Over the past decade, research universities and funding agencies have vigorously encouraged research that works towards solving pressing and large-scale problems related to education in an increasingly diverse and unequal society. It is widely accepted that such research often demands broad-based research teams that are multi-disciplinary and employ a range of research methods from the social sciences. Constructing and actualizing such broad-based teams both within and across universities increasingly demands that scholars leverage institutional support to pursue external federal, state and/or private foundation funding and work across disciplinary and methodological boundaries to accomplish their goals.
Although there is some discussion as to what mixed methods research is or should be, little attention has been paid to the ways in which such methods can be thoughtfully and rigorously employed in the service of broad based research projects that both attack significant educational issues and seek external funding. As we move towards such research, there is increasing recognition that although popular, it is in fact difficult to conceptualize, actualize, and write up for publication, studies that utilize some form of mixed-methods. Many questions and constraints remain regarding research goals; methodological choices and coordination; constructive team development; and forms and venues for impactful dissemination of research results.
Funded by the Spencer Foundation, we held two Mixed Methods Working Group meetings to address the topic of mixed-methods research in education. These meetings brought to the table a small group of preeminent, senior scholars who have either themselves conducted successful mixed methods research or have been engaged in long-term discussions of such research, as well as foundation officers who have been instrumental in forwarding the field by considering and funding such work. A complete list of participants is found below.
The first document is a statement entitled Mixed Methods for Studies that Address Broad and Enduring Issues in Education Research. This statement is a collaborative effort of the Mixed Methods Working Group (MMWG). The goal of the MMWG was not to debate or come up with a singular definition of mixed methods research, but rather to produce a document that would consider the utility of such research in the service of broad and significant research questions in education. We were seeking recommendations as to how empirical researchers could usefully address important and enduring educational problems using mixed methods approaches. As such, our group addressed key features of successful mixed methods research; challenges of proposing and conducting such research; ways to address such challenges; training in mixed methods research; and issues of funding and publishing such work. To focus our discussion, we drew on examples of exemplary mixed methods research suggested by all members of the MMWG.
The second document is entitled Exemplary Mixed Methods Research Studies Compiled by the Mixed Methods Working Group. Group members were asked to annotate suggested resources with the following questions in mind:
The Mixed Methods Research Working Group was made possible by a research grant from the Spencer Foundation to Lois Weis, University at Buffalo; Margaret Eisenhart, University of Colorado-Boulder; and Greg Duncan, University of California-Irvine.
* Indicates that participant is a member of the National Academy of Education