“The goal of using Critical Race Mixed Methodology (CRMM),” emphasized Jessica DeCuir-Gunby, Ph.D., during the GSE Spring Lecture, “is creating meaningful learning and research experiences using anti-racist methods.” DeCuir-Gunby explained that it’s helpful for researchers interested in using mixed methodology research, particularly those using an anti-racist lens, to start by determining personal positionality. A person’s positionality profile includes factors such as race, gender, sexuality, and religion. These factors influence each individual’s inherent biases, worldview, and approach to research. For example, DeCuir-Gunby’s own racialized positionality includes being a Black woman raised in the southern United States and her family, church, social, and educational experiences.
It was the latter, specifically her experience in higher education, that sparked DeCuir-Gunby’s interest in Critical Race Theory (CRT), which focuses on studying race, racism, and power in society. CRT originated in the legal field as a way to examine how a white supremacy framework created and maintained the relationship between the law and racial power, and how that system might be changed. She noted that according to lawyer, professor, civil rights activist and CRT pioneer Derrick Bell, “Racism is an integral, permanent, and indestructible component of this [American] society.” DeCuir-Gunby asserts, however, that in education and research, it is important to focus on both acknowledging the status quo while simultaneously remaining hopeful that the system might be changed.
In DeCuir-Gunby’s view, it is critical race mixed methods (CRMM) research, which involves combining quantitative and qualitative perspectives in studies that use an anti-racism lens, that can be the basis for gaining knowledge to begin changing society’s existing inherent racism. She shared that before embarking on such research, it is key to have a solid understanding of both CRT and mixed methods research. In her book, Developing a mixed methods proposal: A practical guide for beginning researchers, DeCuir-Gunby and her co-author provide assistance by reviewing the five most common ways to design mixed method research studies. Her advice to students and those new to designing these studies is to keep research methods simple at first, learn how to effectively use each method, and then expand the number of research methods and their complexity. DeCuir-Gunby also encouraged researchers to take CRT courses, read original source literature, ask questions, and most importantly, be committed to exploring race and related systems of oppression.
Those who wish to subsequently embark on a full CRMM study, according to DeCuir-Gunby, will then be able to focus on using a combination of traditional mixed methods in their research designs, while also fully integrating CRT throughout all stages of the research process. In order to meet that criteria of a CRMM study, the research must: center on race; be grounded in CRT; and have a goal to challenge power structures to create change in systems relating to race, power dynamics, and inequity.
DeCuir-Gunby stated there are both the benefits and challenges to conducting these CRMM studies. Benefits include doing a race analysis, using CRT research methodologies, and integrating data. The challenges often involve finding study participants, gaining institutional research board approvals, and overcoming strong preferences for a single type of research versus using mixed methods. Ultimately, DeCuir-Gunby advises students to embark on doing studies about questions they passionately want to answer and are able to answer, while taking into account whatever time and publication space constraints that may affect final presentation of the research.
More About Jessica T. DeCuir-Gunby
Jessica T. DeCuir-Gunby, Ph.D., is Head of the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences and a Professor of Educational Psychology in the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, and an inaugural recipient of the NC State University Faculty Scholar Award (2013-2017).
She is also an associate editor for the American Educational Research Journal. Her research focuses on 1) race and racial identity (including Critical Race Theory); (2) research methods (with an emphasis on Mixed Methods); and (3) emotions and education. DeCuir-Gunby’s books include:
- Jessica T. DeCuir-Gunby, Thandeka K. Chapman, Paul A. Schutz (2018) Understanding Critical Race Research Methods and Methodologies: Lessons from the Field (2018) NY: Routledge
- DeCuir-Gunby, J.T. & Schutz, P. A. (2017). Developing a mixed methods proposal: A practical guide for beginning researchers. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. (Included in the Mixed Methods Research Series)
- DeCuir-Gunby, J. T. & Schutz, P. A. (Eds.). (2017). Race and ethnicity in the study of motivation in education. NY: Routledge.
- Marshall, P. L., DeCuir-Gunby, J.T., & McCulloch, A. W. (2015). When critical multiculturalism meets mathematics: A mixed methods study of professional development and teacher identity. NY: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.