Research Methods

The understanding of the object of research that has been outlined essentially requires methodologically the observation, recording and analysis of the situated teaching process itself. To investigate the quality of subject learning, especially in individualized and decentered forms of elementary school teaching, video-based research approaches are indispensable. Video -based research captures both teacher behavior and the reactions of the learners. Additionally, teachers and students are observed in different situations and subject contexts. For individual questions, such as the significance of lesson planning for its implementation or the ‘results’ of lessons in the form of student work, the interview instrument or document analysis is also useful.

Thus, classroom interactions and the social practice of professional learning in the elementary school classroom are analyzed on the basis of video recordings, protocols, and documents from real everyday teaching. The Graduate School’s research program allows and requires a wide range of case studies focusing in different ways on the empirical observation of the relationship between subject learning and interaction practice in elementary school. These case studies (dissertation projects) are to be developed according to their respective specific research questions in their respective specific research design and methodological orientation. The relation of qualitative and quantitative projects results from the common reference to situated problems of the interactive execution of German and mathematics lessons in elementary school.

Moreover in some cases, it is possible to draw on the existing extensive corpus of video-based instructional research in elementary school generated via research projects from the University of Kassel. For example, extensive empirical material is available from the PERLE (“Personality and Learning Development of Primary School Children” in German and Mathematics) and KoText (“Cooperative Student Feedback in Text Revision in Primary School German Classes”) projects.

The prerequisite for a constructive and productive collaboration across the different methodological paradigms is the awareness of the limits of one’s ‘own’ methodological approach and the recognition of the possibilities of the ‘other’ approach. In the course of the study program, at least a basic understanding of both reconstructive and standardized research logic should be developed in all cohort members, even if most of them will move predominantly within one paradigm with their own research.

The first cohort will initially develop primarily qualitative case studies that analytically explore basic practices of task processing or structuring instruction, asking how they relate to the interactional organization of instruction. These studies are explorative and theory-generating. The research design follows the principle of ‘theoretical sampling’ and focuses (usually in the form of video observations) on cases that appear to be particularly informative for the respective research question.

Some aspects of the research program will be dealt with in the context of a larger standardized video study. This video study will include both German and mathematics lessons and will prescribe the subject content as well as a rough structure of the lessons. The curricular standardization will enable the comparative analysis and reconstruction of subject-specific learning processes, and this data corpus will also be used to focus on the organization of interaction by means of course and sequence analyses. The video study will be conducted successively at the cooperating schools from the beginning of the graduate program. Later on, the second cohort will be able to draw on the complete data set of this video study; projects from the first cohort can also already work qualitatively-exploratively with data from the video study.

Video data, as observational data, are first of all fundamentally qualitative in nature. They enable the reconstruction of logics of execution, of connections between practices, of connections and disconnections in the interaction with the means of a qualitative video analysis, which is particularly directed at sequentiality but also at synchronous phenomena (Dinkelaker & Herrle 2009). Here, sampling strategies follow the basic principle of “Theoretical Sampling” (Strauss 1998) and compare, for instance, minimally and maximally contrasting cases. The data corpus of the standardized video study also allows the transformation of the observational data into quantifiable data in the form of rating and coding procedures. A highly inferential rating on support quality, pedagogical relationship, autonomy support, cognitive activation, subject-specific structuring and appropriateness and low inferential coding on the type of support activities, feedback types, thematization of subject-specific and supra-subject-specific aspects are envisaged. These data then allow for appropriate statistical analyses. Qualitative and quantitative analyses can complement each other in various ways in the context of the video study.

Dinkelaker, J., & Herrle, M. (2009). Erziehungswissenschaftliche Videographie. Eine Einführung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Strauss, A. L. (1998). Grundlagen qualitativer Sozialforschung: Datenanalyse und Theoriebildung in der empirischen und soziologischen Forschung. München: Fink.