Discussion session for quantitative/ mixed methods

This is from a handout I developed for a discussion session on quantitative/ mixed methods.

Quantitative / qualitative approaches differences: Very crude representation of commonly thought differences. From Firestone (1987).



World view

Object facts independent of social world

Multiple realities socially defined.


Explain through measurement

Understanding through actors' perspectives


Experiment: reduce randomness/ noise/ error which get in the way of explanation.

Ethnography. Explore definitions. Challenge assumptions

Researcher role




Objective: facts speak for themselves



Explain reasons for phenomenon/ change in quantitative terms e.g. x% of variance explained by x,y,z,

Qualitative judgement e.g. 'strong leadership required...'

Discussion questions:

Does choice of method stem from our world view or does our world view stem from our choice of methods?

Is the primacy of qualitative methods in education studies a consequence of expediency/ ability or world view?

Does early specialisation in UK education mean social science and humanities reject quantitative approaches due to lack of sufficient mathematics skills?

To what extent is the table above an accurate representation of differences between quantitative and qualitative approaches?

References/ further reading:

British Academy. 2015. ‘Count Us in: Quantitative Skills for a New Generation’. London: British Academy. .

Firestone, William A. 1987. ‘Meaning in Method: The Rhetoric of Quantitative and Qualitative Research’. Educational Researcher 16 (7): 16–21. doi:10.3102/0013189X016007016.

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