Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)

Module EDUC59315: Qualitative Research In Educational Settings

Department: Education

EDUC59315: Qualitative Research In Educational Settings

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce the student, through in-depth study of carefully selected studies, to the range of approaches that have characterised qualitative and/or ethnographic approaches in education.
  • To illustrate and explore critically the range of positions that exists within this field on such matters as validity and truth, the relation of the quantitative to the qualitative, the role of theory, the political or non-political role of the researcher, and the relation of the researcher to the researched.
  • To introduce the student, via a critical examination of the data collection and analysis techniques employed in these studies, to the range of techniques available for the analysis of qualitative data gathered in educational settings.


  • Research Studies in education employing qualitative/ethnographic approaches will be studies in depth, and critically. These will be chosen to illustrate the range of approaches that have characterised the field over the past 40 years. Exemplars will include explanatory/descriptive case studies of institutions and individuals (some of which will employ mixed quantitative and qualitative methods), 'critical' ethnographies, and 'postmodernist' studies. Candidate examples include: Lacy's Hightown Grammar, Balls's Beachside Comprehensive, Miller and Parlett's Up to the Mark, Willis' Learning to Labour, Mclaren's Schooling as a Ritual Performance, Lather's Getting Smart, and Stronach & Maclure's Educational Research Undone, In addition to these studies, course content will also include papers debating the merits and demerits of these various approaches taken from such sources as the America Educational Research Association's Educational Researcher, the journal Qualitative Studies in Education, Martyn Hammersley's writing on ethnography, and Denzin and Lincoln's Handbook of Qualitative Research.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Understand critically the underlying rationale for qualitative research - in particular field research in education.
  • Understand critically the major approaches and techniques for conducting qualitative research in educational settings.
  • Understand critically the practical and ethical issues that arise in the conduct of qualitative research.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The critical ability to understand the skills necessary to prepare, undertake, analyse and disseminate qualitative research in education.
Key Skills:
  • The critical ability to work on ideas and issues independently and as part of a group.
  • The critical ability to present ideas through class presentation and writing.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students will be required to study in depth a small number of key exemplars of qualitative research in education. Prior reading will be followed by seminar discussion, supplemented by exercises in data analysis.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 6 Weekly 2 12
Practicals 1 Once 3 3
Preparation & Reading 135
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment 3,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Students complete an observational exercise to enable them to: Demonstrate a critical understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the data observation can yield; Reflect critically upon their own fieldwork role; Show an ability to conduct a preliminary analysis of the data that observational research provides; Provide some critical understanding of the role observation fifils in the suite of approaches central to ethnography and; Provide a suitable awareness of the ethical dimensions of their observation.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University