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What will the world look like if we
were not working with Archer?
Exploring the possibilities of theory
enrichment (theori...
The argument
In order for research to be of value it needs to
extend the boundaries of what is known or possible
(Kahn, et...
HE/AD Context
• Research is messy and HE research and more specifically
AD research (practice based research) produces ric...
A word on theory in SoTL
Theory has been described by Hutchins (2007) as
the ‘elephant in the room’
Ashwin (2013) argues t...
My concerns relating Agency
• My concern with approaching my work with blinkers
on (even though theory helps us make sense...
Archer’s Account of Human Agency
• Archer provides a useful heuristic for the consideration of
the interplay of structure,...
The challenge
• How do we shape theory so that it can speak
more powerfully to data and context?
• Need to step back and t...
Sociological Imagination – stepping
back and examine a situation anew
C Wright Mills (2000) was critical of both grand
the...
• Implies being able to ‘think ourselves away’
from the familiar routines of our daily lives
(practices) in order to look ...
To have a SI you need to
• Be systematic and structured – but not linear
‘that we have to start with theory to justify
res...
The Challenge: Dialogue
How do we begin dialogue which is able to
engage with the best that is known in this
context and w...
Some illustrations
• Dorothy E Smith’s (2005) work on institutional
ethnography
• Starting with the actualities of people’...
Along similar lines in educational
contexts
Sfard (2013)suggests discursive research where
researchers dig deep under the ...
More radical - Walter Mignolo’s (2013) work on
decoloniality – coveys a similar theme on the
importance of context from a ...
So What does this mean for us?
• Use our experience/practice as our intellectual work
• But constantly asking questions of...
The picture may look different
without the blinkers
Thank you!
References
• Ashwin, P. (2012) How often are theories developed through empirical research
into higher education?, Studies...
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So tl@uj presentation 19 feb 2015 kibbie naidoo

presentation made by Kibbie Naidoo at the SOTL @ UJ seminar series

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So tl@uj presentation 19 feb 2015 kibbie naidoo

