to physicians, nurses, medical students, allied health professionals, as well as masters and PhD level students in Community Health and Interdisciplinary Health Studies. His research draws on institutional ethnographic perspectives to explore how health knowledge, both lay and expert, interact and operate as social practices. Recent work on evidence-based medicine and on HIV/AIDS has been published in Social Science and Medicine, Health, Social Theory and Health, Critical Public Health, and other journals.
Published
2005-05-31
How to Cite
Eakin, J. M., & Mykhalovskiy, E. (2005). Conference Report: Teaching Against the Grain: The Challenges of Teaching Qualitative Research in the Health Sciences. A National Workshop on Teaching Qualitative Research in the Health Sciences. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(2). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-6.2.494