A primer on phenomenography . . . a lead-in to interviewingmkoole, · Categories: Identity, PhD Studies, Research · Tags: interviews, learning, methodology, phenomenography, qualitative interviews
In a metaphorical sense the group of readers can be thought of as a prism through which the text passed, to be refracted and to exit in distinctly different meanings (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 150).
The following definitions are in no particular order except that I hope that one flows to the next. Also, they contain direct quotes from the books below with more specific referencing at the bottom of this page.
Bowden, J. A., & Walsh, E. (2000). Phenomenography (p. 154). Melbourne, Australia: RMIT Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.informit.com.au/products/ProductDetails.aspx?id=PHENOMENOGRAPHY_ERIN.
Marton, F., & Booth, S. (1997). Learning and awareness. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Not a method, but an approach primarily used in educational research (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 110).
- Takes a “relational or constitutionalist view” (Trigwell, 2000, p. 63). [See “conceptions” below.]
- The classic (and most cited) definition of phenomenography comes from Ference Marton himself:Phenomenography is a research method adapted for mapping the qualitatively different ways in which people experience, conceptualise, perceive, and understand various aspects of, and phenomena in, the world around them. (Marton, 1986, p. 31 also cited in Bowden, 2000, p. 2)
- Bowden describes the nature of phenomenography:. . . in a sense, phenomenographic research mirrors what good teachers do. It tries to understand what the students are doing in their learning. It attempts to discover what different approaches students are taking and to understand these in terms of the outcomes of their learning activities. (Bowden, 1986, p. 10 cited in Bowden, 2000, p. 48)
- Unit of study: “a way of experiencing something” (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 111). Also: a way of discerning something (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 112).
- Object of research: “the variation in ways of experiencing a phenomenon” (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 111).
- “The aim is . . . not to find the singular essences [as in phenomenology], but the variation and the architecture of this variation in terms of the different aspects that define the phenomena” (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 117).
- Within the phenomenographic perspective, learning involves a change in perception or integration of concepts. Marton & Booth (1997) write:. . . learning proceeds , as a rule, from an undifferentiated and poorly integrated understanding of the whole to an increased differentiation and integration of the whole and its parts. Thus, learning does not proceed as much from parts to wholes as from wholes to parts and from wholes to wholes. (p. viii).
- “Learning is mostly a matter of reconstituting an already constituted world” (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 139).
- According to Marton & Booth (1997), experiencing learning involves the how and the what. How refers to the “indirect object and the act of learning whilst the what refers to the direct object of learning (p. 91). The how and the what both contain structural (with internal and external horizons) and referential aspects. [See definition of experience below.] ” [Note: Should one use indirect object in this instance or ablative / adverbial? This would be so if the “how” phrase were somehow a predicate. But, “how” refers to an act. The word, act, is a noun form. But, in that case, can it not also be a kind of direct object? How refers to manner, which would be expressed in the ablative case in Latin. Hmmmm . . . ]
- An individual’s personal understanding of a phenomenon. This is not directly accessible or knowable by the researcher.
- The “relation between the individuals and the phenomenon” (Bowden, 2000, p. 17, 50). [This suggests the relational/constitutionalist view mentioned above.]
- Synonyms: ways of understanding, ways of comprehending, conceptualizations, ways of experiencing (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 114).
- Sometimes referred to as “apperceptions”.
- “‘Appresentation’ refers to the fact that although phenomena are, as a rule, only partially exposed to us, we do not experience the parts as themselves, but we experience the wholes of which the parts are parts. We do not experience silhouettes but phenomena (material or conceptual) in all their complexity of space and time” (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 100).
- “The description we reach is a description of variation, a description on the collective level, and in that sense individual voices are not heard. Moreover, it is a stripped description in which the structure and essential meaning of the differing ways of experiencing the phenomenon are retained, while the specific flavors, the scents, and the colors of the worlds of the individuals have been abandoned” (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 114). [Somewhat reductionist.]
- “The descriptions arising from phenomenographic research are relational, experiential, content-oriented and qualitative” (Marton, 1988, p. 94 cited in Dall’Alba, 2000, p. 94).
Category of description (CoD)
- Sometimes confused with conception. However, a CoD is a construct created by the researcher to represent as closely as possible the participants’ conceptions—at the collective level (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 128).
- Some researchers feel that CoDs emerge from the data as with grounded theory. In this view, the CoDs are viewed as forming an essential part of the data. I believe this suggests that the CoDs are believed to exist a priori. This sits in opposition to a social constructionist perspective in which the interaction of the researcher and the data mutually bring each other into existence (Walsh, 2000).
- Others, such as social constructionists, feel that CoDs are constructed and as such reflect the “relationship between the data and the researcher” (Walsh, 2000, p. 20). Rather, in my view, CoDs reflect a relationship between the researcher and the understanding shared by the participant. This view recognizes the role of the “wider analytical process” which rests upon a holistic-phenomenographic approach from project initiation.
- The outcome space represents the set of categories of description and outlines how they are logically related to each other. Equally important, the outcome space also indicates the internal consistency of the categories themselves (Walsh, 2000, p. 26). During analysis, constant examination of the internal and external logic guides the iterative construction of the CoDs and, hence, the outcome space.
- “. . . the outcome space is the complex of categories of description comprising distinct groupings of aspects of the phenomenon and the relationships between them” (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 125).
- “A more reasonable idea is to see the object as a complex of the different ways in which it can be experienced . . . ‘Outcome space’ thus turns out to be a synonym for ‘phenomenon’: the thing as it appears to us, which contrasts with the Kantian ‘noumenon’: ‘the thing as such’” (Marton, 2000, p. 105).
