Epistemic fluency, digital materiality and designery ways of thinking about research methods in education

MethodsEducational research is, of course, one of the most epistemically diverse and challenging research fields. Actionable knowledge and epistemic fluency are big themes in it. Some people have been asking us if we wrote anything about this. Not recently, but below there are summaries and links to some our earlier papers that should give an insight into our ways of thinking about epistemological landscape of educational research. They are written during 2010–2011, but the main messages are still very relevant. The first paper discusses connections between epistemic fluency, educational research methods and educational design (or educational research as design). The next two papers talk about emerging technology-mediated research methods and implications for educational research. (NB: these two papers have been written in the era when “learning analytics” yet to be invented, but fundamental epistemological questions about big data vs. rich data, digital materiality, digital knowledge, educational research infrastructures, etc. are still pretty “hot”). Of course, others have been writing about these topics too, e.g. see Deb Hayes and Catherine Doherty’s paper on epistemic diversity in the Australian Educational Researcher.

Emerging methodological challenges for educational research

by Peter Goodyear

This chapter looks to the future of educational research by tracing the implications of two perceptible changes. The first is a shift in our sense of the sites of education, acknowledging ways in which learning activity is becoming more extensively distributed across different contexts. The second is a broadening of our conception of educational praxis, acknowledging the growing importance of design <…> The combination of these shifts is creating new demands for research-based knowledge of a kind that can inform educational design, at a variety of levels – from policy design to the design of learning environments. I will argue that the work of design routinely combines different forms of knowledge and ways of knowing, and that this challenges some purist assumptions about epistemology and methodology. I will also sketch some ideas about the shifting distribution of both the production and consumption of educational research, within heterogeneous networks of institutions, people and devices. This also provides an opportunity for examining some asymmetries between research for design and design-based research.

Digital media, technologies and scholarship: Some shapes of eResearch in educational inquiry

by Lina Markauskaite

This paper discusses some recent developments in digital media, research technologies and scholarly practices that are known under the umbrella term of “eResearch”. Drawing on conceptual ideas of digital materialism, epistemic artefacts and epistemic tools, this paper discusses how the digital inscription of knowledge and knowing could change the nature of knowledge work in educational research and inquiry. This paper argues that eResearch challenges the conventional divide between “monological” and “dialogical” research practices and provides opportunities to create “trialogical” ways of inquiry. These trialogical practices involve not only the collaborative development of answers to research questions, but also require explicit attention and development of new digital epistemic infrastructures – digital resources, software and conceptual tools and social structures. Our limited understanding about educational knowledge building practices is one of the major challenges for further advancement of educational research.

Digital knowledge and digital research: What does eResearch offer education and social policy

by Lina Markauskaite

The primary topic of this chapter is the methodological implications of digital data and eResearch in education and social policy. It argues that significant progress in solving conceptual and practical questions in these fields could be made by harnessing the increasing volume, density and complexity of social data, embracing data-rich research methods and exploiting opportunities for research collaboration. By moving from the ontological roots of digital data and technical eResearch potential to culturally-shaped knowledge-production practices, the chapter aims to show some promising synergies and challenging tensions between eResearch and research for education and social policy. <…> To illustrate some possibilities, the chapter then looks at some examples of educational data mining and video analysis and proceeds to outline three broad challenges for eResearch adoption in educational and social policy research: technological, cognitive-epistemological and social-cultural. Finally, it discusses some future digital extensions of social inquiry and proposes that, as the first step, educational and social policy research should move away from the prevailing hypothesis and theory-driven research towards more open data-rich exploration, and from traditional scientific publishing towards new models of research dissemination and knowledge co-construction.

Full references

Goodyear, P. (2011). Emerging methodological challenges for educational research. In Markauskaite L, Freebody P, Irwin J (Eds.), Methodological Choice and Design: Scholarship, Policy and Practice in Social and Educational Research, (pp. 253-266). New York: Springer.

Markauskaite, L. (2010). Digital media, technologies and scholarship: Some shapes of eResearch in educational inquiry, Australian Educational Researcher, 37(4), 79-101

Markauskaite, L. (2011). Digital knowledge and digital research: What does eResearch offer education and social policy. In Markauskaite L, Freebody P, Irwin J (Eds.), Methodological Choice and Design: Scholarship, Policy and Practice in Social and Educational Research, (pp. 235-252). New York: Springer.

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