Alternative Research Methods in International Education

Draft syllabus
Updated version will be provided in class
Alternative Research Methods in International
Fall 2014
Wednesdays 1-4pm
HS 275
Bjorn H. Nordtveit (office hours by appointment: [email protected] )
Historical and theoretical grounding in non-positivist research approaches.
Alternative research methodologies include feminist research methods and issues,
discourse analysis and deconstruction as post-modern research approaches, and
participatory action research approaches as emerging from a post-colonial
This course is divided into three parts: (i) an overview of non-positivist research
approaches will introduce alternative feminist and participatory action research
approaches as well as visual ethnography; (ii) content analysis will introduce the
methodology of classification of latent and manifest content of a body of
communicated material (film, social and written media); and (iii) discourse analysis
will examine how social and power relations, identities, and knowledge are
constructed through written, visual, and spoken texts. For this latter, we will use an
interdisciplinary lens, studying three core traditions of analysis, including discourse
theory, critical discourse analysis and discursive psychology.
The course demonstrates tools to analyze texts and to assess their underlying
symbols and imagery of in the form of spoken statements, publicity, posters and
awareness-raising messages, photos and movies. Students will have the
opportunities to apply various analytic methods to conduct hands-on research in
their field of interests.
After successful completion of this course, students will:
Understand the theoretical and methodological traditions that inform
current uses of new forms of non-positivist research approaches in
educational and development research;
Identify appropriate methods and uses of content and discourse analysis in
research as determined by research questions and purposes;
Use of qualitative software (NVivo) to analyze education and developmentrelated texts, posters, films and images;
Apply various approaches of content and discourse analysis to research in
international education and development.
Those who have spoken or written data samples – or photos or movies – to work
with for analysis may use these for the course; the others will be expected to select
an international or national policy to be used as their sample for analysis.
The class entails a combination of personal reading and analysis, lectures, and
student presentations. The course is being offered on a pass/fail basis with a letter
grade option. Any student wishing a letter grade must submit a written request for
that option by the fourth class meeting. The evaluation is based on the following
Class attendance, participation and leading discussion of one reading: 30%
Four brief online exercises: 40%
Project and presentation: 30%
Reader (Required): Philips, L. and Jørgensen, M. (2002). Discourse Analysis as Theory
and Method. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
(Recommended): Stephen Spencer, S. Visual Research Methods in the Social
Sciences: Awakening Visions. Oxon: Routledge.
(Recommended): Krippendorff, K. (2013). Content Analysis: An Introduction
to its Methodology. Thousands Oaks: Sage.
(Recommended): Pink, S. (2013). Doing Visual Ethnography. Thousands Oaks:
Moodle - the course will have other readings, materials and resources available on
Moodle. Students will be expected to make weekly use of Moodle for assignments
and readings.
COURSE SCHEDULE (provisional)
Session 1: Introduction to the fields of content and discourse analysis
Session 2: Content analysis 1
Session 3: Content analysis 2
Session 4: Critical semiotic research approaches
Session 5: Postmodern feminist research approaches
Session 6: Visual ethnography
Session 7: Participatory action research
Session 8: Discourse and power
Session 9: Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory
Session 10: Critical discourse analysis 1
Session 11: Critical discourse analysis 2
Session 12: Discursive psychology
Session 13: Analytic approaches compared
The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to providing an equal
educational opportunity for all students. If you have a documented physical,
psychological, or learning disability on file with Disability Services (DS), Learning
Disabilities Support Services (LDSS), or Psychological Disabilities Services (PDS),
you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in
this course. If you have a documented disability that requires an accommodation,
please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make
appropriate arrangements.
Since the integrity of the academic enterprise of any institution of higher education
requires honesty in scholarship and research, academic honesty is required of all
students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Academic dishonesty is
prohibited in all programs of the University. Academic dishonesty includes but is
not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty.
Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of
academic dishonesty. Instructors should take reasonable steps to address academic
misconduct. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed
academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the
appropriate course instructor as soon as possible. Instances of academic dishonesty
not related to a specific course should be brought to the attention of the appropriate
department Head or Chair. Since students are expected to be familiar with this
policy and the commonly accepted standards of academic integrity, ignorance of
such standards is not normally sufficient evidence of lack of intent.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst requires that the University excuse any
student who is unable to attend classes or participate in any examination, study, or
work requirement because of religious observance.
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