Connectivism and serendipity

14 October 2008

In looking around for thoughts on Husserl I came across the WordPress blog ‘Between Husserl and Heidegger‘ – a blog as an adjunct to a taught face-to-face course. On clicking on one of the tags (Husserl) I was surprised to see a link to a post in another blog about connectivism. This is the theory of learning espoused by two of the leading lights in the technology and learning arena – George Siemens and Stephen Downes.

The surprise was not that this should turn up in a search (although the link to Husserl is pretty tenuous through a quoted marginalia). Rather it is the subject of an online course that one of my colleagues is attending and blogging about at this very time. Is that serendipity, coincidence or reticular activation?

Is that a milestone?

14 October 2008

So another day’s study leave – another 3000 words or so committed to ‘paper’… at least when it is printed out it makes a thud on the desk!

This month I have restarted the PhD, many things have happened to enable this… a colleague reported that she will finish during this year… a research cluster meeting has signed me up to present a paper at  seminar (maybe I need to sign up for the one at ITTE in Cambridge too!)… I have booked the aforementioned study leave and set some targets (pretty basic ones like ‘write something proper’ but I now have 17000 proper words – although I am under no illusion: about half of them will probably go before I’m done)… I have restarted tutorials… I have built this PhD into my performance development review targets… I’m doing a different job, which seems to suit better… I am supervising three other candidates and see the process from the other side… all good… for now!

Putting the Ph into the PhD?

14 October 2008

I have been struggling this week with the concept of ‘perception‘. After a tutorial my focus was on how I might apporach the capture and analysis of students’ ‘perceptions‘ about assessment. This word has been quite fundamental to my description of the research. In the tutorial, we got talking about marketing theories and perceptual analysis as a method in that discipline.

Needless to say I know little about marketing. So what is the perceptual analysis? It has proved an elusive hunt but I have travelled over some interesting territory. One laden with ontological considerations and debate.

First there is the hermeneutics of Husserl and Heidegger. For one the importance of the existence of the objects  of consciousness ONLY in the way in which they are perceived by the consciousness, for the other the autonomy of such objects irrespective of the sense we bestow on them. This perception is then reported linguistically and Wittgenstein’s concept of the language game filters any such sense.

Then there is the triple hermeneutics of Alvesson and Sköldberg (2000). Hermeneutics – the analysis of interpration, double hermeneutics – the analysis of interpreted interpretation (the dual lenses of researcher and respondent), triple hermeneutics – the analysis of interpreted interpretation and the context behind that interpretation (the three lenses of researcher, respondent and context).

Lowe et al (2005) propose a 4th hermeneutic in the context of marketing (and that was how I came in) but I am not sure yet how this applies!

Finally, and most pragmatically (*), Conroy (2003) examines interpretive phenomenology (or rather re examines it) and develops a  methodology and methods for doing something fairly similar to what I am proposing, albeit in the context of nursing (the usual context for this approach, it seems). Here is a model that I need to examine and critique for its use in my study as I move towards the primary research phase.

And in this phrase – interpretive phenomenology – hides the word I have been meaning when I have said perception: it is interpretation. So not ‘what is a student’s perception of….’ but what is a student’s interpretation of…’ The problem is, you see, that perception has a particular meaning in this philosophical arena. I had to go down the false road of Arnold Berleant to realise it… Thanks are due here to my colleague Kev Flint…

I have a fair chunk of literature review written, I have many ideas about methodology and method. Now is the time to crystallize this and move on to ‘action’. My director of studies agrees and this ‘permission’ is what I have been waiting for…

(*) pragmatic in the the sense of being related to action… but actually very philosophical in nature

History of assessment

14 October 2008

Blindingly obvious I guess, but nevertheless not a field I have mined much. “History of assessment” needto be a significant contextual filter for my research.

I am attending some of the seminars of the Cambridge Assessment Network as and when I can (Kathryn Ecclestone on Ofqual, Harry Torrance on Policy and Practice). There are others that I have been unable to attend but would like to have done. Fortunately useful overviews such as this one from Helen Patrick are often put online.

MUPPLE (Mashup and PLE)

14 October 2008

This report (Wild, Kalz and Palmer, 2008) on the proceedings of the first conference on Mashups and Personal Learning Environments (MUPPLE) is interesting to me for the underlying concepts.

While it is necessarily focused on the technological developments that have allowed mash ups to become part of users’ armoury, there is an interesting parallel (explicit in the title but maybe less so in the content) with learning. As more tools become available learners are able to combine them (mash them up) for their own purposes. Personalisation of the curriculum is another parallel and these all have interesting consequences for assessment and for learners perception of capability. If someone appropriates tools for their own use are they, de facto, demonstrating high levels of ICT capability?

Becta report into Web 2.0

6 October 2008

Becta have published a research report (Crook & Harrison, 2008) on use of Web 2.0 by learners, teachers, at home, in school etc. This statement in the summary caught my eye:

Pupils feel a sense of ownership and engagement when they publish their work online and this can encourage attention to detail and an overall improved quality of work. Some teachers reported using publication of work to encourage peer assessment.

Where is the use of these tools in extrenal assessment? Come to that, where is the use of peer assessment in external assessment.

Also noticeable is the emergence of yet another Rogers’ adoption curve – with the earley adopters being the young ones etc… is this true? DO teachers really not use Web 2.0 tools? How does that square with the quote above? It is borne out in the research of Solheim (2007,  which cites OfCOM’s 2006 statistic of 40% of ‘adults’ having used social networking sites*, compared to 70% of 16-24 year olds and Comscore’s 2007 finding that over half (1.3 million) of Facebook’s new users in the previous year were 25 or older.

* OfCOM’2 2008 report tates that ‘only’ 21% have ‘set up a profile’ on such sites.

Comscore (2007), Facebook sees flood of new traffic [online] available at accessed 06/10/08

Crook, C and Harrison, C (2008)  Web 2.0 Technologies for Learning at Key Stages 3 and 4: Summary Report, Becta [online] available at accessed 06/10/08

Ofcom (2006), The communications market. [online] available at accessed 06/10/08

Ofcom (2008),The communications market report, [online] available at accessed 06/10/08

Solheim, H (2007) Digital Natives versus Higher Education: who is ready for whom, MSc dissertation, University of Southampton.

Theories of motivation and assessment of ICT – some questions

2 October 2008

One of the books that I have cherished in this process is Tombari and Borich’s on Authentic Assessment in the Classroom (1999). I have returned to it to analyse their categorisation of theories of motivation and used this to generate some questions that may be useful in data collection.

Attribution theory

How do students perceive success in ICT tasks and what do they attribute that success to?

Self-efficacy theory

How do students see their ICT capability and where does that view comes from?

Goal theory

What assumptions, if any, does ICT assessment make of students goal-theory characteristics and how do students themselves view their capacity to succeed?