The process of collecting and analyzing data in qualitative studies presents a number of difficulties. Unlike the quantitative, or empirical, tradition, qualitative data analysis encompasses numerous elements and lacks explicit boundaries. According to Lodico, Spaulding and Voegtle (2010), the analysis of qualitative data often borders on or even overlaps the process of interpreting qualitative research results. Analysis and interpretation are inseparable in qualitative research, but researchers possess a variety of instruments to ensure sufficient credibility of study results. At the heart of this analysis is the interview taken from an instructional specialist in the middle and high school regarding the use of technologies in the 21st century classroom. The goal of the interview was to collect primary information on the use of technologies in middle and high schools from the perspective of an instructional designer. The goal of this paper is to perform a detailed analysis of the interview data, based on the data analysis process presented by Lodico et al. (2010).
As mentioned earlier, the interview took place in the middle and high school setting, and the instructional specialist was the interviewee. Since the goal of the study was to explore the use of technologies in the modern classroom, the research question explored during the interview was "How do you use technology to support all learners in the twenty-first century classroom?" The questions asked during the interview were focused around this task and were intended to create a complete picture of technology usage in the given educational setting.
Qualitative Data Collection and Analysis
According to Lodico et al. (2010), the process of qualitative data analysis incorporates six essential steps. The researcher working with qualitative data will have to: (1) prepare and organize the data; (2) review and explore the data; (3) code the primary data into categories; (4) construct thick description of people, places, and activities; (5) develop themes and create/test hypotheses; and (6) report and interpret the data (Lodico et al., 2010). These are the steps that are to be followed in this report.
Preparing and Organizing the Data
At this stage of qualitative data analysis, the primary data should be presented and organized in ways that make it suitable and easy (Lodico et al., 2010). This data can be presented in the form of audiotapes, notes, or interview transcripts. For the purpose of this report, the latter approach was used. An interview transcript was developed to convey the primary and secondary meanings of technology use in the twenty-first century classroom. Powers (2005) suggests that transcribing interviews is a difficult and time-consuming task, but this is the only way qualitative researchers can organize the primary data in ways that do not distort their original meaning and help capture the slightest changes in the interviewees' mood and the direction of their thought. Below is the interview transcript that was accomplished at the preparation and organization stage of qualitative data analysis:
Interviewer: What is your name?
Interviewee: Dr. Kelvin Butts
Interviewer: What is your job title and how long have you been teaching?
Interviewee: I am the instructional specialist for the middle and high school. I have been in education for almost twenty years.
Interviewer: What content area do you specialize in?
Interviewee: Science, anatomy, and biology.
Interviewer: How do you use technology to enhance learning in the twenty-first century classroom?
Interviewee: Technology can be used in many different avenues within the classroom so that all learners can learn and be reached. When you walk into a twenty-first century classroom, you can expect to see all forms of technology.
Interviewer: What are different types of technologies that are used at your school?
Interviewee: All of our classrooms have promethean boards. Teachers and students are able to interact with these smart boards. The smart board turns the classroom into a virtual field trip. Video streaming is used on regular basis. The Internet is a powerful tool as well.
Interviewee: We also received local funds that allowed all of our middle and high school students to receive iPads. This grant has really helped many of our students especially our low socio-economic students who do not have computers or Internet at home. Our students with learning disabilities also benefit from the use of iPads. There is an app that our English Language Learners use which can help improve their speaking and writing skills. When it comes to students that are not on grade level reading, there are apps that can read the books to those students and also provide activities which can help the students comprehend what they are reading.
Another type of technology that we use is the clicker. It allows students to make instant responses to quizzes or trivia games. We also use video cameras, iPods, listening devices and digital cameras.
Interviewer: Over the past few years, have you seen an increase or decrease in state standardized testing? Do you think the increase can contribute to the use of technology?
Interviewee: We have seen an increase in student achievement over the past five years. I feel that with the differentiated instruction provided in the classrooms as well as the use of technology have contributed to the increase in students’ achievements. Technology has provided our students with understanding and communicating with the world around them.
This interview transcript presents the outstanding opportunities for organizing, coding, and interpreting the qualitative data. It provides vast opportunities to the data analysis and review. The data collected from the interviewee is not organized by data or chronological order, mainly because the interview itself is too short to be organized in such a way.
Reviewing and Exploring the Data
Reviewing and exploring the data is the stage of qualitative data analysis, when researchers look at the information that is available from the interview and try to decide the scope and specificity of the primary data (Lodico et al., 2010). Very often, this stage of qualitative data analysis slowly transforms into coding, since by reviewing and exploring the data, qualitative researchers identify the most essential interview codes and themes. The analysis of this interview suggests that it is quite brief and cannot contain many codes and themes. At the same time, the way the interview was transcribed opens new venues for the analysis and interpretation of the primary data.
The interviewer and interviewee have been clearly identified. Their speech is comprehensible, questions are specific, and descriptions are detailed. Only one respondent was interviewed, thus facilitating the analysis of the qualitative data. The interview transcript implies that the interviewer and the interviewee have managed to engage in a meaningful dialogue and explored the most pertinent instructional issues in depth (Hutchby & Wooffitt, 2008). Despite the small amount of primary data, they can be used to identify the most essential themes and code them.
Coding Data into Categories
Coding is the most laborious and controversial element of qualitative data analysis. "Coding is the process of identifying different segments of the data that describe related phenomena and labeling these parts using broad category names" (Lodico et al., 2010, p.187). It should be noted, that qualitative coding differs considerably from the coding processes used in quantitative research. Unlike quantitative studies, qualitative coding implies variations in the codes used within one data document or set (Babbie, 2010). At times, codes are derived from the theoretical frameworks used by researchers, but in most cases, it is through the examination and exploration of the primary data that researchers develop a set of codes and themes (Babbie, 2010). In this qualitative study, no theoretical framework was used. Codes were developed, based on the detailed analysis of the interviewee's responses. The goal of this coding process was to identify the codes and themes that will contribute to the researchers' understanding of the instructional practice, the use of technologies in the classroom, and their implications for education (Hardy & Bryman, 2009).
