Building learners and scholars: Process evaluation of the NIH Mixed Methods Research Training Program for the Health Sciences

Building learners and scholars: Process evaluation of the NIH Mixed Methods Research Training Program for the Health Sciences

Best practices for mixed methods research in the health sciences has been the most frequently visited page on OBSSR’s website since this report was released in August 2011. Since that time, NIH/OBSSR funded eight short-course (R25) projects. One of these eight projects is Mixed Methods Research Training Program for the Health Sciences, at Johns Hopkins University and principal investigator Joseph Gallo, MD, MPH.

Mixed-methods is a natural fit for interdisciplinary health research

One key rationale for this short course and, overall, for mixed methods approaches, is, “Reliance on a single methodological stance is no longer tenable in an increasingly complex multicultural and interdisciplinary context, or in the translation and dissemination of population and behavioral research to broader applications and conditions.”

 Short-course includes online and in-person learning

Each year, this training program recruits investigators for four complementary cohorts across health sciences. The program conducts a baseline assessment of their quantitative and qualitative entering skills and experience with mixed methods. Scholars then participate in an orientation webinar, read the NIH/OBSSR Best practices book and additional mixed-methods literature, work online with specially-chosen expert mentors and, finally, meet in a three-day summer retreat to synthesize what each learned individually and online and to work toward competitive funded-research applications. Scholars receive group and individualized training on their respective mixed-methods projects. A recently-published process evaluation of this course provides a thorough overview of the course as well as the methods used to analyze the data. Results fell into three themes:

  1. Academic survival skills: Nearly all scholars stated strong appreciation for grantspersonship training. In fact, many asked for more time to focus on grant applications and feedback on their own writing. According to this article, scholars valued the training they received to write mixed-methods articles for ‘publication in high impact journals.’ Also of value from this course was to learn how to build multidisciplinary teams and to collaborate personally with the scholars, faculty, and mentors with whom they had collaborated online before the summer retreat.
  1. Specific mixed-methods topics: The most suggestions from scholars appear to have been suggested changes to the curriculum. Specifically requested were,
  • The ability to attend all topical sessions during the summer retreat,
  • Delegate general research scholarship and grantspersonship training to additional webinars for more retreat time on in-depth mixed methods training (e.g., building interdisciplinarity in mixed methods with institution-based colleagues), and,
  • Synthesizing mixed-methods throughout the conceptualization, design, analysis, and presentation of data for mixed-methods projects.
  1. Interactional nature of retreat: In their responses, respondents voiced appreciation for the opportunity that the retreat gave for interactive feedback on their respective projects not only from faculty and mentors, but also from their fellow participants. The authors reported that human interaction started slowly, but increased substantively over the course of three days. Scholars also valued learning the career trajectories of faculty and mentors. Though many scholars requested a longer retreat period (e.g., five days rather than three) for more project development and small-group collaborations, many also suggested additional webinars to cover

The authors state how these results inform changes to their short-course curriculum. They also point to longer-term outcomes for measurement including publication and funding success, among others. Regarding longer-term outcomes, it seems fitting to quote the authors: “The addition of time to network could further develop this community of learners into a community of mixed-methods scholars.”

Read the original article:  Guetterman, T.C., Creswell, J.W., Deutsch, C., & Gallo, J.J. (2016). Process evaluation of a retreat for scholars in the first cohort: The NIH Mixed Methods Research Training Program for the Health SciencesJournal of Mixed Methods Research, 26, 1-17. DOI: 10.1177/1558689816674564

For more on the Mixed Methods Training Program:

For all short courses NIH/OBSSR currently funds: