Drumm, 2019

Drumm, L. (2019). Folk pedagogies and pseudo-theories: How lecturers rationalise their digital teaching. Research in Learning Technology, 27(0). https://doi.org/10/gghm48

Extracted Annotations (1/13/2020, 6:48:40 AM)

However, the extent to which educational theory relates to the use of digital technologies for teaching, specifically the pedagogical application of learning theories, is rarely examined in light of existing teaching practices (Selwyn 2010). (p. 1)

What constitutes 'theory' is also troublesome, particularly as demand for pragmatic approaches often results in frameworks and models being assumed to be theoretically grounded ( Bulfin, Henderson, and Johnson 2013). (p. 1)

Behaviourism (p. 2)

As a theory of learning, behaviourism is broadly understood to be where a teacher, or technological proxy, uses stimuli to elicit a response or change in behaviour in the learner, which can be measured externally (Anderson and Dron 2011). (p. 2)

Behaviourism's manipulative undertones, positivist assumptions and non-student-centred objectives have, most likely, led to discomfort in acknowledging that technology, through automation and interactivity, can easily facilitate such behaviourist approaches in teaching. This may account for the scarcity of explicit references to behaviourism in teaching practice despite obvious influences, such as the gamification and 'badging' of learning (Watters 2016). (p. 2)

Cognitivism (p. 3)

In cognitivist learning approaches, internal cognitive processes such as motivation, reflection and pre-existing knowledge are taken into account (Ally 2008). Emerging from psychology, cognitivism frames learning as retention of, and access to, knowledge in working and long-term memory, and the importance of existing cognitive structures to aid these processes (Ibid.). (p. 3)

Indeed, some have labelled the 'personalised learning' touted by massive open online courses (MOOCs) a myth (Bates 2012), arguing that understanding of the learner as an individual is required for true personalisation rather than generic 'types' of learners. (p. 3)

Social constructivism (p. 3)

Constructivism is based on the principle that knowledge is not passively received by the learners but something they actively construct. (p. 3)

Consequently, social constructivism and collaborative digital technologies have become enmeshed in educational technology discourse, each enabling and reifying the other. Social constructivist learning theories have been elevated to 'best practice' when using digital technologies for teaching(Selwyn 2009). That is not to say they are not appropriate for some teaching practices, but the recent literature tends to over-report social constructivism and under-report on other theories. (p. 3)

Folk pedagogies and pseudo-theories of learning (p. 4)

'Folk pedagogies', coined by Olson and Bruner (1996), refer to theory of mind held by teachers about learning. Here, I extend folk pedagogies to include those that are gained through personal experience as both a learner and teacher, and through cultural norms about teaching (e.g. from a disciplinary teaching culture). (p. 4)

Purpose (p. 4)

The purpose of the research project was to explore current teaching practices with digital technologies through the lens of educators' experiences and beliefs concerning both teaching and technology. The doctoral research project, from which this article partially draws upon, addressed the following question: 'what is the role of theory in teaching with digital technologies in universities?' (p. 4)

Methodology (p. 4)

The research design was based on qualitative methods comprising semi-structured interviews with participants who taught in higher education (p. 4)

Data analysis was performed in two phases: the first phase was a sweep of the data with coding for emergent themes, and the second phase comprised an a priori search for themes addressing what the educators do with technology, and why (p. 5)

This article addresses the findings from the second phase of analysis which employed a 'light touch' rhizoanalysis (Masny 2013). Rhizoanalysis has been considered as a means to disrupt the limitations of qualitative research (Cumming 2015) and is based on Deleuze and Guattari's rhizome theory (1988). (p. 5)

Through building a map of these connections it was possible to construct overlapping layers of teaching practices, theories (including pseudo-theories) and rationales. An example of this can be seen in Figure 1 (p. 5)

Results (p. 6)

As described in the previous section, there were four distinct teaching practices reported by the participants. (p. 6)

