A student’s Perspective of doing Qualitative Research – Aoife Henn.

My final year project was carried out under the title of ‘Meaningful Moments in Learning to Teach Wellbeing within Physical Education’. This was a qualitative research project conducted using a visual enquiry method called photo voice. Even as a first year, the final year project was always something to be anticipated, having seen many students before us proudly presenting a piece of work with their name on it.

During the second semester of third year, when the concept of a final year project was finally presented to us, I must admit that a juxtaposed sense of excited apprehension came over me as the time had finally come for my own FYP. This first instalment of three FYP modules involved choosing what topic or area to carry out our research on. We were briefed on the various types of research methods under qualitative and quantitative methods, and I chose the title ‘Meaningful moments in learning to teach physical education’ and focused on the particular aspect of ‘wellbeing’. This module comprised of composing a brief overview of the outlined project, primarily focusing on previous research carried out in the field of our chosen topic and the methodology that would be applied.

Fast forward to first semester of final year, while on placement, I had to carry out the collection of my data. This is where it gets fun, as I dive in the qualitative method of data collection which was the visual enquiry method of photo voice. In other words, I had to take pictures of what I thought stood out as meaningful or significant moments as I navigated the integration of wellbeing into my teaching during placement. To tell the truth, I would have had a limited experience with the different types of qualitative research methods, however I found this particular method truly appropriate to the personal, reflective element of this project. Taking pictures enabled an almost dual perspective or insight into the moments captured – 1. The objective perception of the still moment captured and 2. The personal story behind it. This was facilitated in the focus group meetings that took place among all researchers under the topic. I found that this component of the project was informing and insightful and established a foundation for the finding’s component. In the focus groups, each researcher presented two photographs accompanied by a reflection of their sentiments based on what the photo represented and how it related to teaching their chosen aspect. The photo gave an impartial visual insight into the teaching experience, while reflections offered an authentic and personal insight into that moment. Presentations of the photos were followed by further discussion and questioning posed by the other researchers in the group along with supervisors. I found this type of data collection, particularly the dialogue among researchers/supervisors facilitated a more in-depth, critical reflection of my teaching experiences which helped me with deduce not just what the teaching experiences were but why they were significant and the implications they reveal for my practice as a physical education teacher.

Finally, the concluding semester of final year came around and our last FYP module promptly began. This semester involved the analysis of our data and of course the infamous poster construction and presentation. At the beginning of the semester, I carried out a thematic analysis of the transcriptions of the focus groups (using the sections that were relevant to my own project). I had to sieve through thousands of words and code different pieces of information into different categories. The purpose of this was to highlight and identify key themes that emerged from the data. For my project, the primary theme that emerged were relationships, student voice, pedagogies, and stakeholders. With these themes and key quotes that represented the themes, I had to refer to the research to see how these either coincided with or contrasted the previous research carried out in the field of wellbeing and education, for example student-teacher relationships as a determinant of wellbeing was consistent with my theme of relationships. This allowed for a greater understanding of my findings. Using thematic analysis and referring and comparing to the literature proved to be very informative in terms of implications for me as a teacher as I had evidence from the literature coupled with my own experience of teaching to guide my future decisions and practice as a physical education teacher.

Overall, participation in a qualitative research project enabled a critical, personal reflection of my experiences to integrate and implement wellbeing into my teaching. I found the photo-voice element to be appropriate for the title I chose as it captured the objective moments while allowing further deliberation on the issues or context of the photo. Despite the initial dread of a long-awaited final year project, I thoroughly enjoyed using this type of research method to reflect on how I navigated the teaching of wellbeing.

 

Aoife Henn is a 4th year BSc Physical Education student, PESS department, UL.

Contact: 18243193@studentmail.ul.ie

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