Stokrocki, M. (1997). Qualitative forms of research methods. In S. D. La Pierre, & E. Zimmerman (Eds.). Research methods and methodologies for art education (pp. 33-56). Reston, VA: NAEA


P. 33 The purpose of this chapter is to 1) discuss the nature of qualitative inquiry, 2) explore different kinds of qualitative inquiry, 3) explain the role of interpretation, 4) present various participant observation stances, 5) offer ways of gaining access and achieving reciprocity, 6) review stages of qualitative research, 7) suggest practical procedures related to research methods as well as research writing, 8) present sociocultural problems, and 9) give future alternatives for qualitative research. Specifically, stages of qualitative research to be described are data collection, content analysis, and comparative analysis. Practical suggestions for analysis will include such examples as computer programming, icon and color coding of concepts, focus groups and key informants, and spread sheets for comparative and cross-site analysis.


What is Qualitative Inquiry?

An inquiry is simply a question, but as a process it invites a series of questions. A major guiding question can be a simple one; for example, "What is art teaching like on a Navajo Reservation?" This question is open-ended, experiential, and invites a metaphoric response and a vivid portrayal. Sub-questions, also can be used; such as "What types of instructional behaviors do Navajo teachers use?" Some questions come from a review of the literature, while others emerge in the process of conducting qualitative research.

According to Eisner (1991), qualitative research is the search for qualities--the characteristics of our experience. We translate these qualities through our chosen representation form and conceptual outlook. Six features of qualitative study are that it is 1) field-focused, 2) constructed so that the researcher is an instrument, 3) interpretive in nature, 4) expressive in language, 5) highly detailed, and 6) persuasive (Eisner, 1991, pp. 32-40).

Qualitative inquiry is a systematic process of describing, analyzing and interpreting insights discovered in everyday life (Wolcott, 1994). Similar to quantitative research, qualitative methods begin with [empirical] observation of a phenomenon and its characteristics. In qualitative studies, the logic of inference is one of directly observed comparison, resulting in new insights and reclassifications, rather than strict numerical comparison and classification (Willis, 1978). This form of research generates theory and extends our particular understandings, rather than generalizing about them (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Lincoln and Guba (1985) and Stake (1988) refer to qualitative research as naturalistic inquiry, which is a careful study of human activity in its natural and complex state. Finally, qualitative inquiry broadens our field of knowledge or refutes our accepted beliefs through comparisons with other cases. Qualitative types of research depend on personal, social, and idiosyncratic meanings, that are valued for themselves.


What are the Different Kinds of Qualitative Inquiry?

Qualitative research includes four main types of inquiry including ethnography and microethnography, phenomenology, educational criticism, the case study, and social critical theory to name a few types. For other types of qualitative research, such as historical and narrative inquiry and ethnomethodology (Sevigny, 1978), see Denzin and Lincoln's (1994) Handbook of Qualitative Research. Ethnography, according to Wolcott (1988), is both process and product; a picture of a group's "way of life" (p. 188).

Ethnography is an inquiry process carried out by a person from a point of view based on experience and knowledge of prior research. Anthropologists try to understand the significance or meaning of an experience from the participants' views. Some researchers also use the term ethnography to refer to all techniques used in fieldwork, not a single method; for example Stuhr (1986).

Microethnography is the study of a smaller experience or a slice of everyday reality, such as instruction. Microethnography is the process of data collection, content analysis, and comparative analysis of everyday situations for the purpose of formulating insights (Smith, 1978). In my studies, the focus is on teaching as a way to understand a culture. For example, I used several microethnographic procedures in my study of teaching preadolescents during a nine-week sequence (Stokrocki, 1988). p. 35

Phenomenology is the study of an experience and its essences. Ingarden suggests that all phenomenological as well as aesthetic experience is "a composite process having various phases and a characteristic development that contains many heterogeneous elements" (Willis,1978, p. 43). The method is a line-by-line search for essential statements and an in-depth thematic analysis of them (van Manen, 1984, 1990). Beittel (1973) and his students were the first to publish their phenomenological photographic investigation of and dialogue on creativity with artists in a drawing laboratory. Another good model of phenomenological inquiry is Jeffers' (1993) explanation of how a group of preservice teachers in an elementary art methods course made sense of their aesthetic decision-making experience. The final result of writing and re-writing ended in a new phenomenological text of intersubjective experience. Such a text may take new metaphoric forms, such as a parable or play. For instance, I structured my dissertation research structure was based on a play format that included setting, characters, opening scene, subsequent acts, climax, and denouement (Stokrocki, 1982). In this way, I was able to reveal the unfolding of my own and my co-students' comprehension of our pottery class. East-West philosophical pottery tradition, which the teacher Kenneth Beittel explored, became clearer to me as my research progressed.

