Sharing methodology: a worked example of theoretical integration with qualitative data to clarify practical understanding of learning and generate new theoretical development

Med Teach. 2013;35(3):e1011-9. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2012.733045. Epub 2012 Oct 26.


Background: Theoretical integration is a necessary element of study design if clarification of experiential learning is to be achieved. There are few published examples demonstrating how this can be achieved.

Aims: This methodological article provides a worked example of research methodology that achieved clarification of authentic early experiences (AEEs) through a bi-directional approach to theory and data.

Methods: Bi-directional refers to our simultaneous use of theory to guide and interrogate empirical data and the use of empirical data to refine theory. We explain the five steps of our methodological approach: (1) understanding the context; (2) critique on existing applications of socio-cultural models to inform study design; (3) data generation; (4) analysis and interpretation and (5) theoretical development through a novel application of Metis.

Results: These steps resulted in understanding of how and why different outcomes arose from students participating in AEE. Our approach offers a mechanism for clarification without which evidence-based effective ways to maximise constructive learning cannot be developed. In our example it also contributed to greater theoretical understanding of the influence of social interactions.

Conclusion: By sharing this example of research undertaken to develop both theory and educational practice we hope to assist others seeking to conduct similar research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Problem-Based Learning
  • Qualitative Research*
  • United Kingdom