We can learn a lot by studying innovations in research methods from across disciplines. This set of articles is a great example. They will be interesting to qualitative researchers in other policy areas beyond education, and to qualitative researchers beyond policy studies.
The American Behavioral Scientist journal published a special issue about Qualitative Approaches to Policy Analysis in March of 2019. Read an interview with the guest editors, Monica Reid Kerrigan and Ane Turner Johnson, and read these selected articles that are open access until mid-July.
Qualitative Approaches to Policy Research in Education: Contesting the Evidence-Based, Neoliberal Regime (Kerrigan & Johnson, 2018)
Abstract: This issue highlights problems with the neoliberal research regime in education policy—one that marginalizes, homogenizes, and dismisses communities, critical voices, and methodologies that could improve educational practice. We argue for greater methodological diversity in policy studies when engaging in research conceptualization, applying theoretical frameworks, collecting data, undertaking data analysis, and critiquing the researcher’s epistemological standpoint and positionality in order to redress these deficits in understanding and representation. Indeed, we suggest that qualitative research plays an important role in also contesting the positivist regime in that it empowers those affected by policy, particularly voices often placed in the margins of policy, and contests a methodological hegemony that privileges a neoliberal paradigm in education. Each article in this issue situates a methodological approach within the praxis of education research, describes an essential departure from the quantitative “gold standard” in policy analysis and research, and provides pedagogical evidence of its application to a specific policy. The introduction of this special issue underscores the need for diverse methodological approaches to understanding the complexity of education policy, provides overviews of the articles, and ends by considering the significance of the issue to researchers, policymakers, and practitioners.
Abstract: Although policy studies frequently focus on legislation, researchers should not overlook the importance of regulations in their analyses. This article introduces policy researchers to a variety of online data sources available for studying federal regulatory policy. Sources range from electronic versions of federal periodicals to online repositories of public comments to more interactive Internet resources, all of which provide rich data for understanding regulatory policy. This article also explores how qualitative methodologists have conceptualized online research methods and provides a template for an online data source research protocol that may be useful for policy researchers. Finally, this article uses the U.S. Department of Education’s Borrower Defense Rule as an application case to illustrate how to make use of online data sources in regulatory policy studies.
Abstract: This article offers Foucauldian discourse analysis (FDA) as an innovative qualitative methodology to apply to the intersection of social media and public policy research. The article has two sections. The first section briefly defines FDA and discourse and situates the methodology in the educational policy research literature. The second section applies FDA to a narrative about the Common Core State Standards as it occurred on Twitter, with an explanation of key terms throughout the process.
Using the Extended Case Method to Expand the Scope of Policy Research: An Examination of the Educational Outcomes of a College Preparation Program for Low-Income, Racially Minoritized Students (Kimball, 2019)
Abstract: This article describes how the extended case method, a tool of critical qualitative inquiry rooted in ethnography, can be used to inform policy research. Using examples drawn from a yearlong ethnographic study of a college preparation program, it demonstrates the utility of the extended case method for policy research through a discussion of literature on educational policy and qualitative research methods. It then uses study findings to show how the extended case method can address challenges related to context and meaning in policy evaluation focused on causal relationships. Implications for future qualitative policy work are also offered.
Kerrigan, M. R., & Johnson, A. T. (2018). Qualitative approaches to policy research in education: contesting the evidence-based, neoliberal regime. American Behavioral Scientist, 63(3), 287-295. doi:10.1177/0002764218819693
Kimball, E. (2019). Using the extended case method to expand the scope of policy research: an examination of the educational outcomes of a college preparation program for low-income, racially minoritized students. American Behavioral Scientist, 63(3), 351-368. doi:10.1177/0002764218820568
Natow, R. S. (2019). Online qualitative data sources for Federal Regulatory Policy studies. American Behavioral Scientist, 63(3), 315-332. doi:10.1177/0002764218820567
Sam, C. H. (2019). Shaping discourse through social media: Using Foucauldian Discourse Analysis to explore the narratives that influence educational policy. American Behavioral Scientist, 63(3), 333-350. doi:10.1177/0002764218820565