Before codes were developed, several notes were made to identify the most essential topics and themes, as well as the perspectives used during the interview. It is clear, that the problem of technology use in the 21st century classroom is discussed from the instructional perspective. Moreover, it is the perspective of science instruction, since the interviewee specializes in science, anatomy, and biology. Another important emphasis is on the twenty-first century technologies, as the interview and qualitative data analysis take place in the context of the postmodern middle and high school education. Finally, the diversity of technologies and openness in adopting and using them in the classroom is the theme that transcends all aspects of the interview. The interview provides detailed explanations regarding the types of technologies used in the classroom and the benefits they provide to students.
As a result of this analysis, the following codes were developed:
Instructional specialist; middle and high school; in education for twenty years; science, anatomy, and biology
Middle and high school; twenty-first century classroom
Period of time
Twenty-first century classroom
Promethean boards; smart boards; the Internet; iPads; clicker; video cameras; iPods; listening devices; digital cameras.
I feel; I believe; really helped;
Helped many of our students; who do not have computers at home; improve their speaking and writing skills; read books to students; help students comprehend what they are reading.
Middle and high school students; low socioeconomic students; students with learning disabilities.
Virtual field trip; video streaming; English Language Learners; read books and comprehend; make instant responses to quizzes or trivia games.
Table 1. Code categories and names, based on the interview transcript provided.
The results of the coding process suggest that many code categories and code names overlap. In other words, some code names belong to more than one category. For instance, "middle and high school" can be categorized as both setting and perspective. In the meantime, "twenty-first century classroom" has been defined as both setting and the period of time, when the interview takes place. Dey (1993) criticizes coding for its failure to help recover the data, once they are coded. Still, coding remains one of the most powerful and reliable instruments of data analysis, which brings the most essential themes and concepts found in the primary data to the surface.
Constructing Thick Descriptions of People, Places, and Activities
The goal of this stage is to produce detailed and relevant descriptions of everything that happened during the study (Lodico et al., 2010). In this case, the thick description includes detailed information about the interviewee, the setting in which the interview took place, and the activities observed in the classroom during the interview. Dr. Kevin Butts, the instructional specialist for the middle and high school, is sitting at the table in a large classroom filled with computers and various technologies. iPads and smart boards can be seen here and there. The interviewee is a middle-aged, well-looking man, very energetic and dynamic in his speech. While communicating with the interviewer, the instructional specialist asks the students, who are present in the classroom, to use their iPads and find the latest political news that are of interest to them. In this way, as he explains, he is testing the way iPads speed up the process of data analysis by middle school students. The interview covers only several minutes, since Dr. Butts is extremely busy with the students. He seems to be looking for the new ways to use technologies in the classroom. The students look encouraged and motivated to learn. They are focused on the technologies and look very interested in what they are doing.
Building Themes and Testing Hypotheses
Themes can be described as "big ideas" that incorporate more than one code, and in which these codes are linked logically, turning into a hypothesis (Lodico et al., 2010). These themes and hypotheses are then used to interpret and analyze the primary data. Based on the results of the primary data analysis, the following code categories were united into themes. First, the categories of setting and perspective were united to present the theme of the twenty-first century classroom in the middle and high school. Second, the code categories "period of time" and "technologies" make up the theme of twenty-first century technologies that include but are not limited smart boards, iPods and iPads, listening devices, and others. This theme can be further supplemented by "perspective", thus creating a new theme of the twenty-first century instructional technologies for middle and high school students. Finally, the "emotions", "benefits", "activities" and "users" categories can be easily united into the theme of "instructional technologies that benefit students from low-income families and students with learning disabilities by providing access to technologies and improving their academic results."
Interpreting and Reporting Data
The best way to interpret and report the data derived from this interview transcript is to present it in a thematic sequence (Lodico et al., 2010). This being said, one of the most important findings is that the views on technology use in the twenty-first century classroom are presented from the instructional perspective. Consequently, the views of other parties, including students, are ignored. Furthermore, the diversity of technologies used in the middle and high school classroom should not be ignored. The fact that the school has received a state grant implies that the number of instructional technologies will continue to increase. Third, from the instructional perspective, technologies greatly benefit students' learning and improve their results. Students from low-income families and students with learning disabilities are particularly susceptible to these benefits. It is possible to assume that these views reflect the main premises of the constructivist approach to learning, when students are allowed to construct their knowledge through their interactions with technologies and the environment (Gagnon & Collay, 2001). This theoretical framework can be used by future researchers to analyze and interpret the results of their qualitative studies.
The process of qualitative data collection and analysis requires time and effort. Lodico et al. (2010) provide a convenient and easy-to-use scheme to help analyze and interpret qualitative research results. In this paper, an interview with an instructional designer from the middle and high school was used. The data was organized as an interview transcript, which was used to identify perspectives, themes, develop codes and unite them into a hypotheses. Due to the small size of the interview, only eight code categories were developed. The main themes identified during the interview included: twenty-first century high and middle school classroom, twenty-first century instructional technologies for middle and high school students, as well as the benefits of instructional technologies for students from low-income families and students with learning disabilities. The results suggest that, from the instructional perspective, the twenty-first century middle and high school classroom has access to a diversity of technologies, which benefit students and make the process of learning more interesting and convenient. Future researchers could re-interpret these results from a new, constructivist theory perspective.