I grouped each teaching practice under the following headings: 'Pragmatic' (core teaching), 'Pedagogic' (core student activities), 'Broadcasting' (alternative routes to teaching) and 'Augmenting' (supplementary materials). (p. 6)

Pragmatic digital teaching (p. 7)

Participants whose practices included 'pragmatic' approaches used technologies for the practicalities of core teaching, such as online lectures and materials for distance learning. Their reported rationale was flexibility for students, particularly 'anytime, anywhere' access, prioritising functional benefits of technology over pedagogical ones. (p. 7)

They used technology to solve the 'problem' of off-campus learning. (p. 8)

There was an underlying thread of control, (p. 8)

Pedagogic digital teaching (p. 8)

The pedagogic subgroup, as the name implies, demonstrated the significant influence of learning theories upon their teaching. (p. 8)

Their use of technology was driven by a desire to get learners to 'do' things such as complete multiple-choice question (MCQ) quizzes or collaborate on a wiki, which often contributed to a summative assessment. (p. 8)

Whether they had visible or invisible pedagogies, this subgroup also had a higher propensity than others to use technology myths about their teaching. (p. 9)

Broadcasting digital teaching (p. 9)

This subgroup centred their digital teaching on delivering content online to students as an alternative to existing face-to-face teaching. (p. 9)

For example, a face-to-face lecture would be recorded for later viewing by absent students. (p. 9)

Here digital tools and content provided alternative means for students to access materials. (p. 9)

Many rationalised their use of technology with the uncritical adoption of problematic concepts (p. 9)

The idea that technology can deliver personalised learning based on cognitive differences is evident here, yet none of this group indicated that they had assessed students individually for their needs. (p. 9)

It would appear that when it comes to using digital technologies for teaching and learning, some educators who do not have (p. 9)

access to educational theories will fill the theoretical vacuum with, at best, their own intuited pedagogy, or at worst, highly contested concepts. (p. 10)

Augmenting digital teaching (p. 10)

The final subgroup, those who augmented, used digital technologies experimentally to 'add value' to their existing teaching, such as providing preparatory 'icebreakers' or short videos as revision aids before exams. (p. 10)

Discussion (p. 10)

The results of this study indicate that learning theory paradigms play a minor role in teaching with digital technologies, and of them, only social constructivism is employed explicitly by some participants. (p. 10)

it would appear that theory vacuums, such as those who taught by 'broadcasting', are filled by proxies such as 'learning styles'. The dominance of folk pedagogies and pseudo-theories presents a credible threat to critical perspectives on digital teaching and learning as they are sticky concepts, often presented as common-sense 'edtech' orthodoxies beyond challenge. (p. 11)

It may be the case that academic developers and learning technologists, themselves inhabiting precarious and powerless positions(Clegg 2009) and operating with limited resources, use clichés and simplified maxims to help educators 'across the line' when supporting their use of technology. (p. 11)

A solution could be to frame academic development and teaching qualifications as a medium for educators to explore their own voices and communicate about their teaching, without requiring them to fit into prescribed orthodoxies. Rather than setting folk pedagogies and pseudo-theories as 'incorrect', they could be acknowledged and used as starting points for conversations about teaching. (p. 11)

Conclusion (p. 11)

This article addressed the question: 'what is the role of theories of learning in digital teaching in universities?' Adopting a rhizoanalytical approach to map connections within the data, this study found that, while educators rarely explicitly referenced learning theories, their practices reflected a complex blend of pedagogies. (p. 11)

Future research which could be undertaken relating to this work includes an examination of theories not accounted for within the learning theory paradigms, such as those which address functional and technological concerns. (p. 11)

Additionally, rhizome theory in the form of rhizoanalysis has proven to be a productive means to crossreference within the data and undercut qualitative tendencies to present data as hierarchical,thereby allowing for a more holistic view of the realities of teaching with digital technologies. Future work should explore in greater detail the theoretical and practical applications of such an approach. (p. 11)

Thus, a positive impact on student learning could be attained through explicit discourse and transparency of purpose when digital technologies are employed for teaching and learning in universities. (p. 12)