This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
one version of that tale, a group of blind men touch an el- ephant to learn what it is like. Each feels a different part of the elephant, like a tusk or a trunk. In discussing what they are feeling and in trying to describe the elephant, they get into a great disagreement about the elephant and its nature.

Looking at little parts of things quantitatively can lead to these kinds of disagreements. We miss the context -- how the parts relate to the whole of the elephant and its sur- roundings. Obviously, knowing a lot about a tusk is not going to do much good if elephants are extinct as a result of hunting or habitat loss. By exploring the tusk in detail, we may have won the research battle in the context of answer- ing the limited question, ”What is a tusk like?” But we have lost the war if what we are seeking is greater under- standing of elephants so that we can better care for and serve them.

However, qualitative researchers who have looked at the whole elephant in its surroundings may miss things too. They may miss the details of the parts of the elephant, some of which may be essential in caring for that and other elephants. Because they are looking more broadly at the elephant as a whole, they may not recognize that specific elephants share certain things and not others with other el- ephants, or even with species other than elephants, and this information may provide a key to critical information that can be used to support species survival.

We will learn the most about elephants by talking with one another about what each of us have learned in our investi- gations. By doing so, we can learn about the parts in detail and about how those parts relate to one another. We can learn about the contexts in which they reside. We can learn about whether other elephants have the same characteristics as the ones that we studied and how they differ. We can be- gin to see patterns across and distinctions between all of the information that has been gathered, and this broad gather- ing of information from a variety of perspectives presents a richer, more accurate picture of the whole that can be used to inform our actions and practice. While one’s experience is true, it may not be the totality of truth and this story il- lustrates that point.

Professional Obstacles Unfortunately, our professional realities often do not encourage this type of conversation. The research enter- prise itself is situated in a context in which we vie for the same conference slots and spots in journals. We want our students to be successful and sometimes frame that in the competitive context of eminence and H factors. This can be discouraging to idealistic young scholars and research- ers. Just because something is cited often does not nec- essarily make it important or meaningful. We become


focused on achieving success as defined in this limited way to the extent that we sometimes forget that we only will accomplish something meaningful in the long run if we are driven by intellectual curiosity and the desire to know, learn, and improve practice.

The promotion and tenure system, upon which many of our professional lives depends, often is so focused on quantity that its constituents forget that the ultimate goal is to move knowledge forward and improve the human condition. Some universities actually provide quantities of articles that are required for promotion, often specifying the journals in which these articles must appear. As a result, research must fit in the “box” of the review boards of those specific jour- nals, some of which have a narrow definition of research.

O’Meara (2014) calling for the reform of the tenure and promotion process stated, “ The assumption that we show a scholar’s work is excellent if it has been recognized by a very narrow set of legitimacy markers, adds bias to the pro- motion and tenure process and works against recognition of newer forms of scholarship” (p. 2). Even scientists, who benefit the most from measures of academic performance like citation counts and journal impact factors, are band- ing together to argue against their use as a principle means of evaluation of faculty scholarship (American Society for Cell Biology, 2012).

This limited but high stakes valuing system within the context of our educational communities often results in research studies that are completed to survive rather than to learn, research that is expedient rather than useful, and studies that are “one off” rather than situated in an ongoing program of questioning that leads to a critical and use- ful body of knowledge. It is not a coincidence that more studies are conducted on college students than on any other population (Draves, et al, 2008). Is that because we are more interested in the learning of college students than any other group? I think and hope not. I suspect it is because college students are convenient, accessible, and allow for us to conduct studies that are expedient, regardless of whether they are central to the questions that drive us intel- lectually. With such a strong focus on “publish or perish,” the motivations behind these choices are understandable but the result is unfortunate.

Moving Forward

So what does this mean for the practice of research in mu- sic education? First of all, I believe that it means that our research courses at the university level should be ecumeni- cal, aimed at helping students learn to interpret and conduct all types of research. I worry when faculty members in higher education point their developing researchers down a single research path methodologically, even if that type

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40