Research Methodologies for
the Applied Behavioral Sciences

Self-Evaluation

1998 John E. Perkins, III

Michael Patton--Convener
August 23-27, 1995, Minn. MN


It seems that many learners didn't quite understand the exact nature of this seminar. Even I, who tries to read the packet at least three weeks before I attend, missed certain points. Perhaps a Patton's Seminar Index (modeled on Harper's Index) will help prevent future misunderstandings:

Patton's Seminar Index Research Sophistication: Basic Previous Methodology Background Required: None Time Spent on Statistics: 1 hour "Credits" Given: 0 Number of Videos Shown: 2 Number of Dr. Seuss Texts Used: 6 Biblical Reference: Book of Daniel Key Phrase: "It depends" Hardness of Chairs on 0 (soft) to 10 (hard): Scale: 11 Mean Difference Between Outdoor Temp and Classroom Temp: -15 F Total Number of Surveys and Evaluations You Will Fill Out: 3 Chance You'll See Someone You Know: 4:5 Hours Learners Spend Discussing Structure: 0
Percent of Time Convener Starts on Time: 100

Evaluation Committee

A major experience of this seminar centered on my participation in the Evaluation Committee. My personal reasons for sitting on the committee came from my worries about how my own work might be evaluated. I had hoped the Evaluation Committee would allow me a chance to have fun in this role.

In addition, two experienced researchers picked this group. Before we met I thought their experience would lead them to stretch and try something new.

I had forgotten where I was. The principle of stretch is a norm John Grinder promotes in his NLP(Neuro-Linguistic Programming) workshops to let people challenge themselves to risk going a little beyond their previous experience &shyp; and therefore their comfort levels.

After I recovered from my surprise, I struggled to get my group to experiment with fieldwork (15&shyp;20 minutes observing groups) or qualitative interviews (1 to 2 questions with probes). "All that" they argued "was too much work."

I kept getting back "if you are so interested &shyp; go and do it." That would not work. I was in a committee and not asked to work alone. So I left with my research questions unanswered and a smaller experience than I could have enjoyed.

As to "too much time" I was not coming from zero experience. I knew what I was asking . Also, I had no other pressing priorities in Minneapolis than to attend this seminar.

I felt boxed in until I hit upon the idea of "issuing a minority report." I told my group I would follow up their report with my reflections of our process and my frustrations and the issues it raised for me about research and the value of seizing opportunities. I think of Leon Festinger's "When Prophecy Fails" which led to his discovery of cognitive dissonance. It all started when he noticed articles written by a woman claiming to predict the end of the world by a specific date. Festinger infiltrated the group and took notes on what happened.

The question I wanted to answer occurred in the first moments of the seminar. Michael had us arrange ourselves into 10 teams. He first asked for people with group facilitation skills to stand and count off 1 through 10. He admitted he hoped by doing this to avoid learners getting into fights like what happened four years ago when one woman attempted to leave her group and another woman tried to physically prevent her.

Did this really make a difference? How did learners feel? Respected? Protected? Something other?
Did this tilt the groups more to task and less to a group maintenance orientation? Did the people who self selected themselves as group facilitators ultimately "facilitate" their group? Would their answer differ from their group members?

In our deliberations we began to say "In my opinion Michael would want this or that?" I pointed out that we were mindreading without evidence as to what he really wanted. So we decided to treat him as the "funder" and ask him what he wanted to know.

This helped focus our research. Sitting and drafting the actual questions proved instructive. For example, we began with a potential survey item like "I had adequate opportunity to network during the seminar?" As we reflected on it "adequate opportunity" had no or minimum informative value. A "yes" or a "no" could mean virtually anything. It ended up:
Which of the following networking tools did you utilize
during THIS seminar:
__ List of learners for this seminar
__ Learner information on the wall
__ meal times
__ breaks
__ restroom chats
__ small group activities
Other: ______________________________

And we invited additional reflection on this theme with an open ended question:

What suggestions would you make for further facilitating networking?

My small group did accept more humor as time went on &shyp; moving towards my personal norm of injecting some fun without sacrificing focus. These questions (answered by circling their answer on a five-point Likert scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, No Opinion, Agree, Strongly Agree) showed that norm:

Works by Dr. Seuss should be listed on the bibliography.

My mirror now tells me that I am the fairest researcher of them all.

These items referred to stories Michael had read to us to illustrate key research issues. He certainly modeled the norm of humor.

While compiling our data my group commented on the seriousness with which people answered the questions. We failed to elicit even one marginal comment back to us.

Truth

"We all have truths. Are mine the same as yours?"

~ Pilate to Jesus, Jesus Christ Superstar

Another reflection: What does it mean when "research" doesn't match my experiences? I raised this issue at the seminar by asking Michael if research done so far has not confirmed NLP then should I return to fearing swimming and driving? Should I call my clients and tell them to return to their addictions, frigidities and phobias?

