EARLI: On shifting positions in DBR

I’m happy to announce, that I will be going to Finland on the EARLI (European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction) conference this year with a contribution to a roundtable discussion.  My colleagues Lea Tilde Rosenlund, Charlotte Wolff and I had our proposal accepted with the following comments:

This makes for an interesting round-table, being conscious of the possible influences of shifting roles and perspectives are of the utmost importance in DBR – any type of research for that matter. I think the discussion at this round-table will be fruitful.

The question of the (shifting) role of the researcher in Design-Base Research is an important and understudied question. The proposed round table could provide a welcome contribution to the discussion. The round table format fits the described purpose very well.

The topic for our roundtable discussion is on the shifting positions of the researcher within Design-Based Research. You can see our proposal here: EARLI submission round table 2017

You can find out more about the EARLI conference here: https://earli.org/earli-2017

Hope to see you there

Reflections from the field

I have now been following students and teachers from the Teacher Education Programme for three months and I am now beginning to see some contours of my forthcoming analysis. I still have a few weeks left of the first iteration so nothing can be concluded yet, but I thought I might share some of my thoughts here.

Huge amount of data

First of all, I am as most other Design-Based Researchers will recognise “drowning” in data. Sound recordings, video recordings from the camera and video glasses, observations logs,  photos, drawings, study objects are all piling up, at I barely get to systemize them before going on the next field trip.

As a researcher in an anthropological and ethnographic field, I’m obliged to create “thick descriptions” of my experiences.
What are my anticipations before entering the field, what do I see, how is my positioning in the social construct, how are the relations amongst the participant evolving over time, what activities do we undergo and what are my in situ reflections. Just naming a few.

Reading through a lot of DBR literature and research using this methodology I find the lack of these descriptions problematic. Problematic because the focus is much more on hard evidence and results, than actually taking the aim of the methodology seriously enough, that is the developmental and anthropological parts, as well as taking the complexity of social situations serious.  Countering that tendency of cause takes up much time. But I think that the research, the findings and the sharing of my research will benefit from it.

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The Learning Design

The overall learning design has shown to have both some beneficial elements and some elements that need further improvement.

First, I can already now conclude that the students in broad terms see the possibility to visit and revisit practice as part of their teacher’s education programme as a strengthening of their professional acting and noticing in different ways.
As the students revisit them I can observe differences in how they plan, implement and reflect on their learning designs. I need to invest this much further, but it seems quite clear, that students actively transfer and transform knowledge and experiences from different situations in practice when planning for their next visit. Knowing the students, the learning environment and the social dynamics (although it’s very briefly) that is constituted in the class is of high value for the students when preparing their next visit, or (in a Bransford & Schwarts, 1999 term) when they prepare for future learning situations.

Secondly, it is also clear to me, that students, when transforming knowledge, across contexts, draw on many different domains. Previous experiences from practice, friends who are already teachers, online communities, learning resource, other students (through observation), other courses, again just naming a few.

To use Marton’s “Double Transfer Paradigm”:

“This seems like a more complete model of transfer, because it considers both the “transfer in” that helps people to learn and the “transfer out” that helps them apply that learning. Were we to widen the scope of the concept of transfer, such an effect could be called transfer: One learns something in some situations, and the one becomes better at learning something else in other situations.” (Marton, 2006)

In addition to Wagner’s “Transfer In Pieces” approach:

“Transfer is revealed not as rooted in the acquisition of increasingly abstract mental representations, but through the incremental refinement of knowledge resources that account for—rather than overlook—contextual variation.” (Wagner, 2006)

You could say that students “transfer in” from a complex of various situations, experiences or contexts, that combined (both consciously explicit and implicit tacit) construct their thinking, noticing and sense-making. This will maybe become my biggest challenge in the project. How do I identify, from where student draw the knowledge and the different dynamics of transformation, when they, themselves, are not able to explain it?

