Friday, February 25, 2011

Qualitative Methods!

The Qualitative Methods in Psychology course is required for all psychology majors at Clark University. Because it is required, it seems that there is a split in opinion about how much students enjoy this class, especially because it's definitely been taught differently than any other course I've taken at Clark. The semester is divided into two projects: the first is a participant observation project, and the second is an interview project. My professor has set up the course so that there are no midterm or final exams, but rather a quiz every class on the readings.

There seems to be little question about the value of this course: it's definitely important because it teaches students that there is more to psychological research than quantitative methods (like surveys & manipulated experiments). It has helped me to understand the importance of qualitative research, especially in regards to creating and developing theories. Spending time in the field (I chose to observe in the Clark bistro) has been frustrating yet beneficial; frustrating because it was time-consuming to observe, but beneficial because the readings functioned well as supplemental and explanatory materials, working hand-in-hand with the in-field work.

But it hasn't been quite so simple. Many students are disgruntled about the overall lack of direction (the observation assignment was very open to interpretation, especially in regards to what students desired to spend their time examining), and at the same time, many are pleased by the flexibility. Overall I enjoyed this project despite it not being quite compatible with what I imagine my ideal learning style to be. In addition to our class periods we had weekly discussions led by our PLAs (Peer Learning Assistants), and I found those to be very helpful; a comfortable place to discuss and gain clarifications.

This weekend I will begin work on my final observation report (ten pages or so), outlining my experiences with this project and tying in the course readings and discussions. And right after Spring Break we'll jump into the interview project! I am rather excited for this one; the elderly, as a group, are probably my favorite type of people.

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