Taking cue from Selwyn’s (2012) ten suggestions for improving academic research in learning technology, this session focuses on one of his suggestions in particular, ‘mak[ing] good use of theory when and where it is helpful’. I will illustrate my experience of the way in which using theory, in this case a conceptual framework, ensured coherence of the research process, moving from mere description of digital practices to new insights.
My doctoral study explored how digital capabilities are planned, designed and experienced in two particular disciplines of higher education programmes, namely, management and engineering. Digital capabilities are defined by JISC as ‘those which equip someone to live, learn and work in a digital society’. The study’s aim was to explore different understandings and requirements of digital capabilities in the two different disciplines. It also attempted to see if there were any gaps between what higher education programmes offer students in their curricula with respect to digital capability development and the digital practices of engineers and managers. The study employed a multiple-case study methodology with four undergraduate/postgraduate modules as units of analysis (4 modules per discipline, altogether 8), drawing on documentary sources (programme and module specifications), academic (n=9), professional (n=11) and student perspectives via interviews (n=5), focus groups (n=8) and two observation sessions.
The study’s conceptual framework wove together Shulman’s (2005a, 2005b, 2005c) theory of signature pedagogies and JISC’s Digital Capability Framework. It is this combined framework, one novel aspect of the study itself, which provided the backbone to the whole research process from data collection, through analysis to findings. It offered a vantage point for critical reflection on existing digital capability frameworks, aligning with one of the themes of the conference, leading to practical and theoretical insights. For instance, applying the Digital Capability framework on its own could offer description as to different digital practices in different disciplines, but it was mapping these against its signature pedagogies which yielded the insight into the nature of prioritisation of certain digital capabilities (how and why). In this spirit, the session will be of interest to those wishing to embark on their own research projects in learning technology, or are interested in digital capabilities, or want to explore how using theory, ‘one stitch in time’, can help ‘save nine’.
JISC. (2017). Building digital capability: the six elements defined. [online] JISC. Available at: http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6611/1/JFL0066F_DIGIGAP_MOD_IND_FRAME.PDF [Accessed 12th March 2019].
Selwyn, N. (2012). Ten suggestions for improving academic research in education and technology. Learning, Media and Technology, 37(3), 213–219. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2012.680213
Shulman, L. S. (2005a). Pedagogies of uncertainty. Liberal Education, 91(2), 18–25.
Shulman, L. S. (2005b). Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus, 134(3), 52–59. https://doi.org/10.1162/0011526054622015
Shulman, L. S. (2005c). The signature pedagogies of the professions of law, medicine, engineering, and the clergy: Potential lessons for the education of teachers. In: Talk Delivered at the Math Science Partnerships (MSP) Workshop: “Teacher Education for Effective Teaching and Learning”. Hosted by the National Research Council’s Center for Education February (pp. 6–8). Irvine, California: National Research Council’s Center for Education. Available at: http://www.taylorprograms.com/images/Shulman_Signature_Pedagogies.pdf, [Accessed 12th March 2019].