Liberty Differences between Phenomenology and the Grounded Theory

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This week’s readings contain phenomenology and grounded theory examples. After completing the readings, address the following in a written analysis:

  • Explain the purpose of the study
  • Summarize the guiding research questions.
  • Explain the role the researcher(s) assumed in this study.
  • Determine how the researchers applied the principles of either the phenomenology or grounded theory design to address their research problem.
  • Explain how it was an appropriate qualitative design to effectively address their research problem of interest.
  • Identify the data collection strategies used by the researcher(s).
  • Examine any ethical issues that emerged in the research.
  • Explain the challenges/limitations of the study.
  • Assess the overall study, including whether the approach was effective.
  • Recommend additions and/or modifications for consideration that may be used to improve the design and implementation of the study.Support your assignment with at least three scholarly resources. In addition to these specified resources, other appropriate scholarly resources, including older articles, may be included.Length: 5-7 pages, not including title and reference pages

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The Grounded Theory Review (2014), Volume 13, Issue 1 Marshaling Resources: A Classic Grounded Theory Study of Online Learners Barbara Yalof, American College of Education and Harcum College Abstract Classic grounded theory (CGT) was used to identify a main concern of online students in higher education. One of the main impediments to studying online is a sense of isolation and lack of access to support systems as students navigate through complex requirements of their online programs. Hypothetical probability statements illustrate the imbalance between heightened needs of virtual learners and perceived inadequate support provided by educational institutions. The core variable, marshaling resources, explains how peer supports sustain motivation toward successful program completion. Understanding the critical contribution virtual interpersonal networks make towards maximizing resources by group problem solving is a significant aspect of this theory. Keywords: Online learning, e-learning, personal learning networks, peer networks Background Online programs present a particularly appealing alternative to face-to-face programs in higher education as economic realities force more students to retain employment to pay for spiraling costs of education. The economic potential of the growing online market has not been lost on institutions of higher learning. Traditional programs have struggled to sustain a viable student base, but they can increase their numbers through the addition of national and international online students (Appana, 2008). In 2012, enrollment in online courses grew 9%, with the proportion of students enrolled in online courses at 32%, an all-time high (Allen & Seaman, 2013). In light of the continual growth of online courses it is particularly alarming that attrition in online programs can exceed that of traditional programs by 10-20% (Allen & Seaman, 2010). Not only do students who leave an online program forfeit learning opportunities, but the institution also suffers lower enrollment, thereby imposing financial strain and reducing the vibrancy of the student body. Sustainability of programs in higher education relies heavily on recruitment of student populations who complete their programs and conclude that their academic experience has been a worthwhile investment (Gittings, 2010). Empirical studies have not explained sufficiently how institutions can reduce online attrition (Kember & Leung, 2009; Tinto, 2012). Kember (1989) recognized the need to generate theories that explain attrition from online programs. He maintained that it is difficult to draw conclusions because the number of constructs in this substantive area is 16 The Grounded Theory Review (2014), Volume 13, Issue 1 “unwieldy if not unmanageable” (p. 279). The use of CGT provides the writer a greater understanding of the “motivational drivers” (Glaser, 1998, p. 32) of a particular group of participants. Discovering the main concern of online students through the systematic application of GT methodology draws into focus the dominant psychological coping mechanisms of online students. The Theory of Marshaling Resources The main concern for online learners distilled from this study is a feeling of disconnect or isolation, which may manifest itself as panic or anger, when confronted with a barrier to success. Because studying online is accomplished in a solitary virtual environment, students interact with the computer and must be able to navigate the learning management system and engage with the material in the absence of peer support. As learners progress through their programs, they find inconsistencies between their own expectations and needs and their online educational environment (Kiliç-Çakmak, Karatas, & Ocak, 2009). Glaser (1978) discusses how people position themselves (in this case, for success) by purposefully managing others. Students learn how to maximize resources and reduce frustration by building peer connections. As groups progress from mutual dependency to reciprocity, trust builds, and relationships deepen. Harnessing the power of this safe haven they have created online, students vent and reinvigorate. Marshaling resources illuminates how and why people find camaraderie when they need to feel a stronger sense of connection. Given the promise of grounded theory to analyze patterns of human behavior in a systematic manner, I conducted a study around the grand tour question “Please talk about your experience as an online learner” to develop a theory that