Friday, January 30, 2009

Week 4: Measurement

Both quantitative and qualitative are empirical methodologies involving "systematic research of contemporary phenomenon to answer questions and solve questions" (Morgan 25).

Quantitative design is as follows: Quantitative is experimental with “randomized subject selection, treatment and control groups” (Goubil-Gambrell 584). According to Goubil-Gambrell, quantitative involves experimental and quasi-experimental writing research.

Quantitative research does the following:
• Quantifies key aspects
• Manipulates variables (the manipulation is called treatment)
• Measures and statistically analyzes
• Establishes cause and effect relationships
A quantitative study of user experience with online manuals might, for example, identify how much experience the readers have with these books, and how quickly they could solve the problem.

Qualitative design involves case or ethnographic study with representative subjects in natural settings (Goubil-Gambrell 587). The greatest strength of this type of research is its in-depth depiction of subjects in an actual setting. Morgan states that “qualitative research enables researchers to investigate the process of the problem situation or describe features of the problem” and adds descriptive to the types of case studies (27).

According to Goubil-Gambrell, this type of research does the following:
• Descriptive in nature, and process
• Observes a specific situation
• Identifies key variables
• Frames questions
A qualitative study of user experience with online manuals might, for example describe how they used them, who used them, how often they were used, and whether or not people liked using them. Morgan lists 6 sources of data for qualitative researchers, including documentation, archival records, interviews and surveys, direct observation, participant observation, and physical artifacts (29).

There are two requirements of measurement: reliability and validity. According to Lauer & Asher, validity and reliability influence each other, but while measurement can be reliable without being valid, it must be reliable to be valid.

Reliability is one of the main requirements of all measurement instruments, and is the ability of independent observers or measurements to agree. It is largely socially constructed and contains a collaborative interpretation of data influenced by researchers’ tacit knowledge. It is generally reported as a decimal fraction. The three types of reliability include equivalency, stability and internal consistency. The data – whether it is nominal or internal – governs the kind of analysis used to determine reliability.

In public education, the emphasis upon state and federal testing of students has brought me some familiarity with the stability needed to judge whether test results will hold across time with some accuracy, but what it fails to judge is whether students will give a flip and actually try with the same intensity from one 3 month period on MAP tests, for example, to another.

Validity is its ability to measure whatever it is intended to assess, and it rests on the “soundness of interpretation of the measurement system” (L&A 141). Writing tests are valid if they have “congruence with major components of writing behavior” (L&A 140) Four kinds of validity can be determined: content, concurrent, predictive and construct. While the question of reliability can be definitively answered, the question of validity “can never be fully solved” - writing theories continually grow, change and evolve (L&A 141).

The terms probability and significance run throughout the Williams article regarding statistics and research, and includes percentages and samples that are endlessly plotted – so it deals with the likelihood that something either will or will not happen with any statistically definable result. The article, for example, points out that in terms of distribution, it can be seen through probability rather than frequency distribution. In fact, it seems much more useful to take the extra step (and extra work) to consider the term of distribution as a probability, and later encourages us, when dealing with null hypothesis, to use probability as a basis for our decision. It is apparently a sounder model?

Significance refers to whether a researcher can call whatever the difference or relationships he/she is studying “statistically significant” (Williams 61). There also seems to be some convention that notes that “significant at the p<.05 level” occurs at the level with which the null hypothesis is rejected (upon attaining this level of calculated probability) – so the two terms work together (Williams 61).

And that’s my book report.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Plato's Phaedrus

Blog #1: So I spent some time wondering why, with a mixture of pieces on technical writing, user experience, and visual arguments, we would read Plato's Phaedrus. Perhaps it serves as an example of Kinneavey's Modes of Discourse, which also discusses the history of discourse in Greece/Rome. Yet Kinneavey also mentions that the discourse of persuasion and poetry were dropped from the list writers kept on the forms of discourse (description, classification, evaluation, and narration). I'm going to have to go back and re-read it again, because later it stated that Alexander Bain's group included argumentation, narration, description and exposition, and that argumentation could be either persuasive or scientific. Any ideas folks? Is persuasive part of the Modes of Discourse or not? And if it is, where is it included (description, classification, evaluation or narration)?

On to Phaedrus...
I suppose that in order to understand the homosexual overtones of the work, it is important to understand that the term homosexuality is a post-Freudian concept, and it implies that one's sexual preference defines one's character as well. But in Greece, most men were married to women, but often had their closest emotional bond with other men. Typically, a male-male relationship would exist between an older man and a younger man between the ages of puberty and growing a beard. It is no secret that the activities men most admired - warfare, athletics, philosophy, etc... - were in the realm of men, and the virtue and glory could be shared amongst them in a way that no male-female relationship could.

Why bring it up? Well, the Symposium is full of sexual turbulence and at one point, Alcibiades tells Socrates that only Socrates is good enough to be his lover, and if he gratifies Socrates, then Socrates should help mold Alcibiades into a better person. Socrates wisely states that cheap thrills are no match for deep wisdom. Alcibiades persists, attempting to arouse Socrates under the sheet (literally one sheet), but finds that Socrates has self-control, which he realizes is a virtue (and later, he will see that Socrates can drink extensively and still not be tipsy, and can put up with food shortages better than others - but we, the reader, are never sure if this is accurate or just Plato idolizing his former teacher).

What, you ask, does the Phaedrus have to do with the Symposium? Well, the Phaedrus is closely connected with the Symposium, and may be regarded either as introducing or following it. Together these two Dialogues contain Plato's philosophy on the nature of love. Here love and philosophy become one, with the spiritual and emotional part elevated into the ideal, (and in the Phaedrus shows mankind seeking to recover from a former state of existence). Here the dialogue is a freely flowing conversation between love and rhetoric, the relation of art, love and philosophy - and how they interact with the soul. It is weighty stuff.

In the Phaedrus, Socrates converts the physical offer of love from Phaedrus (if you can consider it an offer - he threatens rape and Socrates flirts in turn) into a higher love (hate to use the word - Platonic). Socrates listens to a summary of the speech given earlier by Lysias, but finds fault with its repetitive nature and lack of proper structure. He attempts his own speech, using the same topic, but here Socrates makes a subtle turn : the speaker is secretly in love with the boy he is speaking to but pretends not to love him to gain his attention. Then he realizes that the speech shows love as less than divine, and recants it, giving a longer second speech where love is madness, but madness is beneficial in four forms (I'll abstain from discussing them here).

The question seems to be if a speaker can be content with what seems to be true, and they come to the conclusion that knowledge is necessary, since the soul can be lead by words. After a discussion of knowledge & art, the subject returns to the value of speaking and writing. Socrates believes that writing is an illegitimate brother of speaking. We return to Phaedrus appearing with the written text of Lysias' speech, which he can not defend. So the rhetorician distrusts his art, and the admirer of oral dialectic feels he must publish the dialogues to defend the oral lessons of his teacher.

Monday, January 12, 2009