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Research Methodology
Researchers have varied perceptions on research methodology, which makes them adopt varied approaches while carrying out research studies. These distinct approaches are known as paradigms. Research paradigms can be defined as a general perspective or a way of alleviating the complexities of the real world (Willis, 2007). There are three main paradigms that are placed on a continuum, in which interpretivism is on one end and positivism on the other. What is more, post positivism appears to fall right in the middle and bridges the gap between the two farthest paradigms (Scotland, 2012).
Paradigms can be categorized through their methodology, epistemology, and ontology. Ideally, epistemology and ontology form the initial units to a great research study. Epistemology mirrors the outlook of what and how people can understand about the world whereas ontology regards what people believe comprises social reality (Scotland, 2012). Both the assumptions of epistemology and ontology inform the methodology that subsequently generates the techniques applied in the data gathering phase (Bahari, 2010). To this end, before conducting a research study, it is very critical to pin down the theoretical assumptions entrenched in the respective research paradigm.
More importantly, project-based learning is based on a constructivist learning approach, which includes the construction of knowledge with manifold perspectives within a societal activity, and facilitates self awareness of knowing and learning while being context reliant (Eloff & Ebersöhn, 2004). Therefore, to carry out a research study in this area, the most appropriate approach is the interpretive approach.
Essentially, interprevitism regards the study of interpretive understanding and meaning. Interpretivism is based on the anti-foundationalist ontology that holds the view that the world is socially constructed. From an interpretivist perspective, reality is created, but not observed. In this regard, it is solely through the interactions of humans with the real world that researchers can be able to understand, interpret, and explore phenomenon. In addition, interpretivism is founded on the subjectivist epistemology that holds that meanings are constructed through the interactions of human’s minds with the world around them (Hudson & Ozanne, 1988). This means that the reality equates people’s perceptions. What is more, interpretivists respect and value the people’s rights. The core conviction of this paradigm is that humans are not simply passive vehicles in political, historical, and social affairs, but have particular inner capabilities that can facilitate individual perceptions, autonomy and judgments (Gialdino, 2011).
Interpretive theorists are attributed to five assumptions. The first one is the conviction that any action or event is explicable in terms of manifold interacting events, factors and processes. The second one is the acceptance of the tremendous complexity in achieving absolute objectivity, particularly in viewing human objects that make sense or confuse the events based on their particular meaning systems. The third assumption regards the observation that the objective of an inquiry is developing a comprehension of individual cases as opposed to generalizations and universal laws. The forth assumption is the observation that the world comprises of intangible and tangible many-sided realities. The fifth assumptions is the recognition that inquiries are always value loaded, and that these values inescapably influence the focusing, conduct, and framing of a research. More importantly, the interpretivist paradigm is also known as constructivism since it highlights the ability of individuals to construct meanings (Guba & Lincoln, 1998; Denzin & Lincoln, 2003).
The theory of constructivism states that individuals construct their knowledge and comprehension of the world by experiencing on aspects and reflecting on such experiences. The central concept of constructivism holds that comprehending could be accomplished through people’s interactions with their environments (Packer & Goicoechea, 2000). Constructivists perceive individuals as constructive agents. They also observe the phenomena of interest (knowledge or meanings) as build rather than passively obtained by individuals whose ways of seeing, knowing, valuing, and comprehending influence what is valued, seen, understood, and known (Barkin, 2003). Knowledge is discursively and theoretically laden and researchers are the sum total of their subjective and personal values, attitudes, and opinions.
In essence, people act with intent and construct meanings of a similar phenomenon differently. Thus, the social world could only be comprehended from the stance of individuals that participates in the research study. To this end, constructivists and interpretivists do not commonly start with a theory; instead they inductively develop or generate a pattern of meaning or a theory throughout the processes of research (Mir & Watson, 2001). In contrast, generalization of findings into law in this paradigm is hardly possible as a result of the uniqueness of individuals and events. Interpretive approaches depend mainly on naturalistic techniques, that is, observation and interviews (Weber, 2004). These techniques ensure a sufficient discourse between the participants and researchers so as to collaboratively construct meaningful realities.
