Trusting the Process: Using an emergent design to study adult education

Hazel Wright


This paper describes the process of becoming an educational researcher. Years of carrying out minor research projects where time and disciplinary constraints necessitated a pre-planned research strategy, led to a determination to let the unfolding research agenda dictate the choice of methods in a doctorate. I wanted to explore the interpretative paradigm in depth in addition to adopting an interdisciplinary approach to my research. I therefore spent some considerable time studying different methodologies and questioning my own ontological and epistemological position before electing for ‘real world research’ using an emergent framework rather than a postmodern form of bricolage. The reasons behind such decisions form the background to this paper.

The research topic was a case study of a group of mature adult women returning to education to train in childcare. Data capture required retrospective recall so, of necessity, the major research strategy was that of interview but the flexibility gained through researching students already known to me, allowed a degree of experimentation with the interview techniques, particularly a shift from semi-structured to conversational style to associative interviewing. This required a means to evidence the nuances within the discourse, met by the adoption of conversation analysis techniques at the transcription stage. Immersion in the data allowed an holistic interpretation. This led to thematic analysis, the development of typologies and creation of localized theory, and then to the adoption of the capability approach as a conceptual framework taking the theorization to higher levels of refinement, demonstrating that my trust in the process was founded.


Adult education; women's education; Early Years work; Childcare training; Capability Approach; Emergent methodology

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