Michael said the research seems to show more of an effect of the personal presence of the practitioner than for any of the techniques. Now I disagree with the research. This draws me back to my family of origin. When my parents or adults tried to tell me my feelings or talk me out of them I did not cave in. My experiences count to me. I believe in them. I change my beliefs but via my own new experiences.

While I studied NLP the first research I saw used college students and the researchers themselves had a limited and narrow view of what NLP entails. Some had only read articles. This is like someone without medical training reading about heart surgery and inviting their spouse to permit him or her to try it to see if it really can be done.

When I plunked down my cash at the beginning of my NLP training in 1979 I felt that if I waited until the research caught up to it (or for it to be well taught in respected/accredited institutions) I'd lose 5 to 10 years. Having urgent personal and professional problems to solve I lacked the time to wait.

Good thing. until I can get around to doing the research myself I'll have to rely on my experience.
Similarly I have experienced first hand parapsychology experiments by volunteering to be a subject. With my girlfriend I volunteered to try to send and receive telepathic thoughts. Again, my direct experience confirmed that telepathy had taken place.

Some researchers might expend great energy questioning the experimental design —the relative culpability of the researchers (I feel this is a cheap shot. No other researcher has to discuss their state of mind), pure chance, etc. I feel from direct experience that my girlfriend had telepathically sent an image which I telepathically received.

I was introduced to a special room which contained a comfortable chair. To block out distracting light, I put cups over my eyes which resembled to me ping pong balls cut in half. The researcher dimmed the light in the room and turned on a white noise making machine. The researcher then left me in the room alone, and closed the door.

In a separate room my partner was handed an envelope containing a photograph. The researcher did not know which photograph she had been given. My partner relaxed and telepathically sent the image on the photograph to me.

As I sat relaxed, I began to experience a blinding white light—my body began to sweat in some places and chill in others. When shown 3 photos I (without my girlfriend present) immediately picked the lone mountain climber bundled against the cold surrounded by vast expanses of snow with a blazing sun overhead. Bullseye!

Michael put the fear of litigation in us Sunday morning by reviewing the basics of human subject research and the zero protections researchers have under current law. Courts can subpoena records and fieldnotes and find researchers in contempt for non-compliance. As I am pursuing research in tobacco control this particularly got my attentions. The tobacco industry regularly uses the courts as tool for discovering our plans, inhibiting political debate and intimidating people who challenge them.

The Ideology of Research


As a part of my internship involving a project to reduce infant mortality among African and Native American people in Seattle I have re-visited the Tuskegee Syphilis Studies conducted by the Public Health Service from 1932 to 1972. This study continues to have great impact on decisions blacks make about health care. It has fueled conspiracy theories about the origins and spread of AIDS in communities of color. The importance of making and continuing to review the social meaning of our work could never be more relevant.

Right in Minneapolis, the Illusion Theater, Urban Coalition and The Center for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Minnesota sponsored two major conferences in 1991 and 1992 on "Race, Prejudice and Health Care: The Lessons of The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment." Jay Katz of Yale University underscored the values researchers uphold which, without public discussion and in combination, contributed to the tragic decisions which launched and sustained the Tuskegee experiments. Nothing stopped the experiments, neither the PHS's own projects to prevent syphilis in the late 1930's (Macon County, Alabama was avoided in the campaign), nor the enlistment effort for the Korean War (the Selective Service board consented to give the 400 men in the study 4-F draft status) nor the discovery in 1945 that penicillin effectively treated syphilis in all its stages.
What values do researchers hold which helped them ignore the humanity of their "patients" who were providing "data" for their experiments? Katz listed these: disenfranchised "patients" who researchers might see as both "ignorant blacks" and "ignorant patients." This made it easy not to consult them.

Scientists overly emphasize their "noble dedication to the search for truth which brooks not interference. This is safeguarded by another scientific principle, freedom of scientific inquiry." Scientist believe they are neutral and the value of their efforts stand on their own. Katz concluded that the voluntary consent of human subjects is absolutely essential. I would add that the re-connecting of researchers into the web of relatedness and common fellowship, and shared destiny, with all the other humans and species we share our planet with holds equal priority. Particularly since many research projects, like Tuskegee, prey on the already ill-served, poor, and disenfranchised. How much can we say consent is fully and freely given when the fees for participating may help feed oneself or one's family?

In summary, this seminar has shown me how to use the tools of research to advance my academic and career goals. But research trails behind intuition and experience and creativity and accident. After someone risks exposing an idea or sharing a possible discovery, research builds a map to explain it. As a researcher, this seminar helped me better understand my triple commitments to knowledge, to people, and my own experience. But research forever remains a map and no map can ever fully approximate the variety and complexity of life.


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