Mathematics Education: Perspectives on Research Techniques

Year: 1995

Author: Forgasz, Helen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Within the educational research methodology literature, heated debate continues on the relative merits of quantitative and qualitative research methods and whether the two approaches can be combined successfully. In the mathematics education fields of affect, gender, and studies of their interactions, calls have been made to engage in a wider range of research methods appropriate to the research question, in order to add breadth and depth to our understanding. The development of new measurement tools and the use of multipleresearch perspectives were advocated.

The relationship between classroom factors and a range of students' beliefs was investigated in a recent study. The affective variables incorporated in the research design were drawn from one of several models postulating explanations for gender differences in mathematics learning outcomes. Quantitative and qualitative research techniques were used. An innovative scheme for inferring beliefs from classroom behaviours was devised.

The knowledge gained extended understandings of the complexity of factors impinging on students' evolving beliefs.

In this paper, the rationale for combining research methodologies generally, and for the study mentioned above in particular, will be examined. The strengths and limitations of using combinations of research techniques will be discussed. In light of technological advances and alternative research perspectives, future prospects for research designs, including that of a current study involving tertiary mathematics students, will be explored.