Teaching qualitative inquiry

Historically, a range of approaches has been used to teach qualitative research methods. This includes approaches in which students

  • learn by “trial and error” in field settings (e.g., one can read accounts in the work of anthropologists of how scholars learned by doing);
  • are “apprenticed” to a senior scholar, and tend to follow the traditions and approaches that this person uses; and
  • undertake a sequence of formal coursework.

With the increase in requirements for certification in particular fields of knowledge, particularly in western societies, it is the third option that has increased over the past decade or so. For those who are tasked with teaching qualitative research methods, where one might go for further information?

A variety of books have been published on teaching qualitative research, including a review of curriculum (Hurworth, 2008), a popular book by Janesick (2016) that provides classroom strategies, and another recently published book by Swaminathan and Mulvihill (2018) that provides a range of practical strategies.

There is also a body of literature on teaching qualitative research methods across the disciplines how these are taught in particular disciplines, including:

  • nursing (Cook & Gordon, 2004; McAllister & Rowe, 2003; Rowe & McAllister, 2002; Sheilds, Brunt, & Milliken, 1999; Tetley & Glover, 1999; Upvall, 1998)
  • geography (Delyser, 2008; DeLyser & Potter, 2013)
  • social work (Borochowitz, 2005; Carawan, Knight, Wittman, Pokorny, & Velde, 2011; Connolly, 2003; Globerman & Chan, 2000; Keen, 1996)
  • education (Barrett, 2007; Hazzan & Nutov, 2014; Lather, 2006; Luttrell, 2005)
  • sociology (Blank, 2004; Schmid, 1992)
  • health sciences (Eakin & Mykhalovskiy, 2005; Rifkin & Hartley, 2001; Steckler et al., 2001)
  • psychology (Fontes & Piercy, 2000; Mason, 2002; Piercy & Fontes, 2001)
  • conflict resolution (Chatfield, Cooper, Holden, & Macías, 2014)

In contrast, my own interests in writing about teaching of qualitative inquiry focuses on how qualitative methods might be conveyed in interdisciplinary contexts (Preissle & Roulston, 2009; Roulston, 2012; Roulston, deMarrais, & Lewis, 2003; Roulston et al., 2008).

One of the challenges in approaching this literature is the sheer variety of topics and approaches taken. Scholars have written essays about their own teaching practice, as well as conducted research studies that examines what goes on in classrooms. Authors have also described approaches to convey specific aspects of qualitative inquiry to students, including reflexivity (Hsiung, 2008), ethnographic methods (Keen, 1996; Leblanc, 1998; Schmid, 1992; Tjora, 2006; Trujillo, 1999), interviewing (Hsiung, 2016a; Roulston, 2012; Roulston et al., 2003), and qualitative data analysis (Waite, 2011), and teaching qualitative data analysis software (Blank, 2004; Macgowan & Beaulaurier, 2005), teaching qualitative inquiry as transgressive practice (Hsiung, 2016b), and new pedagogical approaches informed by new materialist theoretical approaches (Kuby et al., 2016; Kuby & Christ, 2018; Wolgemuth, 2016). More recently, scholars have discussed the teaching of qualitative research methods in online settings (Bender & Hill, 2016; Hunter, Ortloff, & Winkle-Wagner, 2014; Kaczynski & Kelly, 2004; Maggio, Chenail, & Todd, 2001; Miskovic & Lyutykh, 2017; Moore & Janzen, 2012; Ryen, 2009)

Literature encompasses accounts of both teachers’ perspectives (Borochowitz, 2005; Hunter et al., 2014; Roulston, deMarrais, & Paulus, 2017; Stallings, 1995), and students’ perspectives (deMarrais, Moret, & Pope, 2018; Roulston, Pope, Paulus Trena, & deMarrais, 2018), and conveys some of the fears and emotional responses that students encounter in the learning process (Bartels & Wagenaar, 2018; Lesko, Simmons, Quarshie, & Newton, 2008). Scholars have also written about how teachers might intentionally mentoring students through the challenges that they encounter in learning about research and methods (Hoskins & White, 2013; Noy, 2015)

The references cited in this short blog post are far from incomplete (apologies to all those authors who I’ve missed here). What’s encouraging is the interest among scholars in sharing their pedagogical strategies with others, and examining the process of teaching and learning qualitative inquiry across the disciplines.

My colleague Kakali Bhattacharya (Kansas State University) and I are very excited to share with you a co-edited issue on teaching qualitative inquiry in the International Review of Qualitative Research, entitled Navigating Differences and Discourses in Teaching Qualitative Inquiry. This special issues features accounts from scholars who discuss how we might teach qualitative inquiry in ways that account for paradigmatic differences.

Kathy Roulston


Barrett, J. R. (2007). The Researcher as Instrument: Learning to Conduct Qualitative Research through Analyzing and Interpreting a Choral Rehearsal. Music Education Research, 9(3), 417-433.

