THEORIES FOR LEARNING WITH
Necessary for scholarship
Extend past learning
Project to Future – research and practice
Kurt Lewin’s (1952) famous quote, “there is
nothing so practical as a good theory” (p. 169).
“the visionary promises and concerns that many current
educators claim as novel actually have a past, one whose
themes signal both continuities and ruptures.” Larreamendy-
Joerns & Leinhardt (2006, p. 568),
TRADITIONAL THEORIES OF
• the presentational view - XMOOCs, Khan
Academy, YOuTubes, Ted Talks, Media theories,
• the performance-tutoring view – Cognitive
Behavioural theories, CAI, Personal Learning,
Feedback, Instructional Systems designs,
• the epistemic-engagement view – Social
Constructivism, peer learning
active engagement by the learners
Net presence, profiles
that multiple perspectives and sustained dialogue lead to
scaffolds provided by both human and nonhuman agents
that assist more able or knowledgeable learners or teachers
to prompt and support learners in acquiring their own
competence (Vygotsky & Luria, 1981).
Authentic context, tasks, and assessment
Problems are ill-structured, open-ended, and are deemed
Theory of Instructional Dialogue (IDT) (Caspi & Gorsky, 2006)
Paul Gorsky, Avner Caspi and Samantha Smidt. (2007)
Use of Instructional Dialogue by University Students in a Difficult Distance
Education Physics Course. JOURNAL OF DISTANCE EDUCATION
“connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed
across a network of connections, and therefore that learning
consists of the ability to construct and traverse those
networks.” Stephen Downes 2007
See special issue of
Is created by linking to appropriate people and
May be created and stored in non human
Is as much about capacity as current
Assumes the ubiquitous Internet
George Siemens (2005)
Demands net literacy and
net presence of students
Openness is scary
New roles for teachers
persistence and privacy
Too manic for some
SET MODEL OF SOCIAL
Aggregation of all people/things sharing a particular interest,
Examples: Set of all graduates of X, all psychology
resources, all physics teachers
Often set members curate resources with social involvement
limited to votes, comments, links
Sets MAY develop into networks or groups.
Born on the Net
Focuses on student responsibility for their own learning and
building of their own learning nets and sets
Is emergent and can be disruptive
For advanced learners only??
• “a philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific
school or discipline within which theories, laws, and
generalizations and the experiments performed in
support of them are formulated” Merriam Webster
• “the set of common beliefs and agreements shared
between scientists about how problems should be
understood and addressed” (Kuhn, 1962)
• a world view, a way of ordering and simplifying the
perceptual world's stunning complexity by making
certain fundamental assumptions about the nature of
the universe, of the individual, and of society.
ONTOLOGY IS WHAT EXISTS AND IS
A VIEW ON THE NATURE OF
Are you a realist ? You see reality as something 'out there', as a law
of nature just waiting to be found ?
Are you a critical realist? You know things exist 'out there' but as
human beings our own presence as researchers influences what we
are trying to measure.
Or, are you a relativist ? You believe that knowledge is a social
reality, value-laden and it only comes to light through individual
EPISTEMOLOGY IS OUR PERCEIVED
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE KNOWLEDGE WE ARE
Are we part of that knowledge or are we external to it?
different forms of knowledge of that reality, what nature of relationship
exists between the inquirer and the inquired? How do we know?
Your view will frame your interaction with what you are
researching and will depend on your ontological view.
Do “you see knowledge governed by the laws of nature or
subjective if you see knowledge as something interpreted by
METHODOLOGY REFERS TO HOW YOU GO
ABOUT FINDING OUT KNOWLEDGE AND
CARRYING OUT YOUR RESEARCH.
It is your strategic approach, rather than your techniques and
data analysis (Wainright, 1997). Some examples of such
the scientific method (quantitative method),
ethnographic approach, case study approach,
(both using qualitative methods),
ideological framework (e.g. an interpretation
from Marxist, Feminist viewpoint),
dialectic approach (e.g. compare and contrast
different points of view or constructs, including
Positivism - Quantitative ~ discovery
of the laws that govern behavior
Constructivist - Qualitative ~
understandings from an insider perspective
Critical - Postmodern ~ Investigate
and expose the power relationships
Pragmatic - interventions, interactions
and their effect in multiple contexts
POSITIVISM - QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH
• Ontology: There is an objective reality
and we can understand it and it through
the laws by which it is governed.