In Educational Criticism, Eisner (1991) bases his methodology on aesthetic criticism, which consists of descriptive, analysis, and thematic stages. In his evaluation stance, Eisner questions sources of school problems not only their symptoms. Originally, he claimed that educational connoisseurs had final judgment. His stance since has changed to include the participants' views and opinions of the researcher's ideas. In educational criticism, polyphonic opinions should exist side-by-side, similar to the "rashomon effect," described in literature and in film. The purpose of this type of research is the expansion of perception, based on Deweyan ideas, and the enlargement of understanding.

Case Study, which originated in psychology, is research that depicts a problem in all "its personal and social complexity," according to Stake (1988, p. 256). It is a search for an understanding of an idiosyncratic, complex case. When conducting a case study, Stake warns us to set limits in the beginning and widen them as we later interrelate different components. Most researchers only gradually come to realize on which issues are best to construct their stories. An issue may emerge as a classification; for example, a staff person who calls students either "hoarders or sharers." An issue also may evolve as a contingency, one thing consistently co-exiting g with another; for example, "whenever the child cried, the teacher became busy with other children" (Stake, 1988, p. 259). For recent examples, see Blaikie, 1994 and Chen, 1993).

Social Critical Theory calls for critique of research. Personal perceptions, meanings, and value systems underlie all research and need to be "flushed out." Reconceptualists earlier argued for reorganizing art education around human consciousness and political action (Pinar, 1975). All research involves interpretation and proceeds from conjecture to refutation. Thomas (1993) offers critical ethnography as "a type of reflection that examines culture, knowledge, and action" (p. 2). This kind of research exposes hidden assumptions, agendas, and power centers, that repress communication. Some qualitative research tends to be more subjective and even self critical at times (Mason, 1988), while other types are more objective and reveal the obvious, yet taken-for-granted, metaphoric structures of an institution (Sikes, 1992).

What is Interpretation?

Interpretation is a process of translation, which is as old as the Bible itself. Many types of interpretation exist: psychological, historical, legal, religious, and symbolic. The process of interpretation is similar to a detective searching for clues and establishing facts. Interpretation is concerned with uncovering the multi-layered meanings of a phenomenon and understanding them more deeply. According to Bleicher (as cited in Stokrocki, 1983), "Understanding is the recognition and reconstruction of meaning through language." Meaning is a conveyed intention of established social significance, personal interest, and all its suggested qualities. Meaning involves the subjective realm of existence and continues beyond the author and his/her audience towards the universal. Interpretation starts with concrete perceptions and delves into hidden preconceptual aspects. For example, the ability to interpret is quite natural and exists from the beginning of an experience, as when you walk into a room and perceive it to be cold. You are translating your study in English and bound by an anthropological lens as opposed to a psychological one. Your task is to achieve a deeper interpretation.

Eisner (1991) defines interpretation as a process of explaining the meaning of an event by putting it in its context, making the experience vivid, identifying its prior conditions and potential consequences, and providing reasons for practices. For example, what is the different meanings of a wink or a blink--one has a message and the other does not. Interpretations are good guesses or suppositions.

The process of interpretation is simply one of logical questioning, as in a dialogue. The system begins with good conjectures, supporting material, and proceeds with refutations of incorrect meanings, according to Popper (as cited in Stokrocki, 1983). Interpretation occurs simultaneously with description. When interpreting, remember to 1) state your pre-understandings of the phenomenon and explain its context; 2) realize [state] that your information is probably true; 3) seek totality and coherence of meaning in your description; 4) search for the human meaning of the phenomenon and all its etymological, traditional, and philosophical meanings; and 5) apply your findings to your own life and state how the experience has changed you. Maitland-Gholson and Ettinger (1994) explain interpretive decision-making as it relates to selected examples in art education. They examine different interpretive research roles in order to: 1) construct meanings directly from participants' words and actions [phenomenology], 2) uncover hidden norms and biases through consensus of insiders and outsiders [critical theory], 3) disclose patterns of power and behavior through linguistic analysis [interpretive analytics], and 4) uncover changing ideological meanings [deconstruction].

I use the anthropological work of Geertz (1973) as the theoretical framework for my studies. To interpret a culture is to understand what participants say about it. Geertz calls it "thick description." He states that "A culture is concretely, an open-ended, creative dialogue of subcultures, of insiders and outsiders, of diverse factions" (as cited in Clifford, 1988, p. 46). Dialogue is a process of questioning and a give-and-take comparison of ideas, as researcher, participants, and outside reviewers together search for significant or hidden insights (Gadamer, 1975). Interpretation is an historical understanding, because cultures are always in dynamic transition.


