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H809: Activities 9.1 & 9.2: Reading 10: Greenhow & Belbas 2007

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Activity 9.1: Reading and reflecting on the first part of Reading 10: Greenhow  & Belbas 2007 (2 hours)

  1. What functions do these "theoretical perspectives" appear to be serving here?

Activity theory is being used as a framework in order to examine the relationships between aspects of an activity

  1. Do you think Activity Theory is a "theory"?

I have seen activity theory described both as a 'meta-theory' and as a framework. Initially I liked the concept of a meta-theory best as I used it to increase my understanding of the constructivism and social learning by dividing it into areas that I could understand before fitting them all back together again. Working on H800, I used activity theory to analyse changes in a university department and I started viewing it more as a conceptual framework which I could apply and manipulate in order to work with more tangible projects. However it is classified, I do find it really helpful in order to be able to understand what is going on in complex learning situations by splitting them apart to analyse but always keeping in mind the effect of the whole system and finally bringing it all back together. I think it is especially useful in its 3rd Generation with the application to how activity systems work together.

  1. What do you understand to be the gap in Activity Theory that AODM is filling?

Activity-Oriented Design Methods (AODM) aim to provide a scheme for analysis of the essential elements of activities and their contradictions. This is suggested to be filling the gap caused by a lack of universally accepted methods for applying Activity Theory.

  1. Try to summarise the authors' view of "collaborative knowledge building"

Knowledge is possessed by groups and expertise is developed by the continuous process of critiquing practices with people working in same field but coming from different perspectives.

Activity 9.2: Reading and reflecting on the remainder of Reading 10 (3 hours)

  1. What benefits did Transana provide?

Qualitative research software - filing and analysis
Authors suggest that this allowed easy retrieval and preserved accuracy and context.

  1. What do you understand to be the gap in AODM that discourse analysis was chosen to fill?

Once down to analysis at level 5, a researcher will use the most suitable method/preferred method for the analysis of the particular aspect that they are studying. In this case, discourse analysis was used to examine the process by which collaborators work through intellectual disagreements (p.380). Introduction of other frameworks can prove useful to conduct a detailed investigation of a particular sub-activity (p.383).

  1. According to the authors, what advantages did Activity Theory and AODM bring?

Making it accessible to wider variety of researchers; newcomers as well as for more experienced researchers.

Closer analysis of system facilitated by accurate tracking.

Formalising the process and producing consistency

Clarity and focus

  1. Do you think these advantages could have been obtained another way?

I believe that any framework paired with a detailed methodology on how to use it would have resulted in the four advantages listed above. The framework chosen would have to reflect the analysis needed.

  1. In what ways is the research design influenced/constrained by the use of AT as a theoretical basis?

P378 "Only an overview of peer collaboration without describing it in detail or critically examining how it was enacted" - too coarse grained.

P383 "A follow up interview with the students regarding this particular finding would be helpful for producing more substantive insights."

Activity theory concentrates on the centrality of tools and artefacts in learning and using this theory in the analysis of design and implementation of learning assignments may result in a techno-centric approach rather than a learner-centred approach with an emphasis on the tools and how they are used.

Activity theory has been criticised as being difficult to test empirically (based on observation and experiment) due to the complexity of a social system. I am not sure I agree with this as observations of the system can be taken and changes in the system can be made. However, the overall network is based on constructivism and social interaction and this may lead to the research design excluding behaviourist and cognitivist viewpoints. For example, in this study the researchers conducted screening interviews to identify instructors who espoused peer collaboration and social constructivist approaches to teaching (p.371)



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