FQS Debate "Teaching and Learning Qualitative Methods"

Today, qualitative research methods are taught nearly everywhere in a variety of study programs and in methods centres at universities. In addition, a large number of offers have been created outside the university context, such as workshops, YouTube videos, podcasts, e-learning units, and many others, and these are highly popular. But what are the standards of those who teach qualitative research methods? What are the (core) competencies that they want their students to acquire? And how exactly does it work—learning about a qualitative style of research? Is qualitative work related to certain didactic formats? How do instructors learn how to teach qualitative research methods, and what are the conditions under which teaching and learning take place?

These are the kinds of questions concerning the teaching and learning (about) qualitative research methods that are at the center of this debate. We would like to offer a forum where we open up space for the manifold aspects of teaching qualitative research methods and for developing perspectives for the future.

Teaching and learning objectives

Qualitative research methods are taught in a variety of disciplines and informed by a variety of objectives. A reflection of these objectives is still missing. What is the relationship between the objectives of teaching and learning (about) the qualitative social sciences on the one hand and academic work and applied fields of action on the other hand? What are the objectives of teaching qualitative research methods, and which of these objectives are in fact achieved? Moreover, qualitative research methods constitute a diverse and complex field. As a consequence, teachers have to put a lot of thought into instructional design, and learners have to be prepared to feel insecure and to tolerate a high degree of ambiguity. How do instructors and students handle these ambiguities and the diversity of qualitative research methodology? Which type of assessment correspond to the objectives of teaching and learning (about) qualitative research methods?

Formats of teaching and learning

For a long time, instructors in teaching qualitative research methods have focused on inquiry-based learning. As qualitative methods have become increasingly established and canonized and as digital formats of learning and communication have become more common, additional field reports and reflections are required for doing justice to these developments. How do teachers structure content so as to provide an overview of the field of qualitative research methods or to enable an in-depth experience of selected research styles? What challenges do instructors face and to what extent have they changed? Some methods are fairly standardized and designed around an elaborate set of rules, whereas others are based on intuitive abilities and personal skills. Do didactic approaches differ by research method? What role do research experience and the personality of the instructors play?

Contexts of teaching and learning

Depending on discipline, the role of qualitative methods teaching is anchored in curricula and institutions to a greater or lesser extent. In some instances, it takes place in precarious niches. It would be desirable to investigate the range of conditions for teaching and learning and their effects through comparative perspectives on methods teaching: How and to what extent does the disciplinary, institutional and curricular anchoring affect the teaching of qualitative methods? What scope of development and what challenges arise from teaching under regular or under exceptional teaching and learning conditions? Formats of teaching and learning are not only influenced by the role of qualitative research methods in the respective curriculum and the institutional equipment; the relationship to other teaching content is also relevant: What role do theoretical foundations play? How do quantitative and qualitative methodology relate to each other? How fruitful is team teaching?

Content of teaching and learning

A large number of textbooks have emerged from teaching practice in recent years that have contributed to the canonization and establishment of qualitative methods: What is the significance of these developments for the teaching and learning of qualitative research methods? Important changes are based on postcolonial and feminist discourses: Instructors of research methods are confronted with the demand to include different perspectives. Which realignments become necessary as a consequence—and what do they entail for the learning processes between instructors and students?

With this FQS debate we want to provide and moderate a forum for the discussion of the issues raised above and of additional concerns related to the teaching and learning of qualitative research methods. We are open to conceptual discussions, empirical reports, reflections and didactic proposals from different disciplines and from different stakeholders (instructors, students, researchers, providers of extracurricular formats, etc.)—to all aspects revolving around the challenges of teaching qualitative methods.

For questions, please contact the Section Editors: Laura Behrmann, Franz Breuer, Margrit Schreier and Nicole Weydmann, e-mail: deb_teaching@qualitative-research.net.

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