What is Participant Observation and Its Stances?

Participant Observation is a process of describing, analyzing, and interpreting an everyday activity to understand it more fully (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Pohland (1976) and Spradley (1980) call it multi-person, multi-method, and multi-variable. I have added the fourth aspect "multi-dimensional" (Stokrocki, 1986). Participant Observation implies that the researcher is learning from people and not just studying them. The researcher is the prime tool for gathering data. One can be a complete observer, a full participant, or a half participant and half observer. Sevigny (1978) calls a combination of all three stances triangulation, a sociological process of viewing a situation from all three perspectives. You can also achieve triangulation by using different research techniques. For instance, in his study of five university drawing courses, he incorporated audiotapes, interviews, and diary writing. He also warns that accepting the full participant stance, and not relating the perspective of the observer, has its consequence of refusal of the observed to grant permission to use the study. Wolcott (1988) suggests that triangulated techniques are helpful "for cross-checking, or for ferreting out varying perspectives on complex issues and events" (p. 192).

Triangulation increases validity by incorporating three different viewpoints and methods. Developing a good memory also is important. In my research, some of the Navajo subtly criticized me because they felt that writing everything down meant that I didn't learn my lessons well. Qualitative researchers, therefore, must explain their evolving logic behind their selection of methods (Smith, 1978; Stokrocki, 1991a].


How do I Gain Access and What About Reciprocity?

Gaining access, a process of seeking permission to conduct a study, can be formal or informal. For example, in her complicated negotiations with Japanese art educators to observe an individual school, Mason (1993) describes weeks of formalized meetings to determine the scope of her study and to insure that the situation would be the best possible one to observe. Inherent in this protocol is the Japanese mandate that the situation be excellent, which filters out any comparison or views of less then perfect situations.

In contrast, after failure to reach possible research sites through Arizona State University's Center of Indian Education, I found a more informal network that could provide me with potential sites. The process began with a reference from the state art consultant and continued with casual introductions at regional art education meetings on the Navajo Reservation. At times, signed consent to even conduct the study took nearly six months to convince Navajo superintendents of my earnestness and fair representation. They wanted to see the completed report. Gaining access mainly involved establishing a sense of trust.

At times, gaining access may consist of a simple letter on school stationary that states, "The ___ School System grants permission to ____ to conduct research on _____ in the ______. The information will become part of the curriculum." Include a copy of a previous study and/or your research proposal. Participants, including students, however, have the right to refuse to cooperate and to change their minds at any time.

Furthermore, refer to the people that you study as participants, not subjects. Such imperialistic terms are demeaning. The ethics or rules of conduct regarding qualitative research are changing as researchers form alliances with participants in trying to understand specific situations and make recommendations. Through such interactions both parties become equal in status.

Qualitative research assumes reciprocity--an exchange of favors. Some reason should be given to participants for their cooperation in your research (Patton, 1990, p. 253). Reasons can vary from a feeling of importance from being observed, useful feedback, pleasure from interactions with the observer, or paid assistance in some task.


What Are the Stages of Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research unfolds in three stages: data collection, content analysis, and comparative analysis (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Hypotheses need not be stated in the beginning of a participant observation assessment, but will be generated throughout the study (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Glaser, 1978; Glaser, 1992). Most qualitative researchers are not interested in forming universal generalizations, but in generating concepts or insights for future use. Smith (1978) advocates that researchers document the evolving logic of their procedures. There are many ways of conducting qualitative research. Let's explore three stages of qualitative research:

Data collection is a process of recording an event and gathering pertinent information. Following are some suggestions for collecting data. Start by writing first impressions, making a space map, called a sociogram, which requires following participant interactions and recording field notes to include dates and times, and dialogues and gestures among participants. Use both audio (or video) tape recording, as well as field notes, in case the electronic equipment fails. Photographs may add vividness to your research, but you also can sketch participants' artworks or artmaking in progress. Conduct a sociocultural profile by asking questions about the racial and economic background of the setting and its participants. Write to the local Department of Commerce for a community profile. Gather cultural documents; such as a school mission statement, course of study, art curriculum, and art handouts for further interpretation. Reconstruct data that may be lacking; such as a curriculum sequence or lesson plan objectives.

Transcribe your notes, other pertinent information, and findings into separate documents on the computer. Keep a running calendar of visits and events. Data should include site, date, class time, lesson description, and students' age levels, grades, class memberships, gender, and race. Note non-verbal behaviors and timing events, which may be set approximately every five minutes, called a time frequency. Anonymity is important. Use pseudonyms or initials of participants for names; otherwise, obtain signed and dated permission for release of participants' and school names. How many classes or how much time should you spend observing and analyzing? I use a rule of thumb of spending at least ten times once a week. Wolcott (1988) suggests one year or one complete cycle.

