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The role of qualitative approaches to research in CALL contexts: Closing in on the learner’s experience

Issue: Vol 32 No. 3 (2015)

Journal: CALICO Journal

Subject Areas:

DOI: 10.1558/cj.v32i3.26620


The article considers the role of qualitative research methods in CALL through describing a series of examples. These examples are used to highlight the importance and value of qualitative data in relation to a specific research objective in CALL. The use of qualitative methods in conjunction with other approaches as in mixed method research designs are a particular focus. It is argued that qualitative methods are especially effective when used in this way.

The discussion also aims to elaborate upon the role of qualitative approaches within CALL specifically, as a domain for research study with particular attributes that require a qualitative orientation. Here the use of electronic dictionaries is considered. Dictionary use is suited to such a discussion because it occurs frequently in everyday life, suggesting a qualitative approach, as well as in research studies that are strictly controlled, as in a quantitative approach. The contrast is instructive and helps demonstrate the respective strengths and limitations of each method.

Also central to the discussion is the language learner. A number of the studies described emphasize the importance of listening to the students’ voice in the qualitative component (e.g., Conole, 2008; Jones, 2003). It is in the unpacking of what students actually do moment-by-moment in CALL tasks and activities that best illustrate the strengths of qualitative methods in enhancing our understanding of mediated learning and thereby driving productive research agendas.

Author: Mike Levy

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