Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Just looking for some feedback

I had a lot of trouble understanding the different views of analytic philosophy. Noddings stated that many educational philosophers consider themselves analytic philosophers by being engaged in conceptual analysis. She also stated that philosophers cannot effectively set aside their values while then engage in analysis. I believe this to be true and a very interesting thought. I pose a question (hoping for feedback), is it better as a researcher to confess your values and base your studies on them or try to research without them?

I was exposed to this type of analysis during my masters program in a qualitative research class. This was discussed but referred to as 'subjective lenses' by Corrine Glesne in Becoming Qualitative Researchers. She expresses embracing the different values and calls them "Subjective I's".

I was wondering about other views on including personal subjectivity into research. Does anyone thing this is good? Or inevitable perhaps. Maybe it is bad?


alicepawley said...

Bethany - from my perspective, it is way way way better to admit to your biases (if you're aware of them) than pretend they don't exist. Psychological research suggests that *everyone* has biases, even over such trivial things about height (shown pictures of women and men separately, subjects will report the men as being taller, even when in reference to "standard-like" objects.) Think about the biases we must have over *complex* things.

Some feminist researchers argue that being aware of one's own subjectivities or perspectives, particularly those people who experience oppression, allows one to "shine light" on particular social phenomena, in particular the very oppressions they experience. In that way, the "subjectivity" is critical to the successful completion of the research.

A long way to say, inevitable, and sometimes critical to doing good research.

What are others' thoughts?

Robin said...

This is a great question - and I'm glad you brought it up - it reminds me that I have a useful tool for talking about "values" in research that I could bring to class.

It's something Marion Petre at the Open University came up with called the "bias" circle. If you think of the typical things that go into designing a study - at every step along the way biases (values, for example) can come into the process. For example, the variables you choose to study in a quantitative experiment at some level assume that other variables don't matter or cannot be expressed in a useful way. While to the outside world it looks "value-free" and objective - the reality is that choosing variables is exactly that - a choice. Once it becomes a choice - you can't ignore values.

For me, this becomes a question of integrity and being persuasive. The integrity issue gets big if you think there was an intentional act to not include something (it gets complicated if it is unintentional). The "being persuasive" issue is that when you share your work with someone else part of the credibility in a good argument is explaining your choices that influenced your ability to collect quality data and make sense of it in meaningful ways.

I agree with Alice - "subjectivity" plays a really important role in research by making visible things that for whatever reason we believe is not important.