Quantitative research has the benefit of letting researchers establish their findings within ranges of statistical certainty. However, it is also limited in what it can explore to relationships between numbers. Qualitative research, on the other hand, has the benefit of being able to explore nuances that can escape numbers. These nuances can be especially important in research into education.
Attitudes Towards Academics
Quantitative research can provide a wealth of information about whether certain ethnic or socioeconomic groups are performing well in school. Sometimes results are puzzling, for instance if an ethnic group within a particular socioeconomic group that should be performing well is not. Qualitative studies that observe and interview students in their classroom and home environments can attempt to address these issues. Professor Ogbu of the University of California at Berkeley undertook such a study in Shaker Heights, Ohio, at the behest of local parents who wanted answers to similar questions.
There are different ways of teaching subjects in school; for example, in science teachers can weight students' time either towards reading about the subject or towards conducting hands-on science projects. Quantitative research can identify which balance of activities leads to higher test scores. However, at times such research can produce results that the numbers can't directly answer. One example is a 2016 study by Cheung et al. that showed that there was not a significant difference in test scores between students who read about science and those who conducted science. Qualitative studies can talk to students in both groups about why they do or don't like science, and whether they feel what they are doing is helping them learn. This kind of study can fill in the gap the quantitative study cannot answer.
In the United States, as of 2013, only 50.1% of minority students who enter four-year college programs will graduate. Qualitative studies that interview minority students about their financial situations, their level of academic preparedness and their attitudes towards academics in general can yield answers that school officials and policy makers can directly translate into solutions. One such example is New York's Stony Brook University's Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), which school officials designed to provide support in areas they found minority students needed help.
Attitudes Towards Bullying
Bullying is a serious issue on school campuses. The social estrangement bullies cause for the bullied can affect the victim's grades and lead to greater social problems later in life. Combating school bullying is a high priority for teachers and principals. Qualitative studies of how classroom climates encourage or discourage bullying can allow teachers to take actions to preempt bullying by creating environments that are effective in stifling such behavior before it can cause problems.
- Education.com: Bullying: Understanding Attitudes Toward Bullying and Perceptions of School Social Climate
- "Students’ Attitudes towards Science in Classes Using Hands-On or Textbook-Based Curriculum"; Brian J. Foley and Cameron McPhee; 2008
- Wiley Online Library: Effective secondary science programs: A best-evidence synthesis