History, Biography, Academic Profile:

Alicia O’Cathain (BSc, MSc, MA, PHD) is a professor of health services research at the University of Sheffield where she works to develop and evaluate complex treatments for chronic conditions and lead projects in emergency and urgent care.  O’Cathain’s University of Sheffield’s web page describes here vast catalogue of research journals on methodology in comprehensive detail.  Most of her work has focused on mixed methodological research but has more recently delved into qualitative methods using randomized controlled trials.  This knowledge she shares in workshops and clinics for PhD candidates (“University of Sheffield,” 2018).

The Framework of Mixed Methodology:

In Assessing the Quality of Mixed Methods Research: Toward a Comprehensive Framework, Alicia O’Cathain outlines the basic framework for using a mixed methodology research method.  O’Cathain demonstrates a comprehensive method of mixing qualitative research methods with quantitative research methods.  This mixed method, although more exhaustive, can potentially lead to stronger results and conclusions.

O’Cathain (2010) breaks down the basic framework for mixed methodology into eight parts:

Planning quality outlines the means and approach to the research which is followed by design quality which defends the chosen methodology. This is in turn followed by data quality which upholds the data collection methods and size to be used.  Next interpretive rigor ensures that conclusions are accurate, consistent, and credible which in turn leads to inference transferability which explores if the research can be applied to other contexts.   Reporting quality outlines if the research met it goals and stayed within its means.  This is in turn followed by synthesizability which demonstrates that the research is all the same quality.  Lastly, the utility of the research is explored.  Utility covers who is using the work and for what purpose.

These eight guiding parts are broken down further to ensure that proper guidelines are met and results will be accurate and usable.

Applying Mixed Methodology:

Moving Beyond Cultural Barriers: Successful Strategies of Female Technology Education Teachers by Ray McCarthy and Joseph Berger sets out to assess why female technology education teachers pursued the career path they did and explore why there is such low female representation within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) field of work.  The researchers used a qualitative research method by interviewing ten female participants of varying ages, all technology education (tech ed) teachers, and comparing their overall responses.  The participants were asked questions over two interview sessions focusing on their lives and upbringing and how they decided to pursue the technology education / STEM career path.  They were also tasked with creating a journal over 14 days which documented influences and transition points that may have led them to their career. (McCarthy & Berger, 2008).

The Research

As the Moving Beyond Cultural Barriers article uses a qualitative research method, a quantitative research approach is required to meet the mixed methodology definition as outlined by O’Cathain. An ideal way to meet that goal would be to expand McCarthy and Berger’s research to include a control population of women who did not go into the STEM field or a career as a technology education teacher.  The research would be further strengthened by increasing the number of the interviewed to a group larger than ten.  It should be noted that this would likely add more cost and time to the project.

Now with a control group, the researchers could sample school transcripts of the women who went into STEM/tech ed with an equal sized random sample of women who did not go into STEM/tech ed. The researchers could then compare two things: course selection and grades in math and sciences.  This information would be used to see if:

  1. there are any correlations between elective choice and future career paths.
  2. there are any correlations between success in math and science and future career paths.

This research would (potentially) give the results a stronger and more accurate depiction of women who both did and did not pursue STEM or tech ed jobs. It would be more thorough and have less margin of error.

The Researcher

The two researchers, McCarthy and Berger, would already have their hands full with all the information they gathered from their initial ten interviews.  Adding a second research method will right away add to the researcher’s financial needs, time requirements, and overall work load.  The researchers would need to create and a apply new framework for the newly added quantitative research.  That would be followed by proceeding with collecting, calculating, and reporting the findings found in the provided transcripts. First, they would have to expand their recruitment efforts to find the women to participate as their control group.  Second, they would be required to acquire multiple transcripts from said control group as well as their original interview group which could prove difficult.

When all the new interviews were completed the researchers would have to reorganize and make new conclusions on their amended interview data and make new conclusions based on an updated assessment.

The Researched

It would be important that all the women interviewed for this research felt comfortable with the experience and that they would be willing to share their transcripts with the researchers.  Failure to meet either of these points would mean that they would need to be replaced with someone who is willing and able to meet these requirements.

All women interviewed would need to be interviewed away from the other interviewees.  Furthermore, they must all be asked the same set of well-crafted questions with no leading input from the researchers.

Transcripts provided would need to be clear and not tampered with in any fashion.  Documents would also be either returned to the rightful owner or destroyed after the research process.

The Reader

With the updated research the reader would have a stronger and more compelling argument defending what methods could be taken to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM and technology education.  Additionally, it would help the reader understand the issues and societal pressures women face in their upbringing and when choosing a career.

These findings could encourage future researchers to conduct studies into what changes can be made to encourage women to pursue the STEM/tech ed fields. It could also be beginning to wider research looking into the effects of class, race, and ability and their impact on women pursuing STEM/tech ed career paths.

Questions and Insights:

The research discussed in the article hopes to challenge stereotypes but in doing so could potentially reinforce them based on outcomes.  Furthermore, in the researchers hope to discover why some women go into STEM and tech ed careers their findings could be interpreted in a way that they had not intended.  For example, it is possible for a reader to write the original interviewees off as female anomalies and conclude that their experiences are “other.”

I do question the choices of the two researchers, McCarthy and Berger, to not find a female researcher to join them in the process.  It is likely that a female researcher could have given female insight and voice to the paper that the two original researches do not have as they do not have the lived experience of a woman.

McCarthy and Berger’s research is well done for a small scale sample but the results would have more strength if the overall sample size of interviewees was larger.  It is possible that their work could lead to a more expanded body of research in the future, paving the way for future growth in an area of focus that has seen little change over the last half century.

References:

McCarthy, R. R., & Berger, J. (2008). Moving Beyond Cultural Barriers: Successful Strategies of Female Technology Education Teachers. Journal of Technology Education, 19(1), 65-79.

Ocathain, A. (2010). Assessing the Quality of Mixed Methods Research: Toward a Comprehensive Framework. SAGE Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social & Behavioral Research, 531-556.

University of Sheffield. (2018, November 01). Health Services Research. Retrieved July 07, 2019, from https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/scharr/sections/hsr/mcru/staff/ocathain_a