Is This Study’s Results Valid?

gender-neutral-pronouns

Whilst I was writing my Digipo article, I came across a research study that I wanted to further pursue in my blog post this week. Although, I decided to use it as evidence in my article, I feel like there are some problematic results that I would like to further delve into.

The first step on validating any study is finding out where it came from. This particular study was published by the American Sociological Review and can be found in our schools online library which also adds to its legitimacy. Utilitizing lateral reading, I searched their name on Google and found a wiki article that explained the ASR is a peer-reviewed academic journal which sounds pretty legitimate to me.

The study itself consisted of an experiment that was intended to replicate a situation where someone would be misgendered, which then would invoke a better understanding for the people involved about the importance of pronouns. The exercise involved a pair asking one another general questions, which then formed a larger group of four people where those pairs introduced one another and used the opposite pronoun that their partner told them. The second part of the exercise–which is how they gathered their data–directed them to an online discussion board where they were to share how the exercise made them feel as well as their take away from the exercise.

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The researchers then coded nine different themes and assigned a student a 0 or a 1 depending on if their post contained the themes encoded which were found by looking for most common themes. Based on analysis, reflexivity and empathy were the most common themes represented throughout the posts which the researchers took as an indication that the exercise helped the students reflect on their own situation as well as others regarding pronouns better.

Challenges and Limitations

The study had its own section that addressed the challenges and limitations of the exercise. First, they talked about how some students found the idea of referencing the wrong pronoun as funny or as silly which causes them to not take the exercise completely seriously. Secondly, students found it difficult to use a different pronoun then the one they saw because it contradicted what they were seeing and lastly a few students felt negative reactions in the sense that they felt like they couldn’t be themselves. Aside from these more personal challenges, the study as a whole recognized that they were limited by the lack of randomization of their study. The researchers acknowledged that their results could be influenced that they had students only from sociology as well as the variable differences between the classes could be due to content.

The exercise itself seems to be structured well, but I question the validity of the results because the students are forced to post on a public forum. I feel like that introduces bias. Students are not going to be completely honest when they post, because everyone can read them which forces them to be less honest or potentially appeal to the professors since they are being graded on the activity. Had the exercise happened and then the students had to anonymously report their experiences, I feel like that would have produced more authentic results.

Our teaching goals with this assignment are (1) to recognize the social importance of gendered pronouns and (2) through the simulated experience of being conversationally misgendered, get students to empathize with people who are misgendered.

Going back to the original goals of the study, I feel like this study has in fact done what it set out to do. Initially, I was hung up on the results of the study based on the fact that students could be dishonest but even if they were, there is still some sort of reflection that can not denied. This study did not seek to answer a question, but more so raise awareness in students which is why the results are valid regardless of whether or not the platform was public where they expressed their experiences.

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