- The outcome space often results in 2 to 9 conceptions described or displayed in a way that shows how they relate to one another (Trigwell, 2000). [Interesting: this is reminiscent of Miller’s Law, the Magical Number Seven Plus or Minus Two: Some Limist on our Capacity for Processing Information.] Trigwell (2000) adds that the small number of conceptions might be due to the relative homogeneity of the participants within a given study.
- “Experiences are reflected in statements about the world, in acts carried out, in artifacts produced” (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 120). Phenomenographers take a “second-order perspective” that allows them to examine these experiences as they express their experiences. (p. 120). The researcher brackets as much as possible his/her own experiences of the phenomenon.
- Experiences are neither mental nor physical, but arise as a relationship between the two. In other words, experience is non-dualistic (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 122 and p. 164; Marton, 2000).
- According to Marton & Booth (1997), all experience is composed of structural and referential aspects. Structural aspects are composed of internal and external horizons which are internally related:
|Structural aspect (how)
|Referential aspect (what)
- Trigwell (2000) elaborates:Two internally related aspects of a category. If you like, an action (how) and the something being acted upon (what). For example, transmission is the how and the content is the what. We actually saw the how and the what as the same as the structural and the referential. (p. 74)
Figure & Field / Focal & Figural
- “The dimensions are discerned in relation to the thematic field against the background of which the phenomenon, and the situation in which it is embedded, is seen” (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 100). Note: a situation is located within a specific time, context, and space. A phenomenon is “experienced as abstracted from or transcending such anchorage” (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 82). This distinction is important in the study of learning as some learners may focus specifically on the situation whilst others may focus on the phenomenon underlying the situation. This is the foundation for the concepts of surface and deep learning.
- “. . .figure and ground . . . The underlying idea is that the salient features of a phenomenon—what we focus on when we talk about it—constitute what is important about it for us in that particular context” (Patrick, 2000, p. 123).
- These concepts, focal and figural, are integral to the phenomenological concept of awareness:. . . awareness has two most important qualities. One of them is that we cannot be aware of everything in the same way. I few could, there would not be any differences between individuals as far as their experiences, and hence their acts, are concerned. There would in fact be no world experienced; nothing would be more important than anything else. The other is that we are aware of everything at the same time, albeit not in the same way. Awareness is layered. Some things make up the core; they are objects of focal awareness; they are figural. Other things belong to the field, or fields, surrounding the core. Yet others belong to the fringe that extends indefinitely. Although we are not consciously aware of most things, we are aware enough for them to be pulled into the core if the changing here and now were to make them relevant (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 123).
- “The totality of a person’s simultaneous experiences, her relatedness to the world, I will call her awareness. The term ‘awareness’ is used interchangeably with the term ‘consciousness’ (Marton, 2000, p. 109).
- “Our awareness has structure to it. Certain things come to the fore, they are thematised . . . there are different degrees of how figural, thematised, and explicitly things or aspects are in our awareness” (Marton, 2000, p. 110).
- “We find that in various situations people manage to different degrees to discern and keep all relevant aspects of the phenomenon and of the situation in focal awareness simultaneously. What happens is that single aspects are abstracted or separated out, while others are left undiscerned” (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 102).
- “The variation between different ways of experiencing something, then, derives from the fact that different aspects or different parts of the whole may or may not be discerned and be objects of focal awareness simultaneously” (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 112).
- “It is necessary that something varies, some aspect of the situation that surrounds the person, for change to be experienced, in the least case something changing from one state to another. This change may happen to the learner or be brought about by her. It is through variation that aspects are differentiated within the experience of a phenomenon” (Marton & Booth, 1997, p. 145).
But, what has this to do with interviewing? That is the topic of my next blog posting.
Bowden, J. (2000). Chapter 1: The nature of phenomenographic research. In J. A. Bowden & E. Walsh (Eds.), Phenomenography (pp. 19-33). Melbourne, Australia: RMIT Publishing.
Bowden, J. (2000). Chapter 4: The experience of phenomenographic research. In J. A. Bowden & E. Walsh (Eds.), Phenomenography (pp. 19-33). Melbourne, Australia: RMIT Publishing.
Dall’Alba, G. (2000). Chapter 6: Reflections on some faces of phenomenography. In J. A. Bowden & E. Walsh (Eds.), Phenomenography (pp. 19-33). Melbourne, Australia: RMIT Publishing.
Marton, F. (1986). Phenomenography: A research approach to investigating different understandings of reality. Journal of Thought, 21(3), 28-49.
Marton, F. (2000). Chapter 7: The structure of awareness. In J. A. Bowden & E. Walsh (Eds.), Phenomenography (pp. 19-33). Melbourne, Australia: RMIT Publishing.
Marton, F., & Booth, S. (1997). Learning and awareness. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Patrick, K. (2000). Chapter 8: Exploring conceptions: Phenomenography and the object of study. In J. A. Bowden & E. Walsh (Eds.), Phenomenography (pp. 19-33). Melbourne, Australia: RMIT Publishing.
Prosser, M. (2000). Chapter 3: Using phenomenographic research methodology in the context of research in teaching and learning. In J. A. Bowden & E. Walsh (Eds.), Phenomenography (pp. 19-33). Melbourne, Australia: RMIT Publishing.
Walsh, E. (2000). Chapter 2: Phenomenographic analysis of interview transcripts. In J. A. Bowden & E. Walsh (Eds.), Phenomenography (pp. 19-33). Melbourne, Australia: RMIT Publishing.
Trigwell, K. (2000). Chapter 5: A phenomenographic interview on phenomenography. In J. A. Bowden & E. Walsh (Eds.), Phenomenography (pp. 19-33). Melbourne, Australia: RMIT Publishing.