Quantitative, qualitative, or pragmatic: “Research potentials” for TEFL practitioners

Document Type: Original Article

Author

Razi University

Abstract

 
The distinction often made between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sciences (Becher, 1989) is respectively associated with natural sciences and humanities. The terms are telling in that ‘soft’ often brings to mind a degree of detachment from real, objective, and worthwhile research, while ‘hard’ is often associated with reliable research. In hard sciences, quantitative methods are often used to ensure objectivity, while qualitative methods are often associated with ‘soft’ disciplines. Within the Iranian context, such connotations of the terms ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ have led to the rise of the status of quantitative methods at the expense of qualitative ones. This is particularly noticeable amongst TEFL practitioners in Iran, where some gatekeepers totally disapprove of qualitative research. Such beliefs are situated in epistemological underpinnings of our discipline which is historically rooted in positivism. It is interesting to note that TEFL can be situated amongst the social sciences/humanities fields, and it seems that such fields should not necessarily follow in the footsteps of natural sciences and should instead have their own specific methodologies (Griffiths, 1998). In this paper, which can best be categorized as a call for Iranian TEFL practitioners to put research objectives before research methodological techniques, I will attempt to briefly explain the epistemological underpinnings of these two paradigms, and I will argue that we should rethink this methodological distinction and take a more pragmatic stance with regard to our research problems. I will also refer to three research studies as examples of purely quantitative, purely qualitative, and pragmatic with respect to research techniques.

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