Thoughts, writing & snippets

Marguerite Koole, PhD

Identity Accelerator #4: Sorting Your Stuff [Intro to Thematic Coding in Qualitative Research]

mkoole, · Categories: Educational technology, Identity, Teaching · Tags: ,



“Sorting your stuff” is a fun activity. It can lead so some personal revelations. What this activity involves is the participants emptying their handbags, book bags, backpacks, or other containers that they have with them. Then, they sort the objects into two or three categories and, in doing so, explain how they chose the categories into which they sorted the objects.

This is an activity that I have used in conducting workshops on phenomenography. But, recently at the 32nd Annual Qualitative Analysis Conference (2015), I noted that some professors* of qualitative research methods also use this activity to introduce basic thematic coding. It is, however, possible to use this activity simply as an “introductions and welcome” activity in a more general sense. For classes that are not related to qualitative research, facilitators can ask students to select object of different topics and themes.





Teacher responsibilities



I have had excellent success in using this activity for facilitating phenomenography workshops. However, it is important to remind students of qualitative research that they will more than likely be categorizing complex concepts. The use of simple manipulatives has its limitations. Therefore, I recommend this type of activity as a springboard. More in-depth discussions and activities are necessary in any instruction of qualitative thematic coding.

By asking the students to reach into their own handbags and backpacks, you are asking them to share some information about themselves. What we carry with us daily can provide insights into who we are as people. This activity can stimulate interesting and, at times, interesting discussions about what is important to us. I use “us” because the instructor should actively demonstrate and share alongside the students. In this way, this activity very much contributes to the acceleration of identities.


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Note: for an introduction to identity accelerators for online teaching and learning visit this entry.

*Note: The speakers at the 32nd Annual Qualitative Analysis Conference who mentioned this technique were: Gail Lindsay (UOIT) and Jasna Schwind (Ryerson University).

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