Nada Jehad Alsaleh

2016 AFPGR Participant
Using Atlas software to analyse qualitative data: personal reflections
About Nada

Nada Alsaleh is a Lecturer at the Instructional Technology Department at King Saud University, and a PhD student at the University of Leicester specializing in E-learning and learning technology. Her interests lie in learning design and educational innovations.

About My Research

The rapidly changing technological age and the increasing amount of information that students receive daily through the internet and its application, such as social networking (SN) websites, has lead to a need for students to be equipped with the necessary skills to critically evaluate what they receive from different internet sources, express themselves clearly both verbally and in writing, and develop reasoning abilities that render acquired knowledge usable and transferable to other contexts. This generation receives a significant amount of information from SN websites, and they need to know how to evaluate this information and how to judge the accuracy of different opinions. Therefore, coaching students on thinking skills and critical thinking (CT) is urgent.

I will therefore employ an educational practice (intervention) related to the design and assessment of learning activities using SN website tools aimed at promoting students’ CT skills. I will design and evaluate learning activities that combine a set of traditional CT teaching strategies (questioning techniques, argumentative writing, and critical browsing for SN website resources and peer reviews). All of the activities for students will be based on different SN websites’ resources. At the end, I will try to explore how these activities affect students’ CT skills as reflected in their writing and whether SN websites have the factors needed to motivate students to participate in learning activities. This will enable the following research questions to be posed:

  1. Do SN website-based learning activities promote students’ CT skills?
  2. What are students’ awareness of CT and writing skills before and after these activities?
  3. What are students’ attitudes towards SN website-based learning activities?
  4. Does merging SN websites’ resources with the learning activities have an effect on promoting students’ participation in the course activities?
  5. What are the factors that promote students’ participation in the learning activities?

This research adopts convergent parallel mixed methods design, as useful means to investigate the research questions. I used two quantitative data collection methods (CT rubric and students' questionnaires) and three qualitative data collection methods (observation, students’ focus groups and students’ reflections). Within the convergent parallel approach, I adopted the embedded mixed methods, where the qualitative and quantitative data were collected synchronously.

My Festival Presentation

Qualitative research has become easier and more reliable with Computer Assistance using Qualitative Data Analysis Software. This software offers tools that assist with qualitative research such as transcription analysis, coding and text interpretation, recursive abstraction, content analysis and discourse analysis. Atlas software is one software in this field that supports different languages with flexible licenses. Atlas software provides the opportunity to analyse different sources of data synchronously.

This poster illustrates how I used Atlas software to analyse data collected in Arabic using English codes. Moreover, it shows how I used Atlas software features such as codes, themes, quotations, networks and outputs to read, understand and interpret the data taken from several resources, such as focus groups, observations and diaries. This is not an advertisement for Atlas software, but rather a guideline as to how to take advantage of qualitative data analysis software to obtain reliable results and avoid errors in data analysis.

My Research Findings

The research findings show that the intervention had a positive result on students' CT and argumentative writing skills. Students can now construct argumentative essays following the argumentative writing structure. They are able to present different claims and arguments. Moreover, their ability to express their own opinions improved dramatically. However, students still need more practice on some skills such as supporting their claims by presenting different points of view and examples and connecting the ideas together logically.  

Most of the students had little confidence in their CT and argumentative writing abilities before starting the intervention. Moreover, they had low expectations of success, were dissatisfied and anxious about the problems in the intervention, and had negative attitudes towards the intervention. At the end of the semester, after completing the intervention, students' awareness and attitudes were enhanced. They all shared common accomplishments such as feeling they had made improvements in their CT and writing skills, a positive attitude toward themselves and the intervention, and a desire for further improvements in the future. Students' awareness about the positive impacts of the intervention may motivate them to exert more effort and spend more time engaging in the same activities again.

Moreover, this research indicated that SN websites as tools are not enough alone to enhance students' participation in learning activities. There are some other factors that play an important role in enhancing students' participation, such as providing students with enough time to accomplish the homework, choosing attractive topics for the writing activities, the teacher should showing belief/confidence in the intervention and providing students with comprehensive feedback.

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