Ethnographic interviewing is a systematic process of asking questions in the form of a natural dialogue. Some interviews are highly structured in advance and others are more conversational (James, 1994). Since participants often do not to take questionnaires seriously, it is advised to follow-up questionnaires with informal interviews. Some questions may be open-ended but need prompters to elicit information. For example, the question "what is art?" may need the following prompters: drawing, creativity, and expression? A good way to approach participants is to ask them to teach you about their educational situation so that you can train teachers at the University. It is important to find key informants, who are participants and show willingness to cooperate with you and to give extra information and insights. 2)

Content analysis is a search for conceptual themes or patterns of meaning both scientific and emerging. Content analysis is a search for conceptual themes, writing data summaries, clustering data to form relationships, condensing information to the most significant meanings, and writing stories (Huberman & Miles, 1994, p. 429)..Eisner (1991) states that Òfeatures that count do not wear labels on their sleeves: they do not announce themselves... It is not a matter of checking behaviors, but rather of perceiving their presence and interpreting their significanceÓ (p. 32). It is process of forming convincing suppositions, called propositions, from data and their content (Krippendorf, 1980). A supposition is a probable explanation. Some researchers borrow categories from previous research. Other categories emerge from the data in metaphoric forms.

Write down your first impressions and evolving questions of an event at the beginning of your study and include them as assumptions. Keep a running account of how they change. Then compare them with evidence obtained in time. For example, on the Navajo Reservation, the slow pace of classroom time overwhelmed me. I kept looking for something to happen and had to get coffee from the office to stay awake. I needed to slow down and focus my attention on specific actions, such as mere "attending" and sitting in silence (Stokrocki, 1995). Coming out of Cleveland's active, inner-city schools, I found it difficult to adjust to the Navajo's extreme quietness or nonaction. The Navajo believe that sitting and thinking is doing something. The students, however, produced marvelous artworks and the silence and reflection had a calming effect on me. Wolcott (1994) believes that self criticism, as I just described, is a significant methodological finding.

Content analysis is a stage of analysis used in discovering concepts (abstract ideas) and themes. Some concepts are simple, such as lecturing, while other concepts, such as teaching itself, are more complicated. A researcher must start the content analysis procedure by sorting categories. Bogdan and Biklen (1992) suggest the following starter categories: setting, participant views, process, activity, passages, stages, behaviors, and methods. These categories are conceptual clusters. An example of clustering concepts is putting all types of evaluation, scanned from your transcripts, into one category called appraisal instruction. These include examples such as testing, journals, checklists, and individual conferences. Thus, the researcher reduces all his/her field notes into simpler and more abstract codes. When doing content analysis, be sure to define all the categories and concepts.

Coding: Two types of coding exit: 1) searching phase and 2) a focused phase. Van Manen suggests a line-by-line search (also Glaser, 1978) of your field notes or documents for essential statements that later form themes (as cited in Jeffers, 1992). In the beginning, you can borrow established concepts from other researchers or educators and label them. Furthermore, I encourage using color, icon, or marginal codes to stand for these concepts. Make a key to explain your codes and colors and keep copies of your original transcripts. Later, you must focus your codes by collapsing them into new categories (process, causation, degree, dimension, type, or structure, time or generality; (Charmaz, 1983). This forces you to develop categories rather than simply label topics.

To store and track data and to assist in my coding, I use the computer program "Hyperqual" (Padilla, 1993; no longer available). See The Ethnograph (Sidel, Kjolseth, & Seymour, 1988). Although the program stores the information and helps you "tag and dump it into files," you still have to do the hard work of analysis. Later, you can highlight your major findings throughout your final report.

Look for informal patterns or emerging concepts, such as repetitive words or ideas that are often hidden.1 Temporarily use a simile or a metaphor to describe this emerging concept. A metaphor is a figure of speech that interrelates dissimilar things. In my study of Beittel's class, for instance, I noted how his "off-the-cuff" remarks, available to those nearest him, contained valuable instructional information. Emerging concepts may be part of the "taken-for-granted" folkways that you hardly notice. The Navajo, for example, consider silence or "prolonged attention" as valuable learning experiences. In certain cultures, listening and watching are more important than questioning. These kinds of concepts often are delivered informally and based on everyday language.

