When Qualitative Research is Taught Virtually: Drawing on Experiential Design to Build Deeper Knowledge of Qualitative Observation

  • Joy C. Phillips Drexel University
  • Kristine S. Lewis Grant Drexel University
  • Kathy D. Geller Drexel University
Keywords: EdD programs, online EdD programs, teaching qualitative research, teaching virtually


This essay discusses the EdD Program design and qualitative research course sequence at Drexel University, a private, non-profit institution. This large program admits up to 140 EdD students annually with approximately 100 attending fully online and 40 attending hybrid offerings at the main campus and at a satellite program in Washington, DC. The essay features a qualitative course observation activity designed by Janesick (2011) to be used face-to-face and details how the activity has been adapted for virtual delivery at East Coast University. As a literature review revealed a paucity of published works on teaching observation qualitatively, the authors seek to contribute to the knowledge base with particular emphasis on faculty teaching in an online program. Based upon the East Coast University faculty’s use of this observation activity, students develop increased understanding of the roles of perception and perspective in qualitative observation.



Author Biographies

Joy C. Phillips, Drexel University

Joy C. Phillips, PhD is an Associate Clinical Professor in the School of Education at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. Her research focuses on educational leadership, policy development and implementation, and school reform with emphasis on investigating the intended and unintended consequences of educational policy implementation. She has served as EdD Dissertation Supervising Professor at three universities; she has graduated 40+ Drexel EdD students.

Kristine S. Lewis Grant, Drexel University
Kristine S. Lewis Grant, PhD is a Clinical Professor of Multicultural and Urban Education in the School of Education at Drexel University. She teaches courses related to equity and social justice, program evaluation, and qualitative research methods in the EdD program. Her research interests include culturally and linguistically diverse family engagement in urban schools, and the recruitment and retention of teachers of color.
Kathy D. Geller, Drexel University

Kathy D. Geller, PhD is an Associate Clinical Professor in the School of Education at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. Kathy teaches sustainable leadership and research courses in the Ed.D. program. She has personally chaired more than 50 dissertation committees (almost all qualitative). Kathy’s research interests focus on applications of transformative learning, transnational leadership and qualitative research.


Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate. (2020). Guiding principles for program design, https://cped.memberclicks.net/the-framework

Cooley, A. (2013). Qualitative research in education: The origins, debates, and politics of creating knowledge. Educational Studies, 49(3), 247-262. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131946.2013.783834

Cooper, R., Chenail, R. J., & Fleming, S. (2012). A grounded theory of inductive qualitative research education: Results of a meta-data-analysis. The Qualitative Report, 17(52), 1-26. Retrieved from https://nsuworks.nova.edu/tqr/vol17/iss52/3

Creswell, J. & Poth, C. (2018). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (4th ed.). SAGE Publications.

Ferrer, D. (July 17, 2019). History of online education. The Quad Magazine. https://thebestschools.org/magazine/online-education-history/

Gergen, K. (1985). The social constructionist movement in modern psychology. American Psychologist. 40(3). 266-275. DOI: 10.1037//0003-066X.40.3.266

Gregory, K. (2018). Online communication settings and the qualitative research process: acclimating students and novice researchers. Qualitative Health Research, 28(10), 1610–1620. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732318776625

Hill Collins, P. (1991). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Routledge.

Hunter, C., Ortloff, D., & Winkle-Wagner, R. (2014). Out of our comfort zones: Reflections about teaching qualitative research at a distance. The Qualitative Report, 19(45), 1-24. Retrieved from https://nsuworks.nova.edu/tqr/vol19/iss45/3

Janesick, V. J. (2011). Stretching exercises for qualitative researchers (3rd ed.). SAGE Publications.

Kanzki-Veloso, E., Orellana, A., & Reeves, J. (2018). Teaching qualitative research online: Using technology to leverage student engagement. FDLA Journal, 3(6), 1-9. Retrieved from https://nsuworks.nova.edu/fdla-journal/vol3/iss1/6

Kawulich, B., & d’alba, A. (2019). Teaching qualitative research methods with Second Life, a 3-dimensional online virtual environment. Virtual Reality, 23(4), 375-384.

Lochmiller, C. R., & Lester, J. N. (2016). Conceptualizing practitioner-scholarship for educational leadership research and practice. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 12(1), 3-25. doi:10.1177/1942775116668525

Miskovic, M., & Lyutykh, E. (2017). Teaching qualitative research online to leadership students: Between firm structure and free flow. The Qualitative Report, 22(10), 2704-2721. Retrieved from https://nsuworks.nova.edu/tqr/vol22/iss10/12

Noddings, N. (2013). Caring: A relational approach to ethics and moral education (2nd ed.). University of California Press

Saldaña, J. (2016). The coding manual for qualitative researchers (3rd ed.). SAGE Publications.

Shulman. L. S., Golde, C. M., Bueschel, A. C., & Garabedian, K. J. (April 01, 2006). Reclaiming education’s doctorates: A critique and a proposal. Educational Researcher, 35(3), 25-32.

Slayton, S., & Samkian, A. (2017). Scaffolding learning for practitioner-scholars: The philosophy and design of a qualitative research methods course. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 12(1), 51–71. https://doi.org/10.1177/1942775116663713

Snelson, C. (2019). Teaching qualitative research methods online: A scoping review of the literature. The Qualitative Report, 24(11), 2799-2814. Retrieved from https://nsuworks.nova.edu/tqr/vol24/iss11/9

Snelson, C., Wertz, C., Onstott, K., & Bader, J. (2017). Using World of Warcraft to teach research methods in online doctoral education: A student-instructor duoethnography. The Qualitative Report, 22(5), 1439–1456. Retrieved from http://nsuworks.nova.edu/tqr/vol22/iss5/18/

Steckler, A., Farel, A., Bontempi, J. B., Umble, K., Polhamus, B., & Trester, A. (2001). Can health professionals learn qualitative evaluation methods on the World Wide Web? A case example. Health Education Research, 16(6), 735-745. http://doi.org/10.1093/her/16.6.735

Wagner. C., Kawulich, B., & Garner, M. (2019). A mixed research synthesis of literature on teaching qualitative research methods. SAGE Open, 9(3), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244019861488

Wenger-Trayner, E. & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2020). Resources for social learning: Publications. https://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/

How to Cite
Phillips, J. C., Lewis Grant, K. S., & Geller, K. D. (2021). When Qualitative Research is Taught Virtually: Drawing on Experiential Design to Build Deeper Knowledge of Qualitative Observation. Impacting Education: Journal on Transforming Professional Practice, 6(3), 54–61. https://doi.org/10.5195/ie.2021.193
Themed - Online EdD