Positivism is coined in the in the conviction that reality could be observed. Positivism is based on the foundationalist and realist ontology that observes the world as existing autonomously of people’s knowledge. In addition, positivist research studies emphasize prediction, rationality and determinacy (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). There are several assumptions attributed to positivist research. The first one is that the world is independent and objective of knowers. The second one is that the world comprise of orderly and lawful events. The third one is that there is a clear distinction between the objective world and the subjective knower. This means that there is a clear variation between values and facts. The third assumption regards the subjectivity of a researcher. This also translates that the researchers’ values and concerns should not constrain the sighting of the objective fact. The last assumption is that there is reason and order in the social world whereby events hardly happen spontaneously, but instead follow an effect and cause pattern (Ponterotto, 2005).
The positivist paradigm results in a systematic and scientific approach to research study and lends itself to the application of quantitative methodology. As opposed to interpretivists, positivists describe life in quantifiable terms and exclude notion of choice and individuality. In addition, positivists have an assumption that social world could be studies in a similar manner akin to the natural world and supports the causal explanations nature. More importantly, positivist nature is value free, replicable, objective, and generalizable. The dogma of positivism hypothesizes that all real knowledge is based on experience and can only be expounded through observation and experimentation (Healy & Perry, 2000). Essentially, the notion that knowledge is generated from experience is referred to as empiricism. In this regard, empiricists suppose that the only effective approach to getting knowledge is through experiences, observation, and experiments. The epistemology of positivist researchers is based on the objectivist approach. Although objectivism is paired with thorough and controlled empirical tests, it can deliver reliable outcomes and dependable knowledge (Tuli, 2010). To conclude, a researcher in this paradigm is concerned with verifying hypotheses and theories.
Bahari, S. F. (2010). Qualitative Versus Quantitative Research Strategies: Contrasting       Epistemological and Ontological Assumptions. Jurnal Teknologi, (52), 17-28.
Barkin, J. S. (2003). Realist Constructivism. International Studies Review, 5(3), 325-342.
Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2003). Strategies of qualitative inquiry. Thousand Oaks, Calif.    [u.a.: Sage.
Eloff, I., & Ebersöhn, L. (2004). Keys to educational psychology. Cape Town: UCT Press.
Gialdino, I. D. (2011). Ontological and Epistemological Foundations of Qualitative           Research. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10(2), 1-16.
Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1994). Competing Paradigms in Qualitative Research. Handbook of qualitative research, pp. 105-117.
Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1998). Competing Paradigms in Qualitative Research; The            Landscape of Qualitative Research Theories and Issues. Competing Paradigms in             Qualitative Research; the Landscape of Qualitative Research Theories and Issues (pp.           195-220). Sage.
Healy, M., & Perry, C. (2000). Comprehensive criteria to judge validity and reliability of   qualitative research within the realism paradigm. Qualitative Market Research: An         International Journal, 3(3), 118-126.
Hudson, L.A. & Ozanne, J.L., (1988). Alternative Ways of Seeking Knowledge in Consumer       Research. Journal of Consumer Research, 14(4), p.508.
Mir, R., & Watson, A. (2001). Critical realism and constructivism in strategy research: Toward a   synthesis. Strategic Management Journal, 22(12), 1169-1173.
Packer, M. J., & Goicoechea, J. (2000). Sociocultural and Constructivist Theories of Learning:      Ontology, Not Just Epistemology. Educational Psychologist, 35(4), 227-241.
Ponterotto, J. G. (2005). Qualitative Research in Counseling Psychology: A Primer on Research   Paradigms and Philosophy of Science. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(2), 126-        136.
Scotland, J. (2012). Exploring the philosophical underpinnings of research: Relating ontology       and epistemology to the methodology and methods of the scientific, interpretive, and             critical research paradigms. English Language Teaching, 5(9), 9-16.
Tuli, F. (2010). The Basis of Distinction between Qualitative and Quantitative Research in            Social Science: Reflection on Ontological, Epistemological and Methodological      Perspectives. Journal of Education and Science, 6(1), 97-108.
Weber, R. (2004). The Rhetoric of Positivism versus Interpretivism: A Personal View. MIS           Quarterly, 28(1), iii-xii.
Willis, J. (2007). History and Context of Paradigm Development. Foundations of Qualitative        Research: Interpretive and Critical Approaches (pp. 27-65). Sage.

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