Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Use of IPA in education: Cooper, Fleischer and Cotton (2012)

This paper uses IPA to explore how students experience the learning of qualitative research techniques. It has some useful information on quality control, and talks through the process of undertaking IPA. I've not gone into details of the theory surrounding the topic, as it doesn't relate to my interests, although the use of IPA in an education setting does. The researchers do not discuss the philosophical underpinnings of their research, but the use of IPA relating to the lives experience is mentioned, so it appears an appropriate method.

Cooper, R., Fleischer, A., & Cotton, F. A. (2012). Building connections: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of qualitative research students' learning experiences. The Qualitative Report, 17(1), 1-16.

This research, according to the authors differs from previous research by looking at students from a range of academic fields, learning a range of different qualitative techniques rather than concentrating on one academic field or one type of qualitative research.


Research design

The authors used a qualitative method to gather rich data, from which to draw themes and theoretical structures. The research centred around how students make sense of their experiences in learning qualitative research.


Purposive (though they use 'purposeful'). Six respondents, with data saturation claimed at that point.

Data collection

Semi-structured in-depth telephone interviews.

Data analysis

Transcription followed by reading and re-reading. Initial noting, including descriptive, linguistic and conceptual comments. Then analysis across respondents, once individual respondents were exhausted.


The researchers bracketed their biases and prior knowledge - through bracketing interviews, the maintenance of a research journal to identify and bracket biases. The authors use a quote from Hein & Austin (2001, p. 5) about setting aside biases. However, I've also read an acknowledgement that this can't be done in reality and that this isn't what Husserl meant - I'll have to check where I read that.
They also discuss ethics within this section.


Findings reflect the lived experience and meaning of the process of learning qualitative research processes. They also discuss the use of double hermeneutic approach. The researchers identified five themes through their analysis: emotions, active learning,  pivotal experience, the role of story, impact of prior experience and knowledge. The authors mention that the focus in phenomenology is on the common elements of the phenomenon rather than on the individual.. However, this is at odds with the stress that Smith lays on the story and experiences of the individual in IPA, whose story should not be subsumed within the generalisations to come to wider essences. The sentence here tends to sound more like Husserl's phenomenology that Smith's IPA.

Theme 1: The experience of learning qualitative research inspires a range of emotions

I can identify with the feelings of the students - perhaps these are universal essences! Panic, elation.

Theme 2: Learning qualitative research requires active learning

Learning by doing.

Theme 3: A pivotal experience plays a role in motivating students to learn qualitative research

A pivotal experience served as a catalyst in their learning methods; often this was a moment of connection - with a method, with a person.

Theme 4: Story plays a central role in the experience of learning qualitative research

Listening to stories shared during interviews, memories of learning from stories as a child.

Theme 5: Students make meaning of their experience of learning qualitative research by relating it to their prior research knowledge and experience

Summary of results: Building connections

Learning qualitative research is a process of building connections, broadening understanding and opening up new vistas.


Support of previous findings, whilst identifying new ones. Discussion of  limitations: study participants all have prior experience of qualitative methods, all from a single university.

No comments:

Post a Comment