Doing battle with Quantitative Methods in a Business Education Context

As a researcher experimenting with quantitative methods I believe I should fly the banner for the positivist paradigm i.e. that behaviour can be explained through objective fact [1]; potential for a bias neutrality shield [2; 3]. However, application in a Business Education context, involving real human beings, in real places, producing real outcomes [4], brings real challenges. The facts of the matter are however, whether it’s a study rethinking or future-proofing pedagogy[5], Business and Educational research predominately takes place in naturalistic settings; exposed to a variety of validity and reliability threats [6; 7].

Robust vs. Missed Variables 

Clarity and robustness of variables, their purpose, operationalisation and measurement[4; 8] are a source of strength for the ‘quantitative’ researcher. Conversely, vagueness in concept or construct can undermine. Flaws in design, sampling, collection, and analysis, all further conspire to weaken reliability and validity [9], threatening misleading results [10]. Business Education is complex and multifaceted [11], therefore potential kryptonite to the quantitative strategy is the snapshot research design, so affected by temporal change [12]. This can “obscure the importance of resource constraints and the variability in human behaviour” [13].

Quantitative Research can be abstract-centric, blurring out the specifics [14], trading off deeper meanings and interpretations [15] to quantify phenomena, with relevant variables being missed entirely. My own foray into ‘quantitative’ survey design targeted at fellow educationalists and researchers has clearly revealed some participation frustration with the limited options for response tendered.

Allegiance to replication

Quantitative research pledges allegiance to positivist principles and robust statistical analyses [9]. Yet, Business Education is busy with ideas and perspectives, with few interpreting questions/concepts in the same way. Consequently very fixed designs can fail to ‘tap into’ people’s real life [25].

Yet, with careful and purposeful attention to detail, a quantitative design still has much to offer, including genuine theoretical modelling, sound measurement and improved prospects of generalisability. [26]. Not purely to access an artificial and spurious sense of precision and accuracy [27], but to access new methodological innovations and means to take advantage of increasing volumes of educational data [28].

I’m grateful for my experimentation with quantitiave resrecah, depsite a long term preference for all things qualitative. I now see the potential for quantitative methods to transfer extra ‘power’to my initially qualitative dominated research arsenal,.

More so quantitative methods may offer a genuine pathway to‘replication’ in Education, as opposed to the more common one hit “single study” wonders [29].


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  10. George WashingtonUniversity (2000) Assessing the Methodology of the Study (online). Available at: [Accessed18th November 2018].
  11. Goff, P.T., Kam, J.& Kraszewski, J. (2015) ‘Timing Is Everything: Temporal Variation andMeasures of School Quality’, WCER Working Paper, August 2015, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (online). Available: [Accessed18th November 2018].
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  14. Johnson, R. B,& Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2004) Mixed Methods Research: A Research ParadigmWhose Time Has Come. Educational Researcher, 33(7), pp. 14–26.
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  22. Schrest, L. (2005)Validity of measures is no simple matter, Health services research,40(5) Pt 2 (2005), pp. 1584-604.
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  29. Makel, M.C. &Plucker, J.A. (2014) ‘Facts Are More Important Than Novelty Replication in the Education Sciences’, Educational Researcher, 43(6), pp. 304–316

3 Replies to “Doing battle with Quantitative Methods in a Business Education Context”

  1. Quantitative research can have an important place in educational research, however it rarely tells a story by itself in this context. Often it needs to be complemented or supplemented by qualitative methods. Education is a complex and extremely diverse environment, much more than other areas of social science research. This complexity is difficult to capture with any one methodology, a multi faceted approach almost always results in a better reflection of a situation or experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

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