When it comes to perspectives of distance education among adults, Iloh, Dwyer, and Walsh approach the subject from two different philosophical points of view. Thus the paradigm difference between them relies on their philosophy and perception of what constitutes true knowledge and their methodology. Iloh subscribes to an interpretive school of philosophy that favors quantitative research methods and states that a person’s experiences, interests, and beliefs should be valued as an integral part of their research (Iloh, 2019). Dwyer and Walsh subscribe to the positivist school of philosophy that favors qualitative research methods and believes an objective reality shapes human perception (Dwyer & Walsh, 2020). While Iloh’s research took five months and thirty-four adult participants to complete, Dwyer and Walsh spent three years observing ninety-five adult participants. The school of philosophy and methodology is the primary difference when it comes to analyzing both works from an epistemological point of view. Iloh takes in information as it arrives, referring to the specific context, personal one-on-one phone conversations, and interviews (Iloh, 2019). Dwyer and Walsh compared the participants, analyzed them from a logical perspective, and took note of their cultural and historical backgrounds (Dwyer & Walsh, 2020).
When analyzing their works from an ontological view, this difference further differentiates them due to how they evaluate the results of their research. Dwyer and Walsh assume the skills of the adult learners, believing that because of their age and life experience, they can gain expertise in any field (Dwyer & Walsh, 2020). Iloh also makes a judgment based on adult learners’ life and experience, stating that they face difficulties balancing their studies and personal life (Iloh, 2019). From an axiological perspective, the difference in schools of philosophy affected how they collected data and what information they considered valuable. While Dwyer and Walsh support the belief that information is an objective fact, their assumptions on how mature their participants are and their involvement in the workshop demonstrate subjectivity (Dwyer & Walsh, 2020). On the contrary, Iloh did not involve themselves in the research personally and managed to stay relatively distant and appear less biased. Therefore when it comes to appraising the data, both researcher groups demonstrate a difference in how they evaluate the result of their work. While Iloh’s interpretative view allows for a deeper understanding of adults managing distance education due, Dwyer and Walsh approach the research from a more objective point of view and ensemble a larger data, therefore forming a more formative investigation of the subject.
Dwyer, C. P., & Walsh, A. (2020). An exploratory quantitative case study of critical thinking development through adult distance learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 68(1), 17-35.
Iloh, C. (2019). Does distance education go the distance for adult learners? Evidence from a qualitative study at an American community college. Journal of Adult and Continuing Education, 25(2), 217-233