- A ‘book group’: texts (readings and films clips) boxed by a brief introduction, focus questions and follow up questions.
- ‘How theory has worked for me’: a series of interviews (films, sound and text files) with both academics and research students explaining the use of theory in their work.
- ‘Community’:links to online networks where social theory is discussed.
- An online discussion forum organised around six critical questions about social theory.
Students are provided with a user guide with a series of focus questions and signposts to relevant material.
The project was conducted from September 2015 – September 2016. The relaxed timetable allowed for an iterative approach, involving rapid prototyping and ‘just in time’ feedback. The topic of social theory was chosen as it represented a particularly troubling area for research students – one often described as a threshold concept (Kiley 2015). The material was formally evaluated in a day long workshop before becoming available to the wider community of research students.
There are three aspects of this project which are of interest to this conference:
First, the project took a fairly novel approach to instructional design in that the concept of user and designer became merged so that students moved into the designer role, drawing heavily on their past experience of engaging with the subject matter and knowledge of their peers.
Second, the material can be re-used creatively, reflecting the very diverse circumstances of student researchers. For example, the site material was designed to be both a stand-alone resource but can also be used as part of a blended teaching strategy within the formal teaching of research methods. Furthermore, the site can be seamlessly updated.
Third, the project throws important light on the pivotal role of idea of content knowledge in the design process. In this case the key challenge in design was understanding the multidimensional nature of social theory; once this was understood it was clear that we needed to take on the role of online curator (Proctor, 2010) more than that of instructor when organising the content.
In this session we will present the resource and discuss lessons learnt in respect to collaborative design, the viability and scalability of small-scale projects and the nature of pedagogical content knowledge.
Kiley (2015) ‘I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about’: PhD candidates and theory, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 52, 1, 52-63.
Proctor, N. (2010) Digital: Museum as platform, curator as champion, in the age of social media, Curator: The Museum Journal, 53, 1, 35–43.