Nurturing the Apprentice: An Immersion Training in Qualitative Research

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Abstract

Many colleges and universities prioritize teaching quantitative methodology in research courses, leaving students without substantive training in qualitative research. This paper describes an immersion experience for undergraduate students interested in learning qualitative research, especially in a setting in which there is no standalone course. The groundwork for this apprentice style of teaching qualitative research can be understood through the work of Lev Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal developmentVygotsky & Cole (1978) and Lave and Wenger’s (1991, 1994) theory of legitimate peripheral participation. In this paper, we highlight these 2 theoretical positions foundational to an immersion experience for qualitative research training and then describe a current immersion-lab experience including student reflections from their experience in a qualitative research lab. The student reflections were responses to a culminating reflexive activity that evoked 2 questions after their training: “What was your initial understanding about qualitative research? What was valuable about the process of this lab experience?” Three salient themes were identified: The immersion experience provided a corrective to beliefs about research, students valued the sense of belonging through the research-team experience, and students underwent a research-identity expansion. We argue that an immersion experience offers an apprenticeship model of relational learning whereby faculty supervisors scaffold students from a learner’s mode of engagement toward an identity shift as they internalize visions of themselves as qualitative researchers. We conclude with suggestions for how an academic department can organize immersion-lab experiences, particularly when a qualitative standalone course is absent from the undergraduate curricular program.

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