How do you know if you have found something important? Importance can be determined by frequent recurrence or emotional intensity. Qualitative researchers sometimes use quantitative measures, such as counting and time sampling. Time sampling is a process of measuring the frequency of an activity with a stop watch or tape recorder [Barker, 1968). In qualitative research, anything that occurs more than 50% of the time is frequent and important; for example, when a category is saturated with several examples it becomes worthy of attention (Bogdan & Bilken, 1992; Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Look for different dimensions of that category as well. Record this frequency of instruction in a time sampling chart. [Refer to Table 2.]

Table 2 An Example of Time Sampling of T's High School Art I Instruction

Class Substantive Managerial Appraisal Studio/Nonfunctional Total Session min. % min. % min. % min. % min. % 2/28/91 period 1 5 5 0 40 50 period 2 5 3 3 39 50 3/1/91 period 1 2 5 3 35 50 period 2 0 5 5 39 50 period 3 0 5 10 35 50 (ART I: pointillism, introduction to graduation cover design) period 4 (painting plant still life) period 5 (lunch) period 6 (prep) period 7 (ceramics) Total 12min. 23min. 21min. 188min. Average 3min. 5min. 4 min. 38min. 50min. 6% 10% 8% 76% 100% (


Substantive instruction is the introduction of new art content to the entire class

Managerial instruction is the control of student behavior and classroom functioning.

In process appraisal is the informal monitoring and guiding of student process and product.

Nonfunctional instruction is that which is not related to the lesson, such as joking and interruptions.

Dominant Finding-Nonfunctional instruction; 76% of class time, thus the teacher may be a laissez-faire instructor]


Qualitative researchers also infer social significance, defined as the emotional impact of an event on participants. The participants may report an affective occurrence, such as a raku ceremony and celebration, as totally overwhelming. In my study of Beittel's pottery class, for example, students reported their experience as one of communitas, a state in which the social interactions were so special that they reached a stage of sacramental sharing, involvement, and creativity (Stokrocki, 1982). I suggest that you do not throw away any of your evidence: it may become significant later for a comparative study.

To start reporting, use an outline and make a table, graph, diagram, or chart to explain the process you arrived at to "capture" your data. Something as simple as a condensed checklist is quite handy for researchers to scan a large amount of information. For other ways of qualifying data see Miles and Huberman (1984). Then write up your report or essay. Do not forget to include sections on your mission statement, objectives, course of study, unit, and/or lesson plan. Ethnographers use a simple formula, such as a paragraph construction, for writing individual findings. In the first sentence, mention your conceptual finding. In the next sentence, define the concept. Then give a few examples of dialogue or anecdotes from the transcripts. In the last sentence summarize what you learned new about the concept. An example of reporting a finding follows.

Let me use a laissez-faire type of instruction to illustrate the workings of content analysis. Laissez-faire instruction is basically a non-interference teaching method that is used on the Navajo Reservation. Because of the slow pace at the high school level on the Navajo Reservation, teaching seemed more laissez-faire. The instructor daily reviewed the on-going lesson or briefly introduced a new project for approximately five minutes out of a 50 minute class session. [Refer to Table 2.] Mr. T wrote instructions on the blackboard and displayed art examples. He used excess time for coordinating extra-curricular events. Mr. T challenged advanced students with photocopied lessons from Hubbard and Zimmerman's (1982) Artstrands. The instructor confessed, "I am laissez-faire because someone told me not to interrupt these kids so much when they are working. They are independent learners. I have an open-door policy, if they need help, they ask" (Stokrocki, 1995).

Look for alternative suppositions or explanations. For example, I reported this teacher's instructional style as laissez-faire in several of my observations. I checked for his interpretation and he agreed that he wasn't going to change. I looked for probable reasons: 1) he is sick or lazy; 2) it's his first year of teaching in this school and he is too busy adapting to this situation; 3) it's Friday and Springtime, and he is preparing for the annual art show; or 4) he is teaching Native American students, who prefer independence and dislike questioning. You can report all the reasons and give the most probable explanations. Notice that the latter explanation comes from a review of the literature (More, 1989). Here is where you step into the next research stage, that of comparative analysis.


How to Start Writing?

Wolcott (1988) suggests that you write your first draft while at the site, then you can ask more questions and fill-in the gaps while there. Describe the context, participants, program, schedule, etc. Simply write the story. Some people need an outline; others start with a stream-of-consciousness. I transcribe my field notes into the computer as I work and code simultaneously. Beginners need to show and separate the transcripts from the coding. Don't worry about grammar at first. Use major headings and subheadings throughout your research writing.

State the limits of your study: time, person, site, malfunctioning equipment, and other problems. How do you know when your study is complete? When the categories become saturated with several examples, then you can estimate that you are temporarily finished. Due to space limitations for writing journal articles, three examples for each finding may be adequate. You will need to limit your focus later and some categories will become insignificant and mentioned only briefly. To present information clearly, James (1994) uses charts, cognitive maps, diagrams of interviews, critiques, and lectures.

