About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Is constructing knowledge based on analysis a work literacy skill?

I have been reading "Constructing Grounded Theory" by Kathy Charmaz for my dissertation. As I was reading it, I began to think that many of the points she brings up could very well be used for the workplace.

One problem I see with all of the data and communication tools available to students is the lack of training on how to problem solve and conduct an analysis. In recent years, I have had to dedicate at least one entire class in how to conduct and analysis, and give a lot of support to students as they do their own analysis.

The idea came to me, as I was reading, that I could use the framework presented in the book to help develop analytical skills in my students and to help them to learn to construct knowledge from data by:

  1. learning how to collect relevant data. This requires skills in:
  • interviewing
  • document retrieval
  • story telling
  • interpersonal communication skills
  • searching skills
  • creating links between content and perception
  • the ability to see the other person's perception
2. Coding and identifying trends in the data. There are two different types of coding in grounded theory: initial and focused. In initial coding, a researcher uses action words to describe the data (categories). After the initial coding, the researcher then goes through the data to see if any of the data supports those initial categories. This process allows gaps in the analysis to be more obvious. These gaps then require further data gathering.

Since initial coding requires constant interaction with the data as it is collected, it is a better mechanism to identify gaps in the data early and to construct theory that is less biased (less likely to look for data that supports the theory rather than reading the data to create/construct theory which is then supported by the data).

Imagine giving workers this tool in knowledge work. Attach labels to information (perhaps using programs like delicious?) that is the initial categories. Then going back and reviewing the data to see if it fits into the categories or if there are gaps in the data. From this, their analysis was begin to emerge. The book includes other types of coding (which I am still reading about) that would help to structure an analysis.

3. Memo writing: I haven't gotten to this chapter yet. However, just by skimming the chapter, I perceive this as a way to reflect and document the knowledge creation process. By putting the analysis in words, the individual is creating knowledge for both themselves and others, making their learning transparent. I could see using a blog for this portion.

What struck me about reading this book, is how useful qualitative research methods could be in helping to prepare the 21st century knowledge worker. There still is a focus in most business schools and training programs on the quantitative data (hard facts) while qualitative research methods are considered "soft". However, much has been developed over the last 20 years in the field of qualitative research methods that makes qualitative research as valuable as quantitative research, as long as the research uses a systematic approach. In addition, the deeper thinking skills needed in good qualitative research could create opportunities for the construction of new knowledge and more complex ideas.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia

Johann Goethe was purported to have said "if you go looking for evidence to support your hypothesis you will find it". He said this in the context of finding 'truth'.

So much pseudo-research is performed and the results announced on bogus foundations from data, either inappropriate to the quest or gathered with misguided enthusiasm without due thought given to its validity or even relevance. It requires analytical skill to detect the baloney - often requiring a far keener eye than needed for the initial observation of valid and reportable data.

Teaching the skills required for useful analysis, of either type, requires higher order thinking, not just on the part of the tutor, but also of the learner.

Ka kite

V Yonkers said...

The question is, is analysis being "taught"? At what age should this skill be taught? From your comment, I would assume you feel that this is a secondary education skill at the earliest. Yet, using this process, I think we can start developing this skill at a younger age (although, the level of analysis would not be the same at a younger age).

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe Virginia!

You say "we can start developing this skill at a younger age". I feel that it's not a matter of age as much as development. Analysis requires a fair deal of conceptual thinking - I won't go into that here.

But there are some specific analytical skills, for instance, that have been studied in detail, such as the ability to analyse 3D spatial arrays required in senior secondary Chemistry. These have shown that development depends on a range of factors and is not necessarily directly age dependent.

Also, it is well recognised (and Vygotsky did studies on this with young children) that skills and concepts beyond the zone of proximal development cannot be learnt. That's to say, development has to take place before the child reaches a stage where the zone of proximal development embraces these higher skill areas and concepts.

We, as teachers, may go through the motions of teaching a concept or skill and some students are very good at bluffing (or fluffing) their way through what may appear to be an analysis of sorts. But I often wonder, even with some senior students, if they really have the skills. There are a number of tell-tale diagnostics that a trained teacher can use simply to ascertain whether the concept has been reached.

Ka kite

Tony Karrer said...

Virginia - I agree it needs to be taught and I was just having a conversation with someone who describe a kind of analysis teaching by asking students to examine elements of art work. Test scores in math and writing improved because of their greater analysis ability.

V Yonkers said...

Ken and Tony, you both made me think about what we learn at different stages of our life. I think we are pushing our children in the US to learn things before they are ready to really "learn" it.

You might want to read my posting on creating "mind velcro" .