Thursday, October 13, 2005

Observation vs contemplation

I think I understand the difference between observing my breathing versus thinking about my breathing to which Varela et al refer. So when I attempt to apply that to my proposed mixed methods dissertation study, how does that help me? On the one hand, I can see the value of observation versus reflection in both quantitative and qualitative methods. Naturally one wants to observe what’s “really” going on; but wait a minute, how does one distinguish what’s “really” going on from what one thinks is going on? Maybe I’m confused. In the quantitative section of my study, I’ll cite a theory, formulate one or more hypotheses, set up, run, and observe a controlled experiment, describe the results, and then explain how those results confirm or disconfirm my hypotheses. Now this seems to me to be a combination of thinking and observation. In the qualitative portion of my study I’ll observe behavior as it occurs in a limited, controlled environment (the classroom) and then I’ll think about and attempt to explain those observations in such a way as to convince others that the story I’m telling is a plausible explanatiobn of the phenomena.
But how does what Varela et al. propose differ from this? Maybe more will be revealed in the second half of the book.

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