2.2.1 Quantitative and qualitative data
Quantitative data are numerical data, such as the number of students who submitted a tutor-marked assignment, or pass rates, or the time taken to complete an online activity such as a quiz. Qualitative data are non-numerical data, such as students’ reflective journals or transcripts from interviews with students.
Quantitative data most often involves qualitative judgements. Consider the design of a statistics examination which yields a percentage mark for each student. The examination and marking guidelines are designed by an educator or a group of educators. The students make sense of what the questions are asking and use their judgements to answer the questions. So, a simple quantitative measure of marks is based on qualitative judgements made by several individuals.
Similarly, qualitative data can be expressed and analysed numerically; for example, how many students reported in their reflective journals that the online quizzes in the module had helped them to prepare for the Tutor Marked Assignment.
Poole (2013) states that many researchers, and not just those pursuing SoTL, have moved well beyond an ‘either/or’ debate regarding qualitative and quantitative research methods yielding quantitative and qualitative data respectively, and that ‘mixed method’ approaches are common in research designs.
An example of a ‘sequential mixed methods’ design is quant → qual, when a survey is first conducted and certain individuals are selected on the basis of characteristics highlighted in the survey for further, more intensive study using a qualitative method such as interviews.