• Epistemology: employs a scientific
discourse derived from the epistemologies
of positivism and realism.
• Method: Experimental, Deduction,
• “those who are seeking the strict way of truth
should not trouble themselves about any object
concerning which they cannot have a certainty
equal to arithmetic or geometrical
– (Rene Descartes)
• Inordinate support and faith in randomized
TYPICAL POSITIVIST RESEARCH QUESTION:
• How much?
• Relationship between?
• Causes this effect?
• Best answered with numerical precision
• Often formulated as hypotheses
• Reliability: Same results different times,
• Validity: results accurately measure and
reliably answer research questions.
• “Without reliability, there is no validity.”
• Can you think of a positivist measurement
that is reliable, but not valid?
EXAMPLES POSITIVIST 1 –
COMMUNITY OF INQUIRY- CONTENT ANALYSIS
• Garrison, Anderson, Archer 1997-2003
– http://communitiesofinquiry.com - 9 papers reviewing results
focusing on reliable , quantitative analysis
– Identified ways to measure teaching, social and cognitive
– Most reliable methods are beyond current time constraints of
– Questions of validity
– Serves as basic research as grounding for AI methods and major
– Serves as qualitative heuristic for teachers and course designers
POSITIVIST 2 – META-ANALYSIS
• Aggregates many effect sizes creating large N’s &
more powerful results.
• Ungerleider and Burns (2003)
• Systematic review of effectiveness and efficiency of
Online education versus Face to face?
• The type of interventions studied were
extraordinary diverse –only criteria was a
• “Only 10 of the 25 studies included in the in-
depth review were not seriously flawed, a
sobering statistic given the constraints that went
into selecting them for the review.”
IS DE BETTER THAN CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION?
PROJECT 1: 2000 – 2004
• Question: How does distance education compare
to classroom instruction? (inclusive dates 1985-
• Total number of effect sizes: k = 232
• Measures: Achievement, Attitudes and Retention
(opposite of drop-out)
• Divided into Asynchronous and Synchronous DE
Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Lou, Y. Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Wozney, L.,
Wallet, P.A., Fiset, M., & Huang, B. (2004). How does distance education
compare to classroom instruction? A meta-analysis of the empirical literature.
Review of Educational Research, 74(3), 379-439.
QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH SUMMARY
• Can be useful especially when fine tuning well
• Provides incremental gains in knowledge, not
• The need to “control” context often makes results of
little value to practicing professionals
• In times of rapid change too early quantitative
testing may mask beneficial positive capacity
• Will we ever be able to afford blind reviewed,
random assignment studies?
INTERPRETIVIST OR QUALITATIVE PARADIGM
• Many different varieties
• Generally answer the question ‘why’ rather
then ‘what’, ‘when’ or ‘how much’?
• Presents special challenges in distributed
contexts due to distance between participants
• Currently most common type of DE research
(Rourke & Szabo, 2002)
• Ontology: World and knowledge created by
social and contextual understanding.
• Epistemology: How do we come to
understand a unique person’s worldview
• Methodology: Qualitative methods –
narrative, interviews, observations,
ethnography, case study, phenomenology etc.
TYPICAL QUALITATIVE RESEARCH QUESTION
• How does subject understand ?
• What is the “lived experience”?
• What meaning does the artifact or
Mixed views were expressed by front-line professionals,
which seem to reflect their levels of engagement. It was
broadly welcomed by nursing staff as long as it
supplemented rather than substituted their role in traditional
patient care. GPs held mixed views; some gave a cautious
welcome but most saw telehealth as increasing their work
burden and potentially undermining their professional
MacNeill, V., Sanders, C., Fitzpatrick, R., Hendy, J., Barlow, J.,
Knapp, M., ... & Newman, S. P. (2014). Experiences of
front-line health professionals in the delivery of
telehealth: a qualitative study. Br J Gen Pract,
QUALITATIVE EXAMPLE 2
• Mann, S. (2003) A personal inquiry into an experience of
adult learning on-line. Instructional Science 31
– The need to facilitate the presentation of learner and teacher
identities in such a way that takes account of the loss of the normal
– The need to make explicit the development of operating norms and
– reduced communicative media there is the potential for greater
– The need to consider ways in which the developing learning
community can be open to the other of uncertainty, ambiguity and
• Ontology: Reality only exists in the minds and contexts of the
• Epistemology: Understand and interpret the participants
inside view point.
