Category Archives: European Ed Research Summer School

This category will be filled with my learning outcomes and pre and post reflections of the EERSS

Interactive Complexity Time Line Map

An incredible interactive map about how the concept of complexity and related issues have evolved throughout time.

I have seen this map before and I have even made a print to study it in more detail but I did not have access to the interactive version.
Thank you to Giorgio Bertini and his incredible project of Learning Change and the overwhelming amount of excellent resources he always is putting out there! Thank you so much for your generosity!!

Here is the link to an article where Katy Börmer explains this art of map making. And if you want to know more about her project of places & spaces here is the link to the web page.
She made a short film “Humanexus” together with other people. Here is the you tube video with the making of the film which I found fascinating.
An information scientist, an artist and a musician at Indiana University got together to create a short film about the ways humans have spread information throughout history, and now the film will be presented at the world’s most prestigious film festival, the May 14 to 25 Festival de Cannes” (Quoted from the web page)

I hope you enjoy it!

The role of theory in educational research. II part

Chapter 5: The necessity and violence of theory
Chapter 6: Bringing theory into educational research

How to use theory in doctoral research? I have no idea!! So lets start to do some research 🙂

“[…] the absence of theory leaves the researcher prey to unexamined, un reflexive preconceptions and dangerously naive ontological and epistemological a prioris” (Ball, 1995).
So no way to do this. If one is willing to undertake a research one of the core conditions of any research is to do reflective thinking and get in touch with good and well founded theory in order to be critical but with theoretical foundations.

Definitions of theory:

  • A system of logical statements or propositions that can explain the relationship between 2 or more objects, concepts, phenomena, or characteristic of humans (variables)
  • Represent attempts to develop explanations about reality or ways to classify and organise events, or even to predict some occurrences of events
  • Theory are a kind of explanatory devices
  • It can take the form of a hypothesis to be tested. It is a kind of tentative explanation of a phenomena that one needs then to prove and see if the way one thinks the relation between the variables are going to relate to each other is in effect so. e.g: I have a theory of how young students can improve their understanding to the calculus and the learning or improvement of the digital literacies.
  • Explanation is a way of theorising that seeks to explain the phenomenon while seeking validation through empirical evidence (the data)
  • Theory in education seeks to demonstrate the characteristics of explanations and interpretation.
  • In a poststructuralist approach theory operates as an interpretative device, a lens through which to see the phenomenon under study
  • “Theory offers a language for challenge, and modes of thought, other than those articulated for us by dominant others. It provides a language of rigour and irony rather than contingency. …The purpose of such a theory is…to make them (categories) seem less self-evident and necessary, and open up spaces for the invention of new forms of experience“(p.266. Ball, 1995)
  • Theory is a tool for de-familiarisation, denaturalisation, diffraction and, deconstruction. “A diffractive lens to re-conceptualise or reconstruct some aspects or our work”. Theory used as a diffraction lens serves as a heuristic device
  • Theory serves also as a platform from which to launch critique. […]our statements or conclusions only make sense within an academic community when they are situated in a theory that provides them with intelligibility. (From Ball’s statement)
  • A major theme of poststructuralism is instability in the human sciences, due to the complexity of humans themselves and the impossibility of fully escaping structures in order to study them (Facault, Derrida, Deleuze are some of the major figures). A post-structuralist approach argues that to understand an object (e.g., a text), it is necessary to study both the object itself and the systems of knowledge that produced the object.
  • Theory constructs a set of epistemological limits. It empowers and constraints
  • Theory is a means to find ones own voice in the field of research

The researcher looks at aspects missing within his theoretical position, that is looking at what is that my theory is not doing regarding my object of study and look which theories out there can do the work and in doing so the researcher is filling a theoretical gap regarding how to address the particular phenomenon.

