A novel qualitative method to improve access, elicitation, and sample diversification for enhanced transferability applied to studying chemistry outreach
Conducting qualitative research in any discipline warrants two actions: accessing participants and eliciting their ideas. In chemistry education research, survey techniques have been used to increase access to participants and diversify samples. Interview tasks (such as card sorting, using demonstrations, and using simulations) have been used to elicit participant ideas. While surveys can increase participation and remove geographic barriers from studies, they typically lack the ability to obtain detailed, thick description of participant ideas, which are possible from in-person interviews. Minimal research in CER has examined how to harness technology to synthesize traditionally diverse research approaches to advance the field. This paper presents a novel method for interviewing research participants employing freely available technology to investigate student ideas about the purposes of conducting chemistry outreach, how success of an outreach event is evaluated, and student understanding of the chemistry content embedded in activities facilitated at events. As the outreach practitioner population comes from numerous institutions and is therefore geographically diverse, technology is necessary in order to gain access to these students. To elicit their ideas and remove barriers associated with rapport, interview tasks are adapted and implemented electronically. The description of a novel set of methods is coupled with evidence from the interviews to illustrate the trustworthiness of the data obtained and to support the method as a means to improve qualitative data collection in chemistry education research. These methods create a unique data collection environment for off-site investigations and are applicable to all disciplines, as they shed light on how qualitative research in the 21st century can increase the diversity of samples and improve the transferability of findings.