"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Validity – Let me count the ways…

I was having a little problem understanding what exactly was being referred to as “validity” during the project presentations. I finally figured out it was a difference in discourses (surprise!). My discipline has taught me these discourses around validity constructs:

·         Face validity – the degree to which a measure seems to be measuring what it is intended to measure
·         Content validity – how well a measure covers the range of meaning associated with a concept
·         Predictive validity – how well a measure is associated with future behaviors, etc.
·         Construct validity – how well a measure of a concept is associated with a measure of another concept of a theory that it should be associated with
·         Internal validity – agreement between a study’s conclusions about causal connections and what is actually true (I figured out I was getting closer to the class objective with this one)

Needless to say, I was hearing validity with my “measurement” ears and I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be addressing.  My bookshelf, however, contains a nice selection of research methodology resources and in Action Research (McNiff and Whitehead, 2006) I found this: “…when we claim our theory has “validity” we say it has truth value and is trustworthy… (has been) demonstrated as having truth value through a rigorous process of public critique” (Pp20-21).

McNiff and Whitehead (2006), discuss the researcher’s validity by raising questions about whether a “practitioner is competent to judge their own work and how they will assure the “watching public” that their findings are credible and trustworthy.” To do this the practitioner/evaluator must make their “evaluation processes visible and show that (processes) are rigorous and robust, and produce strong evidence to show that they as practitioner-researchers are competent and capable” (p. 70).  My methodology entailed having the class “discover” the text alongside me in order to make the processes visible. My qualifications as a research-practitioner, while frequently referenced in class, were not explicitly stated in the presentation.  Further reading discussed “claims-making” and how the researcher’s awareness of validity threats and attempts to control for those are documented.  It is important for the researcher-practitioner to articulate the values that inspired the work, as well.

I began to understand that I needed to ask myself – why did I choose this topic? After giving that some thought, I came up with the following, which I hope will address my bias and improve the validity of my analysis.

Scholarly activity and research are essential activities of the university, as is teaching, creative expression and service.  A review of evaluation practices show a mix of ¼ service and ¾ teaching and research are generally acceptable, teaching success demonstrated by class loads, evaluations, etc.,  and research by publications and/or funding.   “Scholarly activity and research” for teaching faculty have, largely, been measured by the number of quality publications.  My claim: There is a culture shift wherein “funded” research is being weighted more heavily in importance than ever before. Dollars count. Why is this important to me? I am not a tenure/tenure-track faculty, nor am I evaluated by the same standards as tenured faculty, so what is in it for me? I realized this had to do with my values and beliefs.

I am a student of organizational culture and change management. I gravitate towards looking at things through a cultural lens. Throughout my career, I have worked to create environments that can bridge workplace obstacles so that people can “do what they are there to do” – yes, I think I can say I coined that in as much as any of us “coin” commonsense.  I am also a “research practitioner” meaning I do research within the organizational structure of the university – and routinely navigate all of the requisite policies and procedures. I know what it means from a practitioner point of view to conduct research within the university structure. I know how time-consuming and confusing the system can be.  I am aware of what supports are available and what ones are lacking or non-existent. 

My bias? – concern about how this culture shift is going to be managed – about how the organization is going to address the problem of a lack of infrastructure to support the expectation for faculty to pursue ever greater amounts of “funded” research – and all layers that go with that expectation.  How do my concerns affect my study? I am motivated to do something, like maybe raise my voice in the context of my project.  But I have tried to do so in such a way that other “experts” can draw their own conclusion about the discourse in Theme II.  

Thanks for reading....susangale

1 comment:

  1. Very helpful post, Susan. I have to do a presentation on validity in phenomenological research next year, so I may steal this posting(but give you credit, of course!) I emphatically agree that in qualitative research, validity is more about transparency (of out biases, of the limitations of our data, of our effect on in the respondent's utterances, etc.) and rich, thick description.
    Heidegger talks about four prevailing theories of truth in research: (a) Correspondence (to a fact), (b) Coherence (part of, flows from, a system of belief), (c) Pragmatic (practical) value. and (d) Assertion. Huh? assertion???
    Heidegger is not concerned here with correctness nor correspondence, but the self-showing that assertion brings forth. When someone is tripping on LSD and says, "Oh wow, I can see the end of the universe" much truth is revealed about the sayer! Same might be said about an historical character in a novel or ancient text--the aim of this kind of research is to enable that assertion to let itself be known. OK, sorry for all this goofy stuff...the point is, truth and validity are wonderful loaded and of many stripes. Thanks for opening up your commentary with such good organization, and ending it with your self disclosure about your values and beliefs. VCU is so lucky to have your counsel as we move forward...


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.