  1. 1. What will the world look like if we were not working with Archer? Exploring the possibilities of theory enrichment (theorising) in AD/HE. Kibbie Naidoo 19 February 2015
  2. 2. The argument In order for research to be of value it needs to extend the boundaries of what is known or possible (Kahn, et al) and I am not sure that we always do this. HE and AD in SA provides a rich and exciting space for research. While research emerging from SA is growing and we are engaging with theory, very few of us are using this exciting space and its socio- historical context to enrich theory. Ashwin (2012) makes this point in relation to HE research in general.
  3. 3. HE/AD Context • Research is messy and HE research and more specifically AD research (practice based research) produces rich (but complex data) • Need theory to make sense of this messiness. But what theory? • Ashwin (2012) argue that HE research seems to move through a succession of theoretical lenses, the use of which appears to be largely a matter of fashion • Theory is political – there are theoretical moves that are conservative (aimed purely funding and maintaining the status quo) and progressive (making a difference and challenge dominant thought) • SoTL for Social Justice will fit into the latter
  4. 4. A word on theory in SoTL Theory has been described by Hutchins (2007) as the ‘elephant in the room’ Ashwin (2013) argues that there is a difference between the role of theory in educative practice and carrying out educational research SoTL is problematic - it straddles both theory and practice AND Raises questions about discipline specific and educational theory Theoretical Pluralism (Hutchins, 2007; Hutchins and Taylor Huber, 2008)
  5. 5. My concerns relating Agency • My concern with approaching my work with blinkers on (even though theory helps us make sense of the messiness) • Sociological background (understanding the relationship between the individual and society; structure/culture and agency – Giddens and Archer; disciplines – Bernstein) • AD research • Plugging ‘fashionable’ theory not extending or building on it (Wenger-Trayner’s notion of plug and play) • Concern that by using a particular lens I was ignoring things that matter to people (see Sayer 2011)
  6. 6. Archer’s Account of Human Agency • Archer provides a useful heuristic for the consideration of the interplay of structure, culture and agency, we need other concepts to help us make sense of the specific socio- historical context that we are working in • More importantly, Archer’s framework to account on the interplay of structure, culture and agency was developed in relation to social theory and not in relation to education. • Awareness that Archer’s work on reflexivity is informed by a very specific context (historical and contextual) • Raises the problem of using theories in uncritical decontextualised ways
  7. 7. The challenge • How do we shape theory so that it can speak more powerfully to data and context? • Need to step back and take a new look at the research with a broader lens - idea of the Sociological Imagination
  8. 8. Sociological Imagination – stepping back and examine a situation anew C Wright Mills (2000) was critical of both grand theory and abstracted empiricism that began to dominate Sociology. He proposed the idea of the SI as a way of examining the relationship between the individual and society He defined the SI as ‘the vivid awareness of the relationship between experience and the wider society’
  9. 9. • Implies being able to ‘think ourselves away’ from the familiar routines of our daily lives (practices) in order to look at them anew • Being acutely aware that social outcomes are shaped by social context, actors, cultures, history and social actions –interconnections that inform the fabric of human societies
  10. 10. To have a SI you need to • Be systematic and structured – but not linear ‘that we have to start with theory to justify research problem is complete nonsense’ (Howard Becker, 2014) – read broadly and widely • Enter into dialogue with the academic community (not just fashionable ones) but • Avoid strict adherence to one methodology and one theory more importantly • Enter into dialogue with the research context (the actual experience of the participants and the socio- cultural and historical contexts)
  11. 11. The Challenge: Dialogue How do we begin dialogue which is able to engage with the best that is known in this context and which does not by definition position knowledge either favourably or negatively simply by virtue of where it comes from? (Soudien, 2014)
  12. 12. Some illustrations • Dorothy E Smith’s (2005) work on institutional ethnography • Starting with the actualities of people’s lives – research as discovery rather than explication of theory as analysis of empirical • Expanding peoples’ knowledge and not narrowing it down by framing it within a particular theoretical lens
  13. 13. Along similar lines in educational contexts Sfard (2013)suggests discursive research where researchers dig deep under the familiar and the obvious, looking for unsuspected, but highly consequential differences; and rather than trying to tell teachers what is going to work in their classrooms, the researcher should help them craft tailor-made solutions for their specific problems.
  14. 14. More radical - Walter Mignolo’s (2013) work on decoloniality – coveys a similar theme on the importance of context from a third world perspective. The proposes delinking from western knowledge and ‘changing the terms of the conversation and the content’ – going back to the reservoir of ways of life and thinking that is often dismissed by western theories. Connell (2007, 244) provides an argument for the need for theory from the south or periphery. “social science in the periphery also… injects themes that are relatively uncommon in metropolitan thought” .
  15. 15. So What does this mean for us? • Use our experience/practice as our intellectual work • But constantly asking questions of it, use multiple lenses to interpret it • Be critical – step back and ask questions about the theories that we are using; about the links between power and the production of the texts we are reading, about the possibilities of missing stuff and resist the comfort of ‘closure’ – approach is anew. • We need to take risks in explaining the data, allow ourselves to be more vulnerable – be more mindful of the rich and exciting context that we research • Theorising as process rather than product (Sue Clegg, 2012) and engage with it in more nuanced ways.
  16. 16. The picture may look different without the blinkers Thank you!
  17. 17. References • Ashwin, P. (2012) How often are theories developed through empirical research into higher education?, Studies in Higher Education. 37. 8:941-955. • Clegg, S (2012) On the problem of theorising: an insider account of research practice, Higher Education Research and Development, 31.3. 407-418 • Hutchings, P. (2007) Theory: The Elephant in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Room. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning • Mills C. Wright (2000) The Sociological Imagination: 40th Anniversary Edition. USA. Oxford University Press. • Sayer A (2011) Why Things Matter to People: Social Science, Values and Ethical Life. Cambridge University Press • Sfard, A. (2013) Not just so stories: practising discursive research for the benefit of educational practice. In: Farnsworth, V. and Solomon, Y. (Eds) Reframing Educational Research: Resisting the ‘what works’ agenda. Abingdon: Routledge.139 – 150. • Soudien, C (2012) ‘Inclusion, Innovation and Excellence: Higher Education in South Africa and its role in Social Development’. Keynote address at the annual Heltasa Conference, Stellenbosch University. 27-29 November 2012. • Wenger-Trayner, E. 2013. The practice of theory: confessions of a social learning theorist. In: Farnsworth, V. and Solomon, Y. (Eds) Reframing Educational Research: Resisting the ‘what works’ agenda. Abingdon: Routledge. 105 - 118.

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presentation made by Kibbie Naidoo at the SOTL @ UJ seminar series

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