Got Mixed Methods?

Orozco, Got mixed methods?
By Diana Orozco

A blog inspired by the AR article: Measuring in action research: Four ways of integrating quantitative methods in participatory dynamics, Joel Marti, Action Research, 14(2), p. 168-183.
Do want to know how to resolve the conflict you feel between the comfort and neutrality quantitative research provides, with the messier realities of Action Research (AR)? If you struggle like I do with a desire to quantify your data while still incorporating the richness of qualitative data, then “Measuring in Action Research: Four Ways of Integrating Quantitative Methods in Participatory Dynamics” is a must read. This article provides a “structured flow” on how to incorporate deep, rich, participatory processes with the coziness some of us feel with the 0s and 1s of measurement. After reading this article, I saw the combination of these types of research as a game of Tetris combining each method type to develop a smooth surface.

Action researchers believe AR offers opportunities for using reflective action and knowledge generation to address practical problems. However, the standard for establishing improvement may be interpreted by some as lacking reliability in comparison to scientific validity. In this article, the author notes “the question is not whether quantitative methods can be used in AR (as they have already been utilized in AR for a long time) but rather whether there are reasons that these methods should not be used”. The author is speaking to the disagreement that seems to occur between the characteristics of AR and quantitative methods. However, through sequential or integrated data collection using mixed methods, the conflict between ontological and epistemological elements are resolved, thus removing the incompatibility of AR and quantitative research, and eliminating reasons for not integrating the methods! By introducing a simple typology in Table 1, the authors offer clarification on how the mixed methods phasing process can be either sequential or embedded allowing at each phase the researcher to observe, reflect, plan and act in response to the data.

The process is fluid between measurement and participation or the reverse of these two phases. For example, the quantitative phase (QUAN) can precede participatory phase (PAR) or vice versa allowing each method to build off each set of previously collected data. In the case of an embedded process QUAN and PAR are nested and dependent on each other providing a method that will not only measure data but address performative issues.

After reading this article, I gained greater insight into the benefits and attributes for both AR used with quantitative methods. Quantitative methods will provide the numeric measurement of performance. If executed properly, quantitative research applications such as “extant statistical data, random sampling, surveys, direct observation, or social network analysis” can complement AR processes. AR can provide in-depth solutions coveted by those who normally strictly adhere to quantitative methods. If you are considering the idea of how to make your research pack a punch with tactical implementation, you will want to read this article.

Bio:Diana Orozco is a third year PhD student.
Article info: Measuring in action research: Four ways of integrating quantitative methods in participatory dynamics, Joel Marti, Action Research, 14(2), p. 168-183.
Key words for your blog: Action Research
Quantitative Research
Mixed Methods