Thirdly, and last, for now, it has shown off great value to work with observation groups* in the design.  Although it was needed to refine the design of the group (aims of observation, getting them more actively involved and supporting them through a designed artefact) the students are very positive about the concept and have outlined different potentials:

  • By observing others, the students are inspired to design their own lessons. By looking at fellow students they get ideas, tools and inspiration.
  • The observation group is valuable because the provide feedback and reflections, that the teaching students are not able to notice in action. These reflections relate to the student’s performance, classroom management, ability to build relations with students, communicative skills etc.
  • The opportunity to observe pedagogical practice is valuable from a theoretical point of view. Learning to observe classroom dynamics through their first-hand experiences adds a valuable perspective to their education and processing theoretical concepts. Being able to relate to real examples makes it easier to comprehend and discuss theory.

We do as if we are at schools!

I already encountered this term used on several occasions during the first session. Both the students and the teacher were quite aware of the simulation of practice, as a part of the educational setting. Very often the students and the teacher referred to, how the theoretical knowledge could be applied in school settings. As the teacher put it: “Here we often do, as if we are at a real school”.

Throughout my classroom observations at the Teachers College and following the lessons I’ve come to reflect upon the different activities the students participate in. The teacher is not only very aware of the simulation of practice in schools, she is also very aware of repeatedly referring to the pupils and the school the students are visiting, trying to make the students take the setting and the students into account when engaging in her planned activities. Furthermore, she plans a variety of activities, that I, for now mainly put into three categories regarding transformation and transfer :

  1. Activities that help students construct concepts. These activities mainly focus on academic knowledge about a topic and provide students with kinds of knowledge, that is not directly applicable to practice, but needs to be transformed in the sense of becoming part of the student professional identity. These activities rely very much on meta-reflections and knowledge valuable for theory and discussions withing the educational setting around the subject. An example here would be discussing potentials of multimodal representations in communication.
  2. Activities that act as an inspiration can be applied in practice. These activities need to be redesigned to be used and draw on general concepts that can support different kinds of teaching methods and learning approaches. The students need awareness on how to resituate and apply the activities in schools. An example here could be  “a reading theatre”, where pupils read a story out loud by playing different roles.
  3. Activities that are directly usable in practice. These activities are not tied to a specific theme but can be directly used as independent activities in class. An example of this kind of activity could be “hangman”.

Although the above is just a brief description, that deserves much a much more detailed explanation, it gives a rough picture of the way students a scaffolded to think and implement practice into their education. I will return to this typology of activities since they will be a part of my analysis on designing for transformation.

100 min. is a long time!

As the last point of this post, I want to mention an issue that came to me as a surprise.
The students in my project find that planning and teaching for 100 min. is a long time.  They argue, that more professional experience is needed to teach for such a long period of time. We, therefore, reduced the timescale to approximately 60 min. I was quite surprised that this would become an issue since the students were grouped and could split up the time between them and thereby reduce the load. But the students felt it hard to produce learning designs that meet their own quality demands if they had to prepare longer periods.  Also, one student argued:

“Since we are experimenting with fragments of what we learn in our own classes, it is hard to create a design, where activities are coherent and not just loose pearls on a string. If we want the pupils to get the point and learn, what we want them to, it’s better to have shorter sessions. Less is more, so to speak”.

The student has a point, I think, and furthermore brings up the issue, that other students address as well, namely that the experiments are short and limited to a specific topic over a short period of time. It hereby does not resemble what the students are doing, when they are attending their mandatory practice periods. It is some ting else.

At the same time, the students find that working in groups around planning and teaching prove very difficult. They cannot point at specific reasons other than organisational circumstances. But I think there is more here to investigate from an anthropologist perspective that I will not get further into here.

Never the less the students have proven to manage fine with the  60 min. of teaching time and it has shown sufficient enough to base both findings and reflections on.. for both the students and me.