Example: Kalervo realised that existing policy analysis frameworks were not adequate to capture what he felt was significant about relationships between cities, education policy and  identity (that is his object of study). Ball suggests that ‘education policy research lacks a sense of space; either in not locating policies in any framework that extends beyond the national leve, or in no accounting for or conveying a sense of the locality in the analyses of policy realisation’. The researcher, Kalervo, developed a spatial approach to policy analysis, using cultural concepts of space and place, drawing on work of theorists such as x, y, w. For that he had to read the geography literature although it was his area. You have to delve into many subjects in order to find conceptual support for your research.

In my case I am looking at complexity and complex adaptive system in order to explain and analyse the dynamics that are going on in the classroom and outside of it during the process of crafting the PLE. Complexity will offer me theoretical support to explain the learning dynamics that happens while building the PLE and learning digital skills. As well as to see into the learning experience of the learning of mathematics using the PLE as a workbench for learning.

162353367In which tradition can I locate my study? Is TEL a tradition?
There is a gap in existing theory to give account about how the learning is affected with the use of web 3.0 technology instead of mathematical technology (Geogebra, calculator, etc).What theory am I challenging with my research? Traditional cognitivism learning theory? Solo learning? Traditional teaching (I teach how I was taught).In what tradition is my work situated? Is an empirical grounded study through many case studies? Or through other methodologies more suited to the nature of my study? What is the nature of my study?

“Once one locates oneself within the theoretical or methodological landscape, rigour may often be determined by the extent to which one’s writings embody, and remain consisten with, the principles of the theoretical stance adopted.” (p. 82). It gives you a particular kind of commitments within your field of research.
Theory constructs the scholar and illuminates the data

Link to the notes of the article: The theory question in research capacity building in education: Towards and agenda for research and practice

The role of theory in educational research. I part

Notes from my readings on: The Routledge Doctoral Student’s Companion. Pat Thomson and Melanie Walker. 2010

Chapter 2: Ignorance in educational research

Theory in research problematise, critiques, challenges and complexifies. It allows you to challenge taken-for-granted orthodoxies and it opens up the space to understand the social conditions for the production of knowledge.
It helps us to find concepts that frame our study, to analyse it, interpret it and reflect.
We must be capable to locate our selves with confidence within a theoretical landscape appropriate to the study. Through concepts we come to know what we are looking for and what we are looking at. There are signposts that show us where to go in a crossroad or in the middle of the vastness of an empty landscape. They tell us how to get where we are aiming to.

The search to understand requires solid conceptual work and conceptual mediation in communicating ideas and understanding to different audiences. The researcher must construct their own frameworks in the early stages of the study. Methodology shall grow out of this theory and conceptualisation. It is important to understand the pragmatic contexts in which knowledge can be defined as new.

The different materials a researcher grabs in order to construct new knowledge varies from data of various forms and types, direct experience, concepts, theories of their own, or those developed by others, etc. All these materials help researchers to answer questions they have already considered, already familiar to them -blank spots- in emergent theories and conceptions of knowledge, or to consider questions they haven’t considered before -blind spots-. 

What could be the characteristic configuration of the blind or blank spots?
Thomas Kuhn (1970), represented this structure like a disciplinary matrix. Rows represent concepts or methods of investigation, the columns phenomena that members of the discipline tend to examine. Such a matrix defines sets of related cells, each corresponding to the intersection of a particular concept or method and and a particular object of investigation.

Matrix of sociology inquiry

Phenomena under investigation
Themes of analysis Jobs + work Sociology of education Sociology of religion Medical sociology Political
  • Social control
  • Social stratification
  • Status attainment
  • Bases of integration and
    differentiation: class,
    gender, race
  • Social relationships: groups,
    household, community
  • Social change

The other option would be changing the phenomena under investigation to a school context. That would mean being the phenomena the lesson, the classroom, the schools, the school district and communities, the state.

Blank spot ignorance corresponds to cells of the sub-matrix (the second one) that are visible, clearly marked, but have not been investigated as adequately as scholars would like. Blind spot ignorance  corresponds to matters that don’t fit anywhere on the grid. The concepts or phenomena they implicate are not so much missing from cells where we think they should belong, but obscured by the matrix itself.

