Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Laurillard (2008) ‘The teacher as action researcher. Using technology to capture pedagogic form’

According to Laurillard teachers should, in the context of lifelong learning and continues professional development, with the help of the teaching community (like secondary teachers, lectures, teaching support staff) become action researchers to develop their understanding about teaching with technology.

She makes a case for this with the help of her Conversational Framework (CF), which can be used “to specify the requirements for an optimally effective learning experience” (Laurillard, 2008: 143). According to Laurillard’s, CF is educational useful and flexible, but it is complicated to incorporate it with technologies. In order to expand there understanding, teachers need to experiment, innovate with technology and learn from others. One way of developing is to become active researchers, to bring theory into practice.

Technology could support the process of sharing experiences and learning from each other. However, the take-up of repositories to share and reuse learning objects, as COLIS, JORUM, remain low. Learning Activities Management System (LAMS) is attempted to support sharing, and to harness teachers “exploration of learning technologies, as individuals and as communities of practice” (Laurillard, 2008: 147). But, the difference with the repositories is that LAMS tries to transform learning by keeping teachers in control of the pedagogies that technologies offer and by keeping the teachers active in the research community.

This article is published in 2008 and the idea behind a learning community to share experiences ans learn from others sounds reasonable enough. However, looking at the LAMS Higher Ed & Training Forum the community does not seem to be very active. The last post is from 09/06/09, contains 38 threads since the beginning of 2006, which is not much. Nevertheless, the getting started form contains post from 2010 and 15/07/2010 there will be a LAMS & Learning Design Conference.

I am not sure if I completely see Laurillard’s link between participating in a learning community to share experience and to learn from others and action research. The term Action Research exists already for a while and has shifting interpretations and applications (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_research). Dick (2002) describes it as a spiralling process of action (change), followed by research (understanding), followed by another action etc. It aims to be a self-reflective practice to solve a problem and the process is validated against critical friends in a professional circle (McNiff, 2002). Sharing and validation takes mostly, but not exclusively, place by writing a plan and a report. The critical friends leave feedback on the plan and on the report. Incorporation of the feedback is a part of the validation. The report is a way of disseminating the findings in the professional circle.

I do understand that LAMS can play an important role in sharing experiences and best practice. Technology can plays a role in the distribution and provision by making it easy to share, reflect, document and distribute. For a lecture, it is not difficult and time consuming to share and search. However, Action Research also requires a network of critical friends. Being a critical friend is a demanding task, requires skill and it takes commitment to be the meaningful-other in somebody else development. LAMS might, in my first impression an environment without much liability to start this commitment.

Laurillard in this paper addresses the importance of Action Research and the ‘willingness to share’ in a learning communities to extent our “knowledge about teaching with technology” (Laurillard, 2008: 139), and the way technology could support the learning communities. However, she does not address how to extent the ‘willingness to be critical’, which makes action research meaningful and is in my opinion the crucial factor behind action research.

References:
Dick, B. (2002) ‘Action Research: action and research’. Seminar paper for seminar Doing good action research held at Southern Cross University 2002. [Online]. Available from:  http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/gcm/ar/arp/aandr.html. Last accessed 02/11/2008
McNiff, J. (2002) ‘Action research for professional development: Concise advice for new action researchers’. [Online]. Available from:  http://www.actionresearch.net/. Last accessed 02/11/2008
Laurillard, D. (2008) ‘The teacher as action researcher: Using technology to capture pedagogic form’. Studies in Higher Education, 33 (2), 139-154. Available online: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all?content=10.1080/03075070801915908.

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