* When the student goes into practice they are grouped into two. One group is teaching (e.g. Group 1), and the another group (e.g. Group 2)is observing the teaching group. Afterwards, during a reflections session and my interviews with the teaching group, the observing group provides feedback and reflections due to their observations.


References:

Bransford, J. D., & Schwartz, D. L. (1999). Rethinking transfer: A simple proposal with multiple implications. Review of Research in Education, 24, 61–100.
Marton, F. (2006). Sameness and differences in transfer. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 15(4), 499–535.
Wagner, J. F. (2006). Transfer in Pieces. Cognition and Instruction, 24(1), 1–71.

Study trip to the Open University Netherlands

Recently I travelled along with my colleagues to visit the Open University of the Netherlands and a group of researchers who were particularly interested in Practice-Based Research and Networked Learning. In the following is just a short wrapup from the trip.

We were very well received by our colleagues there and they had planned a great week for our stay as shown in the table below:

skaermbillede-2016-10-08-kl-16-15-37As part of the programme, we collaborated a conference where both research teams could present different parts of their research to a broader audience (mainly masters students at the university and colleagues). I have written briefly about the conference in an earlier post:

Confrence on Practice-based research methods

At the conference, I had the chance to give a presentation on the “Concepts of transfer and transformation in designing for situated knowledge across contexts”
My presentation was mainly on presenting different views and positions on the concept of transfer and relate those views to my own research. In my presentation, I did partly describe and problematise the concept of transfer and argued that transfer should not be seen as an isolated phenomenon but in correlation to learning and transformation of knowledge situated in contexts
You can see my slides here:

Concepts of transfer and transformation in designing for situated knowledge across contexts from Roland Hachmann

As part of the workshop, questions arose on the concept of participation and how we actually are able to identify which contexts participants bring into and across social constructions. How are we able to know, which prior experiences and knowledge, participant bring into a situation and how actions are related to them. These kinds of questions are important for my study and I will need to engage further with these perspectives.

Another hot topic at the conference was on the notion of quality in empirical research and who should actually conduct this kind of research. On one hand, it was argued that universities were perfectly able since research is not dependent on a specific practice or limited to specific contexts, and on the other hand it was argued that research should indeed take into consideration and recognise practice as complex and research as an entangled part of this complexity, which could not be neutral. Again a topic that will be both important and interesting for me to elaborate on. Right now there is a similar discussion on, whether research conducted by professionals at Departments of Applied Science (At University Colleges) do a special kind of research that differs from Universities hence the strong commitment and involvement in practice. At this point, I’m not sure where I stand. I will be back on this topic in another post

Workshop: Methodology and instruments for practice & participatory-based research

As another activity, I, together with my Ph.d.-fellow Lea and dutch colleague Arnoud, planned a workshop on a topic that we think as highly influencing Participatory research or in my case, Design-Based Research.

The main focus of the workshop was on locating benefits and challenges on engaging into studies from a participatory or design-based perspective. We wanted to have a focus on which qualities others saw in Participatory- or Design-Based Research and especially on shifting positions of the participants in a research design.
In short, literature on Design-Based Research often addresses perspectives on roles of the researcher as well as the co-designers/practitioners, but the focus being on skills needed, e.g. being an expert in the field, rather than on the phenomena of changing positions in the phases and contexts of research. As researchers, we find this insufficient and lacking understanding the social construct of empirical research. 

To facilitate the discussion we divided the two teams into three groups discussing the following:

 

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After discussing the input from the three groups we presented two examples (dilemmas) to illustrate how positions, shift in actual practice, we (Lea and I) drew upon two empirical studies from our own research conducted in the context of Teacher education programme. The first example shows how the professional background of the researcher influences the participants’ positioning of the researcher. The second example shows how the position of the researcher is questioned by the co-designer while developing a practice with and through the design. Both examples provide cases where the position of the researcher is not fixed, and thereby not limited to being the expert, nor does it take a neutral or invisible stance in the setting.

