23 SES 12 D, Escalating Comparative Complexity: Using a Grounded Theory Methodology in International Comparisons
The main focus of the research workshop lies on the question how to apply a Grounded Theory Methodology (GTM) in internationally comparative studies. The challenge is to combine two methodological approaches that both are comparative but follow different logics and apply different practices of comparison.
Within GTM, various comparative operations are used to generate a new theory that is grounded in data. Firstly, the whole research process is characterised by the continual interplay of theoretically guided data collection and empirically gained theory. Existing theory, developing conceptualizations and data are therefore constantly compared to each other. Secondly, the basic analytical operation is to compare new codes and categories with existing data in order to conceptualize it more and more. Comparisons both within cases and between cases round off the analysis. The Grounded Theory itself, which is the end product of the research process, grows so to speak from innumerable processes of these types of (micro-) comparisons.
Internationally comparative studies, even case-oriented small-N-comparisons, need to use more or less abstract categories in order to compare previously specified entities. This logic of comparison corresponds more to a macro-type of comparison, which, however, may sit somewhat uneasily with the “constant comparative method” (Glaser 1965, Grove 1988) of GTM. Besides, aiming at international comparisons combined with GTM leads to an escalating number of levels of comparison. This problem is aggravated when intra-national comparisons (comparing groups of actors within and between countries) are introduced. How to handle the many comparative levels as well as the various types of comparative operations is to be discussed in the research workshop.
A second problematique that will be discussed in the research workshop concerns the use of different types of data. For the GTM, “all is data” (Glaser & Holton 2004). However, combining different types of data is not a trivial matter, e.g. when data on institutional structures (e.g. legal texts) is to be combined with data on personal beliefs (e.g. interview data). Again, the problem is aggravated when a comparative perspective is employed.
The subject matter discussed in the workshop is taken from the work of a research group at the University of Münster, Germany, investigating the differing conceptions of justice underlying the systems of pupil assessment in Germany, Sweden and England (see Waldow 2011, Research group “Different worlds of meritocracy?” 2011. In societies following the meritocratic ideal, educational certificates and the examinations connected to them play a key role in allocating life chances to individuals. These allocation processes need to be perceived as fair by those concerned if they are to possess legitimacy. However, what is considered fair changes over time and differs both between different countries and between different groups of actors within countries. The research group studies differences between different groups of actors and differences between countries and aims at employing a GTM.
Glaser, B. G. (1965). The constant comparative method of qualitative analysis. Social Problems, 12(4), 436-445. Glaser, B. G., & Holton, J. (2004). Remodeling Grounded Theory. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung /Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 5(2). Retrieved from http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/607/1315 [28 January 2013] Grove, R. W. (1988). An analysis of the constant comparative method. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 1(3), 273-279. Research group "Different worlds of meritocracy?" (2013). Different worlds of meritocracy? Retrieved from http://egora.uni-muenster.de/ew/meritokratie/index_en.shtml [28 January 2013] Waldow, F. (2011). Juristen oder Testspezialisten? Zur Rolle von Experten bei der Herstellung von Notengerechtigkeit in Deutschland und Schweden. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik, 57(4), 484-496.
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