Comparative analysis is a process of interrelating findings or explanations in one class session or several class sessions to form [suppositions] propositional insights. Interrelation consists of both internal analysis (within your own study) and external analysis (comparisons with other cases and the related literature). If you compare two or more of your observed, class sessions, you are using internal comparative analysis. When you include evidence from related research or local experts to support your interrelated findings, you are using external comparative analysis. Present your proposition and give an internal example (to refresh the reader's memory), and add external support. State that your findings are tentative, exploratory, incomplete, or working hypotheses. To start comparative analysis, I suggest the following:

Use a chart or check list. If you use the Hyperqual (Padilla, 1993) computer program, "tag & dump" all your subheadings or findings into one file. Merge some of the findings into a more inclusive file. Interconnect them as on a bulletin board. Then make a contrasting chart. On one side, put your explanatory finding, and on the other side place opposite or alternative ones. You can track and color code a concept throughout your study. [Refer to Table 3 and Table 4.) Remember that you are looking for possible explanations or interpretations to make sense of your data. In this way, you can interrelate the data and gain more insights into your inquiry. [Insert Tables 3 and 4 here]

Report your comparative findings by using the same paragraph formula as discussed above. The paragraph will be longer and expand into a section. An example follows:

In-process appraisal instruction was the dominant form of instruction at all levels [on the Navajo Reservation]. In-process appraisal is the individual monitoring of work in process with alternative suggestions (Sevigny, 1978). The Anglo and Navajo art teachers interacted more with their elementary students than their secondary students. For example, D, the new Anglo teacher at the primary level (CPS) and W, the new Navajo elementary art teacher (MFES), spent nearly 50% of their time informally appraising students at work. More specifically, both L's (CBS) and D's (CPS) lessons on watercolor painting devoted 30 minutes, out of 40 minutes, to individual attention. They constantly reminded students to use water first. M further directed, "You don't want to see the edges of the watercolor lines." He suggested that another student use a bigger brush. Later, he suggested to a third student to blend in some orange color while the leaf was still drying. Appraisals, however, were most often flash comments: "That's different or neat!" (Stokrocki, 1995).

Focus groups: A focus group, which marketing researchers often employ, consists of a small group of informants, who meet to discuss only a few questions or findings. The focus group is particularly helpful in culturally diverse situations (Krueger, 1994; Sikes, 1992). Similar to inter-judge or inter-rater reliability, a group of external local experts or outside art teachers can verify, refute, or add to your interpretation.

Refer to other studies for external comparison. For example: Erickson and Mohatt (1982) first videotaped and studied communication differences in Native American and Anglo teachers. They noticed that Native American teachers spent most of their time circulating the room and giving individual attention. In comparison, I found that all teachers, both Native American and Anglo, in my study evaluated students' progress privately, informally, and mostly based on effort (Stokrocki, 1995).

Comparison with extreme cases: Such comparisons can strengthen your findings, build or generate new insights, and lead to grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). An extreme case is a situation where a practice failed or where it was problematic, such as "the class from hell" or teaching junior high students (Stokrocki, 1988). Report issues in a chart that features pros and cons. You also are doing cross-cultural comparative analysis, if you compare two teachers from different cultures. You can record the contextual or cultural differences through other similar research found in a review of the literature. Finally, you can generate grounded theory from preliminary list of propositions or hypotheses (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). For example, Ritenoir (19 ) collected data through unstructured taped interviews of 12 artists, from which he generated a list qualifications (conceptual categories: time, social, environmental, and conflict) and preliminary propositions. He later revised the propositions and reported them both in a running theoretical discussion and as a list of conclusions. The extreme cases in this study evolved from personal and family conflicts that resulted in major lifestyle changes.


How to Write Conclusions?

Conclusions are significant findings that you discovered about the concepts in your title. Some qualitative researchers list major propositions and others generate them differently. I p in up my entire study on a bulletin board to track major concepts (in my title or in my research questions) and color code them throughout my paper. My recent paper, for example, "A Microethnographic Study of Art Teaching on the Navajo Reservation," begins with a section explaining the concepts in the title (microethnographic, art, teaching, & Navajo). At the end of my paper, I check to include what I learned about these concepts. What you are doing at this point in your research is condensing or collapsing the data further. You can include conflicting results here (refer to Table 4). If you can't find significant conclusions, review and raise questions about the related concepts or theories, send your paper for review and solicit suggestions, and invite collaboration and competing opinions (Wolcott, 1994). Be honest about what you didn't find and what microethnographic methods didn't work. Mention that future research is needed and in what areas such research is needed.


