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This event focuses on three qualitative approaches in higher education research. It aims to provide attendees with an opportunity to familiarise themselves with these three approaches, to discuss the potential application in their own research, and also to offer suggestions and recommendations. The session will be led by Dr Christine O'Dea, Professor Julian Stern, and Dr Mike O'Dea, and chaired by Dr Sinéad Murphy:

Dr Christine O'Dea will present on portrait methodology, a relatively new type of narrative methodology. The essence of portrait methodology is to represent the individual experiences of those being researched through portraits (written narratives) - the interpretations of the researcher.

Professor Julian Stern will discuss conversational methodology, which is a way of recognising and building on the important role of conversation in education, as understood by philosophers such as Buber, Oakeshott, Noddings, Pring, and White. It has been described more rarely as a research method, although some philosophers of education make that link (e.g. Fulford and Hodgson, and Pirrie), and Lawrence-Lightfoot and Sennett both describe ‘conversational’ social research applicable to higher education.  It has been more valued in action research traditions (e.g. Feldman, Bana, Chng and Coombs). 

Dr Mike O'Dea will present on grounded theory, which  aims to construct theories “grounded” in the data. It is often employed when the focus of the study is on development of theory rather than understanding of existing theory.  It emphasizes how data, analysis and methodological strategies become constructed and takes into account the research context and researcher’s positions, perspectives, priorities and interactions.

The intention of the event is to help attendees develop a familiarity with the approaches and the associated techniques to collect and analyse qualitative data. The event includes hands-on group activities to assist attendees with applying these approaches in their own research. Additional discussions will be carried out regarding the potential application of the portrait and conversational methodology in conducting more meaningful and purposeful higher education research.

Who is this session for?

This session is designed for those with an interest in qualitative research in higher education, and especially those looking to develop the range of research methods at their disposal.



Introduction and welcome

10.45 -11.15

Christine O’Dea: Portrait Methodology (including Q&A)

11.20 -11.50

Julian Stern: Conversational Methodology (including Q&A)

11.55 – 12.25

Mike O’Dea: Grounded theory (including Q&A)

12.25 – 12.35


12.35 – 13.15

Group activities and discussions, led by our presenters

13.15 – 13.30


Presenter bionotes

Dr Christine O'Dea is a Subject Group Lead at Huddersfield Business School (from mid Jan. 2023). Currently she is a senior lecturer, course leader at the York Business School, York St John University. She has more than 15 years of experience in higher education as an educator and a researcher. Her major research interests lie in the areas of digital innovation, digital education, management education and global education. She has been conducting and publishing high quality research in recognized journals, such as the British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET) and Policy Futures in Education. Currently she is an associate editor (educational technology) for the Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice. She is also an editorial board member for Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education. Previously she was a lead guest editor for the British Journal of Educational Technology.

 Prof Julian Stern is professor of education and religion at Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln.  He has more than 30 years of experience working in higher education, and has published widely, including on research in higher education, for example, ‘Monologue or Dialogue?  Stepping Away from the Abyss in Higher Education’, London Review of Education (2009), ‘Dialogues of Space, Time and Practice: Supporting Research in Higher Education’, Other Education: The Journal of Educational Alternatives (2014), and the monograph Virtuous Educational Research: Conversations on Ethical Practice (2016).

Dr Mike O’Dea is a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at York St John University. He has over 25 years experience of teaching in HE and has lectured around the world including in New Zealand and China. He specialises in Machine Learning and Databases and has a research interest in Computer Science education. He is a member of SIGCSE, the ACM Special Interest Group in Computer Science Education.

References (no prior reading is necessary to participate in this event, but the below list may be useful for those interested in wider reading on the topics covered in the session):

  • Bryant, A. (2019). The SAGE handbook of current developments in grounded theory (K. Charmaz, Ed.). SAGE.
  • Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing grounded theory (2nd ed.). SAGE.
  • Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2014). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (4th ed.). SAGE.
  • Glaser, B. G. (1992). Basics of grounded theory analysis: Emergence vs. forcing. The Sociology Press.
  • Miller, D.A., 2022. Using Constructivist Grounded Theory to Examine the Experiences of Black British Female Managers: A Worked Example. Qualitative Report27(10).
  • O'Dea, X. (2021). Portrait Methodology: A Methodological Approach to Explore Individual Experiences. In Theory and Method in Higher Education Research. Emerald Publishing Limited.
  • O'Dea, X.C. (2020). Perceptions of Chinese top-up students transitioning through a regional UK university: a longitudinal study using portrait methodology (Doctoral dissertation, University of Hull).
  • Sbaraini, A., Carter, S.M., Evans, R.W. & Blinkhorn, A. (2011). How to do a grounded theory study: a worked example of a study of dental practices. BMC medical research methodology11(1), pp.1-10.
  • Stern, L J (2014) ‘Dialogues of Space, Time and Practice: Supporting Research in Higher Education’, Other Education: The Journal of Educational Alternatives, 3:2, pp 3-21.
  • Stern, L J (2016) Virtuous Educational Research: Conversations on Ethical Practice; Oxford: Peter Lang.
February 15th, 2023 from 10:30 AM to  1:30 PM
Online event - link will be provided
Event Fee(s)
Event Fee(s)
Member Price £0.00
Guest Price £75.00
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