Bartels, K. P., & Wagenaar, H. (2018). Doubt and excitement: an experiential learning approach to teaching the practice of qualitative research. 18(2), 191-206. doi:10.1177/1468794117713056

Bender, S., & Hill, K. (2016). Pedagogical Considerations for Effectively Teaching Qualitative Research to Students in an Online Environment. The journal of effective teaching, 16(2), 11.

Blank, G. (2004). Teaching qualitative data analysis to graduate students. Social Science Computer Review, 22(2), 187-196. doi:10.1177/089443930326559

Borochowitz, D. Y. (2005). Teaching a qualitative research seminar on sensitive issues: An autoethnography. Qualitative Social Work, 4(3), 347-362.

Carawan, L. W., Knight, S., Wittman, P., Pokorny, M., & Velde, B. P. (2011). On becoming a qualitative researcher: A view through the lens of transformative learning. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 31(4), 387-399. doi:10.1080/08841233.2011.597671

Chatfield, S. L., Cooper, R., Holden, E., & Macías, K. (2014). Enhancing the experience: A multiple case study of students’ experiences using arts-based techniques in learning qualitative research. Qualitative Report, 19(41), 1-13.

Connolly, M. (2003). Qualitative analysis: A teaching tool for social work research. Qualitative Social Work, 2(1), 103-112.

Cook, S. H., & Gordon, M. F. (2004). Teaching qualitative research: A metaphorical approach. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 47(6), 649-655. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2004.03153.x

Delyser, D. (2008). Teaching qualitative research. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 32(2), 233-244. doi:10.1080/03098260701514074

DeLyser, D., & Potter, A. E. (2013). Teaching qualitative research: Experiential learning in group-based interviews and coding assignments. Journal of Geography, 112(1), 18-28.

deMarrais, K., Moret, L., & Pope, E. (2018). “I found a fit”: Doctoral student narratives of coming to a theoretical home in a qualitative research class. International Research in HIgher Education, 3(2).

Eakin, J. M., & Mykhalovskiy, E. (2005). Teaching against the grain: The challenges of teaching qualitative research in the health sciences. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(2), 1-15.

Fontes, L. A., & Piercy, F. P. (2000). Engaging students in qualitative research through experiential class activities. Teaching of Psychology, 27(3), 174-179.

Globerman, J., & Chan, C. (2000). Feminist epistemology and qualitative research: Toward a cross-cultural teaching model. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 20(3/4), 81-99.

Hazzan, O., & Nutov, L. (2014). Teaching and learning qualitative research ~ Conducting qualitative research. The Qualitative Report, 19(T&L 1), 1-29.

Hoskins, M. L., & White, J. (2013). Relational Inquiries and the Research Interview: Mentoring Future Researchers. Qualitative Inquiry, 19(3), 179-188.

Hsiung, P.-C. (2008). Teaching reflexivity in qualitative interviewing. Teaching Sociology, 36(211-226).

Hsiung, P.-C. (2016a). Lives & Legacies:A Digital Courseware for the Teaching and Learning of Qualitative Interviewing. 22(2), 132-139. doi:10.1177/1077800415617205

Hsiung, P.-C. (2016b). Teaching qualitative research as transgressive practices: Introduction to the special issue. Qualitative Inquiry, 22(2), 59-71. doi:10.1177/1077800415617204

Hunter, C. A., Ortloff, D. H., & Winkle-Wagner, R. (2014). Out of our comfort zones: Reflections about teaching qualitative research at a distance. The Qualitative Report, 19(45), 1-24.

Hurworth, R. E. (2008). Teaching qualitative research: Cases and issues. Rotterdam & Taipei: Sense Publishers.

Janesick, V. J. (2016). “Stretching” exercises for qualitative researchers (4th ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

Kaczynski, D., & Kelly, M. (2004, November 2004). Curriculum Development for Teaching Qualitative Data Analysis Online. Paper presented at the QualIT2004: International Conference on Qualitative Research in IT & IT in Qualitative Research, Brisbane, Australia.

Keen, M. F. (1996). Teaching qualitative methods: A face-to-face encounter. Teaching Sociology, 24(2), 166-176.

Kuby, C. R., Aguayo, R. C., Holloway, N., Mulligan, J., Shear, S. B., & Ward, A. (2016). Teaching, Troubling, Transgressing:Thinking With Theory in a Post-Qualitative Inquiry Course. Qualitative Inquiry, 22(2), 140-148. doi:10.1177/1077800415617206

Kuby, C. R., & Christ, R. C. (2018). Productive Aporias and Inten(t/s)ionalities of Paradigming: Spacetimematterings in an Introductory Qualitative Research Course. Qualitative Inquiry, 24(4), 293-304. doi:10.1177/1077800416684870

Lather, P. (2006). Paradigm proliferation as a good thing to think with: Teaching research in education as a wild profusion. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education (QSE), 19(1), 35-57.

Leblanc, L. (1998). Observing reel life: Using feature films to teach ethnographic methods. Teaching Sociology, 26(1), 62-68.

Lesko, N., Simmons, J., Quarshie, A., & Newton, N. (2008). The Pedagogy of Monsters: Scary Disturbances in a Doctoral Research Preparation Course. Teachers College Record, 110(8), 1541-1573.

