Snakes and Ladders: Finding your way through the qualitative labyrinth

A Course on Qualitative Health (Education) Research

When you think of healthcare research,  randomized controlled trials, numbers, calculations, and p-values might spring to mind. But did you know there is a different way to do research? In qualitative health (education) research, the experiences, opinions, behaviours, and feelings of patients, healthcare professionals, medical educators, and students are the main topics of interest. Qualitative research focuses on why humans behave in certain ways and on how behavioural mechanisms work. As a qualitative researcher, your own experience and intuition play an important part in your work, which is reflected in the process of gathering and analysing data. However, when you embark on your qualitative research journey, you could be dazzled and overwhelmed by the many options available to you. In this summer school course, you will find out more about qualitative research and become acquainted with a few specific approaches.

Course levelMaster, open to professionals
Session 1
6 July to 20 July 2019
Recommended course
Session 2: Human Movement Analysis, The Beautiful Mind: Global Perceptions of Mental Health
Session 3: Advanced Optical Fluorescence
Co-ordinating lecturersDr Anne de la Croix, LEARN! Academy, Vrije Universiteit & Reserach in Education at VUmc School of Medical Sciences
Other lecturersStéphanie van der Burgt, Research in Education, VUmc
Dr Esther Helmich, UMCG Groningen, Netherlands
Prof. Karen Mattick, University of Exeter, UK
Dr Terese Stenfors, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm Sweden
Dr Aileen Barrett, Irish College of General Practitioners, Dublin, Ireland
… and others!

Form(s) of tuitionGroup work, excursions, discussions, videos, journal club
Form(s) of assessmentAttendance, presentation, practical assignments
ECTS    3 credits
Contact hours50
Tuition fee€1150
This course is aimed at students who are doing or are planning to do qualitative research as part of their Master’s or PhD programme. We focus on research in the fields of healthcare and medicql education.  If you have doubts about your eligibility for the course, please let us know. Our courses are multi-disciplinary and therefore are open to students and professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds.

There are three strands within the course:
- ‘Show’: focuses on visual research (e.g. rich pictures)
- ‘Tell’: focuses on interview research and the analysis of talk
- ‘Observe’: focuses on observational research

Students will be guided through the process of data gathering and will practise using this data to get to grips with qualitative analysis. In addition to assignments, the course includes:
• Share and compare sessions, in which students from different groups share and compare their experiences, progress, observations and questions;
• Spark sessions, in which guest lecturers inspire participants by presenting various qualitative methods they have used in research;
• Journal club sessions, in which we discuss papers together.

The course will be taught by experts in healthcare research and healthcare education with backgrounds in sociology, medicine, linguistics and education.

At the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Explain the nature of qualitative research and recognize qualitative research designs;
  • Formulate a research question and adapt it during a research project and prepare, conduct and transcribe/take notes for:
    a) an interview study
    b) an observation study
    c) or a visual (rich pictures) study;
  • Apply techniques to enhance the reliability of data gathering and analysis and name and apply different methods for coding data (using software for qualitative data analysis)
  • Explain the relationship between data, analysis, and theory in order to write a qualitative research paper.
  • Last but not least, participants will have the opportunity to build a network of peers for support and cooperation beyond the course.


Anne de la Croix is an assistant professor at the LEARN! Academy at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, specializing in both education and qualitative research. She is interested in how people develop a professional identity and attitude, and the way in which communication and reflection play a role in this process.  Her background is in linguistics and educational studies.

Anne is partly based at the Research in Education team of the VUmc School of Medical Sciences, where she studies interactions in medical education, and the development of collaboration, leadership, communication and professionalism among medical students and medical professionals. She studied Dutch and Linguistics before becoming a secondary school teacher in language, drama and social skills. She moved to the UK to do a PhD in medical education. As a PhD student, she taught communication skills and medical psychology at the University of Birmingham Medical School. After her time in England, Anne returned to the Netherlands where she worked at Erasmus MC Medical School in Rotterdam, as a teacher and an educational developer.

Anne loves to teach and will go above and beyond to create activating, inspiring, and creative learning experiences.

‘The way in which language can reveal how people see the world, the way in which interactions can create closeness and distance, the way in which communication can help process experiences… Studying language, interaction, and communication is truly fascinating!’

For each of the groups, a suitable and inspiring excursion will be organized, all aimed at helping students develop the skills necessary to gather and/or analyse rich data. For example, the visual research group will visit an art gallery to discuss the analysis of visual cues.

To be announced.
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