In November 2016, I finally managed to hand in my dissertation, and earlier this week I received the preliminary assessment, which was positive insofar as the assessment committee unanimously recommends that my dissertation should be accepted for public, oral defence – BIG YAY :-)
The defence will take place at Aalborg University in Copenhagen (AAU-CPH) on January 26th 2017 . The assessment committee consists of the following people:
- Professor Thomas Ryberg, Aalborg University (chair)
- Professor Nina Bonderup Dohn, University of Southern Denmark
- Professor Sîan Bayne, The University of Edinburgh, Great Britain
My PhD-supervisor, Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld (Aalborg University) will moderate the defence, which is set for three hours:
The abstract of my dissertation reads as follows:
The purpose of this study is to understand and conceptualize the transformation of a particular community of pedagogical practice based on the implementation of the 3D virtual world, Second Life™. The community setting is a course at the Danish online postgraduate Master’s programme on ICT and Learning, which is formally situated at Aalborg University. The study is guided by two research questions focusing on the participants’ responses to the avatar phenomenon and the design of the course.
In order to conduct and theorize about the transformation of this community of practice due to the 3D-remediation a research-led Action Research approach has been chosen to enable research with focus on both actions and critical reflections carried out in four consecutive research cycles from 2007-2011. 53 master students, one main teacher (the author), and several guest teachers have participated in the study. The findings are predominantly based on analysis of asynchronous student discussions in FirstClass™ (1.104 postings) and synchronous participant observation in Second Life (130 hours). A Grounded Theory-inspired approach has been used to generate and analyse the data in this study, meaning that no predefined theoretical framework was used to guide the design of the research cycles from the onset of the study. However, as the research progressed more and more elements from situated learning and the communities of practice theory influenced the design.
The study has demonstrated the importance of the avatar as pedagogical design element given that it is through the avatar the participants identify themselves and others, create meaning and experience learning in the virtual world. Furthermore, the findings show that the avatar cannot be understood devoid of context, devoid of other pedagogical design elements.
In summary, the study contributes with knowledge about 3D Virtual Worlds, the influence of the avatar phenomenon and the consequences of 3D-remediation in relation to teaching and learning in online education. Based on the findings, a conceptual design model, a set of design principles, and a design framework has been developed.
The preliminary assessment is 3 1/2 pages long and includes a summary and a critical evaluation of my dissertation. In my lecture, I will present my research while trying to address some of the critique given by the committee. Based on the evaluation, I anticipate a discussion of some of the following topics:
- The concept of virtual/virtuality
- My literature review strategy (State-of-the-art review)
- My analytical strategy, Grounded Theory (GT) and the role of theory in GT
- Insider research and positionality
- The differences and similarities between Action Research (AR) and Design Based Research (DBR)
- The Communities of Practice framework
- The challenge of using learning theory for pedagogical design (and perhaps a discussion on the difference between anthropological and psychological perspectives on learning and education)
- Socio-cultural vs. socio-material theories and approaches to understanding the world (of education)
- The status and future of SL and other 3D virtual worlds in education
I’m currently in the process of preparing my defence, and I have to admit that I’m somewhat nervous. The main text of my dissertation is approx. 250 pages long, so there are a lot of issues to consider. I am, however, hoping that I will be able to put aside this nervousness and enjoy the whole thing. It truly is a unique opportunity to discuss some of the issues I care deeply about with some very clever people :-)
In our research project we are highly influenced by the Dutch researcher Sanne F. Akkerman and her colleagues and their research on boundary crossing and boundary objects in (vocational) education. Like many others in the field, we have benefited greatly from Akkerman & Bakker’s (2011) excellent review entitled Boundary Crossing and Boundary Objects, and I’ll return to this in future posts.
Nonetheless, other researchers have been studying these concepts from other perspectives, and I recently came across what turns out to be a PhD study (Marheineke, 2016) on the use of boundary objects in virtual collaboration, which seems very promising in relation to our current focus on ICT-mediated boundary objects.
In this study, Marheineke provides an interesting literature review on the use of different types of virtual boundary objects. In his work, Marheineke is inspired by Carlile’s (2004, 2002) typology, which we have been studying as well. However, as Marheineke states “emerging interest in the phenomenon of boundary object(s) has led to many definitions in the literature” (p. 80).
I have yet to study Marheineke’s research in detail, but so far I’m delighted to find many interesting and relevant tables e.g.:
Part of table 3: Selected definitions on the term “boundary object”
(Marheineke, 2016, p. 80-81)
Part of table 7: Boundary objects structuring collaboration
(Marheineke, 2016, p. 95-96)
Over on Designs4Learning, my friend* Roland Hachmann has recently started blogging about his PhD-project, which is part of the research program Designing for Situated Knowledge in a World of Change at the University of Southern Denmark. Roland explains that his project
… focuses on how designs for learning at the teacher education, that embrace practice (contexts) as a core element, can support transformation of knowledge. The project investigates a group of students, who move across educational and professional contexts to resituate and transform their academic knowledge and put it into use as they teach fifth graders. The project uses design based research as a methodological approach and furthermore draws upon theories from the situated and socio cultural domain, where learning is seen as a result of participation and use of artefacts situated in specific contexts.
In his project, Roland is also investigating the concept of transfer, and he recently published a very interesting post entitled Concepts of transfer and transformation in designing for situated knowledge across contexts. In this post, you’ll find some valuable ressources Roland created in collaboration with fellow PhD-student, Lea Tilde Rosenlund: a map of different transfer concepts, a presentation on transfer, and not least a bibliography of transfer literature. It’s really worth checking out!
Given that we clearly share research interests and that we, in our research project, are inspired by theories in the socio-cultural domain as well (e.g. we have used Activity Theory and boundary crossing theory for our analyses), Roland and I have discussed the possibility of sharing knowledge and perhaps collaborating in the future. For now, I’m just delighted that Roland has started blogging and sharing his thoughts with the rest of us.
Roland and I have known each other for years. We initially met at The Master Programme on ICT and Learning (MIL) at Aalborg University, where Roland first attended one of my courses in Second Life, and later I invited him to co-facilitate in another course as part of my research. Since then we have stayed in contact, and I’m happy to call him my friend :-)