What is Cross-Site Analysis and How Do You Do It?

If you compare several qualitative sites, you are doing external comparisons or cross-site analysis. Cross-site analysis is a process of interrelating findings from several contexts to generate themes which may be used to develop new theory (Miles & Huberman, 1984). Cross-site analysis also increases generalizations that reassure researchers that themes and problems in one setting are not entirely unique. Additionally, I am the sole author of my cross-site analyses (Stokrocki, 1989). Other researchers may compile their individual case studies in one volume for readers to compare (Day, Eisner, Stake, Wilson, and Wilson, 1984), or a review team may compare the findings of the previous studies in one document (McLaughlin & Thomas, 1984).

Cross-site analysis is a constant comparative method of developing theory analytically that is generating categories and their properties (Glaser, 1978). Steps entail the following: 1) start to gather information, 2) search for major issues or patterns in the information that become the central categories, 3) look for several examples of these categories, 4) describe and explain these categories, while looking for new ones, 5) interrelate social processes to develop an evolving model, and 6) employ sampling and coding devices to focus the analysis on the central categories (from Bogdan & Biklen, 1992, p. 74).

More specifically, I have been using a Macintosh spreadsheet program called "MicroExel," which comes in numbered lines and in which you can set up working categories. I use it as a kind of shorthand to track my concepts and cross-check the frequency of my findings as well (see Table 4). I use several spreadsheets to manage my data in this way.


What is the Future of Qualitative Research?

Narrative Storytelling: Barone (1992) argues for translating research data into "morally persuasive" stories and other narrative forms to make research more accessible to the general public. He notes the historical work of Charles Dickens and Kidder's (1989) more recent book, Among Schoolchildren, as convincing examples that stirred change in education. Art educators have also interpreted their research data into different experiential formats, such as a parable (Mason, 1980), a play (Stokrocki, 1982), personal cultural histories (Zurmuehlen, 1990), and tales of women's lives (Kellman, 1991). Wolcott (1994) suggests such different representational modes as the mystery, chronicle, life-cycle, and the Roshoman effect (a story told from three viewpoints). I translated my ethnographic research experiences on the Navajo Reservation into a story of "A School Day in the Life of a Young Navajo Girl: A Case Study in Ethnographic Storytelling" (Stokrocki, 1994). I changed my researcher voice into that of a young Navajo girl to paint a picture of the changing context and, I added the actual transcript description of a clay lesson through her view as a favorite class. I later discussed such inherent issues as authenticity, authority, religious differences and cultural dynamics, representation and negotiation, and changing gender differences. I also encourage you to translate your research into some qualitative visual and verbal art from.

Collaborations and Methodological Mix: The future of qualitative research will entail a collaboration of polyphonic voices of teachers, researchers, graduate students, and others who are trying to understand an educational experience. Bogdan & Bilken (1992) regard such attempts as action research, "the systematic collection of information that is designed to bring about social change. The researcher is actively involved in the study's cause" (p. 223). Action research often involves teachers as actively involved in the research process (May, 1993).

Art experiences go beyond mere schooling and now encompass all folkways and forms of life-long learning. Research begins with understanding and ends in social action. The future will see the mix of various qualitative and quantitative methods to suit particular questions and sites (Wolcott, 1988). As our computers become more sophisticated to handle large information databases, research methods will become complex. At times, research results end in policy decisions and at other times they simply enlighten our knowledge of idiosyncratic events.



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Mason, R. (1980). Interpretation and artistic understanding (Doctoral dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University, 1980). Dissertation Abstracts International, 41 (05A), 2002.

Mason, R. (1988). Art education and multiculturalism. New York: Methuen.

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Table 3 A List of Findings:


Improved quality [certified] and quantity of art teachers, but shortage of Navajo art teachers

Students more non-traditional, bilingual, low socioeconomic.

*Most teachers pleased with their supplies and facilities, but crowded due to expanding enrollments [Collapse this insight into the next]

*Most teachers pleased with their teaching schedules and administrative support. Lack of attendance a major problem at all high school levels



A wide range of school missions existed.

Cultural continuity more evident at elementary level

Vocational training major at high school.

Art programs mostly studio based, male-dominated: 3-D arts popular in west and 2-D arts, in the east.

SNA art appreciation occasionally accompanied studio lessons

Some artworks offensive



Most substantive instruction began with sequenced demonstration and repetition of actions and words.