Luttrell, W. (2005). Crossing anxious borders: Teaching across the quantitative-qualitative ‘divide’. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 28(2), 183-195.

Macgowan, M. J., & Beaulaurier, R. L. (2005). Using qualitative data analysis software in teaching about group work practice. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 25(1/2), 45-56.

Maggio, L. M., Chenail, R. J., & Todd, T. (2001). Teaching family therapy in an electronic age. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 20(1), 12-23.

Mason, O. J. (2002). Teaching qualitative research methods: Some innovations and reflections on practice. Psychology Teaching Review, 10(1), 68-75.

McAllister, M., & Rowe, J. (2003). Blackbirds Singing in the Dead of Night?: Advancing the Craft of Teaching Qualitative Research. Journal of Nursing Education, 42(7), 296-303.

Miskovic, M., & Lyutykh, E. (2017). Teaching qualitative research online to leadership students: Between firm structure and free flow. The Qualitative Report, 22(10), 2704-2721.

Moore, S. L., & Janzen, K. J. (2012). Walk with me: A qualitative research journey. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 16(3), 1096-1102.

Noy, C. (2015). An aikidōka’s contribution to the teaching of qualitative inquiry. 15(1), 4-21. doi:10.1177/1468794113501684

Piercy, F. P., & Fontes, L. A. (2001). Teaching ethical decision-making in qualitative research: A learning activity. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 20(4), 37-46.

Preissle, J., & Roulston, K. (2009). Trends and issues in teaching qualitative research. In M. Garner, C. Wagner, & B. Kawulich (Eds.), Teaching research in the humanities and social sciences (pp. 13-22). Farnham, England & Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Rifkin, S. B., & Hartley, S. D. (2001). Learning by doing: Teaching qualitative methods to health care personnel. Education for Health: Change in Learning & Practice, 14(1), 75-85. doi:10.1080/13576280010021905

Roulston, K. (2012). The pedagogy of interviewing. In J. F. Gubrium, J. A. Holstein, A. Marvasti, & K. D. McKinney (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of interview research: The complexity of the craft (pp. 61-74). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Roulston, K., deMarrais, K., & Lewis, J. B. (2003). Learning to interview in the social sciences. Qualitative Inquiry, 9(4), 643-668. doi:10.1177/1077800403252736

Roulston, K., deMarrais, K., & Paulus, T., M. (2017). Journeys to teaching qualitative research methods online. LEARNing Landscapes, 11(1), 219-233.

Roulston, K., McClendon, V. J., Thomas, A., Tuff, R., Williams, G., & Healy, M. F. (2008). Developing reflective interviewers and reflexive researchers. Reflective Practice, 9(3), 231-243. doi:10.1080/14623940802206958

Roulston, K., Pope, E., Paulus Trena, M., & deMarrais, K. (2018). Students’ perceptions of learning about qualitative inquiry in online contexts. Students’ perceptions of learning about qualitative inquiry in online contexts. American Journal of Distance Education, 32(3). doi:DOI:  10.1080/08923647.2018.1475921

Rowe, J., & McAllister, M. (2002). The craft of teaching qualitative research: Linking methodology to practice. Collegian, 9(3), 8-14.

Ryen, A. (2009). “Hi, Madam, I have a small question.” Teaching QM online: Guide to a successful cross-cultural master-course. Qualitative Sociology Review, 5(3).

Schmid, T. J. (1992). Classroom-based ethnography: A research pedagogy. Teaching Sociology, 20(1), 28-35.

Sheilds, L. E., Brunt, J. H., & Milliken, P. J. (1999). Teaching quantitative and qualitative analysis to undergraduate students. The Journal Of Nursing Education, 38(3), 136-138.

Stallings, W. M. (1995). Confessions of a quantitative educational researcher trying to teach qualitative research. Educational Researcher, 24(3), 31-32.

Steckler, A., Farel, A., Bontempi, J. B., Umble, K., Polhamus, B., & Trester, A. (2001). Can health professionals learn qualitative evaluation methods on the World Wide Web? A case example. Health Education Research, 16(6), 735-745.

Swaminathan, R., & Mulvihill, T. M. (2018). Teaching qualitative research: Strategies for engaging emerging scholars. New York & London: The Guilford Press.

Tetley, J., & Glover, J. (1999). Use of experiential methods to teach research in a pre-registration nursing curriculum. Nurse Education Today, 19(8), 633-638.

Tjora, A. H. (2006). Writing small discoveries: An exploration of fresh observers’ observations. Qualitative Research, 6(4), 429-451.

Trujillo, N. (1999). Teaching ethnography in the twenty-first century using collaborative learning. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 28(6), 705-719.

Upvall, M. J. (1998). Integrating qualitative research into the curriculum. The Journal Of Nursing Education, 37(2), 85-87.

Waite, D. (2011). A simple card trick: Teaching qualitative data analysis using a deck of playing cards. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(10), 982-985.

Wolgemuth, J. R. (2016). Driving the paradigm: (Failing to teach) Methodological ambiguity, fluidity, and resistance in qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 22(6), 518-525. doi:doi:10.1177/1077800415615621


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