It is important THE WAY TO LOOK AT A PHENOMENA ??? Don’t understand what means the way, Is it maybe regarding if I see the classroom (student population) as a whole instead of seeing at the student as an individual in individual classes. If you ask questions to different schools and not to different classrooms you may make some differences invisible. Instead if you ask about classrooms within schools then you may find some differences in outcomes.

Well defined blind spots or blank spots can provide a map that helps the researcher to stay on track. Even when all the blanks are covered the disciplinary rows can still create opportunities for generating new knowledge. The stimulus required can be as simple as renaming a row or a column, or merging a pair of cells or as complex as adding a row or a columns from the matrix of another discipline. An example is the new knowledge regarding ‘social context for learning’ within the educational profession.

Knowledge about ignorance: It is far more better to talk about reducing ignorance than to pursue new knowledge. The same research methods, criteria for evaluating evidence, and logic of argumentation or exposition can apply within either perspective. Weather people, researcher, students regard something as new knowledge depends on what the person already knows about the subject. Do the propositions help to fill in a gap blank spot or reveal a blind spot in current theories of doctoral education?

An interesting paragraph that summarises a research speech:
“So what does this mean? It is definitely a compelling argument, but is there empirical evidence to substantiate what would otherwise remain as an unwarranted claim? If evidence is wanting, then how can we best translate the proposition into testable hypotheses, (ii) apply an effective research design, (iv) develop appropriate sampling and data collection procedures, preferably random and N>200, so that we can (v) conducto rigorous statistical analysis of the data, preferably using the “definite” causal modelling techniques to achieve the highest levels of confidence and reliability and validity? ”

Important to consider as a researcher: To have a a master of well-crafted arguments supported by good data (qualitative or quatitative).

Important to have a position and a bunch of concept in order to do research, that will shape the research object.

Questions for the EERSS


I am assisting to the European Educational Research Summer School in NTNU Norwegian University for Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway. For that I am doing some background readings in order to get the most out of it.

Question I would like to answer in that week are:

  1. What does it mean to choose pragmatism as my research approach?
  2. What is knowledge under such a premise? How is knowledge acquired? What would be a consistent or pertinent method I shall use in order to capture evidence of knowledge construction in students (what ever the students are: Prospective teachers or math high school students). How can we look at the pieces of knowledge students will produce while learning a subject (math)? Is it possible to create a knowledge artefact recolector? What framework can I use to interpret knowledge artefacts as the units of analysis to look for deep understanding?
  3. PLE are challenging environments to research due to their uniqueness, reflecting students’ needs and ways of learning. What would be a good approach to research in PLE? Can I see a PLE as a complex system?
  4.  Is the HCD a good consistent approach to gather information about what young students expect from their math classroom, math lesson, math teacher, technology use in the learning experience, how they use technology daily, what they expect from technology in their daily life, do they really want to be social connected in the academic environment, to see the emergent needs of young students regarding the learning of math (a way of creating the future), what are the patterns that are emerging in the field (where should I look for this information).Do students see social media as learning tools?
    User participation by means of self-documentation. How to design the probes that will research this self-documentation. Look at the daily factors of students learning lives.  Look into HCD page in cultural probes. It is in the readings of class 3.
    FrogDesign: Help communities to solve problems, generate solutions, connect resources and pool knowledge to solve a challenge and create change
  5. The nature of learning is changing. It is more dynamic and the social tools do foster this dynamism. It is more social, more collaborative. It is not a readymade thing any more it is a constructed experience between teacher and learners. The emphasis is on the learner experience, on his/her performance of learning.
    To transfer the open-minded innate approach of using social media into a structured learning environment requires a careful examination of the tools, the student, the affordances, amongst others. “Patterns of use are complex” Luckins et al. 2009