Facilitator teaching style and in-process appraisal instruction was dominant at all levels

Relaxed control and teasing


Preferential: Student art and learning

Older students were reticent in public discussion, whereas younger students seemed more confident

Students' imagery was predominantly imitative, realistic, and eclectic

Students preferred independence and observational learning style due to their strong recognition memory

Deep concentration and seasonal lack of it

Reading comprehension problematic and helped through journalizing

[Collapse these findings and ^ remove the insignificant]


Table 4 Comparative Analysis

Standard Native American in common Standard American/European
preservation of tradition cultural change
noninterference   interference-progress
small schools, little funding [improved facilities, small crowded] rapid enrollments, federal funds
shortage of SNA art teachers   more Anglo and male teachers

[all certified]

[wide range of schools and their missions]

cultural emphasis at elementary   vocational at secondary
culture teacher   specialists
attendance -- high school problem    
  [art program: studio fine arts dominant]  
3D art preferred in west (Hopi)   2D art preferred in east

[influence of watercolor, perspective]

[male-dominated curriculum]

weaving introduced earlier    
borrowed beadwork & dream catchers    
[SNA art appreciation occasionally with studio lesson]    
taboo images [popular culture tolerated]  
teaching as showing(demonstration) teaching as lecture & questioning
facilitator teaching style   directive teaching style
relaxed control and teasing   teacher controlled
informal, in-process appraisal   formal appraisal
perceptual learning style conceptual learning style
HS students independent & observational learning    
no high school public discussion\; discussion now at elementary level   public discussion
draw from memory draw what you see
more outlined and flat color mixing of styles in 2005 more shading
  (Highlighted words are major comparisons)  

Must ÒdecodeÓ the situation, move from abstract to the concrete (96). Coding is representation of that situation, some of its constituent elements in interaction. Decoding is the critical analysis of the coded siituation (96). No activity must escape the attention of the investigators during the initial survey (104). A

Extra Readings

Barone, T. (1983). Things of use and things of beauty. The story of the Swain County Arts Program. Daedalus 112 (3), 1-28.

Bogdan, R.C. & Bilken, S.K. (1981). Qualitative research for education: An introduction to theories and methods. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Denzin, N., & Lincoon, Y. (2000). Handbook of qualitative research (2nd. edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. Chicago: Aldine. Hammersley, Martyn. (1990). Classroom ethnography: Empirical and interpretive. LB1028.H 314.

Lancy. F.F. (1993). Qualitative research in education: An introduction to major traditions. New York:

Longman. Marriam, S.B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education. San Francisco.: Josey-Bass.Õ P

atton, M. (1990). Qualitative evaluations and research methods, 2nd ed, SAGE. Reminds us that Òqualitative inquiry depends, at every stage, on the skills, training, insights and capabiliites of the researcher, qualitative anlaysis untimately depends on the analytical intellect and style of the analystÓ (p. 372).

Pohland, P. (1976). Participant observation as a research methodology. Studies in Art Education, 13(3), 4-24.

Sevigny, M. (1978). A descriptive study of instructional interaction and performance in a university studio art setting: A multiple perspective. (Doctoral dissertation, The Ohio State University, 1977). Dissertaton Abstracts International, 38, 6477-A.

Spradley, J.P. (1980). Participant observation. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. Spradley, J. P. (1986). The ethnographic interview. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Stokrocki, M. (1991b). Socio/cultural issues in the interpretation of art settings. Journal of Multicultural and Cross-cultural Research in Art Education, 8 (1), 51-60.

Stokrocki, M. (1992b). Visual sociology in art education research. In M. Stokrocki (Ed.). New waves of research in art education. Sponsored by the Seminar for Research in Art Education, an affiliate of the National Art Education Association. Reston, VA.

Stokrocki, M. (1993b). Participant observation research on pedagogy and learning. Translations: From Theory to Practice. Reston, VA: Nationa Art Education Association.

Stokrocki, M. (1993c). A cross-site analysis and interpretation of art teaching and learning on the Navajo Reservation, Presentation at the INSEA World Congress, Montreal, Canada.

Stokrocki, M. (1992a). Teaching suburban ninth graders: The facilitator. Journal of The Ohio Art Education Association, 29 (1), 3-21.

Wolcott, H. (1982). The anthropology of learning. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 13, 83-108. Teachers want useful knowledge. Donmoyer, Research is like a painting. You get different interpretations from it.


"Facts do not really exist, only interpretations, according to Nieztsche. "There are no facts per se. What is "known" represents a group of "phenomena" or appearances that are tied together and ordered in terms of a particular perspective and reflect the vital demands of a center of Will to Power" (p. 194).[In Allison, D. (Ed.) (1977). The new Nieztsche: Contemporary styles of interpretation: New York: Dell.]