would provide a “theoretical foothold”(Glaser & Strauss, 1965, p. 268) into understanding problems that confront online students. What issues contribute to the high rate of attrition? Data were coded and compared and relationships between concepts analyzed to reveal several hypothetical probability statements to explain patterns of behavior problematic for participants (Glaser, 1978). The processes of constant comparison analysis (CCA) of data (Glaser, 1965), concurrent theoretical sampling, and the researcher’s theoretical sensitivity were the tools used to guide the emergent theory (Holton, 2010). Theoretical memos served as the basis for comparison and were written by the researcher “as they strike the analyst while coding” (author’s italics) (Glaser, 1978, p.83). Information was gathered from 18 undergraduate and graduate students in 14 online colleges. These participants administer, counsel, and teach in online programs, and provide divergent perspectives on pertinent issues. Theoretical sampling guided the choice of participants. In order to saturate categories, I chose participants who are satisfied with their programs, who had been extremely frustrated at some point, and who had dropped out. Information from experts was solicited and discussion groups of online learners in professional learning networks were examined and coded for relevant information to provide a well-rounded view of the current state of online education (Glaser, 2007). Marshaling resources highlights the power of social networking to fend off isolation and to create a network of like-minded peers who together solve problems that seem 17 The Grounded Theory Review (2014), Volume 13, Issue 1 unsolvable alone. The ability to trust others from afar transforms the learner’s experience of aloneness into one of powerful bonding. Marshaling resources includes the interrelated indicators of mattering, teaching ambience, navigating emotions, tipping point, breaking off, and replenishing. Mattering A nurturing presence, be it human or spiritual, is crucial to success in online learning. Online students may never meet anyone from their college, yet they want to believe they matter and what they are doing has value. Learners realize they may need to create a system of support, as they find the educational institution is unable to provide for all of their needs. Many develop a group of people who at first care about the same thing and then learn to care about each other; sometimes very deeply. Properties of mattering are sustaining motivation, practicing expertise, virtual invisibility, and connecting virtually. As a group coalesces, members form an emotional scaffold during stressful times. Peer networks eliminate isolation and associated feelings of anger and depression that occur if progress is twarted. Mattering applies also to the belief that the work accomplished in the online program will be beneficial for future employment and merits the significant hours of work involved. Coursework that complements practical skills is inherently motivating. One respondent notes “when assignments include freedom to use class assignments to enhance my employment skills, I feel that I am really learning and wanting to be there.” When coursework does not offer immediate application to work, students turn to peers to sustain motivation and enrich learning through socialization. Students enhance the creation or building of their own support systems through practicing expertise. Oftentimes, they provide information to peers in a quasi-teaching role, thereby enhancing their own feelings of self-worth by sharing their skills. In the online classroom, a more informed peer scaffolds a less knowledgeable peer by interpreting what is going on. This allows one person to lean safely on another without fear of being judged. These roles can reverse at any time, as tutoring relationships become the basis for personal relationships, which in turn become part of a support network. In this way, particularly in classrooms with low teacher presence, online students enlist others to make sense of assignments and achieve mastery over material. In turn, they reach out to help others as they internalize the power of reciprocity. Benevolent behavior helps people form friendships, which lead to co-building knowledge and teamwork (Knowles, 2008). Eventually, if mutually desired, repeated exchanges lead to a more intimate personal involvement. It is important to note that most of these group members never meet, yet are described as “family”. Without the benefit of face-to-face interaction, problem solving is more complex and can contribute to virtual invisibility, a feeling that, because you cannot be seen, your request can go unnoticed or ignored? One participant with a dual role as online teacher and student remarks how easy it is to ignore an online student in need. Those who study online 18 The Grounded Theory Review (2014), Volume 13, Issue 1 usually have time-sensitive issues, and stress compounds as time passes and nothing is resolved. A participant notes, “Once I get angry, I am wasting my time when I should be working.” It is relatively easy to mitigate these negative feelings. Data show that a simple act of a quick, personalized reply is effective in alleviating negative emotions, which begin to swell when people feel ignored. Relationships help redefine an isolating environment into a more nurturing one. Connecting virtually to others is a powerful motivator, as participants speak of not wanting to let down the people who believe in them. Teaching Ambience Encouragement from one who cares serves as a motivator for online students. The course instructor, though not visible in a corporeal sense, provides the teaching ambience, which directly affects course effectiveness and student satisfaction. A participant compares course experiences with a peer who