Issue Two – Qualitative Research into Learner Development (2018)

Editors: Masuko Miyahara, Patrick Kiernan, Chika Hayashi

Overview: As teachers and researchers, we endeavour to understand the complexities of our students’ learning processes from their perspectives. Qualitative research offers uniquely powerful ways to do so, and has become popular in studies exploring learner development. Approaches such as narrative inquiry, qualitative case study and ethnography provide frameworks for gathering data using interviews and focus groups, reflections and diaries, and class observations and field notes; and exploring them using a plethora of methods including qualitative, discourse and textual analysis. More deeply, the exploratory nature of qualitative research permits us to open up learning processes and investigate them together with participants, to develop our understanding of the experiences of our participants without pre-conceived expectations of what we will find. Despite these benefits, qualitative research into learner development itself raises many thorny issues that deserve investigation, discussion, and debate.

The second issue of The Learner Development Journal, due out in 2018, offers our research community a chance to explore and critically question the processes of how we do (and would like to do) qualitative research into learner development:

How do we do qualitative research into learner development?
What are the practical concerns and issues we face in formulating research questions, in the approaches and methods that we use, in the settings that we choose to explore, and in how we gather and analyze ‘data’? What do we mean by “data” and “analysis” in qualitative research?

How do we negotiate the project with learners and other participants?
What are the roles, relationships and identities of the researcher(s) and participants? How do we include others in qualitative research?

How can we use technology in qualitative research into learner development issues?
What problems does the use of technology raise? How can these be addressed?

What ethical issues arise and who “owns” the research?
What happens when ethical purity meets messy reality?

How do we write up qualitative research about learner development? Why?
In what ways do different genres of writing enable or constrain us in writing about qualitative research into learner development? Why?

What makes research into learner development ‘qualitative’?
What are the philosophical underpinnings of qualitative research? What are the philosophical ideas about knowledge and truth that we can draw on for our research?