Mixed Methods Working Group

The ideas expressed herein are those of the Mixed Methods Working Group and not those of the Spencer Foundation or any other agency that funded the work reported here.

Funded by the Spencer Foundation


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.

Documents: Statement and Research Studies

Mixed Methods Statement

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.

Exemplary Mixed Methods Research Studies

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:

  1. How were methods mixed in this study?
  2. Why was mixing methods vital to the study?

Grant Participants

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.

Participants included:

  • Elizabeth Albro, Associate Commissioner for Teaching and Learning, Institute of Education Sciences (IES)
  • Andrea Conklin Bueschel, Associate Vice President-Program, Spencer Foundation
  • Paul Cobb*, Professor, Vanderbilt University
  • Greg J. Duncan*, Distinguished Professor, University of California-Irvine
  • Jacquelynne Eccles*, Distinguished Professor, University of California-Irvine
  • Margaret Eisenhart*, Distinguished Professor, Bob and Judy Charles Endowed Chair of Education, University of Colorado-Boulder
  • Ruby Mendenhall, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Pamela Moss*, Professor, University of Michigan
  • William Penuel, Professor, University of Colorado-Boulder
  • Robert K. Ream, Associate Program Officer, Spencer Foundation 2013-2015; Associate Professor, University of California-Riverside
  • Rubén G. Rumbaut*, Distinguished Professor, University of California-Irvine
  • Finbarr Sloane, Program Officer, National Science Foundation
  • Lois Weis*, SUNY Distinguished Professor, University at Buffalo
  • Thomas S. Weisner, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Departments of Psychiatry & Anthropology, University of California-Los Angeles
  • James Wilson, Program Director, Russell Sage Foundation

* Indicates that participant is a member of the National Academy of Education