had a different teacher in this same course. The peer teacher is warm and nurturing, while the other is non-responsive. The participant’s desire to continue online studies is revitalized after a course with a teacher who appreciates and shares her sense of humor. Data show many times it is the course instructor who guides the student back into the class and makes the most important contribution to student success. Properties of teaching ambience are feeling lost, rubric reply, and positioning to share. Instructor absence contributes to a sense of feeling lost in the online classroom. Data reveal this: as online teacher presence decreases, student struggle increases. Controlling class is a property of teaching ambience that attributes skill and willingness of the instructor to provide timely, constructive support and structure to student success. Without a visible and competent instructor presence, participants are susceptible to losing interest easily. One participant remarks that she sometimes feels as if she is her own teacher, and she has a grader who passes judgment, and she is not sure if she is learning. A learning environment ideal for constructing knowledge provides parameters for mutual respect and makes students feel safe to express themselves. In the absence of a strong teacher presence to enforce rules and classroom structures, numerous concerns arise. Participants note problems interpreting assignments and intense “unmonitored arguments among students.” Indolent peers might create annoyances, while other vocal students participate in arguments that derail learning through learner disengagement. This study corroborates research by Cull, Reed, and Kirk (2012) who note that chaos that can ensue without supportive presence of a knowledgeable instructor. This presence is essential to student intellectual growth and emotional stability; it stabilizes the group, and prevents flare-outs that derail learning. Rubric reply is a response that comes from a teacher in the form of feedback that lacks personalization. Many times comments are made and grade deductions are taken without specifics of how to improve their work. Data show assignments are difficult to 19 The Grounded Theory Review (2014), Volume 13, Issue 1 interpret and seem vague, and students feel they must tiptoe softly rather than ask for clarification. Online students can be nurtured by fellow students and in turn may nurture, but prefer to choose whom they nurture. Positioning to share is an aspect of the teaching environment as it informs classroom ambience relating to collaboration. The majority of online students do not want to collaborate, and view the forced collaboration of the online environment as impeding their learning. Certain conditions must be met in order for these students to build a mentoring relationship. They must possess a certain level of need for the relationship in order for them to engage. One participant says she understands that collaboration is “supposed to be a growth experience,” but does “not want to end up doing the extra work involved when folks do not live up to my standards.” High functioning online students are frustrated by the apathy of students who are supposed to be fellow collaborators. Eventually, foundering but motivated students gain confidence, and are welcomed as group members. The desire to build connections may begin in collaborative groups if potential members are identified by their positive response to nurturing. Navigating Emotions Navigating emotions involves the skill of the online learner to progress through complex learning management systems and degree requirements without letting negativity become overwhelming. Online students often encounter situations or emergencies, and students may think of dropping out if they encounter rigid authoritarian policies and attitudes. Remaining flexible is a property of navigating emotions. Online learners suffer less when institutions are flexible, and data revealed this to be contrary to the case in many situations. Navigating emotions is characterized by tiptoeing softly and relinquishing control. Tiptoeing softly involves not wanting to stand out as a complainer. In instances that do require clarification and support, online students try to finesse communications with those who are in a position to judge their work. One student describes a situation where she had misunderstood an assignment and received a poor grade, “Although I felt that it was her responsibility to provide remediation for me, you don’t want to alienate.” Online students often feel they have been wrongly judged, yet do not believe the fight is important enough to risk losing the teacher’s good graces. Relinquishing control applies as online learners reflect on the emotional turmoil of feeling misunderstood. Relinquishing resistance by continuing on despite these feelings, they are able to let negative comments go. One participant was unable to do this and was affronted by every perceived slight to her intelligence. The student was infuriated by not being able to challenge the teacher face-to-face and point-by-point. She ultimately left her program, feeling she could not control the situation from afar. Participants speak of seeing online chats become filled with angry rants. Few noticed angry comments within the classroom discussions; most negative comments were posted on the chat boards not seen by those who had the power to assess their performance. Students who develop trusted peers with whom they share are not likely to flame out in this way. 20 The Grounded Theory Review (2014), Volume 13, Issue 1 Many comments on chat boards are posted to receive support, be understood, and be heard. One student on a chat group I coded declared that she was finished; she has had enough. She received so many supportive replies in response to her cry and saw how much her trajectory