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Validating a realist grounded theory : using an example of the double-labeling phenomenon in special education Lo, Chih-shen


The aim of this dissertation study was two-fold. On one hand, it set out to investigate the newly emerged double-labeling phenomenon shared by twice-exceptional students in order to parcel out factors that affect the labeling process and to understand how these students perceive and cope with educational labels. On the other hand, this study sought to provide better understanding and tangibility of a realist grounded theory (RGT) approach, especially with respect to a validation model that could be used to guide RGT research practices. In the first stage, three major grounded theory approaches were compared based on different ontological stances and an RGT validation model with a set of strategies was proposed. The validation model suggests that the degree of validity of RGT is contingent on the closeness between a theoretical account and social reality, which is rudimentarily suggested by the “groundedness” of a study (concurrent procedural validity) and subsequently reinforced by external testing studies and/or practices (incremental procedural validity). In the second stage, the RGT validation model was adopted to study the interactive and dynamic process of double-labeling, which resulted in a theoretical model that is fortified with four theoretical propositions. This theoretical model highlights the interplay of individual agency, contextual factors, and developmental considerations and theorizes the pedagogical perspectives of educational labeling. Labeling practice is situated in and endorsed by a social context that carries explicit theory about, and educational policies regarding, labels. Taking a developmental perspective, labeling practice often results in some short-lived emotional responses and triggers a meaning-generating process that results in gradually formatted self-knowledge. Positive academic and social adjustment behaviors are contingent on this self-knowledge. In this regard, labeling practice reconciles a constructed reality (consensual field knowledge) and a lived reality (self-knowledge). Through implementing the RGT validation model in an empirical study and testing out the suggested strategies, the validation model was found to provide not only tangible operational terms that guided the research process but also a rendition of validation evidence that suggested the original GT canons—fit, work, and relevance.

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