• Methodology: Ethnography, narrative inquiry, grounded
theory, phenomenology, etc.
• Asks who gains in power?
• David Noble’s critique of ‘digital diploma mills’ most prominent
• Are profits generated from user generated content exploitative?
• Confronting the “net changes everything” mantra of many social
• Who is being excluded from social software?
• Are MOOCs really free?
• Does Online education only expose learners to more educational
CRITICAL RESEARCH PARADIGM
• Ontology: Reality exists and has been created by directed
• Epistemology: Understand oppressed view by uncovering the
“contradictory conditions of action which are hidden or
distorted by everyday understanding” (Comstock) and work
to help change social conditions
• Methodology: Critical analysis, historic review, participate in
programs of action
TYPICAL CRITICAL PARADIGM QUESTIONS
• How can this injustice be rectified?
• Can the exploited be helped to understand the oppression
that undermines them?
• Who benefits from or exploits the current situation?
SAMPLE CRITICAL QUESTIONS
• Why does Facebook own all the content that we supply?
• Does the power of the net further marginalize the non-
• Who benefits from voluntary disclosure?
• Why did the One Laptop Per Child fail?
• Does learning analytics exploit student vulnerabilities and
right to privacy?
BUT WHAT TYPE OF RESEARCH HAS MOST EFFECT ON PRACTICE?
– Kennedy (1999) - teachers rate relevance and
value of results from each of major
– No consistent results – teachers are not a
homogeneous group of consumers but they
do find research of value
– “The studies that teachers found to be most
persuasive, most relevant, and most
influential to their thinking were all studies
that addressed the relationship between
teaching and learning.”
• “To a pragmatist, the mandate of science
is not to find truth or reality, the
existence of which are perpetually in
dispute, but to facilitate human problem-
solving” (Powell, 2001, p. 884).
• Developed from frustration of the lack of impact of
educational research in educational systems.
• Key features:
– An intervention
– Empirical research in a natural context
– Partnership between researchers and
– Development of theory and ‘design principles”
• Ontology: Reality is the practical effects of
• Epistemology: Any way of thinking/doing that
leads to pragmatic solutions is useful.
• Methodology: Mixed Methods, design-based
research, action research
• What can be done to increase literacy of adult learners?
• Can collaborative Learning online, increase student
satisfaction and completion rates?
• Will blog activities increase student satisfaction and learning
outcomes in my course?
• What incentives are effective for encouraging teachers to use
social media in their teaching?
4TH PRAGMATIC PARADIGM
DESIGN BASED RESEARCH METHOD
• Related to engineering and architectural research
• Focuses on the design, construction, implementation and
adoption of a learning initiative in an authentic context
• Related to ‘Development Research’
• Closest educators have to a “home grown” research
DESIGN-BASED RESEARCH STUDIES
– process focused,
– utility oriented,
– theory driven and generative
• (Shavelson et al, 2003)
CRITICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF
• According to Reeves (2000:8), Ann Brown (1992) and Alan
– addressing complex problems in real contexts in
collaboration with practitioners,
– integrating known and hypothetical design
principles with technological affordances to
render plausible solutions to these complex
– conducting rigorous and reflective inquiry to test
and refine innovative learning environments as
well as to define new design-principles.
• “design-based research enables the
creation and study of learning conditions
that are presumed productive but are not
well understood in practice, and the
generation of findings often overlooked
or obscured when focusing exclusively on
the summative effects of an
intervention” Wang & Hannafin, 2003
• Iterative because
• ‘Innovation is not restricted to the prior design of an
artifact, but continues as artifacts are implemented
• Implementations are “inevitably unfinished” (Stewart
and Williams (2005)
• intertwined goals of (1) designing learning
environments and (2) developing theories of learning
Paradigm Ontology Epistemology Question Method
Positivism Hidden rules
Focus on reliable
and valid tools
What works? Quantitative
Why do you act
Critical Society is rife
How can I
Pragmatic Truth is what is
The best method
is one that
• Both traditional and new pedagogical theories offer
opportunity to guide research
• Four educational research paradigms –each offers advantage
• Choice for research based on
– Personal views
– Research questions
– Access, support and resources
– Supervisor(s) attitudes!
• There is no single, “best way” to do research
• Arguing paradigm perspectives is not productive