towards program completion mattered to peers that she was mollified. Today I received a Linked In request from her with the much-desired “Dr.” in front of her name. Tipping Point A tipping point is reached when a solution to a problem does not appear to be within easy reach. Pressure and turmoil increase as unmet needs begin to outweigh support provided by the institution. Feelings of isolation and anger ensue. The very issues that caused others to flounder do not particularly disturb many participants. A tipping point occurs when the status quo alters and expectations or protocol undergoes a transformation. Policies that are changed midstream may force people into tighter deadlines or situations they are unprepared to accept. Subsequent points of frustration occur where systems of support provided by more structured environment give way to more independent projects. Lack of a strong teaching presence or poor responsiveness of the teacher causes stress that may be unbearable. Judgments passed in harshness, if not accompanied by a remedy or remediation, push online students to feel unsupported and they may flounder. Breaking Off Too much stress and harsh judgment may cause a sufferer to think about abandoning his or her efforts towards a goal. A high level of stress is associated with online students’ unmet needs. Students may feel ignored, invisible, and angry. These emotions precipitate a critical juncture (Glaser, 1998) characterized by thoughts of breaking off. Online learners assess the cost of failure (Scott, 2007) and may begin to look for help. Students who proactively search for resources (marshal) are in a better position to continue efforts to reach their goal. Marshaling resources is a skill that can be developed to avoid getting emotionally “dragged under” by perceived lack of support. Online students who have positioned for success have taken responsibility for organizing their own system of support. They may have a clearer picture of how to move forward, and do not face the lethargy that isolation may engender. Students who study online must master both program material and their emotions to move smoothly through a curriculum. Support from their peer group empowers both of these areas. Replenishing When emotional scaffolding is in place, energy is replenished by sharing and venting. A safe place to release stress reduces the chance of anxiety becoming overwhelming and unremitting. Students can be re-energized and reinvigorated even by small gestures of 21 The Grounded Theory Review (2014), Volume 13, Issue 1 consolation. Teachers have power to instill a positive attitude in students through personalized feedback. A change to a different instructor can revive a student’s interest in a class in which they struggle. Properties of replenishing are deepening faith and forging alliances. One participant discovers that she was in the same class as a new acquaintance, but with a different teacher. She shares this insight: Teachers interpret the same parameters of each class differently. They each had the same rules from the school but I discovered over the course of the program that they used a lot of flexibility in how they interpreted the rules. From this I realized that not all teachers are the same, and she had a great teacher. Although the course itself was exactly the same as mine, she was having a great experience. What was the difference? Kindness and caring are powerful motivators. Both participants in the study and students who contribute personal comments to the chat boards attest ...
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Differences between Phenomenology and the Grounded Theory
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Phenomenology refers to the study of the philosophical structures of consciousness and
experience. This philosophical way of the study was proposed by Edmund Husserl and later
expanded by his followers at Gottingen universities in Munich Germany. This mode of study
later spread to the United States, France and later to the rest of the world with the contexts if
Husserl's early work still holding. According to Gabriella Farina, Phenomenology is however
not a single state movement but rather a platform where different authors unify to a common
family with many differences. Another unique definition of the phenomenology study with a
thematic focus defines it as a way of thought, an ever-renewed experience with different results
or a philosophical problem-solving method. According to Husserl, Phenomenology is primarily
about reflection and study of consciousness structures and phenomena which relate to
consciousness. It can be differentiated from other methods such as the Cartesian analysis method
which takes the world as a set of objects. This conception has however been criticized not only
by Husserl himself but by many students like Edith Stein, existentialists like Nicolai Hartmann
among others (Husserl & Heidegger, 1964).
The Grounded theory methodology is used in social sciences that involve the development
of theories using methodical ways of gathering and analyzing data. The Grounded theory
methodology operates inductively contrary to the commonly used hypothetical and deductive
approaches. A unique way of this method of study is that it usually begins its approach by
questioning or with a collection of qualitative facts. The researcher reviews previously collected
data, documented ideas to be familiar with concepts and become apparent with elements.
Elements are presented with codes extracted from the sets of collected data (Strauss & Corbin,



When more data is gathered and reviewed, data codes are presented as concepts and then
categorized. The categories then become the new theory. This theory offers a methodology and a
unique way of conceptualizing collected data....

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