The two examples are shown below:

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Special issue to come:
To repeat and summarise  all points of discussions would be too much in this post, but as a result of the trip, we agreed to collaborate further on a special issue where we will present, discuss and reflect upon the various topics from our week. Lea and I are, in collaboration with Charlotte Wolff writing on an article the focuses on shifting positions as a phenomenon and we are looking forward to publishing it next year. For now, we are still in the  investigation phase, but since publishing articles undergo a long process the actual writing process will soon begin.

More to come on the account as well.

Below you can see the two research teams from Denmark and The Netherlands:

SDU team:
Nina Bonderup Dohn
Jens Jørgen Hansen
Stig Børsen Hansen
Lea Tilde Rosenlund
Roland Hachmann

OUNL team:
Maarten de Laat
Steven Verjans
Emmy Vrieling
Femke Nijland
Arnoud Evers
Rob Martens
Charlotte Wolff

Conducting the Literature Review

One of the first steps to take in the progress of my ph.d. project is to get an overview over what has been published on the topic of my study by accredited scholars and researchers. It’s not an easy task because it involves a great number of decisions and considerations.

First of all I’ll have to consider which review methods my field of study actually has a tradition of conducting. For that I’ve tried to get a grasp of some basic literature, that could guide my choices. So I found an article by Grant & Booth (2009), that gives my a starting point.

In their article aims to provide descriptive insight into the most common types of reviews. In the article Grant & Booth claim that

…the diversity of terminology used means that the full potential of these review types may be lost amongst a confusion of indistinct and misapplied terms.

The method used in the article is SALSA a simple analytical framework—Search, AppraisaL,Synthesis and Analysis, through which the locate 14 different review types.

Although the domain of the article is  ealth information and health care I believe the article can be used generically across domains. A Quick overview over the 14different review types are shortly shown here:

  • Critical review
  • Literature review
  • Mapping review/systematic map
  • Meta-analysis
  • Mixed studies review/ mixed method review
  • Overview
  • Qualitative systematic review/ qualitative evidence synthesis
  • Rapid review
  • Scoping review
  • State-of-the-art review
  • Systematic review
  • Systematic search and review
  • Systematized review
  • Umbrella review

To go into each of the review types here would be to demanding and for that i encourage you to read the article yourself.

For my project it seems that the “Literature review” might be the right way.
Grant and Booth point out that weaknesses of this method is

Literature reviews lack an explicit intent to maximize scope or analyse data collected. Any conclusions they may reach are therefore open to bias from the potential to omit, perhaps inadvertently, significant sections of the literature or by not questioning the validity of statements made. Additionally, authors may only select literature that supports their world view, lending undue credence to a preferred hypothesis. 

So it seem that I will have to cope with this weekness somehow.

Luckily I’m not alone in the progress. But that is another topic for another post.

References:

Grant, M. J., & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies: A typology of reviews, Maria J. Grant & Andrew Booth. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91–108. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x

Project plan approved

Project plan for approval

This week my project plan was finally approved by my supervisor and sendt to the Ph.D. committee.  Hopefully they approve. The great thing about getting there is the proces of getting more aware of the directions, theoretical points of view and the methodologies of the project. Although there are still many wquestions to answer to, the project seems to have gotten in a direction, that reflects my research questions.

My research question

I haven’t revealed my research questions on the blog yet, so here we go:

How can pedagogical designs support students in transforming situated knowledge between educational contexts and professional contexts – and how does the use of praxis, as experimental labs and the use of mobile- and web-based technology enhance this transformation?

Short description

My research focusses on teachers education as the educational context and middle school (10-12 years) as praxis context, where the students experiment with the knowledge and competences gained through their study. It is my believe that through continuos boarder-crossing between education and praxis, the situating and transformation of knowledge is enhanced and empowered. It is my further believe that both education and praxis will innovate through the process.